Paint it or Mine It


In my neck of the woods, recreational mining is an activity that is very popular. There is a prevalent hard-rock and placer mining enterprises in the area such as The Original Sixteen to One Mine, and The Ruby Mine to name just a few. Mining history is very rich throughout the Sierra foothills.

On my plein air ventures, I often will paint on a mining claim or run into miners doing their thing. I had the great fortune of meeting one on this cold November day while I was packing up to leave. I was given permission to take his photo and to post it publically.


This spot is located between Indian Valley Outpost and Goodyears Bar in Sierra County. When I arrived, it was very cold but thank goodness I was dressed warmly with many layers of clothing. I was carrying my newly found “paint when it is shady” technique. I wondered if I was carrying it too far especially when it was so cold!

What I love about plein air painting is the wildlife that I often see or spook. In this case, I spooked a large buck who made a warning sound that I have heard before or similar to a black bear! At first I was thinking it was a bear but I then realized that it was a deer and he was scooting fast. As I approached the river bank I saw a rather large river otter and he disappeared under the rocks. It certainly was starting out to be an interesting and exciting day.


I decided to paint this scene. The colors in the rocks and river were as dark and rich as you see here in my photo.


At this point I decided to go find some sun, warm up, cheer up! After being in the shade and cold it was starting to get to me. I am not a moody person but for some reason it was affecting me and I needed to go take a walk and see where the sun was coming in. I am pleased with the rocks and the water but I need to finish up the background. At this point the eye bounces off as though there is a barrier present. No worries, plein air is usually not finished in the field anyway.



SUN! It didn’t take long and I had sun shining on the river. I decided to finish up my painting later in the studio and start my second painting of the day.


The painting on my easel. I loved what I was seeing but all that light and excitement was changing so quickly! I had to get a move on it. I call plein air painting, “painting by the seat of your pants”. You barely have time to think or plan, just react and hope for the best.


My painting for now. I did finish it later in the studio. I gave more shape to that large rock in the upper left and the smaller rocks on the bottom. I didn’t want to touch the cascading water over those rocks. I think I am learning what to finish and what to leave alone. If I were to make that area, the focal point “better” I might have inadvertently lose my plein air freshness.

Just another day on the North Yuba river somewhere in Sierra County.



16 thoughts on “Paint it or Mine It

  1. Gayle Sarkissian-Murphy

    Margaret, you create such beautiful paintings! I look forward to viewing more of your beautiful work. Also, it was great meeting you earlier this week!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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