Tuesday Tips #6 Acetate and our dog Tulie

Tulie. 11 x 15 watercolor of our schnauzer mix dog that thinks she rules the world!

Tulie. 11 x 15 watercolor of our schnauzer mix dog who thinks she rules the world!

Before I get to the tips, here is the finished version of Tulie, our schnauzer mix who has captivated our hearts. After having medium to large dogs, this little 12 pound dog has made me love lap dogs.  She has such personality and quirks, and she is so cuddly.  You can see the before version (and some in process photos from sketch to painting) at this post. Now she has a background and the right side of the portrait has darker tones showing the light coming in from the left.

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corner of clear acetate sheet with its paper wrapper

I used a clear sheet of acetate to figure out what colors I wanted in the background.  I tried out the dark blues and the siennas, and then decided to mix them in a wet in wet flow of colors.

Acetate is a really cool tool.  I read about it in The Watercolor Fix-It Book (vanHasselt and Wagner) a book I’ve mentioned before.  I got it at an art supply place for under $4, and found out that there are several types, so you want to ask for “acetate for wet media”.  It came in a 20″ x 25″ sheet with a white protective tissue wrapper and it can be used over and over.

Purple pigment on acetate over blossom

Purple pigment on acetate over blossom

I’ve included two examples here as a demonstration. The one on the left shows a rather garish purple (for this color scheme) that I tried over the top of a blossom to see how it would look to darken shadows, and then a more appropriate perylene maroon.  The pigments should be more of a cream consistency to stay in place on the acetate, but it all wipes off very easily with a wet paper towel.  I can see this coming in handy in lots of different ways.

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Perylene maroon as a darkening color for the center of this mexican red bird of paradise blossom

Tuesday Tips #5: Painting Sizes

Painting of wren figurine.

Little Wren.  Framed to 12″ x 16″.  Click on image to view it larger.  $90.

These two pieces that I am framing for the show were painted on paper I cut small just to try something out.  And the something “to try out” turned out to be kind of nice!  Unfortunately when it came to framing, the paper size was 7 ½ inches by 11 inches, and you can see how that wouldn’t fit into a standard size mat.

The tip I have for you today is to be conscious of painting sizes.  You never know whether a painting may turn out well, so be sure to paint it in a size that can be easily matted in a precut mat.  Precut mats are usually available with an opening of 5″ by 7″, 8″ by 10″, 11 “by 14” , and so on.  These fit into readily available commercially made frames, which makes framing a more reasonable cost for you or your collectors.

painting of aspens

Winter Twilight.  Framed to 12″ x 16″.   Click on image to view larger.  $90.

If you don’t have a mat cutter, it will cost significant money and time to have one custom cut.  If you are interested in buying one, my friend recommends the Logan brand: http://www.logangraphic.com/.

Watercolor paper comes in the 22 inch by 30 inch sheets.  So often what I do is to fold and tear these into fourths, which is called a quarter sheet (11 by 15 inches).  On several paintings I taped it to my Plexiglas Board which made a very nice white edging frame around the edges when I pulled the tape off.  It looked great!  But I had trouble with matting.

For this size, the best thing to do is to use a double mat whose outside dimensions are 16 by 20”.  Because it has that extra little bit of a second mat inside the opening, the opening is 10 by 13”.   If I had painted to the very edge of the paper that would’ve worked, but because I taped it on top, that white edge peeked out.

Painting to the edge

close up of edge painting

To fix this, I carefully lifted and blotted the sharp edge of the paint, let it dry and then continued the painting to the edge of the paper.  Now it fits inside the 10 by 13 opening with no white showing.  Here’s a close up of a fix of the edge. You can see a pale difference where the edge used to be, but at the edge of the mat, you won’t see it.  You can see the other edge is left alone because it fit well.

But really.  Repainting the edges of every painting  is not a good solution for the future!  I am now doing what Soon Y. Warren , a fabulous watercolorist, recommends: Make a double sided sticky tube with 2 inch wide masking tape. put a tube along all four edges on the backside, and press it to your board.  Paint to the edge.  It works like a charm!

Hope you’ve found this helpful.  Feel free to let me know what you think, and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday Tips #4 Try and try again!

Watercolor painting of autumn leaves

October leaves with redone background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Available. Click on image to view larger.

My tip today is to not be afraid to rework your painting.  After all, it’s only paper!!  If it doesn’t work out as planned, you can lift or scrub or even WASH off the paint under a faucet and work with the colors and shapes remaining.

This is a painting that I did last year and I put a cobalt blue background on it, thinking that the orange in the leaves and the blue background would pop and that it would be a good idea!  well, maybe applied differently it would work, but it didn’t for me.  See the next photo down.  I used the blue too thickly, and it concentrated in places, and I wasn’t able to move it. At the time I was intimidated by backgrounds and I thought…oh well, that doesn’t look good.  and I left it.

previous painting of leaves

Previous version of October leaves with vibrant blue background. Watercolor 11″ x 14″ Click on image to view larger.

This week I pulled it back out and thought, I like the leaves and I have nothing to lose if I scrub off the background.  So I did.  I also took a photo of it in its naked scrubbed self, but somehow I deleted  misplaced that photo so I can’t upload it.  I hate when that happens! It would have been so cool to show you.  Rats.  If I find it, I will upload it.

Anyway, as to the process: I used an older brush, wet it, wet the areas I wanted to lift off color and blotted it off with a tissue.  Sometimes left the water on longer and then blotted it.  “Rinsed, lathered, repeated” until the offending blue was gone.  I was left with a mottled effect of blue staining that I thought might work under browns or greens.

So I put down some lighter tones on top, let them dry, and then came in with darker tones and negatively painted the leaves that appear to be “under” the pile of vibrant ones.

Framed painting

Finished October leaves in square copper finish frame. Watercolor Framed size 18″ square. Available. Click on image to view larger.

So, do I like it now?  Yes, I do because it’s rescued.  If I were to do it again, I would want clearer more transparent tones in the background, but that would be a different painting, not THIS one.  So yes, I like it. Do you?

And I put it quickly into one of my favorite frames, a copper finish square one.  I think it looks pretty good!

Tuesday Tips #3

Walk with me. Cholla blossoms watercolor by Rachel Murphree

Watercolor of cholla blossoms, 11″ x 14″ Click on image to view larger.

I have been traveling recently and not painting, but I will be back in the swing of it shortly now that we’re back home!  So here’s another painting that will be in August’s show, framed and for sale.

Today’s tips are geared toward traveling, whether away from home or traveling around your own town.

Look for art opportunities, to revitalize yourself with seeing art, or appreciating color combinations or shadows all around you.  While on our travels, I had the very good fortune of seeing the mid Atlantic show of the Baltimore Watercolor Society and you can download the PDF of the show catalog and see all the works.  The quality of the work was simply amazing!  Take an armchair tour of the show!

Seek out opportunities to view artists in their studios.  I visited Goggleworks, a cultural arts center in Reading PA, and highly recommend it if you are in the area.  It will be a “must visit” place for me whenever I’m in town there.  The refurbished google factory has six floors of artists and art associations, ongoing exhibits, an art film theater, great shop and café.  here’s a link to some of their artists and some video interviews with them.

Do you have artists’ studio open days in your community, or is there a museum or gallery you’ve always meant to see, but haven’t gotten there yet?  Make an art date with yourself and get inspired!

Tuesday Tips #2

watercolor of sprouting onion, shell and marble

Sprouting Onion still life

This is another watercolor that will be framed and available for sale at the El Paso Art Association show on Friday August 28, 2015 at 509 W. Paisano.

And now for more tips…

Draw often. I mean  often! I heard an interview with portait artist Laurel Boeck who worked with a master painter after art school, when she realized she hadn’t learned the nuts and bolts of the art practice, and for the first year with him she drew —  she never picked up a brush!  Can you imagine?  The interview is part of the Artists Helping Artists podcast which I highly recommend.

Do value sketches with paint in three values with one color.  Take a color such as the traditional ones of sepia or ultramarine or be sure to use a pigment that will paint light, medium, and very dark. Those are the three values you need as a base to make a successful painting.    Some pigments such as yellows won’t go dark enough.  

Squint at what you are painting and just how in low light such as dusk, you see some lights and some darks and a lot of medium values that all look similar, the same occurs when squinting.  The different medium values all look the same and that makes painting simpler if you can merge all those medium valued shapes into connecting shapes.  The lights and darks correctly placed will render the object or scene believable so you can see if the painting composition will work.  

These tips serve as reminders to me to do them more and often.  I hope they help you too!

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.