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Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Old Lava Exposed"

"Old Lava Exposed" 11 x 14 pastel on board

This is a painting I did recently at Silver Lake, California.  The lake was very low due to the drought.  One cove of this lake has an old lava flow that is now exposed.  I took many photographs at the many rocky islands emerging out of the cove.  Elsewhere around the lake there are massive granite boulders.  It was my first time visiting this lake and I was enchanted!

This painting was essentially done on location, but I added a little more richer color and definition in areas at home in the studio.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Today we hung our group art exhibit!

Today my group of painters, Reno Tahoe Plein Air Painters, hung our first exhibition "In the Open" at South Valleys Library, Wedge Parkway, Reno, NV.

There are 10 participating artists, and we all are showing paintings we did on location in the beautiful area we live - Reno, Carson, Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley, Hope Valley, and other wonderful locations.

To see a preview of our show, here is a YouTube video I prepared:

We have an artists reception this Saturday, October 17, 2015 from 3:00 to 4:00.  The show runs until November 21, 2015.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

With a little help from my friends...

"Frog Pond"  9 x 12 oil

I recently came home from a family trip and had to unpack the truck that was filled with food, ice chests, inflatable boat, beach chairs and what-not....and then I had to pack for the next morning paint-out with Reno Tahoe Plein Air Painters.  I stayed up late, recharging my camera and picking out a panel size and panel carrier for it....and loaded the car trunk with the tripod, pochade, umbrella, and packed a lunch to take.....

The next morning when I got there, I opened the trunk....and OMG....I forgot my totebag with oil paints, brushes, turp, paper towels and all the stuff I need to do a painting!

I was totally discombobulated and thought the day was a total bust...and here it was a gorgeous day and I was so looking forward to painting there...

Three other painters arrived and one offered me paint and one of his brushes (he recently pared down his load to only 5 brushes!).  So, I set up next to him so I could rinse out my one brush in his turpentine....and I loaned him my umbrella to shade his work.

Well, I was delighted with how my little painting came out in this circumstance!  Hurray for friends!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Floating in Bliss"

"Floating in Bliss" 12 x 16 oil painting

This painting was done on location at Bliss State Park.  The boat was anchored offshore and the people were lounging on the boat, enjoying the summer sun and the gorgeous day.  Occasionally a few people would row a little raft to shore at the beach and then wandered up the trail where they saw Emma and I painting their boat.  I wasn't done with the boat, but they contacted Emma later and she sold her painting to them!  I only just finished this painting today.  The jewel-like aquamarine and turquoise colored water that I had laid down on the painting beckoned me to come back to do the finishing touches.

One of my most wonderful memories was floating on a boat on Lake Tahoe years ago.  I call that bliss.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Three little paintings

"Emerald Waters" 6 x 6 oil
Thank goodness for a windy, cold and yucky day - I LOVE these kind of days to work in the studio and get caught up!
"The Guardian" 6 x 6 oil

Today I did the finishing touches on 3 little paintings - they were done out in the field a year ago!  All they needed was a little "punch" and a signature.
"Summer at Watson Lake" 6 x 6 oil

Monday, September 14, 2015

I really have been painting!

completed painting at Tahoe Meadows
It has been such a busy summer, I haven't posted in so long and I hope to change that!

I have been painting every week with Reno Tahoe Plein Air Painters.  I created my first YouTube video for this group.  Here you will see me doing watercolor at my most recent hikes to Angora Lake and Eagle Lake.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My plein air painting group is having three shows!  Below are the details in the announcement:  Each of us will have 2-3 paintings in these shows.  We are really excited - as we are a new group.  Our group website is

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Paint-out at a ranch

"By the Haystack"  6 x 6 oil
"Corral by the Barn"  8 x 10 oil

Earlier this week we painted at fellow artist Ida's cattle ranch.  Around 9 painters came and Ida and Bruce opened up the ranch to us all to paint.  There were so many views and different interesting things to paint that we all had difficulty deciding where to set up.  Since we were having wind that day, I set up low and sat on a chair.  I actually did two paintings!  All from the same location.

