Daring Watercolor #23 Final

What an amazing journey this has been and I have learned so much. I do feel that I enjoyed the plein air painting the most. My favorite paintings were the iris here and the abstract Yuba Flow . I ended up enjoying painting en plein air with watercolors more than with pastels. In the past I was literally afraid take my watercolors out to paint because of what I discerned as a high level of difficulty.

Why I love to paint with watercolors en plein air

  • The experience of painting plein air with watercolors amps up the excitement of plein air. It is addicting folks!
  • Watercolors is perfect for the light and glow that I see in the great outdoors.
  • I can hike several miles to my location whereas with pastels I am limited in how far I can walk in. There is at least a difference of 15-20 pounds of lugging weight.
  • Every time I would take my watercolors to paint en plein air, I would connect and think about the great painters such as Homer and Sargent while painting. What an inspiration to think of these painters while I am out there communing with nature.
  • With watercolors I felt more in tune with the scene and the sensitivity of the medium, far more than with pastels. I describe it here more fully…watercolor sensitivity located under my learning points.

I will continue on with watercolors for the month of June. These are my goals:

  • Continuing on with watercolors in my plein air painting, I will always plein air paint with watercolors, that is now rock solid.
  • Paint at least one portrait or figure with watercolors a week or every two weeks, this will include animals or birds.
  • Paint on larger size paper.
  • Paint more florals.
  • Try out hot pressed watercolor paper.

Here are a few examples of portraits that I have done in pastel:

I am hoping to find an unique style with watercolors, not sure how loose or how tight I will get but my goal is accuracy in depicting skin color and attaining a likeness.

I will see you in June and I will be posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Daring Watercolor #22

Mining equipment, ore car, rock crusher and stamp mills


I decided to go down to the Forest Service to paint some of the mining display equipment. My eyes really needed a rest but I couldn’t resist and silly me, why pick out difficult subjects to paint? I think that I need help….anyone hear of Painters Anonymous? Maybe I should do a group start up!

My two paintings were of these two items, the left “thing” is called a blower which blows compressed air into a mine. The ore car on the right was my second painting.

my first painting 4 x 5 inch Arches 140# rough
my second painting 4 x 5 inch Arches #140 rough

Oh my, I should had given myself a day off because these equipment pieces were very intricate and I decided to paint at mid day so the lack of good contrast was at its minimum. I did want to post this anyway because it was a good way to end my Watercolor Challenge for the month. I will be making a slide show of all my paintings during this challenge and my final thoughts, be looking for that hopefully on Tuesday. I will also talk about my upcoming challenge for the month of June in which I will be continuing in watercolor.

I wanted to include a photo of the dedication plaque of my husband’s boss. I always liked Dick Zembiec and his knowledge of mining and his understanding of the gold miners he dealt with.

My learning points:

  • Goodness sakes it is alright to take a rest, especially when my body is telling me to.
  • Learn to use that rough paper, perfect for dry brush, this was a golden moment that I allowed to slip away (darn my eyes!).
  • Learn to bring a definite three value play into subjects such as these.

Daring Watercolor #21

My scene on the Middle Yuba

I decided to go try out further upstream from the spot that I painted  Daring Watercolor #16 . I should had arrived even sooner because I had only about one hour of the best lighting.

My scene but closer up
My first painting 7 x 10 inches on Arches 140# rough
My second scene
My second painting 7 x 10 inches on Arches 140# rough

I have several areas that I don’t care for….on painting #1, there was a large amount of blue paint that settled in a valley and then dried, leaving a blue strip. On painting #2 the rock on the left with the shadows doesn’t seem to have enough value range and just “sits there”.

My learning points:

  • Fun to charge in Cerulean blue to watch it boss other colors around. So far the only color that I have discovered is as “bossy” is yellow.
  • Don’t be timid to put down bold dark passages and forego the typical watercolor technique of light to dark. With my squirrel hair mop saturated with water, endeavor to connect the shapes and watch magic happen. Fun!
  • Allow the colors to mix on the paper, charge the wet paper with color.


clear, clear water

Daring Watercolor #20

Oh my I should had not started looking at art on the web because before I knew it I was itching to paint. Before sanity and reserve kicked in, I was painting, too late! I am going to do a short post with the newest painting. I am not sure if it is done, I am open for suggestions.

