Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Wimberley Landscape

Maybe if I start posting an entry for every watercolor painting I’ve ever done, I’ll run out of artwork so quickly that I’ll have to move my lazy butt and start painting again…

I’ll start not with my best piece, but with the only one I’ve painted from life, outdoors. I’m always telling my mom to come and visit me, to enjoy Utah’s gorgeous weather and paint outdoors… And when the day is glorious, I’m always thinking I should go outside and paint. But how many times have I actually done it? ONCE: Once in 2002, right after quitting my business job, and so excited because in a week I would start going to art classes as the first step to change careers.

We were at Joey’s parents’ property in Wimberley, spending the 4th of July weekend with Pete and Sharon. That’s the place were we got married. It’s a beautiful piece of grassy land covered with trees, right by the Blanco river. So green… So peaceful…

But that weekend it was all flooded. The river had grabbed the arch under which we said our wedding vows, and it was flowing really high claiming a lot of the land. That’s when I painted this:


This painting shows my constant weakness attempting to paint foliage. I love doing tree bark and little bushes; but suggesting thousands of tree leaves without painting each one, just beats me. I have a wonderful book that shows me how, and it looks so easy… but at the moment of truth it all goes to hell and I keep doing too much, too wrong, and it ruins the painting, and I tell myself again: Stick with people. Don’t attempt landscapes. I’m waaaaay too detailed-oriented to suggest big things with few brush strokes.

Yet, somehow I still like this painting. Maybe simply because it portrays a special place… There are also a few elements that I’m happy with. So, I’ve played with it and created a new playground entry.

Today’s inspiration for this post came from Woody Hansen’s question: What’s Your Excuse?. “I’d love to paint outdoors sometime soon but…”

But I suck at landscapes, Woody!… I love them and admire artists like you, who pull them off with such beauty and simplicity. But I? I suck at them. Now, why am I not painting something else anyway? Well… I don’t really have a good excuse for that.


  1. On , Petie wrote:

    I think it’s a really nice painting. It reminds me of Wimberley… except that I’ve never seen it flooded. I don’t think it’s that green there at the moment. :(

  2. On , Maria wrote:

    I’ve heard… :(

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    Woody Hansen sent me the following great comment via email. I think his reply is very helpful and inspirational not only to me, but maybe to some of my wonderful readers, many of who also love making art, but not always get the time for it.
    I’m posting it here with Woody’s permission…

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for taking time to leave a comment on my blog, as well as your kind comments about my work. The following is my reply:

    All things are difficult before they are easy. Beginning is easy, continuing is hard, and so it is with landscapes, or portraits, or most anything else. Right now you have begun landscapes. That is the easy part, continuing is the hard part, but continuing to paint landscapes (if if you feel like your fail at it) is something you must do if you are to succeed.

    I’ve visited your excellent site and read a bit about you. It is obvious you have all the skills, all it takes for you to succeed at landscapes … if you REALLY want to. But you won’t accomplish your goal by painting people instead of landscapes.

    I see two things that seem to stand out on your blog relative to your difficulty with painting landscapes. You write, “I’m waaaaay too detailed-oriented to suggest big things with few brush strokes.” Being detail oriented in things other than watercolor has little basis for your lack of success to state things with few brush strokes. No so, Mafe/Maria! That’s an idea someone else has mentioned and it has stuck in your head.

    I hear this kind of thing all the time in my workshops. People tell me they want to loosen up, but don’t know how. Some spend two days in a workshop and expect to do what has taken other YEARS to accomplish. It is just not going to happen overnight. We must work at it.

    The fact is most ALL of us are trying to “loosen up”. It is an ongoing process, one we HAVE to WORK at. No one can give us the magic solution, the magic pill, the “secret.” With all due respect, you lack success in landscapes because you don’t work at it hard enough, long enough. You mention you should, “Stick with people. Don’t attempt landscapes.” There is the problem. We must fail, before we can succeed at what ever it is we wish to accomplish. Too many of us give up too soon.

    I read that you speak at least two languages. That’s one more than me. So, among other things you are successful at learning language! Good for you! In that case, you can also be successful at landscapes. Do you honestly think you have worked as hard at landscapes as you have at learning two languages? I doubt it. Get out there and paint your heart out. Drop the “t” in “can’t!”

    Also you mention you have a tendency to paint “thousands of tree leaves.” Your writing suggests you want to simplify your work. Then, you mention you have found “a wonderful book that shows me how.” No so. That particular book, good as it is, appears to emphasize “detail.” I would urge you to stay away, at least for the time being, from “detail” oriented books. To accomplish your goal of loosening up, you need to over come the need to paint detail.

    If you want to learn how to simplify those “thousands of tree leaves” it will help if you begin thinking in the terms of DESIGN, SHAPES, and SILHOUETTES. I suggest you go to the Book Store on my web site and look at some of the book recommendations and reviews I’ve posted in that area. You don’t have to actually buy the books there, or anywhere else. Many of the books can be checked out of a library. Those that are out of print can often be found on Ebay.

    Look for books by Ed Whitney, or almost any his students. Also, look for books by Rex Brandt, Robert E. Wood, George Post, Dong Kingman, Frank Webb, Tony Couch, etc. Look up Henry Fukuhara on the Internet. Look for books by symbol or shape painters! I even have some links to some good instructor/authors on my blog. Frank Webb has recently created some excellent DVD’s ( on watercolor.

    And, you must rethink your comment, “I’d love to paint outdoors some time soon, but (insert any excuse here)! These kinds of excuses are exactly what this blog segment is trying to DISCOURAGE. Damn the excuses, decide you are going to paint outdoors and then “full speed ahead!” You CAN do it!

    I hope my comments inspire you to overcome what is surely a short-term roadblock. If you promise yourself you will always paint just one more landscape before giving up, you will have found the secret to success! Good luck!

    I fully intend to look into the resources Woody recommends, but just to clarify, the book I mention in my post “Creating Textures in Watercolor” by Cathy Johnson, is wonderful. It shows you how to suggest textures without painting every detail, or how to paint a closeup with a little more detail. Here’s an image of her instruction on how to suggest foliage:

    Painting foliage, by Cathy Johnson

    Despite the simplicity of this solution, I insist in messing it up, BUT… as the wise-ones say: I must keep working at it… Full speed ahead.