Tuesday Tips #2

Sprouting onion still life with marble and shell.  Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Sprouting onion still life with marble and shell.

This is another watercolor that will be framed and available for sale at the El Paso Art Association show on Friday August 28, 2015 at 509 W. Paisano.

And now for more tips…

Draw often. I mean  often! I heard an interview with portait artist Laurel Boeck who worked with a master painter after art school, when she realized she hadn’t learned the nuts and bolts of the art practice, and for the first year with him she drew —  she never picked up a brush!  Can you imagine?  The interview is part of the Artists Helping Artists podcast which I highly recommend.

Do value sketches with paint in three values with one color.  Take a color such as the traditional ones of sepia or ultramarine or be sure to use a pigment that will paint light, medium, and very dark. Those are the three values you need as a base to make a successful painting.    Some pigments such as yellows won’t go dark enough.  

Squint at what you are painting and just how in low light such as dusk, you see some lights and some darks and a lot of medium values that all look similar, the same occurs when squinting.  The different medium values all look the same and that makes painting simpler if you can merge all those medium valued shapes into connecting shapes.  The lights and darks correctly placed will render the object or scene believable so you can see if the painting composition will work.  

These tips serve as reminders to me to do them more and often.  I hope they help you too!

Tuesday Tips

Agave Shadows #2 Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Agave Shadows #2, done first wet on wet. 11″ x 15″ Watercolor. Available. Click on image to view larger.

Here’s a painting that will be framed and for sale at my show at the El Paso Art Junction, 500 W. Paisano, on August 28, 2015.  It’s called Agave Shadows #2.

I thought on this Tuesday, I would pass on some tips that I’ve run across recently and that have connected with me. Maybe they will with you too?

When painting foliage and flowers, the leaves facing the sun or backlit by the sun are a warm yellow green. The leaves facing the sky are more bluish because they reflect the blue of the sky. Shadows formed by branches above shading a branch below are made with an extra layer of the existing color of the underneath branch.

Cast shadows (the shadows formed when an object blocks the sun and casts its shadow onto something else) have hard edges except when falling over a plane or over a change of surface. Think a curb, for example.

The shadows should have the blue in them that you chose for the sky. So, there are a lot of blues. some cool, some warm, some medium in value, not warm not cool. Whatever blue you’ve used in your sky is the blue you should use in your shadow. It will keep your painting consistent and enhance the color harmony of the piece.

I plan on posting some tips weekly, to refresh my own memory and knowledge, and to help other painters on the journey.  I’d love to hear what you think, or what tips have resonated with you recently or in the past.

The Secret Life of Wrens

plant on a deck

Watercolor of a Caroline Wren nest in an ivy plant on my sister in law’s deck. Click on image to view larger.


This is a “thank you for having us visit” present for my sweet sister-in-law. She is lucky to see this wren building a nest in her ivy plant right outside her kitchen window. I painted this from a photo as a surprise for her.

Wrens are one of my favorite birds — I have a few favs: woodpeckers, owls, wrens, thrashers…I could go on. but I won’t! Anyway, I had a fun time doing negative painting to build up the foliage on the plant while keeping the forest foliage in the background just a suggestion.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! thanks for stopping by…

The Scapes return, stages four and five

in process painting of veggie still life

Scapes painting stage 4.  Click on image to view larger.

 

As you can see, if you compare with the last post, I’ve added some darks into the kale and made it so much more lively!  The darks I used were a mix of thalo green blue shade and quinacridone magenta.  This is a great dark combination that’s also transparent, and I plan on using it in the background along with charging into it some other colors used in the existing veggies to give it color harmony.

 

 

 

 

in process painting of veggie still life

Scapes painting stage 5, with a dramatic background! Click on image to view larger

 

 

And you can see it here, I’ve taken the plunge and started on the background.  I think I’m going to be happy with it and you can see that the background is really broken up into sections which is nice.  I can work on parts and soften the edge where they would join up so that there isn’t a hard line where they meet.  you can see I did that to the left of the pepper stem.

I plan on using this background with other colors mingled in with it to cover all the area where the scapes are, and I think the dark colors will make the sinewy snakelike scapes “pop”

What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, I enjoy reading your comments, critiques, suggestions, thoughts…

The Stages of the Scapes

in progress painting of veggie still life

Scapes painting stage 2.  click on image to view larger

Here are some further photos of stages in the painting. At this stage I hopedit could be ok, but I felt overwhelmed by I put down the colors of the kale but was getting lost in the curves, ruffles, and edges. After doing anything BUT painting on this — i.e. cleaning the baseboards, organizing closets, I think some of you will understand these impulses! — I realized I need to look at each section and develop it in an attempt to not get lost. Following the process one would use to paint petals of a flower. Work on each and build it up to a certain level, what feels right, and then do another.

