Daring Watercolor #13

I painted yesterday at the river and I wasn’t happy with the results. Ugly is as ugly decides! I realize too late that it was the problematic value platform….again. This was my scene.

My scene….no color, no fun!

Here is my painting, peek, don’t look too closely, very ugly. I decided it is good for my ego to show the uglies.

Oh MY!!!!!!

This painting kicked my value butt big time. I had to admit that I bit off a big bite, more than I could handle because I realized that I had promised myself that I would be doing a value sketch before starting my painting. I lied! The sun would shine and then the clouds would start passing over ahead and of course it was mostly cloudy when I painted this view. I also realized that I have been using rough 140# without utilizing the wonderful attributes of the paper. I had that in mind and also fighting the values. Ugly happens to the best of us!

Myself perched on a rock trying to paint, my “granddoggie” enjoying the river and daughter Amanda and her husband, Luis. All having a wonderful day, no fish, not a decent painting but fun regardless.

Pretty view

Alright, we needed to look at something pretty.

Today I decided to combine yesterday’s plein air excitement and today’s paintings done at home. The first one is based upon some pictures I took of a local flower, Indian Pink. I am including the reference photo because well, it is pretty.

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Indian Pink Banquet

This was difficult and then easy, at least it felt that way at first. When I deactivated my needy brain for “order”,  I had an easy time. I decided to dance with watercolor and boy did we kick up the paint! Interesting how in the past I would freak out inside because things would veer from my idea of what I intended. The senario would be that I would continue on with the freak out plane for the entire ride. This time around, I settled for the chaos and decided to dance this African style dance that Watercolor decided was the way to go today!

Since I was having a glorious time, the painting below came about from a reference photo of a redwood tree that I had taken some time back. I probably could have worked on getting my yellow and blue to mix more properly to get that mossy green in the tree. Maybe another painting, another time. Regardless, I am learning to let go of the picture in my mind or copy a reference photo to the T. This exercise in a way was a loosening up of my ideals. For me that is a trip to the moon! I might go back and give it more depth or I might just leave it alone, or perhaps it might be artist muscle exercise.


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Old Mr. Redwood

What I learned:

  • Make good use of rough watercolor paper, learn how to dry brush like the master watercolorists of times past.
  • Freaking out because I am supposedly losing my control or grip on the painting only keeps me frigid and continuing the freaking out feeling.
  • Allow the gap between my ideals and the outcome to be wide or narrow, it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.
  • Be willing to dance the waltz, the two-step or a wild African dance, dancing is dancing and it’s fun!








Daring Watercolor #12

The weary carries on….that’s me two weeks into my challenge. Although I planned on taking Sundays off, I am giving it some consideration because my daughter and son-in-law asked me to accompany them to the North Yuba to fish. Of course first thing I thought of….I’ll plein air paint! Again? yes! again! We’ll see tomorrow if I do or not. I might not post until Monday if I do go. I need a break and so do all of you!

I thought of doing an exercise based on Debi Riley’s post yesterday Easy Watercolor Flower and I planned away until I realized that this is getting detailed! what? Why must I always go to the extreme? This post is full of exclamations, so sorry but I am feeling exclamatory.

Spanish lavender 5 x 7 inches

Yep…detailed, nothing even vaguely familiar to what Debi was referring to. Another day for another painting, I say. With this painting session I learned:

  • We are not going to even talk about values right now…nope, too late.
  • Keep the original intent of the painting clear and alive throughout my painting session.
  • If I am too tired or weary, don’t push the painting. Do a sketch or think about art, post that, just a friendly reminder.
  • Keep in mind the color scheme and design, too late to realize that I had a purplish blue background for a purplish blue subject….hmm.

Now since that painting session didn’t live up to my plans….I decided to get crazy and go for it. Here is my reference photo that I shot yesterday while at the river. I do believe that I will do a planned out abstract painting at another time but for now I wanted to use it for a loosening up exercise. I thought of this too late but today was a little backwards anyway.

close-up of the flowing moss in the river
Yuba Flow 5 x 7 inches



I almost cried realizing that one of my favorite colors is almost gone, Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue. It is such a gorgeous color and all those little blackish blue dots is the result of the granulation that occurs bleeding into the other colors. Simply yummy!

Colors used on this painting was quin. gold, aqua ultramarine, fr. ultramarine blue, lunar blue (all Daniel Smith)

Daring Watercolor #11



Out and early to the river I go! I love walking this trail and especially when the light is just coming around the canyon. I had to include several more pictures of my hike to where I was going to paint because it was so beautiful, enjoy these photos…….

Alright then, back to watercolor.

My first scene was quite the challenge because it was so beautiful and yet I got lost within the green/yellow of the drying out moss. I decided not to include it because I wanted to focus on the three other watercolors that were more successful.

