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The above watercolor was painted on masa paper.  I had a little easier go of this one. It is very similar to Coming Home, a painting I struggled with last month.  This is taken from a photo that I had stashed away for about five years. It is a small railroad bridge and creek about six miles from my home. On a quiet winter night, I can actually hear the trains’ whistles and rumbling on this stretch. Makes me recall my youth when much was transported by train and I was always hearing those sounds, anywhere. Sounds from the past mesmerize me.


  1. It’s amazing how a simple sound can bring so many memories flooding back isn’t it… Beautifully painted Leslie, and the result doesn’t even hint that you struggled at all this time…

    • Yes. You are so correct, Brian. I actually went in search of these tracks to find where those sounds I heard on a winter’s night came from. This is what I found. I knew they crossed through a little town called New Haven, near here, but those tracks were too far away. This is directly east of my home.
      I did not stuggle with this one. “Coming Home” taught me a lot about landscape and this masa paper. It truly gets easier with practice. 🙂 Thank you!

  2. Very nice, I like the effect of the crumble paper interacting with the foliage of the trees!

    • I am chuckling a little, Sandrine. You pointed out something that I did not notice as I am familiar with this spot. These are all weeds and, I suppose, some wildflowers not in bloom. The bridge is only about two thirds of a boxcar long and maybe one story tall? Your comment is really neat because I can now see this as a huge bridge and giant foliage. I like it either way! Thank you so much!

  3. Leslie, I am really enjoying watching you create with this paper! Love the blue in this one, so vivid.

    • I think this paper is going to be my favorite surface to create on. As long as I use matte medium I also have lifting properties with it. I can scumble and mix colors on the paper, also, which I love to do. The blues were created by using manganess blue in lighter areas and june bug and prussian for the darks. In some of the darkest areas I used ultramarine violet. Thank you, Karen!

  4. This is beautiful, watercolors are my favorite and masa paper how bright the color.
    I live at the end of a dead end road just atop an old iron bridge over a creek in a railroad town. This reminds me of home.
    I subscribed to your place, hope to see you around mine.
    Raven 🙂

    • Oh my! Thank you for visiting and subscribing. Of course I will visit you. Can you hear the trains at night? Probably all day too!

        • Raven
        • Posted May 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm
        • Permalink

        I do hear them all day…I find comfort in the sound.

  5. This brings back memories of train whistles that seemed to call to me like the faraway howl of a wolf bidding me to follow the sound to its source.

    The colors are vivid. The bridge with water flowing beneath is lovely. Blessings to you, Leslie…

    • That is exactly what I did! I followed the direction of where I heard the sound coming from, in the night, and found the tracks and then this creek and snapped a photo. Thank you, Carol Ann.

  6. The trains still use this bridge? Oh it’s just lovely Leslie, and I like how you didn’t include the sky. In Photography we call this an intimate landscape. I really like the way you have painted the water with it’s gentle reflections.

    • Yes. The tracks run through a town, nearby, called New Haven. My daughter works there at a vet clinic. When I head that way, it never fails that I am stopped and waiting for trains to pass through. This track, above leads through New Haven is what I found out. It is still well used.
      Thank you for that term “intimate”. We have been calling it “up close and personal”. Thank you, Amber!

  7. I love hearing the nearby train where my husband grew up in Virginia. Every Monday evening it passes through bringing not only memories back for my husband, but for me as well from where I lived in the New England area. Just like you the sounds of the past are mesmerizing; lovely moments.
    The painting is beautiful as so as, “Coming Home.” Your work is more beautiful with each piece you do, as if the beauty of your own true nature comes shining through them. Lovely work, Leslie!

  8. Oh, this is gorgeous, Leslie! The sounds of the railroad will always draw those of our generation, I think, Leslie. So much traveled by rail at one point, including people. The creek or stream below the RR bridge also envokes a sound that I love.

    This painting is all about the sounds, for me. Sweet sounds of life – natural and man-made!

