Ardovino’s take two

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Ardovino’s take two.

I went out to Ardovino’s Desert Crossing on Monday morning to paint again, this time with a value sketch. Usually a value sketch makes the painting better for me, in my rather limited experience. I’m not sure if that was true this week.

I was joined by a painting “buddy”…  the dogs were let out and were busy tracking scents and saying hello to others.  All of a sudden I felt a little pressure on my shoe.  I looked down to find a dirty chewed wine cork on top of my shoe, and the sweetest little black/brown dog panting and looking at me…hey lady, do you want to play?

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Ardovino’s on site.

That’s all it took…I spent the next forty five minutes painting and throwing that wine cork all over creation for him to chase and bring back.  When I would ignore him, intent on a particular stroke, all of a sudden I’d feel the cork near my foot and the game would begin again!

Here’s a view of the painting on site.  Such a lovely place!

There are parts of the second painting that I like, and parts that I think are better in the first one.  over all,  I think I like view one better, below, which I’m calling Sunday Morning.  What do you think?  I’d love to hear your views.


Sunday Morning @ Ardovino’s in watercolor


Balcony View (plein air)


Balcony View of Franklin Mountains

This week I’ve been busy either painting plein air or finishing paintings that were started outside in preparation for an upcoming show.  The Plein Air Painters of El Paso group that I joined in spring has a show next month, and the stipulation is that the paintings have to be started plein air.  Well, let me tell you, this is a great incentive to finish paintings that I started on site and didn’t know either where to go with them, or thought they didn’t turn out well (so frankly there’s no harm in trying to fix them!)

Either way, the process of committing to taking a painting from “what could be” to a finished product, whether good or bad, is all LEARNING….so it’s all good.


Coming home stage after painting outdoors

This is a painting that I was kind of happy with when I came home, but didn’t know where to take it.  I talked it over with my teacher, Oween, and we discussed perhaps a unifying shadow along the bottom left that would balance out the bottom right shapes.  What bothered me was the diagonal lines that seemed to all point to the left corner.  I thought softening some lower points or edges might help along with the shadow.

She also suggested softening some edges, that not all had to be hard lines, and a new friend at the New Mexico Watercolor Society tea suggested ranges behind in the distance which were kind of suggested already.  Both of the ideas were good ones — it’s great to take works in progress and consider suggestions from other painters — I highly recommend it.

When I got into adjusting the painting I found that I enjoyed putting in other plant growth, suggesting other sharp rock edges, putting in the far mountains, and generally I think the changes helped keep your eye inside the painting. I lightened up some edges to suggest sun hitting the mountains in various places.

What do you think?  Click on the photo to see it larger and let me know what you like or what bothers you.

I’m calling it Balcony View because it was painted from a fifth floor balcony of the Fairmont Building near downtown.   The balcony wrapped around the building so some of the painters were doing a downtown view, and others were on the mountain side with me. If you can come to the show, you may see other views.

The show is called “Out and About in El Paso” and runs from May 4-June 29 at the Sunland Art Gallery, Placita Santa Fe on Doniphan St, El Paso.  To learn more about the show, check out the Plein Air Painters website.  I will have four pieces in the show and will blog about them in future posts.  Stay tuned!


Out at Ardovino’s

My painting friend Karen told me about the wild spring roses that were climbing up the water tower at the fabulous restaurant and, I think, El Paso treasure that is Ardovino’s Desert Crossing.  She was there a couple of days earlier in the late afternoon and saw so many possibilities to paint there.

This morning I took a drive out there and was so inspired but fell in love with (as usual) the shadows,, this time the shadows of the windmill on the watertower.

So here you’ll see the photo I took when I started sketching, the work in situ and then where it is right now.

I have so much to learn about plein air, and painting in general, but after going through my usual, oh my gosh this is horrible phase in the painting, I came out the other side feeling ok with it.  Are there parts I would like a “do over” on?  Absolutely, starting with the sky.  but tomorrow is another day and I may just sketch out another view and go out at the same time tomorrow and try it again!

