Day 10 of 30 in 30 –I am not a snake!

Locust pod. 9 x 12 watercolor.  $25

Locust pod. 9 x 12 watercolor. $25

This is not a snake! it’s a locust pod that I picked up on my dog walk. I’ve been watching this tree for a long time, seeing the greenish white pods in the summer and hot they curled among the foliage…really cool! and then as the pods turned color in stages over the length of the pod…and now when they’re on the ground.

I’m so happy with how quickly this came together, and how it turned out. Day 10! Whew!!!

Locut pod sketch in pencil with notes on shadows and lighter areas, and watercolor wash to try out colors.

Locust pod sketch in pencil with notes on shadows and lighter areas, and watercolor wash to try out colors.  Click on image to view larger.

Here’s the sketchbook version in pencil, with my notes to remind myself on light and dark, and what kind of shadow. I seem to have rearranged the pods a bit before painting it, so the shadow shape is different.

collage of three locust photos

on the ground, dried, in the tree in early summer, and later in the summer see how the pod changes bit by bit into dried?

I added this photo collage later so you could see what these locust pods look like on the tree and dried on the ground.
Painting of hawk perched on a metal wire

study for a painting of a red tailed hawk on a windmill in the west texas desert.

I love working with these colors. The lighter area is quin gold, then quin burnt orange, quin burnt scarlet, and indanthrone. I used these colors to paint Hawk on a Wire earlier this week.

Contemplating one more time (and Tuesday tips)


“Contemplation 2”. 11″ x 15″ watercolor in progress. More wet in wet, less layers of pigment.

I’ve started another painting from the same photograph, and am trying a different approach with it. Here it is in progress, waiting for me to get back to it, and hopefully keep the same light loose feel to it.

I wet both sides of the paper (this time it was 140 lb, the first completed one was on the thicker 300 lb paper) and I started painting on it wet in wet, meaning flowing pigment onto the already wet paper, and then as the paper slowly dried, I kept using thicker pigment but still in lighter values to start to define the circles and ripples. I think it has a lighter feel than the first one had at this stage. I’m hoping to continue in the same mode and have a more transparent watery surface. It’ll be interesting to hear, when this is done, which one you like better.

So this is my usual Tuesday Tips day, and I don’t have anything formally prepared other than to work in series.  I felt so much more comfortable starting this one after completing the first.  I only drew small circles and the edges of where the dark and light would meet, and I found more circles in the painting than I had seen previously.

My second tip is to paint with other supportive people and give each other advice.  My friend Karen suggested on looking at this that I could suggest the circles, not necessarily complete all of them, to avoid the ‘bulls eye” look, and she was so right!  I lifted areas of paint in several places that left part of the circles “not closed” and I like the look better.

One of these days I will post paintings on this blog of my watercolor friends, so you can see their work too.

I enjoy hearing from you…and thanks for stopping by.

Contemplation: The surface and below…


“Contemplation” 11″ x 15″ watercolor inspired by the Contemplative Garden fountain at UTEP. Click on image to view larger. $99 unframed.

For today’s post I thought I’d give you a finished piece and its accompanying inspiration photo, and then a bunch of in process photos for you to see how this piece came together.

Photo of fountain's surface

Photo of fountain’s surface

I took the photo at UTEP’s Contemplative Garden and it’s the surface of a fountain created by dripping water off of bells above the surface.  You can see the fountain itself at the link for the garden.

contemplation 2 transfering

image printed close to full size on two pieces of paper to transfer.

contemplation 1 drawing

Initial drawing on paper, darkened so you can see the lines.

Because the photo was so dark, and I was using 300 lb paper (quite heavy), my lightbox wouldn’t work to transfer as I usually like to do, when I’m not freehand drawing on the paper.  So I printed out the photo on white paper in a size big enough for the paper, taped the edges together and used Saral transfer graphite paper to transfer the lines.

I was inspired to do this because the painting group I’m in was watching a Soon Warren video on painting koi ponds and I wanted to paint from my own photo.  So I followed her steps working with light washes put on with big brushes, drying it a bit with a hake brush, and then working on areas keeping some edges soft, some hard.

contemplation 3

First light washes of color. Darker dots are masking fluid, a rubbery liquid that dries hard and protects the paper underneath. Later that will be removed.

contemplation 4

after more washes keeping values in mind. darker at the top, in the shade.

contemplation 5

Further on in the process, putting in the dark areas in the bottom right.

So you can see the piece take shape.  Sometimes I lifted and softened edges, sometimes scrubbed out to get the texture of soft that the light on the water (front left) required.

I used many layers on this and lost some of the freshness that I want to get from watercolor, so I painted another in this, starting a series, with less layers, more wet in wet painting and I”ll show you that soon.

I didn’t use masking fluid for the highlights, because the edges dry so hard when you remove the masking.  and it looks artificial unless you soften the edges  a lot.  It’s easier to just lift small reflections from the paint and/or scratch highlights at the end with a calligraphy nib or little razor.

I also didn’t draw all the detail on the paper, because I feel a lot more familiar with the subject.  I got my circles placed and vague lines where I want the dark and light to meet.  More on that in the next post!


contemplation 6

Darker still but I don’t like the front left corner. edges are too hard.

contemplation 7

After a lot of scrubbing on the left corner to lighten and soften the edges, and putting in the brighter blue hues in the bottom right.

contemplation 8

Far along in the process, enough to remove the masking for the highlights of the water. the little white dots.  Note the flower is still masked.

I enjoy hearing from you.  Please let me know what you think, or ask any questions.  I’m in a hurry to get this post finished, and get back to painting, so I may not have been as clear as I wanted to be.  


Help me name this painting…

Watercolor of rocks and flowers by Rachel Murphree

11″ x 15″ watercolor of mexican poppies, prickly pear and rocks. Click on image to view larger.

So, as promised, here’s the finished painting from the photo I shared in the last post. I took artistic liberty with some of the rocks to make it a better composition.

This was definitely a painting that was giving me fits as it progressed.  It had its long moments of “adolesence” when all seemed to be a bit off, but it came together in the end.  When I paint this again, I will know better how to do it from the start, and not have to lift out so much color and repaint.  That makes it seem overworked to me, and not the spontaneous look I’d prefer.

But I think the discipline of continuing on when it got difficult, realizing problems and fixing them, is worthwhile, both in painting and in real life — don’t you think?

As of now, the working title is Poppies’ Rocks but I’m thinking there has to be a better title. What do you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions for a name for it.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your thoughts…

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