Bear Lakes Loop- World Watercolor Month #2


My plein air adventure was a hike back to Little Bear Lake in Sierra County Bear Lakes Loop Trail where my grandson, Rollin and I took a hike and picnic a couple of weeks ago.

P1090982It is so green, amazing! is this the California in summer? Yes, indeed! in the high country it is very green, I didn’t see a dry blade of grass, all green.P1100060

Flowers everywhere, so amazing!

The Lighting was Perfect!

What an inspiring place to paint. I ended up here about 7 am and in fact I wished that I arrived more like 6 am but I didn’t get the rest that I needed so I slept in a bit.

painting #1 on 300# Fabriano 7 x 9 inches
A serene setting to paint in
Painting #2 on 140# Somerset 7 x 9 inches

I wasn’t very happy with my rock. I had such a difficult time with my rock and I am good with rocks! I still liked the rest of the painting, the lighting on the water was beautiful and I was able to depict it quite nicely.


Painting #3 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

Guess what? Those rocks were giving me trouble….again. I HATE those two rocks but at least it was fun trying to paint the rest of the scene.



Painting #4 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I truly enjoyed painting this one though  the smoky skies were hard to paint. I found that I wished I had more complexity with the trees. I had an artist angst of sorts yesterday and I hated this painting. Today I am warming up to it.


Painting #5 on #140 Arches 7 x 9 inches

For such a complex painting, I decided to paint it without a line of drawing but now I wished I had! It was like trying to put a puzzle together. That tree (hate that tree) was a hard one to paint because of that angle but here it is, flaws and all! It was an experiment of sorts.

Painting #6 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I was getting tired by now but determined to soldier through. I figured why drive up here and hike out this far and paint only a few paintings.

Painting #7 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I decided to go loose and crazy. I painted this one in a mere 2 minutes. It doesn’t look like much but when I put it under a mat, it popped with color and vibrancy. What I initially hated turned out to be something that I like very much.

On the way back, what a beautiful view
Snow still lingering at this elevation-over 6,000 ft.
A horse packing group with mule and rider in the rear

At the end of the trail for this post. I plan on going back before the end of the season before the snow flies and they close off the road. I want to come back and get a better  painting experience in this wonderful part of the country.

I have a continuing problem that crops up occasionally in which I castigate myself and my art and it reared its’ ugly head the last few days. I know that eventually I will get to the bottom of this and throw it out for good! I can only hope.

My Learning Points:

  • Rendering complex scenes doesn’t necessarily make a painting better, simplicity can be golden.
  • Paring down my equipment is a must, this hike wasn’t necessarily long but the elevation made it more strenuous.
  • By golly, it is just art! Lighten up!
  • Good for me, I took only a pint of water (just in case the lakes were dry!) in the past, I would take a quart or more when hiking to paint the river, go figure.

41 thoughts on “Bear Lakes Loop- World Watercolor Month #2

  1. painting #1 the 7×9 is superb. outstanding. Brilliant. must frame. Wow! make prints of this one!! your edges and tones Were Perfection. the other one I really liked, was the Rock… if, I may suggest? a teeny smudging on the left shadow of the rock? just to soften that edge up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What? You realize that I almost didn’t post these because I thought that they were “atrocious”? yep, that is my artist angst! right! that rock is too hard….I saw that and figured that I could fix it later. I never mind you giving me suggestions Debi….ever. I expect it! 😉 thank you for your comment especially on the first one. That was out the chute and not bad….no warm-up or anything. So happy that I didn’t bugger it up. lol


  2. What an amazing post, Margaret! I can feel the inspiration this beautiful landscape gives you in every single brushstroke. I agree with Debi Riley – the #1 is awesome and should be framed and printed!!! But i love all your other, too. I think you should not worry too much about a single rock that did not turn out the way you wanted. The mood you captured is much more important than the shape of a singe object – and you captured the mood in perfection. Congratulations! If you don´t mind i would like to use a few of your photographs for practicing again. So inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely adventure. Yes, you need to oust the inner critic because these are fine watercolors. Looks like you had a very productive session and produced a bunch of strong pictures. Everything to feel glad about. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beautuful paintings Margaret. These are all complex scenes and you did very well to simplify and capture the essence. That olive yellow green is your signature color and I really like it. The control of edges is a really important thing in paintings like these. you did great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha…..come up my way and we can go up there to hike and paint….the greenery is so beautiful and I am not kidding, there isn’t one dry blade of grass up there! I live about a hour and 10 minutes from the trail head….way worth the drive.


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    1. thank you Charlie…..think of it this way…..Mrs. Nature demands that I make the most of the time I am out there, make use of the chance and that turns into multiple paintings. Driving an hour and then hiking in a mile or two to paint one painting? lol you get the idea…..but it is fun though….I love to push myself, it is in my nature.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. What fun this post is. It is so good to see California looking the way I remember it from, well, a long time ago. (45 years I’ve been away. How did that happen?!)

    I don’t do well painting in plein air, but it is great to see yours. I stubbornly fought against it but I am learning that simplicity is golden, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your visit and your comments People don’t realize that California is more than beaches and cities. Plein air takes work and if you still want to make a go of it, I suggest that you keep at it and realize that it takes a while before you even like something that you go home with. I still struggle with this but I love getting out there and enjoying the experience. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi. Fun honest post. You certainly pick complex challenging scenes to work from. Gorgeous scenery out there. We have so much green lushness here its hard to find the rocks. 🙂 I liked the curved tree image coming out of the rock formation. Fun and carefree. Good for you to get out there and paint from nature. I need to do a bit more of that too. Cheers from NH.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plein air is so fun, I love it…..oh to have green lushness all around me all the time, what a dream! I do like complex scenes, always challenging myself is a force that I can’t seem to control! thank you for your visit and comments. 🙂


  8. I’m very impressed that you not only hiked in and out, but completed seven paintings! And they are all worthy. Even if you don’t like bits of one or another, you can always use them for reference to paint one you are happy with back in your studio.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was fun and I was impressed that I managed to do it….I hope to go back to paint fall colors and before the snow flies. They usually close off the road in the winter because of the snows. You are right, I can use them as reference combined with my photos for future paintings. 🙂 thank you for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. loved your watercolors! I’m impressed also—each one was something special. I love plein air and I’m still working on trying to use watercolor in the field with good results. It requires a lot of planning and you’ve done so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. can you imagine that I used to avoid using watercolor en plein air because I was intimidated by it? I worked solely in pastels for over 12 years, I think maybe 13. I ran across my first plein air paintings just a few weeks ago but already I have forgotten the date. One summer I attempted to take my watercolors outdoors and boy, it was like wrestling a tiger! My insecurity level went sky high and I finally let it go. Now, I prefer to take my watercolors and paint outdoors than with pastel! I would never had thought I would get to that point in a million years. I think for me what helps is that I have learned that painting with watercolors en plein air is like painting on the of my seat, though in the past, I hated it. Watercolor is exciting and you never know what you’ll get. I could go on and on. If you want to read up on my discoveries and adventure, I did a personal challenge in May and since then continued. I write all about what I learned and my discovery that I love painting with watercolors out in the field. Nice to meet you and thank you for visiting and your comments. 🙂


    1. You do have a WP account here, right? by looking at your art, I remember liking a painting of yours, I think, the style is the same. By the way, I love your art, I can’t put my finger on it but it says something, full of stories. If you have a WP account I can’t seem to get to it….help! lol 🙂 perhaps I am following you and I forgot, so much activity here that I run into that all the time.


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