Watercolor Mayhem

painting # 1 wip on Canson Heritage 140# quarter sheet

Up to no good today working on at least 4 paintings today. The first one that I am showing you is a wip and I am not so sure that I like the “dirty” look to it. Perhaps the word is muddy then again I am thinking that perhaps it is because I had worked wet on wet and I tried too hard to get the look I wanted. Good luck with that, right? The bushes are not quite what I wanted and the rocks are iffy, not defined well enough. Then again, I haven’t put on my finishing touches or brought back some of my whites. We’ll see what I will do with this one. Perhaps turn it over and try another painting or set it aside to work on it later.

I decided a few days later after posting this to show my pastel painting from a couple years ago of this same area, here is that post: Who is Afraid of the Dark?

painting #2 wip on Arches 140# quarter sheet

Interesting how soft and muted this painting came out. The spots of blue are not as intense in reality, so keep that in mind. I actually washed off about 50% of the paint and once dried, I re-worked it. Perhaps this is not the conventional way to work in watercolors but I like to push the boundaries now and then.

I ended up feeling very picky and my perfectionism came out to wreck some mayhem in my creative life. Thank goodness tomorrow is Sunday, my day for rest from painting.

I am currently working on a more detailed piece and I haven’t been so nervous in a long time working on a painting! I am discovering that it is easier for me to be loose, wild and free when I am not having to worry about staying within the lines or being precise. Not my cup of tea but I am making myself to go the opposite direction in order not to get too comfortable.

*A word about photos. The photos on my blog are mine, taken by me and copying them would be stealing from me. If you find a photo that you would like to copy or use, I request that you ask me for permission and I expect you to give me full credit for my own photo. Thank you so very much.

Jodi’s Morning Mist

I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first onset of planning this painting. Translating a beautiful and atmospheric photo as this one Jodi’s photo was daunting to say the least. I had the confidence at the start of the idea until I knuckled down to paint. But then again, quite normal right? Too much confidence isn’t good in the long run.

It has been a long while since I have put myself on a task like this and I actually really liked having the pressure (not much, Jodi!). It  pushed me to put on my best courage and my positive attitude that always seems to carry me through. This has not always been the case. In the past I have been very tough on myself. My inner critic had pushed me out of doing art for seven long years, I will never allow that to ever to happen again. My enthusiasm for art is etched out of a long history of self abasement over my art and my worth. Never again! Alright, that was not intended to be a part of this post, but I am leaving it.

There is something about fog and mist that I love and when I saw Jodi’s photo, the conversation about my translating it to a painting prompted me to give it a try.

I wished that I took more photos of my process but when I am ‘knee deep’ in painting, I am too enthralled with it to give any thought to taking photos.


Image may contain: 1 person, indoor
My art desk where I plan and plot my next paintings



The whole idea was to outline my process but I will have to do that without any extra photos.


On Saunders 300# 11 x 14 inches


I actually painted three paintings using the reference photo because I wanted to see if I could get better results but ultimately I feel the first painting was the best version.

I first masked off little grass blades throughout the marshy area. I always allow the mask to dry naturally and never rush it with using a blow dryer.

I thoroughly wet down the sky and the foggy area where you see the little snippet of water. I used the following colors (Daniel Smith) for the sky: Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone red and Hansa Yellow Light. I always try to use transparent, non staining colors as much as possible, especially for the sky. Cerulean is a semi-transparent, though it is a non-staining color. I was able to manipulate the colors and to etch out my sun. Makes it easier when your color are non-staining. Skies for me is always the hardest at this point. I don’t have enough experience yet with them but I do know this, get in and get out. Make your marks quickly and don’t fiddle or fuss with them. I have a difficult time making my colors rich and dark enough, especially for dramatic skies. I need more practice with skies.

Once the sky and foggy area was bone dry, I used Cerulean Blue and Cobalt Blue and a touch of Quin. Red, I started the first layer of trees. I used my sprayer and alternately sprayed and painted the trees. I also used a rigger brush to scrape and scoot the water and color lightly across to soften the edges. I went by instinct on how much water and color to give. I allowed that layer to dry. I think that I did about three layers, getting darker with each layer. Looking back I would have liked to have given the trees more bulk, they look rather twiggy. Always something to work on!

