Cloud Shadows and 30 in 30 day challenge announcement

watercolor of clouds and their shadows on mountains. done in a class with Marie Siegrist

watercolor of clouds and their shadows on mountains. done in a class with Marie Siegrist

Classes started up for another session with Marie Siegrist, a signature member of the New Mexico Watercolor Society and teacher in Las Cruces, NM. I’m enjoying taking classes with her weekly, and learning a lot. The very idea of having a class forces one (ME!) to get assignments done.

We started working on clouds the week before and my first two attempts were horrible. seriously. but the night before the next class, I thought...just get in on the paper, Rachel! and it turned out fairly ok. One neat technique she taught us was gently scrubbing out cloud areas (after it has all dried) with a clean toothbrush to get rid of hard edges, if not wanted, and help shape the clouds. So I’m fairly happy with this one, and am looking forward to lots more practice with clouds and water.

Speaking of that, I’m doing the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge starting September 1st. I did this in January, and learned a great deal from the daily practice. Not all paintings have to be (or can be) gallery material, but it’s an exercise to get me into the studio daily. I’ve decided my theme will be “Sea and Sky” so expect to see postings of water, clouds, sky, shells, and more in September.

And of course, the big deal for me is my art show tomorrow evening.  If you’re in town and can stop by, please do so.  I’ll have originals, framed prints and cards for sale.  See the events calendar on the right side column for more information.

Tuesday Tips #6 Acetate and our dog Tulie

Tulie. 11 x 15 watercolor of our schnauzer mix dog that thinks she rules the world!

Tulie. 11 x 15 watercolor of our schnauzer mix dog who thinks she rules the world!

Before I get to the tips, here is the finished version of Tulie, our schnauzer mix who has captivated our hearts. After having medium to large dogs, this little 12 pound dog has made me love lap dogs.  She has such personality and quirks, and she is so cuddly.  You can see the before version (and some in process photos from sketch to painting) at this post. Now she has a background and the right side of the portrait has darker tones showing the light coming in from the left.

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corner of clear acetate sheet with its paper wrapper

I used a clear sheet of acetate to figure out what colors I wanted in the background.  I tried out the dark blues and the siennas, and then decided to mix them in a wet in wet flow of colors.

Acetate is a really cool tool.  I read about it in The Watercolor Fix-It Book (vanHasselt and Wagner) a book I’ve mentioned before.  I got it at an art supply place for under $4, and found out that there are several types, so you want to ask for “acetate for wet media”.  It came in a 20″ x 25″ sheet with a white protective tissue wrapper and it can be used over and over.

Purple pigment on acetate over blossom

Purple pigment on acetate over blossom

I’ve included two examples here as a demonstration. The one on the left shows a rather garish purple (for this color scheme) that I tried over the top of a blossom to see how it would look to darken shadows, and then a more appropriate perylene maroon.  The pigments should be more of a cream consistency to stay in place on the acetate, but it all wipes off very easily with a wet paper towel.  I can see this coming in handy in lots of different ways.

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Perylene maroon as a darkening color for the center of this mexican red bird of paradise blossom

“Open Studio” event and sale!

Agave Shadows #2 Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Agave Shadows #2, 11″ x 15″ Watercolor.  Original sold but cards available.  Click on image to view larger.

I am excited to share a very bright spot in my week. Earlier this month I struck up a conversation with another customer at the beauty salon, telling her about my upcoming art show.  She asked to see some of my watercolors, so I brought up some images from my blog on my phone.  She was looking for a housewarming present and was interested in the Agave Shadows #2.  I quoted her a price, off the cuff, without thinking through the costs of matting and framing.

painting of aspens

“Winter Twilight”  Original sold but cards available.   Click on image to view larger”

Afterwards I texted her that I would honor the first price for her, but at the show the price would be higher to cover those costs.  We arranged for her to come to the house and I pulled out all my framed pieces and had them displayed.  It was an impromptu “open studio” event.   I was filled with nervous excitement, you know — the good kind of nervousness — and it went so well.  She purchased the two pieces I’ve shown here, and she kindly paid the higher price!   I am very grateful for her purchase and also glad to see the paintings go to a good home.

So I have my first collector of my watercolors (other than friends and family who have watercolor gifts) and I was doing the happy dance all day! It’s only two weeks to In the Mix art show (see the right side column for info). I have some framing left to do and also submitting pieces for the juried Arts International show — that deadline is in two days. yikes! with all the back to school activity and yardwork and other life stuff, it’s been a very busy week.

