Friday, June 10, 2016


A path deep in Lithia Park

I thought I was ready to paint. I sat at the picnic table in the middle of  Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon, last weekend. I set out my watercolor palette, took out brushes, filled my container with water, and moved my watercolor tablet into position. I looked around at the scenery, but there wasn't a composition that stood out. It was too hot to move to another table further into the park. Without a preliminary sketch, I decided to just go for it. I did a quick sketch.

I started two other watercolors, and thought, "This isn't going to be as easy as I expected it to be." I could feel myself mixing up what I know about watercolors and acrylics, two mediums that I use regularly in very different ways. I began to doubt myself, but I reminded myself that I needed to focus. What did I want to do? Paint in a particular color? Work with darks and lights? Layer the paints -- putting down one coat, letting that dry before I painted another -- or do a quick sketch? Because I hadn't taken the time to quiet my mind and ask those questions, I was just throwing paint on the paper. Sometimes that works, today it didn't.

This is the mess I made,
which I gessoed over at home.
I'm still working on this piece.
It may be an envelope yet!

 This piece is unfinished. I like to paint in layers,
but that takes time to let each layer dry.

I saw a mallard swimming upstream and stopped to sketch him. I thought of egg shapes and got an outline down before he swam away. I could complete the duck later. I reminded myself that drawing and painting take time. It took me a lot of practice to learn to draw a face well. Working with watercolors can be just as difficult.

I stopped my two paintings, knowing that I could either rescue them at home or make them into envelopes if they really didn't work out. I took out a pencil and focused on a small section of the park -- ivy growing around the trunk of a tree and drew that. I felt better. I knew this drawing was going to be a study of darks and lights, of negative spaces. I knew that I needed time to arrive at what would be my real work for the day. The early paintings on any given day are warm-ups for my mind.

I love the decay and renewal in a forest.

On our way home from Ashland, I decided to sketch the mountain peaks that we passed. Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen are both volcanoes, but Mt. Diablo is not. Mt. Diablo was formed from volcanic rock through plate tectonic shifts. All three peaks remind me of Mt. Fuji, which also stands alone.


  1. process - a cinquain
    follow your whim
    if it doesn't feel right
    begin again until it gives

    Love your blog 💜

    1. I love your poetry! Thank you for responding with a poem.

  2. "The early paintings on any given day are warm-ups for my mind." I like this. We're always cherry picking what we'll share on any page, and warming up allows the process to feel unlabored. I love the last sketch here, drawn on a bumpy road. But the first painting, before you warmed up, looks unlabored and lovely too...

    1. Thank you, Flo. You know well the practice of warming up to the page. And thank you for your kind comments.


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