Robert Ardovino couldn’t have been nicer, telling me I could paint all day if I wanted.  A waiter jokingly asked if his pose was ok, and brought me water.  The funky vintage vibe and beautiful landscaping of the place is crazy cool and I’ll definitely go out and paint some more there!

Thanks for stopping by…



Heart Palpitations over the Auction

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I am thrilled to announce that Red Bird of Paradise had different people bidding on it and sold for $180, more than I had on it for the suggested price.   This is my first donation to the KCOS auction, and as I watched other pieces before me go without bids, it was more and more stressful to wait my turn.  I thought I was getting heart palpitations!  After the bidding started, it was such a lovely feeling to watch the bids go up and to know that someone will enjoy my piece of art.  Makes me very happy.  And it’s a great donation to public TV which is important to me!

I don’t know if I will be told who purchased it in the end, but if you’re reading and you won the bid, I’d love to know your name!  Just for kicks, this is a photo of the piece in process….

Reeds: From sketch to study

For today’s post I thought I’d show a sketch in pen from my sketchbook and how I translated it into a small watercolor study.  It’s fun to play with colors that aren’t always quite THERE when you look in nature, for example the blues in this, but they add a level of complexity and interest.  I like the suggestion of what’s behind the reeds in this, and also how the rocks are suggested but not clearly defined.

While doing this I remembered several other points I learned in last week’s workshop with Carol Carpenter.

  • If you want to emphasize the whites or lights, put a dot or two of dark next to them.  I did that in this piece.
  • A palette tip on paint placement:  often the wells that hold one’s paint have slanted sides, and I put my blob of paint at the bottom and use the edges to wipe off the  brush.  What Carol does is place the paint blob near the top, on the upper edge and then she can swipe down the paint into the well and mix with water so you control how much water is mixed with your paint.  As the colors on my one palette in particular run out, I’m going to give that a try.

If you are local and are interested, please remember that my Red Bird of Paradise is going for auction at the local PBS station this Saturday, the 16th, from 3-3:30  Bidding starts at $60.

Thanks for stopping by!

Summer Cosmos


Summer Cosmos.  Watercolor.

Here’s another painting from the workshop with Carol Carpenter done from a photo of my cosmos from several years ago. These were some of the instructions we followed.

  • Show an odd number of items (more pleasing than even numbers)
  • Have their edges be interesting and varied
  • Make the objects big and near the edges of the painting.Having the items go out of the painting increases the realistic appearance.
  • Keep your brush on the paper using a circular motion to fade out the color and distribute it throughout, keeping soft edges
  • Allow a “window” of lighter color so the scene doesn’t feel claustrophobic
  • Don’t put items at the corners that could lead the viewer’s eye out of the painting (a pointed leaf or stem, for example)
  • Vary the colors by charging in heavier pigment into a wet area to have them blend on the page.  An example of this is the blue shadow under the bottom flower on the right.
  • Bring your background sometimes over the objects to soften the edge.  An example of that is the top right petal of the bottom flower.
  • Put more detail at the focal point which for me is the top flower.  See how much more detailed the top center is than the other two?  The one at the bottom left is the least detailed.

And I’m going to add an extra point I learned from a video with Jake Winkle   His work painting animals is expressive and wonderful.  Thanks to my friend Frances for introducing him to our group.  One of his comments that stuck with me was: Accept the marks you make.  So don’t second guess yourself, paint each brush stroke purposefully and don’t fuss with it if it isn’t exactly right.

For me that happened in the top right blossom where the center and petal colors flowed together and my first inclination was to blot it out but I let it go and it’s now my favorite part of the piece.

I hope you enjoyed hearing the process and tips.  It helps me to write it down again, to learn it all over again and my plan this week is to reinforce it with another couple of paintings keeping all this in mind.  It should be a fun week! Thanks for stopping by… I enjoy hearing from you.



Workshop notes

Yesterday I took day one of a watercolor workshop with Carol Carpenter, and I really enjoyed loosening up with her exercises and seeing her brushstrokes and how she approaches a painting.  She gave us copious notes on all aspects of what she was showing us which was very nice.

