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!

South Yuba Gold-World Watercolor Month #3

South Yuba River-old bridge built 1922

I remember crossing this bridge as a youngster coming up for family vacations to visit my grandparents and family back in the ’60’s and 70’s. Before the new highway was built I believe in the late 70’s, driving Hwy 49 was treacherous. I remember going around corners, my Dad often would honk the horn because of the truckers taking a wide berth. Come to think of it, this road is still quite deadly. I haven’t been down to this part of the river in years, I focus more on the North and Middle Yuba. What a beautiful day to paint, I was the first to arrive.

Painting #1 scene

I was pleased with the beautiful lighting and the rocks of the South Yuba is very different from the rocks of the North Yuba. Subtle colors with a lot of granite, I believe. It felt like painting an egg study.

#1 300# Arches rough 7 x 9 inches

I decided to bring out more texture later in the studio, and added a little more depth to the water.

scene for #2
#2 300# Arches rough 7 x 9 inches

I tried my best to marry up my photo to my painting. Bear in mind that those yellow/gold areas are not blotches of green/gold but subtle and more like light washes of color. The blue is not as sharp. No idea why I had a difficult time, usually I can get my photo spot on.

Now to the painting. My shadow under the rock on the bottom right was the hardest part to paint. Whew….Now I know I should have soften up edges but with this kind of rock formations, it is something you do want to delineate otherwise, you have one big mass with no definition. I will work on this in the future, softening edges that benefits the painting without losing form.

Last scene #3
Painting #3 on 200# Saunders CP

The blues are not as rich in my painting and the yellows are more subtle not so acid as in this photo. I had another difficult time getting the shadow correct on that over-hanging rock, something that I will be practicing in the next months.

My Learning Points:

  • I need to venture to the South Yuba river more often!
  • It is alright to take a painting back to finish. I have had this idea that I need to finish on site because of a belief that I will lose freshness. I have decided this is not true, over-working is when I lose freshness.
  • I only touched up areas that I felt would enhance the painting and no more….I repeat NO MORE…so tempting to make it even better.
  • I love rough paper, it makes dry brush work easy.
  • Practice shadows on rocks!
What a view!

Get out and Paint en Plein Air….you can thank me later! Remember doing this kind of activity heightens your keen artist eye.

South Yuba River beauty



Daring Watercolor #19

My trip into town to shop was a great opportunity to plein air paint. It was a bit rough because I have been experiencing eye strain so I had to deal with that. Also my scene is beautiful but better when the sun is just hitting the pond or evening light. It has the over-all “sameness” that can be quite boring at the wrong time of day.

Hirschman’s Pond in Nevada City
One of the many paintings for today


I wasn’t as pleased with this experience as with my paintings in the past few weeks. I have been running a bit ragged. I noticed that even hiking out to the pond was not as exciting it should have been. This is quite unusual for me because nature and hiking is top on my list for enjoyment. I made a decision that I’ll be backing off from daily posting. I will be continuing with watercolor as a challenge into June and July but I will only be posting twice a week, more if I feel up to it.

At least one thing positive about today was that I had a fellow blogger in mind while I painted the pond, whose watercolors I admire. I had asked how he does his water so well, how he accomplishes this. He had told me that he uses a lot of water to paint water! Of course, it makes perfect sense! Check out what I mean: brushpark-watercolors- Carsten Wieland

I think that I didn’t do much service to my painting keeping his techniques on my mind but considering how tired I have been feeling, I decided that it wasn’t all bad of a painting day. There is always the rest of the week.

My learning points:

  • It is alright to take a break of a few days or more to keep in tip top shape. No shame in taking it easy now and then.
  • No stress if the scene is boring or ho hum, enjoy the experience anyway.
  • Some days I will not connect to my scene, perhaps another day.


Daring Watercolor #14

P1080721 (2).JPG

I thought I would start this post with a fun and interesting story. Are you wondering what that monstrosity of a flower is above? I wondered that myself and asked the gardener at the Empire Mine State Park while taking a stroll in their gardens. She gave me a term that escapes my mind right now but it occurs when a plant receives too much nitrogen. This is a foxglove that looked like it blew up and the design actually looked like paisley. It was at least 4 inches in diameter, amazing isn’t it?

