Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! It is exciting to anticipate all the adventures a New Year will bring! I am looking forward to holding my watercolor classes in a new location starting in January. My classes will be held at First Baptist Church - Fisherville in Memphis, TN starting Saturday, January 10th with both beginner and advanced classes.

With all the ice and snow in so many parts of the world, I thought I would start the New Year out by sharing my painting titled "Caribbean Winter Sunset." It is fun to imagine winter on an island away from the ice and snow! Although I am mountain girl at heart, I love the feel of sand under my feet and sound of the waves. So, enjoy a trip to the sand and surf by painting this beach scene!

Watercolor Tip:
The sky in the painting above is a variegated wash with colors applied to wet paper to allow the colors to blend. The sun was masked out so that it would retain its shape and brightness.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope that you enjoy a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends.

Above is a watercolor painting that reminds me of Christmas since the birds are nestled in the shelter of trees - both holly and pine.
Watercolor tip for this painting:
The snow on the tree limbs was masked out before painting to keep the snow crisp and white. No white paint was used on the tree limbs; the white of the paper "paints" the snow. White paint was only used in the final step to add a few snow flakes falling between the branches.
Merry Christmas! May this holiday season bring you much happiness and many memories to record with paper and paint in the upcoming year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gift Bags and Tags - Paint Your Own!

You've finished your shopping and it is time to wrap up all those presents! But, you find that you have run out of paper or gift bags. I have a simple solution - paint your own! I like to make my own gift bags and tags for a simple, inexpensive, but personal touch to gift giving. I have included some photos in this blog of examples of Christmas gift bags. Like the bookmarks and cards, these gift bags and tags can be made for any occasion by simply changing the picture. Included in this blog are some samples of bags I painted this year. Below are instructions for painting the gift bags and tags.
Hand painted Gift Bags and Tags

1. Brown and white lunch bags can be used as well as purchased gift bags that are solid in color. White or brown ones work better than other colors because they allow don’t overpower the paint or the design.

2. Determine the design you would like to place on the bag.

3. Sketch design on bag. Simple designs look better than elaborate designs. Since these are gift bags, do not invest lots of time or effort into the design and painting. Usually, these bags will be discarded after use.

4. Paint design on bag. When using watercolor paints, do not use too much water or the paint may seep through the bag and stain the back side. Designs can be painted on both sides of the bag or only on one side. Check while painting to see if you need to slip a piece of cardboard inside the bag to prevent paint seepage. Don't overwork the paint; a few brush stokes will add character to the design.

5. Don’t forget to sign your name and date.

6. To make the handles: Punch holes in the top of the bag and reinforce with tape to prevent tearing when used. Cut ribbon, yarn, or jute to desired length and place through holes from the outside to the inside of the bag. Tie knots or tape the ribbon to the inside of the bag.

7. Before securing both sides of the handle to the bag. Prepare a gift card cut from matching paper and painted in the same design. Punch a hole through the gift tag, place through one of the handles and secure on the inside of the bag.

1. Congratulation! Your gift bag is complete. These bags can be prepared for seasonal giving or any occasion determined by the design on the bag and tag.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last Minute Christmas Gifts - Handpainted Bookmarks

I like to paint bookmarks as gifts. They make an excellent gift with a personal touch that are quick and easy to make, yet are something a little special since they are handmade. Below are instructions on painting the bookmarks. The bookmark shown above was made as a Christmas gift; however, by simply changing the picture on the bookmark you can make a special gift for any occasion.

How to Paint Bookmarks

1) Tape down the paper, measure and draw the size of the bookmarks on the sheet. Depending upon the size of the paper, you can probably get 7 bookmarks from one sheet. Draw or transfer the picture on each of the bookmark sections.

2) Using a large flat brush, apply an overall wash with yellow ocher leaving the color more intense at the top of the paper and gradually becoming lighter at the bottom. Allow to dry.

3) Spatter the entire sheet of bookmarks using a darker shade of yellow ocher or a light brown.

4) Using a #4 round brush paint the red ribbon lightly with a simple controlled wash. Allow to dry. Add the shaded areas of the ribbon.

