June WC #11-8 Ball Trail #2

I decided to plein air paint at the last-minute. I am so glad that I always have my supplies and equipment ready. This time around I sprayed myself thoroughly with mosquito spray but found it barely protected me, the mosquitos were out in full force. I was so intent on painting that I barely noticed though I did find that I scratched my knee raw while painting.

Painting #1 Fabriano 140# 7 x 9 inches

I made a mistake of taking photos of these paintings after I took them off my boards, it was difficult to make nicely cropped edges. This painting has many problems, the foreground was dark but I painted it too dark here.

#2 Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches

There is something that I like in this one, in particular the foreground mixture of warm and cool colors. There is more of a depth in this that I am failed to capture in my prior paintings June WC #9. I do believe that I was focusing so hard in trying to capture the light that I failed to build layers of foliage and trees to create depth. In this one, I worked towards it simply by making myself do it, I know that sounds weird.

#3 Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches




I really like how I was able to capture some of the trees in this (#3). I struggled with trying to bring some sunset-lit branches into the scene. They came out as lumpy masses. I think that I need to have a light, glowing watery mixture to pull it off.







#4 Fabriano 300# 10 x 14 inches

I made the big mistake of having two trees kiss in the upper right of the painting. I didn’t plan out the adequate space and as it was happening, I was silently screaming. I was having so much fun with the colors and within seconds I messed it up. Darn. I lost steam at that point and decided to call it an evening. I will simply turn it over and use the other side for another painting.

On my way home I spotted a fox eating fruit in my garden



My learning points:

  • Don’t allow the task of one difficulty to overpower the rest of the painting, in this case, my building up a sense of depth because I was trying for sunset color.
  • warm, cool colors against each other but not in equal portions bring drama and tension in a painting (correct tension)
  • No kissing allowed between elements.
  • Make sure when painting trees to give adequate room and planning to avoid having them kiss, very smart indeed.
  • Keep returning to paint this evening location until I get it and learn what I need to learn.
  • Take my mosquito spray in the future for back-up.

Madrone Madness #4

Soft Pastel 10 x 14 on Mi-Teintes Touch

Yep, I am at again. I want you all to know that I painted this madrone in my nightgown! I am a devoted painter or perhaps crazy? The photo above doesn’t quite show the redness of the tree, the salmon color on the ground is perhaps a few shades brighter. The darks didn’t come out as dark as they should. The yellow and gold in the leaves are not quite brilliant enough in this photo but at least you get the idea. I tried my best to marry up the photo to my painting, it was difficult in this painting for some reason.

Having not painted en plein air in pastel for a while, I resented having my hands getting dirty, how did I ever get used to this problem when I first started? I am an aggressive painter and I had forgotten to go light with my softer pastels, I learned the hard way. I had one crumbled right in my fingertips. Lesson learned. I might go back and give my sky holes a lighter blue, they don’t show up well enough to read as sky.

close-up #1


close-up 2


I had an absolute blast and the process of creating a painting and decision making was no different between watercolor or pastel. That was a surprise for me. I have worked with both mediums in the past but the fact that I haven’t painted in pastel for over a couple months, I was able to decipher this difference.

Another realization that came to me after I had posted and looking at my painting, I feel that I over-worked it and the plein air looseness and freshness has been lost. I have recognized this before in some of my paintings and I would call it “boring or ho-hum” and the fact came to me that I was detecting a painting that has been over-worked. I never connected the two before and I think that now that I have recognized the fine line, I can head off this tendency to over-work. Of course it might be other factors that will make a painting ho-hum but in this case my painting has been over-cooked.

I feel the reason I take a painting too far is that I am trying to work out the problems; either the values are off or I am thinking that I am not depicting it like I see it or want it. Working it until I get there can be a trap. I have worked something until I got what I wanted and I have been able to do this without over-doing it. It can be done and it is achievable, it takes being sensitive to knowing when I am over stepping this fine line into being over-worked. Something that I will be more aware of and be working on. It is a never ending, learning task being an artist.