#1 on top and #2 on bottom 4.5 x 6.5 inches each

And then, my final painting….

My final painting 7 x 10 inches 

I really enjoyed painting the last one but my problem was that the water working its’ way around the rocks didn’t show up to be water as I had hoped. Just to give you a little information, my scene was on the embankment of the river where the water flowed around the rocks and the water from the creek combined and then on down to the river.

The water in actuality was the dark green color that you see here, but my rocks are very similar in color as well. I think in the future I need to be careful to have two separate (or color palette) choices to make sure I delineate the elements….to give the viewer a better reading as to what they are looking at.

The rocks on the North Yuba are very unique in that you will have black, burnt sienna, ochre, blue and even green in the rocks. But…..even so, I need to have a clarity in my painting.

  • When I was painting my first scene (not shown) I was starting to freak out and I could feel my confidence start to mount a wild mustang and take off! I calmed myself down and told myself….just do it!
  • Don’t think so much about how I am going to do it because once my brain starts wondering “how”, my confidence level goes down.
  • Trust that I’ll find my way, it takes a while for the brain and hand to marry up and get into a rhythm.
  • Trust the process, my life is not on the line if I get it right or not.
  • For goodness sakes, relax! Being tense will show up in the painting and it affects my confidence and doubt sets in.
  • Doubt kills!
  • Remind myself values! learn your values! If I am to think about anything at all, think values!

Now for  fun to lighten up the load of all these things to learn….on my way home I had to stop and take a photo of this garbage can that has “NO BEAR” written on it. I am wondering if the lady (I know her) had hoped that by writing this on her garbage can, bears would leave it alone? I always wanted to ask but felt awkward about it. Maybe the local bears are smart and they can read? Any ideas? Have a wonderful weekend.


Daring Watercolor #10

I am in love!…..with Watercolor! I love this medium. I am the type of person that I don’t like the ho hum drum of the usual. Give me something that is on the edge of excitement, no I don’t like roller coaster rides. Perhaps I am not conveying this correctly. I like the quiet world that I reside in. I love books, I don’t care much for television unless it is a good story that keeps me interested. I love nature, I hike and of course plein air paint as much as I can but I am always looking for depth and meaning.

Watercolor keeps me interested because it is not the same story every time. You never know if it is drama, action or romance. Today it was romance! yep….romance! and plenty of it. The soft lights, the subtleties that will keep you coming back for more.

I will not give you a reference photo for my first painting because it just came to me last night and I had to go out and take several photos with the perfect lighting and then come up with more photos. That creative unction felt like it came from God Himself…..I am not kidding, it was there and wouldn’t let me go and I hopped onto that train.

I now realize that having a “push hard as you can challenge” is exactly what I needed. I often have so much going on and yet nothing going on. Well, actually I have a lot of outdoor work to do right now but I’m talking about on the average day. I often don’t know how to go about with being creative, I think I need something that gives me traction and this challenge has done that for me.

Alright here is my first painting:



A close-up of the painting….colors a bit too dark and strident here.


My first photo is just about spot on but….the pinks are richer in my painting and those blue spots among the leaves are not as bright as they are in my painting. For some reason I am running into the blue not being represented correctly.

My process is that I wetted around the flowers and foliage with french ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, cobalt blue. Then as it wasn’t yet dry, I dabbed into my leaf mixture (lemon yellow, cobalt blue) and while that was barely dry, I dabbed in my flowers and bud with permanent rose. I had more fun using my lemon yellow and dabbing it strategically in the flower centers and watching it push back the other colors. Anything to get a little excitement in my day. I let the paint do its thing…..just show me the way Mrs. Watercolor! That is the way to go with watercolor….watch it dance and play and you are invited in that dance.

I was thinking about going back in with soft pastels and touching it lighting with color but decided not to after what I was seeing.

While I was planning, painting and waiting for paint to dry, I was reading Debi Riley’s posts from the past. I ran across this post that inspired me to try what she suggested.  Debi Riley Thank you Debi! By the way if you haven’t seen her blog and her paintings, you have been missing out. I have learned so much from her and I keep going back and reading through her posts. They are chock full of good information.

I spent 20 minutes on this next painting and yes, I used a timer.


My reference photo for the 20 minute exercise


By the way this reminds me…..make friends with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, a painter’s dream come true. You can get all kinds of beautiful effects, learn to play with it.

I dare you to dance and play with watercolor, stop trying to lead because you will get stepped on!




Daring Watercolor #9

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My reference photo

Why did I ever choose the month of May to do a challenge? This month and June is my busiest months because of the tremendous outdoor work that our place requires. Alright, enough complaining!

I decided since I am so busy why not tackle a difficult subject? I think in the future I need to simplify my subject matter because this one took a good 4 hours out of my day and I had already done some outdoor work before starting my painting.

With some experience with painting florals, I realize that now they take a very methodical approach and many, many hours to produce the detail that I am going for. I truthfully prefer loose but I am starting out difficult because to me it is like going to the gym and lifting weights.


I am pretty sure that I have this as close to my photo as possible except for that tulip on the left is actually darker with more red. My problem is the granulation in that tulip on the left. I love when a color granulates but in this case, I need good clear, vivid color. I am wondering if some little rascal came scooting over and wanted to play! It could had been Mr. Ultramean….I mean ultramarine blue, it was used on the background, yep, the culprit.

You ask perhaps what I think about this painting? Well, I kind of like it but don’t love it. It is not as vivid as I was hoping, my whites and things that go pop didn’t. The granulation on that tulip on the left is a disappointment. This was a wonderful learning excercise because of the points listed below. I am becoming less and less critical of myself when I see that I have successes and failures, it is all a part of learning.

What I learned:

  • Painting detailed florals require a lot of time, there is no rushing beauty!
  • Keep those whites crisp and white….why do I always forget this?
  • I could feel the need to speed up to “fix” something that was occurring because I was going a little faster than I wanted to, a vicious cycle of mine!
  • Keep my palette clean and know which colors are which and keep them separate.
  • When I am starting to tire, take a break or put it off till tomorrow or another day.
  • Take more breaks to rest the eyes and brain…don’t forget to keep hydrated.
  • This is my challenge, there is nothing wrong with posting an update of what I painted today. No one is requiring me to finish a painting in one day…I set my own rules because I am the boss.

Daring Watercolor #8

I was so excited and couldn’t wait to share my photos of my wonderful plein air painting and hike. I was disappointed to discover that using an unfamiliar setting on my camera caused my photos to turn out very odd! Lesson #1 don’t use a setting you have no idea what it is used for!

Out of this world crazy look

I decided to take my watercolors and do some painting on the North Yuba Trail where a creek empties into the North Yuba river. I hiked in about a mile to this lovely spot.

Painting #1

I enjoyed painting this so much and I felt in tune with my brushes, watercolor and the location. I think that rock on the left next to the water needs to be toned down just a bit, any suggestions? I will include a photo of my scene though bear in mind that it was on that crazy setting. Just for fun take a look:

My eerie looking scene

I decided not to include my watercolor #2 it was alright but I had difficulty discerning all the foliage and it looked like a mess to me.

5 1/2 x 6 inches….painting #3

What I learned from today:

  • Painting without self-criticism is working very well, no one standing over me with a whip today, kind of nice.
  • Painting on dry paper is easier to control my values and charging in colors is fun and easier as well.
  • Painting on dry paper, you can reserve whites as you go.

Now the kicker….what I discovered today is that watercolor painting en plein air is more tactile than using soft pastel. What a pleasant surprise! I am going to use an odd example here, so bear with me. I would compare using watercolor en plein air to the difference a horseback rider who learned on a western saddle…. who then changes to an English saddle. At first it is disconcerting to ride a horse with an English saddle because you feel more vulnerable and very much connected to the horse. With an English saddle you feel the movement of the horse better and you end up preferring an English saddle than a western. At least for me this was my experience.

As I sat there manipulating the paint, water and brush and I felt so in tune with what I was viewing and then transferring that to the paper, far more intimate than my painting with my pastels. I love the fact that I can hike in more than a mile to paint, with my pastels I am lucky if I can walk in less than an eighth of a mile.

Continuing on the trail






Daring Watercolor #7

My reference photo of a neighbors Iris

I worked as slow as a sloth today and I think it suits me far better. At least it is more fun and I wasn’t working as though my pants were on fire, that is always good.

I tried my best to match my photo up my painting. Only difference I would say is that I almost matched my purple to the purple to my photo reference not as you see down below. I took it slow and easy. I spent up to an hour in searching for my subject and drawing it out. Now that is something, at least for me, the “rush and get it done” kind of gal.

Here is my painting….the size is 7 x 9 inches. The colors used were: cobalt blue, permanent rose, quin. gold, lemon yellow, lunar blue, and french ultr. blue.


The blues in the background are darker and not so strident blue. The whites are whiter on my painting than they appear here.

I worked slowly and built up my layers, saved my whites and I also was careful that I didn’t hold my painting as lovely or precious. I pretended it was just an ordinary, no consequence day to make sure I didn’t get too carried away with the process. This attitude kept my mind engaged in the job in front of me without tricking myself into loving it too soon or for me to get caught up in the excitement; therefore rushing it to a finish because it is so darn fun. Oh, the silly things I do to get the painting done slowly!

There are some blatant fixes that I need to correct. For one, that light area on the upper right is too light, comes off too white. I will go back in and darken that area. I might do it today before quitting. In fact I should had done it before posting this, oh well. Gives me something to work on.

I wished that I was more careful with the mouth of the Iris with that beautiful yellow beard. I am tired and satisfied that I slowed down! Imagine that…..wonders never cease.

Daring Watercolor #6

A lovely swan planter

I suppose that when I decided that I am going to tackle watercolor to learn; I am not one to start out meager……I guess I know that I am one for starting out BIG. Now as I mentioned, I am not really new to watercolor but it feels like ever since I have started this challenge, I feel brand smacking new. I told myself yesterday during my down time that I would paint a simple motif with this next painting. It looks like I was dreaming because does this look simple? NO!


I tried to match up my photo…happy to say that my pansies in real life looks more like the color in the reference photo. Keep that in mind and also there is more depth in the shadows than they appear in photo of my painting. Also the light hitting the swan is not showing up as well as it should.

Initially I adored painting this but I found that I was staring to get tired about 50% in and I can see why artists take subjects like this and slowly work it to a finish. My initial plan of attack was to be sloppy and loose but guess what….yep I went tight. I figured that I would learn from being tight in order to familiarize myself with a subject like this one.

A close-up

What I learned:

  • Don’t bite off a big piece and try to finish it in one gulp! No…..little bites with slow chewing works wonders.
  • Learn to mix better greens
  • learn how to save my whites….for goodness sakes!
  • Slow way down, it won’t kill me; I am still learning this.
  • It’s just art, an expression even if it is an eyesore…..I don’t understand the philosophy to this statement, let’s not analyses this one.

I won’t be posting tomorrow because I don’t paint on Sundays and plus, it’s Mother’s Day! I’ll be going to a well known restaurant in Grass Valley to have lunch with my two daughters and son-in-law. Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

Daring Watercolor #5

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The inspiration for my painting

As much as I wanted to go plein air painting, the rainy weather kept me in my art room plugging away. The photo above was my reference for some inspiration, taken a few winters ago along Hwy 49 somewhere in Sierra Co. I decided to avoid a realistic approach and delve into an abstract look.

Today’s first attempt (perhaps only)

Hopefully I matched this photo to the original, I tried as hard as I could to match it up to the original which I like far better. I took my time with this one. I worked it up slowly even though it looks very messy. I am undecided if I should take it further, no idea.

Now to let you onto something….this is actually my third try. I had painted two others a few years ago. I was hoping to “improve” my other attempts but I am not so sure if I succeeded. What do you all think?

awww…..feel the coolness!

I tried to get these to match up the originals. The one on the bottom has more light on those rocks on the bottom right. The white in the water is also brighter on the original but you get the idea.

I am not sure where or what I am attempting to do with all what I have shown you. I love whimsy and “other worldliness” in painting and I think that is what I was hoping for. I like to take a painting beyond the literal to the spiritual or essence of a scene. Believe me, it is harder than you think!

What I have learned so far:

  • Slowing down has its rewards but can allow too much thought to hold you up.
  • Abstract is hard! Don’t laugh and think that you can do “it” better, whatever “it” is!

I probably have more for the list but right now I am tired, it takes a lot of work and thought to paint everyday. I usually paint every other day or sometimes every third day. I hope to make an escape and plein air paint soon, I am looking forward to getting out there…..next post, I hope.

Daring Watercolor #4


Now we are on a roll! Considering that I woke up with a headache, I decided to go ahead and paint anyway. I decided on something abstract and loose and this photo that I took on a trip to the North Coast of California at Patrick’s Point State Park, our favorite place to vacation.

My first and only take today on this subject

I tried to get my photo to match up with my painting though the blues are richer (in my painting) and there is an ultramarine turquoise that isn’t showing up so crisp and gorgeous as it should. Also the golds and yellows are richer in real life. At least you get the idea.

A few close-ups though they are a bit fuzzy I think but I like close-ups.

I accidently put my brush in Cad. Yellow and dabbed it onto my painting and I went “OH NO”! I have this intense fear of using the Cads of the paint world and I bought them when I first started buying my paints. This cad yellow has been hanging with the others for a while now and I am happy to say cad yellow is not such a bad boy! As long as I don’t mix it together with another opaque. I allowed it to run over to play with the other colors on my painting. It didn’t need any coaxing whatsoever….all by itself. Poor Cad yellow has been a lonesome paint for a very long time! I will never fear cads again.

Now to put up one last photo of a painting taken from this photo that I had done last summer. I was more careful and perhaps tighter on this one. I am not sure if I really like it. Which one do you all prefer? Don’t be afraid, I won’t bite. 🙂 I didn’t care for that branch that comes across on the left, I haven’t figured out what to do with it. It looks like a hot mess to me.

Onward march….happy to say my headache is now gone. I might now go work on my painting based on a Edward Curtis photo for the rest of the day.