5) Wash the pine cones with a light yellow. Paint the details on the pine cones with dark brown.

6) Apply a controlled wash over the holly stems and leaves using a mixture of green and yellow. Allow to dry and add detail with a bit more green. Be certain to leave the edges slighter as this is what will create a variegated effect.

7) Paint the berries with a bright red. Using a liner brush, dab in the darker shadows and final details.

8) Allow the bookmark to dry completely. Sign your name! Cut the bookmarks apart. Punch a hole in the top and add a piece of gold cord or ribbon cut to desire length. CONGRATULATIONS! You have completed your painting – your bookmarks are ready for gift giving!

9) The bookmark can be given as is or color copies can be made at a copy store and then laminated for gift giving.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Watercolor Christmas Cards

Each year, I paint Christmas cards for my family and friends. Included in this post are several photos of cards I have painted for this Christmas. Below are some tips for painting Christmas cards.

1. Determine size of card wanted. Be certain to make a card the size that will fit an envelop which can be purchased at an office supply store.

2. Measure and mark the size of the card on watercolor paper. Cut using sharp scissors.

4. Sketch design on card. Simple designs often look better than elaborate designs.

5. Paint design on card. Don’t forget to sign your name and date.

6. Finish by tying ribbon or trim on card. If desired, use ruler and line up one side edge of card for “antique” edge. Tear paper slowly.

If simply designs are selected, the cards can be painted in "assembly line" fashion using one color at a time before cleaning the brush.
Below is my "Old Smoky" Christmas card.

Now, the cards are finished...if I can just find time to address the envelops and get them in the mail.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Let It Snow!

Our painting is now complete except for the snow and the bunny tail! Make a wash of white paint. Note: White paint is rarely used in watercolor painting. The white of the paper is allow to produce most of the white spaces in watercolors. However, when snow on top of an object is needed, white paint can be used. The wash is applied with an old toothbrush although a flat brush can also be used. I prefer a toothbrush. Don't make the wash too "wet" or it will not fall on your painting in a snow-like mist, but in large drops. If you are not familiar with this technique, practice on another surface first, such as paper towels, old cardboard, etc. Cover any areas with paper towels that you do not want to apply snow. Apply the "snow" to the painting. Allow to dry then add the bunny tail. The bunny tail is the tip end of a Q-Tip applied using school glue.

Sign your painting! Your "Bunny in the Evergreen" is now complete! I painted this as a Christmas card.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! My next post will continue with my Christmas Bunny in the Snow; however, I wanted to send Thanksgiving messages today and give a "seasonal" watercolor tip. Many thanks to everyone who takes the time to view my blog. I am truly thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy this blog and for so many other things that God has so graciously provided. May each of you enjoy a Thanksgiving Day full of family and friends and blessings.

Watercolor Tip of the Day: How to Paint Easy Fall Trees

When painting fall trees as in the painting above. Wet the tree are with clear water and drop in various fall colors. Let these color merge. While still wet, use a palette knife or edge of a credit card dipped in a dark brown shade and scratch in the tree limbs and branches. After this area dries, use a natural sponge to sponge in the fall tree colors for leaves.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow Shadows

The snow is not painted white, but is the watercolor paper which is left unpainted. Using a #4 round brush, we will simply add a wash of diluted Ultramarine Blue in various places on the white paper to add shape and shadows. Place the shadows near the base of the mountain, under the tree and the bunny. Add some drifts in various places to give shape to the snow. Using Ultramarine Blue, paint in the bunny tracks. We will let this dry and then add our snow flakes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanks for the honor!

I have been out of town on a business trip and did not have time to check personal messages or work on my blog. Was I surprised and delighted to find that I had been bestowed the Marie Antoinette Award for my blog while I was out of touch! What a wonderful welcome back from my travels!

Many thanks to Skip and Vicki -- I appreciate their thinking of me. Visit their blogspot at: You'll enjoy the visit...I always do!