I sprayed at random the marshy area and dropped in the following colors (Daniel Smith):   Quinacridone Gold, Lunar Blue, Burnt tiger’s Eye and Moonstone. I worked out the marshy instinct. I didn’t want to overd0 my detail. I am after feeling and gist rather than photo perfection. On hindsight I probably would have forego the masking. I usually don’t use it but I think my nervousness took over when I decided on using it. If anything, the flicks of white (though I did knock it down with raw sienna) does give it some interest.

The marshy area was the hardest part because either you do too much or not enough. To make an interesting marshy area is hard! Initially this is why I had another two tries of the same scene.

Lastly I painting in a few bushes and then the cattail heads.

I truly loved painting this and yet I am always quite aware of my desire to get better and better. I could pull this painting apart but I think that I know what I need to work on in the future. I do believe that I caught a feeling and essence of the motive of the photo. I have been following an artist by the name of Russell Black who is part of a group of artists such as Frank Webb, Tony Van Hasselt who believes that art should be an expression of self rather than trying to copy or follow a photo. Look these artists up to better understand the concept. Granted, I did take Jodi’s photo and tried to “copy” the design but at least I interpreted it with giving it my own personal flair.

So sorry for the length of this post but I am hoping that if it benefits one person, it is worth it. Thank you for your patience!

*A word about photos. The photos on my blog are mine, taken by me and copying them would be stealing from me. If you find a photo that you would like to copy or use, I request that you ask me for permission and I expect you to give me full credit for my own photo. Thank you so very much.






A Look Back

300# Arches cp 7 x 9 inches plein air

While looking for old paintings to turn over and re-use, I ran across some of my paintings that aren’t so bad after all. I think that I needed to step back in time and re-evaluate some of my watercolors.

The painting at the top there was the first time that I had gone out and painted with another artist en plein air, this was back in 2007 . She also had given me a piece of 300# paper to try out, I was convinced but at the time didn’t like the price. As you can see, I am conservative with my colors and very straightforward.

140# Arches cp 7 x 9 inches

I do believe that this was about the same period of time that I painted painting #1 because it is the same view but closer in. I have painted at this particular spot at least 20 times, perhaps I need to go back and see how my current approach will be compared to these old paintings.

a close-up of the rapids
140# on Arches rough 7 x 9 inches

I couldn’t get the green to marry up with the actual painting, the color is rich while in this photo it is lack luster. The background is much better in the painting itself, the photo separated the colors. This is a studio painting I believe and I remember how much I stressed over getting it “perfect”. At the time I considered it a fail, currently I love it! Goes to show how much I have released the perfectionism within myself.

When I first started a serious “dive” into watercolors, I was scared and felt vulnerable because just the idea of posting my journey was overwhelming. It is one of the best decisions of my artistic life because I have learned to let go and enjoy the process of learning and exploring.  This post May oh My! was my first post about my incredible journey.

Thank you for bearing with me on this looking back post.

Madrone Madness-June WC #1

Kind of dark but you get the general idea of my scene


It’s June and I am off to the races with my adventures with watercolor. I decided to paint the view right out my back door. While relaxing early on the patio this weekend, the lighting was so beautiful coming through the trees from where I sat. I decided I had to paint those trees. The madrone is the largest tree and will be my focus and it is at least 75 feet tall.

I can fit my plein air supplies quite well in my backpack but this morning taking everything out to my site took extra trips. I should take my “plein air mentality” out my back door without trying to take my entire studio outside. Lesson learned.

I first warmed up with a couple of color sketches.

I decided to try a larger size paper for plein air and on an easel. I immediately freaked out and decided to put my painting board in my lap. I was doing a few things different and found myself nervous and trying to take back what I was doing. Talk about insecure!

Once I relaxed and enjoyed watching the mixing colors and eventually I realized that I was going against the current by judging and freaking out when I hardly had paint down on my paper.

My final painting on Arches #140 rough 10 x 14.5 inches

That drip was when I had my painting on the easel and I changed my mind because of that drip, I need to get comfortable having my painting tilted and dealing with washes that are cascading down. I probably had too much water on my brush. I will eventually learn this but I wasn’t ready for it today.


