Shenanigans at Shenanigan Flat


Isn’t that pretty? Sometimes I don’t think that my fellow bloggers realize how I access these beautiful scenes that I paint at. At this particular spot, I have been go down a steep trail often grabbing trees for stability. I pick my way down very carefully and often I worry that I might go sliding down the hill! So, I had this great idea that I could have my industrious son-in-law, Luis install a rope system for me. He is a tree climber and knows life saving knots and rope systems. Who else to call upon to help me?

Luis working hard being “knotty”

I love this area and I am hoping that now I can safely access my favorite location in order to paint during the winter as well. See you all down at the river!

Humbug Creek Love and the One That Got Away

Fabriano #300 11 x 14 inches

I love this area and I think if I could easily paint every week for a year and still have something to explore and paint at this location. I started out painting perched on a rock in a middle of a spot that is called “Maytag” because of the force of the river and the arrangement of the rocks. I had to keep alert. If you are wondering why the title ‘The One That Got Away’, well, I lost a painting of Maytag. I think it was a good one but after changing my spot to paint three times, I inadvertently lost it, this morning it dawned on me that I had lost a painting! Yes, I know, how can that happen?

Humbug Creek, my scene for the painting above
Maytag, the scene of the missing painting
on Saunders #200 11 x 14

I wasn’t very happy with this painting, the only area that I like is the rocks on the bottom right. I had difficulty with the rocks all along both banks and the river itself. I need to practice rapids because it was so difficult depicting them. That blue in the background is too chalky looking and not correct. Here is a better depiction of this same scene last week that I like better North Yuba river and Humbug Creek Confluence. I suppose that each session is different, all experience under my belt.

Leaf tranquility

I took over 460 photos on this plein air trip, can you imagine? Love this spot, so beautiful. If any of you are in my neck of the woods and can physically manage it, look me up and we can go paint together. I will always venture out year round as long as it doesn’t rain or snow on me.

P1110586 (2).JPG
Rocks at Humbug Creek

Learning Points:

  • Safely tuck paintings away when dry.
  • Practice rapids or falls, study the masters of this unique feature.
  • Don’t become so enthralled with the painting process that I forget composition or value elements.




North Yuba river and Humbug Creek Confluence

Arches 300# rough 11 x 14 inches

A few days ago I plein air painted along the North Yuba river (imagine that!) at the confluence of Humbug Creek. The North Yuba trail runs along for about 8 miles along the river and I hiked in about 3/4- 1 mile to get here. I actually painted this painting to about 80% and then completed it at home.

My scene

I am realizing that more and more when I go plein air painting is that I can’t expect to totally finish a painting on site, especially if I want to build layers and the weather is not cooperating. It wasn’t cold but it certainly was cool and my layers weren’t drying fast enough.


my favorite of the three



these paintings were warmups and unfinished because of the slow drying problem. I think that I will complete them to a simplicity and with an abstract flavor. I think that my favorite is the top left one.

Ah the river!
Clear, clear water

Learning points:

  • keep painting, it can only get easier
  • get out and paint en plein air, finishing up a painting in the studio would be more difficult if I didn’t have a knowledge of the area or scene that I painted.

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.

South Yuba River

My scene
Painting #1 on Fabriano 140# 7 x 9 inches

Be aware that the blues are not as blue as this photo shows, and the yellow/gold is too acid here. Not sure why but I just could not get an accurate photo of this painting. Everything looks too blue/yellow and very blotchy. With that in mind, I loved painting this and it was difficult because I was facing a bright sun coming through that canyon.

scene #2
painting #2 on Fabriano 300# 11 x 14 inches

I love Fabriano when depicting anything with textures and especially rocks! perfect! I think that I was able to marry up my photo to my painting except the gold/yellow is not as sharp but more blended with the other colors.

scene #3
painting #3 on Arches 140# 7 x 9 inches

Again, the blues are too blue in this photo….I had a difficult time depicting the underlying rocks. I think with plein air when you get in and get out, sometimes you grab an illusion of a scene without getting the whole tamale of a depiction. Not enough time especially when the light is moving so fast. I think that with my photos, I’ll be able to go back and do a studio painting and work up to the finish that most people appreciate. For me, I am caught in between. I like the freshness of a plein air and yet I like a certain amount of “I’ve got it” in the level of finish.

Looking downstream to the first bridge, built in 1921, these boulders are huge by the way and the river is meandering between them. Can you see me with my hat? Hello!

Learning Points:

  • Watercolor is a medium worthy of tackling over and over, hours upon hours and especially if you can get out and paint from life, do it!
  • Don’t give up! every relationship is worth the work and determination. Watercolor is a relationship of sorts. I have always loved watercolor and I plan to make this marriage work!
  • Paint what inspires you, very important. I love the river and the river loves me (I think) and I love watercolor when I paint what I love, a lot of loving going on!
  • Morning sun is the best when it is peeking over a ridge or just hitting the subject, same goes with evening light, when it glows and hits that zenith of pure beauty.
  • Don’t be afraid to use opaque white, I did! the watercolor police were not in proximity and it is not a crime.

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!

Bear Lakes Loop- World Watercolor Month #2


My plein air adventure was a hike back to Little Bear Lake in Sierra County Bear Lakes Loop Trail where my grandson, Rollin and I took a hike and picnic a couple of weeks ago.

P1090982It is so green, amazing! is this the California in summer? Yes, indeed! in the high country it is very green, I didn’t see a dry blade of grass, all green.P1100060

Flowers everywhere, so amazing!

