4–>Fall Fig step by step


Detailed value sketch

Here are some of my preliminary sketches, more detailed than I expect a lot of more experienced painters would do, but it helped me to fully understand what I was seeing, how the leaves and the shadows looked.


It was interesting to see that the larger sketch reinforced the thumbnail value sketch I made previously.  It helped me to do a line sketch another day.


Other sketches



So I felt that I “knew” the fig leaves and light and I had the painted value sketch hanging around on the easel over several days and I was still excited about translating it into a real painting.

Step one was to put a light under-painting to define and isolate the whites and put down warms and cools in a very pale wash. As usual in this stage, I lost my place and left whites on different leaves than my original plan, sigh!, so I just adjusted my thoughts and went with the whites I was “given”.


Stage one of Fall Fig

Once that wash dried, I put in the darks of the Italian cypress behind it because I knew that the effect of sunlight making jewels of select yellowing leaves relied on the dark values around them.

Then I started putting in the next layer, trying to mix pigments on the paper rather than in the palette, keeping in mind that cooler colors receded so I used them in the leaves in the back and keeping focal leaves pale and warm.  I also warmed up the leaves in bottom front.

Fig Stage Two

Fig Stage Two



I deliberately left the foreground suggestive rather than detailed. But I am open to suggestions that it might need a bit more definition, or warmth?  I really like it now because as I was bringing color down into the bottom and then just brushed it aside with a sweeping motion mixing colors at the same time, as I often see in professional painting videos.

I thought I was finished before I really was, at the stage three photo, but my daughter suggested (and I saw it when she mentioned it) that she knew I was trying to have the yellows pop, but the values behind them weren’t dark enough…and sure enough, it didn’t match my value sketch.  Once she’s left the house for college, I will have to figure these things out on my own!   I’m sure with fresh eyes on another day, I would have seen it.  If you squint at this stage three, you see that the a lot of the leaves all have the same value of darkness.

Stage three of fig

Stage three of fig

I wasn’t crazy about adding more layers to those leaves because I would be losing some of the transparency, so in the future I have to practice, practice to get the values spot on the first time.  It’s hard to do because paint dries lighter than when it’s wet, so it’s a matter of more painting and paying attention to that.

So when I was deciding what dark value blue to use, I tried out indigo and indanthrone  blue on a separate piece of paper, and noticed that indanthrone was warmer, so I chose that one to let the cooler cerulean chromium layered leaves at the very back look further away.


Fall Fig in its final stage

So I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.  Do you think the foreground, left corner, needs more?  is there anything confusing that bothers you?  I really appreciate your comments and suggestions and hearing from you!






4–>40 Easel Features

The lidded palette all covered up. Usable as a shelf.

The lidded palette all covered up. Usable as a shelf.

If you remember on the first day I took the easel for a test drive, I was using a handheld palette and not the shelf palette that came with it.  I hadn’t had time to fill it and didn’t want a gooey wet mess taking it places.  Ask me how I knew that might happen!  ha!!

Over the past weekend, I decided what colors to include and what colors to put in auxiliary smaller handheld palettes to supplement the 14 wells in this one.

Cover removed and slid under as a mini shelf in front

Cover removed and slid under as a mini shelf in front

Here it is with its cover, so you can use it as a shelf.  in the next photo, you see the colors I’ve chosen and the cover turned upside down and slid under it to make a mini shelf in front.  I have taped on it the colors I’ve used and a small box that business cards came in into which I’ve put tissues.

My colors right now in this are (counterclockwise from left): viridian, winsor green (yellow shade), cerulean chromium (Daniel Smith), ultramarine blue, cobalt, quinacridone burnt scarlet, quinacridone burnt orange.  then there’s the very convenient hole for a water cup. Carmine, Winsor  Red, permanent rose, cadmium orange, quinacridone gold, new gamboge, and aurolein yellow. Notice the nice deep wells and plenty of mixing area.

This lid and palette are great because if you choose not to buy the tripod that comes with the set from En Plein Air Pro, the wing nuts allow you to slide it onto any other type tripod. I chose to buy the tripod because they recommended it as sturdy enough to hook on an umbrella, and buying the entire package was a reduced price.

2015-11-10 10.37.15

easel in action with shelf under large palette holding tissue box and paper towels covered inside a cloth type tyowel, and my sketchbook with value sketch laying on top.

So here’s the set up with a painting on the easel.  you can see there’s a pull out holder for brushes on the left, and a place to hang the included collapsible water bottle.

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Palette flooded with water

Sad to say, I had a bit of an incident with hitting that receptacle with my brush handle and knocking water onto my palette, specifically onto the oranges and yellows.  Grrr. I have been known to be sometimes a tad clumsy but I bet I’m not alone in this.

My husband dug out an S hook and today I hung the collapsible water bottle from the mini shelf at the front right and it worked SO much better!  More on that later.

plein air in my garden

plein air in my garden

Oops, almost forgot, here’s a cropped view of that painting from the easel, still working on foliage and flower blooms.

Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you!  Bye for now…


Day 25 — The back garden

My back garden. watercolor 6

My back garden. watercolor 6″ x 10″ watercolor $25

Here’s today’s quick sketch of my back garden in early morning sunlight.

I like how it turned out,, and  I think it’s because it was done outdoors, I did a bit of planning and had patience to let layers dry before going back in to add more — that’s when you get mud.  Mud in a garden is good; mud in a watercolor painting is not!

Day 15 — Plumbago and lantana

30 in 30 day 15_late_summer_flowers_plein_air_watercolor_rachel_murphree

I went out this morning and did a plein air (painting outside) piece from my garden.  It’s a late summer riot of plumbago and lantana flowers out there, with some flowering garlic and ruellia (mexican petunias).  I tried to capture the blues of plumbago and brights oranges and yellow of the lantana, and the feeling of being out in the warm sun and gentle breezes.  I also worked on brush work, using the point of the brush at the center and gently pressing on the belly of the brush to get the petal shape.  My favorite bloom is the one at bottom left.

30 in 30 day 15_quick_mat_rachel_murphree_watercolor
One of the dangers of plein air is being explored by ants while my attention is captured by the painting!  Ants were crawling on my feet, yuck, but once I moved myself out of their way, things got better.

Here it is quickly put into a mat, to see how it would look.  Forgive the wonky angles.

Woodpecker on Feeder

11″ x 14″ watercolor with pen and ink. Click on image to view larger.

Here’s a watercolor with pen and ink detailing in places. It’s a glimpse into my back garden and the feeder I have to attract woodpeckers (one of my favorite birds). This is part of the view from my studio windows.  As I’m typing now there are at least a dozen birds chowing down on the bird buffet in my backyard!

It was fun to do some detail with ink, I will probably try this technique again.

Please feel free to share this post, or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by.

Back garden shots

I have researched part sun and shade plants for my back garden because the trees around it have grown too big. Last summer I hardly went outside so there is a lot of work to do this year. It looks a bit sparse now but it will fill in with time.

I have planted yellow and green striped liriope, plumbago, day lilies, mint, and a ruffled echeveria which is to die for. There are mexican petunias and torch something and lantana from before.





Watercolor gifts

From WC2010-2011

I’ve been busy the last week painting, and while I know these aren’t perfect (and I’ve gotten wonderful constructive criticism from the members of the Watercolor Workshop yahoo group, I didn’t have time to implement them all before giving this to my sweet Mother in law for her birthday yesterday. It’s called North of Taos and it’s done from a photo of wonderful gardens in La Cueva, New Mexico When I gave it to her, I couldn’t remember the name of this lovely place we visited when the kids were much littler. You may see more work inspired from my photos of that garden, it is a lovely restful place.

During the weekend, I was awake early and the house was quiet, so I set up a still life and sketched and painted it. It too seemed frameable, so it became another gift for Jean. here it is

From WC2010-2011

I used masking fluid for the first time, and it was really sticky and gooey out of the bottle and remained that way, so I’m thinking it might be too old. The last time I really painted was probably five years ago, and I’ve never had the time to seriously learn it, so perhaps it’s time for a new bottle of masking fluid??!!

The thing that thrills me about all of this, is that I can feel that I’m learning how to control the water, how to judge what will happen to a damp or wet area if I touch it with paint. I’m also learning how to work with juicy colors and a limited palette. The starfish piece was done with DS raw sienna and cerulean blue, Da Vinci quin burnt orange, and WN Thioindigo Violet.

So really, the best gift is the gift I’m giving myself, following my heart and making time to learn and practice what I’ve always wanted to do: paint with watercolor.