Day 4 of 30 in 30 — back to skies

Sunset.  Day 4 of 30 painting in 30 days challenge.  Watercolor.  7' x 11".  $25

Sunset. Day 4 of 30 painting in 30 days challenge. Watercolor. 7′ x 11″. $25

Day Four of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. A colorful sunset inspired by a day last month where the trees in my yard at dusk had wonderful silhouettes against the beautiful colors of the sunset.

The sky was done wet in wet with all the colors blending.  After it was bone dry I went in and lifted with soft fabric painting brushes and toothbrushes and added some dark underbellies here and there.  The dark shapes were created with indanthrone blue and quinacridone burnt scarlet.  I love those two mingled.

As you’ll see over the next couple of days, I think I’m fascinated by portraying clouds…  stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by.  I enjoy hearing from you!

Day 3 of the 30/30 challenge — Sun on Cypress plein air process

Painting by Rachel Murphree

Sun on cypress watercolor, based on plein air sketches and studies. 8″ square. $45

Here’s Day 3 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I’m calling it “Sun on Cypress” and it is a result of plein air painting in my back yard.

I listen to a wonderful podcast called Artists Helping Artists and a recent interview was with Anne Blair Brown who is a huge proponent of painting outside (plein air) or at the very least from life in a still life, rather than from photographs. The few times I’ve been outside painting, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, so I gave it a try in my back yard.

see the white strip of tape I've put on. It says 5 x 7" to the right, 8 x 10 to the left

see the white strip of tape I’ve put on. It says 5 x 7″ to the right, 8 x 10 to the left

I went out and sat comfortably in the shade (very importantin our 90+ weather) and used my view finder to view what was around me DIFFERENTLY.  A viewfinder can come in many forms, from a square or rectangle cut into a piece of paper, to a plastic square with a window that opens to varying degrees from rectangle to square, to just cupping your hands in a squarish shape and looking through.  It really helps me isolate what might be interesting to paint and attempt to keep it simple.  When you are outside there are so many details that you have to filter out.  The photo on the right shows a viewfinder, and I’ve done the math to figure out where to open the window so that the inside will scale up to 5 x 7 (at the right hand side of my tape) and 8 x 10 (on the left side);

rough sketches

thumbnail sketches to get lights and darks

So here are some brief steps in the process.  I made rudimentary sketches with a black pen in my sketchbook trying to get the darks and light values that intrigued me.  The diagonal dark through the picture and the shape of it on the right.  the repetition of the tall cone shapes of the italian cypress and the varying light on them from the sun.

Rough study painting

Plein air study 1 of sun on cypress

Then I painted two rather quick sketches (on lesser quality paper that I happened to grab, won’t do that again) to try and work out the order and process of painting the various shapes.

After reflecting on it, I tried it again with arches paper inside, and ended up with the finished one above that I’m happy with.

Thanks for dropping by, and if you’d like to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

2nd rough painting study

Plein air study 2 of sun on cypress

The darks and the lights: Travel sketches of palms


Study of palm trunk with canna. Done plein air with studio finishing. A learning piece.

The family and I went to Tucson for a couple of days and I had a lot of art time which was great.  I sketched in the hotel courtyard, and also from photos on my phone while in the car.  That was a great use of time!  I saw the local watercolor guild’s new gallery which was lovely, saw some great public art, and just soaked in the atmosphere.
Palm tree trunks (like pinecones) have always intrigued me.  I find them difficult to draw to understand and paint, but I guess for me that’s part of their allure.  And I adore the mixing of siennas/oranges and blues to make the various wood tones.

I did this sketch in my sketchbook one morning.

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sketchbook pages

The right side image of a palm was done sketching with the Elegant Writer pen that wets and bleeds the first time you touch it.  It adds a neat effect. Leslie White has fabulous paintings done with this pen,  Check out her blog.  Her dog piece is one of my favorites with this pen.

Another morning I attempted the plein air piece.  It may have gone better if it weren’t for the arrival of the flies when the humidity rose abruptly.  Ah the joys of painting outside!  

Cropped portion of palm trunk

Cropped portion of palm trunk

So I took it home and worked on it some more this morning.  It isn’t perfect by any means, but I learned a lot from it and will hopefully paint a better one, fresh in the studio. I like portions of it a lot, such as this cropped piece of it.

These two sketches were in a large sketchbook, done in the car on the way home from photos, and helped me understand the structure of the plant better.

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Trunk/canna sketch

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Trunk/canna sketch

I was reading a chapter in The Watercolor Fix-It Book (vanHasselt and Wagner) on alternation, or creating a checkerboard pattern of lights and darks in various interesting shapes through your piece.  So as I sketched, I was envisioning alternating lights and darks and enhancing those patterns with shadows on the surface.  I’m sure it will take me a long time to naturally include that concept in my work.

it’s a great book by the way.  The link takes you to a website called Worldcat, where you can put in your zipcode and find the book in a library near you.


And miles to go before I sleep….

Watercolor of woods in winter

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…and beautiful in snow. Watercolor 6″ x 10″. Available. Click on image to view larger.

Yesterday I attended my second class of the informal transparent group here in town and our teacher was Dorian Clouser. As before, I learned a lot, especially from watching her demonstrate the techniques. I also really appreciated that she visited with each student, offering praise and then helpful suggestions. She will be with us next week and I”m looking forward to it.

This painting was wet in wet of a day with snow either in the air or coming soon, and we could take it in whatever direction we felt. Wet in wet is when you saturate the paper with clean water and once it has absorbed to a certain point you put on other paints in various stages of concentration. the more watery ones fade into the background and give texture and depth, the more concentrated (less water) don’t melt away as much and appear more prominent. it’s a balancing act of the amount of water and pigment, and it’s really quite fun!

I also learned how to make the rough sticks and weeds coming out of the snow by loading a palette knife and making marks that way, so it’s not just brushes that you can use. In fact, we also learned how to make trees by using credit cards….more on that on another day, when I finish the painting!

Winter trees

Watercolor of winter tree

7″ x 11″ watercolor on Arches 140# paper.  Available.

I love this time of year, especially in the desert southwest!   it’s cool enough to be outside and enjoy nature, and the bare trees, or trees with color on them, contrast with the evergreens.  Here’s a study on a winter tree