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Bay Area Parks Landscape Life in general Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Walnut Creek Watercolor

Bad Mood Cloudy Day at Borges Ranch That Ended Well

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Area, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Area, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

My mind was as cloudy as the skies when my plein air group visited Borges Ranch for a Saturday paint out. I was mad because a beautiful bookcase promised to me on Craigslist sold to someone else. I needed it badly. After I donated lots of books along with my rickety old bookcase I still had many I was keeping with no place to put them.

I was too grumpy to hang out with my painting friends so I hiked away from the ranch on the Shell Ridge trail, which is beautiful and quiet except for the sounds of birds. I set up my folding stool and sketched in ink with watercolor washes, facing one direction (above).

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Open Space, watercolor, 5x8"
Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Open Space, watercolor, 5x8"

Then I turned to face the opposite direction and worked directly in watercolor. I was starting to feel better, enjoying freely painting all the gorgeous colors of spring.

Happy Ending

On the way home from Borges I passed an “Estate Sale” sign and pulled over. Usually estate sales just have a lot of crummy, over-priced furniture, ugly knicknacks, and icky used bathrobes. But this home was huge and completely remodeled, with a master bath better than any spa, a huge dreamy kitchen, and best of all (for me) a home office with TWO bookcases exactly like the ONE I almost bought for $100…and I got them for $20 each! The nice estate sales guy even loaded them in my car for me.

I learned a good lesson: Don’t waste time being grumpy! The second bookcase now holds my cookbooks and gardening books just outside the kitchen which makes them much more accessible than they were before and it looks nice there too.

Categories
Animals Bay Area Parks Landscape Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Plein Air Walnut Creek

Landscape Painting with Coyote Soundtrack

Borges Ranch View, oil on Raymar panel, 6x8"
Borges Ranch View, oil on Raymar panel, 6x8"

Last Saturday my plein air group met at Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge Open Space. It’s a beautiful place that feels far away out in the country, and is surrounded by strange, tall hills covered in a hundred shades of green.

While I was painting I kept hearing the strangest sounds: yips, yelps, squeals and howls. I ruled out the sheep, goats, pigs and roosters and decided it was either the world’s most annoying beagle or a coyote. Later I asked the ranger who confirmed that there were three coyote families in the three nearby hills. He said they all have pups in their dens and are very talkative now. Want to hear a coyote? Click here to go to a site with a coyote sound clip.

To see wonderful photos and stories about life with an adopted coyote who was orphaned at 10 days old when his parents were shot for killing sheep, please visit The Daily Coyote blog, “a story of love, survival and trust.”

Now back to the painting–I tried to simplify, avoid details and focus on color, light and big shapes. The sky was completely covered in a thick layer of clouds and I noticed a painting “rule” in action: cool light creates warm shadows (and vice versa). Although the heavy cloud cover meant there weren’t obvious shadows, I could see how darker areas leaned toward red while areas in light were cooler (e.g. lemon yellow, not an orange-yellow).

When I got home I broke my rule of not touching up plein air studies and fussed with it, eventually ruining it and throwing it in the trash. I’m glad I took a photo first…and that I had the joy of painting to a coyote soundtrack!

Categories
Animals Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Photos Places Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Walnut Creek

Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek

Borges Ranch Barn, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Borges Ranch Barn, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

After waking up way too early and having loads of extra time before I needed to leave for my plain air painting session today, I somehow managed to get late anyway. When I finally got to our meeting place—Borges Ranch on the Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek—I decided to leave my easel and acrylics in the car and hike the ridge trail with my sketchbook, watercolor kit and camera.Then when I was heading back for the critique, I stopped at the barn and painted the quick sketch above.

Often when I’m plein air painting I’m jealous of all the people who are enjoying the day by hiking the hills instead of standing in one spot trying to capture all the abundant nature in two dimensions on a little piece of canvas. So this time I joined them and it was heavenly. After exploring for an hour or so I found a spot on the trail beside a large muddy pond where I sat and painted the picture below. It doesn’t make sense as a picture but when I look at it I can hear the buzzing bees (must have been a hive in a nearby tree), the birds chirping, and can feel the warm sun shining on me.

Warm sun, buzzing bees, a pond, a cyclist
Warm sun, buzzing bees, a pond, a cyclist

This was the first sketch in my new journal with the Legion Multimedia paper. It’s a dream to sketch on; the pen slides right along. The paper is nicely sized and while it won’t take the abuse that Arches cold press will, it does hold up pretty well as long as you don’t try to do more than 2 or 3 layers. This slight limitation will hopefully me keep me moving on to the next sketch instead of overworking one to death.

After the critique (and my lunch) it was mealtime for the farm animals and I couldn’t get any of their attention. This guy looked at me like I was really annoying.

Borges sheep chowing down
Borges sheep chowing down

Only the rooster seemed to have places to go and things to do.

Borges Rooster
Borges Rooster