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 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.

Rose blossom

Pale white backlit rose blossom

Backlit rose blossom. Available. Click on image to view larger.

This painting was from a class taught by Penny Simpson from Las Cruces, NM.  She provided us a lovely photograph and a drawing to transfer to our paper.  It’s about 6.5″ x 12″ and is on a heavier watercolor paper (300 lb).

The process is to paint the black background first with acrylic paint which gives a crisp edge to the focal point and then paint the central design.  I used mostly wet in wet techniques with pale washes.  I got the first layer down and realized the underside of the petal on the right (with the various colors) was deeper than the others.  so I carefully re-wet those lighter petals and added deeper washes on them to balance it out.

It is difficult to get that kind of stark dark coverage with watercolor alone, but I have read there are other ways (here’s one from a Daniel Smith email ) so I’d like to experiment more with both. Nanci from our class brought in black gesso which also worked really well.

Penny was the one I wrote to around the holidays asking if she taught private lessons, and she doesn’t but directed me to the local group run by Jacques Barriac.  Being with them has opened up lots of other doors and I’ve found lovely people to paint with.  It’s been a great experience.

Penny will be with us for three more weeks, and tomorrow’s painting will be a pair of wine bottles.  Please be sure to check out her link; you will love her work!

Asparagus: Which would you choose?


Asparagus spears. watercolor 7.5″ x 11″ Available. Click on image to view larger

wet in wet watercolor

Wet in wet painting of asparagus. Watercolor 4″ x 11″. Available. Click on image to view larger.

After doing some studies on painting asparagus, yesterday the work came together in these two rather different pieces.  Both have wet in wet elements, but have different feels.  Do you have a preference?  I’ve polled my household, and so far there’s one vote for each.

The upper one is a wet in wet background, made by wetting the paper with water and when it’s settled in, stroking on blues and yellows and then sprinkling some salt on it while wet.  That’s what makes the sparkly areas.

After that I painted in the spears letting the various greens merge and then scraped aside the areas of the tips and along the stem, and then went back in and lifted some color using a damp brush to model the shapes more.

The second one is completely wet in wet.  Paper wet, colors in and then using thicker and thicker puddles of pigment I build up the shapes of the spears, did some scraping, and then some painting when it was dry.

Which one do you like better?  Thanks for stopping by…

Stop and rest

Watercolor painting

Stop and Rest. Forest scene with rock. Click image to view larger. Available.


Here’s the second piece from Wednesday’s class on creating textures and fixing problem areas.  The instructions were a rock with grasses in front and lots of green behind, letting rich colors run in the background.

I posted a picture below of what it looked like when I came home.  The rock was floating, flat bottomed like some weird space hovering.  I didn’t like the grasses.  I can’t wrap my head around yet how to negatively paint the tops of grasses to get them to be thin blades, and I liked some colors in the mixing but the blues were too prominent and separated in the forest.

painting at early stages

How it looked after the class. it needed some help!

So I did some scrubbing out of edges with a coarse hair cheaper acrylic brush that I cut down to make a stiff ridge, painted down over the tops of the grasses and then pulled up with a palette knife to get the grasses I wanted.  added more color in the background, tried to create masses of bushes/trees with spattering of water, etc.  

While I wish that I had gotten this look earlier on so that it looked fresher and less worked, I’m glad I rescued it.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!   Thanks for visiting. 

Drop me down right here please…

Painting of grasses, little house and mountains in distance

High mountain meadow. Click on image to view larger.

In yesterday’s watercolor class we learned about techniques to make texture, and blending colors together on the paper.

You can pull out grasses, tree trunks, etc. by dragging a flat object (credit card edge, chiseled end of brush handle, etc.) to make grasses or tree trunks, and the amount of moisture in the area of the painting will determine if the scrapings pull back to a lighter paper (done when the area has lost its shine) or fill back in with the surrounding moist paint and get darker (if done when it’s wet).

This was a scene where we had instruction to put in the background sky, trees, house and then do grasses in front. I worked on it a bit at home as well.