Ardovino’s funky art garden


I’m in search of a title for this second piece started en plein air at Ardovino’s Desert Crosssing and finished at home.  It’s mostly watercolor with some watersoluble ink.  I can be unimaginative in my titles, so I need your help!

If you are familiar with Ardovino’s you know of their fabulous landscaping and juxtaposition of cool features, art, etc. in the mix.  When you are there, everywhere you look is a scene just ready to be painted! Turning around 360 degrees gives you as many views to paint.

So the big orange flower in this painting is funky up-cycled art that is multiple layers of depression-ware glass plates on a metal stem with utensils for leaves.  I believe it’s created by Ben and Terry Avalos.  And of course the sink lives near by with a cactus growing inside it.

wp-15090582919161929534308.jpgI’m getting ready to frame this piece along with already framed Mecca Lounge Morning (above) to be in the Plein Air show at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing to celebrate their 20th anniversary.  The opening is November 8th from 5-8 pm.  Hope you can make it!

Mecca Lounge Morning


I am thrilled that my plein air painting “Mecca Lounge Morning” was selected to be one of the postcards advertising Ardovino’s Desert Crossing’s 20th anniversary starting in November. The Plein Air Painters of El Paso will have an exhibit inside the restaurant of art painted on location or from that location. The opening is November 8th from 5 to 8 and the show runs through the end of the year. The food, of course, will be fabulous! And the art too. Hope you join us.

KCOS Art Auction update

Globe Mills plein air_newspaper_rachel_murphree_watercolors

Plein Air Photo Op

As it turns out, Gone But Not Forgotten: Globe Mills will be auctioned off tomorrow, Sunday, April 30th from 5-5:30 along with other wonderful artwork.  You can see the line up here.

Above is the newspaper spread when our group went out to paint this beautiful building before it was torn down last spring to make way for highway construction.  Yours truly happened to be in the right place at the right time, and it was on my birthday weekend to boot!


Gone But Not Forgotten: Globe Mills plein air watercolor

Here’s the painting that I did plein air (in the open air, not in the studio) that is framed to 18″ x 22″ and the bidding starts at $140. All proceeds go to benefit public TV in our community. I hope you can tune in and bid!


Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #1_Rachel_murphree_Watercolor

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #1

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2 on Yupo_Rachel_murphree_Watercolor

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2 on Yupo

These are two pieces that I just framed yesterday for the Colors of the Wild show opening this Friday at the Crossland Gallery, 500 W. Paisano.  The theme is animals, wild or domesticated, and while I was painting plein air my early blooming Texas Mountain Laurel bush, I was amazed at the wild buzzing activity of the big black bees that swarmed the strong smelling flower.  They were very busy getting the most they could out of the hanging pendulous blossom bunches.  They were the “star attraction” for the bees as they are for me, but  I am also drawn to the new and older seed pods that remain on the shrub.  They are beautiful to me in a different understated way.

The second day I worked on Yupo paper, rather than traditional watercolor paper, and that’s always a “wild” ride!  The smooth synthetic almost plasticky surface of Yupo shakes up all the normal expectations of how you use the pigments because they continue moving and blending for long periods of time, and they also can easily be wiped away to “fix” a problem, but the wiping creates its own unique set of issues to solve.  I’m just starting to use this surface for watercolor, but I’m having fun playing! I will be demonstrating the process of watercolor on Yupo on Sunday, May 7th at the International Museum of Art’s Elevate Your Art fundraiser, auctioning 8″ x 10″ artworks donated by local artists.


Early bloomer 2, also in plein air


I spent some time today sketching and painting small images of the Texas Mountain Laurel.  This is the most successful of the three.

The hardest part for me is doing the foliage and dealing with the muted activity of what is going on behind the foreground foliage and how to express that all without going in after the firm edges of the leaves and adding background.  On this one I did lighter leaves and laid darker and varied ones on top.

texas mountain laurel ref photo (1).jpg

I’m going to try another wet in wet approach first, as I did yesterday with mingled colors of lights and mediums, not committing myself to placing the darks from the beginning, leaving soft edged areas of whiteness to fill in with blossoms and planning where to put the pods.  In that way some lighter leaves can be lifted out or negatively painted along with positive leaves.

What I’ve had success in is using the brush stroke to make a leaf in one stroke. Happy with that.  The leaves follow along rhythmically along a curved or straight thin stem and those lines could lead the eye through the painting, but one risks having too repetitive shapes, so playing with lost and found edges would help that.


The blossoms are best done with mixing the permanent rose and ultramarine blue, leaning more toward the blue and going in later with drops of water and/or lifting our sworls of light to make the petal patterns that also go in pairs rhythmically on a with darker semi closed petals at the bottom of each pair.

As an aside, the wind was gusting at time today so that I had to hold down my easel while painting!  Next time I shall have to remember to hook my bag with water bottle to the bottom of the easel to weight it down.

Early Bloomer


At least this year, my Texas Mountain Laurel bush is blooming two weeks earlier than usual.  I’m so glad I wandered over to check on whether it was in bud, and there are many clusters that are already open.  If you don’t know this bush, the clusters smell like grape koolaid, and it was the first shrub I planted when we moved in a long time ago.  I went out after 4 to paint it in the afternoon sun and shadows, and I feel like after several years, I finally have a handle on how to express the blooms.  Expect to see more paintings over the next week.  One of my favorite parts of the bush are the seed pods that linger and over several years they turn rusty and blue but in the first years they are light tan.  can you see them in the painting?

Rocky mountain plein air

In October our group went out to paint in the Franklin Mountains State Park which is a beautiful place to hike, camp and commune with the desert landscape. Here are steps in my process of expressing what I saw and felt that day.


Initial inspiration and shadows closeup

Broader initial view on that beautiful October morning

First wash of warm and cool shades

First wash dry and set up on the easel and even in the short time I needed to wait for it to dry, the shadows and consequently the lights changed.

Pretty close to stopping for the day, I liked putting the painting against the natural elements i am trying to portray.

Here it is on the easel. Look at the small shadow now because time had gone by, it was 11:30ish.

I try to paint in the shade, both for my comfort and for not having a glare on the paper.  I was painting in the picnic shelter of a campsite in this wild state park that is the only such Texas park with an urban area city limits. And only five miles from my house. I have to get out and paint here more!

More accurate view of color depth taken indoors during the days I spent thinking about what to do next the piece


Glossy areas are masking fluid shapes.

I added more details. The shiny gray areas are shapes covered with masking fluid to have lighter shrubs after darks are painted on top.

Then I got carried away and made the darks a big block of the bottom without a pathway through the painting.  I also didn’t like the curved yellowy sotol shapes in that area.

I thought the lit area and the rocks on the right had some merit, so I lifted up part of the foreground left area and made rock like shapes there.  And that is where it is right now.  I think I may crop it and frame, but not sure now. Any suggestions?

I will probably paint this again in the studio, and definitely go out exploring in this wild place to find more sites to paint. Stay tuned!

Don’t forget that you can purchase prints cards and ornaments of my work at my online store:

New Small Originals @ the Gallery

This weekend has been a time of going through paintings in my files and adding touches, mostly dark values, to enhance them and call them “ready”.  Then came the process of cutting the mats, and today I’m framing them to take into the Sunland Art Gallery for our Holiday season.  So I thought before they went behind the glass of frames, I’d prop them up and have a photo shoot to share.


“Up in the Clouds”  Watercolor matted to 11″ x 14″

This is the largest of the originals that I’m taking in.  It and the other two mountain scenes were the result of playing around with wet in wet pigments to create the soft clouds and the distant clouds.


Purple Mountains Majesty.  Watercolor matted to 8″ x 10″

The frame I have picked for this painting pulls out the warm browns of the foreground.


