Spurge redone

I’m working behind the scenes on several pieces for upcoming shows, including a watercolor collage of spurge blossoms which I find fascinating.  They bloom in January and February, a yellow green cluster of tiny blossoms and I’ve run across them intermingled with prickly pear pads and I love the feel of English gardens with blossoms all intertwined but here in a desert setting.  so here’s one of the clusters from the collage and more photos will appear in coming days…   I’ve painted the scene before and my collage comes from several less than succcesful attempts to paint it differently.  I’ve blogged about this earlier.

“Spurge Among the Prickly Pear” is on display at the Cottonwood Gallery of the Southwest Environmental Center’s Nature show which runs through the end of August.  The gallery is at 275 W Main Street, Las Cruces, and is open M-F 9 am – 6 pm.

spurge among the prickly pears

“Spurge Among the Prickly Pear” on display at SWEC until August 31.


More Oleander layers 

I am having fun doing this in a random building up way–i.e. without a plan. Perhaps not the best method, but we shall see. I am realizing I need to be sketching and doing value studies much more! Still it is gun to see what emerges.  

White oleanders in process

Over the past several days I have been working on this painting of white oleanders using the negative painting method I talked about in the last post. 

I got ahead of myself in trying some browns made from the primaries I am using, so that stem, right now, seems out of place. The colors are thalo blue, hansa yellow, quin rose and ultramarine. Perhaps I need to be more orderly in my steps…but that probably won’t happen!! 

Negative painting in process

negative oleander demo 5In thinking about what to do for a lesson for today, I started explaining negative painting in a small demo and in a larger painting.

Negative painting is when you paint the space around an object to make the object appear.  An example would be if you wanted to show a house with trees behind it, you show the shape of a house by painting the tall trees normally shaped at the top, but the sides and bottom would end at the straight lines of the roof and house.

Another way to do it is to paint pale layers, draw a design of a leaf, for example, and that leaf is the closest one to you as it’s the lightest.  The next leaves that can go under the first, are darker because of the paint you’ve put on to form the first leaf. There are lots of videos and pages on this technique that is sometimes hard to get your head around, but I thought it might be fun for her to try.

So to explain how it works, here are pictures in order of what I’ve done so far on the demo:

negative oleander demo 1

After a quick drawing of a simple clump of white oleanders.



negative oleander demo 2

a pale wash of thalo blue and hansa yellow surrounding the clump of oleander blossoms.  I let it dry thoroughly,


negative oleander demo 4

I’ve added more washes of similar colors carefully going around some leaf shapes.

negative oleander demo 3

I’ve gone in with light purples (made with quinacridone rose and thalo blue) to separate the blossoms as a start

negative oleander demo 5

So here’s where it stands in the latest photo with additional washes on top, sometimes with quin rose in them, to define more leaves and put some behind the lighter ones on front.  The key to this is to let each layer dry completely before doing another, and to smooth out the edges of the latest wash so that it only makes a hard line to define the shape.  I do see a hard line I need to soften, and it needs more leaves and stems and darks and detail work on the flowers. Tomorrow I’ll post the larger oleander painting in process that I’m working on.

What I’m enjoying about teaching is that it gets me excited about a new project!  there are so many good things about teaching that I’m discovering as I go along, not least of which is enjoying her process and successes, and showing the process of figuring out what went wrong and what to do differently the next time.  Exciting!




Pick a daisy…

daisy lesson2

Daisy demo #2 for day 4

Another day, another daisy.  Today was the next lesson for my 12 yr old student when she brought in the daisy petals she finished during the week, and she completed the center, stem, leaves, and background in class,  She and her mom said I could post this photo of her with her finished painting.

F_first daisy

On her own, she came in with her take on “minnie mouse”…the face and bow were done when she arrived, and she finished the ears in class practicing the charging colors wet in wet and using a larger brush with a good point to make the shapes.  Isn’t it great?!  She loves blue and orange together, a girl after my own heart!

F_minnie mouse


Lantana again

lantana sprig day3

Lantana sprig Day 3 of World Watercolor Month

I had forgotten how challenging it is to paint and post daily! I feel as other people may feel getting back into the gym…hesitant, tight, annoyed, frustrated …  ah well, at least the painting day is done!


Lantana bouquet day #2

Second day of the World Watercolor Month. This isn’t finished but it is done for the day. 