    • I never thought of the sound of the creek “babbling” along. Thank you, for that, Kate.
      Remember how we were warned, over and over, by our parents to stay away from the tracks? Then when we learned to drive, being told to never rush the cross poles? Thank you, Kate. 🙂

  9. Great colors, Leslie! It smells summer! I love the rust on the underside of the railroad viaduct. The crinkles of masa paper bring an additional dimension and richness to the painting.

    • The rust was a blast to try and get. Had to keep going over it with layers of the four colors I selected. The crinkles give this a much better effect than I can create with my brush. The real challenge is laying in color, lifting a little and laying in another color. This is truly a color next to color kind of painting. The masa also challenges me furthur with values. Thank you, Alex!

  10. Beautiful Leslie. I love your paintings on masa paper. I also love the blues and greens in this.

    • Thank you for noticing the greens. I still struggle with those, Carol. I am becoming a masa paper watercolorist I think. I really like the challenge and what it offers. Thank you!

  11. This brings back memories for me, as well, Leslie. Our trestle presented the challenge of our running on the tracks with all the courage of Geronimo. It didn’t seem to matter that a train only came by once a week! The adrenaline was high.

    When you return to painting a straight forward watercolour, I wonder if it’s going to seem as though someone took you out of a straight jacket. I wonder what this process will do to your style. Watching you is like watching masa paper personified.

    • I wonder if I will be able to paint on a non-crinkled or non-prepared surface once I get my fill of all these interesting papers. None of these are as easy as they may appear and they seem to take much more time. Oh no!!!!! You ran on the trestle? I would have been scared. Probably not of the weekly train but my parents finding out. 🙂 Thank you, Amy!

  12. The water must be pretty still to be able to have the reflection that it does. This is beautiful, Leslie. I too grew up with the sounds of trains in the distance. I especially remember the ones sounding at night as I laid in bed.

    Thank you for the memories and another of your wonderful works to enjoy.

    Gayle xoxo

    • Yep. The night whistles, to me are soothing. The water is moving but not rapidly. The reflection was very clear in the photo. It was one of the reasons I liked this composition. Thank you, Bodhirose! 🙂

  13. such a nice place, near your house!
    strange but beautiful composition!
    I like the reflection of trees in the water!

    • Thank you, Zeinab. I think the reflections are one of my favorite aspects of this one, too. I do like to paint things that contrast man made shapes with natural shapes, though, and think that is what first drew me to want to paint this scene.

  14. Hey! I have been wondering about this paper since I started reading your blog…is it expensive? And I wondering how do you choose to paint something? Do you go through your photos randomly? All of your subject matter are so interesting I’m so curious!

    • Hi Ronny,
      No. This paper is very affordable. I purchased it through Cheap Joes and through my local art supply store. It is a dollar-something per large sheet. It does have to be glued to another surface with (I use) acrylic matte medium. I use 140 lb coldpress watercolor paper to glue it to. Here is a tutorial I set up a while back for anyone who was interested in learning how to prepare this paper to paint on.
      I usually prepare about four sheets using different colors and then look at what I have in photos that might fit a certain color or pattern of masa that I have already prepared. Other than that, I just paint! 🙂 Thankyou! Your faces would look really interesting on this surface, don’t you think?

  15. Another beauty! I am drawn to the wonderful rust and age on the bridge. This painting has terrific depth and movement! I love the foreground flora, dancing in the breeze! Beautiful, Leslie!!! 🙂

    • That foreground flora perplexed me throughout! How did you know? Thank you, Beth! 🙂

  16. Excited to be there and see it first hand with you!

  17. it’s a great idea to use paper with a crunchy texture that you created for landscape
    especially for your trees and rocks
    it helps to show the complexity of leaves
    a nice way to create texture by paper than brush strokes

    also i love trains too
    i heard some times people can take a train trip
    in a very classic, slow and steamed and old fashioned train
    just to be nostalgic to the old times
    as people read novels to imagine themselves in a different era

    • What a lovely thought about the train trip and the venturing into a book and finding ourselves draped in the past. Thank you for that, Summer. “crunchy” is the perfect word for how to use this paper effectively. Thanks for that, too! 🙂

  18. the sparkle of the blue. I have to start using masa soon..

