Daring Watercolor #3

My reference photo of a prospector’s cabin near the Ruby Mine

I decided to bite the bullet and go for an intricate painting that appeal to me. Last fall my husband took me up to a gold mine that he worked at before we were married. This is a camp not far from the Ruby Mine. I plan on visiting again and do a whole day of plein air painting. Very unique, isn’t it?


I believe that this painting is not finished but I want to do this over and over until I loosen up. I started out getting too much into the detail and I started to tighten up. I ignored that fact and figured that today is a “tight” day and just experience it. That way I can recognize and choose how loose or how tight I want to go in the future, I can alternate or control it. Does this make sense?

I tried to get my camera to report exactly what I see visually just about right except that there is more light and the greens are lighter. I tried to match up that beautiful blue in the cock-eye section of the cabin. Too late I realized that it is probably more of a cerulean blue rather than cobalt.

What I learned:

  • Learn my values….dang it! I seem to hover in the mid tones and then try to adjust too late.
  • I need more experience with foliage and trees
  • Get a better grip on perspective.
  • there are subjects that can benefit from a sloppy approach. I think with this subject a tight/sloppy would have been just right.
  • I need to watch the water mixture with my paint. I seem to always have too much water and end up with insipid mixtures.
  • Watch my paint mixtures. I seem to forget that watercolor is gorgeous with clear translucent washes or bites of color, avoid mud.
  • Learn dry brush to use it more effectively, it would have really make that tin pop.
  • I have yet to find my style, feels like I am trying to emulate other artists or something. My style is not ringing true in this depiction. I figure that is normal being that I am still in the learning process.

I found making color swatches and putting them up on the wall in front of me helped. Though some of the colors that I had back then I haven’t since replaced. It takes time but it is a great reference tool.


31 thoughts on “Daring Watercolor #3

  1. Good idea to create the color swatches of paint colors, Margaret. I recently purchased a book that talks about seeing your subject in specific colors. I’m probably not describing it correctly. I will try to post the book on my blog tomorrow. 🙂 I love the photo of the old cabin! Looks like a challenging subject! I struggle with painting loosely too in watercolors. I like how you allowed your colors to blend together which is not always easy to do either. Good idea to keep painting the same subject over and over again. I look forward to seeing how your next one changes. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is awesome, Margaret! 😍I love that you share what you’ve learned…. I’ve yet to learn most of it… hehe. Your posts are inspiring! And the subject matter is awesome… I love what you did on this first pass. Looks pretty stellar to me… will be fun to see what happens next with it!

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    1. why thank you Charlie! I am of course not satisfied but then I will not focus on that. 🙂 I might give it another go tomorrow or just hang loose with my Chief , my portrait based on one of Edward Curtis’s photos, just to give myself a break. I am not planning on anything and will find out soon enough. Your comment gave me a definite “atta girl”!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Teresa Pence Baribault

    Ya know roomy that I am a bit partial to your talent. I love them all !! You need to stop being so critical of your paintings. Relax have a mohito while you paint that should help with the relaxation technique (: I am a fan, and hope to purchase some of your paintings that are spots we shared in our hikes in College. Think positive and retrieve your confidence as you can do it all. I know you can do it!! You choose the most beautiful spots!! Wish I lived close as I would be your caddy and cheering section.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Margaret, I LOVE this painting. I think it’s fantastic! It puts me right there in your scene, and I’m wishing I could come even closer. Oh, I am SO loving your list of things you learned. Wow, you are a real student of the medium. Bravo to you, I stand transfixed! ❤


