Breezy Hill Paintings

Late in the summer of 2020, my daughter invited me to join her and the dogs on an excursion to Breezy Hill in Buckingham county. I’d been hearing about this private estate belonging to a friend of theirs, and it was a perfect day for a picnic. I did some sketching and took a lot of photos. These three images of Julia walking their young Kangal Shepherd, the shed with wagon wheels, and a second view of the shed amidst the locust trees stayed with me. Eventually they wound up as watercolors! I’ve included above some of my sketches and process shots to give you a feel for how they developed. Hope you enjoy! All three are available thru Art for the Journey’s 2022 Gala, and Summer Walk has been juried into their on-site Gala at the Country Club of Virginia this coming Thursday, September 22, 2022.


Paintings from Spain – Art for the Journey

In 2017 I had the opportunity to travel with a group of artists from Bon Air Artists Association to Spain! We were there for a little over a week, staying in Madrid, then Barcelona, with day trips to Toledo, Monserrat, and Cadaques. I brought my paints and paper, but we were so busy trying to visit all the museums and see as much as we could, that I only managed a couple of rough sketches. When I got home, however, I turned out a couple dozen preliminary sketches, followed by five final watercolors. Let me discuss each one.

Walls of Toledo: As we drove up to the walled town of Toledo, I grabbed a quick photo out the window of our bus. I was fascinated by the tiers of stone that formed the walls, the river far below, and the bridge arching across. Perhaps an ambitiously complex composition for my skills at the time, but one of my favorites from the trip!

Toledo: I did a second painting from this ancient town, a narrow deserted passage. Parts of the walled city were jammed with people, and others very empty. I was intrigued by the multiple layers of masonry, bricked over doorways, and small windows. The light was captivating, channeled as it was between the narrow alleyways and random arches. I felt a medieval knight might appear around the next corner!

Barcelona: This was the complete opposite of the Toledo painting – full of people, very much current day, but still that ancient architecture and eternal palms. I love the way these two paintings complement each other, and together tell a tale of Spain.

Montserrat: I was amazed by the ‘needle’ mountains of the Montserrat monastery location. We took the funicular up the hillside to the walking trails above the Abbey of Montserrat and wandered enthralled for a couple of hours. This was one of the few locations where I made an onsite sketch – the bumpy spires looked as tho a child had dribbled wet sand on a beach!

Port Lligat: Our last day trip was to Cadaques, on the shore of the Mediterranean. It was a perfect day to visit this town of white stone buildings surrounding its brilliant blue cove. We walked up the steep hillsides past groves of olive trees to Port Lligat, the home of Salvador Dali. Waiting for our tour, as I stood looking up from the bay toward his meandering retreat, I glanced along the shore and saw these fishing boats pulled up on the shore. I really should have included a person for scale – they’re were close to six feet high at the bow. The clear sunlight and clean air were a world away. I didn’t want to leave.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my memories in watercolor. You can see all of these paintings on the Art for the Journey 2022 Gala website, where they may be purchased, starting September 22 – October 22, 2022. Half of the purchase price goes to support this organization which brings healing through creative expression and community. Three of my pieces, Walls of Toledo, Toledo, and Port Lligat, have been accepted by their jury for the live event on September 22, 2022.

Development of Dublin Dusk

In 2018 my sister, a longtime friend, and I landed in Ireland for a tour. We’d made reservations a year earlier, before it was announced that Pope Francis was to visit the weekend we arrived. This painting is from a photo taken at the end of our first day, as everyone headed home after the Pope’s progress through a rainy Dublin, just as the sun came out to say ‘Good Night.’

What you see above are two steps of the sketch from my sketchbook that I did in early 2021. I wasn’t sure I could capture the feeling of the evening, but was reassured by this first attempt. So this past month I worked on a larger version, 14″x11″. Here’re process photos:

May have to work on a half sheet size, at some point. Still some opportunities for improvement, but overall I’m pleased with how it came out.

Dublin Dusk 14″x11″ framed 20″x16″ watercolor

Brighton Green Bridge Paintings

Our neighborhood, Brighton Green, has a creek that borders the common area and feeds into the James River. Normally it’s just a trickle, barely enough to wet your toes. However, when a storms dumps inches of rain, the trickle morphs quickly to a torrent. For years this presented a problem for neighborhood access to the pool and community building – a simple plank bridge would be washed away with every storm and would have to be dragged back up to the crossing. Then one day I was walking thru our streets and came upon two fellows hauling a huge arched bridge down to the creek! One of them built it in his backyard workshop. Once they got it situated on solid foundations, it hasn’t washed away once! Now all families, young cyclists, and strollers are easily accommodated. And I love painting it with watercolors in all seasons! Process photos of these paintings can be seen on my Instagram account @cathytylerart.

