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!

Return to Bullards Reservoir

P1070614I decided to venture away from the river and paint at Bullards Bar Reservoir. This location is what I would say is a “spit and a holler” down the road from me. I am fortunate to live so close to so many subjects that I can pick and choose what I am in the mood for. The only exception is the desert or ocean which both are approximately 3 hours away. No actually I think that I am within 2 hours of the desert but that lies to the east of me in Nevada.

I wanted to challenge myself today with this location because when I first started out in plein air, Bullards was the closest. I have spent many days painting here both in watercolor and pastel and after a while it just seemed to get boring with an apparent sameness. So I decided to move on to other subjects and in my mind better heights.


The reservoir is about 86% capacity from the latest measurement which was about a week ago. I have seen it all the way up to the tree line and that was about 15 years ago.


Today the struggle was that I had to put aside my attitude that it will be a challenge because of that “sameness” that I had mentioned above. Sometimes I have noticed that I throw mental rocks in front of my feet by my mindset. I envisioned that the sameness (is there really?) is going to be an uphill trudge. Also, my past history of painting this reservoir so many times brings up memories of past failures. There were several successes but I often remember the failures before the success. Perhaps it is my ingrained perfectionism.

I couldn’t decide how to handle the trees especially the far back hills. Once I set in the sky and the impression of those back hills, I started on my focal point. I decided on that brightest area next to that dark shadow shape on the left. The water was constantly changing and I kept chasing the changes. Of course that can be such a never ending chase to frustration.


In times past I was the kind of painter that had to paint exactly what I see and I couldn’t imagine straying out into the realm of imagination. Today I could feel myself shifting between the two. In my attempt to push those hills back I used blue, in this photo the blue isn’t true but you get the idea. That far back rim of land probably should be slimmed down and more modeling is needed in my point of interest. It is too flat and there is a straight line which is too static and not interesting. Not bad for my second time in years to paint here and considering my angst with the location, I am proud of myself.



After painting I decided to hike on the trail. If you go back to an earlier post where I painted here in the fall of last year, you can see the difference of the water level. I am amazed how much rain we have received since then. https://yubagold.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/bullards-bar-gold/


The color of Bullards is an amazing greenish blue that I haven’t seen in a lake before. Until next posting, enjoy spring wherever that is in the world for you all!





Bullards Bar Gold


I haven’t been able to paint for weeks because either it is snowing or raining or it is a holiday or I am too busy. I have been waiting for a slot in the weather and when I saw how the lighting was turning out to be and having that certain glow, I grabbed my equipment and headed for Bullards Bar Reservoir which is located within 5 to 10 minutes from my house. I had originally spotted this exact spot while on a hike with my grandson, Rollin and my daughter, Amanda and her dog. I knew I had to paint here as soon as possible.


This is my painting just about finished. I always like to take a picture of both my painting and my scene. Today was no different in my approach though I keep thinking that my new found breakthrough won’t last but I am happy to say, I felt the groove as usual. I had to go back and remember how long I have been painting plein air and I do believe it has been 10-11 years. I didn’t always pursue it with passion so some years I was lucky to get out 5-10 times. I have been picking up steam for the past two years. It is a very difficult and vulnerable pursuit but it is worth the struggle.


I am not sure if this painting is done or not but I’ll take it back to the art room and work it to a finish. I am always reluctant to mess with a painting too much away from the initial painting session because plein air has a magic and look of its own and it is not intended to be “perfect” There is a sensitivity and liveliness that occurs naturally. I have to be careful that I don’t mess with that liveliness.


Now looking at where the shoreline is far below. This is the lowest I had seen the water level at Bullards. The water is very unique here because it has such a rich green color. I remember years ago before the current dam was built, I had gone with my Grandfather and Uncle down to the bottom of this valley which was called Garden Valley at the time to fish.


This is my scene for my second painting. This photo is bringing out that tree to be more blue than it actually is. I decided to make the background dark to highlight the mid and foreground and bring more colors into the subtlety of that tree.


My second painting. I will take it and work on it a bit more, perhaps crisp it up and bring out more depth. That white spot on the other right is from my camera. I am always a bit tired on my second painting and usually it is always on a smaller piece of pastel paper. I struggled a bit with that tree because of the colors were very difficult to match with what I was seeing.


Looking out further while the sun was really bringing more warmth to the area. Simply beautiful! Thank you for joining me. All I can say is that I was so happy that I decided to paint today because I would have missed an opportunity to paint this beautiful scene in my most favorite lighting.