Another moonlight piece

This was a fun piece done in a class where we wadded up the paper while dry to get texture, even tears, in the surface.  We then wet it and worked wet in wet.  I like how the wrinkles helped add interest to the mountains.  Other elements that work well are the papa, mama, baby bear size and details of the flowers and lost and found edges.

What do you think?

A Christmas Fair: Feliz Navidad y’all!

Good friends of mine are associated with Junior League and their Christmas Fair in early November is their largest fundraiser and a huge draw in the city.  When I was approached to donate artwork to help fund their good works, I was happy to do it.  These are the three I’ve chosen.   I’m in the process of matting and framing them, so the first two are taken without the glass in so there isn’t the glare.mountain_flowers_donation_christmas_fair_rachel_murphree_watercolors

This is called Mountain Flowers and I’ve written about the process of creating it at this blog post if you’d like to take a look.


I’m calling this one “Commision Study of Charley” and I’ve written about this little pup and the process of doing the commission before.  The commission is finished and owner and Charley are happy!


The third piece I’m donating is “Fall Hillside” in the muted colors of a late fall day in the mountains.

Christmas Fair  “Feliz Navidad, y’all!” runs the first weekend of November at the El Paso Convention Center. At this point I’m not sure when or how the paintings will be auctioned, but I can find out and let you know.  Drop me an email at if you’d like more information or if you’d like to discuss having a pet portrait done!

Workshop notes

Yesterday I took day one of a watercolor workshop with Carol Carpenter, and I really enjoyed loosening up with her exercises and seeing her brushstrokes and how she approaches a painting.  She gave us copious notes on all aspects of what she was showing us which was very nice.

The top two are exercises in softening edges of circles, changing the shape, going back in and adding if you wanted…some became  flowers.  The second is called “three amigos”.  blobs of three colors which became torsos with the addition of heads and legs and their shadows…all done while holding the brush high up on the handle to loosen up. I used a dagger brush for these.  way fun!

Another exercise was to make a painting of three flowers in 15 mins with using only 15 brush strokes….this keeps you thinking of how to get colors spread out and keeping the brush on the paper. she does this exercise to warm up several times a week, and I can see how helpful it would be to incorporate into my studio time.

The bottom is an in process piece of snow on mountains in shadow.  I’ll do more work on this today.

Field of Flowers Day 13

Field of Flowers Day 13 (6)_rachel_murphree_watercolorsExperimenting was really fun this morning!  I’m calling this Field of Flowers and I don’t think it’s quite done, it needs some more darks, perhaps in the middle, but I want to mull it over.  It’s easy to paint over the cool details that are already there.

I’ve tried this before, a la Jean Haines, last month when I talked about my inability to see pictures in the clouds, and I had trouble seeing exactly how to make something from the abstract shapes.  I’ve learned a bit more from doing it today and that is to make lighter valued changes, softening at least one side of the paint stroke.  So, for me, rather than seeing this 3″ section as “X”, I play with a small portion of it, see what happens and then keep playing.

Here are some in process photos:

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yellow and blues, salt, cling wrap, and some additional lifting and playing 

I wet the back and front of the paper and put it on acrylic sheet.  I used new gamboge yellow and three blues: cerulean chromium, cobalt and ultramarine.  focused the colors on blue at the top, yellows in the middle, greens at the bottom and then smooshed and pressed down in various places the cling wrap while it was nice and wet.  Then I played with salt in a few places and lifted and added a bit of paint before letting it all dry.

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once dry and cling wrap removed.  see the salt blooms? 

I like the merging of blues and yellow to make the foliage.  The salt blooms are cool.

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Here’s a midway shot.  You can see that I’m playing with the idea of buds or seed heads under the left black eyed susan and under the right one, I’ve used pale values to make larger a leaf shaped cluster.

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Here’s the black and white version of where it is right now…and looking at it, I can see that more darks are needed, just a touch here and there.

Thanks for stopping by!


4 –> 40 Morning glories

Collage of various morning glory studies

Collage of various morning glory studies

The other day I took my easel outside and painted with my brush (without pencil drawing first) and it was fun! a bit challenging because breezes kept moving around the bloom, but I like their freshness.

I thought this was the last bloom of the season, but the next day another one appeared.  So summer blooms continue to linger here.  This is a favorite flower of mine because my gram and I used to plant and tend these beauties.

And because I love the orange/blue complementary color combo, I’m displaying these oranges of color charts. I learned a lot from this and think they look pretty neat too!  I created them by creating squares with strips of artist masking tape onto the paper.

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color charts of cooler and some warm reds and yellows, mixing them on the paper.

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color charts of cadmium and pyroll reds and yellows, mixing them on the paper.

Because my focus in the 4 –>40 (and beyond) is on mastering wet in wet and color mixing on paper, I didn’t mix the two on my palette.  in the one with more pinks/purples, you can see in the first full row of oranges that I was putting down a strip of each concentrated color on the edges and using a damp brush to mingle them.  I think it’s neat to see the various ranges, that way, and perhaps I’ll do that on longer rectangles.  but for the rest of the charts I put down the yellow first and while it was wet, I added the red on top.

When I removed the white tape strips, the charts just shine and sing!  fun to do.  I’ll be doing it with blues and yellows  AND viridian/thalo green and quinacridones to see the range of greens that can be produced.

Thanks for stopping by…tomorrow’ s post will be more on the easel’s palette.

