Rocks At Malakoff

Fabriano 300# 11 x 14 inches

I was planning on painting this  yesterday but I was so tired from posting and then life got in the way. Been thinking about painting the rocks at Malakoff because they are quite unusual in that many of the rocks have been oxidized by the local minerals left over from the hydraulic gold mining back in the last century. Here is the post from a plein air trip that I made about a month ago Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #4

My reference photo


I took artist license and moved some elements around to simplify and to give some interest. I decided not to litter my scene with all the trees but who knows I might go back in and put some more trees in. I took some time with this painting and I learned a lot. I felt it was loose in some ways but tighter than I normally like to work.

Leaning Point:

  • Plein air painting has been exercising my artist muscles because it felt so easy to paint this, not a problem, I knew exactly what I was suppose to do.
  • Again, paint what you love and what you know. I am a little stubborn in that I will not paint a subject or place that I have never been. I used to when I was first learning but now I am adamant that I only paint a location that I have been to.

Madrone Madness #6

I was planning on going to the river but I changed my mind because I will be going to the river with my daughter and her three children tomorrow to swim. I decided to keep my ventures to the river special each and every time. I didn’t plan on painting today but with the lighting on the madrones out back, last-minute decision and here we are. One of my favorite painting sessions using these madrones for my subject Madrone Madness #5-World Watercolor Month #5

Painting #1 on Arches 300# 11 x 14 inches

I liked how this painting started but I changed my mind on certain sections and took off some paint. I am only including this painting to illustrate what happens when the focus or intention goes awry. My first intention was to highlight the golden color coming through the trees. Usually morning light isn’t as golden but because of our smoky skies, the light in the morning has been more of an evening tint. There are some parts that I do like in this painting but I call it a fail. I also am asking you all what would you do with this painting? add or subtract? I am undecided. I just might turn it over and paint on the other side.

This is the section that I do like
Painting #2 on Saunders 200# 7 x 9 inches

Now we are cooking! I loved how this one painted and turned out…..So fun! I used my water sprayer extensively and yet cautiously on this one. I learned from my last painting to keep my mind on one intention and let the magic of watercolor happen.

Close-up of my favorite spot
Painting #3 on Saunders #200 7 x 9 inches

I enjoyed this one almost as much….probably too much red but then it really makes the painting sing. Looking at it now, I had hoped for more soft edges but I am not touching it again.

Learning Points:

  • Don’t have two ideas conflicting while painting, one focus or intention at a time.
  • Getting in and getting out is fun!
  • Keep your colors fresh and allow mixing on the paper. I failed to allow this to occur on painting #1




South Yuba River

My scene
Painting #1 on Fabriano 140# 7 x 9 inches

Be aware that the blues are not as blue as this photo shows, and the yellow/gold is too acid here. Not sure why but I just could not get an accurate photo of this painting. Everything looks too blue/yellow and very blotchy. With that in mind, I loved painting this and it was difficult because I was facing a bright sun coming through that canyon.

scene #2
painting #2 on Fabriano 300# 11 x 14 inches

I love Fabriano when depicting anything with textures and especially rocks! perfect! I think that I was able to marry up my photo to my painting except the gold/yellow is not as sharp but more blended with the other colors.

scene #3
painting #3 on Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches

Again, the blues are too blue in this photo….I had a difficult time depicting the underlying rocks. I think with plein air when you get in and get out, sometimes you grab an illusion of a scene without getting the whole tamale of a depiction. Not enough time especially when the light is moving so fast. I think that with my photos, I’ll be able to go back and do a studio painting and work up to the finish that most people appreciate. For me, I am caught in between. I like the freshness of a plein air and yet I like a certain amount of “I’ve got it” in the level of finish.

Looking downstream to the first bridge, built in 1921, these boulders are huge by the way and the river is meandering between them. Can you see me with my hat? Hello!

Learning Points:

  • Watercolor is a medium worthy of tackling over and over, hours upon hours and especially if you can get out and paint from life, do it!
  • Don’t give up! every relationship is worth the work and determination. Watercolor is a relationship of sorts. I have always loved watercolor and I plan to make this marriage work!
  • Paint what inspires you, very important. I love the river and the river loves me (I think) and I love watercolor when I paint what I love, a lot of loving going on!
  • Morning sun is the best when it is peeking over a ridge or just hitting the subject, same goes with evening light, when it glows and hits that zenith of pure beauty.
  • Don’t be afraid to use opaque white, I did! the watercolor police were not in proximity and it is not a crime.