“Spring Poppies” Watercolor matted to 9″ x 12″

Paintings in nonstandard sizes like this one at 4″ high make it great to have my own mat cutter so that I can paint in the size that fits the subject.  These tiny flowers become a carpet in the spring in the Franklin Mountains.


Mountain Meadow.  Watercolor matted to 8″ x 10″


“Nosegay”  Watercolor matted to 6″ x 9″

This one also was a result of playing wet in wet.


Ornament #1. Watercolor matted to 8″ x 10″

I have some cards left of this print, but am ordering more!


Vitex.  Plein air watercolor matted to 12″ x 16″

This was a plein air painting of our wonderful vitex shrubby trees that flower so beautifully here and live on little water.  With additional water they can grow to be huge gnarly trees.

All of these will be available at the Sunland Art Gallery starting tomorrow.  I will be at the gallery (in the Placita Santa Fe) several times this week:  Tues morning, Wednesday afternoon, and Friday morning.  And we will have our holiday open house Saturday December 10th from 10-6 and I will be painting a demo 2-4 that day.  Hope to see you there!

If you can’t make it to the gallery, check out my online store at squareup or available from my Facebook page. 

Mountain Flowers


Mountain Flowers.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Here’s a piece that I started en plein air, painting from a plant in the entryway of a hotel while on vacation with my family. It was beautiful but it was all alone in a bed of rock; not a whole lot of atmosphere.   I was out there several mornings painting and chatting with people that walked by.

In process plein air painting of coneflowers

Mountain Flowers early stage.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

I wanted to show you several steps in this process .  At first I went in too dark trying to work speedily because of trying to squeeze in painting with family activities.  Rather than having the plant alone, I suggested foliage and blooms behind it.

step 2 of the process of negative painting to define the foliage

step 2 of the process of negative painting to define the foliage

When I got to the point where the foliage seemed ok, I still felt it looked blah.  The stems were lifted out and suggested but it seemed dark on bottom, light on top.  I have recently read a(nother) book on composition and I thought, wonder if an “L” shape composition of darks would work?

So that’s when I added the dark background on the top left.  Do you think it improved it?


Here’s the photo I took before starting.  Kind of ho hum.  not even nice light and shadow.


Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you.  Stay tuned in September when I do the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge once again!

Vitex trees, one of my favorites

Plein air Vitex tree

Plein air Vitex tree, 9″ x 12″ watercolor.  Unframed $65

I don’t know if you have vitex trees where you live, but I find them one of the more beautiful trees we have here.  It’s a tree from the Mediterranean the it grows well in our temperate hot climate. The leaves bud in May and the beautiful purple or white blooms come in June.  Stunning.  And the older the tree gets, the more gnarled its trunk’s character.  When they are small, they often look like shrubs but are multi trunked trees.

We went out plein air painting at Sunset Gardens landscaping store/restaurant  in May and I stumbled upon this little gully and tree along the back of the open area, and my painting spot would be in the shade (A big plus!)

plein air vitex photos (1)

Plein air set up looking at the young tree

plein air vitex photos (2)

On the easel on the day.

After all the bustle of the past several weeks of the show, getting my inventory ready for the gallery, and then gallery sitting, in addition to health issues of the folks and my daughters’ activities, I hadn’t had time to paint.  And, of course, I had a crisis of confidence that I couldn’t paint anymore.  and of course, I procrastinated!  does that sound familiar to anyone?

If you’re in that situation, I can suggest that you pick up in progress pieces and squint…see that you don’t have enough of a range of values, in my case, not enough darks to spike it up, and then work on those.  That’s what I did this for this week’s painting group, rather than the angst of starting something new, or just playing (which is fine in itself), I took several in process pieces and worked on finishing them.

What I did for this one was add darks in the shrubbery and branches keeping in mind where the sun is, and I added more colors in the sky to make the white/light spots of the flower bunches near the top of the tree. Then I reinforced the shadows under the tree.

I will post more finished pieces later this week.  What do you do when you have a crisis of confidence?  I’d love to get some more tips…