Daring Watercolor #14

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I thought I would start this post with a fun and interesting story. Are you wondering what that monstrosity of a flower is above? I wondered that myself and asked the gardener at the Empire Mine State Park while taking a stroll in their gardens. She gave me a term that escapes my mind right now but it occurs when a plant receives too much nitrogen. This is a foxglove that looked like it blew up and the design actually looked like paisley. It was at least 4 inches in diameter, amazing isn’t it?

I scouted about looking for a place for me to paint and I decided on flowers!P1080779.JPG

I felt like my painting needed more depth, so when I got home, I fiddle with it and hopefully didn’t take it too far. I added a few trees in the background and added more color and shadows here and there. I wonder if there are too many elements vying for attention. Originally I felt like I didn’t go far enough with the painting but now wondering if I went too far.


I lost the detail on the bark on that tree on the left which happens to be a Ponderosa. All in all, I am pleased with the experience, more like an exercise and not expecting a painting that wowed me because it was a valuable lesson in itself trying to sort out my scene on the paper. I found myself very relaxed and I picked and chose as I painted. One of the most relaxing times I had yet in plein air.


  • Watercolor is as fun as you make it, remember that!
  • Study the watercolor paintings and techniques of the masters, so much to discover and learn.
  • Expect to do a lot of painting, I might as well have fun while learning, what is the hurry, anyway?
  • Don’t expect learning this medium to be immediate, again, relax.



Escape to Empire Mine


On this particular plein air painting day I decided to run into town to make haste with our one day of sunshine between storms and my pick was the Empire Mine Historical Park in Grass Valley. The mine originally opened in 1850 and closed in 1956 and produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. Amazing!

I have only been on the grounds once and that was over 33 years ago. Empire Mine State Historic Park is the site of one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. So with that history and beauty, let’s roll! This is the cottage that was built around 1900 with waste rock from the mine. Those shadows in the photo was as black as you see here. I was a bit nervous because I don’t frequently paint anything other than nature and figures or portraits. Initially I was intrigued and excited by those silhouettes of those statuary if that is the term.



My painting though unfinished I think it is a good start. I need to work more on the elements and knock down those blues and make it more “natural” or perhaps I will leave it as it is. I like to put my own spin on color because it is more artsy. After all it is a painting and not a photo. I had a hard time relaxing through the painting process because I am a shy painter and don’t like onlookers. I don’t mind family or someone I know but when it comes to people walking by, I am as shy as a fox! It was very disconcerting being out there on display. I have decided that I can’t stay under a rock forever and I need to stretch myself. I prefer nature and not so crisp locations such as this to paint but I can’t always paint what I know and love. When I started this painting I focused on what I did love and first of all it was the shading and feeling of what I was looking at. I allowed my imagination to run wild and let it rip. At the time I was currently reading a historical novel based in Scotland and that came to mind and helped me to relax and focus. I struggled with the background on the left and had to wipe it down once and then re-did it. Later when I viewed it at home, I felt better about the painting.

This is on Wallis paper with hard and soft pastels. I always work on establishing the darks first and then the mid tones and lastly focusing on the lighting and where it is hitting. The theme for me during this painting session was forgetting my anxieties and focusing on the job of painting. I didn’t have that right side brain painting experience, it never really took off but some days are like that. Interesting how our location, mood, fears and even the weather affects the painting experience and outcome. Aw the fun of plein air painting!

Front entrance to the Mine Cottage

This is the view of the cottage closer up and the grounds are so beautiful. My daughter, Amanda and her dog accompanied me on this painting adventure and what is exciting and fun is that this park allows dogs. In the visitor center and museum they have a water bowl for the dog visitors. You can literally bring your dog, tour the museum, walk the grounds and have a picnic. The cottage itself is off limits to dogs but the rest of the park they are allowed.  The 850 acre park has trails upon trails to hike and I am in love with this place. I hike the trails at least three times a month and I haven’t tired of it yet.

Various Mining buildings
Old mining equipment