Sierra Buttes #2 watercolor


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Painting #1 on Arches 300# rough 7 x 9 inches


Sierra Buttes-my scene

I wanted to go up and  paint the Sierra Buttes while fall is here and I am hoping that I’ll be able to paint this mountain till the road is shut down for the season. As you can see, there is a dusting of snow from our last storm. Isn’t that an amazing view? I have been up here to paint so many times that I have lost count and I have to say that this is the most beautiful that I have seen the Buttes to date. The last time I was here I spotted a Bald Eagle flying over those peaks and over Sand Pond. I took over 100 photos on this trip and I think that I captured the best photo of the Sierra Buttes in my mind.

It is a popular area for snowmobiles and skiing during the winter. I painted this spot before in pastel    Sierra Buttes 9/20/13  and here, a different view Look at those Buttes! and finally in watercolor Sierra Buttes-Yes! June WC #4 .


painting #2 on Arches 300# rough 7 x 9 inches


Painting #3 on Saunders 200# 11 x 14 inches

I had wanted to include Sand Pond and the whole nine yards but I have a tendency to want to paint close-up it is so difficult for me to do large scale.


Lucky me….I had a picnic table! Look at the view!



painting #4 on Saunders 200# 7 x 9 inches

I stopped on the way back to paint one last time and this was on the North Yuba, of course, imagine that!

My Learning Points:

  • Keep working it, watercolor is a long term relationship, it can only get better with experience and hard work.
  • Dress Warmly especially when you expect cold weather, I did but I had to start peeling off the clothes as it warmed up.

*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.









Madrone Madness #4

Soft Pastel 10 x 14 on Mi-Teintes Touch

Yep, I am at again. I want you all to know that I painted this madrone in my nightgown! I am a devoted painter or perhaps crazy? The photo above doesn’t quite show the redness of the tree, the salmon color on the ground is perhaps a few shades brighter. The darks didn’t come out as dark as they should. The yellow and gold in the leaves are not quite brilliant enough in this photo but at least you get the idea. I tried my best to marry up the photo to my painting, it was difficult in this painting for some reason.

Having not painted en plein air in pastel for a while, I resented having my hands getting dirty, how did I ever get used to this problem when I first started? I am an aggressive painter and I had forgotten to go light with my softer pastels, I learned the hard way. I had one crumbled right in my fingertips. Lesson learned. I might go back and give my sky holes a lighter blue, they don’t show up well enough to read as sky.

close-up #1


close-up 2


I had an absolute blast and the process of creating a painting and decision making was no different between watercolor or pastel. That was a surprise for me. I have worked with both mediums in the past but the fact that I haven’t painted in pastel for over a couple months, I was able to decipher this difference.

Another realization that came to me after I had posted and looking at my painting, I feel that I over-worked it and the plein air looseness and freshness has been lost. I have recognized this before in some of my paintings and I would call it “boring or ho-hum” and the fact came to me that I was detecting a painting that has been over-worked. I never connected the two before and I think that now that I have recognized the fine line, I can head off this tendency to over-work. Of course it might be other factors that will make a painting ho-hum but in this case my painting has been over-cooked.

I feel the reason I take a painting too far is that I am trying to work out the problems; either the values are off or I am thinking that I am not depicting it like I see it or want it. Working it until I get there can be a trap. I have worked something until I got what I wanted and I have been able to do this without over-doing it. It can be done and it is achievable, it takes being sensitive to knowing when I am over stepping this fine line into being over-worked. Something that I will be more aware of and be working on. It is a never ending, learning task being an artist.

My learning points:

  • I hate Mi-Teintes Touch…not enough of a gritty surface for my personal taste. I am aggressive and it was too mediocre in receiving the pastel. I fought my paper.
  • Mid-tones are so important in building up your values, it is the foundation of your painting. I always seem to go dark and then concentrate on the lights. Not sure how to alleviate this lack of seeing and putting in my mid-tones. It is a work in progress learning this.
  • Even though I painted in my gown, I will not do naked, no thank you.
  • In order to depict details such as leaves, this can be done in a impressionistic grouping, convey it simply and bring in only necessary detail to convey the motif as needed.
  • Watch the fine line between good enough and too much, there is always next time, keeping it fresh and lively is key for plein air.