4–>40 Backlit figures

Photo of Tulie chillaxing after the dog park

Photo of Tulie chillaxing after the dog park

The other morning at the dogpark around 10 I was looking at figures that were backlit by the sun.  Fascinating because I’d never thought to look at them in an artistic light.  Looking at them as a painter, the easier dogs to use for focal point ( lightest light against the darkest dark) are the shaggy dogs with the fan tails, like Tulie. You can clearly see the backlit whitish ridges on backs or tails against their darker bodies.   Those hit me over the head with their “Wow, look at me!” vibe

Secondly I looked at the people.  I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but it appeared to me that the people with the lighter hair also had more of their face lit, where the man with a shock of darker hair appeared to have a darker face from across the park. I squinted and it stayed the same.  I am assuming the lighter hair bounces around the face and lightens it up and you could see just the slightest suggestion of a nose or an eye, where as the dark haired man in  a painting would have a gray/blue face with no facial features.

Backlit mum blossoms

Backlit mum blossoms

The idea occurred to me that I should bring my paints and a scrap piece and practice figure painting while Tulie romps with the other dogs.  When my easel gets here, that’ll be a place to go.

Speaking of backlit, here’s a snippet of a plein air painting of mums in my backyard…

Oops! No workshop painting to show…

another cosmos study

another white cosmos study in watercolor.  5″ square.

Well, I have to admit I’m a bit bummed.  On opening my suitcase at home, I realized I’d left my painting AND my block of arches paper in the room where the workshop was.  Hopefully it’ll be safe there, but I didn’t take a picture of it to be able to show you.  Tomorrow I will post on my phone (new experience for me), fingers crossed the painting and paper are there!

However, I’ll post another of the “white” cosmos paintings that I did last week. This one is about 5″ square.  I love how the quin burnt scarlet moved and flowed by touching the edge of the damp center to get it o flow into the petals.

Anyway, back to the workshop with Michael Riordan.  It was again another great demo, this time of rocks, and putting in shadows first and then when almost dry, covering the rock area with the local color (or the color of the rocks that you see) another part of the lesson was connecting the shadows to each other.

gila steps reference photo

gila steps reference photo

We were encouraged to do a painting with rocks to tryout some of the techniques, so here’s a sneak peak of the reference photo I used to paint from today.  It is one of my daughters many years ago at the steps coming down from the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

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The part I find really helpful is the show and tell/critique session at the end.  On day one, when we heard we would each put up our in progress or completed paintings along with their value sketch for all to see, I have to admit there was some muttering about having to leave early for a (forgotten) doctor appointment or some such thing!  but we all stuck it out, and here’s an overall picture of the show and tell from each day.

White on White Cosmos


White on White. Cosmos painting 5″ x 7″. Available. $25.

Hi Everyone — sorry I’ve been away from blogging lately.  Real life has stepped in but I’ve been painting and sketching when I can.  I’ve missed “speaking” with you though and am still catching up visiting other painting blogs.

I pained several versions of cosmos recently.  They were white flowers that I had growing in my garden years ago and I had fun interpreting and seeing colors in the shadows and lines of the flowers.  I enjoy the seed cluster center of the bloom and how the colors ran into the petals.

I’ll be posting the other small paintings throughout the week and some sketches.

It’ll be a busy week because I’m taking a four day workshop  with Michael Reardon through the New Mexico Watercolor Society, three days indoors and the last plein air. It’s all day Tues through Friday about 45 miles away from me.  So it’ll be an invigorating and exhausting experience that I hope will take me to another level in my painting!

Here’s a preliminary sketch of the cosmos2015-08-09 11.32.35 from my sketchbook to envision darks and lights.

End of Summer Lantana

End of Summer.  11" x 15" watercolor.

End of Summer. 11″ x 15″ watercolor.

I’m going to call this finished! I hope its new owners like it.

I’ve sure have enjoyed working on it. It’s on 300 lb paper which is lovely to work on, and I plan on using this weight more in the future. I’ve enjoyed pulling out the leaves and stems using negative painting. and forming the details of the blossoms.

In other news I’ve been sketching a sotol and prickly pear image and envisioning how to make it a snowy scene for a potential holiday card. That’s on the studio schedule this morning. Stay tuned…

Post #3 on Lantana WIP

in progress watercolor

Lantana in progress with negative painting of stems and leaves

I put soft graphite with the edge of a 4B pencil on the back of the tracing paper but then realized I couldn’t see the sketching I’d done on the front! so I softened the back graphite with a tissue to not have scratch marks that would interfere with the drawn stem outlines, and I was able to quasi see what I wanted to transfer. I used a mix of sketching directly on the wc paper and doing the tracing transfer technique. then I mixed up

in progress watercolor

Lantana in progress with separating some of the clusters with background colors

and blues using cobalt and ultramarine with new gamboge and aureolin yellow. I put some water in areas and painted up to those letting the color blend into the water. You can see that to the right of the largest cluster there’s a water blossom run that I’m happy I didn’t try to fix while wet….I’m finally realizing that doesn’t work! as it is, it looks like it can suggest leaf edges for the background.

In the next image on the right you can see I’m painting over the light rose tones to separate the clusters from each other and put in the first background leaf. I’m leaving the primary leaves and stems in the light color for awhile and see what I like.

I’m enjoying taking my time with this painting, as opposed to doing smaller pieces daily…they both have their merit, but I’m going to enjoy the change. I do intend on sketching daily and posting. I had a drawing breakthrough in our painting group today, can’t wait to share that with you tomorrow!