Art and creativity with a touch of nature
I wanted to get out to paint en plein air before the next coming storm. When people think of California they think of beaches and the lack of snow. Ha! well, I live in an area that snow is readily available if it isn’t snowing at my house, it is snowing somewhere close by. This location is about 35 miles from my house and the road leading up to the Sierra Buttes is routinely shut down for the winter and opened to snowmobilers and snow sports enthusiasts. It is a personal pet peeve of mine that people have this conception that California is always sunny and short sleeved weather even in winter. With that complaint off from my shoulders, let’s proceed to my painting.
After this painting experience I am convinced that I don’t like trudging through deep snow with my heavy pastel equipment. Either I have to make it lighter and more compact, or find a scene to paint from the road. I didn’t even bother with setting up my easel and painted holding my board. Not the best decision for me especially when I have trouble with my hands.
I had completed my painting to about 75% and finished it up in the studio.
I decided to take a hike on one of my favorite trails and reflect on painting and my experience today. I felt very much dissatisfied that I came away with only one painting but I decided to shake it off because I was able to paint regardless of how many or the quality. I also came away with over 300 photos to work from. All in all, it was a good day in Northern California.
*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.
On this rainy Earth Day I decided since I can’t get out to paint en plein air I would continue working on a watercolor painting translated from a plein air pastel that I had done last March. Here is my pastel painting
It is as you see here as close as I could capture it with my camera except that I accidently cut off about 1/2 inch at the bottom and the whites are whiter than they appear in this photo. So I wanted to translate it in watercolor but was hoping to be looser with a washy appearance especially with the trees in the background.
I have noticed that often taking a photo of a painting, problems will jump out at you. Here is the watercolor version so far
I am having a problem with allowing the white snow to show up in shapes that look correct. Painting snow in soft pastel can be tricky but in watercolor it is a trial! That log at the bottom doesn’t look right and that little branch (two of them actually) in the upper left under the trees look too sharp and of course I don’t like them. The background behind the trees doesn’t have the depth or feeling I want. The edges of all the trees are too sharp, I want softness. I am thinking of flooding the upper half with water but of course that will bring up some paint that I don’t to be removed and I might end up with sludge.
I am determined to become more proficient in watercolor because after all it is my favorite medium and soft pastel is my second. I have painted in watercolor about 15 years but haven’t really taken it upon myself to tackle it with determination and seriousness.
I might try out something that a watercolor artist here on WordPress I follow does and that is to take many stabs at a scene to get it right. I have tried in the past at least two or three times but usually move onto a new scene and painting. What do you all think? Any suggestions?
Look at those Buttes! Hwy 49 has another name which is The Golden Chain Hwy and looking down that road you will find Sierra City just a short 3 miles and further on is Downieville and then onto Camptonville. A map for those who are interested: http://www.historichwy49.com/mainmap.html I remembered travelling this road on our way back from Canada in 1969 and somewhere I have that photo. If only I had the patience I could locate it and include it in my post here but another day, another post. I am sure that I’ll be posting more about the Sierra Buttes and as I get more experienced and comfortable and yes, more interesting with blogging, I’ll find that photo!
Isn’t that pretty? The day that I painted here was on March 7th 2012 and just a bit up from the river for a nice overview. By the way this is the North Yuba and it rises or “starts” less than a mile from this spot. I would like to find exactly where this “rising” is and paint on that spot. What does it look like I wonder? Aha! maybe I need to go scout this out and do another snow scene! I am sure that they received over a foot of snow last week from that big storm that blew in and I do believe I need to make an excursion. In fact perhaps tomorrow which would tie in with this post.
Do you see those ice caps on the rocks? I see one in the photo on the right side at the rapids. I have always been a country girl even when I was growing up in LA. We raised a large garden and raised rabbits for meat in our small lot but I never felt at home in the city. Coming up to Northern California to visit with family or camping in the woods I always felt I came home. I am country! Plein air painting fits right in with my demeanor and with what I hold dear to my heart. When I am painting I often spot birds such as the Blue Heron or deer or river otter. I haven’t spotted a bear while painting though I have while hiking on the trails near my house. I just love wildlife and being out in Gods’ nature, there is nothing like it.