My learning points:

  • I hate Mi-Teintes Touch…not enough of a gritty surface for my personal taste. I am aggressive and it was too mediocre in receiving the pastel. I fought my paper.
  • Mid-tones are so important in building up your values, it is the foundation of your painting. I always seem to go dark and then concentrate on the lights. Not sure how to alleviate this lack of seeing and putting in my mid-tones. It is a work in progress learning this.
  • Even though I painted in my gown, I will not do naked, no thank you.
  • In order to depict details such as leaves, this can be done in a impressionistic grouping, convey it simply and bring in only necessary detail to convey the motif as needed.
  • Watch the fine line between good enough and too much, there is always next time, keeping it fresh and lively is key for plein air.

June WC #10

I was torn between pastel or watercolor plein air painting and the good old watercolor won out this time.

I wasn’t sure what time the light would hit this particular spot I was headed out to, I arrived about 8:30 am but I should have arrived a full hour earlier. I took the Canyon Creek Trail at Shenanigan Flat in Sierra Co. just before Indian Valley Outpost  Canyon Creek Trail  It seem to take forever because of having to hike back in at least 1 mile and a half, perhaps it was 2 miles, it sure felt like it. I got to see a bear, so exciting and I was trying to get my camera ready to take a photo but he decided to dash up the hill. So cool to have him there pausing, we both had a good look at each other, he decided he wasn’t up to introductions. I had this feeling that I would see a bear, I was right.

I didn’t like my photos today but here is a photo of this area back in the spring of this year. Look at all that green moss! I am hoping to plein air paint this fall and winter when I can have oodles of fun with that rich color.


I think in the future I need to scale down my supplies for longer hikes because I really felt the weight.

The photo at the top left was the area with this beautiful lighting, the tree was my first subject.

See the ladybugs on that rock? This is Cherokee Creek


Painting #1 Saunders #200 cp 11 x 14 inches

I overworked the base of this tree, I had some rich and beautifully mingled colors but I decided to go back in and make it even better! Wrong! leave it alone!

painting #2 Fabriano 300# cp 11 x 14 inches

These rocks were giving me a hard time trying to depict them correctly. I made the mistake of trying to work on two paintings at once and by the time I would go back to one of the other paintings, the light had changed. This system seems to work on smaller paintings but with a larger painting, not so well. I almost left this painting out of the group just because I am not happy with it, if you have some suggestions on what it needs or say “scrap it” that’s fine too.

Painting #3 Arches 300# rough 7 x 9 inches

I need more of a focal point, too busy with all the rocks. Yes, I know there are suppose to be a lot of rocks in a creek, but I need to point out my focal point. It needs something, that I do know.

Painting #4 Fabriano #300 cp 7 x 9 inches

This painting was so fun and yet I see some mishaps. Nothing is perfect when you plein air paint. So funny, as I sat there, I had hundreds if not thousands of ladybugs over all my stuff, the rocks and my paintings.

Sorry I would have cropped out the taped edges, I was in a rush to get it done and posted. Long day with painting, passing a motorcycle accident on the road on the way home, then having to wait for the helicopter to take off with the injured rider which was almost in front of my drive-way.

Painting #1 & 2 were the Yuba River, #3 and #4 were Cherokee Creek which runs right into the river. I do believe that I enjoyed painting the creek more.

Learning points:

  • The rocks in #2 were giving fits, as noted.
  • Careful with over working a painting, plein air paintings are suppose to be fresh and lively, get in and get out.
  • When I sense that I am picking at a painting, stop!
  • I hate Daniel Smith’s Lemon Yellow….HATE! Debi you were right….want some yellow?
  • Don’t accidently sit on my painting.