I scouted about looking for a place for me to paint and I decided on flowers!P1080779.JPG

I felt like my painting needed more depth, so when I got home, I fiddle with it and hopefully didn’t take it too far. I added a few trees in the background and added more color and shadows here and there. I wonder if there are too many elements vying for attention. Originally I felt like I didn’t go far enough with the painting but now wondering if I went too far.


I lost the detail on the bark on that tree on the left which happens to be a Ponderosa. All in all, I am pleased with the experience, more like an exercise and not expecting a painting that wowed me because it was a valuable lesson in itself trying to sort out my scene on the paper. I found myself very relaxed and I picked and chose as I painted. One of the most relaxing times I had yet in plein air.


  • Watercolor is as fun as you make it, remember that!
  • Study the watercolor paintings and techniques of the masters, so much to discover and learn.
  • Expect to do a lot of painting, I might as well have fun while learning, what is the hurry, anyway?
  • Don’t expect learning this medium to be immediate, again, relax.



Glorius Tulips at Crystal Hermitage


I wanted to do a special post that highlights a recent visit to one of my favorite places in our part of the world. Crystal Hermitage at Ananda Village is a spiritual community and retreat located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada approximately 18 miles outside of Nevada City. I have a long history with Ananda having lived within 10 minutes of the village when I was a young adult. I remember hiking up to the Master’s store to buy a soda or commune in the beautiful surroundings. Every time I make a trip to Ananda I always think back to many memories of having once lived close by. Even though I don’t share the same faith as the people at Ananda, I appreciate their spiritual search and I feel very comfortable and attuned to their spirituality.


The Crystal Hermitage is where you’ll find one of the most beautiful gardens of its kind in the foothills. It is located on the edge of a canyon over-looking a vast area that has a spectacular view and if you crane your neck you’ll be able to spot the South Yuba river.


My brother, Doug joined me on this visit and while we were there we ran into my cousin who was raised in the area. She related many wonderful stories which included our great grandparents who had a saw mill just down the road from Ananda. Marcena is a vivacious woman and she is the most cheerful, outgoing person I know. She continued the tour with us and had us laughing more than once!



Beauty and serenity everywhere! I feel that it is important to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Dig your toes into grass or sand, walk the quiet of the woods or through gardens, see and experience nature. It is something that I feel that is easily forgotten while living in our modern society.


Apparently the gardens are open throughout the year and can be accessed except for special private events which then the gardens might be closed.




Walking throughout the gardens you will find beauty everywhere you look. I am thinking of going back and plein air painting but that will have to wait for another two weeks because of the weather. The tulips will be gone but there is much to choose from to paint.


Get out there to paint or enjoy nature where you can find it. Thank you for coming along with me to this beautiful part of the country in Northern California!


Meanwhile on the Ranch

Wells Fargo Express building in French Corral 1850’s era. (photo extracted from the internet, photographer’s name was not noted)

On this particular day I decided to veer away from my muse, the river to paint at The Ranch at French Corral  I met with Matt the owner, he graciously took time out of his very busy work load to show me his ranch. The ranch is the site of a historic mining camp during the heyday of French Corral’s mining history. The creeks were running nice and full. From what he told me last year the creeks were very low if not running at all.

French Corral has the historical distinction of where it was the terminus of the world’s first long-distance telephone line in 1877. One of the original buildings in French Corral is the Wells Fargo building from the mining era of the 1850’s, (above photo). Here is a link about the history of the area:


This was my scene. I took several pictures when I first started but found few that turned out well enough to satisfy me. These photos aren’t what I liked either but I needed some type of reference photo so here we are. By the time Matt and I scouted out the different viewpoints on the property the lighting wasn’t my favorite. I should  have planned on touring the ranch one day and painting on a different day. I decided to go ahead and find a spot to paint. I was so frustrated with my painting from the start. I am not sure why other than perhaps the excitement of discovering a new place to paint and actually having a tour conflicted my painting mode. Matt also introduced me to many of his rescue horses.


