Mexican Bird of Paradise in progress

Mexican Bird of Paradise in progress

So here it is in progress, the Mexican Bird of Paradise.  Leaving it for the day to ponder what the background will be.  I find backgrounds hard to do, largely because I underestimate how much of a paint puddle I’ll need for it, and remixing midway is NOT good, I got water blossoms (the kind you don’t want to get) and hard edges, and just plain yuck.  Doesn’t help that I find I hold my breath while painting it…  note to self, find a way to calm down.  Perhaps I should do the backgrounds first?  get them out of the way.  

I’d like a background on this before working more on the detail.  Parts I like on it are the triangle composition, most detail on the blossom on the left, second most detail on the top, and the bottom is more dull.  Don’t want to draw your eye out of the painting.  

Do you think the diagonal lines draw your eye out of the painting?  or do the flowers keep your eye engaged?  

Lantana and Ruellia studies

Lantana and Ruellia (Mexican petunia) watercolor studies

Yesterday I spent a lovely morning in the garden, first studying the leaf structure of the plants, then sketching them, being careful to try and put layers of leaves and blossoms underneath others, and then painting these little studies freehand.

It’s funny, seems like common sense but probably comes from learning.  When sketching a garden, I should look for what makes each plant structure unique, not just the colors of the blossoms.  As I said, common sense.  but this sketching day I realized it, so I noticed that the ruellia has the buds and remainders of buds near the top and the leaves are longer and pointy.  The lantana has a cluster of two under the blossom…on the study I went a bit over that number… LOL…I was having fun watching the blues and yellow blend on the paper.

And now off to sketch the Red bird of paradise onto watercolor paper and start painting!  Hope you are enjoying these summer days as much as I am. Life is good…

Red Mexican bird of paradise sketch

Red Mexican bird of paradise sketch

The glorious red Mexican Bird of Paradise is in full bloom so I’m setting out to paint it again.  Here’s a pencil sketch from the sketchbook with wc on top.  Next step is sketching onto watercolor paper, so watch this space!


Spent the morning outside practicing painting outside trying to capture the sun before it moved too much.

This is my behind neighbor’s chimney in the sun framed by my tree. 20140706-132816-48496102.jpg
This started as several separate studies of perennials in my garden (lantana, salvia, and ruellia) and then combined w a dead tree we are keeping because downy woodpeckers visit it for bugs every morning. Woodpeckers are special birds to me. So it is my garden in essence, but not an exact replica of where stone fences, tree and flowers exist.
and this a fast study on sketchbook paper of part of my hand.

Fruit and pitcher watercolor still life

Washed in Light, watercolor

Luscious fruit posed in front of a favorite pitcher with a strong light on it for cool shadow potential.  My favorites are the grapes. and my least favorite is the apple.  How about you?


I read somewhere recently that the best thing to do is ask friends for what parts of the painting jump out at them as not seeming right, not participating in the full dimensional effect that we want in a painting.  So C and C are always welcome!  what doesn’t work for you?


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Shell sketch

Shell sketch 2014-06-29 10.22.39  Some shell studies from my sketchbooks

Red Hot! poppy blossom watercolor

Red Hot! poppy blossom watercolor

Here’s the latest painting, done from a photo posted on the Watercolor Workshop yahoo group as their June challenge.   I haven’t been active in that group lately, but that will change now that I’m painting a lot more!    This is done with new gamboge, quin red, cobalt, perylene maroon for the dark reds, and painted on a 1/4 sheet of Arches (11″ x 15″).  I almost gave up when starting the painting because I didn’t think I could do it justice, but I’m calling it finished.  Comments and criticism welcome, especially if there are parts that jump out at you as needing to be addressed.

