Shady Business on the North Yuba

With my discovery of starting a painting in the shade, I scurried up to the North Yuba to plein air paint once again. The day for this excursion was on October 31, 2015, I am getting current! well, almost! I hope to get up to speed soon. I might be posting every day in order to start current postings.

This spot on the North Yuba is between Indian Valley Outpost and Goodyears Bar in Sierra Co. I live about 25 minutes from here, not bad living so close to my favorite painting locations. As you can see, it was dark.


I like having the extra time to set up because plein air is a “by the seat of the pants” experience and I cherish a breather now and then. Not having to hurry because of the optimum light is passing you by is a real treat. Problem with this particular morning it was quite chilly. I was amazed by the colors of my scene, the blues, purples and that large bank of bushes across the river were an unusual reddish color. My dilemma was to distinguish between the subtleties of all the colors and to choose the correct values.


I struggled with this painting and I decided to stay loose and more abstract and also to punch up the color. The background gave me fits and I decided to retain the busyness and yet push it back with colors that were hopefully worked. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the river on that top section on the right side is not set down properly and rises rather than being anchored down. I actually decided to work it later in the studio and of course I ended up fixing it too much and now I have a stylized painting rather than a plein air. Sigh… happens every time I decide to make the painting better (in my mind) or finish it later.

I am wanting to learn when and if I should finish a painting or simply leave it alone.  I truly consider a plein air valuable not just for a reference but as a sellable item. Obviously this is sometimes not the case and it is better left alone. I am in a constant learning curve in this area.


Light is coming! what a glow! I always get excited about light, just like a little kid.


Now that I had light hitting the river, I decided to paint one more painting. This time I used rubbing alcohol and using a brush, I swiped in the darks on my paper which was a small 9 x 12 section of Wallis paper and using my pastels, I went with even more of an abstract view and very loose. This is a miracle for me, the person who strives for perfection and the “correct” color. I envy those artists who can let their imagination fly. I have to work hard at it and my way of working hard at it is to pretend I am one of those artists and I fling my arm in there and don’t think about it.


My photo here doesn’t show the blues of the high lights in the water correctly, so keep that in mind. Those blues are rich and more of a cobalt blue. I tried looking for a better photo but I couldn’t find it. Once I framed it I of course found areas that bug me. I don’t care for that very exact line of white rapid smack dab in the center of the painting and I still wonder if my painting is too dark. Some day I hope to be completely satisfied with a painting, like I said, someday that will happen!

Very interesting, you know how I chase light and wait for it, drool over it? Once the sunlight hit that large bank of reddish brush, the color totally washed out and my scene was more beautiful in the shade rather than in the light. The rocks turned dull even with shadows present. The only time that I liked what I saw in front of me (with light) was what I captured in my painting.  And here….in this photo!


Of course once I am ready to pack up I see a beautiful scene like this one and than I am left wanting more! Never satisfied am I? Plein air is always different each time I venture out. Sometimes it is frustrating to the point of tears, yes I have cried! Some days it is heaven and you want to sing and dance. I would suppose if it was perfect each and every time you venture out to paint, it would turn into a boring experience. I have decided that I need to embrace even the bad days, after all, a good day is always around the corner!


Once Upon a February

Once upon a Friday ago I decided enough of this gloomy weather, up to Sierra County I go! For those of who are new to my blog and catching this post as your first, I am first going back in my plein air painting memory before posting brand new adventures. I do believe that I need to hustle because optimum paintings days are almost upon me! Plein air is simply painting the outdoors taking your supplies to your scene. I am in love with the outdoors and in particular the river.

This particular day was in the dead of winter and in 2014. I live about 20 minutes from this location and you wonder where in Sierra county? Fiddle Creek Campground in the Indian Valley Outpost area. There are numerous campgrounds in a two mile stretch of the road. The campground was closed which is advantageous for me because I can pick and choose my spot to paint all to myself. The problem with the dead of winter you have to look for something to brighten or heighten your scene.


Just around that corner of rocks is where Fiddle Creek comes into the North Yuba. February can be rather stark, colorless and the only foliage is found on the evergreen trees and shrubs. As I was struggling with the lack of color and interest. The problem with painting in an environment that I paint often, my interest level can wane if the conditions or scene is right, at least in my eyes. Often what some people would be thrilled to see, I find it mundane because I have seen it and painted it many times.

While standing there feeling uninspired, I had an idea that sprung up. Why don’t I push the colors (or lack of color) and use my imagination? After all, I am an artist, right? Of course! I literally threw off my reservation, my attitude and I felt this surge of determination come shining through! Once I got beyond the ho hum of my scene and pushed aside the fact that the colors out there in front of me were lacking, I found color! I found color in my mind’s eye, my artist way of viewing the world. In this case, a quiet part of the North Yuba in Sierra county.


I found an excitement that rose up once I started venturing out away from my usual “paint exactly what I see” approach. The colors were rich, that alder tree sprung to life and I literally felt energized! I know that from now on I have to recall this approach and attitude because what I painted was lively, colorful and insightful. Yes, insightful….February isn’t so dull after all! By the way, this painting was painted on salmon color PastelMat with soft pastels; Rembrandt, Great American, Union and a white Sennelier.


My painting! you wonder why did I leave the salmon color paper peeking through? It gives the painting life, a vibrancy and also the color helps realize the rocks and the bottom of the river. I decided not to bring the rocks in the foreground to a completion. The bottom right rock does have more detail because it helps anchor the painting. Next I darken the blues in the top section to bring out the trees and to push background further back. There is a danger of overworking a plein air to a stylized look if you try to complete it too much in the studio; this is my own personal opinion and I am speaking from experience. I want to work on being able to maintain the plein air look if I decide to complete a painting once I get home. This is something that I will be working on in the future because typically these plein air paintings are small, approximately 9 x 12. I have painted larger (12 x 16) and I find that it is near to impossible to complete a painting. I would like to experiment with starting a painting on a larger piece of paper and then complete it back in the studio using my photo references. We’ll see if I would be able to retain that special plein air style.