A Christmas Fair: Feliz Navidad y’all!

Good friends of mine are associated with Junior League and their Christmas Fair in early November is their largest fundraiser and a huge draw in the city.  When I was approached to donate artwork to help fund their good works, I was happy to do it.  These are the three I’ve chosen.   I’m in the process of matting and framing them, so the first two are taken without the glass in so there isn’t the glare.mountain_flowers_donation_christmas_fair_rachel_murphree_watercolors

This is called Mountain Flowers and I’ve written about the process of creating it at this blog post if you’d like to take a look.


I’m calling this one “Commision Study of Charley” and I’ve written about this little pup and the process of doing the commission before.  The commission is finished and owner and Charley are happy!


The third piece I’m donating is “Fall Hillside” in the muted colors of a late fall day in the mountains.

Christmas Fair  “Feliz Navidad, y’all!” runs the first weekend of November at the El Paso Convention Center. At this point I’m not sure when or how the paintings will be auctioned, but I can find out and let you know.  Drop me an email at rcmurphree@outlook.com if you’d like more information or if you’d like to discuss having a pet portrait done!

Off to a good home!

Painting of pinecones in watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Pinecone Parade.

Last night was a lot of fun.  I went to the Miniature Mania show and found that I’d won first prize for Pinecone Parade, that was such a lovely surprise.  We had good food and conversation, and it was nice to get to know other artists and friends who stopped by.


Fall Fig  (sold)

Then later after a lovely bite to eat at the new Asian Cajun Cafe on Mesa near UTEP, I got a call that Fall Fig had sold after I had left the show!  How cool is that?

Thank you to the purchaser.  Can’t wait to find out who you are.  I hope you will enjoy the painting as much as I enjoyed painting it.

The Final for Fall Fig

Fall Fig as it will be framed. 8 x 10 watercolor. Available.

Fall Fig as it will be framed. 8 x 10 watercolor. Available.

After taking the time to consider comments and discuss with my painting group, I’ve decided to crop Fall Fig to this or something very similar. You can see it in its fuller version with step by step photos.  Thanks for your comments about the diagonal of the dark being distracting.  I don’t think anything important is removed by cropping it and I like the focus it puts on the yellow leaves and the light against the dark.  I think the composition is stronger.

When I got on this morning to reply to comments, I saw that some of the pictures of previous posts had been removed somehow, so they’re back now, in case you read the posts and wondered what you were missing!

And now back to the hustle and bustle of the season that I attempt to resist every year…

4–>Fall Fig step by step


Detailed value sketch

Here are some of my preliminary sketches, more detailed than I expect a lot of more experienced painters would do, but it helped me to fully understand what I was seeing, how the leaves and the shadows looked.


It was interesting to see that the larger sketch reinforced the thumbnail value sketch I made previously.  It helped me to do a line sketch another day.


Other sketches



So I felt that I “knew” the fig leaves and light and I had the painted value sketch hanging around on the easel over several days and I was still excited about translating it into a real painting.

Step one was to put a light under-painting to define and isolate the whites and put down warms and cools in a very pale wash. As usual in this stage, I lost my place and left whites on different leaves than my original plan, sigh!, so I just adjusted my thoughts and went with the whites I was “given”.


Stage one of Fall Fig

Once that wash dried, I put in the darks of the Italian cypress behind it because I knew that the effect of sunlight making jewels of select yellowing leaves relied on the dark values around them.

Then I started putting in the next layer, trying to mix pigments on the paper rather than in the palette, keeping in mind that cooler colors receded so I used them in the leaves in the back and keeping focal leaves pale and warm.  I also warmed up the leaves in bottom front.

Fig Stage Two

Fig Stage Two



I deliberately left the foreground suggestive rather than detailed. But I am open to suggestions that it might need a bit more definition, or warmth?  I really like it now because as I was bringing color down into the bottom and then just brushed it aside with a sweeping motion mixing colors at the same time, as I often see in professional painting videos.

