Intuitive Paintings


Painting #1 of Bullards Bar Resevoir

I have been painting up a storm lately and enjoying every bit of it. The weather has changed drastically in the last few days, my husband had gone up to the Sierra Buttes and there was about 4 inches of snow! I hope to get up there soon to paint.




Painting #2 of the North Yuba river

Painted saturated wet on wet. If you haven’t tried this technique you have to give it a try, it is absolutely thrilling. There is approximately a two hour window of painting time without having to wait for any layers to dry. It takes a bit to get used to the mushy appearance as you work it but to me it is like sculpting rather than painting. Once it is dry, you go back in to punch up your darks.


Painting #3 imagined river landscape

What a joy to paint this, I had no idea how it would turn out and I loved that fact, I prefer working this way.


Painting #4

Again another intuitive painting, I loved playing with the light.


Painting #5 of Bullards Bar Resevoir

The glow in the middle section is not quite as bright in reality in this photo, keep that in mind. I loved painting this, imagine that!


Painting #6 a semi-abstract

This painting wasn’t turning out as I imagined so I decided to abstract it to play around with shapes and values, nothing lost in an exercise of this nature. I have three more paintings to share, until next time!

North Yuba at Indian Outpost


On Schut Noblesse 140# cp quarter sheet


I started this painting yesterday and finished it today. I didn’t bother with photos showing my progression. This paper is fairly new to me, not sure if I care for it or not. I like a paper to push back at me, it seems too “mushy”, it doesn’t have a response that I like. Corrections are difficult and you have to be careful because very wet washes will congeal in some spots and try to lift up in places you don’t necessarily want it to. I don’t mind a paper that puts me on the edge of my seat but I like a little teamwork.

I’ll might soften up some edges of that bush that leans over the rocks.

colors used: Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Quin. Gold, Aureolin, Indigo

*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.

Shenanigan Flat-North Yuba River

painting #1  on Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches

This scene was a difficult one because of the steep trail leading down to the river and the fact that I didn’t have sun on the river for the first 90 minutes, I painted basically in the shade.

what my first scene looked like with sun
painting #2 on Fabriano 300# 11 x 14 inches

I struggled with this painting because of having such a complex scene with no focal point (hoping for a light source) I was all over the place and couldn’t focus. In other words, I didn’t have a clear path to follow.

my scene was beautiful but without sun, it was a bit dreary
painting #3 on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

I then spotted the sun shining further on down the river, all I had to do was scoot my butt a 3/4 turn and I had a new scene! The sun was glowing down the river! YAY!

This scene was a bit darker in the trees in the canyon….beautiful lighting!

I used my spray bottle and did an interesting underpainting but I think that I got too carried away and should have planned out my painting a little more. All in all, I am pleased with this painting, always something to improve though plein air is not suppose to be perfect or tight.

painting #4 on Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches
my scene…..the lighting on these rocks were amazing

I wished I had done a better job on these rocks but I think that I was getting tired. I know that I probably push to paint more paintings than I am up for but I figure if I am going to venture out and hike, I might as well do as many paintings as I can.

I was thinking of not posting these paintings but decided why not? I have been a little picky and hard on myself lately. I did paint a few days ago and I have yet to upload those. I might do it as I know when I am picky, it is good for me to proceed as usual.

Learning Points:

  • Not all painting sessions are meant to be perfect and easy.
  • Keep my plan of action clear, stop and re-focus.
  • Continue to work on my values and saving my whites, I continue to struggle with this.
  • My color selections felt off today, don’t let this interfere with my enjoyment.

June WC #10

I was torn between pastel or watercolor plein air painting and the good old watercolor won out this time.

I wasn’t sure what time the light would hit this particular spot I was headed out to, I arrived about 8:30 am but I should have arrived a full hour earlier. I took the Canyon Creek Trail at Shenanigan Flat in Sierra Co. just before Indian Valley Outpost  Canyon Creek Trail  It seem to take forever because of having to hike back in at least 1 mile and a half, perhaps it was 2 miles, it sure felt like it. I got to see a bear, so exciting and I was trying to get my camera ready to take a photo but he decided to dash up the hill. So cool to have him there pausing, we both had a good look at each other, he decided he wasn’t up to introductions. I had this feeling that I would see a bear, I was right.

I didn’t like my photos today but here is a photo of this area back in the spring of this year. Look at all that green moss! I am hoping to plein air paint this fall and winter when I can have oodles of fun with that rich color.


I think in the future I need to scale down my supplies for longer hikes because I really felt the weight.

The photo at the top left was the area with this beautiful lighting, the tree was my first subject.