June WC #8

Plein air pastel from three years ago

I decided to translate another pastel painting that I had done en plein air about three years ago at my favorite place to vacation. Located on the north coast of California, on a beach just outside of Trinidad.

the watercolor version 10 x 14 on Arches cp

I always enjoy translating a painting to another medium but for some reason I didn’t enjoy this one as much because having to draw it out and being “careful”, it was boring. Yes, I do like to live on the edge of my seat, you haven’t noticed that yet? I decided to use an opaque white not that I didn’t save my whites (or did I?) for the breakers, I did it just because. I am not so sure if I liked how it turned out. In the original it doesn’t look so stuck on as it does in the photo, a little easier on the eyes in real life.

My husband will be coming home on Wednesday from a fire assignment up in the northwest corner of the state. I’ll be spending some time reacquainting myself with having my husband back, I might go missing for the rest of the week. Who knows I might sneak back in here or go paint and post, we’ll see!

Learning points:

  • Go plein air painting just for kicks when I am needing a little more excitement!
  • Learn the fine line between being careful and letting loose, I prefer letting loose.
  • Keeping my whites and not getting lazy about it is key.
  • Paint when inspired! it shows in the painting if I am ho hum.

Intuitive Painting-Psalm 65

I am back to painting and  will be starting on a watercolor soon. I was hoping to go plein air painting but it is very cloudy out there and is threatening to rain, which we need so badly here in Northern California.

While talking about art with a fellow blogger, I had mentioned my intuitive painting, he suggested that I post about it and my progress. So, here we are!

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Tentatively named “Psalm 65” (the blues are not as rich as it is here in the photo)

I have been wanting to start this painting for a long time and I fought it because I didn’t know how to paint Psalm 65, do I go realistic or abstractly? Well, as you can see I chose the latter.

With this  painting, I literally empty my mind from any distractions, thoughts, ideas of what this painting should depict even though I was basing it upon Psalm 65. I am going for the spiritual and not literal.

This  is how I usually proceed.

  • Put on some music, lately it has been Gregorian chanting
  • Relax, pray, wait, empty myself, wait
  • Paint only what I feel I should paint…color, shapes or nothing
  • Don’t paint from the need to put a mark or color down
  • Entirely intuitive painting, nothing comes, paint nothing
  • Once I put the painting away till the next painting, I do not ever look at it or evaluate it (I broke my rule of not looking at it to marry it up to my photo for this post)
  • Don’t judge it while painting, or ever!
  • Be in the moment, no visualizing it as being done or half done or partially done
  • Treat it as an eternal puzzle piece, a stroke at a time

The why of this painting….well, it is a long story and at this point I will leave that out until a later date. I think if anything this is a personally designed experiment for me because I am a goal orientated person as most of us are. I come from parents who were workaholics and who focused on the finished product. I struggle with this so much, probably more than others because I have a tendency to castigate myself for not having a perfect or near perfect end product. I push myself to produce the end product, yes but also to have perfection in what I do, both in life and in art. I truly want to break this because it is not coming from the artistic self, it is coming from the “false self” the self that strives from a primitive part of the psyche. Striving for a whole bevy of reasons and I am very aware of this. I often spend time battering against this and arm myself with knowledge, both head knowledge and spiritual and yet, it remains a struggle.

Working on this painting is an attempt to work this out within myself. Thank you for taking the time to read this post being that it is a side step from my ongoing watercolor challenge. I would very much appreciate to hear what you feel or perceive but not what you think of the painting. I only ask you this because I am not going there myself, this is an open session painting with no analysis at all from myself or from others. Thank you so kindly!



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.