Datura Shadows watercolor painting

watercolor, 11″ X 15″. 1/4 sheet 140# Fabriano Artistico paper

My project these last several days has been the Datura plant, a poisonous plant with an aptly named nickname of  Devil’s Trumpet.  It has very cool seed pods, spiral opening buds,  and a gorgeous huge white bell of a blossom. I’ve seen these on my walks recently and fortunately snapped a picture when the sun created lovely shadows. With our 108 degree temps this week, my dog walks now occur before the sun comes over the Franklin Mts onto our side of the city. I still am mindful on my walk and snapping photos of interests, but it’s not the same without LIGHT to add that magic!

This was such a learning process for me.  I sketched it first, got the values, tested out colors and mixtures, did some studies and then taking a big breath (smile), started on the painting.  I used frisket paper and masking fluid to mask out the flower to do the background, and some of the earth color got onto the blossom.  Got a couple of watercolor blooms on the blossom which I didn’t want…still putting extra brush strokes and inadvertently adding water with it which creates the blooms, and I’m not sure the leaves are done.  I used the same mixture for all the shadows (indigo and carbazole violet) not sure they’re deep enough, and I think it’s normal to have the shadow look different depending on what color it lands on, but not sure if I should leave it or do more on them.  Any thoughts?   I’d love to hear from you.

Here are some photos of the plant and its beauty, including the one I used to paint the picture

.Datura blossom

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2014-06-02 06.14.05

The other weekend my DH and I headed over to Tucson for a long awaited break and had a lovely time.  We did gardens, galleries, Gather antiques, and took in a movie at the Loft Cinema. I got to go back to Tohono Chul Park by myself to reflect in the native gardens, do some sketching, bird watching and seeing a watercolor show in their gallery. This place is a real jewel in Tucson and I’m so glad I got to go there.

A lovely docent directed me to this Echinocereus  blossom which was as big as a saucer. Literally 6″ across. You can be sure I’ll be attempting to paint this beauty.  I did some onsite sketching and painting.   Here it is in the pot, just to give you a sense of scale.


just to give you a sense of scale

It was by this lovely soothing water fountain with benches to sit and just enjoy the beauty. See the close-up. I love the horsetail plant there.

2014-05-18 10.02.55   . 2014-05-18 10.03.15

The property was built in the 1930s and at the time was very isolated and grew palm trees and citrus.  The art galleries and gift shop are in the original house and they are always a real treat.


Euphobia ResiniferaThis was a really interesting plant clump.  It is called Euphobia Resinifera , common name is Spurge.  We have one that grows here and blooms lime green in January, but I haven’t seen this particular variety.  look at the close-up.  It stood about 18″ tall and each spire was perhaps an 1″ or more in width.

Euphobia Resinifera Close-up

We also went to the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild gallery, in an upscale market area with a Whole Foods, public library branch and neat restaurants.  There is beautiful work on display and it changes regularly.  I picked up a brochure on classes offered in the fall/spring, and I think I will actually take one of them with Carol Carter, an artist whose work and blog I follow!
We tried two new places:  fabulous Thai food…I can still taste it in my mind, it was incredible.  at Bai Thong on E. Speedway.  and then we saw an article in their locavore magazine: Edible Baja Arizona
which has a beautiful cover of fish in blues/oranges. You can read the article was on Boca Tacos y Tequila, a place we’d driven by several times on Speedway near the University. On the sign was “Our salsa is hotter than your wife!” who could resist? the flavors were complex and wonderful. Oh MY! it’s a definite addition to my favorite restaurants.

I have recently found a great podcast called the Savvy Painter. I highly recommend it.  It is a mix of artist interviews and interviews with marketing/motivational people, and I’ve found it fascinating.  Antrese Wood’s voice is soothing, the quality of the podcast is great, and the information she shares is really helpful.  One I especially enjoyed recently was the interview with Sam Bennett on her book Get it Done.  Another great talk was with Pamela Slim.  Interesting to hear marketing tips for Pinterest and Facebook.

In the interview with Kathleen Dunphy she mentioned a great new drawing book which I ordered and have found extremely helpful in making drawing complex subjects not as overwhelming. It is called: Sketching from Square One to Trafalgar Square, and is written by Richard E. Scott.   Again highly recommend



Embellished Purses

September 2014
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