Mesquite Shade — Day 20


Over the past couple of days I’ve worked on a larger more detailed version of the mesquite shade value sketch that I blogged about earlier.  There are parts of it I’m happy with, and some I am not.  I need more practice on foliage for one.  The other is that it looks like the rock wall/bench is higher and slopes down toward the foreground, and I’m puzzling over how to make it look flat.  Any suggestions?

Here’s the photo reference again:

Mesquite Shade_pencil_value_sketch _rachel_murphree_watercolor (3)

photo and pencil value sketch possibilities


And here are various stages in the process:

For the underpainting I used cobalt and pyroll orange.  It has a pinkier look to it, a variation from the underpainting colors of cadmium orange and cobalt that I learned in the Michael Riordan workshop last fall.  I painted around the lightest lights and put the orange into the areas that would be warmer.

For the greens, I consulted some color charts I’d done earlier in larger blocks on my paper (as opposed to the teeny tiny squares I did when I was a novice and didn’t “get” the value of color charts) The top row is hansa as the first layer, the second as new gamboge, the third has lemon yellow laid down first.  I decided the mid summer warmth of the foliage would be best made with new gamboge.


And here’s the last in process photo.  You can see that I took the foliage area and at times went over the edges iof the branches of the trunk, but I knew that the browns would be able to cover those edges and make them thicker.

mesquite_shade_in_process (1)

Stage 3 of mesquite shade

As always, I welcome comments and constructive criticism, and thank again for stopping by!

21 thoughts on “Mesquite Shade — Day 20

  1. I’m so impressed with all the background work you are doing before wetting your paper. The color samples and the layering are so very helpful to my understanding.
    As for the rock wall, I wonder if maybe the visual tipping is because the top of your wall seems wider than it appears in the photo. Just a thought. Without the photo, I wouldn’t be able to make any comment on it.


    • I think the background stuff is a fun part of the process, and at least at this point in my studies, it is good for me to spend time doing that. Professional artists do quick thumbnails and have the accumulated knowledge of years to get the values right. So this is my accumulation time… I will look at the rock wall and compare with the photo. Thanks!


  2. Rachel,

    Several suggestions: a) Suggest adding (lifting) slivers of light to the upper sides of the branches to show sunlight falling on them, b) would vary the shape of the branches more so they look more natural and less like fingers on a hand, c) the stone wall/bench slopes down due to showing too much width of the topside of it, especially the farther half. Thinning the width of the area where the sun falls would make it appear more even with your eye level. Also, the bottom edges of the stone sections slant and angle down more than in your photo. Hope those ideas help.

    Regards, BJM Barbara McGuire MD FACP MMM 505-235-1375

    Let the beauty we love be what we do. ~ Rumi


  3. Rachel,
    I like your work on capturing the light, and here the cool colors of stone and foliage that you pulled out of the scene are expressive. That’s a big part of its beauty (like you did with the water ripples in your show entrant piece, wonderful). I have a few thoughts on the sloping effect, if you’re inclined to experiment. The first is the shadow under the squarish boulders could be much thinner (it currently lends to the effect of a drop-off). This is just about the only place where we can see the slope of the daylight sun. If you follow Barbara’s suggestion of putting scant highlights on the tree trunk you will add to the depth perception that started at the boulders. Third, while the path area is a 2nd medium value relative to the tree trunk shadow and boulder highlights, it has a lot of texture from those pebbles and seems to be missing the dark values the boulder’s shadow has introduced to us. I think if you got out your dagger brush and put small crescent moon strokes down on the path using the same value of the shadows–not a lot, just enough to express pebbles– we may get the level depth of the path indicated in the photo. Again I love seeing how you layer the painting according to values to build its composition.


    • David, I really appreciate your thoughtful suggestions and encouragement. It’s really wonderful to have fellow artists taking the time and energy to do this, as you and Barbara did, and I am so thankful. I have started this again incorporating both of your suggestions, and those of the teacher in my local wc group and I am happier with the result (so far!) as we know that can certainly change. LOL I will post the next version when it’s further done and we’ll see if it’s improved…


  4. Pingback: Second try Mesquite Shade Day 26 | Rachel Murphree Watercolors

  5. I think this is beautiful! Love the colours, and the light in it! Maybe a little more highlights in the background trees (but than you would have to leave out the wash at the beginning and paint on a totally white background). Maybe add details (leaves, little branches) in another medium like coloured pencil. But that´s all just “comsmetics”, I think it is beautuful already as it is. 😊


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