Beach at Rocky Rest

Painting #1 on Saunders 200#  7 x 9 inches

I thought while I was at the river hanging out with my youngest daughter and her dog, Alonzo I would paint. Surprising idea, huh? I forgot my camera, no photos with this plein air session. (What?!!) I am wondering if the simplistic look is sufficient or should I give some texture to the river and the embankment? Does this painting look finished to you?

Painting #2 on Arches 140# rough 7 x 9 inches

This painting is a failure I believe but including it in my post. I do believe that I got a good start on the foliage of the tree and the trunk but failed in that I have a dominate branch leading the eye out of the painting. I lost definition of the rocks in the foreground and the shapes of the shadows aren’t delineated from the foreground. I decided not to finish the bottom part of the painting which included the river and it actually isn’t shown in this photo.

Learning Points:

  • Success with a painting sometimes is a hit or miss and that’s alright, enjoy it when it happens.
  • That’s all folks….for now!

Shenanigans at Shenanigan Flat


Isn’t that pretty? Sometimes I don’t think that my fellow bloggers realize how I access these beautiful scenes that I paint at. At this particular spot, I have been go down a steep trail often grabbing trees for stability. I pick my way down very carefully and often I worry that I might go sliding down the hill! So, I had this great idea that I could have my industrious son-in-law, Luis install a rope system for me. He is a tree climber and knows life saving knots and rope systems. Who else to call upon to help me?

Luis working hard being “knotty”

I love this area and I am hoping that now I can safely access my favorite location in order to paint during the winter as well. See you all down at the river!

Rocky Rest-North Yuba River

Painting #1 on Arches 140# rough 7 x 9 inches

I finally ended up with some paintings that I am happy with. I have been in a somewhat picky mood and I didn’t feel like posting my last batch of plein air paintings but I felt more in the groove this time around. I could probably bring in more blue to set off that embankment of trees, I might go ahead and do that, maybe not!

painting #2 on Arches 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

My photo was at a slant, I didn’t realize it until I uploaded it….no, I didn’t paint it crooked. I decided to have another go at the same scene. The colors on those oaks on the left side was very difficult because fall is already coming and the colors was this wonderful yellowish gold.

My scene for my first paintings

I decided to go simple with the river, I have a tendency to try too hard to capture the river and I usually over-paint it. I am purposely going simple and will continue to work it slowly up in order to teach myself how to capture it well enough.

painting #3 on Saunders #200 11 x 14 inches

It was so difficult to capture this scene because of the rocks looking pretty much the same and in full sun except for the foreground rocks. I loved the color of the river, so beautiful and also hard to paint. That bend goes around to a large rapids which is referred to Maytag to the locals here.

My scene

I didn’t quite bring in enough dark on the foreground but I am not too worried about it because I always have another day to try. I am trying to become more relaxed about not expecting to get a perfect painting each and every time I plein air paint. After all I am after feeling and a sense of place.

painting #4 on Saunders #200 7 x 9 inches

This photo shows too much blue, keep that in mind when viewing this. I was running out of steam when I did this painting and I struggled with the values and I am not too worried about it as I plan to do a studio painting of this scene but on a larger scale and more of the background as well.

I didn’t go as abstract as I wanted, again I was pulled in by the mechanics and the elements. I had planned on doing some charcoal studies but I was too anxious to get to the watercolor, maybe next time.

Learning Points:

  • Again it takes up to 30 minutes when your “artist eyes” kicks in.
  • Don’t judge as you paint especially during the warm-up stage when your eye to brain to hand is trying to coordinate.
  • It is alright to take a painting back to the studio to finish, I did!
  • I encourage artists to get out and plein air paint, as I painted in the studio I was mentally out at the scene finishing up. I used a photo reference but my experience allows for my memory and imagination to take over.
On the North Yuba Trail at Rocky Rest

Daniel Smith Cobalt Teal Blue and Co.

CTB and Hematite

I did a little experimentation with Daniel Smith’s Cobalt Teal Blue with a few colors and I hope these swatches does the job. I must be in a very picky mood because I was trying for the perfect angle and color swatch, oh my goodness!

CBT and Hematite

Debi Riley was interested in what I discovered and wished that I got a better representation of Lunar Blue and CBT together, I tried but I am not sure if it really shows off the beautiful combination.