The top two are exercises in softening edges of circles, changing the shape, going back in and adding if you wanted…some became  flowers.  The second is called “three amigos”.  blobs of three colors which became torsos with the addition of heads and legs and their shadows…all done while holding the brush high up on the handle to loosen up. I used a dagger brush for these.  way fun!

Another exercise was to make a painting of three flowers in 15 mins with using only 15 brush strokes….this keeps you thinking of how to get colors spread out and keeping the brush on the paper. she does this exercise to warm up several times a week, and I can see how helpful it would be to incorporate into my studio time.

The bottom is an in process piece of snow on mountains in shadow.  I’ll do more work on this today.

KCOS Auction: Red Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise watercolor

Bird of Paradise

I’m excited to announce that I will have a piece of art in the KCOS auction to benefit our local PBS station.  I’ve been a member of the El Paso Art Association for over a decade, and every year I got the call or letter, asking for art donations.  With my hectic life raising kids and all that entails, I never had work to offer.  But this year was different!  so exciting…

The auction will be held next Saturday and Sunday on Channel 13, and you can preview all the art and see the time it will be auctioned at their site.

Red Bird of Paradise will be up for auction on Saturday, April 16th from 3-3:30.  The starting bid is $60.  I hope you can tune in to support this great cause!

Garden wall shadow

Garden Wall Shadow Rachel Murphree watercolor (1)

Garden Wall Shadow, watercolor  in progress




I haven’t written a newsy post on the process of painting in such a long time.  I’ve thought the posts in my head, but haven’t gotten to the keyboard to upload photos etc.  So here’s an overdue post on today’s plein air excursion.

I went to the Chihuahuan Desert Garden at UT El Paso, a fabulous jewel of a place, to paint. I was captivated by the shadow of a penstemon stalk against the garden wall.  Here are a Penstemon_shadow_rachel_murphree_photo_ref (2)few of my reference photos.

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I did some color studies to see if the permanent rose as a base for the penstemon blooms would cover the pale yellow/orange and it did.  If not, I would have had to consider masking out the pink blooms and waiting for that to dry before beginning.  Meanwhile the light and shadow would be constantly changing, and besides I didn’t have an older brush that I could use to form the bloom shapes accurately.

UTEP plein air setup (2)UTEP plein air setup (1)

Here’s my set up and palette when I finished.  I love the deep shimmer of the purples.



And now the in process shots as this study progressed:

I really like the blending of the deep rich colors of the shadow, and the liveliness of the lines and shapes.  in squinting at the values in real life, the shadows were almost that dark compared to the sun struck blooms but I didn’t quite capture the blooms as well as I wanted.  I predict more sketching time is necessary!

I think it has potential to keep working on, perhaps glazing over the background and the shadow with a light wash of the yellow/orange to integrate the shadow more into the background, OR put a cooler blue glaze over the same area to set it back.

I will have to think on this more, but all in all, it was a good morning because I learned and enjoyed…and made myself a large note to bring my binoculars next time!  with beautiful native plants and water features, the bird activity was great but I couldn’t do more than catch glimpses of the warbler singing beside me.

And now I’m off to the Branigan Center in Cruces to see the Spring show of the NM watercolor society chapter…my painting Contemplationand it will be fun to see it displayed with the other watercolors.

Make your own Accordion Fold Travel Journals for watercolor sketching

I think this idea is really inventive and i intend on giving it a try…

Citizen Sketcher

For a while now, I’ve been wanting try making my own accordion fold watercolor sketchbooks.

We are doing the last minute planning before our Portugal workshop – so this seemed like the perfect time to decide if I’ll be bringing these with me.

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So I quickly bashed one together, and took it to a local life drawing workshop. This was a terrific three model costume drawing event hosted by the CCGV for Montreal’s Nuit Blanche festival.

I didn’t go as far as making a fancy binding or rigid cover for this – that’s certainly an option if you’re a craftsy type – this booklet is literally just a single sheet of watercolor paper, cut and folded following a pattern. (See below). It only takes 5 minutes to make one, and that’s the kind of convenience I’m looking for.

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To me, the main advantage of this process is choosing your own paper. I  made this 5.5×7.5″ booklet…

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