Here are the rules for the Marie Antoinette Award:
1. Please put the logo on your journal - Real People - Real Blogs.
2. Place a link from the person, from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate at least 7 if you can.
4. Put the links of those on your journal.
5. Leave a message on their journal to let them know.
6. Put the award on your sidebar/journal.

Again, thanks....I hope to be able to make my blog interesting and informative. Any tips or suggestions are always welcome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Painting an Evergreen Tree and Bunny

I attempted to upload a video demonstrating the techniques used in painting an evergreen tree. However, there appears to be some difficulty with Blogger when downloading larger videos. I will describe the technique and try to video a shorter version to post at a later date.

I have switched brushes to a smaller 1/2 inch flat brush and have prepared 3 shades of paint - Sap Green, Hookers Green Deep and a mix of Hookers Green Deep and Ultramarine Blue. The lightest shade is painted first with deeper color applied in layers...leaving some of the lighter areas to show through. The deepest shade is applied last at the trunk area and on the branches to create shadows. The paint is applied in short strokes starting at the top of the tree and working down and from the center and lifting the brush to the outside creating the branches. The branches should be uneven...not completely symmetrical. The tree is allowed to dry before painting the trunk. The video below will demonstrate painting the trunk and the small bunny under the tree branches and you will be able to see the completed tree.

Once the branches of the tree have dried, use a #4 round brush to paint the tree trunk and small bunny. I used Raw Sienna for both. Paint the tree trunk and while still wet touch in a darker brown shade (I used Sepia) on the right side of the trunk to add texture to the trunk and create a shadow. Use a wet brush only and pull a little of the paint from the bunny where the head and neck meet to shape and contour the bunny. This is not a detailed bunny, but rather the illusion of a bunny hiding under the tree branches. Once the bunny dries, the flat brush can be used to add a branch or two across the bunny to place it under the shelter of the tree and ground it to the painting. The video below illustrates this section of the painting. My next post will add shadows and shape the snow.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Technique - Wet on Dry Wash

This short video demonstrates a wet on dry wash in which the paint is applied to dry paper. As before, the paint is prepared in advance. I used a light Violet (purple) for the foreground mountain which is painted up to the tree. I then added Ultramarine Blue to the Violet to deepen the value for the mountain in the distance. A lighter shade of the darker Violet is applied in the tree area which can easily be painted over when the green paint is applied, but will show through the branches in some places. This paint is then allowed to dry before we proceed to the next step - painting the evergreen tree.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Techniques - ready, set, paint!

In watercolor painting, the first skill to master is that of laying a wash. There are several types of washes:

  • Flat Wash
  • Graded Wash
  • Variegated Wash

Washes can be laid on either wet or dry paper. Working on dry paper is best if you want the wash to cover only a specific area as you have more control over the paint.

TIP: Paint will only run into the wet area of the paper.

A wash can be painted on wet or dry paper. To learn to paint a wash (wet on wet), first wet the paper using a large flat brush. The paper should be evenly wet with no puddles in places. Prepare the paint by adding water to the paint and mixing in the open area of your palette. In a flat wash, the top and bottom of the paper is the same shade of color. Once the paint is prepared and the water is wet, work from the top to the bottom using wide strokes. The paint lines will merge and will even up when dry. Do not overwork the paper.

In a graded wash, start with a strong solution of color and dilute it with clear water progressively as it is painted down the page until the color is very pale. Tilting the painting surface will encourage the streaks of color to flow and blend into one another. A graded wash is excellent for a sky which is deeper at the top of a painting becoming lighter closer to the horizon.

A variegated wash, contains more than one color. Before starting to paint, prepare all the colors you will need for that wash first. If you want the colors to blend into one another, wet the paper first and then lay down successive bands of color quickly rinsing the brush between each color. When the paint is wet, you will be able to see the separate colors distinctly, but they will merge and blend as they dry. A variegated wash is often used in landscape painting for a morning or evening sky when pinks, reds, and yellows are wanted in addition to blue.

Tip: When painting washes over large areas, always mix more paint than you think you will need. The wash will be spoiled if you have to stop and mix more paint. If there is paint left on your palette, it will dry, can be sprayed with water to moisten, and used again.

