Chiles en la Mesa

I am putting the finishing touches on this piece which will be donated to the Art Con Corazon fundraiser run by El Paso Human Services, Inc.  for their programs helping current and former foster youth.   

This is a first for me, not in donating, but in using watercolor ground to put on a surface, in this case a wooden board, to allow it to accept watercolors.  The ground needs to cure at least 24 hours before it can be painted on. 

I like how the wood grain surface shows through the ground which is the white background. The next step is signing it, putting a finishing spray on it, I believe, and getting it to the organizers. 

It has been a hectic couple of weeks so I am happy that I accomplished this and hope it does well in the auction. 

Art con Corazon will be held next Saturday, October 7th at First Baptist Church, 805 Montana Street, El Paso. It runs from 12-3 and the $10 entry includes appetizers, refreshments and music. Lots of beautiful art will be available for auction and all funds benefit the kids.  Hope to see you there! 

Merry Christmas Ristra


Merry Christmas Ristra

We have had a quiet Christmas here, the kids are home and we’re all sleeping in late, reading books we didn’t have time for during the year, and just enjoying being together.  I have been painting though, and this is one started plein air in my courtyard when the afternoon soon was hitting the ristra on either side of gate.  I had fun making the background by awakening the colors of the ristra by running a damp brush over the edge.

I hope you all had an enjoyable time with friends and family.  It’ll be time soon to gear up for the new year, which for me means exhibiting eight pieces at the Alliance Francaise art show at EPCC Administrative Offices at Viscount.  The opening is January 6 from 7 – 9. Hope to see you there!

It also means painting 30 paintings in 30 days during January for the twice annual challenge I do.  Stay tuned!

Chile Trio again demo

The other weekend I did a second informal demo during the opening of the Sunland Art Gallery’s el Paso Scenes show and it went more smoothly for me.  I am consistently using my easel these days to get more comfortable with it.  I also did an underpainting first (see below) to not have the “fear of white page” syndrome!


I’m realizing several things about demos.

First, it’s not a race and I don’t have to “finish” the painting.  So if I’m not at a critical point with washes, I can stop and answer questions without painting.  This may seem obvious but I realized it was one of the thoughts that was stressing me.

Second, you do learn more by teaching or demonstrating, so it’s worth doing and getting better at.  And you don’t have to do it perfectly; you just have to be able to explain why you are doing X and if it worked or not, and why /why not.


Speaking of not perfect, right off the bat i had a runaway wash that dripped down the paper and was staining.  So after that, nothing else could go wrong!  Big smile.  I don’t have the glow of the first painting in this one, and I don’t think I’ll finish it, but I’m happy for what is:  a demo.

The third thing i realized is the continuation of “it’s only paper”  is….it’s only a demo!


So here’s the finished framed piece which is now hanging at the Sunland Art Gallery but I have prints, cards, and ornaments of it for sale there and at the show this weekend at Queen of Peace church.   (and also at my online store)

I have blogged about the process for the framed piece here. 



Chile Trio and more in the Gallery


Chile Trio. $225. Prints and cards available.

I’ve written about the process of painting these three chiles here and decided to frame it and take it to the Sunland Art Gallery.  It’s definitely a harvest/fall piece and I really enjoy the copper frame that it’s in.  This is an in process framing job, taken before the glass was inserted. It’s available for $225.

I’ve also matted and bagged various sizes of prints of my paintings, some of the originals are already sold, and some still available.  Prints matted to fit in a standard size 8″ x 10″ frame are $15, matted to a standard 11″ x 14″ are $30, and prints matted to fit a standard 16″ x 20″ frame are $45.    They are at the Sunland Art Gallery now  and soon to be available online.

I will also get my feet wet at selling at an indoor fair.  I will have originals, prints, cards, and ornaments for sale at Queen of Peace Bazaar on Belvidere Street, on November 12-13.  You can purchase them also at my online store. 

Chile Trio 30 in 30 days 22-24

I ran across fresh chiles in the produce aisle last week and carefully picked out colorful ones with interesting shapes.  In the back of my mind was the NM Watercolor Spring Show in Las Cruces whose theme is New Mexico food.

I placed them on a white board and lit them strongly with a small lamp perched on a tissue box to get a neat angle.


Chile Trio photo

Once happy with the arrangement I did several sketches, one small in my book, another more life size, 9 x 12, and used paint to put in the shadows an indicate which areas were kind of fuzzy rather than sharp edged.


Chile Trio sketch

Then the fun began because I put in various colors of yellow and blue trying to get some of the shadows that form the shapes.  Some of the pigments bled bigger than I expected, oh the joys of watercolor!, and I forgot to snap a photo after just the first stage.  This one is actually after I went in on top and started the middle chile.


Chile Trio stage 1

On the next day I went in with bold colors and let them mingle together and had fun with portraying the shapes. I used a cool and warm orange on top of the yellows, and actually used the Cascade Green from Daniel Smith because it was squeezed on my palette and it blended well.  Not sure I would have chosen it if it weren’t just “there”.