My reference photo
my painting 10.5 x 14.5 inches


I didn’t realized until after I took several photos, there is a wet spot in the back mountains…..disregard that.

Truthfully my only learning point today is not to look at art while resting and hoping to refrain from doing art. Ha! Oh I just thought of one!

  • Learn when the white of the paper is more brilliant than a light glowing color such as yellow or gold.

Daring Watercolor #19

My trip into town to shop was a great opportunity to plein air paint. It was a bit rough because I have been experiencing eye strain so I had to deal with that. Also my scene is beautiful but better when the sun is just hitting the pond or evening light. It has the over-all “sameness” that can be quite boring at the wrong time of day.

Hirschman’s Pond in Nevada City
One of the many paintings for today


I wasn’t as pleased with this experience as with my paintings in the past few weeks. I have been running a bit ragged. I noticed that even hiking out to the pond was not as exciting it should have been. This is quite unusual for me because nature and hiking is top on my list for enjoyment. I made a decision that I’ll be backing off from daily posting. I will be continuing with watercolor as a challenge into June and July but I will only be posting twice a week, more if I feel up to it.

At least one thing positive about today was that I had a fellow blogger in mind while I painted the pond, whose watercolors I admire. I had asked how he does his water so well, how he accomplishes this. He had told me that he uses a lot of water to paint water! Of course, it makes perfect sense! Check out what I mean: brushpark-watercolors- Carsten Wieland

I think that I didn’t do much service to my painting keeping his techniques on my mind but considering how tired I have been feeling, I decided that it wasn’t all bad of a painting day. There is always the rest of the week.

My learning points:

  • It is alright to take a break of a few days or more to keep in tip top shape. No shame in taking it easy now and then.
  • No stress if the scene is boring or ho hum, enjoy the experience anyway.
  • Some days I will not connect to my scene, perhaps another day.


Daring Watercolor #18

I figured that I am trying to rest my eyes, I would skip painting on my detailed watercolor painting of the middle Yuba.

Something easy….hmmmm so it hit me! I enjoyed painting “color notes” on a past post  Daring Watercolor #16. It was by accident and by trial because I figured why not use that moppish looking brush that I have had for several years? When I first used it I didn’t like all the water it holds, hmm…. perhaps this is why it is called a “mop”? Hello!

I had a squirrel hair mop frolicking good time! Wow, what a mouthful! I feel exclamatory today, sorry if it offends.

This are my first few color notes:

Top painting is a lily among in a pond and the second is a turtle in weeds  4 x5 inches each


Then I decided to paint larger and decided to use this reference photo for another color note:

I love this view!
My painting and my  squirrel hair mop accomplice 7 x 9 inches


Oh I loved painting this one! Oh, don’t even get me started. I had to really rein in that internal fiddler that I have deep down. I have officially put that “fiddler” away and she is not allowed to come out to mess up my paintings no more (big talk!). I did a two tone color note. Hey, I am making up these terms as I go along. I did a “double decker” color note. Maybe that term fits better.

After the initial first note dried thoroughly I laid down my second note for the trees and what ever it takes to bring more to the scene but no more! Use the whites and negative space for part of the painting. Be creative.