New beginnings

daisy in yellows and greens

demo for early teaching watercolor lessons

I’ve been out of the blogging routine with a lot of new beginnings going on in real life, including expanding the flower garden, my husband putting in a new patio and an above ground hot tub, kids getting out of school and doing camps, my one daughter getting glasses, the list goes on and on!  It’s been hard to find the time to paint consistently with the summer “non”-schedule, but I’ve geared up for a new beginning with the first of July.  I’m going to be participating in World Watercolor Month begun last year by Charlie Shields at Doodlewash, so it’s 31 paintings in 31 days of July for me to share.  Starting today.  Whew!

I’ve also started teaching my first student!  a 12 yr old going into 7th grade.  We meet weekly for the summer, and it’s a good way to get back to basics and to reinforce skills (for me!) and for her.  They say that we learn from teaching, and from our students, and I’ve found that to be true and I’ve been really enjoying the classes!

Here’s my demo from the first lessons. My student loves what she calls the “tie dye” effect of watercolor, when wet pigments merge with other wet pigments.  She was so cute the other day when she had several really great wet in wet blends of pigment on three petals of the flower, the rest was white paper, and she said, “let’s stop now and frame it!”

I could relate to that sentiment because I fall in love with some parts as they happen, but then other parts don’t turn out to my satisfaction, and it can get discouraging. She’s found that out already, although she’s catching on quickly.  I reminded her and myself that we are “painting for the bin”.  It’s all practice and experiences, including new beginnings,  that help us grow.

If you are a painting teacher, do you have any words of wisdom or nuggets to share with me?  I’d love to hear them.  I hope you come along with me on this month’s journey into the World of Watercolor.


The Art of Flowers — show at the IMA

I am happy to announce that these three watercolors were juried into the Art of Flowers show that opens June 3rd at the International Museum of Art, 1221 Montana, El Paso.  The opening is 2-4 pm.  The show has flower paintings in all media.  Hope to see you there!

Watercolor of rocks and flowers by Rachel Murphree

Stumbled Upon. Watercolor. matted and framed to 18″ x 22″ $300

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2. Watercolor on Yupo

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2. Watercolor on Yupo Framed to 18″ x 22″ $300

Columbine Vignette

Columbine.  Watercolor framed to 11″ x 14″ $200


Prickly spurge collage in progress

This is an experiment I’m working on.  I’ve taken attempted watercolors of Euphorbia rigida, or spurge, entangled in a cluster of prickly pear cactus, and cut shapes from all of them and put them together in a collage.  Nothing is glued yet but I’m pretty excited about the prospect of putting this all together, adding final details and shape defining darks and framing it in a shadowbox.

prickly spurge collage rachel murohree watercolors

Prickly Spurge watercolor collage in process

wp-1490822224454.jpgOver the past several weeks I’ve painted multiple versions from this photograph, trying different styles than my norm which is loose and free.  I’ve tried a limited palette and using masking fluid to preserve the whites of the leaves in the sun, and I’ve been frustrated and in a bit of a slump.

So I’m playing this by ear as I go, keeping in mind design elements and composition, cooler bluer colors receding, warmer colors up front, and soft and hard edges.  For the cactus pads I’ve ripped the edges by softening the paper and either tearing it front to back so white shows, or tearing it the opposite direction to have the white torn edge be on the back.  I’m keeping in mind the watercolor principle that you save the whites and can always paint over them if they are distracting.  I’ve done the same with the flower heads and arranged them to have the most detailed one at the focal point.  I’m doing multiple levels of the flower bracts to create dimension.

The sky background is streaked because I am (so far) using a multimedia paper I painted rather than watercolor paper for the background, so I’ll have to decide if I need to replace it or if I can live with the streaks.

prickly spurge bw

Black and white view to check values

Below is my first attempt at painting this scene, and it will be on display in July at the Cottonwood Gallery of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces at the corner of Main and Las Cruces streets.  The Southern Chapter of the NM Watercolor Society is hosting a show there with the theme of Nature, and there will be a lot of beautiful watercolors on display to enjoy in the coolness of air conditioning on a summer day.  I hope you can make it!

spurge among the prickly pears

Spurge among the Prickly Pear framed to 18″ x 22″ $300 

Regarding painting this again, or other pieces, I’ve decided to go back to my normal  loose and free style.  For this view I’ll wipe out the leaves from a rich dark puddle, but that’s for another day and another post.