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.

Penstemon_shadow_rachel_murphree_photo_ref (1)

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.

15 thoughts on “Garden wall shadow

  1. Beautiful painting! sounds like you had a wonderful day. What is your set-up? I know you are using a tri-pod but what is your palette and easel? I am a pastel painter but wanting to do more watercolors en plein air.


  2. I never can find the birds singing or even the woodpecker beating out a rhythm. But I’m not very good with binoculars either. I love this study. Really love the shadow on the wall idea. Tricky to finish it before the whole scene moves. The flowers are charming and the wall looks good, too.


    • Thank you! Woodpeckers around me have a distinctive sharp “peek” sound that I hear to know they are around. Binocs do take practice but I fell in love birds so I makes it fun. I never regret painting in the fresh air.


  3. I agree with you that a cooler shadow will push the shadow back, Also, softening the shadow edges to match those of the flowers petals will help the two hang together.


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