Mountains and Media


Balcony View. Plein air watercolor by Rachel Murphree  framed to $16 x 20. $225.

I’ve just submitted this watercolor to the Celebration of our Mountains Art Show at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing.  This is a fabulous restaurant/lounge/farmer’s market that I love.  I did some plein air paintings there earlier his year.

In other news, the Gallery Talk column of the August El Paso Scene was devoted to the members of the Sunland Art Gallery (including me)


Here’s the text of my portion:

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in New York State, Rachael Murphree displays a wealth of enthusiasm and energy in whatever she does. Arriving here in 1997, Rachael immersed herself in working with the PTA at Polk School while her two daughters were grade schoolers. Now that the have moved on to middle and high school, Murphree decided to indulge in what she calls her “Me Life.” Her mom had been an accomplished seamstress so it was only natural that Rachael turn to a needle to foster her creative outlet.

From quilting she branched out into beaded embroidery. “Still inspired by what was going on in my life, I made such things as a ‘mommy glove,’ which detailed events in the lives of my children, and portending the future I also did a palette with a beaded paint brush.”

In 2014 she discovered watercolor painting. She reading books on techniques and also took workshops with local painters Bill Bissell and Owen Rath. Memberships in the New Mexico Watercolor Society and the Plein Air Painters of El Paso gave her further opportunities to take workshops with experts in the field and to enter her work in juried competitions.

Murphree says she prefers smaller subjects such as a flower or sea shell and how they are influenced by light and shadow.To challenge herself, she shows her work in public as often as possible. In June she participated in the Women’s Club exhibition, where she sold two pieces of her work. “For me the reward comes not only in selling my work but also in talking to the people who purchase it. They tell me where they plan to hang it in their home or that perhaps it was purchased as a gift. This type of input tells me that I am making a connection with the people for whom I am painting.”

And here’s a sneak peak into a piece I’m working on now….red BOP WIP

Mountain Flowers


Mountain Flowers.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Here’s a piece that I started en plein air, painting from a plant in the entryway of a hotel while on vacation with my family. It was beautiful but it was all alone in a bed of rock; not a whole lot of atmosphere.   I was out there several mornings painting and chatting with people that walked by.

In process plein air painting of coneflowers

Mountain Flowers early stage.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

I wanted to show you several steps in this process .  At first I went in too dark trying to work speedily because of trying to squeeze in painting with family activities.  Rather than having the plant alone, I suggested foliage and blooms behind it.

step 2 of the process of negative painting to define the foliage

step 2 of the process of negative painting to define the foliage

When I got to the point where the foliage seemed ok, I still felt it looked blah.  The stems were lifted out and suggested but it seemed dark on bottom, light on top.  I have recently read a(nother) book on composition and I thought, wonder if an “L” shape composition of darks would work?

So that’s when I added the dark background on the top left.  Do you think it improved it?


Here’s the photo I took before starting.  Kind of ho hum.  not even nice light and shadow.


Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you.  Stay tuned in September when I do the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge once again!

How NOT to do a demo!

My first demo @ the Sunland Art Gallery, August 2016

My first demo @ the Sunland Art Gallery, August 2016

I have to say first off that doing the demo was a wonderful learning  experience.I’m glad I did it and I will certainly do more of them! However, I set myself up to not have the best experience, so here are four points I’ve learned not to do, especially when starting out.  Remember, this was my first demo.

  1. Don’t expect it will go perfectly or even turn out well because you’ve done the image before.
    Of course this is a death knell for any painting whether in a demo or not. If I think/hope ahead of time that  it’ll turn out great, or even good, well….you can guess what happens!
  2. Don’t watch a painting video beforehand and decide on a whim to try a technique on this image you haven’t used in previous attempts.
    Yes, you would think this would be a “nobrainer”.  Yes, on a whim I tried wet in wet fur before the eyes were dry. On a quite vertical slant.   ‘Nuff said on that.
  3. Don’t work on something that inherently needs to turn out a certain way (like a portrait).  Instead play with something like wet in wet landscape or image that you can play and explore as you go.
  4. Don’t use a set up you aren’t as familiar with.
    Case in point:  I normally paint on a counter high bureau with a 1″ thick piece of wood on top to make it wider but it doesn’t have depth.  It’s flat and I sometimes prop up my board on something, but the angle varies.  Because the gallery isn’t huge, I wanted to keep compact and I thought I’d use my plein air easel (which even though I went out weekly with before it got beastly hot, I’m still not thoroughly used to or pleased with).  Well, again, seems like a no brainer to not deviate from the familiar!


    Demo 2 after adjusting for height and angle.

    My main complaint on the easel is that the palette in front keeps me at a distance from the paper and so I tend to have it be at an almost vertical angle to compensate  If I lay it down flatter,  then I need to lower the tripod which of course I did in the middle of the demo with help from several artists.  again, not optimal for paint drying/running/ etc. while the leg heeight was being adjusted.   Do you get the picture? LOL


So I do have five things TO recommend:

  1. Start out small, as I did, with people gradually coming by, or not.  During my demo we had about 13 people drop by and stay for various times. Don’t start out with a demo for 30 artists with a screen projecting your every move. I eventually do want to feel comfortable doing that but I’m glad it wasn’t my first experience.
  2. Bring along several prepared sheets to keep you from overworking a piece without letting it dry appropriately.  In this way you can work on another version or a different piece entirely.  OR bring a hairdryer, if you’re used to using that…see #4 above.  I rarely use a hairdryer.
  3. Don’t feel you have to rush.  I felt I had to jump right in and balance the questions I got while painting.  That is something you have to handle, for sure, but I could have taken my time.
  4. Find someone you can relate to.  I enjoyed meeting and talking to everyone, but the best time I had was explaining my steps and why to a  10 yr old boy who liked to paint.
  5. Find something fun in what you’re doing.  Even though the pink of Charley’s tongue ran all over his muzzle in demo 1 below, I had a thrill of excitement when the blues and the oranges mingled so beautifully above the right eye.

So here were the demos as I left the gallery.

On both the white sparkle in the eyes was masked out so that the white paper would show when the masking rubber fluid was removed.  Not sure if I will work on these more, there are some good points in each, but time will tell.   It’s sad to see the tongue bleed on the left, but a lot could be fixable.  After several days I find them more acceptable.  which do you like better?

So thanks for reading through my extra long post.  I hope my tips will help you in your first demo!

Oh yes, and if you’d like to see the beautiful award winners from the My Masterpiece show, go to the Sunland Art Gallery FB page.

Demo on Saturday

I’m excited to be doing a watercolor demo at the Sunland Art Gallery this Saturday, August 13th.  The opening is from 12-6 and my demo will be from 2-4.  

I decided to paint one more version of Charley, this sweet dog that is my first commission in watercolor.  You can read about my experiences with painting dogs.  During the times when the paint has to dry I have a landscape in mind to work on.  If you have time, please stop by!

Here’s the My Masterpiece show description:  This is something new.  Art work could be a piece with a favorite masterpiece included in the painting.  For example, a still life of tropical fruit with a Paul Gauguin painting on the wall.  Or it could include several masterpieces in a collage.  Or it could be a painting “in the style of” a famous artist.  Or a copy of your favorite artist. Use your imagination! One or two entries per artist.

So this is my contribution to the show.  “It’s What’s for Lunch, Andy”.

watercolor of campbells soup can

Watercolor a la Andy Warhol for “My Masterpiece” show @ the Sunland Art Gallery

It’s What’s for Lunch, Andy

watercolor of campbells soup can

“It’s What’s for Lunch, Andy”  Watercolor a la Warhol for “My Masterpiece” show @ the Sunland Art Gallery

The Sunland Art Gallery is hosting a new show called “My Masterpiece” which runs until September 30th. There are some really cool pieces there, either in the style of a famous artist, or an interpretation of a famous piece.  If you’re local, I hope you can get out and see the show!

The opening is from 12-6 next Saturday, August 13th, and we’ll have demos going on all day.  I will be doing a watercolor demo from 2-4 on August 13th of painting a dog and also a landscape (while waiting for the paint to dry).