To organize what I have available, I created “Paintings Priced to Collect” a link from the top menu that shows them all in one place with prices for the originals.  I have enjoyed creating them, and have learned a lot from the process. I have priced them affordably so that you can have original artwork on your wall that makes you smile!  Also 5 x 7 blank cards are available with more designs coming soon, and they frame up nicely in an 8 x 10 mat and frame.

The darks and the lights: Travel sketches of palms


Study of palm trunk with canna. Done plein air with studio finishing. A learning piece.

The family and I went to Tucson for a couple of days and I had a lot of art time which was great.  I sketched in the hotel courtyard, and also from photos on my phone while in the car.  That was a great use of time!  I saw the local watercolor guild’s new gallery which was lovely, saw some great public art, and just soaked in the atmosphere.
Palm tree trunks (like pinecones) have always intrigued me.  I find them difficult to draw to understand and paint, but I guess for me that’s part of their allure.  And I adore the mixing of siennas/oranges and blues to make the various wood tones.

I did this sketch in my sketchbook one morning.

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sketchbook pages

The right side image of a palm was done sketching with the Elegant Writer pen that wets and bleeds the first time you touch it.  It adds a neat effect. Leslie White has fabulous paintings done with this pen,  Check out her blog.  Her dog piece is one of my favorites with this pen.

Another morning I attempted the plein air piece.  It may have gone better if it weren’t for the arrival of the flies when the humidity rose abruptly.  Ah the joys of painting outside!  

Cropped portion of palm trunk

Cropped portion of palm trunk

So I took it home and worked on it some more this morning.  It isn’t perfect by any means, but I learned a lot from it and will hopefully paint a better one, fresh in the studio. I like portions of it a lot, such as this cropped piece of it.

These two sketches were in a large sketchbook, done in the car on the way home from photos, and helped me understand the structure of the plant better.

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Trunk/canna sketch

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Trunk/canna sketch

I was reading a chapter in The Watercolor Fix-It Book (vanHasselt and Wagner) on alternation, or creating a checkerboard pattern of lights and darks in various interesting shapes through your piece.  So as I sketched, I was envisioning alternating lights and darks and enhancing those patterns with shadows on the surface.  I’m sure it will take me a long time to naturally include that concept in my work.

it’s a great book by the way.  The link takes you to a website called Worldcat, where you can put in your zipcode and find the book in a library near you.


Farmer’s Market Scapes

Farmer’s Market Scapes. 11″ x 15″ watercolor, unframed $95, matted $115. Click on image to view larger.

I’ve put the final touches on this painting and it will be one of the ones that I submit to the Arts International juried show this month.  This show allows submission of three pieces for one price, so it will be this, Contemplation (the water scene) and one other yet to be determined.

I cleaned up the edges on the scapes and brought out more of the light highlights and shadows, and pulled out some highlights in the kale.  This was challenging, and fun, and when I started, I never in my wildest imaginations thought it would have such a dark purplish background, but I think it makes the veggies pop.

It shines with a white double mat, and would make a lovely spot of color in someone’s kitchen!

And I have to tell you, the scapes (the curling tops of garlic plants) are quite tasty cooked and keep very well in the veggie drawer in the refrigerator.  I quite enjoy painting veggies and fruit.  I sense a series coming on….stay tuned…

I’m always glad to hear from you, so please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  Thank you for stopping by!

Contemplating one more time (and Tuesday tips)


“Contemplation 2”. 11″ x 15″ watercolor in progress. More wet in wet, less layers of pigment.

I’ve started another painting from the same photograph, and am trying a different approach with it. Here it is in progress, waiting for me to get back to it, and hopefully keep the same light loose feel to it.

I wet both sides of the paper (this time it was 140 lb, the first completed one was on the thicker 300 lb paper) and I started painting on it wet in wet, meaning flowing pigment onto the already wet paper, and then as the paper slowly dried, I kept using thicker pigment but still in lighter values to start to define the circles and ripples. I think it has a lighter feel than the first one had at this stage. I’m hoping to continue in the same mode and have a more transparent watery surface. It’ll be interesting to hear, when this is done, which one you like better.

So this is my usual Tuesday Tips day, and I don’t have anything formally prepared other than to work in series.  I felt so much more comfortable starting this one after completing the first.  I only drew small circles and the edges of where the dark and light would meet, and I found more circles in the painting than I had seen previously.

My second tip is to paint with other supportive people and give each other advice.  My friend Karen suggested on looking at this that I could suggest the circles, not necessarily complete all of them, to avoid the ‘bulls eye” look, and she was so right!  I lifted areas of paint in several places that left part of the circles “not closed” and I like the look better.

One of these days I will post paintings on this blog of my watercolor friends, so you can see their work too.

I enjoy hearing from you…and thanks for stopping by.

Contemplation: The surface and below…


“Contemplation” 11″ x 15″ watercolor inspired by the Contemplative Garden fountain at UTEP. Click on image to view larger. $99 unframed.

For today’s post I thought I’d give you a finished piece and its accompanying inspiration photo, and then a bunch of in process photos for you to see how this piece came together.

Photo of fountain's surface

Photo of fountain’s surface

I took the photo at UTEP’s Contemplative Garden and it’s the surface of a fountain created by dripping water off of bells above the surface.  You can see the fountain itself at the link for the garden.

contemplation 2 transfering

image printed close to full size on two pieces of paper to transfer.

contemplation 1 drawing

Initial drawing on paper, darkened so you can see the lines.

Because the photo was so dark, and I was using 300 lb paper (quite heavy), my lightbox wouldn’t work to transfer as I usually like to do, when I’m not freehand drawing on the paper.  So I printed out the photo on white paper in a size big enough for the paper, taped the edges together and used Saral transfer graphite paper to transfer the lines.

I was inspired to do this because the painting group I’m in was watching a Soon Warren video on painting koi ponds and I wanted to paint from my own photo.  So I followed her steps working with light washes put on with big brushes, drying it a bit with a hake brush, and then working on areas keeping some edges soft, some hard.

contemplation 3

First light washes of color. Darker dots are masking fluid, a rubbery liquid that dries hard and protects the paper underneath. Later that will be removed.

contemplation 4

after more washes keeping values in mind. darker at the top, in the shade.

contemplation 5

Further on in the process, putting in the dark areas in the bottom right.

So you can see the piece take shape.  Sometimes I lifted and softened edges, sometimes scrubbed out to get the texture of soft that the light on the water (front left) required.

I used many layers on this and lost some of the freshness that I want to get from watercolor, so I painted another in this, starting a series, with less layers, more wet in wet painting and I”ll show you that soon.

I didn’t use masking fluid for the highlights, because the edges dry so hard when you remove the masking.  and it looks artificial unless you soften the edges  a lot.  It’s easier to just lift small reflections from the paint and/or scratch highlights at the end with a calligraphy nib or little razor.

I also didn’t draw all the detail on the paper, because I feel a lot more familiar with the subject.  I got my circles placed and vague lines where I want the dark and light to meet.  More on that in the next post!


contemplation 6

Darker still but I don’t like the front left corner. edges are too hard.

contemplation 7

After a lot of scrubbing on the left corner to lighten and soften the edges, and putting in the brighter blue hues in the bottom right.

contemplation 8

Far along in the process, enough to remove the masking for the highlights of the water. the little white dots.  Note the flower is still masked.

I enjoy hearing from you.  Please let me know what you think, or ask any questions.  I’m in a hurry to get this post finished, and get back to painting, so I may not have been as clear as I wanted to be.  


Tuesday Tips #5: Painting Sizes

Painting of wren figurine.

Little Wren.  Framed to 12″ x 16″.  Click on image to view it larger.  $90.

These two pieces that I am framing for the show were painted on paper I cut small just to try something out.  And the something “to try out” turned out to be kind of nice!  Unfortunately when it came to framing, the paper size was 7 ½ inches by 11 inches, and you can see how that wouldn’t fit into a standard size mat.

The tip I have for you today is to be conscious of painting sizes.  You never know whether a painting may turn out well, so be sure to paint it in a size that can be easily matted in a precut mat.  Precut mats are usually available with an opening of 5″ by 7″, 8″ by 10″, 11 “by 14” , and so on.  These fit into readily available commercially made frames, which makes framing a more reasonable cost for you or your collectors.

painting of aspens

Winter Twilight.  Framed to 12″ x 16″.   Click on image to view larger.  $90.

If you don’t have a mat cutter, it will cost significant money and time to have one custom cut.  If you are interested in buying one, my friend recommends the Logan brand:

Watercolor paper comes in the 22 inch by 30 inch sheets.  So often what I do is to fold and tear these into fourths, which is called a quarter sheet (11 by 15 inches).  On several paintings I taped it to my Plexiglas Board which made a very nice white edging frame around the edges when I pulled the tape off.  It looked great!  But I had trouble with matting.