Camptonville Cemetery-World Watercolor Month #9


My little plein air adventure was to Camptonville Cemetery which is located right in town. Camptonville history this link will give you some interesting details of the history of this little town. I arrived before the sun hit the cemetery itself, so I painted this truck on the edge overlooking the countryside.

My reference photo for my  first painting
painting #1 on Arches 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

Painting this truck has been a dream of mine for years and I think I need to do a studio painting of it and work on it bringing out the textures because en plein air, I was able to do so much. I wanted to keep the surrounding foliage simple. I could feel myself wanting to go abstract but I held myself back.

Painting #2 on Arches 140# cp 7 x 9 inches…. the countryside, backside of the cemetery

Alright wondering why I go to a cemetery and not paint headstones? I arrived too early and I had to wait for the sun to hit the cemetery itself. Finally, I was able to paint a headstone! I planted myself between these two headstones…..interesting…..a Margaret and a Maggie; just like before I painted next to a Margaret just this past week.





Painting #3 on Arches 140# cp 11 x 14 inches

My headstone is a bit off, it didn’t help that I had a meat bee trying to take a bite out of me and I was using my painting to swat at him. I can’t blame it all on the bee, I need to be more careful in cutting out my shapes in the future. My drawing was right on (I think) but the painting part, I lost some good edges. A good learning experience. The top of my headstone is off, it makes me laugh but that was when I was fighting the bee.

It was a ho hum painting experience, it didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, I ended up more focused on depicting detail which is alright. I need to learn to go from one spectrum to the other. I am not exactly crazy in love with any of my paintings. I am trying to find the sweet spot of working within my style which is very loose and yet I ended up painting more realistic than I really wanted to. I am trying to find my way.

I tried out my new color, Cobalt Teal Blue in the 3rd painting….I do believe that it is opaque or semi-transparent and it should be used alone as my fellow blogger Debi has mentioned many times. Debi’s Cobalt Teal Blue Wisdom I had to test it out and she is right! I didn’t really mix it but it needs space and strategic planning. I feel that it does not look right in the spot that I used it.

Learning Points:

  • Practice out of my comfort zone as often as I can.
  • Alternate different approaches, ie:  abstract to tight. It keeps my drawing skills in tune and helps to keep my interest level engaged.
  • I need to learn to depict grasses better.

Little Bear Lake Memories-World Watercolor #8

I had planned on working on my Intuitive Painting-Psalm 65 to get more into a meditative, prayerful attitude on my painting….but I guess I was pulled back to finish a painting that I started yesterday.

My reference photo
My painting! 13.5 x 15 inches Arches 140# cp

Keep in mind, that orange tree is not as sharp and vivid as it appears in the photo. I loved painting this so much, I did start it yesterday but ended up having to start all over again because I fiddled too much and on this kind of ethereal style, you can’t fiddle. I had a close mishap in which I bumped the table I was working on and my three tubs of water went splashing all over the place. I ended up with four good drops of water. Thank goodness, I caught it in time and no harm was done.

Close-up of one of my favorite areas in the water area.
My most favorite spot….looks like a forest within a forest

This kind of painting is so me that I can’t tell how much. I would like to learn more color combinations but I tried to stay close to the three primaries but I would like to have more subtleties and more greyed down areas. In the past, colors like these were too “fairy” for me but lately it is growing on me.

Learning Points:

  • Experiment! experiment!….I can’t emphasize that enough with watercolor.
  • Don’t feel that a painting is too precious or that you can’t re-do or start over, I am so glad that I have been learning this. No painting is so precious or that you will never get the same results, realize that, the sooner that you do, the happier you will be.




Peoria Memorial Park-World Watercolor 7

Up and at it early and arriving just before the sun hit the cementery, located about 5 miles from Loma Rica.

The sun just coming over the ridge
beautiful light and color on these cypresses
painting #1 on Arches 140# rough 11 x 14 inches
painting #2  on Fabriano #140 7 x 9 inches
Painting #3 on Arches 140# rough 7 x 9 inches
painting #4 on  Fabriano 140# 7 x 9 inches

I intended to make a rather tight study or detailed paintings but, again….my loose and crazy side came out to play. I actually painted one more but it was not quite clear enough in the shapes and values to include here.

I am trying to find my way into an approach that really works for me, I do tend to want to abstract my paintings lately, so I am not holding back. Perhaps it is my way of finding how far I want to go with looseness. Time will tell if I venture back to more realism, I am not worried about it. I am painting for pure joy and for me at this point.

