Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #1_Rachel_murphree_Watercolor

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #1

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2 on Yupo_Rachel_murphree_Watercolor

Buzzing in the Mountain Laurel #2 on Yupo

These are two pieces that I just framed yesterday for the Colors of the Wild show opening this Friday at the Crossland Gallery, 500 W. Paisano.  The theme is animals, wild or domesticated, and while I was painting plein air my early blooming Texas Mountain Laurel bush, I was amazed at the wild buzzing activity of the big black bees that swarmed the strong smelling flower.  They were very busy getting the most they could out of the hanging pendulous blossom bunches.  They were the “star attraction” for the bees as they are for me, but  I am also drawn to the new and older seed pods that remain on the shrub.  They are beautiful to me in a different understated way.

The second day I worked on Yupo paper, rather than traditional watercolor paper, and that’s always a “wild” ride!  The smooth synthetic almost plasticky surface of Yupo shakes up all the normal expectations of how you use the pigments because they continue moving and blending for long periods of time, and they also can easily be wiped away to “fix” a problem, but the wiping creates its own unique set of issues to solve.  I’m just starting to use this surface for watercolor, but I’m having fun playing! I will be demonstrating the process of watercolor on Yupo on Sunday, May 7th at the International Museum of Art’s Elevate Your Art fundraiser, auctioning 8″ x 10″ artworks donated by local artists.

 

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Early bloomer 2, also in plein air

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I spent some time today sketching and painting small images of the Texas Mountain Laurel.  This is the most successful of the three.

The hardest part for me is doing the foliage and dealing with the muted activity of what is going on behind the foreground foliage and how to express that all without going in after the firm edges of the leaves and adding background.  On this one I did lighter leaves and laid darker and varied ones on top.

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I’m going to try another wet in wet approach first, as I did yesterday with mingled colors of lights and mediums, not committing myself to placing the darks from the beginning, leaving soft edged areas of whiteness to fill in with blossoms and planning where to put the pods.  In that way some lighter leaves can be lifted out or negatively painted along with positive leaves.

What I’ve had success in is using the brush stroke to make a leaf in one stroke. Happy with that.  The leaves follow along rhythmically along a curved or straight thin stem and those lines could lead the eye through the painting, but one risks having too repetitive shapes, so playing with lost and found edges would help that.

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The blossoms are best done with mixing the permanent rose and ultramarine blue, leaning more toward the blue and going in later with drops of water and/or lifting our sworls of light to make the petal patterns that also go in pairs rhythmically on a with darker semi closed petals at the bottom of each pair.

As an aside, the wind was gusting at time today so that I had to hold down my easel while painting!  Next time I shall have to remember to hook my bag with water bottle to the bottom of the easel to weight it down.

Early Bloomer

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At least this year, my Texas Mountain Laurel bush is blooming two weeks earlier than usual.  I’m so glad I wandered over to check on whether it was in bud, and there are many clusters that are already open.  If you don’t know this bush, the clusters smell like grape koolaid, and it was the first shrub I planted when we moved in a long time ago.  I went out after 4 to paint it in the afternoon sun and shadows, and I feel like after several years, I finally have a handle on how to express the blooms.  Expect to see more paintings over the next week.  One of my favorite parts of the bush are the seed pods that linger and over several years they turn rusty and blue but in the first years they are light tan.  can you see them in the painting?

Photos from my walk

Spring is blooming here and I took some pics on my dog walk.

My small red bud tree finally has blossoms on it this year at least one’s to actually photograph!  Either I don’t give it enough water OR it needs to be a certain height/age before it flowers well.  I’m happy.

This is my beautiful Texas Mountain Laurel bush that didn’t bloom AT ALL last year because of the four day freeze we had (that killed a bunch of trees) but it’s blooming its heart out now!  The smell of grape kool-aid is all over the front yard from this bush.

Cherry blossoms in a neighbor’s yard.  I might want to paint these!