My learning points:

  • Steady that wild mustang of fear and anxiety, “she” won’t be bucking me off after all, I am holding those reins, me!
  • Just because I went out of my comfort zone doesn’t mean that I won’t be able put out a decent painting, going out of my comfort zone is not a recipe for failure.
  • Get use to being able to handle both fresh and dried paint, especially fresh gobs of paint on my palette.
  •  Set aside the fear of making mistakes, it dams up creativity.

I have a question for you watercolorists, I have been used to working from the dried paint on my palettes and I find that I can control my washes far easier than with fresh globs. I had to replenish my paint this morning and of course, I had fresh paint. I found that I was being aggressive and getting too much paint on my brush and well, you get the idea. I would like to hear what you all have to say about this.

May oh My!


I have challenged myself to a fighting duel with watercolor for the month of May. I am excited though a bit nervous. I have been working in watercolor for at least 15 years. I have been seriously painting with soft pastel since 2000. I included a photo of a pastel portrait that I started about 6 years ago! yes that is a long time to have a painting waiting on me. It is from an Edward Curtis photo, it is definitely not my own photo. It is for myself to hang for my own enjoyment and I can’t wait to finish it. Why I am mentioning it is that I have a plan. May has been set aside to venture into watercolor solely but I figured that I might need to go back to pastel just to calm myself down. Sounds like I am projecting a lot of fear onto myself and this project, actually I am being playful and hoping to loosen up with my attitude.

As this challenge proceeds, I will be working on this portrait and I will post updates on that progress. At this point I venture to say it is at about 25% finished. We’ll see if I can get it done in May or at least in June.

My goal is to loosen up, to find my style with watercolor. As most people know who are familiar with the medium it can be very difficult because it has a mind of its own. I have always loved watercolor and I love the fact that it is unwieldy at times.

I will be including some watercolors I have painted in the past at the bottom of this post. I am not sure what my goals are other than:

  • Loosen up and stop over-working a painting
  • learn to know where to go with a painting, I always seem to start well but knowing how to proceed is very difficult for me.
  • Find my “signature” or style, not the style of artists that I admire….a style that is solely mine!
  • To loose that tightness that I have when I paint, at least a little!
  • To understand the layering from light to dark
  • Learn how to retain the white of the paper
  • To truly learn my values with this medium
  • To plein air paint more assuredly with watercolors
  • I want to learn how to be proficient in depicting water


I have included this one below to illustrate my difficulty with knowing how to proceed. I get to a point that I just give up. I don’t know where to go, what to do. It alludes me! I lost my whites in the rapids and resorted to using white acrylic, not a good idea, not at all!


Here are a few more…..

Tomorrow is May 1st but I won’t be able to start until Monday. Join me on a challenge of your own design if you dare!

Where in the Goodyears Bar Is….


This spot is another location where my husband was wanting to show me just outside of Goodyears Bar which is about 25-30 minutes from where I live. There are several mining claims along this road that I wouldn’t have attempted without him. Rain was in the forecast and we left early hoping to get a few hours at the river before the storm came in. The road had me so nervous my stomach was getting upset and I kept wanting to “bail out” but that is the typical reaction when I am very uncomfortable with a road. It is a running joke in the family. But I stayed the course and my husband told me that I need to get out more, I think that he is right. We arrived safely and I was a nervous wreck but ready to take pictures and this was the first one. Believe me I didn’t feel like painting after that road but I knew that we didn’t have much time because of the incoming storm. I literally told myself to get with it and get ‘er done!  


The view looking the other way. That rock was huge and this photo doesn’t do it justice. I had a hard time trying to decided which view would be my scene to paint.


There was so much to look at and I had to make a decision on my scene because we didn’t have much time. So, with an upset stomach and a feeling of not really wanting to paint, I set up my easel and got to it.


Here is my painting on the easel. I wasn’t so sure that my colors were working but I ignored my initial feelings and dove in anyway. My husband really helped me because I wasn’t thinking that I was getting anywhere with it but he was saying “it is looking like you are nailing it”. I initially didn’t feel that way and his comment gave me perspective. Today was the day for me to risk and throw out misgivings or fear. Fear of that darn road, fear of not doing well in painting my scene and the fear of not getting it done before the rain. Pastels and rain don’t mix and when I felt the first drop, I started to pack it up.