June WC #9

Evening is the best time to plein air paint, don’t you all agree? While my husband is busy pulling a security detail on the Pony Fire, I decided why not and go find some party time with my watercolors. I have been wanting to go out and paint along the 8 ball trail which is part of the Bullards Bar trail system. I live within a few minutes of this trail which is one of my favorite places to hike. I painted exactly at the spot that I had a bear walking up towards me not knowing I was there. Fun and exciting memories! I made sure I wasn’t obstructing the trail but no one came by, I had the trail all to myself.

my inspiration- 8 ball trail
painting #1
painting #2


a close-up of the lower left
Painting #3

I caught the wave of juicy evening color but later realized that I was adding too much water and not going dark enough. I was enjoying the fuzziness of the images, maybe too much. I am wondering if I should touch them up but actually I am going to leave them alone. Painting #2 was an experiment in that I washed a failed floral painting off and as you can see, there is a ghost image of red roses on there.

Fun painting but as I said, not dark enough, not vibrant enough and yet there is a quality that I like. I almost skipped putting these up in a post but I thought what the heck, why not? In a way, my artist blog is a painter’s diary. So here we are. I will be going back and painting this spot several times. As I was leaving the light was getting mighty pretty. Now I need a separate series for “Eight Ball Light”.

Learning points:

  • It is alright to go wild and abstract but do have a good plan, in this case control the amount of water vs. the strength of my paint.
  • Don’t allow the excitement of the scene to carry me away to “not thinking and all reaction”.
  • Paint some more evening paintings! Why has it taken me this long to get out there and paint evening light? I have been intimidated but no more!

Madrone Madness #3

Painting #1 Saunders cp 200# 10 x 14

I decided to put the first painting in after taking another look. Not as bad as I thought….oh I don’t know! I am not too keen on those leaves that I decided needed to be there but at least the lighting is beautiful.


painting #2 Saunders cp #200 10 x 14 inches

I figure that my madrone tree series require a category all to itself. I have so many large madrones on the property, I could paint 100 paintings and still keep at it. The only thing with madrones is that they are an evergreen, so I won’t have much variety other than the lighting, the surrounding environment or time of day. I will be painting in all angles, different groups, the more I looked around the more I realized, dang, there are a lot of large madrones here! I think Monet had painted his pond and garden many, many times.

These madrones were painted yesterday morning. This morning while I was preparing my coffee, I noticed the lighting that always seem to suck me in but I resisted, yay me. It was 7 in the morning and I convinced myself that it is too late, it worked (this time).

I encountered several problems for painting #2, such as the background foliage, there was a myriad of light, foliage and drama in the background but I struggled with trying to marry that up with the focal point.

My learning points:

  • With this painting, I focused too much on “how do I do this” which cut my freedom of expressing in half, I faltered, which affected the painting.
  • Continuing to learn values and color relationship, very important.
  • Be decisive! Be Bold, it won’t break me or my brush.
  • Choose my focus, is it the background lighting or what is in front of my eyes, choose! I can’t have it all, quick, decide.
  • Painting en plein air is important because while I painted these madrones I kept thinking that if I didn’t do all this painting with the subject in front of me, I couldn’t do these madrones justice. Madrones has this beautiful red quality to the bark and interlaced with black and burnt sienna. My personal experience with painting en plein air keeps me striving to keep the integrity of the subject true. I can’t do this without personal observation and experience.

June WC #8

Plein air pastel from three years ago

I decided to translate another pastel painting that I had done en plein air about three years ago at my favorite place to vacation. Located on the north coast of California, on a beach just outside of Trinidad.

the watercolor version 10 x 14 on Arches cp

I always enjoy translating a painting to another medium but for some reason I didn’t enjoy this one as much because having to draw it out and being “careful”, it was boring. Yes, I do like to live on the edge of my seat, you haven’t noticed that yet? I decided to use an opaque white not that I didn’t save my whites (or did I?) for the breakers, I did it just because. I am not so sure if I liked how it turned out. In the original it doesn’t look so stuck on as it does in the photo, a little easier on the eyes in real life.

My husband will be coming home on Wednesday from a fire assignment up in the northwest corner of the state. I’ll be spending some time reacquainting myself with having my husband back, I might go missing for the rest of the week. Who knows I might sneak back in here or go paint and post, we’ll see!

Learning points:

  • Go plein air painting just for kicks when I am needing a little more excitement!
  • Learn the fine line between being careful and letting loose, I prefer letting loose.
  • Keeping my whites and not getting lazy about it is key.
  • Paint when inspired! it shows in the painting if I am ho hum.