    • Thank you, Louise. This is a fun paper to work with. It takes some time to prepare for painting, but I have felt rewarded with the final image that it helps me to create.

  19. I love this one. That paper really gives it a unique texture and makes the water sparkle. This is one I’d hang in my home.

  20. Everything about this painting is spectacular Leslie, the blue makes it breathtaking.. what is the size of this work?

    • This piece is 10.5 x 15 inches. Thank you for the comment on this one. I played with those blues quite a bit and made them dark for contrast with all else that was going on.

  21. I love the nostalgic feeling of this painting. The colors are just beautiful. I love the reflection too. Old memories really are our best friend sometimes, sometimes i smile on silly things i did long long time ago. You have a pleasent week ahead Leslie.

    • Thank you, Francis. If we were truthful, as artists, I’ll bet a lot of what we paint has visions from our past. Happy week to you, too, Francis!

  22. I enjoy the Atlantic blue in this, Leslie, and how it adds depth to the water and runs up/down the work. Gives it a smooth line. And AGAIN, your control of color is always inspiring.

    • Everyone is commenting on this blue, Bbrasseaux. I will have to remember this. Now, what colors did I use? 🙂 Thank you!

  23. aloha Leslie – interesting – i find this work a lot more abstract than some of the other abstract works you’ve been exploring. once again – wow on your use of masa paper.

    yeah, too – trains. i too remember train sounds from a long way off to very close as well as riding them a lot too. fun. aloha.

    • Hi Wrick,
      Were there trains in Hawaii, too? …or was it elsewhere you heard them.
      Thank you for saying this leans toward the abstract. I felt like that when I painted my lights and midtones. It was not until I began darkening the dark areas that I was able to achieve much definition.

      • aloha Leslie – two parts to your question: yes, there were trains in hawaii at one time – the big plantations used them for sugar cane transportation. there is at least one (if i remember right) still active on Kauai for historic and tourism purposes. i wasnt in hawaii at that time when the trains ran for work.

        i did hear trains a lot on the mainland where i lived growing up – and rode them between Washington State and Minnesota every summer back and forth. once or twice i rode them to Chicago and once all the way to NY City and then later (after going to europe for 8 months) i rode it back to MN. from there i took Greyhound to WA. i also rode Greyhound from WA to Arizona in summers every other year – but that’s a different story. ha.

        in those growing up years i could hear trains every day and night from each place where i was in WA and MN – freight and passenger trains both. my dad was among other things (like Navy) an electrician for the railroad. so yeah, i heard trains. fun memories in a lot of ways.

      • Thank you, Wrick. I can see the trains loaded with sugar cane, in my mind. Of course there would have been use for trains there as they were quite prevalent for years. How interesting that you traveled so much by train. I, as a teenager rode one from Indiana to Vermont one year to visit a friend whose family had moved there. it was a wonderful experience that I recall, looking out the window and listening to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails. The train whistle would sound as we approached each station and again as we left. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂

  24. Sound and smell play a huge part in memories of the past. Places are defined by a moment and exist forever. I too love this painting Leslie.

  25. Love the blue in this Leslie! I really must check out this wonderful paper soon – it’s so textural and tactile. I can only wonder at how challenging this must be to paint on – but you manage to pull it off every time 🙂 Well done!

    • I just have to stick with it, Lynda. I can do some lifting with this paper, which actually is a plus to working on regular watercolor paper. It is tactile as I always allow crinkles to form through it as I glue it. I could choose to flatten the surface but don’t. Thank you! 🙂

  26. Beautiful. I especially love the blue water. Blue is my favorite color and maybe it has some impact to my mind. It sounds so nice: Sound from the past, I love it.

    • Why thank you, Sartenada! I like to think of blue as truth just the clear truth. It was my first favorite color and now I have many. 🙂

  27. You sure can create an atmosphere! This is so beautiful Leslie! Again, I want to just sit by that water, rest, sketch, or nap… until a train comes!! 🙂

    • I should have painted you in the scene, Isabelle! You and nature are best friends, as I know, from following your blog. 🙂 Thank you!