Daring Watercolor #17

Pastel plein air of the same scene from about 5 years ago


Continuing on with my slow and yes, labored painting of the middle Yuba river. I am enjoying this slow process, I timed myself today to work for only an hour and taking many breaks. I discovered that with working so intensely on this painting and then the plein air painting yesterday and with my long hours of reading, I have been experiencing eye strain.

So, I have been concentrating on resting my eyes and keeping them closed when I don’t need to look. I have had this before and rest is all it takes to get my eyes in tip top shape.

My first update


2nd update (paper is not as warm as pictured)


Ignore that warmth to the paper, in order to match up my photo to my painting, I had to play with the temperature of the photo. My blues were shouting too much blue. I am thinking that I need to correct some of that moss on the right, too sharp of a green and maybe a bit too dark. I am starting to bring up the color of the rocks and realized that I better get my moss on there to have a base to work my values off from.

A lot of work yet to do. I’ll be going back and forth moving all over the place to slowly bring everything to a complete and unified look and feeling. I will then start on the water. My plan is to do some trial practice paintings for the water. There are many underlying rocks and I have to figure out how to go about it. I am not going into this with no practice or without some research.

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My reference photo

As you can see above this subject has been painted before, en plein air about 5 years ago on Wallis paper with soft pastels. Sorry to say, Wallis is near to impossible to find anymore, so sad because it was my favorite paper.

I will continue on this painting tomorrow. I might decide to wait to post updates on this painting every 2 -3 days of working on it since it is such a slow process. I don’t want to bore my audience!

What I learned today:

  • Stay aware of how tired I am, protect my eyes, having had a mother who lost her eyesight, this is close to my heart, caring for my eyes.
  • Pace myself, remember this is fun and expressive; not oppressive and drudgery.
  • Take breaks often at least every 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Those breaks enables me to see something that I didn’t see before.
  • Don’t build up a color or an element without having something next to it for a good value reference.




May oh My!


I have challenged myself to a fighting duel with watercolor for the month of May. I am excited though a bit nervous. I have been working in watercolor for at least 15 years. I have been seriously painting with soft pastel since 2000. I included a photo of a pastel portrait that I started about 6 years ago! yes that is a long time to have a painting waiting on me. It is from an Edward Curtis photo, it is definitely not my own photo. It is for myself to hang for my own enjoyment and I can’t wait to finish it. Why I am mentioning it is that I have a plan. May has been set aside to venture into watercolor solely but I figured that I might need to go back to pastel just to calm myself down. Sounds like I am projecting a lot of fear onto myself and this project, actually I am being playful and hoping to loosen up with my attitude.

As this challenge proceeds, I will be working on this portrait and I will post updates on that progress. At this point I venture to say it is at about 25% finished. We’ll see if I can get it done in May or at least in June.

My goal is to loosen up, to find my style with watercolor. As most people know who are familiar with the medium it can be very difficult because it has a mind of its own. I have always loved watercolor and I love the fact that it is unwieldy at times.

I will be including some watercolors I have painted in the past at the bottom of this post. I am not sure what my goals are other than:

  • Loosen up and stop over-working a painting
  • learn to know where to go with a painting, I always seem to start well but knowing how to proceed is very difficult for me.
  • Find my “signature” or style, not the style of artists that I admire….a style that is solely mine!
  • To loose that tightness that I have when I paint, at least a little!
  • To understand the layering from light to dark
  • Learn how to retain the white of the paper
  • To truly learn my values with this medium
  • To plein air paint more assuredly with watercolors
  • I want to learn how to be proficient in depicting water


I have included this one below to illustrate my difficulty with knowing how to proceed. I get to a point that I just give up. I don’t know where to go, what to do. It alludes me! I lost my whites in the rapids and resorted to using white acrylic, not a good idea, not at all!


Here are a few more…..

Tomorrow is May 1st but I won’t be able to start until Monday. Join me on a challenge of your own design if you dare!

