Old Miner’s Shack


on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

While I worked on several paintings alternately today, I wanted to exercise my artistic muscles with a loose rendering of this miner’s shack. This is referenced from a photo that I took of an old miner’s camp called Carson Camp in Sierra Co. My husband and I took a trip to the high country last summer to scout out the area, he wanted to show me where he worked as a miner in a hard rock gold mine. Close by is the Ruby Mine where he worked back in the 1980’s. It was amazing to have him show me around and to explain the various buildings and equipment. My photo here is close enough to my painting though the Burnt Sienna used didn’t seem to stand out as it should.

I am thinking of perhaps either crisping this up a tad or starting another one. I wasn’t concerned with details as I was going for feeling. I had to catch myself when I wanted to render too much. I would like to abstract the building a bit more and to know what to showcase and leave the rendering to that area.

*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.


Quarry Trail Brillance


On Lanaquarelle 140# 11 x 14 inches – reference photo provided by Lisa Leonti Nottingham

I started this painting several weeks ago and am now pretty satisfied with the results. I might try painting this again to see if I can tweak it some more. I am looking perhaps for a better depiction (or perfection).

I was given permission by a photographer who lives in Northern California who also hikes. I follow a group of ladies that hikes Northern California. Quarry Trail look here is located between Auburn and Cool, which is rich in gold rush history. My husband and I have taken many motorcycle rides through the area.

This is the second time that I have painted on Lanaquarelle watercolor paper and I am quite happy with it this time around. I wasn’t sure the first time because it felt different from anything that I have used yet, except for perhaps Fabriano. I plan on buying more because now I am in love with it! The texture has a scratchy feel and I like how it reacts to the brush. Paint lifts easily without a “oh no”! reaction.

colors used: Quin. Gold, Quin. Sienna, Quin. Red, Hana Yellow Light, Cobalt Blue, Lunar Blue

*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.






Daring Watercolor #22

Mining equipment, ore car, rock crusher and stamp mills


I decided to go down to the Forest Service to paint some of the mining display equipment. My eyes really needed a rest but I couldn’t resist and silly me, why pick out difficult subjects to paint? I think that I need help….anyone hear of Painters Anonymous? Maybe I should do a group start up!

My two paintings were of these two items, the left “thing” is called a blower which blows compressed air into a mine. The ore car on the right was my second painting.

my first painting 4 x 5 inch Arches 140# rough
my second painting 4 x 5 inch Arches #140 rough

Oh my, I should had given myself a day off because these equipment pieces were very intricate and I decided to paint at mid day so the lack of good contrast was at its minimum. I did want to post this anyway because it was a good way to end my Watercolor Challenge for the month. I will be making a slide show of all my paintings during this challenge and my final thoughts, be looking for that hopefully on Tuesday. I will also talk about my upcoming challenge for the month of June in which I will be continuing in watercolor.

I wanted to include a photo of the dedication plaque of my husband’s boss. I always liked Dick Zembiec and his knowledge of mining and his understanding of the gold miners he dealt with.

My learning points:

  • Goodness sakes it is alright to take a rest, especially when my body is telling me to.
  • Learn to use that rough paper, perfect for dry brush, this was a golden moment that I allowed to slip away (darn my eyes!).
  • Learn to bring a definite three value play into subjects such as these.

Meanwhile on the Ranch

Wells Fargo Express building in French Corral 1850’s era. (photo extracted from the internet, photographer’s name was not noted)

On this particular day I decided to veer away from my muse, the river to paint at The Ranch at French Corral  I met with Matt the owner, he graciously took time out of his very busy work load to show me his ranch. The ranch is the site of a historic mining camp during the heyday of French Corral’s mining history. The creeks were running nice and full. From what he told me last year the creeks were very low if not running at all.

