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.

Painting but not posting!


For the past several days my usually busy life has turned hectic, so I’ve been painting but not posting on my blog.  When I’m too tired, that’s what usually goes by the wayside.

This is further work on my double size (for me) painting of a century plant.  It is 22″ tall and 15″ wide that I think I will crop skinnier to get this kind of thinner profile for the composition.  I’m happy with the depth of field that I’ve gotten but plan to do it again with more thought to smoother washes. I hope to do more studies on the spines and how to do the color mixing and get the shapes just right.

thorns_study_sm-30in30_day6Our informal painting group had Julie Caffee-Cruz come in to teach the other day which was fun and helpful.  I so admire her work, she is a prize winning watercolorist and artist in pencil.  I always find *at least* one thing from any class that is helpful or meaningful to me, and this time it was what she does with detail areas.  She works from many photos but prints out zoomed in photos of the details of a piece to be able to see them more clearly.  That seems like such a commonsense thing to do, but it really hit me how useful that would be.  Sometimes I work with an ipad or laptop image and pinch in to see it bigger, but I think I’d prefer working from prints and clearly seeing.

I’m considering this a study, or practice piece, and on the future painting, I  plan to print out spine blowups to better understand them and their shape on the finished painting. Above you can see a spine study I did, but again I feel like I was doing it en rote, to get something painted in this busy time, without taking the time to really SEE them.

What do you think of the piece so far?  I’d love to hear constructive criticism on how to improve it the next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Roses 30 in 30 day 2

Roses 30 in 30 day 2

Roses 30 in 30 day 2

My sweet husband brought me a bouquet of roses yesterday and I painted this vignette today for my Day 2 painting of the 30 in 30.  It was better, in my eyes, before I did too much, I know you watercolorists out there can relate!, but still, it gives a feeling of the bouquet.  And I need more practice drawing with the paintbrush especially with complicated blossoms like roses… but that’s what the 30 in 30 is — DAILY PRACTICE!!

Century WIP

Century WIP

and here’s a slightly more accurate color view of the wip of the century plant that I showed yesterday.  

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.

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.