We all had a wonderful time.  Thank you again, Ida!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Donner Party Passed By Here

"Bridge at Donner Pass"  9 x 12 oil

I started this painting a year ago - we went up Donner Pass Road in Truckee to the bridge that locals call "The Rainbow Bridge".  We all painted various views.  I painted this painting in various shades of gray oil paint.  Then, finally, at home - a year later - I painted over it with color, using the same values as the gray painting.  This is a technique that was taught in some workshops I attended.  It is really helpful if you don't have time to figure out the local colors and mix the paints.  Gamblin oil paints come in Grey Dark, Medium and light, and also there is a very good Chromatic Black (made from colors - not the typical black pigment that looks dead).  Then, white is also available to lighten the light gray even more.  I found this technique very helpful when I was doing this painting on location.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A look into my travel sketch book

Sometimes when we travel I cannot take a lot of art materials.  That is when I grab a sketchbook that fits in my big purse, a mini watercolor box, a small bottle of water and a Sakura ink micro pen.

Here are some of my travels:
A vineyard in Sonoma

The Trinity Church in Boston

The view from the 29th floor in Boston

Tulip Tree in Boston
A very windy and cold day on a hill top in Reno
Monterrey Pine Trees in Monterey
Oak Trees and view from Ventana in Big Sur, CA

Monday, May 25, 2015

May Challenge: to learn from Hokusai

CJT's Celebration of Hokusai's "Big Wave"

I have decided to challenge myself each month to copy artwork from a famous artist, so that I may learn something new.  Each artist has a style, a flair, a signature look that we like but we don't always know how they came up with it, let alone how to do it.  So like Nike says -- just do it!

A very long time ago I was lucky enough to be an exchange student to Japan.  This was when I first saw Hokusai works.  I loved his wood block prints.  They had so much rhythm, flowing lines, mysterious cliffside dwellings and amazing bridges.  And always, there was the famous and poetic Mount Fuji.  All my memorabilia is in the storage shed, and I all but forgot about Hokusai.

Fast Forward to this month - we recently went to Boston where I saw a beautiful Hokusai show at the Boston Museum of Fine Art.  He was a prolific artist (tens of thousands of works) who lived and worked until he was 89 years old.  He moved constantly (more than ninety residences).  Many of his works were published in books, one was of the many views of Mt. Fuji.

I have always loved "The Big Wave".  It is so different from western art, and yet so descriptive in a stylized way.  So I copied it in pen and then watercolor.  I omitted the two boats that were in the Hokusai print.  I just wanted the wave and Mt. Fuji.

This challenge taught me to see the interesting flowing lines he drew and especially the complicated claw-like lines of he foam on the wave.  I hope I take with me a sense of rhythm and flowing line in my future original works.  It was a fun project and I am happy with my representation of it.

Painting a river...

"A River in Verdi"
The day our plein air group went to Verdi to Crystal Peak Park, it was cold and cloudy and breezy.  My companions were from Maui, Hawaii and troopers to join me on this particular day.  One thing about plein air painting, if you get addicted, it brings out the hardiness in us we didn't know we had.

I really loved the river section here.  There were many sizes of rocks in interesting arrangements with water going around them.  So, I had fun using loose brush strokes of diluted paint to sketch in the rocks and the way the water flowed and moved.

But my hands started to get numb, and I didn't pack my gloves (it is May, after all!).  So I brought it home and finished it just the other day.

Water scenes continue to beckon me to meet the challenge of the different layers in space - the bottom of the stream, the layer of water over it, the reflections on top of it, and the areas of white water.  It is so interesting and fascinating to me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rainy Days in the High Desert is Wonderful!!! Good days to paint in the studio...

"Winter at River Fork Ranch"

We are faced with a drought in the California and Nevada areas.  We here in the Reno area rely on the snowfall in the sierras to feed our rivers that come down the mountains into our valleys - for drinking water, watering landscaping and ranches and agriculture.  Our Washoe Lake is almost completely dry!  Lake Tahoe's waterline is very low and they closed the boat ramps at certain locations.

We have all been asked (in Nevada) to try to cut our water usage 10%.  So, I have been manually turning our landscape water on and off, depending on the temperature.

Lately we have been having 2-3 weeks of clouds and showers and sometimes a good deluge.  We are all doing our happy dances.

As a plein air artist, I am glad to have the excuse to stay indoors and finish up paintings in my studio.  Above is a plein air painting I just completed.  Below are some more:

"Willow Tree Thickets"
"Eagle Lake"

Saturday, May 23, 2015

While in Palm Desert, California....

