How NOT to do a demo!

My first demo @ the Sunland Art Gallery, August 2016

My first demo @ the Sunland Art Gallery, August 2016

I have to say first off that doing the demo was a wonderful learning  experience.I’m glad I did it and I will certainly do more of them! However, I set myself up to not have the best experience, so here are four points I’ve learned not to do, especially when starting out.  Remember, this was my first demo.

  1. Don’t expect it will go perfectly or even turn out well because you’ve done the image before.
    Of course this is a death knell for any painting whether in a demo or not. If I think/hope ahead of time that  it’ll turn out great, or even good, well….you can guess what happens!
  2. Don’t watch a painting video beforehand and decide on a whim to try a technique on this image you haven’t used in previous attempts.
    Yes, you would think this would be a “nobrainer”.  Yes, on a whim I tried wet in wet fur before the eyes were dry. On a quite vertical slant.   ‘Nuff said on that.
  3. Don’t work on something that inherently needs to turn out a certain way (like a portrait).  Instead play with something like wet in wet landscape or image that you can play and explore as you go.
  4. Don’t use a set up you aren’t as familiar with.
    Case in point:  I normally paint on a counter high bureau with a 1″ thick piece of wood on top to make it wider but it doesn’t have depth.  It’s flat and I sometimes prop up my board on something, but the angle varies.  Because the gallery isn’t huge, I wanted to keep compact and I thought I’d use my plein air easel (which even though I went out weekly with before it got beastly hot, I’m still not thoroughly used to or pleased with).  Well, again, seems like a no brainer to not deviate from the familiar!


    Demo 2 after adjusting for height and angle.

    My main complaint on the easel is that the palette in front keeps me at a distance from the paper and so I tend to have it be at an almost vertical angle to compensate  If I lay it down flatter,  then I need to lower the tripod which of course I did in the middle of the demo with help from several artists.  again, not optimal for paint drying/running/ etc. while the leg heeight was being adjusted.   Do you get the picture? LOL


So I do have five things TO recommend:

  1. Start out small, as I did, with people gradually coming by, or not.  During my demo we had about 13 people drop by and stay for various times. Don’t start out with a demo for 30 artists with a screen projecting your every move. I eventually do want to feel comfortable doing that but I’m glad it wasn’t my first experience.
  2. Bring along several prepared sheets to keep you from overworking a piece without letting it dry appropriately.  In this way you can work on another version or a different piece entirely.  OR bring a hairdryer, if you’re used to using that…see #4 above.  I rarely use a hairdryer.
  3. Don’t feel you have to rush.  I felt I had to jump right in and balance the questions I got while painting.  That is something you have to handle, for sure, but I could have taken my time.
  4. Find someone you can relate to.  I enjoyed meeting and talking to everyone, but the best time I had was explaining my steps and why to a  10 yr old boy who liked to paint.
  5. Find something fun in what you’re doing.  Even though the pink of Charley’s tongue ran all over his muzzle in demo 1 below, I had a thrill of excitement when the blues and the oranges mingled so beautifully above the right eye.

So here were the demos as I left the gallery.

On both the white sparkle in the eyes was masked out so that the white paper would show when the masking rubber fluid was removed.  Not sure if I will work on these more, there are some good points in each, but time will tell.   It’s sad to see the tongue bleed on the left, but a lot could be fixable.  After several days I find them more acceptable.  which do you like better?

So thanks for reading through my extra long post.  I hope my tips will help you in your first demo!

Oh yes, and if you’d like to see the beautiful award winners from the My Masterpiece show, go to the Sunland Art Gallery FB page.

St Francis on the Hill Day 9

Today’s painting of the day is a watercolor value sketch from a photograph of a nearby church, St. Francis on the Hill.  I see this in the distance on all of my dogwalks and it has a European feel to it, nestled in the foothills of El Paso mountains and looking into the mountains of Mexico.

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Photo and several pencil value sketches

First I started doing several pencil value sketches choosing a point or several on the photograph to audition.  One of my presents this year was Powerful Watercolor Landscapes: 37 tools for painting with impact by Catherine Gill so I followed examples in there on finding your “what” that grabs you.  For me it was the light on the distant mountains and the dark foreground with some of the church.

Isn’t it funny how simple things become clearer?  when she was writing on how to do value sketches quickly, she said make everything that’s NOT white a med shade and then add the darker values.  Simple, huh?  it works!

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Values not quite right!