A close-up of my painting. I struggled with the lighting because there weren’t any sunlit areas to focus on and what was there was subtle which made discerning the colors very tricky. I ended up enjoying my painting experience and I was able to throw caution to the wind and I decided that I was going to make it happen. My artistic eye was coming in sooner and all was moving along as hoped for. Usually it takes up to 30 minutes for my brain and eyes to discern and really see the shapes and colors. Sometimes it doesn’t even happen and that is always frustrating. Plein air painting can be a joy or can be a trial, you never know until you are out there painting.

My trusty husband that didn’t break a sweat bringing me down here. He has to deal with roads like this all the time because of his job. I demanded that he put it in four wheel drive going back up that hill. He was so obliging, anything to keep my fears in check.

Finally back to Goodyears Bar! I was relieved. The town is very quaint and has an old time feel to it. Kate Wolf, the folk singer is buried at the cemetery here. I have yet to find out why she is buried in this small out of the way town. There is no mention that she was born here, vacationed here or had family here, a mystery to me.


Thank you for coming along with me on our little adventure out and about along the North Yuba River painting and sweating and leaving fear behind. No matter how old or young you are learning and growing is never static, I say….embrace it.

Who is Afraid of the Dark?


Often when I go out to paint in the great outdoors, I chase light and color. My focus often without really thinking about it, is the sun! I rotate around the sun I suppose. In the past I wouldn’t budge out the door to go paint unless there is sunlight. The fact that my favorite lighting is when there are clouds and sun barely peeking through. I am sure that there is a term for this kind of lighting and if you can enlighten me, please do. I think it is the special glow that makes the colors go “pop”! Now with that being said, I still ventured out only if the day is sunny. Even though I like the lighting found in part cloudy days, I won’t venture out because I like the assurance of a clear, sunny day.

All habits now and then need to be broken. Like most people, I have a difficult time venturing away from what is safe, secure or what I have deemed”tried and blue”. I have been pushing myself in areas that I know keeps me safe and stagnant. In general, I like to explore new ideas, new locations and new attitudes but when it comes to art, I find this stops short. You may ask why? Like most artists, their paintings are tied to the self esteem, am I good at painting? Do people like my paintings? The list goes on and on. For myself, venturing out is hard because I am stepping away from what I feel confident in. For the past two years maybe more, I have been trying to give my static attitude and approach a big heave ho.

Last October of 2015, I ended up once again on the North Yuba to paint. I often find that finding the right time for a particular spot on the river is often difficult because some places the sun hits the river at 8 am, sometimes not till 10 am! I decided that by 8:30 am  I would be set up by the time the sun was just hitting my scene. I was wrong! I was off at least over an hour or so. It was dark, no sun and I was thinking that by the time I was completely set up, I would have sun. No. Then a lightbulb went off in my head (sometimes it happens!) and I would start painting all my darks and shapes and by the time the sun hits my scene, I would be ready! What a novel idea!


This photo doesn’t show how dark it actually was but you get the idea, no sun directly shining on the mountains or trees in the background. I was able to lay in all the darks and the shapes and got a wonderful start on the painting. Before long there was light!


I love this new technique because when I proceeded to put my lights in I didn’t have to rush because my painting was already 75-80% finished by the time I focused on the lights. Since then I have used this technique at least 5 times and it has worked except a few times where the sun beached out the colors and the subtleties of the scene were lost. Now I prefer starting my painting in the “dark” rather than when the sun is shining brightly. I am beginning to understand why I chase light and color. It is exciting and beautiful and I use it as a catalyst for creativity. I have learned that it takes a quiet, observant eye to properly discern colors that are obscure in the dark of a scene.

Learning is never a done deal in the world of art and creativity, be willing to be shaken loose from a safe and seemingly secure artist stance. I now challenge you to do something this week that will put you in an area of discomfort. Remember that discomfort is just a feeling, it doesn’t mean that failure is just around the corner. Don’t be afraid of the dark and don’t be afraid of not knowing where you are  going! It is an adventure!

Here is my painting on the easel and then lastly, my painting up close. I finished up my painting in the studio and it turned out beautiful.



This painting is on PastelMat paper and I used various hard and soft pastels. The location is approximately 2-3 miles north of Goodyears Bar in Sierra Co. in California.