Pale white backlit rose blossom

Backlit rose blossom. Available. Click on image to view larger.

This painting was from a class taught by Penny Simpson from Las Cruces, NM.  She provided us a lovely photograph and a drawing to transfer to our paper.  It’s about 6.5″ x 12″ and is on a heavier watercolor paper (300 lb).

The process is to paint the black background first with acrylic paint which gives a crisp edge to the central design and then paint the central design.  I used mostly wet in wet techniques with pale washes.  I got the first layer down and realized the underside of the petal on the right (with the various colors) was deeper than the others.  so I carefully re-wet those lighter petals and added deeper washes on them to balance it out.

It is difficult to get that kind of stark dark coverage with watercolor alone, but I have read there are other ways (here’s one from a Daniel Smith email ) so I’d like to experiment more with both. Nanci from our class brought in black gesso which also worked really well.

Penny was the one I wrote to around the holidays asking if she taught private lessons, and she doesn’t but directed me to the local group run by Jacques Barriac.  Being with them has opened up lots of other doors and I’ve found lovely people to paint with.  It’s been a great experience.

Penny will be with us for three more weeks, and tomorrow’s painting will be a pair of wine bottles.  Please be sure to check out her link; you will love her work!


Asparagus spears. watercolor 7.5″ x 11″ Available. Click on image to view larger

wet in wet watercolor

Wet in wet painting of asparagus. Watercolor 4″ x 11″. Available. Click on image to view larger.

After doing some studies on painting asparagus, yesterday the work came together in these two rather different pieces.  Both have wet in wet elements, but have different feels.  Do you have a preference?  I’ve polled my household, and so far there’s one vote for each.

The upper one is a wet in wet background, made by wetting the paper with water and when it’s settled in, stroking on blues and yellows and then sprinkling some salt on it while wet.  That’s what makes the sparkly areas.

After that I painted in the spears letting the various greens merge and then scraped aside the areas of the tips and along the stem, and then went back in and lifted some color using a damp brush to model the shapes more.

The second one is completely wet in wet.  Paper wet, colors in and then using thicker and thicker puddles of pigment I build up the shapes of the spears, did some scraping, and then some painting when it was dry.

Which one do you like better?  Thanks for stopping by…

Watercolor painting

Stop and Rest. Forest scene with rock. Click image to view larger. Available.


Here’s the second piece from Wednesday’s class on creating textures and fixing problem areas.  The instructions were a rock with grasses in front and lots of green behind, letting rich colors run in the background.

I posted a picture below of what it looked like when I came home.  The rock was floating, flat bottomed like some weird space hovering.  I didn’t like the grasses.  I can’t wrap my head around yet how to negatively paint the tops of grasses to get them to be thin blades, and I liked some colors in the mixing but the blues were too prominent and separated in the forest.

painting at early stages

How it looked after the class. it needed some help!

So I did some scrubbing out of edges with a coarse hair cheaper acrylic brush that I cut down to make a stiff ridge, painted down over the tops of the grasses and then pulled up with a palette knife to get the grasses I wanted.  added more color in the background, tried to create masses of bushes/trees with spattering of water, etc.  

While I wish that I had gotten this look earlier on so that it looked fresher and less worked, I’m glad I rescued it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!   Thanks for visiting. 

Painting of grasses, little house and mountains in distance

High mountain meadow. Click on image to view larger.

In yesterday’s watercolor class we learned about techniques to make texture, and blending colors together on the paper.

You can pull out grasses, tree trunks, etc. by dragging a flat object (credit card edge, chiseled end of brush handle, etc.) to make grasses or tree trunks, and the amount of moisture in the area of the painting will determine if the scrapings pull back to a lighter paper (done when the area has lost its shine) or fill back in with the surrounding moist paint and get darker (if done when it’s wet).

This was a scene where we had instruction to put in the background sky, trees, house and then do grasses in front. I worked on it a bit at home as well.

Drawing of glass, bottle and pottery bird

Drawing exercise, two transparent objects and one opaque

I’ve been taking a drawing and a watercolor class, and attending a painting group that has teachers come in. It’s been a very educational couple of weeks!

Here’s the latest homework exercise: draw two transparent objects. To balance it, I added a third pottery bird.  An odd number of objects is usually better than even.

To make something transparent you accentuate the darks but keep the edges smooth and details vague.  So in drawing, you smooth with the tool called a stump (rolled up paper in a pencil type shape that smooths out the graphite on the paper).

The glass is clear with a dark (blue) base and stem.  The bottle is cobalt blue. The bird happens to be blue with a rusty side.  The faint lines are the folds of cloth under the objects.

pottery and wine glass sketch

In class exercise. Drawing using boxes to define relative size and distance

Here is a class drawing done before the homework: two pottery pieces and a wine bottle.  Really interesting to learn how to make sure the items are in proportion to themselves and each other.

You can probably see the faint box around the pottery with a lid, and the transparent bottle.  We drew the box based on measurements and then filled it with the actual objects’ shapes.

She taught us how to first measure one item (using a pencil and one eye closed and elbow straight), call it a unit, and then figure how it relates to the others.

For example;  the front pottery is one unit and the bottle is 2.5 units high.  I don’t remember the exact ratios.  and then you have to figure out how far in front the one object is from the other.  I had difficulty keeping all the ratios in my head, so in the homework, I actually wrote them down.

So going back to the first drawing:   the bird is one unit high by one unit across, the wine glass is 1/3 of a unit higher on the paper, the bottle is 1/2 unit higher on the paper and tilted.  The glass is 2.5-2.75 units high, the bottle is a hair over 2. It’s gratifying to see the boxes turn into the actual shapes.