For this size, the best thing to do is to use a double mat whose outside dimensions are 16 by 20”.  Because it has that extra little bit of a second mat inside the opening, the opening is 10 by 13”.   If I had painted to the very edge of the paper that would’ve worked, but because I taped it on top, that white edge peeked out.

Painting to the edge

close up of edge painting

To fix this, I carefully lifted and blotted the sharp edge of the paint, let it dry and then continued the painting to the edge of the paper.  Now it fits inside the 10 by 13 opening with no white showing.  Here’s a close up of a fix of the edge. You can see a pale difference where the edge used to be, but at the edge of the mat, you won’t see it.  You can see the other edge is left alone because it fit well.

But really.  Repainting the edges of every painting  is not a good solution for the future!  I am now doing what Soon Y. Warren , a fabulous watercolorist, recommends: Make a double sided sticky tube with 2 inch wide masking tape. put a tube along all four edges on the backside, and press it to your board.  Paint to the edge.  It works like a charm!

Hope you’ve found this helpful.  Feel free to let me know what you think, and thanks for stopping by!

Happy mail days — The CARDS are here!

They have arrived! the printed 5 x 7

The printed cards have arrived!  Here’s a picture of them, fresh from the box, not yet folded.  The cards look so wonderful!  They have a slight glossiness to them, and I’m really pleased with how they look. They are $4 each, and are available directly from me or at the show on August 28th @ the Art Junction.

In preparation for the art show next month, a friend taught me how to frame my paintings and what supplies to buy.

Framing stapler and flexible staples

Framing stapler and flexible staples

Framing stapler and flexible staples

soft stranded finger friendly wire and triangle picture hooks

The tools that arrived are shown here:  dual point elite stapler that shoots staple type objects that come out in the FRONT of the unit rather than below.  It is much easier to shoot them into the wooden frame at the right angle to keep the mat, glass, and painting in place. The flexible staples let you remove the painting if necessary.

The wire is not the old fashioned kind that rips up your fingers when you twist it around the eye hooks.  The triangle hooks are flat, screwed in, with a triangle hook on a hinge to hang the wire from.

All this and more will be explained in a later Tuesday Tips post when I show you how the framing process goes.

And OH YES, the Splash 16 book arrived and I savored it.  Only allowed myself a certain number of paintings per day to drool over.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, Splash is an annual publication that highlights the best of that year’s watercolors and as usual, it did not disappoint!

contemplation garden utep (12)-002

Meanwhile, this is the photo from which I am painting these days. It is the surface of the Contemplative Garden fountain in the UTEP Centennial Gardens, one of my favorite botanical places in our city.

In a later post this week, I will have in process photos from drawing to whatever painting stage I am at. I may need to paint this, or similar water reflection pictures, 10-20 times before I start to do them justice.

Poll Results on printed card. Thanks for voting!

poll winners

The nine winners from the two polls. Thanks for voting!

Here are the poll results from last week’s polls (see here and here.)

The top winners of paintings that people voted to make into cards were:

Poll 1 (total 91 votes) I vote you make cards from:
C. Yucca Bloom 19.78%  (18 votes) 
E. Red Hot! 16.48%  (15 votes) 
J. Echeverria 14.29%  (13 votes) 
H. Little Wren 10.99%  (10 votes) 
A. Stumbled Upon 8.79%  (8 votes) 
G. Agave Shadows 8.79%  (8 votes) 
I. Listen. 8.79%  (8 votes) 
D. Garden Visitor 6.59%  (6 votes) 
B. Moment in Time 3.3%  (3 votes) 
F. Walk with me. 2.2%  (2 votes) 
K. I can’t decide. Make cards from all. 0%  (0 votes) 
Poll 2 (24 votes): I vote you make cards from:

A. Contemplation 16.67%  (4 votes) 

B. Winter twilight 16.67%  (4 votes) 
C. Better Days Ahead 16.67%  (4 votes) 
I prefer cards that are 5″ x 7″ 12.5%  (3 votes) 
I prefer cards that are 4.25″ x 5.5″ 12.5%  (3 votes) 
D. The Secret Life of Wrens 8.33%  (2 votes) 
F. A Fresh Start 8.33%  (2 votes) 
E. The Promise 4.17%  (1 votes) 
G. The Mommy Glove 4.16%  (1 votes)