The video below demonstrates laying a wet on wet wash for a sky area. This is my first attempt at a video...we hope to get better at our "movie making" with practice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preparing to Paint

Before starting to paint, it is necessary to set up the paper on your board. I use a field sketch board which is a large Masonite board approximately 21 inches x 25 inches. These can be purchased at any art supply store. Since I usually have several projects going at one time, my husband has made me several boards out of Masonite panels which he purchased at a home improvement store, cut to size, and rounded the corners.

Tip: If you are a beginner and don't want to purchase a sketch board, a large cookie sheet can be used. Do not use a nonstick or Teflon cookie sheet as the masking tape used to hold the paper in place will not stick to a nonstick or Teflon surface. An inexpensive cookie sheet can generally be found at dollar stores - these work great.

The watercolor paper is taped to your board before painting to hold the paper in place and help prevent buckling when wet. If you are using a cookie sheet, tape your paper to the back side of the cookie sheet. I use masking tape and tape all 4 edges of the paper securely in place, taping approximately 1/4 inch on the paper. The tape will remain in place until the painting is completely dry. Artist tape can also be used; however, it is generally more expensive. I find that masking tape works just as well.

Tip: Before applying the tape to the paper, tear strips the length of the sides of your paper and stick them to your clothing. This will "grab" some lint, make the tape a little less "sticky" and prevent the tape from tearing your painting when it is removed.

See photo above of prepared sketch board. For most paintings, I do not use an easel. I paint on a flat surface and can elevate the board as needed if I would like to force the paint to run.

On my next entry, I introduce beginning watercolor techniques.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Watercolor paper...the good and the bad!

There are many types of watercolor papers available, especially if you visit a special supplier. However, in most hobby/art shops you will find only 3 basic categories: smooth or hot pressed, medium or cold pressed, or rough (cold pressed with texture). The all around favorite is cold pressed .

Watercolor paper comes in different weights with the heavier ones being more expensive. Weights are expressed as lbs. per ream. Most sketchbooks contain paper of 140 lb. These work best; any thinner and the paper will buckle more easily when paint is applied.

There are two schools of thought on stretching paper. Some artists insist that stretching is necessary before painting and others do not. I find, however, if I use 140 lb. paper and tape the paper to my board, I don't need to stretch the paper first.

The Good
I would recommend 140lb. cold pressed paper. Above is a photo of 2 types of watercolor paper - both 140 lb. cold pressed. Both papers are the same brand: the one on the left is slightly more expensive and a professional grade. However, I have had excellent results with either one.

The Bad
90 lb. paper is available in all hobby/art shops, but I would not recommend this weight. It is very difficult for a beginner to work with since it buckles so easily.

Watercolor paper can be purchased in large sheets as well; however, it is more expensive. I would not recommend this type of paper for the beginner as I have seen beginner watercolor artists nervous about using the more expensive paper; therefore, they are tentative and will not allow themselves to enjoy the experience of painting. As confidence is developed, more expensive paper can be used.

I usually purchase 11" x 15" paper. This size can be cut down for smaller paintings. An 11" x 15" painting is a good size for a beginner. A pack of 12 sheets of 140 lb. cold press paper usually sells for less than $8.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brushes....which paint brush should one use?

Brushes are made in two basic shapes: round and flat. To start out, you will not need many brushes. However, buy the best brush you are able to afford. The most expensive brushes are sable. However, many synthetic blends work quite well and a good bush will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Taklon is a synthetic brush that I have been pleased with. Be wary of very inexpensive brushes, they tend to lose bristles on your painting and do not hold a point for painting details.

To start with, you can be very successful with only 3 brushes. I recommend a 1-1/2 or 2 inch flat brush to lay down washes, a small round brush for detail (#1 round or liner), and a #5, #6, or #7 round brush. These will get your started - one large, one medium, and one small. Some artists only use one brush. You will find as you progress in your painting that you will have a "favorite" brush.

Above is a photo of the 3 sizes of brushes that I recommend: a 1-1/2 inch flat, a #6 round, and a liner.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Choices...choices....which type paint to chose!

