KCOS Art Auction again this year!

I’ve donated “Stumbled Upon” to the KCOS Art Auction this year.  It will go on auction Friday April 27th in the 5:30-6 slot.  Get full information here: https://www.kcosartauction.org/april27

This is my fourth year donating to this great cause, I love public television, and I hope that you’ll check out the auctions and take home some lovely artwork. 

These are the last three paintings I’ve donated to the KCOS Art Auction! The big sunflower (Flor del Sol) won the Juror Award in 2018.

Entering again

Hello, and welcome to March! Today is the deadline to enter the New Mexico Watercolor Society exhibit of the Southern Chapter to be held in Las Cruces in mid May. I just entered these two paintings and I’ll hear mid month if either or both have been accepted. Fingers crossed because entry into this show will be the 5 entries needed in the time frame in order to have “signature status” in the membership. That means that from then on, I can sign my paintings with NMWS after my name.

The painting on the left is Apache Plume Morning (that’s the common name of the pink shrub in the foreground) and Standing Proud (flowers and seed pods — my favorite! — of the Yellow bird of paradise shrub.

These needed some additional tweaking this week and I’m happier with them than I was before. In the meantime I’m working on paintings for the Albuquerque show of NMWS also in May. Working more hours as a librarian makes finding painting time challenging, but I’m learning the balance…

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens with these entries.

“Our December Desert”

I’m excited to be offering these small original paintings in bookmark form! 

Cactus queen


Cactus and iceplant in progress. Rachel Murphree watercolors

I’ve been I’ve been away from painting for a while because of work and travel and a bit of illness, but I am so happy to say that I am back in the studio again. This is a piece in progress on my easel.

For some reason I think of her as a cactus Queen even though she’s been mis-shapened by pollution and the like.

When I saw her over the years by Hillside Coffee in Montecillo, El Paso, I was impressed by her colors of oranges and yellows, and the ice plant’s soft succulent texture spreading around the bottom of her spikiness.

For awhile there I quite lost my way in creating depth in the ice plant foliage, but I’m happy to say that I think I have a handle on it now.

So there is more work to do in working on the distressed areas of the cactus and adding more spines and more details.

Rocky mountain plein air

In October our group went out to paint in the Franklin Mountains State Park which is a beautiful place to hike, camp and commune with the desert landscape. Here are steps in my process of expressing what I saw and felt that day.


Initial inspiration and shadows closeup

Broader initial view on that beautiful October morning

First wash of warm and cool shades

First wash dry and set up on the easel and even in the short time I needed to wait for it to dry, the shadows and consequently the lights changed.

Pretty close to stopping for the day, I liked putting the painting against the natural elements i am trying to portray.

Here it is on the easel. Look at the small shadow now because time had gone by, it was 11:30ish.

I try to paint in the shade, both for my comfort and for not having a glare on the paper.  I was painting in the picnic shelter of a campsite in this wild state park that is the only such Texas park with an urban area city limits. And only five miles from my house. I have to get out and paint here more!

More accurate view of color depth taken indoors during the days I spent thinking about what to do next the piece


Glossy areas are masking fluid shapes.

I added more details. The shiny gray areas are shapes covered with masking fluid to have lighter shrubs after darks are painted on top.

Then I got carried away and made the darks a big block of the bottom without a pathway through the painting.  I also didn’t like the curved yellowy sotol shapes in that area.

I thought the lit area and the rocks on the right had some merit, so I lifted up part of the foreground left area and made rock like shapes there.  And that is where it is right now.  I think I may crop it and frame, but not sure now. Any suggestions?

I will probably paint this again in the studio, and definitely go out exploring in this wild place to find more sites to paint. Stay tuned!

Don’t forget that you can purchase prints cards and ornaments of my work at my online store: https://squareup.com/store/rcmurphree_watercolors

Day 6 of 30 in 30 — The Distance

The Distance. 30 in 30 painting challenge Day 7.  Watercolor 5" x 7" $25

The Distance. 30 in 30 painting challenge Day 6. Watercolor 5″ x 7″ $25

This piece started out as a smooth wet in wet wash of a blue sky going into pink and then yellow layers near the bottom. Once it was dry, I looked at it and followed the faint lines of irregularity in the washes and instead created a scene of distance. I used a 1″ flat brush for most of the near mountain and the color minglings, and then blotted out some areas to suggest foliage and sotol plants.  Flat brushes hold less water than round brushes, and I got more of the linear lines of the mountain texture using the flat.

If you’d like to see other artists’ work for Day 6 click here.  Thank you for stopping by.  Feel free to leave me a comment or question.

Yucca Bloom finished for August’s Show!

