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!






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!





Bullards Bar Gold


I haven’t been able to paint for weeks because either it is snowing or raining or it is a holiday or I am too busy. I have been waiting for a slot in the weather and when I saw how the lighting was turning out to be and having that certain glow, I grabbed my equipment and headed for Bullards Bar Reservoir which is located within 5 to 10 minutes from my house. I had originally spotted this exact spot while on a hike with my grandson, Rollin and my daughter, Amanda and her dog. I knew I had to paint here as soon as possible.


This is my painting just about finished. I always like to take a picture of both my painting and my scene. Today was no different in my approach though I keep thinking that my new found breakthrough won’t last but I am happy to say, I felt the groove as usual. I had to go back and remember how long I have been painting plein air and I do believe it has been 10-11 years. I didn’t always pursue it with passion so some years I was lucky to get out 5-10 times. I have been picking up steam for the past two years. It is a very difficult and vulnerable pursuit but it is worth the struggle.


I am not sure if this painting is done or not but I’ll take it back to the art room and work it to a finish. I am always reluctant to mess with a painting too much away from the initial painting session because plein air has a magic and look of its own and it is not intended to be “perfect” There is a sensitivity and liveliness that occurs naturally. I have to be careful that I don’t mess with that liveliness.


Now looking at where the shoreline is far below. This is the lowest I had seen the water level at Bullards. The water is very unique here because it has such a rich green color. I remember years ago before the current dam was built, I had gone with my Grandfather and Uncle down to the bottom of this valley which was called Garden Valley at the time to fish.


This is my scene for my second painting. This photo is bringing out that tree to be more blue than it actually is. I decided to make the background dark to highlight the mid and foreground and bring more colors into the subtlety of that tree.


My second painting. I will take it and work on it a bit more, perhaps crisp it up and bring out more depth. That white spot on the other right is from my camera. I am always a bit tired on my second painting and usually it is always on a smaller piece of pastel paper. I struggled a bit with that tree because of the colors were very difficult to match with what I was seeing.


Looking out further while the sun was really bringing more warmth to the area. Simply beautiful! Thank you for joining me. All I can say is that I was so happy that I decided to paint today because I would have missed an opportunity to paint this beautiful scene in my most favorite lighting.