The Lighting was Perfect!

What an inspiring place to paint. I ended up here about 7 am and in fact I wished that I arrived more like 6 am but I didn’t get the rest that I needed so I slept in a bit.

painting #1 on 300# Fabriano 7 x 9 inches
A serene setting to paint in
Painting #2 on 140# Somerset 7 x 9 inches

I wasn’t very happy with my rock. I had such a difficult time with my rock and I am good with rocks! I still liked the rest of the painting, the lighting on the water was beautiful and I was able to depict it quite nicely.


Painting #3 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

Guess what? Those rocks were giving me trouble….again. I HATE those two rocks but at least it was fun trying to paint the rest of the scene.



Painting #4 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I truly enjoyed painting this one though  the smoky skies were hard to paint. I found that I wished I had more complexity with the trees. I had an artist angst of sorts yesterday and I hated this painting. Today I am warming up to it.


Painting #5 on #140 Arches 7 x 9 inches

For such a complex painting, I decided to paint it without a line of drawing but now I wished I had! It was like trying to put a puzzle together. That tree (hate that tree) was a hard one to paint because of that angle but here it is, flaws and all! It was an experiment of sorts.

Painting #6 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I was getting tired by now but determined to soldier through. I figured why drive up here and hike out this far and paint only a few paintings.

Painting #7 on 140# Arches 7 x 9 inches

I decided to go loose and crazy. I painted this one in a mere 2 minutes. It doesn’t look like much but when I put it under a mat, it popped with color and vibrancy. What I initially hated turned out to be something that I like very much.

On the way back, what a beautiful view
Snow still lingering at this elevation-over 6,000 ft.
A horse packing group with mule and rider in the rear

At the end of the trail for this post. I plan on going back before the end of the season before the snow flies and they close off the road. I want to come back and get a better  painting experience in this wonderful part of the country.

I have a continuing problem that crops up occasionally in which I castigate myself and my art and it reared its’ ugly head the last few days. I know that eventually I will get to the bottom of this and throw it out for good! I can only hope.

My Learning Points:

  • Rendering complex scenes doesn’t necessarily make a painting better, simplicity can be golden.
  • Paring down my equipment is a must, this hike wasn’t necessarily long but the elevation made it more strenuous.
  • By golly, it is just art! Lighten up!
  • Good for me, I took only a pint of water (just in case the lakes were dry!) in the past, I would take a quart or more when hiking to paint the river, go figure.

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.

Sierra Buttes-Yes! June WC #4

The Sierra Buttes-overcast

I thought I would venture up to the Sierra Buttes about an hour north of me. I arrived just before 6:30 am and it was overcast. This is sand pond and it was so peaceful and quiet. It was quite cold, about 45 degrees and I forgot to take an extra jacket, so I bundled up with what I could find in the truck.

My first painting 11 x 14 Arches #140 rough

Today I decided to paint as many paintings as I could because since it was quite cool out, my paint was taking forever to dry. I have many “learning mistakes” in this painting. No matter, it was my first painting and a warm-up. I had a hard time saving white for the snowy patches and yet I had this strong urge to go bold. Many times I lost my way navigating this huge mountain. I have some strange patches of color and yet it didn’t let it bother or deter me from my painting.

2nd painting 7 x 11 Arches #140 rough
3rd painting 7 x 9 140# rough

My third painting was started as more of a study of the trees at the shore-line, not really completed or serious, just a “see what happens” kind of painting.


4th painting 11 x 14 140# rough
I loved those dead white trees
Sand Pond


I had an exciting moment when I had finished my paintings and I spotted a bald eagle flying over the Buttes and coming over the pond! I was hoping to snap a few photos but I couldn’t find him in my viewer on my camera. Darn! Maybe next time.

mist over Sand Pond


No learning points this time around, I am plum tuckered out! Get out and see some scenery and if you can, paint plein air, exercise your artistic muscles.



Daring Watercolor #23 Final

What an amazing journey this has been and I have learned so much. I do feel that I enjoyed the plein air painting the most. My favorite paintings were the iris here and the abstract Yuba Flow . I ended up enjoying painting en plein air with watercolors more than with pastels. In the past I was literally afraid take my watercolors out to paint because of what I discerned as a high level of difficulty.

Why I love to paint with watercolors en plein air

  • The experience of painting plein air with watercolors amps up the excitement of plein air. It is addicting folks!
  • Watercolors is perfect for the light and glow that I see in the great outdoors.
  • I can hike several miles to my location whereas with pastels I am limited in how far I can walk in. There is at least a difference of 15-20 pounds of lugging weight.
  • Every time I would take my watercolors to paint en plein air, I would connect and think about the great painters such as Homer and Sargent while painting. What an inspiration to think of these painters while I am out there communing with nature.
  • With watercolors I felt more in tune with the scene and the sensitivity of the medium, far more than with pastels. I describe it here more fully…watercolor sensitivity located under my learning points.

I will continue on with watercolors for the month of June. These are my goals:

  • Continuing on with watercolors in my plein air painting, I will always plein air paint with watercolors, that is now rock solid.
  • Paint at least one portrait or figure with watercolors a week or every two weeks, this will include animals or birds.
  • Paint on larger size paper.
  • Paint more florals.
  • Try out hot pressed watercolor paper.

Here are a few examples of portraits that I have done in pastel:

I am hoping to find an unique style with watercolors, not sure how loose or how tight I will get but my goal is accuracy in depicting skin color and attaining a likeness.

I will see you in June and I will be posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays.