Another tree sketch and wash

mesquite tree sketch and wash

mesquite tree sketch and wash

Still thinking of trees and experimenting with painting them.  Here’s an ink sketch done while waiting for one of the kids.  I was working on getting the colors and the light and only suggesting foliage, not defining every leaf.  It’s in a sketchbook so the paint reacts differently than on watercolor paper which is thicker and sized to accept the wet media.  Even so, it’s fun to put washes over sketches in the sketchbook.

You can see other tree paintings in previous posts: tree studies, winter trees, and trees and trunks.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thinking of trees

Winter branches Faywood

Winter branches Faywood

On my dog walks through the neighborhoods, I often think about trees…well really, I think about how to paint them.  They fascinate me with their different foliage, shapes, sizes, colors of green.  As the leaves have come in this spring, I’ve realized I didn’t get out quite enough during the winter when the leaves are gone, making painting trees easier and more fun.  The sketch and wash above was done at Faywood Hotsprings outside Deming, NM.

It’s really a form of mindfulness, to focus on an aspect of nature around you and really truly look at it.  When my kids were toddlers and life was way too hectic and harried to paint, I would practice mindfulness by finding something cool or interesting in every front yard or house on my route.  It’s amazing what you can find to revel in:  a cool shadow of a weed, the shape of a rock, a beautiful bloom (but that’s the easy part)…you get the idea.

different evergreens        nectarine tree      fuzzy tree

So anyway, back to trees, I decided to snap photos of trees that I see and really look at how I would show them in paint.  Trees are defined by their shape and their color, and important things to consider are the eye holes or the gaps where there isn’t foliage.  the “windows” of the tree.

You can see the left evergreen has more windows of sky that sweep in almost to the trunk and some of the branches are more lacy than others.  The evergreen further down the street has is chunkier, with different size windows.And not all the windows show sky of course, some show houses or dirt behind the tree.   And you would want to vary the shape and sizes of the different boughs, and windows, so that it doesn’t look uniform, even if in life it is uniform.

The middle photo is a nectarine tree and you can see how scraggly shaped it is and if you were painting it the trunk wouldn’t be brown but probably a darker form of green brown.

The fuzzy tree is there to show how it doesn’t have to be crisp and clear to paint from it, and perhaps it’s better because then you aren’t tempted to get bogged down in leaf detail which is really unnecessary and looks less professional to include.  See how those sky holes are very different with this tree.  Note how little of the branches you see before the foliage starts.  In some trees that is way more pronounced than in others. Take for example this palo verde tree in glorious spring bloom.

Palo verde in bloom      palo verde closeup

I’m intrigued lately with how to paint a palo verde against the deep blue cloudless skies we’ve had lately, and I’ve worked out a strategy, so stay tuned…on the right is a closeup of the flowers and rather insignificant greenery of the tree.  It’s name means green stick, and its trunk and branches are absolutely green.

So those are my tree thoughts for the day….what do you focus on when you walk?

Thanks for stopping by…

What color is white?

White Geranium. Plein air watercolor, framed to 8 x 10. $95

White Geranium. Plein air watercolor, framed to 8 x 10. $95

The opening of the Plein Air show at Sunland Art Gallery was fun last Saturday night. The show runs until the end of June, if you’d like to stop by and see it.  The hours are Tues-Sat 10-5 and the gallery is next to Tippi Teas in the Placita Santa Fe, at Doniphan/Mesa.

I wanted to talk a bit about this little painting that is one of the four I have in the show.

 The question is, how white is white? What color is it really?  If you look carefully at a white flower, or building, or any object, the sun hits it in different ways bringing out colors in the shadows that reflect other colors that surround it.  I took creative license and had fun charging in wet colors into other wet colors to create the shadows that form the flower and the foliage around it.  It is a challenge and a lot of fun to show that white isn’t really white!

Oh and before I forget, the print of Afternoon Farm by Tony Conner (which I blogged about recently) arrived today and it is even MORE beautiful in person than it is on the screen.  I am a very lucky person!

