Yucca bloom step by step

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

The painting as it stands now… Click on image to view larger

My friend Susie suggested that I might want to post a painting in stages so ya’ll  could see the process as it develops. What a great idea! but I often don’t remember to snap the photo. But in this case I have.

Here’s where the Yucca Bloom painting stands now.

These are the photos I’ve taken on which the painting is loosely based.  I like the closeup but not how washed out the sun on the blossoms made them.

photo photo

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Wet in wet wash that will become the bell shaped flowers of the yucca bloom. Click on image to view larger

Scroll down to see the painting as it has developed thus far.  It’s a lot of fun to tease out the images by creating either hard lines by damping one side of a stroke of paint, or soft lines by painting wet in wet to form the bell shape of the blossom.  Fun to create magic by making something 2D look 3D.  I love it!

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Some darks in the dried blossom area. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Continuing blossoms. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

More blossoms and the stem sketched in. I expect to do darks or stems in the rest of the areas. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Blossoms done in bulk and stem and other stalks started. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Now some of the darks are going in and I can see the lights start to “pop”. Click on image to view larger

Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear from you if you liked this explanation or have any questions…

Plein air at Krystyna’s house

Four foot high water jar by beautiful Indian Hawthorn shrub

Four foot high water jar by beautiful Indian Hawthorn shrub.  Click on photo to view larger.

Rachel painting in beautiful garden

Lovely gardens in paint in. So relaxing!

Painting outdoors

Me painting outdoors

Plein air watercolor in progress

Plein air watercolor in progress.  Click on image to view larger.

Last Friday I went out with the local Plein Air group, artists that get together to paint outside in any medium (for example pastels or oils, acrylics, etc.) and in most weathers! The invitation was to go to a member’s house and paint in her beautiful gardens. Krystyna was so gracious and welcoming.

It was a treat just to be there, and have so many wonderful sights to choose from. The beauty was almost overwhelming, especially because I almost talked myself OUT of going because I didn’t feel “ready” and I didn’t have an easel. Turns out what I had worked just fine.

I picked this lovely Indian Hawthorn shrub in full bloom with a gorgeous at least four foot high water jug in front. One reason it was so attractive to me was that the area I would be in was shaded. I figured I would want to be comfortable to be able to paint and try to capture the moment.  Being new to plein air, I didn’t think to go back and photograph the area as the sun started hitting areas.

I didn’t want to tackle painting the whole area, so I concentrated on the part of the jar that caught my attention and also used license on where to place the blooms. It is a phenomenal experience to be outside and have all the sights and smells and sounds and they are seared into my brain when I look at the painting!

It was especially nice to get feedback from Dorian who came to our group earlier this spring and did some lessons. She advised me to put in my shadows. So I’ve fiddled with this some more since I brought it home, but the shadows are still not finished.

My sun is coming from the top left and hitting the top of the top bunch, the leaf, the top of the water jar handle and a bit of the bottom bunch.  and it’s early morning, so the shadows will be long and cool, even if the sun only brushes the tips.  I’m going to out in my yard tomorrow and observe what I see in other shadows, and do my best.  After all, it’s only paper right??  It was a super learning experience and I’m going to out next Friday as well and see where the day takes me!

Thanks for stopping by.  I’d love to hear your comments.  oh yes, and thanks to another painter friend Jacques for allowing me to use the photos of me that he took.

Agave Shadows #1 and #2

Watercolor painting of agave plants and shadows

Agave Shadows #1, done mostly dry on wet. 10″ x 12″ Watercolor. Available. Click on image to view larger.

These plants and their early morning shadows captivated me on my walk and I have tried several times to capture the moment.  Here are the latest attempts, #1 that was done painting the spears of the plants as positive images and then doing shadows and background.

Watercolor painting of second version of agave plants and shadows

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

#2 is done largely wet in wet with light colors of warm yellow and blue green and then when totally dry, I went in with the darks and negatively painted the shades around the spears, almost “carving” them out of the background.

In progress painting of agave shadows

Agave shadows in progress. Note wet in wet side that doesn’t have the darks to form the shapes.