Enough talking! This was my painting and I have to admit that I was a bit down on this day and I wasn’t too sure if I would come away with anything to like much less brag about. Obviously the above painting isn’t one of my best or my favorite but it is a moment in time. When I look at that painting I think back to my experience and what made my day none too happy. I was very hard on myself that day in regards to my personal relationships and it carried over into my painting. I felt that it was a total thrashed experience until I took it home and re-evaluated it and hmm I realized that perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all.
There is such a vulnerability in life itself and with painting outdoors, you are even more vulnerable. Either the weather, attitude or mood you bring with you affects your painting experience. I would never give in all those bad or tough days for a perfect day. Within such angst art and creativity comes out, if not in your painting, in your character. Character building and learning is a personal theme of mine that I dwell on. I am learning to embrace all that I encounter and I hope that my being human and how I relate to my environment will be present in my paintings and ultimately turn into true art of the spirit.
Looking towards the Buttes at the river side. Ah, it was a tough day but I value what I felt and have accomplished since. I am working to let go my discouragement over imperfections in myself and difficulties with relationships. Every day is a learning experience and I apply that to plein air painting as well. It does get better and better and is reliant on your determination and perception and a reminder to be willing to readjust your point of view.
Somewhere in Sierra County you will find sites that are beautiful and often with historical distinction along Hwy 49 such as this amazing and yet little known spot. I live approximately five miles from this location rich in gold mining history. On this particular day I wanted to paint a snow scene and this was back in March of 2012. I will be taking you through my best or most memorable plein air experiences until which I will post a current painting session.
Joubert’s Diggins hydraulic mine established 1852
I am so fortunate to live in an area that has such an array of locations to discover nature, hiking, outdoor activities and gold mining history and obviously where I love to plein air paint. I live within 2-3 miles from the Middle Yuba River and about 5-6 miles from the North Yuba. I headed north on this particular day and had planned to paint along the N. Yuba but I had a sneaky feeling that I would have trouble finding an area along the river where Caltrans had plowed an area to park. So, I decided to stop right across from Joubert’s (pronounced jew-bear) to paint the woods.
Ha! I found an area to park and I think that the only reason they did plow at this spot is because it is where a lot of people decide to turn around or to stretch their legs because at this point it is nothing but windy downhill from here. So I called it good enough.
I do believe that is was my first time to paint in the snow and I know I admire people in the areas of the US or other parts of the world where they get more snow than we do. I know one thing I realized how much strength and stamina it takes to carry my equipment over the huge snow berms to reach my spot. As you can see I had to keep my pastels somewhat covered to protect them from snow slipping off from the trees. Pastels and water do not mix well.
I brought along my Heilman Box and set it up but decided to rely totally on the pastels I had in my Julian easel. My Heilman box contains the more expensive pastels which are mostly filled with Unisons, Great American, Terry Ludwig and Sennelier. I have since purchased other brands but I will talk about that in later posts.
All bundled up but warm. Currently I have yet to get out and do some more painting snow scenes so it is in the plans. I have bought quite a bit of hot hands and hot feet to help to keep myself more comfortable. This is my painting and I have just recently worked it to a finish but I only show my initial start as it pertains to what I accomplished on this day. I have learned that some days you aren’t able to complete a painting and some artist discount plein air paintings and only use them for a study for a future studio painting. I differ in that I feel a plein air can be a stand alone painting in that they can be quite lively and rich in strokes that are “in the moment”. I value plein air paintings for what they are, a note or a poem of an experience.
I was quite happy in what I accomplished for being my first snow scene and I applaud those people who get out and paint in the snow and cold. Don’t ever be timid or afraid that the difficulties of taking your studio outside is too hard or scary. Get in there and be determined! I am not as young as I was when I first started about 11 years ago and I am lightening up my supplies and I can’t walk as far back in to paint as I used to but I still get out there. Never let the supposed difficulties stop you.