  28. I like the brilliant blue at the heart of the painting. Like you, sounds, smells and even the feel of a breeze can take me back in time. Lovely painting.

    • Thank you, Linda! I am certainly going to remember these blues I used. You just watch, I’ll probably not be able to reproduce them a second time. 🙂 Thank you!

  29. Lovely use of the texture of the paper, Leslie. The blue is quite vivid and yet doesn’t compete with the greens and yellows of the foliage. I know that feeling of “just how did I do that?” The experimentation you did with those exercises from the book seem pretty fruitful.

    • I did carry some of the blues through to the surrounding greens in the foliage in the hopes that I could balance them some. Thank you for pointing out that my previous experiments may have helped. I wondered the same thing. Cool comment, Ruth! 🙂

  30. Well done and evocative! I think this one is a keeper too.

    • Thank you, Al. I could envision you seeing some creeks similar to this running off the larger river where you are.

  31. I love this Leslie, and the differing shades of the blueness of the water under the bridge. It always looks as if the vegetation by rivers, streams etc… is inching ever forward and trying to ‘dip it’s toes’ into the waters edge. I too find that photo’s and pictures inspire me, sometimes with a memory, or sometimes I imagine a storyline attached.
    Happy memory trails to you, my friend. xPenx

    • You are so right! I never thought of that, Pen, about the vegetation aspiring toward a dip or a drink. Thank you! I won’t forget that vision you have offered me. I won’t.

  32. I love that swath of blue. It somehow tantalizes, not just visually but imaginatively (is there such a word?? – ha!) Where did the river come from? Where is it going? What can it tell me about people it’s seen and places it’s been. (I think a poem is coming on.) Feels like a story.


    • I like the word “imaginatively”. Didn’t even bother to look it up, because I know exactly what you mean. Most people would not even notice this creek or bridge in passing by on the country road. Sometimes we “can” see the beauty in a section or crop of our world that we never took time for before….. This one, for me, was fueled by sound and the past. Thanks Jamie! 🙂

  33. trains are so evocative – I used to lie in bed at boarding school and listen to the whistle of the train that went from Pretoria to the Lowveld – and dream of being away – a beautiful post Leslie
    I love the suggestion of the bridge, for me it evokes the same feeling of being away.
    Something like the sound of tyres on the open road in my hitch-hiking days – mmm
    You have developed your technique into something special.

    • I cannot imagine having had to attend a boarding school away from my family and a train whistle would have caused me to feel the same way, Stephen. I like your thought about tyres and roads, too.I never thought of that and what just a bridge might suggest. Thank you for that thought and your comment, Stephen!

  34. wow – i feel like this painting really draws me in. it has so much depth. Leslie, how do you paint so many paintings so quickly? do you paint every day? what’s your production rate?

    • I paint almost every evening for several hours. Sometimes I have two or three things going. I think it averages to about a painting a week. My smallest paintings are about 7″ by 15″ and go to 14″ x 20″ so I have not done a full sheet 22″ x 30″ watercolor, as yet. That would take me longer and probably double painting time. It has been too hot to paint outdoors, at least for me, but like to do that in the summer on weekend afternoons. Those I usually finish in two sittings but they look completely different and more like a sketch. Thank you.

      • ah – i always imagined people painting in the mornings…one painting a week is quite productive.

      • Actually, if painting outdoors, morning and evening light are the best times to render a landscape because you capture those dramatic shadows and light that help to give the piece depth. My mornings have been taken with other responsibilities. My eveings are my own except when I teach.

  35. what a beautiful swirling dawn! i love it. very poetic.

    • This is one of my favorites, “Y”. Perhaps it is poetic and I thank you for that.

      • oh, i think i clicked on the wrong one when i commented. i meant to comment on the “dawn” painting, which is amazing and definitely poetic in its layered colors.

      • I know which one you were commenting on but did not know how to move your comment there.

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