GREENS! in honor of St Patty’s day


And now for something completely different!  I recently took a class with Nancy Frost Begin on abstract painting beginning with elongated out of scale sketches of ordinary objects and then playing…  It’s very different for me, but I’m sure having fun.  While painting you keep turning the canvas to get a new perspective, and work on using the elements and principles of art to make an interesting piece.  This is in process, so I’m not sure where it will go from here, but I think the journey will be a blast…  I’m thinking it needs more places to rest your eye, and I have to look at it critically with the principles in mind…  but here it is turned three ways.

Does either way catch your fancy?  What do you see in it?

Thanks for stopping by!

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!






October Leaves sold!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves . Watercolor 11″ x 14″ SOLD. Click on image to view larger.

I’m very pleased to announce that October Leaves (which is hanging in the Arts International show @ the Art Junction until this Saturday) has been sold to good friends of mine.  Thanks so much guys!  I will enjoy seeing it in its new home when we come to visit.

You can read more about the painting process of October Leaves in my previous post Try, Try again.

Prints and cards of October Leaves are available.  Contact me if you’d like more information.

October Leaves accepted to Arts International!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves.  Watercolor 11″ x 14″  $175 matted and framed for sale at Arts International, October 3.   Click on image to view larger.

I am very happy to announce that my painting October Leaves has been selected for the Arts International show, opening October 3, 2015 at the Art Junction!  It was one of 68 paintings chosen from 145 submitted. This is the annual juried show of the El Paso Art Association.

As I blogged about in an earlier post called Try and Try again, this was a piece that I went back to  months after it was “finished” because I didn’t like the background and scrubbed it out and redid it, adding more layers of leaves to the pile. You can go back and read to see the process if you’d like.  Guess it shows that persistence works…and that watercolor CAN be forgiving!

Tuesday Tips #4 Try and try again!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves with redone background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Available. Click on image to view larger.

My tip today is to not be afraid to rework your painting.  After all, it’s only paper!!  If it doesn’t work out as planned, you can lift or scrub or even WASH off the paint under a faucet and work with the colors and shapes remaining.

This is a painting that I did last year and I put a cobalt blue background on it, thinking that the orange in the leaves and the blue background would pop and that it would be a good idea!  well, maybe applied differently it would work, but it didn’t for me.  See the next photo down.  I used the blue too thickly, and it concentrated in places, and I wasn’t able to move it. At the time I was intimidated by backgrounds and I thought…oh well, that doesn’t look good.  and I left it.

previous painting of leaves

Previous version of October leaves with vibrant blue background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Click on image to view larger.

This week I pulled it back out and thought, I like the leaves and I have nothing to lose if I scrub off the background.  So I did.  I also took a photo of it in its naked scrubbed self, but somehow I deleted  misplaced that photo so I can’t upload it.  I hate when that happens! It would have been so cool to show you.  Rats.  If I find it, I will upload it.

Anyway, as to the process: I used an older brush, wet it, wet the areas I wanted to lift off color and blotted it off with a tissue.  Sometimes left the water on longer and then blotted it.  “Rinsed, lathered, repeated” until the offending blue was gone.  I was left with a mottled effect of blue staining that I thought might work under browns or greens.

So I put down some lighter tones on top, let them dry, and then came in with darker tones and negatively painted the leaves that appear to be “under” the pile of vibrant ones.

Framed painting

Finished October leaves in square copper finish frame. Watercolor Framed size 18″ square. Available. Click on image to view larger.

So, do I like it now?  Yes, I do because it’s rescued.  If I were to do it again, I would want clearer more transparent tones in the background, but that would be a different painting, not THIS one.  So yes, I like it. Do you?

And I put it quickly into one of my favorite frames, a copper finish square one.  I think it looks pretty good!

A Moment in Time

"A Moment in Time"  watercolor painting of driftwood and leaf by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor painting 11″ x 14″. Click on image to view larger

This is a painting I have attempted several times since I took the picture seven years ago. Our family was with another family playing on a sandy beach of the Rio Grande up in Rio Rancho, NM. I captured a lot of photographs that day including many nature shots. I’m calling it “A Moment in Time”. The driftwood piece is done in walnut ink and watercolor, the rest is watercolor. I appreciate all the suggestions from friends and teachers to get this to where it is. I have a feeling I will paint it again and again!

The title felt “right” for this painting, but as I decided it, I realized every painting capturies a moment in time, and I’m doing my best to translate the experience in paint and paper.

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

From the sketchbook — leaves and pinecone

sketch with wash of leaves and pinecone

Sketch of leaves and a pine  cone with watercolor wash in sketchbook.  Click on image to make it larger.

Yesterday I spent studio time working on a fall desert landscape and got the aerial perspective down quite well.  That’s when you create distance by having areas in the background get lighter and bluer.  And the clouds were fairly ok in the sky.  And then, I blew up the painting with a poorly painted tree that just got worse and worse!  Once again wish that I’d taken a photo before taking that next step.

So I watched a Sterling Edwards watercolor video on brushes and brush strokes and realized I need to use flat brushes *way* more to do trees and washes, etc. so it that viewing was good timing.

Today I’m practicing brush strokes, making trees, learning more about how much water/pigment certain brushes contain.

So here’s a sketch I did several days ago that I added washes to recently.  Sketchbook paper doesn’t allow you to lift and merge washes well, so once it’s down, it’s staying, but I think it turned out ok.  Do you sense a theme here of what I like to paint?

October Leaves, the Process

Painting of leaves

Here is October Leaves #1.   12″ x 16″ watercolor on 140 # Arches paper.  I’m not sure it’s quite finished yet, I’ll set it up and look at it for a couple of days, but it’s done enough to show you here.

A friend who is a big supporter of my work suggested I might want to show a series of in process photos to show how the painting develops. So here goes.

transferred to WC paperI started with this sketch of various fall leaves overlapping in a pile.  Because I live now in an area that doesn’t have the species that give these leaves, I free hand sketched some and used clipart for others.  I then transferred the sketch to watercolor paper with a transfer paper kind of like old time carbon paper, but with graphite. I’m considering getting a light box to make this process cleaner and easier. Maybe it will be a Christmas present?

first layer of wet in wet washes

This is the first layer of washes, pigment that’s not too thick or thin on to paper wet with water. You can see how the colors blend together including on the oak leaf at the top. I thought that was pretty cool, I’ve seen leaves in real life that look like that, so I left it and built around it.

second layer defining the leaves

After a second layer that helps define the edges of some leaves on top of others, adds more texture, color, splotches on some leaves, adds some back color to make the leaves pop.  This is a really fun time of the process and one that I have a lot more to learn about.  It feels like turning my head inside out to paint around something to make it stand out.

third layer of paintThis continues the process further and then the last layer (so far) has been to add more pigment to the background.

I’m excited about what I’m learning doing these paintings.  I know I need to make much bigger puddles of pigment and use larger brushes on the background to make smoother washes.  I do like the layers I can see underneath, but smoother would definitely be better.

Have to learn to take a deep breath before jumping in, and make every brush stroke meaningful.  And, as our family has learned this week, we need to make every hour meaningful because we don’t know how long we will be here.  I’ve been painting this week with a heavy heart.

As always, thanks so much for reading and commenting.  I love to hear from you.