"Palm Desert Morning"  12 x 16 oil
Back in February we went to Palm Desert for a week.  I was recovering from foot surgery and still could not stand very long at the easel....nor could I hike my favorite place - Indian Canyons.

Fortunately, we had a vacation rental that had a shady balcony (it was sunny and 80 degrees!)  I set up my plein air easel there and did the view twice - once during the morning, and once in the afternoon sunset time.  I was able to sit down frequently and I did not have to lug my supplies around.  It was the perfect solution to my current condition.

The day I actually painted my "sunset" painting, there weren't very many clouds.  So I drew from my memory of the night before's clouds and did my own artistic license here....

"Palm Desert Sunset" 12 x 16 oil

Friday, May 15, 2015


"Convergence" pastel 18.5 x 23

I worked on this all day and brought it to finish.  Yay!

This painting was a journey for me.  It was totally made-up.  I looked at about 25 photos and just used some ideas from them.  So, as I went along I had to figure out shadows.  Then, I had to make up the ripples and reflection.  I tried them and re-did them, then tried them again.  I eliminated some after putting them in.  I tried blending tools and techniques to tone down things that came out too much.

I learned a lot!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Koi painting update

Today I got to paint in the studio.  I am working on my koi painting.  It has been weeks.  That is the good thing about pastels.  You can leave it out and start again at a later time.

I am toning down the fish and giving them shadow and shape.  I am also defining the rocky pond floor.

This is a large painting.  Everything happens step by step.  After defining the rock bottom I will go back in and soften most of it.  After I tone down the fish, I will go back in and highlight certain fish or a certain part of a fish that needs it.

I am really getting itchy to finish this painting and frame it and put it over our fireplace.  I'm tired of what is there now!!!!  Plus, I have a lot of plein airs waiting for me to finish!

Onward, ho!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

They are stacking up!

Since I'm spending time with my koi, the weekly plein air paintings are stacking up, waiting to be finished.  Since I have been pushing myself by doing larger work, I don't complete them on site!

So I decided to post these untitled, unfinished pieces anyway.  Maybe I can embarrass myself into making time to finish them!!!  Ha-ha!

Three weeks ago we were at Fort Churchill near Lake Lahontan (east of Carson City, NV).  It was an interesting place.

Two weeks ago we were at Evans Canyon nature trail, near Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.  I was surprised to learn these large "crawling trees" were very old willows - the same willows that look like bushes along creeks.

The other day we were at Virginia City.  This is looking up the hill at the back of the row of old buildings on Main Street.  Although there were cars and trucks parked along the lower road there, I decided to eliminate them

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Koi painting project - work in progress notes

Hi friends,
third stage

I have a project I am working on.  It is fairly large, so it is occupying my easel for a number of weeks.  I work on it a little at a time.  I just put on New Age spa-like music and go into a zen kinda mood and I work on this.  This piece is my escape from the world and meditate kind of thing.  No pressures, no show I am planning for it....just pure zen painting....

I started with a whole bunch of photos I took.  I drew fish shapes from these photos in the scale I needed, and cut them out of scratch paper.  I also cut out lily pad shapes, and water reeds too.  I moved them around my pastel paper (it is an orange colored gritty paper) until I got an arrangement I liked.
first stage

Then I traced their shapes with a pastel pencil.  Then I began with hard pastels, doing light layers in the background and using different dark colors layered over each other.
second stage

Then, when I got the background values about right, I had to decided what colors the fish would be.  So I started putting a light layer of the fish colors in.

So this is the stage I am at.  I'll show you how it progresses in about a week.
third stage

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring is beginning!

"Lilac Breezes" 11 x 14 pastel

We had a paint-out the day after a storm and I think I was the only one that showed up (that I saw anyway).  It was a quiet morning with no wind (we can have horrible wind here sometimes when storms are blowing in).  But, it was very cold in the shade!

I began my painting of lilacs with watercolor on a white PastelBord.

I had to put the painting in my car (which was in the sun) to dry before I could apply the pastel.  I got in as well to warm up and have a snack!

Then I went back out and began to apply pastel.  I picked some blossoms and leaves so I could match colors and see the structure better.  I did not want to do too much detail, but I didn't want them to look like cones of cotton candy either!

So I began to block in the pastel with the lightest lights and the darkest darks and joining areas of colors in abstract shapes.  It was a lot of fun.  The tips of the blooms have reddish buds which add interesting textures.