French Corral has the historical distinction of where it was the terminus of the world’s first long-distance telephone line in 1877. One of the original buildings in French Corral is the Wells Fargo building from the mining era of the 1850’s, (above photo). Here is a link about the history of the area: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ca/frenchcorral.html


This was my scene. I took several pictures when I first started but found few that turned out well enough to satisfy me. These photos aren’t what I liked either but I needed some type of reference photo so here we are. By the time Matt and I scouted out the different viewpoints on the property the lighting wasn’t my favorite. I should  have planned on touring the ranch one day and painting on a different day. I decided to go ahead and find a spot to paint. I was so frustrated with my painting from the start. I am not sure why other than perhaps the excitement of discovering a new place to paint and actually having a tour conflicted my painting mode. Matt also introduced me to many of his rescue horses.


I thought these manzanita were pretty awesome because they were as large as trees (at least 20 feet high). In our part of the world they are typically a bush and not a tree and they are also a nuisance . They also create a fire hazard because the wood burns very hot. We had a local who lost their home because of overfeeding their stove with manzanita.


This painting experience was not to my liking and I wiped it down at least twice! I worked the longest ever on this painting. Typically a painting session is approximately 90 minutes but usually never longer. I do believe that I painted over 2 hours on this stinker! I have since taken it home and reworked it which I never do other than finishing a painting. I hardly ever re-do a painting because plein air looseness and freshness is lost if you over-paint it.

My camera tweeked what you are looking at. The background is more moody and not so rich in coloring. The blues and blacks are more vivid here than they actually are. I struggled so much with…..all of it! Especially those darn mossy rocks! I think I was close to having a major artist brat attack with this painting. So you wonder why keep at it and why not wipe it down to use it for another painting? Well, I am trying to teach myself to proceed on with a painting that I hate or one that I am struggling with. I am hoping for some hard earned lessons. In this case:

1. Don’t be so darn hard on yourself! It is just art!
2. You can do it! just relax and don’t judge it so critically. Who can work under conditions?
3. The “ugly stage” is just a stage not a prelude to disaster.
So….what I like most in this painting are the colors in the middle ground and the background.

The areas that I like the least are the sky holes and those darn rocks. And I am good with rocks! what happened? NO clue.


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



Paint it or Mine It


In my neck of the woods, recreational mining is an activity that is very popular. There is a prevalent hard-rock and placer mining enterprises in the area such as The Original Sixteen to One Mine, http://www.origsix.com/ and The Ruby Mine http://northbayresources.com/ruby/ to name just a few. Mining history is very rich throughout the Sierra foothills.

On my plein air ventures, I often will paint on a mining claim or run into miners doing their thing. I had the great fortune of meeting one on this cold November day while I was packing up to leave. I was given permission to take his photo and to post it publically.


This spot is located between Indian Valley Outpost and Goodyears Bar in Sierra County. When I arrived, it was very cold but thank goodness I was dressed warmly with many layers of clothing. I was carrying my newly found “paint when it is shady” technique. I wondered if I was carrying it too far especially when it was so cold!

What I love about plein air painting is the wildlife that I often see or spook. In this case, I spooked a large buck who made a warning sound that I have heard before or similar to a black bear! At first I was thinking it was a bear but I then realized that it was a deer and he was scooting fast. As I approached the river bank I saw a rather large river otter and he disappeared under the rocks. It certainly was starting out to be an interesting and exciting day.


I decided to paint this scene. The colors in the rocks and river were as dark and rich as you see here in my photo.


At this point I decided to go find some sun, warm up, cheer up! After being in the shade and cold it was starting to get to me. I am not a moody person but for some reason it was affecting me and I needed to go take a walk and see where the sun was coming in. I am pleased with the rocks and the water but I need to finish up the background. At this point the eye bounces off as though there is a barrier present. No worries, plein air is usually not finished in the field anyway.



SUN! It didn’t take long and I had sun shining on the river. I decided to finish up my painting later in the studio and start my second painting of the day.


The painting on my easel. I loved what I was seeing but all that light and excitement was changing so quickly! I had to get a move on it. I call plein air painting, “painting by the seat of your pants”. You barely have time to think or plan, just react and hope for the best.


My painting for now. I did finish it later in the studio. I gave more shape to that large rock in the upper left and the smaller rocks on the bottom. I didn’t want to touch the cascading water over those rocks. I think I am learning what to finish and what to leave alone. If I were to make that area, the focal point “better” I might have inadvertently lose my plein air freshness.

Just another day on the North Yuba river somewhere in Sierra County.