Abstraction is Heaven


on Fabriano 300# quarter sheet

This painting started out as a plein air on my patio hoping to capture my azaleas in full bloom. I was tittering away (bored out of my mind!) with a simple drawing and then laying in some color. I was uninspired to say the least. Then it hit me why am I trying to depict these flowers in a realistic way when I prefer not to? I was bored out of my mind trying to get the look of realism in these flowers. If you are wondering if I am making excuses, I can have done it: Daring Watercolor #7 way too fussy for me. As I painted that iris, I never felt the creative zing that I love to paint with.

I decided that saturated wet on wet was my technique of choice for this painting. I discovered something magical in this session. I think it would be easier to outline what I did.

  • I wet both sides of paper using a plexi-glass as my surface, it sticks like glue. My surface stays workable up to 2 1/2, this session was an hour long.
  • I always use fresh paint from the tube, your colors are more vivid.
  • I constantly turned my board around and I brushed on color only where I knew it belonged, intuitive painting through the entire process.
  • I kept turning and turning the board seeing it as a puzzle rather than what I “should” do.
  • I applied colors only when I knew what belonged at that particular area. I actually “see” the color, sometimes I feel the color should go there, all intuitive.
  • I didn’t paint this with a particular orientation in mind.
  • After the painting was finished, I turned the painting around and around until the correct orientation revealed itself.

I truly liked this process because it was as though I tricked my mind in reacting and accessing the creative in me rather than relying on my left brain for design decisions. I have an inner design and color scheme that often befuddles me. It will often turn negative and I fight against the inner critic that says something isn’t balanced. Then I do the hard work of trying to balance a painting or make it better. Sometimes it takes relying on the creative intuition for the solution, it was easy for me to tap into that with this technique.

*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.


Bullards and Crystal Hermitage at Ananda

painting #1 on Arches 140# quarter sheet

I was trying for a landscape with minimal detail, just enough to give the viewer the essence of the scene. At first I wasn’t too happy with it but the more I look at it, I believe that I reached my goal. I am trying for that happy medium where I don’t needle my paintings to death with superfluous detail.

Tulips at the Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village

I wanted to plein air paint at this beautiful local gardens before the tulip season is finished. This is last year’s post about this beautiful place  Glorius Tulips at Crystal Hermitage . I am planning to visit here throughout the year because they do have the gardens open for visitors year round.


Aren’t these beautiful? I love it at Ananda. When I lived with my Mom and Sister back in the 1980’s I often would hike up the road and visit Ananda Village. I still love the area and the people.


painting #2 My first painting at Ananda

I was fretting a bit about painting flowers, because I generally don’t practice with them enough. I decided to keep it loose and fancy free. I might bring in some more darks to bring out the centers but basically I want to keep it loose.


painting #3

I almost abandoned this painting because I have the tendency to freak out when I can’t see where I am going with a painting. But, I pressed in and was determined to get something out of the experience. Happy to say, I ended up liking it rather than hating it. I am unsure if it is finished or not. Plein air is suppose to be not detailed to death and I want to keep the freshness and resist the need to noodle it to endless detail.


Peaceful Beauty

If you ever get up to the Nevada City/North San Juan area, take the time to go see the gardens at Ananda, especially during the tulip blooming season which is typically March-April or early May.


*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.





Looking Back at 2016

My  goodness time sure flies and here we are just at the door of 2017. I have been busy painting but posting only when I feel something is ready. I really like my slow approach. I have been painting a lot behind the scenes but slowing down my posting, it makes sense for me because I want to focus more on the art. Bear with the length of the images, I have been having a difficult time with uploading photos and having my page get stuck many times. This is the easiest way to put together this post. I will do a post in the next few days of my favorite photos of 2016 as I am getting impatient with how long this is taking. It has been a fantastic year and I am looking forward to what 2017 will hold for me and my art endeavors.

Here are my favorite paintings of the year, first the pastels:








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My intuitive painting


Now for the watercolors that I liked the best:


















P1090300     P1100584





My most favorite watercolor painting


another all time favorite!


*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.