This location is the arboretum at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, NV.  There were other flowering trees and it was tempting to paint them too.  But, the fragrance of the lilac is very enticing to park next to!  Even so, my hands got quite cold so I brought my blooms home for reference and did the finishing touches in the studio.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I found a new painting location

"Keyhole Rock Pile" 12x16 oil

I found a new place to paint near home.  It is called Sun Valley Regional Park and it is above Sparks, NV.  Way up on a hill with great views and many interesting rock formations with easy access.  The other day my painting group and I met up there and had fun.

My foot surgery went well, but I still cannot stand at my easel a long time.  It just takes time to heal.  I also have started painting on larger panels, which takes more time and more paint.  This is a 12x16 panel.  It is a good size.  I like it.  I don't feel so cramped trying to paint little things in a small space.  So, this painting was started en plein air and finished in the studio.

Here is my painting how I started it on location:

Monday, February 2, 2015

A mini painting is done!

I did the final touches on a little 6x6 I painted last summer:
"Wild Asters" 6x6 oil
This painting is now up on my website.  Yay!  I painted this on the Pacific Crest Trail at Donner Summit, California last summer.  Several painters joined me that day through the Reno Tahoe Plein Air Painters Group.

And now....back to work I go!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Getting back to work after foot surgery

I have a batch of recent plein air paintings that I need to tweak a little and sign.  I've been waiting for my foot swelling to go down so I can stand at the easel a little bit.  Here is a sneak peak at almost finished paintings I'll be putting up on my website soon.....

"Desert Dunes"
This painting was done before the holidays.  I remember it was very, very cold and there was a breeze that could be strong at times.  The other painters found dunes to stand behind the wind.  I stayed right at the back of my truck in the parking lot because the view was actually a nice composition.  With the tailgate down I had a convenient place to spread out my tubes of paint and have a thermos of hot drink for everyone to come by for a warm-up.
"Evergreens and Aspens"
This paint-out was obviously in the fall.  Our group was supposed to paint at a little-known lake at the top of Mt. Rose, but roadwork in that area prevented it.  One of our painters suggested this spot down the road on the Lake Tahoe side where the aspens were colored.  We had quite a big group that day, even three painters from Nevada City, CA!

"Fall at Spooner Lake"
There were only two other painters joining me this day at Spooner Lake.  It was a beautiful fall day and the sun was still low enough creating shadows.

"Ice Patterns"
This was painted after New Years when we were in a real cold snap.  We were at Little Washoe Lake and it was entirely frozen over.  But there were streaks in the ice that created interesting patterns.  One of our painters that day was new - just moved from Maui!  What a switch for her!

"Old Sycamore Trees"
We recently visited Southern California (Newport Beach) and I went out to paint in the Nix Nature Area/Sycamore Canyon of the Laguna Canyon area.  When visiting this area I always think of how so many famous artists have painted here, and even painted these very trees.  The California Impressionists lived in Laguna Beach and painted this entire area.  California had a lot of rain recently and even flooding.  So the grass this January was much taller and lush for this time of year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Painting With Friends

I was surprised to notice that I hadn't painted for an entire month during the holidays.  Time can really slip by.  Some of my friends had longer artistic dry spells - six months or so.  So it was especially sweet that we all got together to paint yesterday - on a glorious and warmer-than-usual winter day in the high desert of Washoe Valley, Nevada.

Painting with friends gives you the support you need to make those first tentative strokes from "rusty-fingers".  We gave encouragement to each other as we mentally struggled with being unsure of what we were doing.  After an hour we felt more "at home" with our medium and relaxed and enjoyed the fact that we were back in the game.

The fact that it was a gorgeous day certainly helped - even if we bombed we could still enjoy just being out there with friends.

Painting with friends can get you back on a roll and get you revved up to look forward to the next painting at home or the next scheduled paint-out.  Painting outside presents challenges that we don't have in a studio painting from a photograph.  If you are with friends you can talk about these mysteries and stumbling blocks and get ideas from your friends.

My challenge to myself this day was to paint the patterns in the ice on the small lake.  Soon this ice will be melted and I won't see this scene again to paint - so it was fun to try and experiment.

And I admit I probably wouldn't have gone out to paint this day if it weren't for my friends...