These three paintings, which are on exhibit this weekend, were painted in 2020 thru 2022. You can see them at the Bon Air Artists Association Annual Show at Independence Golf Course – hope to see you there!

Art for the Journey – 2021 Gala

Watercolors by Cathy Tyler available September 23, 2021 thru Art for the Journey Art Exhibition and Celebration, 2021

Mark your calendars! September 23, 2021 Art for the Journey is holding their 6th Art Exhibition and Celebration. 50% of all sales go toward the Art for the Journey mission to “promote positive mental health”. Art will be available that day from 5:30 til 8:30 pm EDT online, and onsite at the reception at the Country Club of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

I’m honored to have four of my eight paintings shown above included at the onsite venue. The other four will be available for purchase via online. For background on several of these paintings, see the following earlier posts on this blog – Coastal Ruin: February 18, 2020; Dingle Peninsula, September 18, 2019; Dungarven Evening: September 17, 2019.

See their website for ticket information for the reception. Hope to see you there!

Development of a painting: Morning Excursion

In my January 10, 2021 post I wrote about the three paintings I did in 2020 of the Atlantic Coast Line Depot in Patterson, Georgia. I’m pleased to announce that one of them, Morning Excursion, has been accepted into the Virginia Watercolor Society annual show coming up in June! Of 400  paintings submitted, 80 were selected for the show. Here’s how this painting developed.

In 2014 I was working thru the lessons in Creating Art at the Speed of Life, by Pam Carriker. For the Trompe L’oeil exercise, I used a couple of photographs of the Patterson Depot. I thought at the time that I would like to do a painting of the two scenes, but didn’t feel I had the necessary skill. Several years later, in 2015 I sketched the 1960 version of the building, as shown in the second photo above. By 2020, I was ready to give it a go. However, the photos as you’ll notice were black and white. I wasn’t concerned about any of the colors in the 1953 photo except the railroad passenger cars. Facebook group Atlantic Coastline/Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society to the rescue! They sent me several color photos from the period that were just what I needed.

Here’re photos as Morning Excursion progressed. This was the third painting I did of the depot, so I had a good idea of how to handle the building. The children boarding the train took some time. My mother told me I was in the group somewhere, but obscured by the other taller, older ones. I was four and a half years old.

Here’s a link to the information provided on the Virginia Watercolor site for the show:

If you’re in the Portsmouth, Virginia area this summer, come by the Virginia Watercolor Society show. It will be worth your time!

Cole Mountain Revisited

This is one of my favorite hikes with Chesterfield County. See my posts for June 8, 2009 and May 28, 2017 for earlier visits. We traveled by van with our naturalist, Mark Battista, to just west of Amherst, Virginia – about two hours from Richmond on state route 60. We parked at the trail head at Hog Camp Gap, elevation 3500 feet, and started south up a portion of the Appalachian Trail toward the 4000 foot peak of Cole Mountain. The first part of the trail was thru an open forest carpeted with Lady and Interrupted ferns. My favorite part of this stretch is the old hog wall – see photo above. But the draw for the hike overall is the meadow near the top of the mountain with sweeping views:

Mountains surround me – Allegheny to the west, Blue Ridge to the east.

The rest of the group continued on to the top, but I stopped under a tree to sketch. After finished a couple quick watercolors, I ate my sandwich, talked with a few passing hikers from Lexington, and wandered the meadow rejoicing in the wildflowers and taking photos.

Georgia before me,  Maine terminus at my back, Peacefully sketching.

Seventy degrees, Cooled by mountain breezes, Palette full of joy.

After we finished hiking, we got back on route 605 and followed it north. Just past where route 633 came in from the right, we pulled over to a small parking area at the top of Statons Creek Falls. This is a a spectacular waterfall. From the road we were only able to see the top few cascades – I’d love one day to find an access to the bottom of the falls for a complete view.

With the Canon Powershot 740x HS camera I got last September, I’m able to get decent views of the country side from a moving vehicle. So that’s what I did on the way up and back to Cole Mountain. Here’re a few of those shots.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this jaunt to a couple of Virginia’s natural wonders.

Plein Airpril – Four Paintings

You’ve seen my collage of the 30 paintings I did for the Warrior Painters challenge, Plein Airpril. Today here’s a closer look at my four favorites!  All of these are on 8”x6” pieces of watercolor paper for easy portability. These four were all done Plein Air.