Rose To Be June WC #3

I should had skipped this Saturday posting but I couldn’t resist painting. I will rest after this, I promise! Oh I need to tell you that I am joining along with Charlie and friends for a nature hike and will include posts that pertain to nature for the month of June. Hop on over to check out  Charlie’s blog for the juicy details.

I didn’t feel up to a tight painting project because I need to rest my eyes from intense staring. I chose a photo of mine that I had taken of some single roses taken at the Empire State Mine.

my photo reference
7 x 9 inches Arches 140# CP


I realized after a few projects that I need to purchase a special collection just for flowers such as a vibrant pink. My reds won’t work for pinks likes this. I decided to go loose anyway so I can do what I want! even if I want to flatten out the flowers, it is my painting, my way. I didn’t pencil this out at all, going for “let’s see what happens” kind of painting.

You may ask why being a perfectionist such as myself enjoy painting loose. I can say that it takes far more patience for tighter paintings and I do tackle them but it is far and few between. I have noticed that with a tighter a painting project, it often fosters that need for perfection in me. I have found that when I do paint tighter, my approach has a loose attitude to the painting. I will take it slowly and enjoy it but when I paint loose, I feel like a little child set loose in the redwoods or on a beach. I feel like I can run up to the trees, take in the environment, kick up some sand, etc. I am using analogies here but this is what painting loosely means to me. You never know what you’ll get and the mysteries of watercolor allows for this wonderful discovery.

My learning points:

  • I need to purchase special colors for projects such as flowers.
  • Letting go is so fun!
  • Allowing little pockets of white here and there gives life and sparkle to my painting.
  • I am really liking the freedom of painting loosely, this is coming from a perfectionist!
  • I decided not to worry about the not so perfect spots in this painting, it is imperfect, so what?
  • I am learning that the “accidents” that watercolorists avoid such as blooms, areas that dry with a hard edge, etc….again, so what? I don’t see these as imperfections but a part of the painting, unless you are going for super realism, it wouldn’t work.
  • Walking on the loose, devil may care side of painting is kind of addicting!
  • Using a large brush on such a small painting really is fun and again, loosens me up, I used a 24 round Princeton art brush.
  • Let watercolor be watercolor, discover the mysteries and surprises that this medium has to offer, don’t be afraid, go on an adventure!

Colors used: permanent rose (Winsor Newton), quin. red, ultra. blue, ultra. turquoise, quin. gold and lemon yellow, all are Daniel Smith glorious colors. I am a fan of DS. I am trying to use up my other brands, so permanent rose was allowed to play with Daniel Smith colors this go around.

Rose or not? June WC #2

I am going to post an extra post just because I need some feedback on these abstract/loose roses that I had painted yesterday. It was very enjoyable but at first I wasn’t sure about it until the creativity side of my brain kicked in…I love my right brain!

7 x 9 inches Arches  140#

The background does not appear so blotchy, keep that in mind and it is about 20=30% darker….it makes the roses pop. That blue in the center of the rose is not as blotchy or vivid as it appears in the photo.

My thing is the center of the rose has hardly any shape but I love the over-all feeling to the painting and the fact that I tapped into the creativity side on the last half of the experience says a lot. I want to get on that side of the painting experience more and more.

Any suggestions? Should I leave this as is and call it good (or bad)? Does a rose have to look like a rose to be acceptable? is this an abstract? give it to me, don’t be shy.

Daring Watercolor #23 Final

What an amazing journey this has been and I have learned so much. I do feel that I enjoyed the plein air painting the most. My favorite paintings were the iris here and the abstract Yuba Flow . I ended up enjoying painting en plein air with watercolors more than with pastels. In the past I was literally afraid take my watercolors out to paint because of what I discerned as a high level of difficulty.

