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.
  • KeepΒ 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.

31 thoughts on “Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #6

  1. I love your learning points, each point I agree with, I couldn’t paint well tonight, I did paint but my mind was in the wrong place, it was horrific, over worked and very poor, I will post it just to show how wrong it can go, we are all human, sometimes the hand does follow the minds state. However paint can help and relax the mind out of poor state, so I created four colourful background washes, ready for some art at a later date, it became a huge relief, just playing with colour….I will also post later. Lovely work produced, with a yet again stunning view πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh you handled that well, that is true, you can paint out of a corner! I have done that actually and it is helpful to get moving out of that frame of mind. I am looking forward to it. You are so right, we are all human and sometimes that magic doesn’t happen πŸ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Learning points are way true and when everyone reads m sure they must be saying oh yeah Margaret is right at this point! Seriously when you are frustrated even a smallest rat you draw looks like a cat it jus worsens the day by continuing to draw/paint with a bad mood. Great post! Love your landscape 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! you see, I have done exactly that and have been pushed into the mode of envisioning tearing up my paintings and throwing things… I know exactly never, ever to paint when depressed or frustrated. lol πŸ™‚ oh, those lessons are so hard to learn sometimes! Thank you for your comments and your visit.


  3. Margaret, this is a great painting. I think it is definitely frame-worthy. You did a great job simplifying all the textures and keeping the eye on those hills with their shadows that you did so luminously. Really impressive.
    I also like your learning points – don’t stretch the paper, but stretch yourself. Got it!
    (I always stretch my paper – would like to hear your long story on stretching paper at some stage!).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I enjoyed painting this but my excitement level was not to the level that I fly in. I wouldn’t mind trying this motive out again but go a whole lot looser, simplify and abstract the scene a bit. That is really how I want to paint it. It is easy when I go plein air painting but when I sit down in my studio and be more analytical, my “crazy artist professor” takes a hike. Anyway, something that I will explore in the ensuing months. So…..the stretching story, not too much to it but, I might have to say there was a whole lot of grunting and “almost swearing”. I do have a question, every time I have ever stretched the paper (at least 4-5 times) my paper buckled regardless. I varied my times for soaking, used a sponge to spread the paper out, stapled….prayed…..and still it buckled! I am taking the hint that I am destined not to stretch my paper. I am a happy camper without that chore! I’ll leave it to you folks that has success with it. Thank you by the way for your comments and observations, much appreciated. πŸ™‚


  4. Margaret, I love this painting, definitely frameworthy! There is one area that keeps drawing my eye and not sure you’re intending for it to. It’s a brown area at the top of the ridge where the trees meet the ground. There are some hard edges there and I know you mentioned wanting to soften some. What do I know, but you asked for comments, and so I mention it to let you know it keeps drawing my eye up there. When people say artwork is better than photographs, they were talking about this painting right here, your colors are smashing and I find this a very transportive work. This will be dynamite framed and hung! Thank you for sharing. Also I may need to start calling you the Zen Mistress of WC because your learning points just sing and sing. You could write a book of them and people would really learn from you and enjoy themselves too! πŸ’œπŸ’›πŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura….thank you! yes…..soften…..that I must. Sometimes I create more hard edges when I go tighter than I want. The section of diggings that I want to stand out is the middle and to the right….I think! Also, which is interesting, that spot that draws your eye was an area that I spent a lot of time on because it was so intricate. So I would imagine areas that you spend a lot of time on, draws your audience to….something that I need to remember next time unless it is intended! but no I don’t want the eye to go to one spot, I want some eye travelling for the viewer. Yes, I was hoping for some feedback and you were the first brave soul and like I said, I don’t bite, unless it is my husband and I didn’t get what I wanted! lol πŸ™‚ thank you for all your kind words and your critique!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hey, I asked for it right? and you do have a keen eye and I value your input and what you have to offer…..always feel free to speak up. If you are too hesitant, you can always message me on Goodreads and have at it! lol πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I recently started following you. Great blog. I like your learning points at the end of each post. My question – how much composition planning do you do before beginning a painting? I really like to jump in and start when I’m in front of a scene but I’m finding composition errors that can’t be fixed easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, truth be told I am not much of a planner. I like to jump into the artistic rapids head first! but….I think that when I do pick my particular scene, I have the composition in mind first thing. I will make it more pleasing to the eye and will drop a tree or two or move an element even though my scene says otherwise. I don’t think that is a problem at all. If we wanted to stay realistically to what we see, might as well take a photo and not attempt a painting. I think that artistic license is valid all the time, imho. I do have a problem with seeing my values properly, that is more of my concern than composition. I am always working on that and fretting about it. I think that it helps to spend time composing in your mind while out in the outdoors even when you are not painting. Picking out what works and doesn’t work as a composition in paintings that you look at. I am so happy to hear that my blog is helping you and it makes the blog worthwhile knowing my struggles and experience is benefitting. πŸ™‚


  6. I can look at this post over and over!!! The way you interpretate this grandiose landscape is just terrific, Margaret. Your color choices are always excellent and are a great part of your style. The scenery comes alive a second time on your paper. Thanks for mentioning me – but you donΒ΄t need this advice. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Margaret I am a big fan of soft edges especially for distant mountain or horizon lines. But the hard edge of your ridge does define those sandy cliff or dig areas. i think you should leave the edge there. Love the blue grey and and vilet shading of that area

    Liked by 1 person

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