In process painting of veggie still life

Scapes painting stage 3.  Click on image to view larger

So here’s the following stage.  I  worked on the swirl of the bud of the scape, to the left of the pepper.  It needs a bit more refining but it’s more true to the spiral.

I worked on various sections of the leaf.  I knew I wanted the detail where it would catch your eye in the middle of the painting, near the red pepper — because red and green are complements so they “zing” against each other and that draws your eye.  I knew I didn’t want a lot of detail, at least not now, in the darker, blue green shadows in the bottom right corner.  With the advice and support of great friends in my painting group — you know who you are! — they counseled me on lifting out some lights, and going in later with the DARKS to give the leaf depth.  Right now it is all medium values, if you squint at it, the kale is all one value, no darks in it so spike it up!

So that’s what’s coming next…  stay tuned….

Thanks for stopping by.  I’d love to hear from you — your thoughts, reactions, advice, critique!  it’s all welcome.

Scapes anyone?

farmer's maket photo

My own photo reference of scapes, pepper and kale from farmer’s market

No, not EScapes, but scapes.  Have you heard of them?  I hadn’t until visiting a farmer’s market recently and picking up these curvy stems of the garlic plant that just make me smile!  You can chop them up into salads (very strong) or saute them as a milder garlic taste.  And when their heads pop open with a bit of the flower beginning — see the bulge to the left of the pepper — it’s enchanting.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to do these in life before they wilted and dried, I decided to pose some still lifes, with the light source to the left.  For “fun” I added the kale bunch, and that’s proving to be QUITE the challenge to paint!

preparatory sketch of scapes, pepper and kale

Value sketch of scapes, pepper and kale

I thought I’d share a bit of the process with you on how I go from a photo to starting the painting. I first make a small sketch with values to understand the shapes, curves, shadows and other elements that will make the objects recognizable. This was in my sketch book.  I added the grid on top later, in order to enlarge the drawing to fit the selected paper size, in this case 11″ x 15″ (or what is called a “quarter sheet” of watercolor paper, that has traditionally been made in sheets that are 22″ x 30″.

By making the grid and putting in a grid on the larger paper, it’s a matter of transferring lines from one square to a larger one, by seeing where the drawing of the left bulge of the pepper, for example, intersects the grid lines in the smaller version and making it fit a similar dimension in the larger grid opening.

enlarged sketch for quarter sheet of watercolor paper

enlarged sketch for quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Simplified connection of darker and lighter values

enlarged sketch on the lightbox to transfer to watercolor paper

portion of enlarged sketch on the lightbox to transfer to watercolor paper.

While I’m doing this I’m not restricted to how I drew it originally but because I’m understanding it better, I can omit some lines, make less but cleaner shapes, connect shapes of certain values together to make other more interesting shapes, etc.  This is an ongoing learning process for me on how to do that, and I perhaps didn’t do it enough.

Then I trace the major lines with a darker pen or maker in order to see them more clearly when I place them on my light box and put the thicker watercolor paper on top to trace the image with a mechanical pencil onto the paper.  here’s a snippet of how that looks.

in progress watercolor

early stage of watercolor painting of scapes, pepper, and kale

And now the fun part, to start painting!  Here’s the first pass of building up color on the pepper and the scapes and putting in lights for the kale.  I’m using hansa yellow  and clear water for the highlights with warm reds (pyrrol orange and pyrrol scarlet) with a neutral Quinacridone red for the areas of each bulge that are facing the light.  I use cooler reds for the sides away from the light (permanent rose, quinacridone magenta).  I do each bulge (there must be a more precise word for these?) individually, charging them wet into wet to mingle the colors and the hard edges that form help separate one bulge from its neighbor.

Yellows glow through colors layered on top of them, such as blues or greens in this case, so we want the glow of the warm greens to contrast with the color blue greens and shadows in the kale leaves.

Stay tuned because I’ve done more work on this that I’ll talk about in the next post, on how I got “lost” in the kale leaves and found my way out!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you’d like to leave me a comment, I’d love to read it!

What do you look for in an art show?

watercolor of poppies and verbena

small watercolor of mexican poppies and wild verbena, two flowers that go so well together!

