Up in the Air in Albuquerque!

watercolor painting of blooms of Agave/Century Plant.

This painting of Century Plant/Agave blooms 20+ feet in the air was juried into the Albuquerque chapter of NMWS Spring Show.  It’s the Society’s 50th anniversary celebration with an exhibit of over 100 watercolor paintings and is definitely worth a stop if you’re in Albuquerque during May! Click on the link for complete info.

With this acceptance I will have signature status into the NMWS so I can sign my paintings with those initials after my name from now on. This has been a goal of mine and I’m happy to have reached it! 

Up in the Air $400

I was holding my breath!

matted heart of the matter in progress

As you may remember, this piece “The Heart of the Matter” is twice as large as paintings I’ve done before.  It is 15″ x 22″ and will be assembled in a 22″ x 28″ frame.  This means, since I mat and frame my own pieces, that I had to wrestle a piece of mat board twice as big and larger than rulers that I have on my cutter.  Because I like to double mat originals, it involved all the fiddly work of double matting, measuring  not once or twice but THREE times and cutting once!

I’ve put this off for several days since the huge mat board box arrived in the mail midweek, but it’s due ready to hang on Wednesday at the show!  so needs must…

I am thrilled that it came out perfectly!  whew.  what a huge relief.  as you can see from the shadows in this photo, it’s just lightly taped in without being secured, in process of being framed, but YAY, the hard part is done!

I have to give a shoutout to the new free border cutting app from Logan:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.logan.bordercalculatorapp  
it’s also available on Itunes.  It’s very easy to use, just put in inner dimensions of the frame and the dimensions of the hole for the painting and then choose single or double mat.  Easy peasy.  And I re-watched their youtube video on double mat cutting.

Franciscan Festival Sept 2-3, 2017

Franciscan Festival, Sept 2-3

And now I can take a deep breath!  and keep working on cutting mats and assembling prints into bags for the Franciscan Festival which starts a week from today.  I’ll be in room 5 at the Holy Cross Retreat which is in its 60th year of hosting this festival of fine arts.  It’s a really fun festival with great food, art and people.  I hope you can stop by and say hello! More on the print assembly process in a later post…




Second try — way better!

“Not having a goal i more to be feared than not reaching one”.

That’s a chinese cookie fortune that I’ve kept and I truly believe.  As you may know, my goal is to travel and teach watercolor when my kids are in college, and my first attempt to do a demo in a small setting at the gallery had its ups and downs.  So I knew that I had to try it again, and when the opportunity came to do a presentation for the Southern Chapter of the NM watercolor society, I accepted.  and I’m very pleased to report that it went well!  What a great friendly group of artists and very attentive.


My topic was challenging yourself and ways that I do that.  I talked about my involvement in the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge that I’ve done four times so far, twice in January and twice in September. The photo above shows one of my collages of paintings done in a certain month.  You can see it and other collages at my 30 in 30 page. nmws-sc-demo-oct-2016-2

As part of this September’s challenge, I moved forward to painting on half sheets, which is double the usual size that I do.  A full sheet is 22″ x 30″ and my largest paintings so far have been 1/4 of that size, or 11″ x 15″.  So moving to a page that is 15″ x 22″ is a challenge because the brushes have to be bigger, the puddles of pigment bigger and more thought placed on how to do smooth washes etc.

Behind me in this photo you see the two half sheets so far of the Century plant, an agave that doesn’t really live to be 100 years old, but it takes several decades before the plant is large enough to flower and then die while its pups, or small plants that surround it, can take over. I’ve written about painting the first one here.  It is on the left in this photo, and here’s a better view of the second one (on the right above).



So here’s my second attempt which isn’t finished yet, it doesn’t have the deep darks in it to make the center spine stem “pop” and it may not pop as much as the first that has whiter parts of the paper showing. I like how smooth and satiny the washes are in this one but I have a feeling I will paint this at least one more time in this size.


And here’s the palette after the demo where I put down the first wash of this beautiful Daniel Smith color:  Cascade Green.  all the color in the middle of the palette is this pigment which is a mix of pthalo green and raw sienna.  I just love how it separates and moves and granulates.

So what I learned from this whole procedure is that if you aren’t successful the first time — as I’ve written about in “how NOT to do a demo“,  you have to try again rather soon afterwards, and keep trying! My next demo must be more painting, and less talking and showing images, because that’s the part that still makes me nervous…

Demo this Saturday at 3


In progress century painting #3 started at my NM Watercolor Society presentation

Hey everyone, I’ll be doing another informal watercolor demo in conjunction with the El Paso Scene art show opening at the Sunland Art Gallery this Saturday.  The opening runs from 1-6 pm, and my demo will be at 3.  John Collins will be doing a demo at 5 and there will probably be other artists earlier in the afternoon.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello and enjoy the finger foods, wine and good art and company.  We’re located next to Tippi Teas in the Placita Santa Fe shopping complex at 5034D Doniphan.

We had a great little painting group today, not many people, we were all quietly working away…it was a productive and fun session.  This is what I worked on.  You can see  another version painted of the same image

These are the two paintings I have in the show, both done plein air.

Century Plant: 30 in 30 day one

This is my first attempt at a 1/2 sheet painting so it’s 15″ wide by 22″ tall.  my largest so far have been 1/4 sheet paintings, 11″ x 15″.  And no, I didn’t paint all of this today!  I started it last week and worked on it more today, so it’s a work in progress.  The greens aren’t as sickly yellow as it looks on my screen now, but it’s late and tomorrow’s another day to get a better in progress photo!

rachel murphree watercolors

century plant in progress

Here’s my reference photo cropped from tons of photos I’ve taken of this plant.  I like the lines that move through the photo and the blending of the darks of the spines.  I’m quite excited to paint this, but I know I will paint at least another version of this because I”m not happy with my brushstrokes. I realize that because my paper is bigger, I need to use bigger brushes and make bigger puddles of pigment if  I want smooth color mingling washes which I do.  But at least this one is practice and reaffirming the color values that i need.


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.

Agave Shadows #1 and #2

Agave Shadows #1 Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Agave Shadows #1, done mostly dry on wet. framed to 12″ x 16″.  Watercolor.$125.  Click on image to view larger.

These plants and their early morning shadows captivated me on my walk and I have tried several times to capture the moment.  Here are the latest attempts, #1 that was done painting the spears of the plants as positive images and then doing shadows and background.

Agave Shadows #2 Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Agave Shadows #2, done first wet on wet. 11″ x 15″ Watercolor. SOLD.

#2 is done largely wet in wet with light colors of warm yellow and blue green and then when totally dry, I went in with the darks and negatively painted the shades around the spears, almost “carving” them out of the background.

In progress painting of agave shadows

Agave shadows in progress. Note wet in wet side that doesn’t have the darks to form the shapes.

To show you what I mean, here is a picture of it in progress. On the right is what the whole paper looked like initially, soft spongy lines of color and white on the bottom. On the left is the agave being discovered or carved out of the background. It’s a confusing process to get my head around, so sometimes I resort to turning it upside down which makes it easier to draw because you are just drawing shapes, and not thinking about drawing a spear, or anything else for that matter. So I’ll show you that here.


upside down orientation

Upside down in progress painting of agave shadows

This is an exercise you can use to perfect your drawing skills too. I’ve seen it in various places. Take a photograph of someone, turn it upside down and attempt to draw it that way. when drawing the nose, for example, you won’t be thinking “nose” you will be thinking only of the geometric shapes to form the nose when the drawing is right side up.

Thanks for stopping by and checking in with me. I’d love to hear if you prefer #1 or #2 and why. After I’ll tell you which I prefer!

Adolescent Art

watercolor painting

In progress watercolor of agave plants and their beautiful shadow

No, these paintings were not done by my adolescents, but *they*  are adolescents!   A new friend of mine said a workshop instructor said that all paintings go through this phase, a perhaps “ugly” phase, or not complete, where you as the artist are frustrated, worry it won’t come out well, or want to ditch the painting. I wish I could remember the artist’s name to credit him or her.

watercolor painting

In progress watercolor of wine bottles.

I find this quite a comforting thought as I face my pile of started paintings from various recent classes and also my attempts at plein air painting (painting outdoors) last week.

I think I will work on the wine bottle painting today when we meet to paint as a group. The plan is to mix a watery pigment puddle and carefully brush it over the existing bottles, one at a time, and selectively soften the edges of the reflections in the glass. I’ve put this off for two weeks, while we were on spring break with the kids, but now I will have to address it.

It’s ONLY PAPER after all…I have to keep telling myself that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wow, you’ve changed!!

2015-03-03 11.19.30

Step 1 of the painting of Agave shadows. A work in progress….

Well, *I haven’t changed, but the look of my blog has!

I realized the other day that the “theme” for my blog, one of many provided by wordpress, doesn’t show up well on mobile devices, such as tablets or smart phones.  I had a choice of changing text and doing other stuff, and I thought…no, let’s go for another theme, one that shows off the artwork and is more simple in its approach.  I stumbled on this one, named Spun, and really liked it.

I like the circles highlighting each post on the home page, and also the ability to easily display paintings in various categories (at the top right) such as flowers, landscapes, etc.

This blog, as my painting, is a work in progress.  As is the photo here on this post.  This is the first stage of a piece I’m working on now, and I’m hoping to show you more in progress shots and the finished piece within the next day or so.

So do you like the changes?

update to this: I changed the blog away from spun for several reasons and am still playing around with getting the one I’d like that also works well on mobile devices.