Of my three sketches I liked the bottom right and did up a painted sketch to get the values right.  But it wasn’t quite right. My eyes were drawn to both the lighter church and the mountains, and there was no clear point of interest smacking you over the head.  Going back to the sketch, I saw that I had the church too light.

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Painted value sketch of St. Francis on the Hill

I think this final preliminary sketch works much better because the focal point is much more clearly defined.  It’s quite useful to do these exercises because when you read them in the books, they seem clear and easy, but it’s in the actual DOING of the work that you learn…or at least I do!

So that’s my offering for today’s challenge in the 30 in 30.  While not a finished painting, it’s working and keeping the brushes wet daily that’s the goal! thanks for stopping by…

Day 30 — Lantana Further Progress

In process photo

Lantana in progress stems and leaves on tracing paper.  Click on image to view larger.

Today I want to take you further through the process of painting the lantana blooms. Not too much to show for huge work for the last day of the painting challenge, but there was a lot of planning, sketching, and patience waiting for the wash to dry!

So my first task was to figure out where the stems and leaves would go and how they would look.  I considered putting in a seed cluster also but it muddied up the composition.  it would have to be somewhere between the blossoms and it was too crowded there.  You can see that I used the plein air painting sketches to influence how I sketched and what the structure is.

Once I decided on the drawing, the next step would have been to transfer it to the watercolor paper somehow, and you dont’ want to put extra pencil and erasure marks on the paper because it mars the surface.  This paper is 300 lb which is thick and doesn’t work well on my light box to transfer, so I will probably cover the pencil marks on the back with a pencil rubbed sideways (to put a layer of graphite onto the back of it), place it on the paper and trace the design so that the graphite will make marks on the watercolor paper.

Garden photo

bird’s eye view of a representative lantana to determine soft shapes and colors to add to background.

I realized that it would leave me with a white background, looking like a botanical type illustration, and that’s not the effect I wanted, with the soft washes of the blooms.  I know that the best thing to do is to put in colors that suggest areas of foliage and other blooms in the background, so I went back to my garden, knelt down to get a bird’s eye view photo of a random blossom, and snapped to see where on the picture plane the colors would go.  How far up would the foliage greens go? do you see blooms, etc.?

In process photo

Lantana in progress soft background wet in wet wash that has dried. Click on image to view larger so you can see the white area next to the bottom left blossom.

The next step was to wet the paper with water with a soft brush going over the edges of the blooms and then laying in the colors from the prepared puddles of yellows, blues and rose, letting the colors mingle on the paper.  I covered the edges of the blooms because I didn’t want the background colors to dry with a hard edge where the water stopped and have it be kind of a hard halo around the bloom.  there were places where the colors mingled and the rose with the green made a brownish gray and I lifted that area with a tissue (along the right side of the bottom left cluster) to get a soft white glow.

In process photo

Lantana in progress. Tracing paper leaves and stems on top of dried background wash. Click on image to view larger.

The last in process picture is with the tracing paper back on top so you can see where the stems and leaves are in relation to the dried pale colors on the background.  the process today will be negatively and positively painting the stem and leaves, floating more color in wet in wet and then seeing if the background muted colors need to be amped up in any place.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday Tips

Agave Shadows #2 Watercolor painting by Rachel Murphree

Agave Shadows #2, done first wet on wet. 11″ x 15″ Watercolor. Available. Click on image to view larger.

Here’s a painting that will be framed and for sale at my show at the El Paso Art Junction, 500 W. Paisano, on August 28, 2015.  It’s called Agave Shadows #2.

I thought on this Tuesday, I would pass on some tips that I’ve run across recently and that have connected with me. Maybe they will with you too?

When painting foliage and flowers, the leaves facing the sun or backlit by the sun are a warm yellow green. The leaves facing the sky are more bluish because they reflect the blue of the sky. Shadows formed by branches above shading a branch below are made with an extra layer of the existing color of the underneath branch.

Cast shadows (the shadows formed when an object blocks the sun and casts its shadow onto something else) have hard edges except when falling over a plane or over a change of surface. Think a curb, for example.

The shadows should have the blue in them that you chose for the sky. So, there are a lot of blues. some cool, some warm, some medium in value, not warm not cool. Whatever blue you’ve used in your sky is the blue you should use in your shadow. It will keep your painting consistent and enhance the color harmony of the piece.

I plan on posting some tips weekly, to refresh my own memory and knowledge, and to help other painters on the journey.  I’d love to hear what you think, or what tips have resonated with you recently or in the past.