To show you what I mean, here is a picture of it in progress. On the right is what the whole paper looked like initially, soft spongy lines of color and white on the bottom. On the left is the agave being discovered or carved out of the background. It’s a confusing process to get my head around, so sometimes I resort to turning it upside down which makes it easier to draw because you are just drawing shapes, and not thinking about drawing a spear, or anything else for that matter. So I’ll show you that here:

upside down orientation

Upside down in progress painting of agave shadows

This is an exercise you can use to perfect your drawing skills too. I’ve seen it in various places. Take a photograph of someone, turn it upside down and attempt to draw it that way. when drawing the nose, for example, you won’t be thinking “nose” you will be thinking only of the geometric shapes to form the nose when the drawing is right side up.

Thanks for stopping by and checking in with me. I’d love to hear if you prefer #1 or #2 and why. After I’ll tell you which I prefer!

Oh the greens of spring!

Painting in watercolor

Forest Spring watercolor 9″ x 12″. Click on image to view larger.


texture enhanced with rice paper collaged on top prior to painting

I truly enjoyed capturing the logs and rocks in vibrant dark colors in this view of spring in the forest. It was done rather quickly, playing with darks, and then tweaked a bit later to pull out some rocks. This was from a class taught by Marie Siegrist in Las Cruces where we randomly placed sheer rice paper along the foreground and then painted on top. You can see the threads and textures of the rice paper more in the closeup. The darks help make the light greens and pale sunlight pop. I believe I will enter this in the Colors of Spring local show.

Painting makes all kinds of daily activities interesting, even the mundane driving of kids back and forth to school and other activities. I find myself looking at trees and bushes and seeing how sometimes the branches appear in front of the foliage, and other times behind it. Another thing is noting how much of the sky shows through the foliage…and then thinking about how I would paint what I see. And have you noticed that the lightest part of the foliage is usually at the top, because it is nearer the sun? but sometimes the section of the bush protrudes enough so that light hits the top of it even if it is in the middle of the height of the bush. Fascinating how painting has opened my eyes!

I hope my thoughts will make your drives and walks more enjoyable. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to share or comment!

Storm clouds approaching

Storm Clouds Coming.  8" x 10"  Watercolor  Click on image to view larger.  Available.

Storm Clouds Coming. 8″ x 10″ Watercolor Click on image to view larger. Available.

Can you feel the storm rolling in?

This was final painting in a watercolor class offered by Oween Rath through the OLLI program at UTEP. I enjoyed the class. It gave me a refresher course on the basics which never hurts, and I learned some new skills as well. One thing in particular that I appreciated is that we painted from quite rough minimal sketches which really worked well for me. I didn’t feel the pressure of a photograph and all its details imposed on me. We worked from a skeletal framework to create what we in our own minds. I found it an effective teaching technique.

Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave me a message or share the post.

Plein air in Tucson

watercolor of saguaro cactus

Saguaro cactus plein air, painting outdoors, in watercolor. Click on image to view larger

For spring break, we took the kids to Tucson where we did tons of fun things, including rock climbing for the kids, biking for several of us, and painting and visiting botanical gardens for me. This was my second attempt at plein air painting, or painting outdoors, and I went out four times on the trip, but this painting was the most successful. I got the basics down while I was outdoors and then the following week worked on darkening areas and putting a pale bluish wash over some of the limbs to make them “fall back” in your vision to bring others forward. Also lifted up some paint to lighten areas because in keeping track of everything going on, including paint drying even faster in the sun, I didn’t keep the lighter areas as well as I needed.

All in all a very good learning experience. I’m definitely going to try more plein air painting because I remember all the sights, smells, sounds, of the experience when I look at the painting.

Saguaros are the signature plant of the Sonoran desert and they are amazing creatures, reaching great heights over decades (they are very slow growing), in the harshest desert climate. They provide shelter and homes to birds and animals who nest in holes created by other animals. They grow an inch or two in the first decade; the “arms” don’t start branching out until they are 50 yrs old. This one was over 6 ft tall in the front yard of the house where we stayed. There’s tons more info at the link if you’d like to learn more about these really cool large cacti.

