Return to Bullards Reservoir

P1070614I decided to venture away from the river and paint at Bullards Bar Reservoir. This location is what I would say is a “spit and a holler” down the road from me. I am fortunate to live so close to so many subjects that I can pick and choose what I am in the mood for. The only exception is the desert or ocean which both are approximately 3 hours away. No actually I think that I am within 2 hours of the desert but that lies to the east of me in Nevada.

I wanted to challenge myself today with this location because when I first started out in plein air, Bullards was the closest. I have spent many days painting here both in watercolor and pastel and after a while it just seemed to get boring with an apparent sameness. So I decided to move on to other subjects and in my mind better heights.


The reservoir is about 86% capacity from the latest measurement which was about a week ago. I have seen it all the way up to the tree line and that was about 15 years ago.


Today the struggle was that I had to put aside my attitude that it will be a challenge because of that “sameness” that I had mentioned above. Sometimes I have noticed that I throw mental rocks in front of my feet by my mindset. I envisioned that the sameness (is there really?) is going to be an uphill trudge. Also, my past history of painting this reservoir so many times brings up memories of past failures. There were several successes but I often remember the failures before the success. Perhaps it is my ingrained perfectionism.

I couldn’t decide how to handle the trees especially the far back hills. Once I set in the sky and the impression of those back hills, I started on my focal point. I decided on that brightest area next to that dark shadow shape on the left. The water was constantly changing and I kept chasing the changes. Of course that can be such a never ending chase to frustration.


In times past I was the kind of painter that had to paint exactly what I see and I couldn’t imagine straying out into the realm of imagination. Today I could feel myself shifting between the two. In my attempt to push those hills back I used blue, in this photo the blue isn’t true but you get the idea. That far back rim of land probably should be slimmed down and more modeling is needed in my point of interest. It is too flat and there is a straight line which is too static and not interesting. Not bad for my second time in years to paint here and considering my angst with the location, I am proud of myself.



After painting I decided to hike on the trail. If you go back to an earlier post where I painted here in the fall of last year, you can see the difference of the water level. I am amazed how much rain we have received since then.


The color of Bullards is an amazing greenish blue that I haven’t seen in a lake before. Until next posting, enjoy spring wherever that is in the world for you all!





15 thoughts on “Return to Bullards Reservoir

  1. wow, I have to say that last photo of Bullards is totally gorgeous!!!
    your painting, from what my blurry morning eyes could see, looks great! with the background going into the distance beautifully 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh I needed some fresh eyes even if they are blurry morning ones! I have such a difficult time analyzing my paintings because I am so darn picky but I figure that my being hard on myself is motivation to become better. 🙂 thank you once again! I also love that last photo, the lighting was simply beautiful that morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I admire your courage to go back to the place you associate with “failures” in the past and to accept the emotional challenge it presents. We do often put obstacles in our own paths, a mystery in itself this emotional rock climbing that one goes through. But, whatever. You got “back on the horse” and bravo for it.

    I want to share some thoughts — if that’s okay. One, regarding a point of interest — I know that language is ubiquitous in art circles, but speaking for myself I never think about a center of interest or anything like that. We don’t actually see things that way, and when artists attempt to put too much attention upon some element it’s easy both to overthink things and to underestimate what you actually do see and the ways you see it. I’m not a scientist, but I think science supports my assertion that we are only aware of a smallish subset of what’s going on cognitively when we work. So to follow prescriptions in art needlessly narrows down the possible reactions we might have to a subject. In other words, there’s numerous visual ideas at play when you work from life but if you’re too concerned about the steps that someone said you ought to follow then you miss some of the visual phenomena that’s right there.

    A lot of great artists made studies of things, knocked them out quickly, thinking with their tools. Many times those kinds of images don’t make it into a book. They almost never make it to the museum wall. Sargent, for instance, made many sketches en plein air that seen in isolation wouldn’t necessarily be associated with “a great artist,” but even Sargent thought it wise to rehearse some of the thoughts. So when you’re on the scene, maybe you should do more than one. If even Sargent, why not us?

    Let’s say you put in a long session. Take ten-fifteen-twenty minutes to knock out just one more very quickly from the same motif that you just studied thoroughly, doing it while all the shapes and colors are fresh in your mind. Tell yourself that you’ve got to hurry (to get back to walk the dog or mow the lawn or whatever chores await you at home). And in that hurry, forget rules, forget steps, just paint as fast as you can because, because, because. You don’t need to let anyone see the drawings if you don’t want, right? So there’s no harm, no foul. But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe not the first time, but soon when you discover how much you see whenever you just let go and react.

    Anyway, if you are learning the motif — there’s always going to be “more” there. More things that you notice, more that you can depict because you worked through difficulties that you were having, let’s say, with some element. More even because of changes in the light. So maybe that’s something to think about for future sessions at your now conquered place — since you don’t ever need to feel anything but confidence with this motif now. So again, bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! I love the way your mind thinks and you are right in so many aspects. I had forgotten what I was just beginning to become aware of a few postings back. I had (by accident) decided to not “pick the focal” point but rather have the focal point pick itself if that makes any sense. I thought it was very cool how as I painted I allowed my reaction to the scene, the focus came into view all by itself. And yes, probably a focus is not what we do in the natural when you look with your discerning eye but I know that there is always something that comes forward to the attention or receives a “oooh” from us as the viewer. I think that is what I want to have come forth rather than relying on the old adage (or rule) of the “focal point”. Sometimes I forget to allow what I have learned or experienced to follow along in another painting session when I am trying so hard to make a painting happen. I will try to take that attitude of what you mentioned, of reacting and do studies, after all what is there to lose? Thank you so much for your comments, I appreciate it so very much. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I think the location is so stunning and dramatic compared to my locality! However, I do know what you mean, as I have somewhere I go a lot to paint and I get bored of the sameness! I’d love to see a close up of your painting – I love the colours you used, it’s looks beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you mean an up-close photo of my painting? I thought about that on this post but I think that I made the choice not to because I felt that my painting looked better from a distance. I suppose that I didn’t want to push that insecurity deeper by taking a close-up photo. In actuality you “caught me” in my being vulnerable. One of the reasons I started this blog was to become more transparent and learn to feel comfortable with vulnerability. Thank you for reminding me. Also I think that I would like to show my process from the very beginning to the end. Yes, the main event should be the very highlight of my post. Thank you for your honesty and suggestion. :)Blessings!


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