Why I love to paint with watercolors en plein air

  • The experience of painting plein air with watercolors amps up the excitement of plein air. It is addicting folks!
  • Watercolors is perfect for the light and glow that I see in the great outdoors.
  • I can hike several miles to my location whereas with pastels I am limited in how far I can walk in. There is at least a difference of 15-20 pounds of lugging weight.
  • Every time I would take my watercolors to paint en plein air, I would connect and think about the great painters such as Homer and Sargent while painting. What an inspiration to think of these painters while I am out there communing with nature.
  • With watercolors I felt more in tune with the scene and the sensitivity of the medium, far more than with pastels. I describe it here more fully…watercolor sensitivity located under my learning points.

I will continue on with watercolors for the month of June. These are my goals:

  • Continuing on with watercolors in my plein air painting, I will always plein air paint with watercolors, that is now rock solid.
  • Paint at least one portrait or figure with watercolors a week or every two weeks, this will include animals or birds.
  • Paint on larger size paper.
  • Paint more florals.
  • Try out hot pressed watercolor paper.

Here are a few examples of portraits that I have done in pastel:

I am hoping to find an unique style with watercolors, not sure how loose or how tight I will get but my goal is accuracy in depicting skin color and attaining a likeness.

I will see you in June and I will be posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Daring Watercolor #14

P1080721 (2).JPG

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.



Daring Watercolor #13

I painted yesterday at the river and I wasn’t happy with the results. Ugly is as ugly decides! I realize too late that it was the problematic value platform….again. This was my scene.

My scene….no color, no fun!

Here is my painting, peek, don’t look too closely, very ugly. I decided it is good for my ego to show the uglies.

Oh MY!!!!!!

This painting kicked my value butt big time. I had to admit that I bit off a big bite, more than I could handle because I realized that I had promised myself that I would be doing a value sketch before starting my painting. I lied! The sun would shine and then the clouds would start passing over ahead and of course it was mostly cloudy when I painted this view. I also realized that I have been using rough 140# without utilizing the wonderful attributes of the paper. I had that in mind and also fighting the values. Ugly happens to the best of us!

Myself perched on a rock trying to paint, my “granddoggie” enjoying the river and daughter Amanda and her husband, Luis. All having a wonderful day, no fish, not a decent painting but fun regardless.

Pretty view

Alright, we needed to look at something pretty.

Today I decided to combine yesterday’s plein air excitement and today’s paintings done at home. The first one is based upon some pictures I took of a local flower, Indian Pink. I am including the reference photo because well, it is pretty.

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Indian Pink Banquet

This was difficult and then easy, at least it felt that way at first. When I deactivated my needy brain for “order”,  I had an easy time. I decided to dance with watercolor and boy did we kick up the paint! Interesting how in the past I would freak out inside because things would veer from my idea of what I intended. The senario would be that I would continue on with the freak out plane for the entire ride. This time around, I settled for the chaos and decided to dance this African style dance that Watercolor decided was the way to go today!

Since I was having a glorious time, the painting below came about from a reference photo of a redwood tree that I had taken some time back. I probably could have worked on getting my yellow and blue to mix more properly to get that mossy green in the tree. Maybe another painting, another time. Regardless, I am learning to let go of the picture in my mind or copy a reference photo to the T. This exercise in a way was a loosening up of my ideals. For me that is a trip to the moon! I might go back and give it more depth or I might just leave it alone, or perhaps it might be artist muscle exercise.


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Old Mr. Redwood

What I learned:

  • Make good use of rough watercolor paper, learn how to dry brush like the master watercolorists of times past.
  • Freaking out because I am supposedly losing my control or grip on the painting only keeps me frigid and continuing the freaking out feeling.
  • Allow the gap between my ideals and the outcome to be wide or narrow, it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.
  • Be willing to dance the waltz, the two-step or a wild African dance, dancing is dancing and it’s fun!








Daring Watercolor #12

The weary carries on….that’s me two weeks into my challenge. Although I planned on taking Sundays off, I am giving it some consideration because my daughter and son-in-law asked me to accompany them to the North Yuba to fish. Of course first thing I thought of….I’ll plein air paint! Again? yes! again! We’ll see tomorrow if I do or not. I might not post until Monday if I do go. I need a break and so do all of you!