Photo taken at the  Tucson Botanical gardens

Saguaro and tree interlocked

Here’s a photo I took at the Tucson Botanical Garden (neat place if you’re visiting!) where you can see that the saguaro has grown up interlocking with another tree.  Often saguaros spring up beside a “nurse” tree that helps protect it from the elements.

Here are some more beautiful cacti photos from the botanical gardens.  Click on them to view larger if you want to explore.

Feel free to share, reblog or comment! I’d love to hear from you and thanks for stopping by..

photograph of cactus

Photo of Mexican Fire Barrel cactus at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Cactus photo

Photo of golden barrel crest cactus from Mexico

Cactus photo

Didn’t catch the name of this type of prickly pear but I loved the light catching the new growth

Encouraging rejection

barn in snow watercolor

“Snowy Day” watercolor painting from PMP photograph by Rodney Campbell. Click on image to view larger.

Back in January I submitted these two paintings to the Courage Kenny holiday card contest.

I have frankly forgotten about doing this, but this week I got email rejections for both.  But the Snowy Day email included  ” …we would like you to know that your art (listed above) was among those in the final review”.  So that’s encouraging!

Loose version of red ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  Watercolor

Loose version of red ornament hanging on the Christmas tree. Watercolor.  Click on image to view larger.

and *I* would like to encourage any artists reading this blog to put yourself out there!  getting that rejection was a nice uplift for me….and have you heard how many rejections writer Stephen King piled up before he became widely read?

I found out about the call for entries from CAFE — Call for entry.org that sends emails updating you on various art opportunities based on your specifications.  I would not have known about it otherwise.

New Mexico Wines

Watercolor of wine bottles  by Rachel Murphree

“New Mexico wine” Watercolor. 10″ x 14″. Click on image to view larger.

I am calling this finished, after working on it today at group.  I never would have thought I could paint glass and reflections, but it’s really great what a slew of classes and consistent practice will do.  This was from a class taught by Penny Simpson, and I’m so glad that I was able to take it because it pushed me to try something new and difficult, even though I was half frozen with fright after getting down the black background, and looking at attacking the glass.

My favorite part is the cork for some reason…

Thanks for checking in with me.  Glad to have you visit!

Oh yes, and the artist that said paintings have an adolescent stage is Jan Hart.  Her work is wonderful if you haven’t seen it…

Adolescent Art

watercolor painting

In progress watercolor of agave plants and their beautiful shadow

No, these paintings were not done by my adolescents, but *they*  are adolescents!   A new friend of mine said a workshop instructor said that all paintings go through this phase, a perhaps “ugly” phase, or not complete, where you as the artist are frustrated, worry it won’t come out well, or want to ditch the painting. I wish I could remember the artist’s name to credit him or her.

watercolor painting

In progress watercolor of wine bottles.

I find this quite a comforting thought as I face my pile of started paintings from various recent classes and also my attempts at plein air painting (painting outdoors) last week.

I think I will work on the wine bottle painting today when we meet to paint as a group. The plan is to mix a watery pigment puddle and carefully brush it over the existing bottles, one at a time, and selectively soften the edges of the reflections in the glass. I’ve put this off for two weeks, while we were on spring break with the kids, but now I will have to address it.

It’s ONLY PAPER after all…I have to keep telling myself that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wow, you’ve changed!!

2015-03-03 11.19.30

Step 1 of the painting of Agave shadows. A work in progress….

Well, *I haven’t changed, but the look of my blog has!

I realized the other day that the “theme” for my blog, one of many provided by wordpress, doesn’t show up well on mobile devices, such as tablets or smart phones.  I had a choice of changing text and doing other stuff, and I thought…no, let’s go for another theme, one that shows off the artwork and is more simple in its approach.  I stumbled on this one, named Spun, and really liked it.

I like the circles highlighting each post on the home page, and also the ability to easily display paintings in various categories (at the top right) such as flowers, landscapes, etc.

This blog, as my painting, is a work in progress.  As is the photo here on this post.  This is the first stage of a piece I’m working on now, and I’m hoping to show you more in progress shots and the finished piece within the next day or so.

So do you like the changes?

update to this: I changed the blog away from spun for several reasons and am still playing around with getting the one I’d like that also works well on mobile devices.