See the ladybugs on that rock? This is Cherokee Creek


Painting #1 Saunders #200 cp 11 x 14 inches

I overworked the base of this tree, I had some rich and beautifully mingled colors but I decided to go back in and make it even better! Wrong! leave it alone!

painting #2 Fabriano 300# cp 11 x 14 inches

These rocks were giving me a hard time trying to depict them correctly. I made the mistake of trying to work on two paintings at once and by the time I would go back to one of the other paintings, the light had changed. This system seems to work on smaller paintings but with a larger painting, not so well. I almost left this painting out of the group just because I am not happy with it, if you have some suggestions on what it needs or say “scrap it” that’s fine too.

Painting #3 Arches 300# rough 7 x 9 inches

I need more of a focal point, too busy with all the rocks. Yes, I know there are suppose to be a lot of rocks in a creek, but I need to point out my focal point. It needs something, that I do know.

Painting #4 Fabriano #300 cp 7 x 9 inches

This painting was so fun and yet I see some mishaps. Nothing is perfect when you plein air paint. So funny, as I sat there, I had hundreds if not thousands of ladybugs over all my stuff, the rocks and my paintings.

Sorry I would have cropped out the taped edges, I was in a rush to get it done and posted. Long day with painting, passing a motorcycle accident on the road on the way home, then having to wait for the helicopter to take off with the injured rider which was almost in front of my drive-way.

Painting #1 & 2 were the Yuba River, #3 and #4 were Cherokee Creek which runs right into the river. I do believe that I enjoyed painting the creek more.

Learning points:

  • The rocks in #2 were giving fits, as noted.
  • Careful with over working a painting, plein air paintings are suppose to be fresh and lively, get in and get out.
  • When I sense that I am picking at a painting, stop!
  • I hate Daniel Smith’s Lemon Yellow….HATE! Debi you were right….want some yellow?
  • Don’t accidently sit on my painting.

Daring Watercolor #11



Out and early to the river I go! I love walking this trail and especially when the light is just coming around the canyon. I had to include several more pictures of my hike to where I was going to paint because it was so beautiful, enjoy these photos…….

Alright then, back to watercolor.

My first scene was quite the challenge because it was so beautiful and yet I got lost within the green/yellow of the drying out moss. I decided not to include it because I wanted to focus on the three other watercolors that were more successful.

#1 on top and #2 on bottom 4.5 x 6.5 inches each

And then, my final painting….

My final painting 7 x 10 inches 

I really enjoyed painting the last one but my problem was that the water working its’ way around the rocks didn’t show up to be water as I had hoped. Just to give you a little information, my scene was on the embankment of the river where the water flowed around the rocks and the water from the creek combined and then on down to the river.

The water in actuality was the dark green color that you see here, but my rocks are very similar in color as well. I think in the future I need to be careful to have two separate (or color palette) choices to make sure I delineate the elements….to give the viewer a better reading as to what they are looking at.

The rocks on the North Yuba are very unique in that you will have black, burnt sienna, ochre, blue and even green in the rocks. But…..even so, I need to have a clarity in my painting.

  • When I was painting my first scene (not shown) I was starting to freak out and I could feel my confidence start to mount a wild mustang and take off! I calmed myself down and told myself….just do it!
  • Don’t think so much about how I am going to do it because once my brain starts wondering “how”, my confidence level goes down.
  • Trust that I’ll find my way, it takes a while for the brain and hand to marry up and get into a rhythm.
  • Trust the process, my life is not on the line if I get it right or not.
  • For goodness sakes, relax! Being tense will show up in the painting and it affects my confidence and doubt sets in.
  • Doubt kills!
  • Remind myself values! learn your values! If I am to think about anything at all, think values!

Now for  fun to lighten up the load of all these things to learn….on my way home I had to stop and take a photo of this garbage can that has “NO BEAR” written on it. I am wondering if the lady (I know her) had hoped that by writing this on her garbage can, bears would leave it alone? I always wanted to ask but felt awkward about it. Maybe the local bears are smart and they can read? Any ideas? Have a wonderful weekend.


Daring Watercolor #2

A nice spot to paint, don’t you think?

What is totally cool about stepping out to plein air paint with another medium is that all the areas that I have painted before in pastel feels fresh and new with watercolor. This particular spot I have never been able to take my pastels because it is close to a mile from the road. Too far to pack in heavy painting equipment, with watercolor everything fits in my backpack.

What was even nicer is that I used the river for my water source, so in actuality my painting of the river has the river in it, what an awesome feeling.

Here we go, I am cheap so I re-use watercolor disasters and paint on the other side of them. I always use artist quality paper and paints; in this case, Arches 140# and Daniel Smith paints, my favorite.

My scene located at the Hang Ten Mine



These two little paintings are approximately 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches and the first layer. I simultaneously painted two….work on one for about 15 minutes, go to the other and eventually when one is almost dry or that perfect window of opportunity is open, I would dash in a color.