Here’s my updated view of the classic pop art of the 1960s. I remember painting something similar with poster paint in 7th grade art class.  Many thanks to my friend Diane who is an absolute genius in naming things.  I will definitely ask her again to name some of my art!

Remember Charley, the sweet dog painting I am doing on commission?  I took the several versions i’ve done over to his human and it was fun to see her reactions.  She is going to choose between them and the one that I will paint next Saturday.  Which one is your favorite?

watercolor painting of dog

Charley with background. 8 x 10 size



Charley take 2 (11 x 14).


loose watercolor dog painting

First pass in a loose style




Dog Days of Summer


Hello Folks, This is Charley!  He’s my first watercolor commission and I’ve written about making the first study at painting him earlier this summer.  It’s been quite the dog days for me, we’re in triple digits here since what seems like forever.  I’ve had to work on plenty of other obligations and haven’t had much time to paint.  As I was working on painting this sweet dog in the quiet of my house this morning, I realized just how much I’d missed painting (and perhaps that’s why I’ve been a bit crabby lately….I’m just sayin!)

Since the first study, I’ve met Charley and the other pets in his house, I’ve been painting eyes and noses, and then working on several other studies. charley_photo_refHis human sent me some other photos, here’s one which show his colors more clearly than the brightly lit one I was working from. So my sketch was from the earlier photo, but I used the colors from this.   Don’t you just love the eyes of the older sweetie behind him?  I kept getting drawn into the sweet elderly face!

I thought it might be helpful to show you the steps that led up to the current painting.  I’m not sure it’s the final one…we’ll have to see what his humans say, but I can always learn more by painting another one!  To begin with I did some sketching:

and then did studies of eyes and noses:

Don’t the noses look like flying aliens??  they crack me up.

charley_dog_boosted pencil sketch_rachel_murphree

Then I took the image and put it through the “pencil sketch” effect in picasa web and boosted the contrast to get nice dark lines.

I put it on my light table with a piece of 140 lb Arches paper on topcharley dog on lightbox_rachel_murphree and the dark lines showed through.

You can see it here but the lines weren’t quite that dark, I enhanced the charley after light table_rachel_murphreecontrast so you could see them.  It turns out that i didn’t need all those extra lines of the hair, because that’s more naturally done by just playing with the paint.  in future tracings I only did the nose eyes and mouth.

In researching how to do the painting,  I watched two watercolor technique videos which were very helpful:  Watercolor Secrets: Realistic Pets with Carrie Stuart Parks and Jake Winkle’s Going Wild in Watercolor.  Of the two, I find Jake’s style bold and invigorating and that showed in the first study, but I like the more realistic view with techniques taught by Carrie.

charley_in process_rachel_murphree_watercolorsSo here’s an in process stage where I had wet the right side cautiously over top of the underpainting soft colors with no hard edges,  and added extra color and fur brush strokes.  After this I did the same on the left side and then started adjusting details and adding whiskers.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the dog days of summer.  How about you?  What have you been up to?  Have you painted dogs? if so, what tips can you share?

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll let you know what Charley’s humans have to say…


More from the Gallery


Along the Rio. 16 x 20 framed. $225


Agave Shadows #1 11 x 14 framed. $125


Contemplation. 16″ x 20″ framed. $225.

These pieces and more are available at the Sunland Art Gallery, at least through the end of July.  After then, I’ll have to reduce the inventory of what’s there.    If you don’t know the gallery, it’s in the Placita Santa Fe, a destination shopping experience of  boutiques: antiques, yarn shops, jewelry and more, with a fabulous restaurant and tea shop, all in vintage adobe buildings on what used to be the highway to California before the freeway system was built.   It is a charming place to spend an afternoon browsing.  The gallery is open Tues-Saturday 10-5, and is at Doniphan @ Mesa in West El Paso (5034D Doniphan next to Tippi Teas).