I thought I was finished before I really was, at the stage three photo, but my daughter suggested (and I saw it when she mentioned it) that she knew I was trying to have the yellows pop, but the values behind them weren’t dark enough…and sure enough, it didn’t match my value sketch.  Once she’s left the house for college, I will have to figure these things out on my own!   I’m sure with fresh eyes on another day, I would have seen it.  If you squint at this stage three, you see that the a lot of the leaves all have the same value of darkness.

Stage three of fig

Stage three of fig

I wasn’t crazy about adding more layers to those leaves because I would be losing some of the transparency, so in the future I have to practice, practice to get the values spot on the first time.  It’s hard to do because paint dries lighter than when it’s wet, so it’s a matter of more painting and paying attention to that.

So when I was deciding what dark value blue to use, I tried out indigo and indanthrone  blue on a separate piece of paper, and noticed that indanthrone was warmer, so I chose that one to let the cooler cerulean chromium layered leaves at the very back look further away.


Fall Fig in its final stage

So I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.  Do you think the foreground, left corner, needs more?  is there anything confusing that bothers you?  I really appreciate your comments and suggestions and hearing from you!






Day 20 Forest’s Edge

Forest's Edge.  11" x 15" watercolor. $25

Day 20.  Forest’s Edge. 11″ x 15″ watercolor. $25

Yesterday I finished the painting of the tree, not to my satisfaction, but anyway, it’s done!  Without a plan I was just messing around, putting in, lifting colors, scrubbing out.  anyway…dusted and done and ready for the bin!  Or at least that’s how I feel today….  smile.

Ten more days to go on this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.  In a way I can’t wait!  It has at times been grueling, some times really fun.  I certainly don’t regret doing it…and I plan on doing ten more paintings…

Day 19 Autumn (in progress)

day19_autumn_saran (5)

Autumn tree in progress. done with watercolor. 9″ x 12″

I’m at the stage in this one where I’m not sure what to do with the cool textures behind the tree to the right. What do you see in them?  what would you do next?

day 19 colors down saran

wet paint with plastic wrap layers on top creating lighter areas of texture and movement.

I’ve been experimenting again with saran wrap, putting down rich colors on a spritzed with water paper covering with cling wrap crinkled in various shapes and then allowing to dry.  This time I forgot to put a heavy book on top and it still worked.  So I thought I’d show you where it is now, where it started, and ideas I had on how to work it that I tried out using the acetate sheet.

day19_autumn_saran (1)

after the paint has dried and plastic wrap removed. what fun to look at the designs inside! what do you see?

So here’s what it looked like wet covered with three different sheets of plastic wrap laid in various angles and here is how it dried.  you can see that the rich colors it had originally dried lighter, which is common with watercolor.  I laid down the colors thinking fall landscape with pines on the right and a foreground of fall colors.  that’s as far as I got so that influenced what I saw looking at the dried piece.  What do you see in the dried piece?  it has interesting potential doesn’t it?  and perhaps I painted too much over it….  it’s a continual learning process.

My next step was to lay acetate on top (I’ve talked about this in another post) and try out ideas.  The key to this is to use thicker pigment puddle,  and I find a flat brush helps lay down a good design to try.   I know there is glare on this from the acetate but I wanted to show you the three different ideas.  The first was a tree with some leaves, the next was a bare tree and working up the pines on the left.  The third was the one I settled on:  putting in the trunk and then building up leaves with branches poking through and see what happened.

day19_autumn_saran (3)

acetate with painted design ideas on top

day19_autumn_saran (4)

acetate with painted design ideas on top

day19_autumn_saran (2)

acetate with painted design ideas on top

Which leaves me where I am now. Playing in the leaves….ha ha!

So what do you see in the designs?  What would you suggest for the area behind the tree?  and any ideas for a title?  I’m at a loss for that…

Thanks for stopping by!

October Leaves accepted to Arts International!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves.  Watercolor 11″ x 14″  $175 matted and framed for sale at Arts International, October 3.   Click on image to view larger.

I am very happy to announce that my painting October Leaves has been selected for the Arts International show, opening October 3, 2015 at the Art Junction!  It was one of 68 paintings chosen from 145 submitted. This is the annual juried show of the El Paso Art Association.