My close to complete paintings. I decided to leave them alone because they were really just “warm-ups”. I was raring and ready to go to a larger painting (11 x 7 inches).

My scene #2

I totally got into this experience, I had a great attitude and none of that poor me, I just wanna paint in watercolors, why isn’t it doing what I WANT! I’ll put a list at the bottom of this post what I learned from this experience.

My first layer (or two in dabs)
My finished painting
A close-up of my favorite area

I loved this session, I was so excited I felt like a little kid again, I didn’t count on that happening. I was planning on having a difficult time because after all, it is watercolor and based on my atrocious paintings from Daring Watercolor #1 post, I was expecting the same. I think that I misjudged watercolor and I misjudged myself, ha!

My thoughts are as follows:

  • Attitude is everything (well, almost). I decided to give up berating myself today. A person cannot work under such conditions. An invisible person standing over you with a whip in hand.
  • I gave myself permission to simply learn, you can’t beat up a student, there are moral and legal laws against that! As long as we are always learning, we are students, just at different levels.
  • Don’t try to control (obsessive and unrelenting) watercolor, you can guide it to do what you want but allow watercolor to do its thing. It can be viewed as though you are in a “partnership” with the medium. It is an adventure, be a serendipitous partner.
  • Don’t worry about depicting exactly what you see because frustration is just around the corner if you follow every nook and cranny. This is especially true while painting en plein air and especially with an adventuresome medium such as watercolor.
  • Alternate light and dark, cool and warm for bringing excitement into the painting.
  • Wait for the painting to show you the focus or motif of interest. Ultimately it is a sense of feeling, emotion or atmosphere that is the focus. Follow the lead of the painting.
  • Find the attitude and slowing down to the point that when you paint you are in that item you are painting, such as a rock or tree. You allow yourself to feel the subject to the point that you are simply “building” your painting, therefore you bring it to life.  Watercolor is fantastic for this, even more so than soft pastel, what an amazing discovery for me!
  • Take breaks often, step away in order to keep your eyes fresh.
  • Don’t fight the experience or worry that it won’t happen. Find your way into the experience, relax, it will happen…hopefully. If it doesn’t, no loss. Maybe next time, there will always be a next time.

Easel On!


My new set-up which is different not necessarily lighter because I have discovered that my pastel box weighs a hefty 10-12 pounds loaded. My tripod was a little wobbly and I am thinking that I need to buy a tripod that can handle the weight. Those pastels are too expensive to have them hit the rocks because of my tripod breaking.

The easel that you see here is one that my daughter and son-in-law gifted me a year ago. It is lightweight and folds up into its own carrying case. A keeper so far I am happy to report. I will be looking yet for a lighter pastel box. My current box is a Heilman but the standard size that doesn’t allow for the easel attachment. I am thinking of this one also made by Heilman:


I am about 20 minutes from this location just on the other side of the Indian Valley Outpost area along the North Yuba river. I decided to get a head start on my painting before the sun hit my scene. 


The sun started creeping across the river to brighten up my scene. I sometimes wonder if my technique of late is perhaps setting myself up with paintings that are too dark. I have the tendency to not get my darks down when blocking in my painting. My only misgiving is that the dark can be very overwhelming and I end up hoping for the light. When the river is in the dark the richness of colors is so enticing and yet I wonder if I am being pulled into the dark too much. Not sure what I am really trying to get at other than this is all an experiment.


My painting and my scene. I realized too late that in order to come away with a completed painting or almost completed one, I have to paint on a smaller size of paper. I discovered too late in the game that my paper was too big for plein air. After 11 years you would think that I know this. I was holding onto this larger sized paper to use it for painting a mountain range (Sierra Buttes).

On this particular day I grabbed it not thinking that I should have kept it small. So, what you see is actually an underpainting. The paper size is about 18 x 16 inches. Much too big for what I am doing here. I typically paint on 9 x 12 sized paper or 11 x 14.


Light! Now the rush is on….painting by the seat of my pants. Odd to say that I am finding that the sun bleaches out those rich colors that I have chased in the past. Now that I start a painting in the “dark” I am becoming more sensitive to light and color. Some days it brings in some beautiful rich color but today I wasn’t able to pick out all those wonderful colors once the sun hit the river.


A close-up of a rock that I was hoping to get the perfect photo. Hard when I am chasing light, color and perfection!


I often will take close-ups of water always looking and studying it to understand how water moves or looks. In order to paint water well, you need to know it. So much so when you paint water, you are water.


Another Fine Day


I decided to take advantage of our good weather to go plein air painting. I couldn’t decide between Pauley Falls (near Downieville) or Love Falls (located north of Sierra City) and then I got to thinking that the river would be rushing with all our rains and the falls would be nothing but pure white rapids. I wanted to have some dimension to my paintings. Love Falls is actually on the PCT and I figured that it probably would be too much for me to trek out more than a half mile in snow. I decided to find a spot on the river. This area is the spot I painted about a couple of months ago and it is located near Fiddle Creek campground in the Indian Valley Outpost area in Sierra County. I was amazed in how much the river was up and roaring.

