Felted Santa ornament day 7

Here is yesterday’s painting sitting in my recliner using a support and palette with thumbhole. The Santa turned out well but the boughs?  Not happy with them, but I will try it again.  

Today I am painting a hummingbird nest that is in my “cabinet of curiosities” or collection of nature treasures. I am doing it wet in wet and now letting it dry before adding details. 

Thx for stopping by! 

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!

Christmas Star Day 8 (with a poll)

Christmas Star_Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Christmas Star Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Here’s my favorite of the ornament paintings so far.    I think I’ll keep the tree up a bit longer this year and use it as a sketching/painting prop!  and besides I love the serenity of the lights…

Christmas Star stage 1_Rachel_murphree_watercolorThis is stage one of the painting.  I knew I wanted soft fuzzy backgrounds suggesting lights and atmosphere and cranberries, but I added the magenta orbs of color too early and they ballooned out.  I took the hard edge on the right, softened it a bit, and took a round stencil to pencil in a ball shape and then played wet in wet.  I love the “star” pattern that magically appeared and I won’t be able to duplicate in exactly the same way again.  You can see the pink undertones in the finished painting and I put in a cranberry strand above it, finding out that the colors will cover paler pigments.

The full 8 x 8 painting isn’t strong compositionally — I don’t like the even spacing of two items on the page, so I had fun cropping it in various ways. Here are some options and a little poll to take, if you’d like, to tell me which crop or original is your favorite.  We haven’t done one of these in awhile….

Christmas Star rectangle crop_Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Rectangle crop of Christmas Star

Christmas Star square 1 crop_Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Square crop #1 of Christmas Star

Christmas star square 2 crop_Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Square crop #2 of Christmas Star

Christmas Star Cropping — which do you prefer?

Bluebird Ornament Days 6-7

Yesterday I painted some ornaments on the tree, and here are two of the bluebird, a pottery ornament from Vermont which used to live on my sister’s tree and now lives on mine.  One of many bird or bird related ornaments I have, frankly.  They are on an 8 x 8 sheet pad of Lanaquerelle paper which I find ok, but I don’t care for it as much as Arches.  But there are some artists that swear by it, so I’m giving it another chance.

Bluebird ornament 2_Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Bluebird Ornament #1

Bluebird ornament__Rachel_murphree_watercolor

Bluebird Ornament #1

They are on an 8 x 8 sheet pad of Lanaquerelle paper which I find ok, but I don’t care for it as much as Arches. But there are some artists that swear by it, so I’m giving it another chance.

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.

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…



Encouraging rejection

barn in snow watercolor

“Snowy Day” watercolor painting from PMP photograph by Rodney Campbell. Click on image to view larger.

Back in January I submitted these two paintings to the Courage Kenny holiday card contest.

I have frankly forgotten about doing this, but this week I got email rejections for both.  But the Snowy Day email included  ” …we would like you to know that your art (listed above) was among those in the final review”.  So that’s encouraging!

Loose version of red ornament hanging on the Christmas tree.  Watercolor

Loose version of red ornament hanging on the Christmas tree. Watercolor.  Click on image to view larger.

and *I* would like to encourage any artists reading this blog to put yourself out there!  getting that rejection was a nice uplift for me….and have you heard how many rejections writer Stephen King piled up before he became widely read?

I found out about the call for entries from CAFE — Call for entry.org that sends emails updating you on various art opportunities based on your specifications.  I would not have known about it otherwise.

Ornament #4 — Day 5 of the challenge

Red Christmas Ornament #4

Ornament #4 watercolor. About 7″ x 11″. Available.

For a change of pace from the muted pinecones and seedpods, here’s the final try at the ornament hanging from the tree.  I love the sparkly lights so I think our tree will stay up awhile longer…but I don’t think I’ll be painting ornaments anymore until next December…

Five days done of the challenge, and (gasp) twenty five more to go!  I’ve found some neat artists doing this challenge. This watercolor artist, Simone Ritter, is doing an unusual theme:  campers. And Theta has lovely dreamy watercolor landscapes.  Just wanted to give you other watercolor artists to check out and enjoy…  thanks for stopping by today. The rest of the 30 in 30 challenge artists can be seen here.

Fall droppings — day 2 of challenge

Ink sketch with watercolor wash

Ink sketch with watercolor wash of fall droppings found on walks

I appreciate your confidence in me, but I have to tell you this is stressful! I don’t want to put up any paintings that are “dogs” — no offense to our best friends — but I do want to paint every day. So, today’s offering is a ink sketch with watercolor wash of things I’ve found on my fall walks: dried leaf, bark peeling and a seed pod. I also started working on another ornament painting…so stay tuned. you may see it…if it doesn’t tank…

I’ve been having fun looking at the other painters’ contributions…there are over 1200 painters now, around the world. Not too many are watercolorists which is disappointing for me. One of my favorites so far is Andy Sewell’s series of birds. here is A is for Avocet .  Be sure to scroll down on the post to see photographs of these beautiful birds with their cinnamon colors and long waterbird legs. Yesterday’s was B is for bluebird…you can see the whole series as it happens here: http://www.andysewell.blogspot.com/

30 in 30 painting challenge begins

watercolor painting

1st painting in the 30 in 30 January 2015 challenge

I have committed myself to a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge run by Leslie Saeta. Over 1000 artists have signed up to paint every day and upload their work daily to her blog.  It’s quite neat to see all the variety of work.  Here’s Day 1 postings if you’d like to check it out.

I was excited and confident about this until it got closer to January 1st, and then I wondered, what in the world did I get myself in for?  It all of a sudden sounded like a jail sentence, who did I think I was?  what did I get myself into? I *should* be committed….

But in reality, the challenge is not to produce masterpieces every day, but it’s a way to jumpstart my practice, and incentive to get the brushes wet every day working on something, whether it’s a technique, more work on a painting, playing around, etc.

The playing around I think is the key.  I’m working on ways to psych myself to not take it seriously but look at it as a chance to grow, even if I don’t upload 30 photos in that time.  So you may see parts of a painting, or maybe sketching with watercolor washes, but I will paint every day.

Since I’ve last posted I’ve worked on various attempts at an ornament and I don’t like any of them better than Ornament #1, so I didn’t post them.  And now I’m frankly sick of trying this, so I”ll have to be moving on. but here’s one of yesterday’s tries.

So what did I learn?  I’ve learned I don’t mix enough of a puddle on my palette so i’m stopping to mix a new batch while the already painted area dries and then the color isn’t fluid on the paper.  And I don’t have a clear idea of the pine needles so it’s hard to negatively paint them, especially with no drawing on the paper ahead of time.

Negative painting is putting down the lightest color (i.e. the light glinting off the needles) and then painting around that to create the other needles or background foliage.  It’s a hard concept for me to wrap my head around especially without a clear understanding of the structure, based on sketching.  So I think one of my jobs for this month is to sketch pine boughs and needles, transfer it to paper and then try the negative painting.  Or let that go and work on a myriad of other projects…  we shall see!  My blog should be busy this month, so I hope you’ll come along for the ride and see what happens!