I thought of doing an exercise based on Debi Riley’s post yesterday Easy Watercolor Flower and I planned away until I realized that this is getting detailed! what? Why must I always go to the extreme? This post is full of exclamations, so sorry but I am feeling exclamatory.

Spanish lavender 5 x 7 inches

Yep…detailed, nothing even vaguely familiar to what Debi was referring to. Another day for another painting, I say. With this painting session I learned:

  • We are not going to even talk about values right now…nope, too late.
  • Keep the original intent of the painting clear and alive throughout my painting session.
  • If I am too tired or weary, don’t push the painting. Do a sketch or think about art, post that, just a friendly reminder.
  • Keep in mind the color scheme and design, too late to realize that I had a purplish blue background for a purplish blue subject….hmm.

Now since that painting session didn’t live up to my plans….I decided to get crazy and go for it. Here is my reference photo that I shot yesterday while at the river. I do believe that I will do a planned out abstract painting at another time but for now I wanted to use it for a loosening up exercise. I thought of this too late but today was a little backwards anyway.

close-up of the flowing moss in the river
Yuba Flow 5 x 7 inches



I almost cried realizing that one of my favorite colors is almost gone, Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue. It is such a gorgeous color and all those little blackish blue dots is the result of the granulation that occurs bleeding into the other colors. Simply yummy!

Colors used on this painting was quin. gold, aqua ultramarine, fr. ultramarine blue, lunar blue (all Daniel Smith)

Daring Watercolor #10

I am in love!…..with Watercolor! I love this medium. I am the type of person that I don’t like the ho hum drum of the usual. Give me something that is on the edge of excitement, no I don’t like roller coaster rides. Perhaps I am not conveying this correctly. I like the quiet world that I reside in. I love books, I don’t care much for television unless it is a good story that keeps me interested. I love nature, I hike and of course plein air paint as much as I can but I am always looking for depth and meaning.

Watercolor keeps me interested because it is not the same story every time. You never know if it is drama, action or romance. Today it was romance! yep….romance! and plenty of it. The soft lights, the subtleties that will keep you coming back for more.

I will not give you a reference photo for my first painting because it just came to me last night and I had to go out and take several photos with the perfect lighting and then come up with more photos. That creative unction felt like it came from God Himself…..I am not kidding, it was there and wouldn’t let me go and I hopped onto that train.

I now realize that having a “push hard as you can challenge” is exactly what I needed. I often have so much going on and yet nothing going on. Well, actually I have a lot of outdoor work to do right now but I’m talking about on the average day. I often don’t know how to go about with being creative, I think I need something that gives me traction and this challenge has done that for me.

Alright here is my first painting:



A close-up of the painting….colors a bit too dark and strident here.


My first photo is just about spot on but….the pinks are richer in my painting and those blue spots among the leaves are not as bright as they are in my painting. For some reason I am running into the blue not being represented correctly.

My process is that I wetted around the flowers and foliage with french ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, cobalt blue. Then as it wasn’t yet dry, I dabbed into my leaf mixture (lemon yellow, cobalt blue) and while that was barely dry, I dabbed in my flowers and bud with permanent rose. I had more fun using my lemon yellow and dabbing it strategically in the flower centers and watching it push back the other colors. Anything to get a little excitement in my day. I let the paint do its thing…..just show me the way Mrs. Watercolor! That is the way to go with watercolor….watch it dance and play and you are invited in that dance.

I was thinking about going back in with soft pastels and touching it lighting with color but decided not to after what I was seeing.

While I was planning, painting and waiting for paint to dry, I was reading Debi Riley’s posts from the past. I ran across this post that inspired me to try what she suggested.  Debi Riley Thank you Debi! By the way if you haven’t seen her blog and her paintings, you have been missing out. I have learned so much from her and I keep going back and reading through her posts. They are chock full of good information.

I spent 20 minutes on this next painting and yes, I used a timer.


My reference photo for the 20 minute exercise


By the way this reminds me…..make friends with ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, a painter’s dream come true. You can get all kinds of beautiful effects, learn to play with it.

I dare you to dance and play with watercolor, stop trying to lead because you will get stepped on!