12744368_10208560808399795_3221225132208377525_nAnother photo of the area but a bit downstream. The colors of the Yuba is unique, I can usually pick out pictures of the Yuba just by the colors.

12711039_10208560797879532_2355844663532419063_oThe lighting today was amazing and that beautiful green yellow color on that rock drove me batty. Trying to capture the subtleties of color and the excitement of the rapids was mind boggling. I now realize that my cherished fall/winter lighting is moving towards spring. This particular spot I can easily get here almost as the sun rises because at 8:30ish it was in full sun. Another day for another painting.

My painting. I struggled a bit, of course, every painting session is different. Today I had to decipher the unique colors, lighting, the fast evolving scene and keeping perched on my rock without tumbling into the river. I get so involved in painting that often I forget to drink or exactly where or what I am standing on.
This scene is what I painted next. I wasn’t happy with my original photos of this area so I have this one to work from. It doesn’t show my entire scene but it will be good enough if I want to use it for a reference photo if I want to finish up my painting. Not all of my plein airs do I keep or finish. Some are scrubbed down and the paper is re-used or I set it aside and re-evaluate it later if I want to continue on with it. Often I will keep them just so I can base another painting on it. Some artists don’t consider plein air paintings to be worthy to be framed. I differ in that I feel if it works, it works and I don’t want to underestimate the quality or importance of a plein air. They exude a fresh eye and liveliness that you can’t find in a studio piece.
My second painting. I see that basically it looks undone and it lacks a good focal point. To me it is “all over the place” and doesn’t quite hit the mark. I might finish it or scrub it back down. That area in the back was so dark and it was difficult to see the elements. By the time I finished, the sun was hitting that area and it lacked interest. I love contrasts. As I was packing up, a piece of hardware on my easel broke and now I am pressed into the decision to buy a better and lighter set-up. I knew it was coming and now I have to move onto my desire to lighten up. I simply can’t patch this up because I can’t keep using bungee cords to keep my pastels in the box. They are too expensive. Anyway it is time to move onto something better. Thank you for coming along on another painting day with me.

Yuba Blue in November


On this fine sunny cold day I decided to paint once again along the North Yuba river. I was hoping for fall colors but as you can see all the leaves are gone. Bringing in some color in a scene like this can be difficult especially with this much sun. The surrounding foliage did have touches of reds and orange that I knew would be perfect for getting the creative juices moving. I appreciated the rich blues in those far mountains but I wanted the river to be my focus.


When I have so much going on in what I am looking at I grab onto what interests me at the moment and start setting up my composition. Today I wasn’t too concerned on a focal point but rather I allowed the focal point to “come forth” and sure enough it did.


My painting approximately 75% done. I have some work to do on those rocks, especially the rocks to the right, I don’t want them to look like muffins. I decided not to finish the rocks to completion on the bottom left to give more of an impressionistic look because I feel that the water is the star.

I worked on Sansfix pastel paper and I had forgotten how much I love it. I can’t find it anywhere except in Canada. I have already contacted the company to see if or where I can buy it. The color of the substrate is charcoal gray and has an extremely rough texture like sandpaper. I especially enjoyed painting the water. As I painted I saw a Blue Heron fly right past me and down the river, what an exciting moment!

12291979_10207996612695255_2838526044876238516_o Stepping back to give you the view of my easel and scene. I was excited when I discovered this spot which is handicapped accessible. I have been down to this area on the river but not to this spot and I was pleasantly surprised by the view. I couldn’t ask for better weather. By 1 pm the cold starting rolling in and by 2 pm it was changing quite a bit. Sundown on the river is earlier than most places because of the canyon.


My second painting of the day. This is new for me in plein air painting and that is to paint two paintings in a session. I start out with a larger painting which is about 11 x 14 and my smaller painting is usually about 9 x 12. I paint the larger one first because I am fresh and because usually the lighting is better. The second painting is always just as fun but thank goodness it is smaller because by the time I am done, I am tired.
All my areas I paint I have to lug my equipment at least several hundred yards but never more than a 1/4 mile. With this scene, it was tricky because of the shadows of the rocks and that alcove was subtle. The trick was to make the foliage stay back even though there were some highlights. As I painted I had to make decisions on how to bring my scene to life amid such shadows and limited lighting. I threw myself into the task and allowed the painting to “pave” the way. This view here was very dark and had touches of light hitting and I had to get a move on it before it was in full sun!


My painting. I will decide on how much I want to work on the background and to work more on those rocks, especially on the left because there was little light on that spot even though my photo shows quite a bit. 


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, and The Ruby Mine 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.