Paint and a Hike

The overlook at the start of the trail

One of those days that I hastily grabbed the opportunity to paint and a last minute decision to switch the location I originally had planned to paint. Just up the road from me and newly opened this year I believe, Rice’s Crossing Yuba Rim Trail. Here is a website with info:

I woke up to cloudy skies but I was determined to go paint. I walked off from the trail and found a meadow with all kinds of conifers and brush that are now in bloom. At this time of year, Ceanothus integerrimus (deer brush) and Scotch Broom are in ample supply in this part of the country.

My scene


I realized after I had pretty much started, I forgot to show different stages of painting. I’ll have to remember next time, always a next time.

I was feeling the groove this time around. I need to work on a few areas which is pretty standard, rarely do I come away with a finished painting or satisfied. The photo is pretty close to my painting although there are some grasses that have a touch of warm tan that doesn’t show up well in this photo. The blues are a bit “too blue” and more of a greyish blue and lavender.

I decided to go for a hike afterwards and here is a few of the photos from the trail. I have never been on this before and it was quite the adventure.

I love exploring new trails and a large portion was quite shady.


flowers everywhere



The overlook and a peek at the Yuba River in the canyon


I couldn’t resist to share my hike with all of you. I think that plein air painting is more than just taking your studio outdoors; it is experiencing nature and learning to truly see it and to be thankful for such beauty.

I will be trying something different for the month of May and that is to paint entirely in watercolor. This will be a challenge because I always reach for my pastels because they are familiar and safe to me. I love watercolor and I feel that I need to take the plunge and make headway in truly learning and feeling comfortable with the medium.

I challenge all of you to take on something new to you or out of your comfort zone this month or for as long as you see fit, even if it is for a week or a day. I dare you!






Pastel Translation to Watercolor

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?

Return to Bullards Reservoir

P1070614I decided to venture away from the river and paint at Bullards Bar Reservoir. This location is what I would say is a “spit and a holler” down the road from me. I am fortunate to live so close to so many subjects that I can pick and choose what I am in the mood for. The only exception is the desert or ocean which both are approximately 3 hours away. No actually I think that I am within 2 hours of the desert but that lies to the east of me in Nevada.

I wanted to challenge myself today with this location because when I first started out in plein air, Bullards was the closest. I have spent many days painting here both in watercolor and pastel and after a while it just seemed to get boring with an apparent sameness. So I decided to move on to other subjects and in my mind better heights.


The reservoir is about 86% capacity from the latest measurement which was about a week ago. I have seen it all the way up to the tree line and that was about 15 years ago.


Today the struggle was that I had to put aside my attitude that it will be a challenge because of that “sameness” that I had mentioned above. Sometimes I have noticed that I throw mental rocks in front of my feet by my mindset. I envisioned that the sameness (is there really?) is going to be an uphill trudge. Also, my past history of painting this reservoir so many times brings up memories of past failures. There were several successes but I often remember the failures before the success. Perhaps it is my ingrained perfectionism.

I couldn’t decide how to handle the trees especially the far back hills. Once I set in the sky and the impression of those back hills, I started on my focal point. I decided on that brightest area next to that dark shadow shape on the left. The water was constantly changing and I kept chasing the changes. Of course that can be such a never ending chase to frustration.


In times past I was the kind of painter that had to paint exactly what I see and I couldn’t imagine straying out into the realm of imagination. Today I could feel myself shifting between the two. In my attempt to push those hills back I used blue, in this photo the blue isn’t true but you get the idea. That far back rim of land probably should be slimmed down and more modeling is needed in my point of interest. It is too flat and there is a straight line which is too static and not interesting. Not bad for my second time in years to paint here and considering my angst with the location, I am proud of myself.



After painting I decided to hike on the trail. If you go back to an earlier post where I painted here in the fall of last year, you can see the difference of the water level. I am amazed how much rain we have received since then.


The color of Bullards is an amazing greenish blue that I haven’t seen in a lake before. Until next posting, enjoy spring wherever that is in the world for you all!