’tis the time of year for sunflowers, although they are welcome anytime! I have been playing with ink sketches with washes in my sketchbook, as well as a just watercolor painting. The bunch of flowers is now gone but my memory of it is on paper.

Watercolor about 12″ square.
Sketchbook ink and wash
Another ink and wash in the book

I always try the hard stuff…

But at the beginning I don’t realize the difficulty!!  LOL. Does that sound familiar?

After my pomegranate sketch starting the new year off right, I chose these vintage salt and pepper shakers which I love. What could be hard?

Well, for one, perspective, the change of shape of the ellipse/oval of the top of a cylinder…or say a coffee cup or vase…or this shaker with its cute S or P of holes on top. That led me down a rabbit hole of books on my shelves re-learning about perspective which I need to practice way more to really “get’.

My mind was fuzzy with the effort, so I knew it would take at least two sittings perhaps more to figure it out.  After mulling it over while painting other things and experimenting, I realized the bottom is a sphere, the top is a cylinder and realizing where my eye level is is key to figuring out how much of the ellipse to show at the top of the (admittedly squat) cylinder that sits on the sphere.

I’m also realizing that I need to paint or sketch before opening my laptop because again, the rabbit hole phenomena.  So that’s why I didn’t search for videos on perspective of spheres or cylinders until another day.

Although I think I got the values fairly well on the sphere by just really looking, this was a useful page to review:

While this is pretty technical, it’s helpful and this one is a good overview of the perspective of cylinders.  I don’t know about you, but I like to know the bones behind the theory, so I want to understand perspective rather than guessing on what type of ellipse is needed.

So that’s it for now, I will eventually paint these shakers, but not right now.  Also, I can tell you which books I have on my shelf for perspective, if you’re interested.



The seeds of a new year

My goals for the new year are to sketch and paint daily. No pressure, right??  LOL.  I know I won’t succeed every day but I believe in aiming high. 

New Year Pomegranates

New Year Pomegranates ink sketch with watercolor wash

As you can see from the buckling pages, this sketchbook isn’t made for wet media, but these pages aren’t anything precious.  Just daily practice in drawing and noting the pigments that were used. 

Happy New year to all!  May it be one of peace and enjoying the daily goodness of life. 

Rosy Oleanders

Rosy oleander study

I have continued to work on oleanders in various ways. In this study I was playing with colors, whether to include red in the  blossom and greens and grays in background. It helped me decide on colors: quin rose, ultramarine blue and hansa med yellow, along with pyroll orange. 

Oleander sketch

I added black micromarker lines around major forms to make transferring to watercolor paper easier using my lightbox. 

Here are the first stages of the next painting. The first layer was done wet in wet with front and back of paper wet first with clear water. The next two stages were done with wet paint on dry paper. 

My next step is to sketch foliage forms into paper and then paint the background including dark points, so that I can see how many layers are needed on the blooms, if any. 

What do you think? I would love to hear from you! 

Mother’s day flowers

Here’s a glimpse in my sketchbook. This was a  loose contour drawing of the bouquet which included calla lilies which are unusual in a bouquet. Then I painted in quick washes.

Finished! Here’s Shiloh….


I took the painting down to Shiloh’s folks and they loved it so now I’ll get it framed and take it down to them. We are using a white on white mat to pull out the white of his fur with a dark frame.  I am thrilled they are so happy with him!

And now while I’m in the dog painting mode, I’m starting work on a painting for my sister in law of her sweet golden retriever Murphy who is no longer with us.  here’s the initial sketch of him:

murphy sketch (2).jpg

In related news I have the opportunity of putting pet paintings down at the Crossroads Animal Hospital which I’m very excited about.  I’ll frame prints of Tulie (below) and Shiloh and perhaps some others and include information on doing commissions and how to get in touch with me.  I am quite thankful for this opportunity.

Here's Lookin at You

Here’s Lookin at you. 16 x 20 framed $225

That’s it for now!  more soon as I intend on blogging daily in March.

Columbine day 11

I think this may be the first time I have been happy with shading and form creating in yellows. The columbine photo was taken in the shade garden at UT El Paso’s chihuahan desert gardens. Columbines do well here out of direct sun and bloom in early spring. I sketched it first in my sketchbook but didn’t sketch on the watercolor paper because I didn’t want the pencil lines to show through the yellow pigment. 

Here it is on its own. 

El Paso Union Depot

There is something really beneficial in joining an organization and jumping in to participating in challenges.  The NMWS local chapter in Las Cruces is hosting a “For the Love of Art” show at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, and the theme is railroad architecture. I’m not horribly comfortable with drawing or painting architecture, but I wanted to pitch in and have something to contribute to the show. Just this very process led to a great experience in learning about perspective, and trying new materials.

Well, I’m calling the masa paper that I have “new” but truth be told, it has been in my supplies for years waiting for “just the right time”….haha!  I know you understand how that goes… I also have a lot of books on my shelves, several at least have to do with perspective and drawing and architecture, and again…they have been on my shelves for quite awhile.  I guess I think that if I own the books, the knowledge is in my head automatically.  A little learning turns out to be a great thing!

So on a gloomy day with some sun shining through, I drove down to the El Paso Union Depot and sketched and took pictures.  The sun never came out when I was down there, of course, but that’s ok.

El Paso Union Depot tower sketch

El Paso Union Depot tower sketch

El Paso Union Depot sketches 2

El Paso Union Depot sketches 2

Rough painting El Paso Union Depot

Rough painting El Paso Union Depot










I went to my painting group and tried to paint it without a good drawing underneath, no ruler, and no ability to concentrate.  Life gets like that sometimes, and I knew that I’d have to try it at home.

After a day or two, I thought the colors and basic shape were interesting on the painting and thought, why not try and collage masa paper over it?

After viewing several tutorials and videos on the paper, I jumped in, cut paper to the right size, wadded it up several times, dunked it in water and glued it down to the wc paper with a mix of diluted gel medium and water, and then put some layers of color over it and let it dry.

first stage of masa paper overlay

first stage of masa paper overlay

Second stage of masa paper overlay

second stage of masa paper overlay

So I had a decent collage with potential, some of the previous painted image painting through, and I thought, ok, perhaps that could be the “historical” depot shining through the collage with the present day painted on top, an idea that didn’t come through because of the logistics of the size, but again, playing with possibilities was fun.

I used the book The Art of Perspective.  On page 115 it speaks about your eye level, a line you determine and you use to establish the sideways angles on buildings with the vertical lines parallel to each other. In this sketch, my eye level is below the tower, so the angled lines on the sides of the building go DOWN to meet the eye level line, and if I were looking down on the tower, hovering in the air, those same angled lines would be angled UP. it makes perfect sense when you see it in black and white, and even better sense when you get out a ruler and try to make the lines and angles match what you see in real life or in the photo.

I used the angle of the left side of the cupola or steeple top from the photo and copied that angle and laid my paper on a much larger paper with a yardstick and drew the line down to that eye level line I drew and that point where they intersect  became my vanishing point.  Then all the other lines on that side met at that vanishing point which made the window tops and bottoms, the decoration on the building, etc all line up in perspective.

Masa paper collaged and painted overtop with accurate sketch

Masa paper collaged and painted overtop with accurate sketch

positioning on the lightbox

positioning on the lightbox

I took the collage and the sketch to the lightbox and played with where I wanted the sketch to be in relation to the existing lights and darks of the painting. The piece must be 8.5″ square, so that limited where I could put it, so I couldn’t do the vague idea of a shadow depot in the painting, but I’m much happier with this and how the lights hit the side of the steeple.

graphited on back, spray fixative, light marks on piece

graphited on back, spray fixative, light marks on piece

Because of the layers of paper, I couldn’t use the lightbox to transfer the sketch onto it, so I used an 8B graphite pencil to darken the back of the sketch, sprayed it quickly with a workable fixative, and then lightly sketched. I didn’t want to put graphite smudges onto the collage, and I could see that even with the spray the potential was there, so I kept my marks light, but I could, and should, have darkened the details on the tower because I had to go in later and do that roughly after the background tower was on.

So here are the final stage of painting the tower.  I really like the misty effect of using the masa paper to add texture.  Because it is soft and fragile, this technique doesn’t allow for much lifting color, but I could do enough manipulation of values and color to be happy with it.

Stage one of the finished painting

Stage one of the finished painting

Stage 2 of finished

Stage 2 of finished

Stage 3 of finished

Stage 3 of finished

Stage four of finished

Stage four of finished

So I am now looking forward to the show! The opening will be on the First Friday Art Ramble of February, and all of the pieces in the show will be framed identically in 12″ square metal frames with an 8″ piece of art inside the mat. All the pieces will be $125. I will blog more details about the opening as it gets closer.

Keep current on what’s going on in my art world through monthly emails. I’ll let you know where you can see my art, what shows I may be in, and other art related news. Free subscription to my email updates includes a discount on purchases of my original work. Thanks for stopping by.  I’d love to hear from you!

A Rose is a Rose — 30 in 30 day 4

While the rose bouquet was still looking fresh and lively, I thought I’d do some contour sketching, and then better sketches and then translate it into paint.  So, for today, here’s a rose for you!

For the shadow in the yellow part of the bud, I tried a touch of cobalt into the yellow or the orangy mix.  Still thinking about how to do that better.  Next one I will lift out to get the paler color yellow.  This piece is about 4″ tall and done with transparent yellow, cad scarlet permanent rose, and cobalt.

The 30 in 30 painting challenge is one that I’ve participated in twice yearly for several years and it is always a fun, challenging and productive month when I do it. Click on the link to see other people’s works that they’ve done today.  there are about 1000 artists all over the world participating this time.





Dog Days of Summer


Hello Folks, This is Charley!  He’s my first watercolor commission and I’ve written about making the first study at painting him earlier this summer.  It’s been quite the dog days for me, we’re in triple digits here since what seems like forever.  I’ve had to work on plenty of other obligations and haven’t had much time to paint.  As I was working on painting this sweet dog in the quiet of my house this morning, I realized just how much I’d missed painting (and perhaps that’s why I’ve been a bit crabby lately….I’m just sayin!)

Since the first study, I’ve met Charley and the other pets in his house, I’ve been painting eyes and noses, and then working on several other studies. charley_photo_refHis human sent me some other photos, here’s one which show his colors more clearly than the brightly lit one I was working from. So my sketch was from the earlier photo, but I used the colors from this.   Don’t you just love the eyes of the older sweetie behind him?  I kept getting drawn into the sweet elderly face!

I thought it might be helpful to show you the steps that led up to the current painting.  I’m not sure it’s the final one…we’ll have to see what his humans say, but I can always learn more by painting another one!  To begin with I did some sketching:

and then did studies of eyes and noses:

Don’t the noses look like flying aliens??  they crack me up.

charley_dog_boosted pencil sketch_rachel_murphree

Then I took the image and put it through the “pencil sketch” effect in picasa web and boosted the contrast to get nice dark lines.

I put it on my light table with a piece of 140 lb Arches paper on topcharley dog on lightbox_rachel_murphree and the dark lines showed through.

You can see it here but the lines weren’t quite that dark, I enhanced the charley after light table_rachel_murphreecontrast so you could see them.  It turns out that i didn’t need all those extra lines of the hair, because that’s more naturally done by just playing with the paint.  in future tracings I only did the nose eyes and mouth.

In researching how to do the painting,  I watched two watercolor technique videos which were very helpful:  Watercolor Secrets: Realistic Pets with Carrie Stuart Parks and Jake Winkle’s Going Wild in Watercolor.  Of the two, I find Jake’s style bold and invigorating and that showed in the first study, but I like the more realistic view with techniques taught by Carrie.

charley_in process_rachel_murphree_watercolorsSo here’s an in process stage where I had wet the right side cautiously over top of the underpainting soft colors with no hard edges,  and added extra color and fur brush strokes.  After this I did the same on the left side and then started adjusting details and adding whiskers.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the dog days of summer.  How about you?  What have you been up to?  Have you painted dogs? if so, what tips can you share?

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll let you know what Charley’s humans have to say…