I thought these manzanita were pretty awesome because they were as large as trees (at least 20 feet high). In our part of the world they are typically a bush and not a tree and they are also a nuisance . They also create a fire hazard because the wood burns very hot. We had a local who lost their home because of overfeeding their stove with manzanita.


This painting experience was not to my liking and I wiped it down at least twice! I worked the longest ever on this painting. Typically a painting session is approximately 90 minutes but usually never longer. I do believe that I painted over 2 hours on this stinker! I have since taken it home and reworked it which I never do other than finishing a painting. I hardly ever re-do a painting because plein air looseness and freshness is lost if you over-paint it.

My camera tweeked what you are looking at. The background is more moody and not so rich in coloring. The blues and blacks are more vivid here than they actually are. I struggled so much with…..all of it! Especially those darn mossy rocks! I think I was close to having a major artist brat attack with this painting. So you wonder why keep at it and why not wipe it down to use it for another painting? Well, I am trying to teach myself to proceed on with a painting that I hate or one that I am struggling with. I am hoping for some hard earned lessons. In this case:

1. Don’t be so darn hard on yourself! It is just art!
2. You can do it! just relax and don’t judge it so critically. Who can work under conditions?
3. The “ugly stage” is just a stage not a prelude to disaster.
So….what I like most in this painting are the colors in the middle ground and the background.

The areas that I like the least are the sky holes and those darn rocks. And I am good with rocks! what happened? NO clue.


Escape to Empire Mine


On this particular plein air painting day I decided to run into town to make haste with our one day of sunshine between storms and my pick was the Empire Mine Historical Park in Grass Valley. The mine originally opened in 1850 and closed in 1956 and produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. Amazing!

I have only been on the grounds once and that was over 33 years ago. Empire Mine State Historic Park is the site of one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. So with that history and beauty, let’s roll! This is the cottage that was built around 1900 with waste rock from the mine. Those shadows in the photo was as black as you see here. I was a bit nervous because I don’t frequently paint anything other than nature and figures or portraits. Initially I was intrigued and excited by those silhouettes of those statuary if that is the term.



My painting though unfinished I think it is a good start. I need to work more on the elements and knock down those blues and make it more “natural” or perhaps I will leave it as it is. I like to put my own spin on color because it is more artsy. After all it is a painting and not a photo. I had a hard time relaxing through the painting process because I am a shy painter and don’t like onlookers. I don’t mind family or someone I know but when it comes to people walking by, I am as shy as a fox! It was very disconcerting being out there on display. I have decided that I can’t stay under a rock forever and I need to stretch myself. I prefer nature and not so crisp locations such as this to paint but I can’t always paint what I know and love. When I started this painting I focused on what I did love and first of all it was the shading and feeling of what I was looking at. I allowed my imagination to run wild and let it rip. At the time I was currently reading a historical novel based in Scotland and that came to mind and helped me to relax and focus. I struggled with the background on the left and had to wipe it down once and then re-did it. Later when I viewed it at home, I felt better about the painting.

This is on Wallis paper with hard and soft pastels. I always work on establishing the darks first and then the mid tones and lastly focusing on the lighting and where it is hitting. The theme for me during this painting session was forgetting my anxieties and focusing on the job of painting. I didn’t have that right side brain painting experience, it never really took off but some days are like that. Interesting how our location, mood, fears and even the weather affects the painting experience and outcome. Aw the fun of plein air painting!

Front entrance to the Mine Cottage

This is the view of the cottage closer up and the grounds are so beautiful. My daughter, Amanda and her dog accompanied me on this painting adventure and what is exciting and fun is that this park allows dogs. In the visitor center and museum they have a water bowl for the dog visitors. You can literally bring your dog, tour the museum, walk the grounds and have a picnic. The cottage itself is off limits to dogs but the rest of the park they are allowed.  The 850 acre park has trails upon trails to hike and I am in love with this place. I hike the trails at least three times a month and I haven’t tired of it yet.

Various Mining buildings
Old mining equipment