Help me name this painting…

Watercolor of rocks and flowers by Rachel Murphree

11″ x 15″ watercolor of mexican poppies, prickly pear and rocks. Click on image to view larger.

So, as promised, here’s the finished painting from the photo I shared in the last post. I took artistic liberty with some of the rocks to make it a better composition.

This was definitely a painting that was giving me fits as it progressed.  It had its long moments of “adolesence” when all seemed to be a bit off, but it came together in the end.  When I paint this again, I will know better how to do it from the start, and not have to lift out so much color and repaint.  That makes it seem overworked to me, and not the spontaneous look I’d prefer.

But I think the discipline of continuing on when it got difficult, realizing problems and fixing them, is worthwhile, both in painting and in real life — don’t you think?

As of now, the working title is Poppies’ Rocks but I’m thinking there has to be a better title. What do you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions for a name for it.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your thoughts…

Happy mail day today!

black velvet brushes to try out

Synthetic squirrel blend brushes

Today was a fun mail day. A package came from Dick Blick with new brushes that had come with good recommendations from several people, including folks on the Watercolor Workshop facebook group.   I am in LOVE with these black velvet brushes! Wow. They are a mix of squirrel and synthetic, hold a lot of paint and have a wonderful point. Perfect for the brushwork I want to practice and perfect to make blossoms of all shapes.

A local artist had suggested that I should buy sable hair brushes, but I’m just not ready to commit that much money to a brush. The black velvet seems like a reasonable alternative that is a step up from the other synthetics I already have.

So there’s a 1″ oval (the thick one in the middle) and a #10 round on top.  The striper at the bottom is lovely to make thin lines that become thicker and then thin again, depending on the pressure you place. There’s also a thin script brush.  The white brush is called a comb and it makes the thin edges of grass quite nicely. I am doing a happy dance having such fun playing with my new tools.

watercolor of red bird of paradise bloom by Rachel Murphree

Red Bird of Paradise watercolor from 2013

The package also had some new colors, that I’m in the process of combining with other colors and making color charts.  One of which is Pyrrol Scarlet which is the lovely strong red that’s in the middle of the practice page behind the brushes. I can see this working wonderfully with Pyrrol Orange to make the Red Bird of Paradise blossoms that fascinate me.  I did this painting several years ago and feel that I understand both watercolor and the blossom so much better now. This is definitely a subject on my to do list to paint again this summer.  The next painting will be much more clear and light and more like the watercolor I am aiming for!  I will probably paint this more than once!!  Painting in a series is so helpful because it deepens my understanding of the subject and the colors chosen.

We all grow up thinking that red and blue make purple, and they do, but it’s fascinating to see what kind of purples this red makes or *doesn’t* make with the seven or eight blues I have.  they are more of a grayed purple for sure.  More on that later…

Photograph by Rachel Murphree

Photograph of poppies in the rocks

And lastly, here’s a photograph from which I am working and will hopefully post the finished painting this weekend.  so I’ll leave you with this for now….

Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you.  If you’ve had experience with these brushes, or would like to share how you use pyroll scarlet, please leave me a comment!


A Moment in Time

"A Moment in Time"  watercolor painting of driftwood and leaf by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor painting 11″ x 14″. Click on image to view larger

This is a painting I have attempted several times since I took the picture seven years ago. Our family was with another family playing on a sandy beach of the Rio Grande up in Rio Rancho, NM. I captured a lot of photographs that day including many nature shots. I’m calling it “A Moment in Time”. The driftwood piece is done in walnut ink and watercolor, the rest is watercolor. I appreciate all the suggestions from friends and teachers to get this to where it is. I have a feeling I will paint it again and again!

The title felt “right” for this painting, but as I decided it, I realized every painting capturies a moment in time, and I’m doing my best to translate the experience in paint and paper.

Please feel free to share this post, or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.

Woodpecker on Feeder

11″ x 14″ watercolor with pen and ink. Click on image to view larger.

Here’s a watercolor with pen and ink detailing in places. It’s a glimpse into my back garden and the feeder I have to attract woodpeckers (one of my favorite birds). This is part of the view from my studio windows.  As I’m typing now there are at least a dozen birds chowing down on the bird buffet in my backyard!

It was fun to do some detail with ink, I will probably try this technique again.

Please feel free to share this post, or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.

Walk with me?

Walk with me.  Cholla blossom watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor of cholla blossoms, 11″ x 14″ Click on image to view larger.

The cholla cactus attaches very easily to passersby, and it is never a fun experience for the human or animal. It’s much more fun to enjoy it from afar. Its common name is Walking Stick, and it’s one of my favorites.

This is the product of plein air painting on mother’s day in my side garden. It took me a while of  trial and error, to find my technique to show you the character, spines and spirit of this cool plant. This plant hangs its head over my side wall into the sidewalk below, and it makes me smile as I start my dog walk this time of year. I plan to paint it from that angle as well, backlit by the sun.

This one  will be framed and put in August’s show.  As it gets closer, I’ll give you the dates and location.  I may consider putting it in a square frame.  We’ll see….

Thanks for stopping by.

Yucca Bloom finished for August’s Show!

Yucca bloom in watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor on Arches 300 lb rough paper. 11″ x 14″

I’m thrilled to announce that this painting is finished. It was a lot of fun to put in the darks around the bloom and then go in and add details to the dried blossoms on top and really define each cup of the bloom and their shadows.

This piece is 11″ x 14″ and will frame up to be 16″ x 20″. It will be for sale in the members show of the El Paso Art Association that will be held in late August. I will be exhibiting 8-10 pieces and sharing one of the gallery rooms with another painter. Exciting! and a bit nerve wracking….

As the months go by, I will probably be taking polls on which pieces you think I should hang. It’ll be fun to hear what you think…

thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear from you.

Better Days Ahead

"Better Days Ahead".  Sunflower watercolor by Rachel Murphree

“Better Days Ahead”.  Watercolor Sunflowers painted from life. Click on image to view larger

This week was my sweet in laws’ 64th wedding anniversary.  Just imagine being married that long!  wow.

It was a quiet day at home because my father in law is recovering from a heart attack and pacemaker implant. While he was in the hospital, my mother in law and I bought sunflowers to cheer us up, so I thought I’d paint them. They were droopy in real life, but that doesn’t matter when painting, I could imagine them vibrant and full of life.

Their better days are in the painting, and our better days are ahead!. Charles is getting stronger every day and we are so thankful.

Art: A Visual Conversation

"Peaceful Spot"  watercolor by Rachel Murphree

“A Peaceful Spot” This is taken from my imagination, a peaceful spot I’d love to visit and contemplate. Click on image to view larger

I read a thought provoking essay recently and wanted to share it.   The author/artist, Sharon Griffes Tarr, said:

“If we who make art were to talk more to folks about the fact that our art is a visual conversation with them, that it expresses our love, emotion, feelings, ideas and concepts about the world we live in than folks might be able to connect. If they understood that art does for the eyes and soul the same thing that music does for the ears and soul, they might understand that it is for everyone, not just the rich.”

and she goes on to say:

“Imagine if you will, that in 2015, we artists were to make a collective effort to help teach the children in our communities the concept of art being a visual conversation. If we were to discuss this idea with the adults we come in contact with perhaps we could begin to make a difference….Perhaps we could even have an impact on school administrators who are so quick to cut fine art budgets … ”

I just love her analogy to art and music.  you don’t need a formal education in music to appreciate it and have it move you.  The same applies to art!  Such a powerful idea to spread.

You can read her essay on her blog.

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 by Rachel Murphree

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.