The box makes it easier to make items symetrical because you fit them inside the box, marking a center line and balancing each side, best you can.  with practice of course, it will get better…

2015-02-20 08.25.13

Class exercise: Simple shapes: cones, cylinders, spheres and cubes in watercolor

We started out drawing class with simple shapes,and  I thought…I should probably try to paint these…  sure enough, in the watercolor class day two was painting shapes, in this instance with two colors,my favorites, an orange and a blue.

So my plan is to paint the bird/glass/bottle painting and transfer what I learned from drawing into watercolor…  watch this space.

painting of aspens

Winter twilight in a grove of aspens. Watercolor that is available. Click on image to view larger

You know how you can look and look at something you’ve done, whether it’s art or writing or sewing, knitting, etc. and you don’t see problems until you’ve had some time away from it — or when you are just about to wear it!  I think you’ll know what I mean…

It took looking at this some more and encouragement from others to fix problems with trunk definition.  In the earlier view of this the trees to the left of center were ill defined and didn’t quite make sense.  so now it is a forked tree with a broken stump beside it, the darks have been softened, and it is now done.  Final.  Finit.  (I know, famous last words!)

And it has a new name:  Winter Twilight. I may look at getting this framed and submitting it to a show, or having cards made from it.

And I’ve been keeping busy with painting group, painting class, and drawing class.  In the latter we’ve been drawing and painting simple shapes.  Perhaps I will post some pics of those another day.

Bare branches against blue NM sky

Winter tree against blue sky in sketchbook. Click on image to view larger.


The other week my DH and I went overnight to Silver City, NM which happened to be holding their chocolate fantasia event — 31 chocolatiers made their specialties and there was a treasure hunt through art galleries, antique stores, restaurants and the like. Such fun!

I got in some outdoor painting (plein air) for the first time and it really made the day memorable.

Yes, the sky really was this blue, if not even bluer!  lovely winter New Mexico sky.  The tree was made again with the credit card technique, and done in a small watercolor sketchbook. The paper isn’t nearly the quality of buying good watercolor paper by the sheet, but it’ll do, pig, it’ll do!

2015-02-07 10.24.56

Artsy patio door at the Copper Quail Gallery, Silver City, NM.  Click on image to view larger.


This is my favorite art gallery in Silver City, NM. The Copper Quail Gallery has a great collection of jewelry, woven clothing, paintings, photographs, woodworking, metal working. The artists take turn in the store and are really friendly and open to talk about their work.

2015-02-07 10.25.01

Interesting, artsy way to recycle glass bottles and keep the birds from resting on the wall. Copper Quail Gallery, Silver City, NM


Sketch while a passenger, with watercolor wash later. The beautiful rust colored cliffs at Hurley, NM.  Click on image to view larger.

photo of peach roses

Peach roses earlier in the week. You will see these in a painting I’m sure some day!



I came home inspired and ready to paint, draw, excited about the coming artsy year!




Watercolor of aspens

Watercolor of aspens in winter. 7.5″ x 11″. Available. Click on image to view larger.

Ok, here’s the finished piece. I’m pretty happy with it.

I think I would put in less branches next time, and maybe I’ll do it again soon and make it be a different time of the day, or season.  That sounds like fun doesn’t it?  Sorry I don’t have longer to write today.  Busy morning, and hopefully I will squeeze in some painting in the afternoon.

I just realized the background makes it look like a frame.  It’s not, it’s just my painting board.

I’d love to know what you think.  Feel free to share or pin the painting.

watercolor in progress

Aspens mountain scene, in progress. Trees made with credit card as a painting tool. 9″ x 11″

Here’s the second painting from Thursday’s class, an aspen mountain scene in progress.  The trunks were made using a credit card tapped into a puddle of not too runny pigment on dry paper.

I’m going to put the sky in next and I want to make sure I”m in keeping with the lighter grayed values of the existing mountains and ranges.  It’s certainly not a bright sunny day, it’s a before sunset kind of wintery day from the color palette already there.  maybe grays and purples?  we’ll see…

I need to add more smaller branches on the tops of the trees, but I’m liking it so far.  If you don’t see it in the finished form, it’s because the sky didn’t match my thoughts<g> and instead I will probably try the painting again.  so fingers crossed!

Watercolorist and teacher Susie Short (who also runs a FB group called Watercolor Workshop) has a great web tutorial on this process.  I’m in the group and it’s really helpful for inspiration, monthly challenges, etc.

I’m excited that this week I will start a six week watercolor class and drawing class at UTEP in addition to the weekly painting group already in progress.

Watercolor of woods in winter

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…and beautiful in snow. Watercolor 6″ x 10″. Available. Click on image to view larger.

Yesterday I attended my second class of the informal transparent group here in town and our teacher was Dorian Clouser. As before, I learned a lot, especially from watching her demonstrate the techniques. I also really appreciated that she visited with each student, offering praise and then helpful suggestions. She will be with us next week and I”m looking forward to it.

This painting was wet in wet of a day with snow either in the air or coming soon, and we could take it in whatever direction we felt. Wet in wet is when you saturate the paper with clean water and once it has absorbed to a certain point you put on other paints in various stages of concentration. the more watery ones fade into the background and give texture and depth, the more concentrated (less water) don’t melt away as much and appear more prominent. it’s a balancing act of the amount of water and pigment, and it’s really quite fun!

I also learned how to make the rough sticks and weeds coming out of the snow by loading a palette knife and making marks that way, so it’s not just brushes that you can use. In fact, we also learned how to make trees by using credit cards….more on that on another day, when I finish the painting!

Award Winning Watercolor

Award winner at Arts International, 2014.

Lelaroy Williams Award for Watercolor Excellence, Arts International 2014

Follow Rachel Murphree Watercolors on

Follow me on social media


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 252 other followers

%d bloggers like this: