4–>40 Pretty enough to eat?

Pretty enough to eat?  Pineapple watercolor by Rachel Murphree.  8" x 10"

Pretty enough to eat? Pineapple watercolor by Rachel Murphree. 8″ x 10″

I recently painted a still life that I’m happy with.  I worked from an exercise in the book Painting Sunlit Still Lifes in Watercolor by Liz Donovan, but I bought a pineapple to work from life.  My lighting was reversed from her exercise, and I didn’t get to paint the fruit until its ripeness hit me walking into the kitchen.  So its leaves were dried and the body more browns than greens, so it was a mix of painting from life and from steps in the book.

Here’s the painting in five steps.

Stage 1

Stage 1

Stage 1 is putting down light values in the leaves and the red dots on the body.  Since the light comes from the bottom left, those leaves near there are yellow green and other leaves are cool and warm blues depending on if the sun is hitting them or not. This is something to practice more of, determine what temperature of color to use to make it realistic. The background is a mix of new gamboge yellow with a hint of quinacridone magenta.




Stage 2 is putting more medium values in.  I coincidentally had more pigment on my brush in the background while doing the left bottom corner but I think it worked out just fine since that’s where the light source it so it would be warmer there.






Stage 3

In Stage 3 I continued developing the leaves and the body putting in the start of the shading involved to shape it.  In Stage 4 that all continued as well as putting a light coat of cobalt blue over the warm yellow background.  That is my favorite part of the painting and I had a very hard time showing in the photograph, so I will explain it.  The left side really glows in real life and even the right cooler side has a depth that I can’t show in the photograph.


Stage 4

So, how does this relate to working from what I learned in the landscape workshop with Michael Riordan?  Well, I think it’s about refining my practice now at my skill level.  In his technique we did an underpainting of cobalt and cad orange to establish cools and warms and once dry, he did all wet in wet methodically working top to bottom, a practice he developed working plein air where you have to work quickly because the light it constantly changing.


Pretty enough to eat? Pineapple watercolor by Rachel Murphree. 8″ x 10″

While I like wet in wet, I want to spread out the fun.   I want to have more fun with the underpainting and get other colors and blending in there, learn how to stop and let areas dry before layering more, but my personality won’t let me layer five or six layers to get just the right amount of glow or value.  I guess I like controlled spontaneity, what an oxymoron!   I like the spontaneity of wet in wet but need more structure to have control over the paint.  While I’m learning how to get the value right the first time, I can also use the layering approach to getting the value I want.     This painting helped me learn how to do that more, and leads me to thinking of other studies and exercises to practice.  Today I’m going to try other colors on top of a dried layer of gradated yellows (cool and warm) and see what kind of glow and texture I will get.

Day 13 of 30 in 30 — Another peach

another study of a peach for day 13 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.

another study of a peach for day 13 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.

Spent a frustrating day working on peaches and other subjects and it’s not coming together well for me. We all need days like this to appreciate the days where things go well and seem easy! Tomorrow is another day! Thanks for stopping by….

Day 12 of 30 in 30 — Two plus one

Two plus one. Two peaches and one nectarine.8 x 10 watercolor. $25.

Two plus one. Two peaches and one nectarine.8 x 10 watercolor. $25.

Today’s offering is summer fruit, specifically two peaches and one nectarine. My goal was to show the texture and difference between the fruit. Can you tell which is which?  I will post this near the bottom.

This painting was wet in wet in layers, letting the paper dry between.  I don’t think I was patient enough in the layers and have lots of bleeding that I didn’t intend, which changed the shape of the one on the left in particular, but again, live and learn!  that’s why I’m doing the daily painting challenge.

Another benefit of the challenge is that I just dive in.  I don’t dither over the background, I don’t have the time frankly!  so it makes me try different things, that may or not be successful, but I make a decision, take the steps to complete it, and then check the results…

The nectarine is on the far right.   I painted it with sharper edges to make its surface appear shinier.  did it work?  after all, painting is taking 2D and tricking the eye to be 3D with texture, light, form and shadow…  it’s a very fun journey…glad you’re along for the ride….

Christmas Nopales and Tuna

Watercolor of prickly pear fruit and pads

Prickly pear cactus pads/leaves called nopales and their fruit, the pinky maroon tuna.   5″ x 7″  Available.

I was intrigued by the Christmas colors of these fruit when I saw them in the produce aisle.  They are part of the prickly pear cactus plant, and in southwest/Mexican cooking the pads/nopales are used as a vegetable and the tuna as a fruit to make jellies and more.  They earn their name “prickly” because even if you can’t see them, there are tiny stickers as thin as hairs that get embedded into your skin.  Ask me how I know!  Here’s a study of these to try to show the texture and colors.  I will definitely try these again sometime soon.

In other art news, I’ve stumbled across a really great podcast on Blog talk radio called Artists Helping Artists and it has several years’ worth of weekly talks with artists on their work and on marketing, tips on painting and the like.  I heartily recommend it.  Check it out at AHA (Artists Helping Artists) 

A newer and also really helpful podcast is the Savvy Painter podcast hosted by Antrese Wood, which has almost fifty in depth interviews with artists.  I’ve learned a lot from both of these art shows.  Do you have any shows you find inspiring?

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my work!  I’d love to hear your comments.

Fruit and Veg anyone?

Fruit and Veg watercolor I often play around on scrap pieces of paper, or attempt paintings that fail for various reasons. I was looking fondly at some of the images and thought, that pear is good, or I like that squash…but the rest… well….frankly, it’s rubbish!

So I decided to cut them out and play around with them and see what happens. What could I do with them? put a ribbon through them and hang them as Christmas ornaments, with extra details on them that are still forming in my brain while trying to sleep!, or from a branch during the rest of the year. or they could be part of a collage on canvas with acrylic maybe? or … or…. really though, they just make me smile, and I wanted to share them with you!

Can you identify each one? prune plums along the bottom, you know the pears, and probably the peaches, but the two on the diagonal you may not know: prickly pear (oppuntia cactus) fruit!

We’re Going to the Show!

Bird of Paradise watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Bird of Paradise, watercolor

Take a Bite! Watercolor still life by Rachel Murphree

Take a Bite! Watercolor

These paintings are framed and ready to take in this morning to the Arts International show running October 4-November 1, 2014 at the Art Junction, 500 W. Paisano, El Paso, TX

My goal this year was to submit at least one watercolor to this five state/two country annual show, and I submitted three and two were accepted!  So, if you’re local, please stop down and see the show.  The gala opening is 6-9 on Saturday night October 4th with good food and drinks!  All works are for sale.  Hope to see you there.

Fruit and pitcher

Fruit and pitcher watercolor still life

Washed in Light, watercolor

Luscious fruit posed in front of a favorite pitcher with a strong light on it for cool shadow potential.  My favorites are the grapes. and my least favorite is the apple.  How about you?


I read somewhere recently that the best thing to do is ask friends for what parts of the painting jump out at them as not seeming right, not participating in the full dimensional effect that we want in a painting.  So C and C are always welcome!  what doesn’t work for you?


After the second attempt, I’m a bit happier with this painting.

From WC2010-2011

Click on the link above if you dare to see the first version

In thinking about it (and watching a Charles Reid video) my paint on my palette is way too watery, so I’m overworking it rather than putting down nice juicy color and allowing it to blend. so that’s something to definitely work on!