It was so fun to hear the birds and mooing cattle nearby. I scouted out this cemetery about two weeks ago and I finally was able to come and paint. Now….if you are wondering where are the headstones in my paintings? I think that you can see one that is a shape of a headstone that I intended to paint but was initially forgotten. I think that I was to excited about the trees and the beauty rather than the headstones.

Poor dear Margaret….. but she had a long life!


Love that view! especially of the oaks in the background

Learning Points:

  • Mingle your paints rather than on the palette, so much more exciting!

Short and sweet….sorry I ran out of steam, more next time.

Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #6


Saunders 140# 14 x 21 inches

This photo is almost spot on except that the yellow greens are not as acid as in this photo, keep that in mind and also the brights are pretty bright.

I decided to paint a larger format painting and take some time to be a bit more detailed, something that doesn’t exactly excite me. For all of you that know me, I like to be really loose and get brush happy and flip and mingle paint, living on the edge, that’s me. I wasn’t too sure how I would take to a more detailed, slow approach but I ended up really enjoying the process. My need for excitement was met by watching the painting come to life and really working on saving my whites…..success! I had a blast and I am not kidding. I learned a lot and I’ll put what I learned in my points at the bottom.

I forgot to mention why I started this painting. I have several of my paintings at a local mining shop in Grass Valley and I talked with one of the owners and he suggested that perhaps a larger painting would be nice in the main showroom. I told him that I recently painted at Malakoff Diggins, a historic hydraulic gold mining operation in the 1800’s. I thought I would see if I can paint a decent depiction of Malakoff and have it framed and put in the shop. I hope that it is frame worthy….please give me your thoughts on this.

I might soften some hard edges here or there but basically I think that I am done….offer any suggestions if you see anything, don’t be shy! I won’t bite!

P1100307 (2).JPG
Malakoff Diggins reference photo
close-up #1
close-up #2 you can see the softness that Saunders paper offers….

Learning Points:

  • I will never attempt stretching paper again, long story but no, not for me!
  • I love going large, I suggest it for everyone to stretch yourself by taking on a larger painting.
  • Take many breaks away from your painting….fresh eyes are important, especially in judging your values correctly.
  • Work slowly and methodically if you plan on saving them whites.
  • Don’t ever work on a painting if you are frustrated. In this case I wasn’t, so it was pure joy. Never, ever work on a painting when frustrated or depressed, it doesn’t get better, just worse. I have been there way too many times.
  • Keep moving that brush….thank you Carsten for this advice, I always think of you when I use this expression. Don’t give up, be stubborn, watercolor is a partner, not the enemy.

Madrone Madness #5-World Watercolor Month #5

Painting 1    Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

I truly wanted to go paint at a new location and I will hopefully be able to this weekend but this morning I just wanted to stay close to home. All I had to do this morning is walk out back and there are my madrones which I have been painting a series of Madrone Madness-June WC #1  take a peek at my very first post on these magnificent trees.

Painting 2   Fabriano #300 11 x 14 inches

I truly am in love with Fabriano. I can’t get over how wonderful a paper this is and it suits my approach to painting. With Fabriano, you don’t want to keep brushing at it. One to three brushstrokes is safe, any more, you are going to be messing with this picky, but beautiful paper. It suits me because I have a tendency to get in there and get out with just one or two brushstrokes because I am impatient and go bold, fast and get it done. That is basically my personality. I suggest that you buy a watercolor paper that is reputed to be “difficult”, it will teach you the lessons that you need to learn.

Painting 3  Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches

With this painting I intended to go tight and more realistic but I just couldn’t help myself. Why restrain the natural inclination to go wild and bold? I am painting first for me, I love how I am naturally being pulled into my own style. It has taken years upon years to move into my style. I worried for years, fretted and searched for my style. I hear other artists, in particular, beginners say that they want to find their style.

Fretting about it and pushing for it is really not the way to find your style. It comes with a lot of learning and hard work. It wasn’t until I ventured into watercolor that I began to understand that I do have a style and I know what it is. That came through watercolor I believe because I allowed myself to be playful, bold, let loose and just learn by letting watercolor show me.