Choices...choices! Watercolor paints are sold in tubes and pans. I prefer tubes as you can mix up larger quantities and strong colors more easily.

Tubes are make in a standard size, which may look small when compared to tubes of oil or acrylic paints, but actually last a very long time. Tube paints are available in two types: student or artist. Student paints are less expensive because they contain less pure pigment. Artist watercolor paints can sometimes cost twice as much as student paints. Although many artists suggest that one never purchase student paints, I have never been disappointed. For someone just starting out, I would recommend trying student paints in a good name brand. It can be quite costly to buy all artist paints especially if you don't know that you will like watercolor painting. If you do enjoy watercolor painting and plan to continue, replace your student paints with artist paints when you run out of a specific color. Then you can decide for yourself if the additional cost for artist paints is worth it to you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get Ready to Paint

Once you have obtained your supplies......what's next? If you purchased a large plastic palette for your paints, you will want to prepare it before you fill it with paint. The watercolor paint will bead up in the center mixing area if it is not prepared first. Use a pot scrubber or small piece of sandpaper and scratch the surface of the mixing area until it loses its shine. Wipe the "dust" from the surface with a moist paper towel. Now, when pigment and water is applied to the mixing area, it will not bead up. Before paint is placed in the paint wells, write the name of the paint at the top edge of each well so that the colors can be distinguished from one another and refilled with the same color. Above is a photo of my palette.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Welcome to Watercolor Painting!

Welcome to my blog! Let me introduce myself. I have been interested in art – drawing and painting - since I was in school. And, although I was not an art major in college, I never quit taking art classes and pursuing my art. I started out painting in oils, but as my life became busier, I moved into acrylics, and finally into watercolors. Although I still use oils, acrylics, and charcoal/pastels, my main concentration is in watercolor paintings.
I work a full time job in addition to teaching watercolor classes on the weekends. Therefore, watercolors are perfect medium for my busy lifestyle….and can be for yours too! Watercolor painting is a fun and relaxing way to express your creativity in a media that requires less cleanup time than other art forms, dries quickly, and can fit easily into a busy schedule. In watercolor painting, once a watercolor palette is setup, all one has to do is spray the dried paints with water to “bring them back to life.” Brush cleanup is a breeze, and the painting can be worked on for short times to fit into a busy schedule. Unlike oils and acrylics, watercolor painting can be spontaneous and enjoyed for 15 minutes and not take up an entire evening, day or weekend. But, once one gets into the watercolor painting, time flies!
What I would like to accomplish in my blog is to introduce watercolor painting to those of you who would like to get started and to assist watercolor artists who would like to learn new techniques. I plan to post one “lesson” or “tip” per week, more if time allows. Please feel free to email me with questions or comments at
For my first post I would like to help new watercolor artists get set up. The following is a list of supplies. Watercolor painting can be relatively inexpensive and one can start with basic supplies and add additional supplies as interests and finances allow.
PAINT: 1 set of TUBE watercolors (Windsor Newton is a good brand)
Find a set that contains primary colors (6-12) tubes of paint which will probably include the following colors:
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Alizarine Crimson
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sap Green
  • Sepia
  • Windsor Blue
  • Paynes Gray
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Van Dyke Brown
  • Lemon Yellow
  • White
  • #1 round brush or liner brush for details
  • 1-1/2 flat brush
  • #5, #6, or #7 round brush
  • Small pallet knife (optional)
  • Palette (large palette with individual sections for paint and room for mixing colors) Note: A large white plate or tray or Styrofoam plate can used for a palette. The palette must be white or the watercolors will reflect the colors on the palette and cannot be mixed property.
  • Water container (old jar or plastic container)
  • Masking Tape
  • Paper towels and/or Kleenex tissues
  • Spray bottle (empty)
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Drawing Pencil
  • Natural sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • 12 inch ruler
  • Liquid masking fluid for watercolor
  • Travel size liquid soap
  • Old credit card
Paper: 140# 11 x 15 watercolor paper (one pad)
Painting board (field sketch board) or large cookie sheet. Do not get a nonstick cookie sheet.
See you next time....ready to paint!