Chile Trio stage 2

And then the next day I put in more details and the shadows, some of which have beautiful blending of colors. I realized that I was working from the actual chiles in addition to the photo and in the mix, got my shadows mixed up, and also I was reacting to where the colors had formed on my paper.  Just a huge fun bunch of color that I think turned out kinda cool.


Chile Trio stage 3

There is more to be done, or perhaps a new one to paint, but for now, I’m relieved that I’ve gotten time to make this post!  I’ve been busy choosing paintings to print, learning how to cut matboard, and getting an inventory to perhaps to a small indoor sale in October and take some to the gallery.  The next step after that is to set up an online store on my site.  always something more to do!!

Hope you enjoyed my Chile Trio.  I’d love to hear from you.  Thanks for stopping by!



Chile Wreath #2 in progress

Chile Wreath 2_in_progress_rachel_murphree_watercolorToday was a good painting day, now that I have my studio corner cleaned and organized.  Here is the second Chile Wreath painting but started before I’d worked out how to do the raffia top…and also a bit high up on the paper!  Sigh.  I will add upper lighter layers of the raffia in paler gouache once I’m satisfied with the chiles themselves, and figured out a background.  But for now, here is is.

studio corner_rachel_murphree_watercolorAnd here’s what my newly cleaned studio corner of the living room looks like.  My plein air easel and palette are in the suitcase and I”m loving the new desk lamp ott light that lets me paint at night without a horrid glare.  Supplies are in the bureau drawers.  It’s  a studio cobbled together that works well for me.

Christmas wrapup

Well, folks, for those of you who celebrate it, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas spent with friends and family you love.  Ours was unexpectedly white here in El Paso with about 8″ of snow falling over the weekend.  I’m seeing lots of snow scenes figuring in my painting future!

While I didn’t get as much painting done as I had hoped in the past several weeks, I did get some cards painted and sent out:


Chile Christmas Cards

And here’s a painting I did for my older daughter.  It came out differently than I thought, but she loves it, so that’s all that counts!


Blow Away. 11 x 15 watercolor by Rachel Murphree. Gift.

And now it’s time to think about a possible theme for my third 30 paintings in 30 days challenge that starts (gulp!) on Friday!  wow…where did the month of December go?  I don’t think I am alone in that feeling….

Thanks for stopping by throughout the past year, and I hope to see you in the next!

Chile Wreath #1

Chile Wreath Ref Photo_rachel_murphree

Chile wreath in late afternoon sun reference photo


Here in El Paso, Texas on the Mexico/US border, the chile wreath is one of the symbols of Christmas, or at least for me it is.  Wreaths and ristras (long hanging strand of red chile peppers) are sold after the harvest time and the reds are so beautiful!  So they celebrate harvest and bringing bright warmth and cooking goodness into the darker days of winter.


As part of Christmas traditions, a good friend and I go to an artist market every year which is where I purchased our wreath.  I’ve spent the past week painting it, after glorying in the warmth of it in the late afternoon sun lighting up one side of the wreath and highlighting parts of the other side.  I didn’t snap a photo at its best, but here it is on another less sunny day hanging on our front gate.

Chile Wreath #1 in watercolor. 12″ click on image to view larger.

Here is Chile Wreath #1, kind of a play piece for me, practicing and working out the procedures. As I was painting plein air in the courtyard, I thought, oh this is definitely for the bin, so on the right I started another ristra practice.   After it dried, I thought it had potential as a practice piece, and worked on the wreath itself.  So what to do with those scrap chiles in a column on the side?  I put several layers of yellows and blues on the background which is why there’s a darker spot bottom right!  note to self, even if you think it’s going poorly, break out another sheet to keep practicing!!  LOL

Chile wreath #2 in progress_rachel_murphree_watercolor

Chile Wreath #2 in progress in watercolor.  Click on image to view larger.

So this is where Chile Wreath #2 is in its progress.  Excuse the stem and partial leaf I found on a walk to paint later.

You can see the lighter yellows where I want the warmth, and some of the darker parts of the peppers being put in.

One element to keep in mind is that the peppers aren’t just hanging facing left and right; some are facing toward you so they have to be foreshortened and included to give it a roundness it has in real life.  I’ve really gotten to know my reds and which are warm (largely for the right side in this piece) and which are cools, the left side in shadow.

Another element is that you want hard AND soft edges to define each pepper.  I’ve been alternating wetting the area in a pepper shape and putting in thicker pigment dots on the side to diffuse.  Or sometimes putting down a stripe of color and softening it.  Lots of ways to do it and the fun is in mixing it up.  I’ve been using my striper dagger often to get more familiar with it.

I need to build up the wreath at the top left since it’s skinnier and also work on getting the curly raffia at the top to come over the wreath.  With that in mind I was practicing on smaller ristra paintings, trying out masking ahead of time, and this afternoon working on using white gouache with tan tones of watercolor to put in strands of raffia after the fact.  More on that in another post.  On this one I can’t figure out a way to thinly lift out color for the raffia strands over the top, so I will probably use gouache and a calligraphy pen to get the thin/thickness of the strands.

But more on that in another post…. lots of other holiday items to finish!  Thanks for visiting and commenting…