I will be putting 8-10 paintings into a members show at the El Paso Art Association at the end of August. It will be my first time putting together that many pieces into a show, and I had some questions for the artists that read this blog as well as art lovers of all kinds.

  • Do you appreciate when the artworks are on a theme or when they show a range of topics?
  • Do you like to see a range of sizes?
  • Do you like the works to all be in a certain medium (i.e. painting) or is it more enjoyable to see a mix?

I tend now to paint on themes, closeups of nature/flowers/seedpods, but I have some landscapes, and some dog paintings, and I’m not sure how to decide what to include. I also have my bead embroidery sculptures that I could include…

So I’d appreciate your thoughts or suggestions. Thanks for stopping by!

Help me name this painting…

Watercolor of rocks and flowers by Rachel Murphree

11″ x 15″ watercolor of mexican poppies, prickly pear and rocks. Click on image to view larger.

So, as promised, here’s the finished painting from the photo I shared in the last post. I took artistic liberty with some of the rocks to make it a better composition.

This was definitely a painting that was giving me fits as it progressed.  It had its long moments of “adolesence” when all seemed to be a bit off, but it came together in the end.  When I paint this again, I will know better how to do it from the start, and not have to lift out so much color and repaint.  That makes it seem overworked to me, and not the spontaneous look I’d prefer.

But I think the discipline of continuing on when it got difficult, realizing problems and fixing them, is worthwhile, both in painting and in real life — don’t you think?

As of now, the working title is Poppies’ Rocks but I’m thinking there has to be a better title. What do you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions for a name for it.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your thoughts…

Happy mail day today!

black velvet brushes to try out

Synthetic squirrel blend brushes

Today was a fun mail day. A package came from Dick Blick with new brushes that had come with good recommendations from several people, including folks on the Watercolor Workshop facebook group.   I am in LOVE with these black velvet brushes! Wow. They are a mix of squirrel and synthetic, hold a lot of paint and have a wonderful point. Perfect for the brushwork I want to practice and perfect to make blossoms of all shapes.

A local artist had suggested that I should buy sable hair brushes, but I’m just not ready to commit that much money to a brush. The black velvet seems like a reasonable alternative that is a step up from the other synthetics I already have.

So there’s a 1″ oval (the thick one in the middle) and a #10 round on top.  The striper at the bottom is lovely to make thin lines that become thicker and then thin again, depending on the pressure you place. There’s also a thin script brush.  The white brush is called a comb and it makes the thin edges of grass quite nicely. I am doing a happy dance having such fun playing with my new tools.

watercolor of red bird of paradise bloom by Rachel Murphree

Red Bird of Paradise watercolor from 2013

The package also had some new colors, that I’m in the process of combining with other colors and making color charts.  One of which is Pyrrol Scarlet which is the lovely strong red that’s in the middle of the practice page behind the brushes. I can see this working wonderfully with Pyrrol Orange to make the Red Bird of Paradise blossoms that fascinate me.  I did this painting several years ago and feel that I understand both watercolor and the blossom so much better now. This is definitely a subject on my to do list to paint again this summer.  The next painting will be much more clear and light and more like the watercolor I am aiming for!  I will probably paint this more than once!!  Painting in a series is so helpful because it deepens my understanding of the subject and the colors chosen.

We all grow up thinking that red and blue make purple, and they do, but it’s fascinating to see what kind of purples this red makes or *doesn’t* make with the seven or eight blues I have.  they are more of a grayed purple for sure.  More on that later…

Photograph by Rachel Murphree

Photograph of poppies in the rocks

And lastly, here’s a photograph from which I am working and will hopefully post the finished painting this weekend.  so I’ll leave you with this for now….

Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you.  If you’ve had experience with these brushes, or would like to share how you use pyroll scarlet, please leave me a comment!

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A Moment in Time

"A Moment in Time"  watercolor painting of driftwood and leaf by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor painting 11″ x 14″. Click on image to view larger

This is a painting I have attempted several times since I took the picture seven years ago. Our family was with another family playing on a sandy beach of the Rio Grande up in Rio Rancho, NM. I captured a lot of photographs that day including many nature shots. I’m calling it “A Moment in Time”. The driftwood piece is done in walnut ink and watercolor, the rest is watercolor. I appreciate all the suggestions from friends and teachers to get this to where it is. I have a feeling I will paint it again and again!

The title felt “right” for this painting, but as I decided it, I realized every painting capturies a moment in time, and I’m doing my best to translate the experience in paint and paper.

Please feel free to share this post, or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.