Tony Conner watercolor, or how lucky am I?


No, these are definitely NOT my watercolors — I only wish!  They are painted by Tony Conner, a watercolorist whose newsletter I subscribed to this spring.  It’s been fabulous to get postings several times a week on his paintings done plein air in watercolor and to learn from his technique and experience.  Be sure to check out his site:  His work is gorgeous, so rooted in place and light.

He randomly chooses a subscriber once a month to win a limited edition print, and I am SO lucky to be the chosen winner for May!  I had to pinch myself and read the email several times before I comprehended what it meant.  And then it was SO hard to choose.  Tony gave me permission to post pictures of several of his paintings on my blog for you to enjoy.
In the end I chose the Afternoon Farm painting on the left, but the very close runner up was Quiet (on the right).  Aren’t they both serene?  wow.  You can see the beautiful selection from which I chose  on his Limited Edition Prints page.


Local Arts scene: Jacques Barriac and Plein Air Painters

jacque_barriac_lotus_bird_butterfly_s 2ndplace_watercolor

The Lotus, The Bird and the Butterfly” watercolor by Jacques Barriac.

I will start by honoring my friend Jacques Barriac who painted this award winning painting:  “The Lotus, the Bird and the Butterfly” in watercolor.  It won 2nd place at the Art of Flowers show going on through May at the El Paso International Museum of Art.  If you get the El Paso Times, look in yesterday’s art section or see here.

Also, the first page of that section is all about the Plein Air Painters show opening this coming Saturday, May 14th from 5-7 at the Sunland Art Gallery at the Placita Fe shops on Doniphan. The full page spread in the newspaper included paintings by Candy Mayer, Dorian Clouser, Krystyna Robbins and Judy Crumley.

I will have four paintings in that show, all painted outdoors, or in plein air.  Those of you that follow my blog will see that I made some changes to the last one with the mountain view.   If you click on the photo you will see a larger view of the painting.

From left to right they are:  Walk with Me, White Geranium, Spring Morning, and Balcony View.

I hope you can stop by and see the show and enjoy some wine and cheese with us this Saturday night.  Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you!

Plein air perseverance

Morning dog walk.  watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Morning dog walk. watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Hi all.  Today’s post is on the value of perseverance with plein air watercolor.  Last Friday morning the group went out to a part of the trail along the Rio Grande in the upper valley, and it was beautiful….that is until the wind kicked up!  I’m not as excited about landscapes as I am detail work of flowers, seedpods, etc. so I almost thought…oh I won’t paint here today.  There’s nothing that interests me.  But I thought to myself, you should be able to find something to paint anywhere, just settle down Rachel!

ref photo rio grande plein air

Ref photo for Rio Grande trail

I thought the path had neat shapes and would draw you into the painting, and I liked the morning shadows, so I set up on the path, and had an idea on how neat I hoped the front salt cedar bush would be wet in wet.  Well, the wind had other ideas.  As I got some of the darks in wet and was trying to charge in other colors the wind grew fierce and it all dried much too quickly.  But I kept working and liked the rest of it.

set up rio grande plein air

Painting in progress along the Rio Grande trail

I let it sit for several days contemplating how/if I could fix it and would it be worth it.  I didn’t wan to overwork it, but decided it was worth the effort to learn how.  I moistened the bush and charged in other darks, letting colors mingle on the paper and strengthened the shadows across the path and lifted out some for texture.  After another day I thought I’d add the figure walking the dog since there were bikers and dog walkers up and down that day.  It was delightful to speak to them while painting and hear their reactions to the piece.

So that’s my story for today.  What I’ve learned from this and from working on other plein air paintings to finish is, whether or not the finished painting has merit, there’s always something to learn and to hopefully to better on the first go, the next time!

Ardovino’s take two

Ardovino's water tower #2

Ardovino’s water tower #2

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?

ardovinos 2 photo ref (1)

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 at Ardovino's

Sunday morning at Ardovino’s


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

2014-07-11 15.45.57

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….