Christmas continues


Here’s a painting I gave to my wonderful mother-in-law for Christmas.  As you may know, I’m fascinated with the Red Bird of Paradise that grows here, Caesalpinia mexicana, not to be confused with the other Bird of Paradise hat grows in more tropical conditions and that actually looks like a bird’s beak. (Strelitzia reginae  Forgive the wonky picture.  I took it before I started framing it.

I’m gearing up for the 30 in 30 painting challenge which I start tomorrow.  I’ve been painting daily this week, to get back into the swing, and am excited about doing it again this January.  If you’d like to see earlier examples of what I’ve produced in these challenges, click the 30 in 30 link at the top of the page.  I’ve grown a lot through these challenges because it jump starts my studio practice and keeps me more accountable.  I plan on making the blog posts shorter perhaps to make that part of the process quicker to do, to spend more time painting and sketching!

Thanks for stopping by .



Playing in paradise 30 in 30 day 12

WIP bird of paradise 1st wash
Today I played with splashes of color: hansa yellow, permanent rose, and cobalt. I played w dropping water and then thicker pigment to get suggestions of ripply edge blossoms.

Bird of paradise blossom

Bird of paradise blossom

And here I was sketching with the brush trying to get the character of this difficult blossom.

In trying to get shadowed yellow to left of blossom i realized that using a cool yellow will work better than using a touch of blue, so I have a plan for tomorrow!

Also playing around with apps on my phone to put watermarks, have to make them paler, resize images, etc. all a learning experience….

Happy mail day today!

black velvet brushes to try out

Synthetic squirrel blend brushes

Today was a fun mail day. A package came from Dick Blick with new brushes that had come with good recommendations from several people, including folks on the Watercolor Workshop facebook group.   I am in LOVE with these black velvet brushes! Wow. They are a mix of squirrel and synthetic, hold a lot of paint and have a wonderful point. Perfect for the brushwork I want to practice and perfect to make blossoms of all shapes.

A local artist had suggested that I should buy sable hair brushes, but I’m just not ready to commit that much money to a brush. The black velvet seems like a reasonable alternative that is a step up from the other synthetics I already have.

So there’s a 1″ oval (the thick one in the middle) and a #10 round on top.  The striper at the bottom is lovely to make thin lines that become thicker and then thin again, depending on the pressure you place. There’s also a thin script brush.  The white brush is called a comb and it makes the thin edges of grass quite nicely. I am doing a happy dance having such fun playing with my new tools.

watercolor of red bird of paradise bloom by Rachel Murphree

Red Bird of Paradise watercolor from 2013

The package also had some new colors, that I’m in the process of combining with other colors and making color charts.  One of which is Pyrrol Scarlet which is the lovely strong red that’s in the middle of the practice page behind the brushes. I can see this working wonderfully with Pyrrol Orange to make the Red Bird of Paradise blossoms that fascinate me.  I did this painting several years ago and feel that I understand both watercolor and the blossom so much better now. This is definitely a subject on my to do list to paint again this summer.  The next painting will be much more clear and light and more like the watercolor I am aiming for!  I will probably paint this more than once!!  Painting in a series is so helpful because it deepens my understanding of the subject and the colors chosen.

We all grow up thinking that red and blue make purple, and they do, but it’s fascinating to see what kind of purples this red makes or *doesn’t* make with the seven or eight blues I have.  they are more of a grayed purple for sure.  More on that later…

Photograph by Rachel Murphree

Photograph of poppies in the rocks

And lastly, here’s a photograph from which I am working and will hopefully post the finished painting this weekend.  so I’ll leave you with this for now….

Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you.  If you’ve had experience with these brushes, or would like to share how you use pyroll scarlet, please leave me a comment!


Rain sage in full bloom

Rain SageI have several species of Texas rain sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) in my front yard. It’s a plant that only blooms when the barometric pressure is “just right”.  And they were in full glory last week.  Here are two different views.  The gorgeous red plant’s common name is Red Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).