Yucca bloom in watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor on Arches 300 lb rough paper. 11″ x 14″

I’m thrilled to announce that this painting is finished. It was a lot of fun to put in the darks around the bloom and then go in and add details to the dried blossoms on top and really define each cup of the bloom and their shadows.

This piece is 11″ x 14″ and will frame up to be 16″ x 20″. It will be for sale in the members show of the El Paso Art Association that will be held in late August. I will be exhibiting 8-10 pieces and sharing one of the gallery rooms with another painter. Exciting! and a bit nerve wracking….

As the months go by, I will probably be taking polls on which pieces you think I should hang. It’ll be fun to hear what you think…

thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear from you.

Yucca bloom step by step

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

The painting as it stands now… Click on image to view larger

My friend Susie suggested that I might want to post a painting in stages so ya’ll  could see the process as it develops. What a great idea! but I often don’t remember to snap the photo. But in this case I have.

Here’s where the Yucca Bloom painting stands now.

These are the photos I’ve taken on which the painting is loosely based.  I like the closeup but not how washed out the sun on the blossoms made them.

photo photo

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Wet in wet wash that will become the bell shaped flowers of the yucca bloom. Click on image to view larger

Scroll down to see the painting as it has developed thus far.  It’s a lot of fun to tease out the images by creating either hard lines by damping one side of a stroke of paint, or soft lines by painting wet in wet to form the bell shape of the blossom.  Fun to create magic by making something 2D look 3D.  I love it!

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Some darks in the dried blossom area. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Continuing blossoms. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

More blossoms and the stem sketched in. I expect to do darks or stems in the rest of the areas. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Blossoms done in bulk and stem and other stalks started. Click on image to view larger

In progress watercolor of Yucca Bloom

Now some of the darks are going in and I can see the lights start to “pop”. Click on image to view larger

Thanks for stopping by! I’d love to hear from you if you liked this explanation or have any questions…

Plein air in Tucson

Saguaro In Plein Air.  Watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Saguaro cactus plein air, painting outdoors, in watercolor. Click on image to view larger

For spring break, we took the kids to Tucson where we did tons of fun things, including rock climbing for the kids, biking for several of us, and painting and visiting botanical gardens for me. This was my second attempt at plein air painting, or painting outdoors, and I went out four times on the trip, but this painting was the most successful. I got the basics down while I was outdoors and then the following week worked on darkening areas and putting a pale bluish wash over some of the limbs to make them “fall back” in your vision to bring others forward. Also lifted up some paint to lighten areas because in keeping track of everything going on, including paint drying even faster in the sun, I didn’t keep the lighter areas as well as I needed.

All in all a very good learning experience. I’m definitely going to try more plein air painting because I remember all the sights, smells, sounds, of the experience when I look at the painting.

Saguaros are the signature plant of the Sonoran desert and they are amazing creatures, reaching great heights over decades (they are very slow growing), in the harshest desert climate. They provide shelter and homes to birds and animals who nest in holes created by other animals. They grow an inch or two in the first decade; the “arms” don’t start branching out until they are 50 yrs old. This one was over 6 ft tall in the front yard of the house where we stayed. There’s tons more info at the link if you’d like to learn more about these really cool large cacti.

Photo taken at the  Tucson Botanical gardens

Saguaro and tree interlocked

Here’s a photo I took at the Tucson Botanical Garden (neat place if you’re visiting!) where you can see that the saguaro has grown up interlocking with another tree.  Often saguaros spring up beside a “nurse” tree that helps protect it from the elements.

Here are some more beautiful cacti photos from the botanical gardens.  Click on them to view larger if you want to explore.

Feel free to share, reblog or comment! I’d love to hear from you and thanks for stopping by..

photograph of cactus

Photo of Mexican Fire Barrel cactus at the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Cactus photo

Photo of golden barrel crest cactus from Mexico

Cactus photo

Didn’t catch the name of this type of prickly pear but I loved the light catching the new growth

Some background information

2014-07-11 15.45.57So here it is in progress, the Mexican Bird of Paradise.  Leaving it for the day to ponder what the background will be.  I find backgrounds hard to do, largely because I underestimate how much of a paint puddle I’ll need for it, and remixing midway is NOT good, I got water blossoms (the kind you don’t want to get) and hard edges, and just plain yuck.  Doesn’t help that I find I hold my breath while painting it…  note to self, find a way to calm down.  Perhaps I should do the backgrounds first?  get them out of the way.

I’d like a background on this before working more on the detail.  Parts I like on it are the triangle composition, most detail on the blossom on the left, second mos
t detail on the top, and the bottom is more dull.  Don’t want to draw your eye out of the painting.

Do you think the diagonal lines draw your eye out of the painting?  or do the flowers keep your eye engaged?