June WC #7

I painted some on my intuitive painting here and then decided to have another go at translating a pastel painting to watercolor.

P1070860.JPGThe pastel painting above is from this post Paint and a Hike

Using the other side of a failed painting on 300# Fabriano Artistico rough, I painted without drawing, sometimes you have to jump in and see what happens. The less I worry or anticipate success or failure, the better I feel about the painting process. I quit when I started to get picky, that is a sure sign to back away and leave it alone.


The yellows are more brilliant and not as blotchy and the background with the trees is a bit lighter than it appears in the photo.

My learning points:

  • I can create some blaring flower cutouts after all, it takes some softening and working with these cutouts to manipulate what I want (the yellow flowers).
  • I don’t need excessive detail to convey a painting to my audience.
  • The brain fills in the blanks, we all do this naturally, it keeps the viewer engaged when you leave some areas for their brains fill in, isn’t that just brainy?
  • Cadmiums are valuable but use with caution, they do bring some oomph when needed but don’t bring out a shotgun (cadmium) when a .22 (transparent yellow) works better. Cad. yellow was a shotgun that I needed!




Madrone Madness #2 June wc #6

My goodness, my titles are getting complex! While preparing my breakfast, I looked out and saw “the perfect lighting” on my Madrone trees. I immediately grabbed my watercolor supplies and out the back door I went. Forget breakfast!

We have had some cooling down and it has been quite chilly. I heard that up at the Sierra Buttes area, they were having snow flurries!

I bought some new paper and for my first painting, I used Saunders 200# cp. I really liked the surface of this paper, at first it didn’t seem to be much difference between Saunders and Arches except that Saunders has a softness and receptiveness that I like. I think that I would like to try out the rough version next time. I wanted to try out a heavier paper and I was so pleased that it didn’t buckle at all. I am too lazy to stretch my paper, I know I should but I don’t. I have done it in the past and found that it still buckled. I followed all the instructions to the T and have tried several times.

1st painting 11 x 14 200# Saunders cp


2nd painting 7 x 10  Fabriano Artistico 300# rough


Do I love this paper or what? Yes I do! very much. It forces you to be bold, to make decisive marks and leave the paper alone. I have noticed that you can lift the color easily but be careful because there isn’t much resistance in that lifting, so it can be quite stark, make your lifting decisive. Another observation is that excessive brushwork will disturb the natural beauty of the surface, I limited my brushstrokes to only one or two strokes in the same area. If you take a closer look, the texture is very unique and has a mottled, valley appearance. If you are picky with the surface of your paper, this might be a deal breaker. I liked the surface very much and the way the paint goes on, it is magical.  I don’t mind finicky paper because it teaches me exactly what I want to learn with watercolor.

3rd painting 7 x 10 Fabriano 300# rough

With my third painting, my attempt at painting my blue hydrangea got lost in the shuffle. I had cut around the blue flowers but later on second thought brought in some surrounding colors and then poof….I lost them. I do like that tree to the right of it. I think that I was losing steam and you can see it in this painting. I value this painting regardless because of the learning points….which are:

Learning points:

  • Be willing to embrace and learn from new papers, don’t be afraid to step out from the familiar, either with paper, paints or techniques.
  • You don’t have to know where you are going while painting, it is like asking the driver “are we there yet?” it causes tension and chases away enjoyment.
  • The more you paint, confidence will build and the know how. Carpenters or tree fallers don’t know how to frame a house or fall a tree on the first day, give it time, it is a learning process.
  • Learn to mingle on your paper, over mixing is a killer, I thought about this as I mingled my colors, I have to resist the fear of the unknown and trust that there will be magic.
  • Don’t change your mind at the last minute unless you know you can pull it off successfully. As my Dad used to tell us….”Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream”.

Intuitive Painting-Psalm 65

I am back to painting and  will be starting on a watercolor soon. I was hoping to go plein air painting but it is very cloudy out there and is threatening to rain, which we need so badly here in Northern California.