I decided to start another one because I had so much fun on the first one:

reference for my 2nd 7 x 9 painting
2nd painting 7 x 9 inches



What I have learned:


  • Don’t take more than one brush stroke or two at the maximum. More than two turns into a fiddling session.
  • Embrace yellow, it is so fun to see that bossy color push the other colors away. Learn to use that frivolous and often flamboyant little rascal. Now if you wondering what I mean, give it a try after your colors are down and you need a spot of yellow (colors are still well) and you’ll see how pushy this color is! Oh boy what fun though! My inner “bully” just got a rip out of that.
  • With these color notes, I didn’t focus on detail, or how to, where or what…just color and light! I squinted out all the detail and focused on those elements. After all that is what our eyes and brains react to first, it is color and light and then detail and what it is that we are looking at.
  • Don’t go back to fix something that I laid down, such as those long shadows. Sometimes we artists want to take back on a decision made or don’t like what we see. Often it takes a while to realize that it isn’t so bad or it actually works out in the latter part of the painting experience. Don’t touch it! I really wanted to so much…..NO….just say no! Why do we people such a hard time with the word “no”?
  • Continuing on with the above point, I wanted to just say that trying to undo a decision while painting puts a stop in that creative process. The need to keep a rein on things is the opposite of the natural interplay between the left brain (need for order and control) and the right side of the brain (creative, go for it). I rather risk failure than to overly control a painting. Watercolor is the perfect medium for those “happy accidents”.
  • For these sloppy, wet color notes, always use 140# or better yet 300# (on my list). I don’t believe in 90# being used for watercolor anyway, just had to re-emphasize the paper choices.
  • These color notes is a good exercise to loosen up and to strip down a scene for an essence rather than the whole tamale. I think of it as closing your eyes and smelling….using only one sense and not all of your senses.

Time to rest my eyes, see you on Monday….

Daring Watercolor #17

Pastel plein air of the same scene from about 5 years ago


Continuing on with my slow and yes, labored painting of the middle Yuba river. I am enjoying this slow process, I timed myself today to work for only an hour and taking many breaks. I discovered that with working so intensely on this painting and then the plein air painting yesterday and with my long hours of reading, I have been experiencing eye strain.

So, I have been concentrating on resting my eyes and keeping them closed when I don’t need to look. I have had this before and rest is all it takes to get my eyes in tip top shape.

My first update


2nd update (paper is not as warm as pictured)


Ignore that warmth to the paper, in order to match up my photo to my painting, I had to play with the temperature of the photo. My blues were shouting too much blue. I am thinking that I need to correct some of that moss on the right, too sharp of a green and maybe a bit too dark. I am starting to bring up the color of the rocks and realized that I better get my moss on there to have a base to work my values off from.

A lot of work yet to do. I’ll be going back and forth moving all over the place to slowly bring everything to a complete and unified look and feeling. I will then start on the water. My plan is to do some trial practice paintings for the water. There are many underlying rocks and I have to figure out how to go about it. I am not going into this with no practice or without some research.

P1000471 (2)
My reference photo

As you can see above this subject has been painted before, en plein air about 5 years ago on Wallis paper with soft pastels. Sorry to say, Wallis is near to impossible to find anymore, so sad because it was my favorite paper.

I will continue on this painting tomorrow. I might decide to wait to post updates on this painting every 2 -3 days of working on it since it is such a slow process. I don’t want to bore my audience!

What I learned today:

  • Stay aware of how tired I am, protect my eyes, having had a mother who lost her eyesight, this is close to my heart, caring for my eyes.
  • Pace myself, remember this is fun and expressive; not oppressive and drudgery.
  • Take breaks often at least every 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Those breaks enables me to see something that I didn’t see before.
  • Don’t build up a color or an element without having something next to it for a good value reference.




Daring Watercolor #16

The scene for my plein air notes

I was up and at my location early to paint, so fun! This spot is about 5 minutes down the road from me and this is the middle fork of the Yuba. A very popular place for the locals to swim and relax.

I am finding out that I love to get right to painting and skipping my value sketches. I have found an alternative, color notes! I also decided to use a different brush, one that I am not quite use to. A brush from England that is a Japanese style mop? I have to learn what to call it but it is made from squirrel hair.

Reference photo
Painting #1

I had so much fun I think that I could had painted all day but then the lighting was changing and I wanted that early morning glow.

reference photo
painting #2

I had so much fun and I’m thinking that I prefer watercolor to pastel for plein air painting. I can’t even fathom that I am writing this because watercolor scared me out of even trying it in the field and I am now saying that I prefer it to pastel? WHAT? Maybe an alien has taken over my body.

