Rocks At Malakoff

Fabriano 300# 11 x 14 inches

I was planning on painting this  yesterday but I was so tired from posting and then life got in the way. Been thinking about painting the rocks at Malakoff because they are quite unusual in that many of the rocks have been oxidized by the local minerals left over from the hydraulic gold mining back in the last century. Here is the post from a plein air trip that I made about a month ago Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #4

My reference photo


I took artist license and moved some elements around to simplify and to give some interest. I decided not to litter my scene with all the trees but who knows I might go back in and put some more trees in. I took some time with this painting and I learned a lot. I felt it was loose in some ways but tighter than I normally like to work.

Leaning Point:

  • Plein air painting has been exercising my artist muscles because it felt so easy to paint this, not a problem, I knew exactly what I was suppose to do.
  • Again, paint what you love and what you know. I am a little stubborn in that I will not paint a subject or place that I have never been. I used to when I was first learning but now I am adamant that I only paint a location that I have been to.

Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #6


Saunders 140# 14 x 21 inches

This photo is almost spot on except that the yellow greens are not as acid as in this photo, keep that in mind and also the brights are pretty bright.

I decided to paint a larger format painting and take some time to be a bit more detailed, something that doesn’t exactly excite me. For all of you that know me, I like to be really loose and get brush happy and flip and mingle paint, living on the edge, that’s me. I wasn’t too sure how I would take to a more detailed, slow approach but I ended up really enjoying the process. My need for excitement was met by watching the painting come to life and really working on saving my whites…..success! I had a blast and I am not kidding. I learned a lot and I’ll put what I learned in my points at the bottom.

I forgot to mention why I started this painting. I have several of my paintings at a local mining shop in Grass Valley and I talked with one of the owners and he suggested that perhaps a larger painting would be nice in the main showroom. I told him that I recently painted at Malakoff Diggins, a historic hydraulic gold mining operation in the 1800’s. I thought I would see if I can paint a decent depiction of Malakoff and have it framed and put in the shop. I hope that it is frame worthy….please give me your thoughts on this.

I might soften some hard edges here or there but basically I think that I am done….offer any suggestions if you see anything, don’t be shy! I won’t bite!

P1100307 (2).JPG
Malakoff Diggins reference photo
close-up #1
close-up #2 you can see the softness that Saunders paper offers….

Learning Points:

  • I will never attempt stretching paper again, long story but no, not for me!
  • I love going large, I suggest it for everyone to stretch yourself by taking on a larger painting.
  • Take many breaks away from your painting….fresh eyes are important, especially in judging your values correctly.
  • Work slowly and methodically if you plan on saving them whites.
  • Don’t ever work on a painting if you are frustrated. In this case I wasn’t, so it was pure joy. Never, ever work on a painting when frustrated or depressed, it doesn’t get better, just worse. I have been there way too many times.
  • Keep moving that brush….thank you Carsten for this advice, I always think of you when I use this expression. Don’t give up, be stubborn, watercolor is a partner, not the enemy.

Malakoff Diggins-World Watercolor Month #4

Malakoff 7 am bright and early

I haven’t been to this spot for over a couple of years. This particular area is rich with hydraulic gold mining history. Easier for me to refer you to this link about the history and general info  Malakoff State Park.

Painting #1   Fabriano #300 cp 11 x 14 inches
Rich colors in the rocks here, I do believe this is Oxide?

I would ask my husband about this rock and the others but I am in a hurry to upload this and he isn’t home yet. The rocks were amazing and this next painting had a good start but I got lost in the colors and therefore, struggled with my values. (below)

Painting #2  Saunders 200# cp 7 x 9 inches

I decided to go abstract once I got home and tried to rescue it, no worries, I can flip it over and paint on the other side.

Painting #3  Fabriano 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

With this painting, I lost my whites and I decided once I got home, to flip it to a horizontal presentation and painted an abstract feeling of the scene. I felt total freedom and joy in doing this. This is a miracle considering that I have always wanted a perfect painting in years past.

My scene… North Bloomfield

North Bloomfield is the headquarters of Malakoff State Park and many of the buildings have been restored and turned into museum displays.

Painting #4  Arches 140# cp 7 x 9 inches

I spent some time to build up layers and it has been a long time since I have painted buildings en plein air, so I am rusty. I changed out the white picket fence for a wrought iron one. No harm done, I don’t have the knowledge or patience how to handle a white picket fence at this point. I hope to be practicing more on buildings. This turned out too tight for my taste… thrills for me on this one.

The interior of the pharmacy I believe

My Learning Points:

  • I love painting with Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue….perfect for these rocks
  • If a painting doesn’t turn out, make an abstract out of it or turn it over and paint on the other side.
  • It is perfectly fine to wash off a painting though some strainers will not totally disappear, learn by trial and error.
  • I prefer loose and fancy free. Working tight always dulls my fun.
I love this rock, reminds me of gold in quartz


Beautiful color!

Somewhere in Sierra County

Somewhere in Sierra County you will find sites that are beautiful and often with historical distinction along Hwy 49 such as this amazing and yet little known spot. I live approximately five miles from this location rich in gold mining history. On this particular day I wanted to paint a snow scene and this was back in March of 2012. I will be taking you through my best or most memorable plein air experiences until which I will post a current painting session.  

Joubert’s Diggins hydraulic mine established 1852 472341_3417619761366_1213407843_o

I am so fortunate to live in an area that has such an array of locations to discover nature, hiking, outdoor activities and gold mining history and obviously where I love to plein air paint. I live within 2-3 miles from the Middle Yuba River and about 5-6 miles from the North Yuba. I headed north on this particular day and had planned to paint along the N. Yuba but I had a sneaky feeling that I would have trouble finding an area along the river where Caltrans had plowed an area to park. So, I decided to stop right across from Joubert’s (pronounced jew-bear) to paint the woods.


Ha! I found an area to park and I think that the only reason they did plow at this spot is because it is where a lot of people decide to turn around or to stretch their legs because at this point it is nothing but windy downhill from here. So I called it good enough.


I do believe that is was my first time to paint in the snow and I know I admire people in the areas of the US or other parts of the world where they get more snow than we do. I know one thing I realized how much strength and stamina it takes to carry my equipment over the huge snow berms to reach my spot. As you can see I had to keep my pastels somewhat covered to protect them from snow slipping off from the trees. Pastels and water do not mix well.

I brought along my Heilman Box and set it up but decided to rely totally on the pastels I had in my Julian easel. My Heilman box contains the more expensive pastels which are mostly filled with Unisons, Great American, Terry Ludwig and Sennelier. I have since purchased other brands but I will talk about that in later posts.


All bundled up b428189_3417775885269_1997649646_nut warm. Currently I have yet to get out and do some more painting snow scenes so it is in the plans. I have bought quite a bit of hot hands and hot feet to help to keep myself more comfortable. This is my painting and I have just recently worked it to a finish but I only show my initial start as it pertains to what I accomplished on this day. I have learned that some days you aren’t able to complete a painting and some artist discount plein air paintings and only use them for a study for a future studio painting. I differ in that I feel a plein air can be a stand alone painting in that they can be quite lively and rich in strokes that are “in the moment”. I value plein air paintings for what they are, a note or a poem of an experience.

I was quite happy in what I accomplished for being my first snow scene and I applaud those people who get out and paint in the snow and cold.  Don’t ever be timid or afraid that the difficulties of taking your studio outside is too hard or scary. Get in there and be determined! I am not as young as I was when I first started about 11 years ago and I am lightening up my supplies and I can’t walk as far back in to paint as I used to but I still get out there. Never let the supposed difficulties stop you.