While talking about art with a fellow blogger, I had mentioned my intuitive painting, he suggested that I post about it and my progress. So, here we are!

P1070947 (1).JPG
Tentatively named “Psalm 65” (the blues are not as rich as it is here in the photo)

I have been wanting to start this painting for a long time and I fought it because I didn’t know how to paint Psalm 65, do I go realistic or abstractly? Well, as you can see I chose the latter.

With this  painting, I literally empty my mind from any distractions, thoughts, ideas of what this painting should depict even though I was basing it upon Psalm 65. I am going for the spiritual and not literal.

This  is how I usually proceed.

  • Put on some music, lately it has been Gregorian chanting
  • Relax, pray, wait, empty myself, wait
  • Paint only what I feel I should paint…color, shapes or nothing
  • Don’t paint from the need to put a mark or color down
  • Entirely intuitive painting, nothing comes, paint nothing
  • Once I put the painting away till the next painting, I do not ever look at it or evaluate it (I broke my rule of not looking at it to marry it up to my photo for this post)
  • Don’t judge it while painting, or ever!
  • Be in the moment, no visualizing it as being done or half done or partially done
  • Treat it as an eternal puzzle piece, a stroke at a time

The why of this painting….well, it is a long story and at this point I will leave that out until a later date. I think if anything this is a personally designed experiment for me because I am a goal orientated person as most of us are. I come from parents who were workaholics and who focused on the finished product. I struggle with this so much, probably more than others because I have a tendency to castigate myself for not having a perfect or near perfect end product. I push myself to produce the end product, yes but also to have perfection in what I do, both in life and in art. I truly want to break this because it is not coming from the artistic self, it is coming from the “false self” the self that strives from a primitive part of the psyche. Striving for a whole bevy of reasons and I am very aware of this. I often spend time battering against this and arm myself with knowledge, both head knowledge and spiritual and yet, it remains a struggle.

Working on this painting is an attempt to work this out within myself. Thank you for taking the time to read this post being that it is a side step from my ongoing watercolor challenge. I would very much appreciate to hear what you feel or perceive but not what you think of the painting. I only ask you this because I am not going there myself, this is an open session painting with no analysis at all from myself or from others. Thank you so kindly!



Return to the Middle Yuba- June WC #5

I went back to the Middle Yuba for some more torture…no, I mean painting! My daughter and I wanted to take her dog and hang out at the river, swimming and relaxing. Of course, I had to take my watercolors to have another go at it.

Middle Yuba
#1 painting 7 x 9 Arches #140 rough
#2 painting 7 x 9 Arches 140# rough
#3 painting  5 x 7 Arches 140# rough










I picked up my 7 year old grandson today to spend the weekend with me. With my husband gone on a fire assignment and having just Rollin to look after, we are going to have some fun! Hike, rest my eyes and have a little hiatus from my art angst. I planned on posting two times a week, Saturdays and Wednesdays but I wanted to get a good start on our hiking adventure in the high country, so I am doing this post today.

I have been losing a little steam and feeling very negative about my paintings. This does happen to me now and then and I think after my trip to the Sierra Buttes, it hit hard. The painting experience at the Buttes was wonderful until I got home and took a good hard look at my paintings. Then the left brain came alive and did a pass on the double yellow and spun some dirt and gravel leaving my right brain behind!

I feel as though I am in a rut and am doing the same kind of paintings over and over. Is it my style or what? Why can’t I get it in my head about the basics of what I have been learning, I seem to be re-learning the same points over and over.

So, this is my last post until next Wednesday. I might not post until next Saturday to give myself a bit of a much needed breather. I think I have been too critical and castigating myself and I have been down this road before and I know how it is totally worthless to keep spinning my wheels over this issue. I need to take a break and gather my wits and rest.

Good news, my eyesight itself did check out to be alright though I do have a common condition that creates dry eyes. There are glands in the eyelids that contributes a oily substance that helps to make tears last on the eyeball. I was severely lacking in tears, long story short, I now have an on-going treatment plan. I should be seeing relief soon. Thank you all for the concern.

Now have a creative weekend everyone and see you next week!