Work in progress: fantasy beach

As a beach comber this might be a fantasy beach…it is a piece in progress started by laying in colors in a soft wash and then carving out and defining shell shapes with medium and dark values. It is a lot of fun and maybe 75% done.

The next steps are to make some shells more believable and continue getting depth and partial shells. Also I will string a path of darks leading you into the left top shell focal point.

This is the painting in an earlier stage. What do you think? I would love to hear!

Day 23 — Shells Times Three

First attempt at these three shells

Second attempt at these three shells

Here are yesterday’s paintings. There are successful shells in each, but as is the case with learning watercolor, you often don’t get all the successful elements in one painting! at least I don’t… but it was a good learning experience for me. The second one has a better edging of the lines at the top left shell, after doing it one way, I found a better way (lifting the color to make the lighter stripes).  I think the shadows are better in #2 but I like the other two shells in #1.  I’m sure I will revisit these shells in the future…

Which ones do you find more successful?

day 23 shellsx3-2_rachel_murphree_watercolor

First attempt at these shells

Day 17 of 30 in 30 — Star Shell

Star (?) Shell.  5" x 7" watercolor

Star (?) Shell. 5″ x 7″ watercolor

Today’s offering is this shell painting, about 5″ x 7″ of what I have roughly identified as star shell, but I am absolutely no expert on shells.  So if you can tell me the proper name, please do so.  It’s painted with venetian red and ultramarine blue only.

It’s already Day 17 of this 30 day challenge!  I can’t believe it.  And I’m really proud of myself that I’ve produced a painting every day.  A friend asked me recently if it’s inspiring, or really hard, or discouraging, as it goes by, and I’d have to say YES!  it’s all of the above!!  but at the end of the day I can look back on a collection of paintings that would absolutely not be in existence if it weren’t for the public pressure of committing to the challenge and posting the results daily.

Artist Leslie Saeta runs this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in January and September and I participated about 1/2 of the days in January, so my skills and tenacity are improving… I’m looking forward to a more leisurely pace of working on a larger piece over several days, and yes, I could do that now, but with the start of school and family obligations, I haven’t found the time yet.  But things are looking up!

Thanks for stopping by to read and if you’d like to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Pelican still life –Day #13 of challenge

Painting of pelican figurine and shell

Pelicans, fronds, and more. Paintings from first group lesson.  Click on image to enlarge.

Yesterday I went to my first meeting of a small transparent watercolor group that invites local teachers to come in. In my very limited workshop experience I’ve found that I learn a lot but don’t produce anything worth showing, but this time was different. I was inspired by the pelican figurine and again it’s in my favorite colors of oranges and blues.

The fronds painting lying down was much more intimidating for me, so much going on with a wine bottle in front, fronds, ivy leaves, some fruit there too, and I found the pace very fast…but perhaps because of the extra stress of being in a workshop, but that was also VERY enlightening because it brought home yet again, don’t make it “precious”  don’t think it has to be perfect, just get in there with the juicy paints, try to see the darks and lights and get those down.  My fronds started looking much better once I got some darks in amongst them.  It isn’t done and won’t be done, but it was a great experience.

We started out doing contour drawing which is difficult but I found freeing because the sketch does not have to look like what you’re drawing.  It is when you follow the shape and shadows of the object with your eye while slowly moving your pencil without looking at your paper.  The goal is to sync the two movements (eye and pencil) so that you are measuring the distances on the object you need to make it look realistic.  So you learn an awful lot about the subject you are drawing, but without fretting over making the sketch “look good”.  Does that make sense?  The teacher commented on how the sketchy kind of marks you make with contour, or partial contour (when you look at your paper frequently) can give a life to your sketch/painting that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon, I came home on such a high.  I am really grateful to have found this group and look forward to next week when we have a drawing instructor coming in.

Oh I’d love to go to the beach….

Shell study in watercolor

watercolor 8″ x 11″ 140 lb Arches

I was in the process of setting up a still life of shells to sketch and then carefully transfer marks to the watercolor paper to do a full painting.  But I didn’t want to take the extra steps, so this was playing around sketching with the brush and pigment straight to the paper.  Again this was a limited palette of indigo, burnt sienna, and a cool “purpley gray” made with a new pigment I’m trying:  Daniel Smith pyrrol orange which is quite bright and scarlet colored,  but I created gray by combining it with a blue, I *think* (don’t quote me on this) Ultramarine.

Shell sketches

2014-06-29 10.22.33

Shell sketch

Shell sketch 2014-06-29 10.22.39  Some shell studies from my sketchbooks

Shell study

Shell painting 

One problem watercolorists have, or at least I have, is learning when to stop painting.  Or the patience to wait while paint dries and does it magic.  So recently I decided to have more than one piece going, so while I was antsy about color drying on one work, I grabbed a shell, lit it and painted it.  here’s the resulting study.

Shell again


I am liking this one.

Stages of a shell




So what do u think? I like the sketch and quite enjoyed doing it. I feel more skilled at what to do in paint, after my three lessons from that book, but of course it didn’t all happen. The area below the shell in reality was a reflection in a glass table and there was no direct light to create a shadow. I did it on a paper that was not arches nor cold pressed, and it didn’t allow the color to lift well. I needed the shell blue to be lighter. I think i like the ink on it and that’s handy because that is how ir ended up!! Lesson four tomorrow a wine glass with reflections and a beautiful rose blossom.

Shell #1