CTB and Lunar Blue

I laid down the heavier granulating colors which are Lunar Blue and Hematite and then the CTB, I think that they float together quite well. I have to admit that I am more partial to Hematite mixture the most. I do need to get more of that color, one of my favorites. Then I tried DS Quin. Red and it was beautiful! I couldn’t get a good photo but I must say….wow! Take my word for it.

That’s all folks! I hope to get back into the swing of things soon. I have a sudden picky mood come on, not the depressing kind, more of a quiet contemplative kind. Whatever that means, no clue. Just a few days break is in order.

Faded Roses-abstract

on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

I didn’t feel like working on my current studio painting of the river, wanting to leave that for another special day of painting. I had a vase of red roses that were dried up left over from my birthday and I thought I would use them as inspiration. The reds are darker and richer than you see in the photo, a nice kind of pop.

Do you see roses in this? I don’t either, but does it really matter? I used them as a kicking off point and it is alright that they didn’t make an appearance, their “scent” is in there somewhere.

I am undecided if this is finished or not and wondering if my addition of the green curly cue shapes are a hit or miss. I am not liking them too well. I might give it some thought and see if I need to continue or flip it over and paint on the other side. I really detest the ones at the bottom center. I am thinking if I were to go in and do something about those shapes, that I’ll mess it up.

One of my favorite parts in the painting

Learning Points:

  • Short and sweet….have fun!



Madrone Madness #8

Madrone and Co. on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

I was high jacked this morning by the light and my trees. of course I obliged, willingly. I am in love with Fabriano but for abstracts like this, I love the softness of Saunders 200# and I can’t wait to try out Fabriano Soft Press in which Debi Riley raves about. As soon as I can manage it, I will be buying it. This is my first painting session with my madrones here: Madrone Madness-June WC #1 as you can see, I am getting looser and improving, I hope!

I am finding that I love to use my sprayer while painting to help coax the paint and to limit brush strokes. I do use my brush to drop in paint or use the very tip to push/brush the paint to make the trunks of the trees stand out. I also have found that allowing the excess water from my brush to drop into the paint mixture I had just put down, helps to lighten that area. I love this way of painting, it is truly me. Abstraction is something I love and I am hoping to incorporate it more and more into my plein air of the river. I try so hard to depict what I see and I usually overdo it or bungling it up, I have used this kind of  painting at the river before and I loved the results,  Shenanigan Flat-North Yuba River with painting #3.

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close-up of one of my favorite areas
My scene before the glow that I chased

Learning Points:

  • With abstracts such as these, incorporate all kinds of means to get the job done, think outside the box.
  • For me, limiting actual brushstrokes work best for abstraction.
  • Plein air is hard but when it is happening, it is heaven!
  • Don’t be afraid to let that paint flow or let those colors mingle, who knows what you will end up with?
  • Adventure keeps you young!
  • Wet paint from the tube is best for abstraction.

North Yuba River-Shenanigan Flat

Painting #1 on Saunders #200 7 x 9 inches
I took my camera but failed to put my photo card back in from the computer. Darn! no photos to refer to or show my spot that I painted at. It was a bit hazy and the love how there is such a change in the lighting.
That rock in painting #1 was very interesting because it looked like an Italian desert cake with all those slim layers, very fun to paint, I tell you what!
painting #2 on Arches #140 cp 7 x 9 inches
I was barely being able to “see” the values and shapes, I was having fits thinking that I was messing up. Almost 75% in, my artist eyes kicked in, always seems to happen the same way each painting session.
painting #3 on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches
Finally able to start enjoying myself. I plan on coming back because this spot is the “land of a hundred paintings”. It is very steep and precarious getting down to this spot and I have already arranged to have my tree faller son-in-law install a rope system with his fancy knot skills. I plan on accessing this area in all kinds of weather and I don’t want to break a leg!
Learning Points:
  • Observe and know your light and changes in weather, it takes a constant awareness and plein air painting to sense the slightest change. It helps you to choose your colors and your approach.
  • Again, it takes at least 30 minutes for your artist eyes to kick in, be patient and don’t fret if it doesn’t seem to be coming together.
  • Be stubborn it will happen, if not, just have fun anyway.
  • Rocks can be difficult to follow, it is alright to improvise, just make it look artful.
Simply divine, taken just several hundred downstream


Evening Light at Bullards

Arches 140# cp 11 x 14 inches

I worked on this studio painting for the past two days. It is based upon a photo I took while plein air painting along the 8 Ball Trail at Bullards Bar Reservoir.