    1. But….wait! you know what is interesting? I got in and looked at my post (an hour later) and finally saw that my lines on my overhanging roof was off. what is interesting is that I didn’t see it until much later. I practiced this drawing, looked at it, used the pencil trick…..and then bam….my eye finally sees the true perspective (later)! Note to self: give at least 30 minutes of tweaking and looking before putting the final drawing down! I keep having to re-learn that very important phenomena that it takes a bit for the brain to really see the correct angle and whatnot. At least I have found it to be true for myself. Sorry….I went on a tangent, what can I say? So….thank you Laura for your kind (more than kind) remarks. I am a student, yes…..no more and no less and know what? It’s alright! lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Boy, I have met people here who are still students who do unbelievable watercolor paintings! I don’t think anyone stops being a wc student. Oh, it can be a wonderful medium when it cooperates lol! I think this painting is terrific. The building has character. I’ll be curious how you go on with the same subject in a different piece; I think it’s a dynamite idea. But wow, love this one!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am looking forward to trying it at least two more times and with a different attitude or approach if I can that is. I have more cabin photos that I can use as reference. Who knows I just might go with a different one but of the same area. I even got a good shot of an outhouse with the door open! lol now wouldn’t that be charming! Thank you again Laura, your comments always make my world brighter 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I really like this. I think the forest and trees are just right — strong enough to add to the scene but not overpowering the ramshackle cabin. Are you thinking of adding in any of the rocks in the reference photo? I’m partial to rocks LOL. Your paint swatches are an excellent idea. I’m spending a lot of time this month learning about my watercolors and their pigments, and I really should do swatches as I’m exploring different mixes. I’m always too impatient, though. When I’m doing watercolor, I just want to get paint on the page. I know it would be to my benefit to slow down and take a little more time. And while I like your “lists”, I think Teresa is right. Don’t be so critical of your paintings. Make lists of the good things instead of always focusing on what you perceive as problems or weaknesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you! I also love rocks and I did think of it but because of the placement it would be almost front and center and if I messed that rock up, the eye would go right there. I didn’t want to mess it up! lol If you set aside a painting session just to make swatches it is so worth it. It does take patience and time but you can get ‘er done and then have them as a reference. Plus it allows you to just sit and play and see what colors you will end up with. Also, I understand what you mean about the criticism but it isn’t the type of criticism that is negative. My list is something entirely different. When I write them I am full of “oh boy, if I could do this!” kind of attitude. Believe me if I was in that negative critical space, I wouldn’t even be showing anyone my paintings! Does this make sense? It is like a road map. To be honest, to get better one has to point out what needs to be improved. It is the attitude and reason that you do this and you’ll know if it is negative or positive. In this case, it is excitement and from a “atta girl” stand point. So, it is all good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lindywhitton

    I do like the colours in your roof Margaret! And I know too well that feeling when I look at a painting the next day and see so clearly what I missed when painting it. I think I get so caught in the moment and then need some distance to see it more clearly. Happy painting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will own those points for a very long time and then some! lol yep, never ending. Thank you for your observations. I got to thinking that suggestion was perfect for the foliage, I have the tendency to delineate elements too much and push it too far and ruin the whole feeling.


  7. I love this one (you know i do) – it has a strong atmosphere and i really like your color interpretation. Great work! I think it is always a good idea to paint some motives again and again. Because when you don´t have to think about the subject because you know it you can concentrate on just painting even better.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! The way I see it is that you are in your own element and you can’t compare to others because you have your own style and I see proficiency in your work. You bring a new way of doing your watercolors into your paintings. I think that is why I feel inspired and awed by your work. I am being honest, not nice. 🙂 well, I am being nice but in an honest way!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I think any artist who is still looking for their “style” is growing within their craft. There is nothing wrong with that! I have wondered when I would come across my style in my photography too, can’t say that I will, and I am okay with that. Honestly, I think the fact that you can bring together a post like this, where it explains your thought process and inspiration, shows your work and details and is entertaining to read is a great talent and style. Always appreciate your work and words, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been trying watercolor also in order to make quick sketches with an “urban sketcher Austin” group, and I’ve found the same thing about getting to dark too quickly. The James Gurney YouTube videos in watercolor are really helping. Good job with the warm/cool complements.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh I will look him up, thank you Stephen. I think one reason I go with dark too quickly is that I admired those artists of the past such as Winslow Homer that used their darks so stridently. I like more drama but I skip a step or two going for that drama. I am hoping to take my watercolors for another plein air session or two this coming week, the weather forcast is looking promising. I hope that you’ll post some of your watercolor paintings. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Sparkling Watercolor Flower – debi riley

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