What I learned:

  • Don’t feel that I have to depict exactly what I see, a photo can mimic that. I am an artist, bring my own view of things to the paper.
  • Don’t focus so much on how, find out by getting in there and getting my feet wet.
  • Feel the scene, the scene will tell me a story, listen and observe and follow that story with my brush.
  • Don’t be afraid to change elements (motifs) to make the scene to come alive.
  • Learn to allow edges to meld, our brains want to naturally make order, that often can kill the beauty and gentleness of what you are looking at.
  • Learn to mingle colors, don’t try to over control my colors. Magic happens when color is allowed to play on the paper. Goodness sakes, let the colors party!

Daring Watercolor #15

I wanted to start this post by saying that this challenge of mine has been so amazing, a challenge that definitely has lived up to the word but for me in a very positive and growing way. My blogging buddy artists Laura and Debi have joined forces with me or did I join forces with them? It has been so exciting and encouraging to have artists who rally behind me and with artist cyber arms hugging me along this journey.

In this challenge I have met many other artist and non-artist bloggers who have really inspired me. I read a post by one such blogger and I was intrigued how much of what she wrote coincided with my feelings and my journey in art. She has such a gift of expression, of writing that I had to share her post Moon in Capricorn  Amazing insight and I felt inspired and wanted to share it with my fellow bloggers. Be sure that you read her post.

I have decided to go back and start on a painting that I had started about two years ago. It is a 11 x 14 watercolor that I am taking very slowly but I think I lost steam because of

  • intimidation…can I do it?
  • how will ever handle all that expanse of water?
  • is this the correct way of handling a large watercolor? I am not doing washes but taking the painting section by section.
  • doubt as how to proceed stopped me in my tracks


P1000471 (2).JPG
My reference photo
The painting

I have decided to not stress about this painting, it will be a great way to push into the hinterland of discovery and learning. Today I will be figuring out my colors, I think that I had sap green at the time I had started this painting but I know I can match the color. If anything that I inherited from my father, is a keen sense of color and mixing exactness. My father was a commercial house painter who worked for a company that painted movie studios and also actors’ homes. He use to mix his own paints from scratch. It was amazing watching how he would match his paint to the sample. I never knew I had this talent until I started painting in acrylics. By instinct I knew which colors to use to mix to the color I saw or wanted.

I’ll be posting updates as the painting takes shape. Since it is a long project I am not sure if I will be painting on this solely or working on other paintings. I will continue to paint in plein air and post those. Wish me luck! Any suggestions, feel free to comment, don’t be shy!




Daring Watercolor #14

P1080721 (2).JPG

I thought I would start this post with a fun and interesting story. Are you wondering what that monstrosity of a flower is above? I wondered that myself and asked the gardener at the Empire Mine State Park while taking a stroll in their gardens. She gave me a term that escapes my mind right now but it occurs when a plant receives too much nitrogen. This is a foxglove that looked like it blew up and the design actually looked like paisley. It was at least 4 inches in diameter, amazing isn’t it?

I scouted about looking for a place for me to paint and I decided on flowers!P1080779.JPG

I felt like my painting needed more depth, so when I got home, I fiddle with it and hopefully didn’t take it too far. I added a few trees in the background and added more color and shadows here and there. I wonder if there are too many elements vying for attention. Originally I felt like I didn’t go far enough with the painting but now wondering if I went too far.


I lost the detail on the bark on that tree on the left which happens to be a Ponderosa. All in all, I am pleased with the experience, more like an exercise and not expecting a painting that wowed me because it was a valuable lesson in itself trying to sort out my scene on the paper. I found myself very relaxed and I picked and chose as I painted. One of the most relaxing times I had yet in plein air.


  • Watercolor is as fun as you make it, remember that!
  • Study the watercolor paintings and techniques of the masters, so much to discover and learn.
  • Expect to do a lot of painting, I might as well have fun while learning, what is the hurry, anyway?
  • Don’t expect learning this medium to be immediate, again, relax.