I suppose that I could have gone darker and I might try this again until I get it to the satisfactory value range that it demands but I figure it is a way to get my feet wet with this particular scene.

Learning Points:

  • Saving my white paper and going slow is fun! so different from painting from the seat of my pants, plein air!
  • All of my plein air painting is paying off in the studio, I would not have it any other way and I again advocate painting from life, it is integral to being a painter.

I can’t think of any other learning points other than I am discovering that I love pure color and when a color went a bit muddy, I freaked out. Most people would consider what I freaked out at is simple intermingling colors to an usable grayed down color, to me it appears muddy. Interesting, I’ll have to see what this all means. I rather enjoyed this painting session even though I should be resting because I am barely over the flu but I couldn’t resist.

I have another painting in progress and hope to have it finished before the weekend. I have another painting of Humbug Creek in mind to paint next.

Humbug Creek Love and the One That Got Away

Fabriano #300 11 x 14 inches

I love this area and I think if I could easily paint every week for a year and still have something to explore and paint at this location. I started out painting perched on a rock in a middle of a spot that is called “Maytag” because of the force of the river and the arrangement of the rocks. I had to keep alert. If you are wondering why the title ‘The One That Got Away’, well, I lost a painting of Maytag. I think it was a good one but after changing my spot to paint three times, I inadvertently lost it, this morning it dawned on me that I had lost a painting! Yes, I know, how can that happen?

Humbug Creek, my scene for the painting above
Maytag, the scene of the missing painting
on Saunders #200 11 x 14

I wasn’t very happy with this painting, the only area that I like is the rocks on the bottom right. I had difficulty with the rocks all along both banks and the river itself. I need to practice rapids because it was so difficult depicting them. That blue in the background is too chalky looking and not correct. Here is a better depiction of this same scene last week that I like better North Yuba river and Humbug Creek Confluence. I suppose that each session is different, all experience under my belt.

Leaf tranquility

I took over 460 photos on this plein air trip, can you imagine? Love this spot, so beautiful. If any of you are in my neck of the woods and can physically manage it, look me up and we can go paint together. I will always venture out year round as long as it doesn’t rain or snow on me.

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Rocks at Humbug Creek

Learning Points:

  • Safely tuck paintings away when dry.
  • Practice rapids or falls, study the masters of this unique feature.
  • Don’t become so enthralled with the painting process that I forget composition or value elements.




Madrone Madness #7

Painting #1 on Fabriano 300# 7 x 9 inches

I didn’t plan on painting but when I saw the lighting and I was swept away….again. What can I say? I love to paint. My first two paintings were very rough and my plan of attack was not working. I couldn’t decide how to depict what I wanted and was very divided. I simply sprayed them off and will re-use the paper. The above painting I enjoyed painting the foliage but the trunks seem stiff and awkward. They were as dark as you see, but I wanted more of an artsy look.

painting #2 on Fabriano 300# 7 x 9 inches

This painting was a little easier and I decided to go a little more detailed, at least for me. I can detail the crap out of a painting which is my inclination from the perfectionist me but I don’t let that “me” out of the box too often. When I do, I refuse to go as detailed as the old me use to. It has taken all these years to learn that I don’t enjoy tight and perfection, my left brain does but that is a whole another story.

Learning Points:

  • Let loose, I don’t have to know where the painting and watercolor is leading me.
  • If a painting fails, no problem, spray it off and re-use the paper.
  • Don’t spray too much water into my wells as I found that I ended up with too much water on my brush every time I dipped for fresh paint.
  • Coffee does not work as well as water and I  am sure it doesn’t add the right flavor that I enjoy, not a good idea! Stay aware where I keep the water bucket and my coffee, preferably not close to each other.
  • A good idea to loosen up with sketches and painting prior to serious painting. I always seem to forget this. It takes at least 30 minutes for my brain to coordinate with my eyes and painting hand.
  • Learn to soften edges, hard one for me to let loose and allow watercolor to do its thing, a common denominator with this medium.