As I blogged about in an earlier post called Try and Try again, this was a piece that I went back to  months after it was “finished” because I didn’t like the background and scrubbed it out and redid it, adding more layers of leaves to the pile. You can go back and read to see the process if you’d like.  Guess it shows that persistence works…and that watercolor CAN be forgiving!

Tuesday Tips #4 Try and try again!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves with redone background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Available. Click on image to view larger.

My tip today is to not be afraid to rework your painting.  After all, it’s only paper!!  If it doesn’t work out as planned, you can lift or scrub or even WASH off the paint under a faucet and work with the colors and shapes remaining.

This is a painting that I did last year and I put a cobalt blue background on it, thinking that the orange in the leaves and the blue background would pop and that it would be a good idea!  well, maybe applied differently it would work, but it didn’t for me.  See the next photo down.  I used the blue too thickly, and it concentrated in places, and I wasn’t able to move it. At the time I was intimidated by backgrounds and I thought…oh well, that doesn’t look good.  and I left it.

previous painting of leaves

Previous version of October leaves with vibrant blue background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Click on image to view larger.

This week I pulled it back out and thought, I like the leaves and I have nothing to lose if I scrub off the background.  So I did.  I also took a photo of it in its naked scrubbed self, but somehow I deleted  misplaced that photo so I can’t upload it.  I hate when that happens! It would have been so cool to show you.  Rats.  If I find it, I will upload it.

Anyway, as to the process: I used an older brush, wet it, wet the areas I wanted to lift off color and blotted it off with a tissue.  Sometimes left the water on longer and then blotted it.  “Rinsed, lathered, repeated” until the offending blue was gone.  I was left with a mottled effect of blue staining that I thought might work under browns or greens.

So I put down some lighter tones on top, let them dry, and then came in with darker tones and negatively painted the leaves that appear to be “under” the pile of vibrant ones.

Framed painting

Finished October leaves in square copper finish frame. Watercolor Framed size 18″ square. Available. Click on image to view larger.

So, do I like it now?  Yes, I do because it’s rescued.  If I were to do it again, I would want clearer more transparent tones in the background, but that would be a different painting, not THIS one.  So yes, I like it. Do you?

And I put it quickly into one of my favorite frames, a copper finish square one.  I think it looks pretty good!

Fall landscape — Day #17 of challenge

painting of hillside in fall

Fall hillside outside Albuquerque.  Click on image to view larger.

I read somewhere that it’s good to paint a sky everyday.  I’m liking that philosophy, even though I don’t see myself as doing many landscapes, because painting the sky teaches so many things. It teachers how to make an even wash of pigment/water, how to have soft edges and harder edges in the clouds, where to place the shadows in the clouds so they look realistic.

Here is atmospheric perspective at work.  the layers of the landscape as your eye moves away from the front are lighter and bluer.  The painting is 5″ x 10″.  

As always, I enjoy hearing from you and feel free to share any photos you like! 

From the sketchbook — leaves and pinecone

sketch with wash of leaves and pinecone

Sketch of leaves and a pine  cone with watercolor wash in sketchbook.  Click on image to make it larger.

Yesterday I spent studio time working on a fall desert landscape and got the aerial perspective down quite well.  That’s when you create distance by having areas in the background get lighter and bluer.  And the clouds were fairly ok in the sky.  And then, I blew up the painting with a poorly painted tree that just got worse and worse!  Once again wish that I’d taken a photo before taking that next step.

So I watched a Sterling Edwards watercolor video on brushes and brush strokes and realized I need to use flat brushes *way* more to do trees and washes, etc. so it that viewing was good timing.

Today I’m practicing brush strokes, making trees, learning more about how much water/pigment certain brushes contain.

So here’s a sketch I did several days ago that I added washes to recently.  Sketchbook paper doesn’t allow you to lift and merge washes well, so once it’s down, it’s staying, but I think it turned out ok.  Do you sense a theme here of what I like to paint?