On Tuesday, April 6th I toured Colonial Williamsburg on my bicycle, looking for likely locations to paint. After pleasantly biking the length of Duke of Glouster street, thru 18th century buildings and costumed reenactors, I settled on the lovely redbuds blooming behind one of Williamsburg’s classic picket fences. I settled myself on the Palace Green, ate my sandwich, and happily sketched and painted for an hour or so. Back home that afternoon I finished the piece in my studio. I’m happy with the detail of the fence and the lovely feel of the redbuds in full bloom.

Thursday of that week, April 8th, I again took to my bicycle to cruise along Riverside Drive, next to the James River. Canada geese, cormorants, turtles and a blue heron or two kept me company. Eventually I set up to paint right on the bank of the river, looking out at one of the islands. I worked mainly with a large brush, rather quickly, and as a result the trees wound up with more texture than my typical work. For some reason this is my favorite of the 30 paintings, I think because of the luminous quality of the water. If you look closely you can see one of the geese on the point of the island!

Thursday, April 15 was very chilly, so I painted close to my car at the cache pond near our library. It was lush with lily pads and fresh green grasses along the edge. Once I got back to the studio, I highlighted the lily pads with ink. I wasn’t particularly excited about this one when it was finished, but it’s grown on me.

On Saturday of that week, I painted at the creek that flows thru our neighborhood. I’ve done this bridge a couple of times, and never tire of looking for new perspectives. It was made by one of our community woodworkers in his back yard, and then carried to the creek! It’s withstood multiple full spates of the creek and become a community favorite. I may have to do a larger piece with a similar composition.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look at four of my Plein Airpril watercolors. If you’d like the back story on others from my collage of 30 paintings in my previous post, leave a comment!

Plein Airpril Challenge

Plein Airpril – Collage of all 30 paintings, each 5″x7″

My daughter, Debra Dartez (, a fine art painter, introduced me to the Plein Airpril challenge conducted by Warrior Painters, a plein air group out of California ( 2021 was their fifth annual Plein Airpril event. The goal was to paint everyday in April, and post your piece daily on Instagram. Debra planned to do 6″x8″ oil paintings. Since watercolor is my preferred medium, and I couldn’t spend hours every day painting, I planned to do 5″x7″ watercolor paintings. Some days were harder than others, and the quality of my results varied, but all were done either plein air, or from life in the studio. It was excellent practice in focus, quick composition analysis, and purposeful execution. I wound up with 30 paintings, several I’m very pleased with, and a compact, functional, traveling watercolor kit.

I’d done multiple ‘every day painting’ exercises previously, as you’ve seen from my recent posts, all in sketch books. This was the first time I made individual paintings, with a bit more finish to them. It helped to have my paper all cut to size ahead of time and taped to backing support several days ahead. Planning out where/what to paint a week or so ahead, allowing flexibility for weather changes, also helped.

A bonus of the challenge was watching what everyone else, and particularly my daughter, painted each day. Folks from all over the world participated in watercolor, oil, acrylic, and digital. If you want to view the work yourself, check Instagram for #pleinairpril!

Patterson, Georgia Atlantic Coastline Depot

I surprise myself sometimes – I’ve been thinking of doing paintings of the Patterson, Georgia train depot for at least seven years. My grandmother, Mary Lydia Tabor Lewis, was Station agent there from 1918 til 1968. In 2020, I decided to see what I could do from multiple black and white photos. So here they are, three views: 1953 (reference photo taken by my mother), 1960 (taken by me), and 1970 (photographer unknown). I’m mostly happy with how they came out! An article on my grandmother written by my uncle, Walter Berg, can be found at

View 1 – Morning Excursion: Thanks to the folks at the Facebook group, Atlantic Coast Line/Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society, for their help with the color of the railroad cars! Photo from 1953, probably taken by my mother on the morning I joined the kindergarten class for their train excursion to Blackshear. I was 4 1/2 and the teacher invited me to come along. The woman in the very back with the white hair and her hand shading her eyes was my grandmother, station agent for the depot.

View 2 – Walking to the Depot: This is from a 1960 photo I took with my brownie camera – the depot had recently been freshly painted with purple trim and I thought it looked particularly imposing. My grandmother, the station agent, was not happy about the purple.

View 3 – 4 O’Clock in Georgia: The first one I did! This is from a photo on the map of Patterson, probably around 1970. No credit was included for the photographer. I painted it for my aunt who sent me the map brochure, and suggested I paint it, but leave off the telephone pole and add the baggage cart that always sat on the platform. So that’s what I did! If I can locate the photographer, and get permission to use the photo for reference, I’ll repaint with the telephone pole for possible sale.