Learning Points:

  • Accept that I love abstract and loose. I can go tight, I know that but I prefer loose.
  • Control and learn the ratio of paint to water, keep practicing.
  • Wet or dry paint on my palette? that is the question. With this style of bold, loose and wild, wet out of the tube is best but then I can’t put out wet all the time because then I will have to allow it to dry. Something that I need to research.
  • Stretch yourself and try all kinds of paper, techniques, stay out of that gutter of familiarity and sameness. Do yourself a favor and live a little.

Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #4

Malakoff 7 am bright and early

I haven’t been to this spot for over a couple of years. This particular area is rich with hydraulic gold mining history. Easier for me to refer you to this link about the history and general info  Malakoff State Park.

Painting #1   Fabriano #300 cp 11 x 14 inches
Rich colors in the rocks here, I do believe this is Oxide?

I would ask my husband about this rock and the others but I am in a hurry to upload this and he isn’t home yet. The rocks were amazing and this next painting had a good start but I got lost in the colors and therefore, struggled with my values. (below)

Painting #2  Saunders 200# cp 7 x 9 inches

I decided to go abstract once I got home and tried to rescue it, no worries, I can flip it over and paint on the other side.

Painting #3  Fabriano 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

With this painting, I lost my whites and I decided once I got home, to flip it to a horizontal presentation and painted an abstract feeling of the scene. I felt total freedom and joy in doing this. This is a miracle considering that I have always wanted a perfect painting in years past.

My scene… North Bloomfield

North Bloomfield is the headquarters of Malakoff State Park and many of the buildings have been restored and turned into museum displays.

Painting #4  Arches 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

I spent some time to build up layers and it has been a long time since I have painted buildings en plein air, so I am rusty. I changed out the white picket fence for a wrought iron one. No harm done, I don’t have the knowledge or patience how to handle a white picket fence at this point. I hope to be practicing more on buildings. This turned out too tight for my taste… thrills for me on this one.

The interior of the pharmacy I believe

My Learning Points:

  • I love painting with Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue….perfect for these rocks
  • If a painting doesn’t turn out, make an abstract out of it or turn it over and paint on the other side.
  • It is perfectly fine to wash off a painting though some strainers will not totally disappear, learn by trial and error.
  • I prefer loose and fancy free. Working tight always dulls my fun.
I love this rock, reminds me of gold in quartz


Beautiful color!

South Yuba Gold-World Watercolor Month #3

South Yuba River-old bridge built 1922

I remember crossing this bridge as a youngster coming up for family vacations to visit my grandparents and family back in the ’60’s and 70’s. Before the new highway was built I believe in the late 70’s, driving Hwy 49 was treacherous. I remember going around corners, my Dad often would honk the horn because of the truckers taking a wide berth. Come to think of it, this road is still quite deadly. I haven’t been down to this part of the river in years, I focus more on the North and Middle Yuba. What a beautiful day to paint, I was the first to arrive.

Painting #1 scene

I was pleased with the beautiful lighting and the rocks of the South Yuba is very different from the rocks of the North Yuba. Subtle colors with a lot of granite, I believe. It felt like painting an egg study.

#1 300# Arches rough 7 x 9 inches

I decided to bring out more texture later in the studio, and added a little more depth to the water.

scene for #2
#2 300# Arches rough 7 x 9 inches

I tried my best to marry up my photo to my painting. Bear in mind that those yellow/gold areas are not blotches of green/gold but subtle and more like light washes of color. The blue is not as sharp. No idea why I had a difficult time, usually I can get my photo spot on.

Now to the painting. My shadow under the rock on the bottom right was the hardest part to paint. Whew….Now I know I should have soften up edges but with this kind of rock formations, it is something you do want to delineate otherwise, you have one big mass with no definition. I will work on this in the future, softening edges that benefits the painting without losing form.

Last scene #3
Painting #3 on 200# Saunders CP

The blues are not as rich in my painting and the yellows are more subtle not so acid as in this photo. I had another difficult time getting the shadow correct on that over-hanging rock, something that I will be practicing in the next months.

My Learning Points:

  • I need to venture to the South Yuba river more often!
  • It is alright to take a painting back to finish. I have had this idea that I need to finish on site because of a belief that I will lose freshness. I have decided this is not true, over-working is when I lose freshness.
  • I only touched up areas that I felt would enhance the painting and no more….I repeat NO MORE…so tempting to make it even better.
  • I love rough paper, it makes dry brush work easy.
  • Practice shadows on rocks!
What a view!

Get out and Paint en Plein Air….you can thank me later! Remember doing this kind of activity heightens your keen artist eye.

South Yuba River beauty