Sunland Art Gallery

My first month at the Sunland Art Gallery has been fun.  I’ve enjoyed meeting people and enjoying the art in cool beautiful surroundings.  Here are some original pieces that I have at the Gallery right now.  I hope you get a chance to stop by and check out the artwork, prints and cards that are there!  When July ends I’ll have to take pieces home, so head over there soon! And thank you!


This Little Light of Mine.  16" x 20"Framed.    $225

This Little Light of Mine. 16″ x 20″Framed. $225

Walk with me.  16 x 20 Framed.    $225.

Walk with me. 16 x 20 Framed. $225.

The Distance. 11 x 14 framed.  $125.

The Distance. 11 x 14 framed. $125.


Vitex trees, one of my favorites

Plein air Vitex tree

Plein air Vitex tree, 9″ x 12″ watercolor.  Unframed $65

I don’t know if you have vitex trees where you live, but I find them one of the more beautiful trees we have here.  It’s a tree from the Mediterranean the it grows well in our temperate hot climate. The leaves bud in May and the beautiful purple or white blooms come in June.  Stunning.  And the older the tree gets, the more gnarled its trunk’s character.  When they are small, they often look like shrubs but are multi trunked trees.

We went out plein air painting at Sunset Gardens landscaping store/restaurant  in May and I stumbled upon this little gully and tree along the back of the open area, and my painting spot would be in the shade (A big plus!)

plein air vitex photos (1)

Plein air set up looking at the young tree

plein air vitex photos (2)

On the easel on the day.

After all the bustle of the past several weeks of the show, getting my inventory ready for the gallery, and then gallery sitting, in addition to health issues of the folks and my daughters’ activities, I hadn’t had time to paint.  And, of course, I had a crisis of confidence that I couldn’t paint anymore.  and of course, I procrastinated!  does that sound familiar to anyone?

If you’re in that situation, I can suggest that you pick up in progress pieces and squint…see that you don’t have enough of a range of values, in my case, not enough darks to spike it up, and then work on those.  That’s what I did this for this week’s painting group, rather than the angst of starting something new, or just playing (which is fine in itself), I took several in process pieces and worked on finishing them.

What I did for this one was add darks in the shrubbery and branches keeping in mind where the sun is, and I added more colors in the sky to make the white/light spots of the flower bunches near the top of the tree. Then I reinforced the shadows under the tree.

I will post more finished pieces later this week.  What do you do when you have a crisis of confidence?  I’d love to get some more tips…



What’s the best part about being an artist?

Garden_visitor_sold_rachel_murphree_watercolorsI love to paint in watercolor, I’m content to frame my own work and enter shows and now have my work in the Sunland Art Gallery, but one of the very best parts is interacting with the people that purchase my art.  I’ve heard that art is a conversation between the artist and the viewer, and this takes it to the next level.

Yesterday I got a chance to do just that with this lovely lady who purchased Garden Visitor.  She graciously posed in front of the gallery with her new painting and was excited to go and test it out in its new home.

Sometimes it takes awhile to put into words what we are looking for.   We pulled out prints and originals from several different artists in the gallery and auditioned them and talked about how they would fit in the space. As we worked I thought I had a better idea what she was looking for. On a whim I showed her this piece, not sure it would work, but it fit the requirements of vertical orientation and outdoor scene and the right size,  and it spoke to her.  The decision was that quick. What a fun experience!

Having this happen on top of selling Red Hot and Yucca Bloom at the Woman’s Club of El Paso show a week ago, is beyond what I ever thought!  If I believed in lucky numbers, three would be it.   There again I got such a thrill meeting the new owners, hearing where they would put the paintings or who they were giving the painting to and why.

I have these three paintings in cards and will get them in matted prints soon to sell at the gallery and online.  Summer is a busy time because my schedule isn’t my own with busy teenagers, but it’s in the plans…  stay tuned.  Having my work available steadily at the Sunland Art Gallery takes a bit of that pressure off of me.

When I buy art or prints, I just love to meet the artist and if i have a connection with them it makes me enjoy my purchase so much more.  Have you had any experiences like that?  either as an artist or as a buyer?  As an artist what is your favorite part of the process?  I’d love to hear about it!