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!

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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!