Friday, December 25, 2009

Good Tidings of Great joy!


And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy......

Luke 2:10

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Littlest Angel!

Christmas is coming and I wanted to share with you one of my Christmas angels.  This one was painted for a Chrismtas card.

I wanted a contrast between the starry sky and the bright angel.  So, I used a deep blue (Windsor Blue) for the sky and placed in drops of white to indicate stars after the sky was completely dry.  The angel wings and robe were painted wet on wet using a very pale Paynes Gray for shadows and a little bit of yellow on the wings.

The redbird on the branch was added as a sign of hope.....with the angel anticipating the birth of the Christ child!

May each of you experience the hope of Christmas and the best Christmas present ever---God's gift of Christ!

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Let it Snow!

Since so many parts of the United States have recently experienced a large snow, I thought it would be appropriate to have a snowman on the blog today. Nothing brings to mind Christmas and winter more than snow. This friendly little snowman was painted for my Chirstmas cards and he is quite easy to paint with a limited palette.

The background and foreground were painted first using a wash of Windsow Blue with deeper blue in the sky area and a light wash in the foreground. While the paint was still wet, I dropped in large grains of sea salt to create the snowflakes both in the sky and in the foreground. I let this dry before painting the snowman.

The snowman was painted wet on wet using a very pale Windsor Blue - just enough to make shadows. The rest of the snowman (hat, details, etc.) was painted after the body was completely dry.

I finished up with a "spatter" of white to make some additional snow on his hat and in the deep blue sky!

So, if you are like me and live where you have not had the pleasure of a snow - yet, paint a snowman---it is almost as much fun as making one AND much warmer!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter's Hope

Winter's Hope

The painting above titled, Winter's Hope, is another holiday season painting. Although this tree is standing alone in a winter snow storm, we see a small splash of red - a small bird on a branch. This hope of love and life depicted by the redbird on the limb reminds me of the holiday season and the love and hope given to us by Jesus' birth.

This painting is a simple sketch of a tree. The tree was masked off. I used masking tape rather than liquid masking fluid because of the large size of my tree. This was painted on 11 x 14 paper. My favorite part of this painting was the background. I painted wet on wet with a base of clean water. Blues were washed in and a drop or two of brunt umber. I sprinkled in a little salt to make my snow flakes. I like the way the salt miraculously paints the snow.

Perhaps because I live in the South, I love snow. We don't have many days with snow in the winter, so I have to enjoy snow however I I paint it!

Enjoy the holidays and don't forget to take time to paint!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tis the Season!

Pears and Poms

Now that Thanksgiving is a memory, I can look forward to Christmas! When I saw a catalog filled with gifts of fruit, I thought I would paint some fruit as a way to get into the holiday spirit. Above is my painting, Pears and Poms, which was painted by inspiration from a Harry & David catalog! When one likes to paint, everything and anything can be an inspiration for another painting!

My favorite part of painting this watercolor was blending the paint on the pears and the pomegranates. Each fruit was painted first with clear water and then the colors were dropped in and allowed to blend. This is one of my favorite techniques and I don't think I have ever not been satisfied with the result. The water, the paint, and the paper have a "mind of their own" and create a unique blend of colors. The same technique was used on the pear leaves.

Hopefully, this will be first of many holiday season paintings! Remember as we jump into the hustle and bustle of the season - take a few minutes for yourself and paint! Tis the season!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The picture above titled "The Thief" reminds me of Thanksgiving. I drew this picture with pastels on black paper. Although this is not a watercolor painting, I wanted to share it with you during this holiday season.

May you enjoy this day with joy and thanksgiving in your heart with family and friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Autumn Cascades

I love the mountains - any time of year, but Fall in the mountains brings such brilliant colors that one can't help but smile and be happy!

This painting is one of many mountain streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When looking at this painting, I can almost hear the rushing water, feel the cool air, and the warm sunshine.

My favorite part of this painting was creating the rocks!

The rocks are painted with a wash of raw umber, burnt umber, ultramarine. Light washes are added with the darker colors added to the bottom, sides and edges of the rocks. Clean water was applied to the drying paint to add texture. The water pushes the paint outwards, breaking up its regular drying pattern, scattering the particles of paint. As they dry, the “watermark” can be seen, providing an appearance of wetness and texture.

The water is mostly "illusion." Much white area is left...the more white area, the faster the water appears to be moving. Water rarely flows in a straight line. Tiny flecks of paint can also be scrapped of with a knife when dry to add reflected sunlight.

Enjoy painting this one - you'll hearing the rushing water too!

Fall in the Birches

Fall in the Birches

This is one of my favorite paintings! Perhaps because Fall is my favorite season with bright colors of leaves, the crisp, cool air, and brilliant blue skies! When I look at this painting, I can feel the coolness of the air and the taste of a good crisp apple! This painting is a fun and easy one to paint...even for beginners. Very little drawing skill is needed.

The trees are sketched in lightly with little detail. Masking fluid is used to cover the trees. Single line branches can be left without masking fluid as they will be painted in using a darker watercolor paint.

Now for the fun part! The background foliage and trees are painted on a very wet background. First a flat brush is used to apply paint of various "leaf colors" in random places on the painting. Blue sky can also be dropped in. Allow colors to mingle and blend. After this has dried, use a sea sponge and sponge in additional foliage with the same bright colors.

When dry, the masking is removed and the trees are painted in with light washes of burnt umber and sepia. Sponge in leaves on top of the some of the trees. Vary shades of color to indicate shadows.

My hands get messy painting this one - I really get into sponging!

Enjoy! And Happy Fall!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

Since today is Halloween and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought a pumpkin painting would be a good blog entry. The painting above, "Pumpkin Patch" places the foreground posts and pumpkins as the focal point of the painting. This is achieved by creating an "illusion" of a pumpkin patch in the background by painting wet on wet and dropping in colors.

The posts are painted using a technique I use for painting weathered wood. I used the steps below to paint the posts:

Begin with a pale, varied wash applied to a damp surface and let it dry. Wood colors vary. Use a wash of the following colors:
 Yellow Ochre
 Payne’s Gray
 Sepia

Do not paint all washes over the top of the other washes, but blend the colors together.

Use a flat brush with the bristles fanned out slight to drybrush in wood grain lines. Use a medium dark wash of Burnt Umber/Payne’s Gray or Sepia/Indigo.

Finish with wavy lines creating a woodgrain using Gray, Sepia or black. A fine liner brush can be used or a very fine line pen. These lines need to be soft, not hard heavy lines. Detail can be added using the following techniques:
• Spatter
• Alcohol drops to “bleach” out some of the wood color
• A knothole created using your knuckle.

Students in my November watercolor classes will be given the option to work on this painting. I had fun painting it! Give this painting a'll enjoy it too!

Happy Fall!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Avenue

I enjoy painting buildings, houses, barns, etc. So. when I saw a photograph of this street scene, I wanted to paint it. This street is a famous shopping area, but I like it because of its bright colors and the tile roofs.

Once the sketching was done, the painting went quickly. Most of the buildings are left white with only shading in places. This shading was done using violet or a mix of rose and Windsor blue. The roofs were painted with a mix of rose, medium yellow and burnt sienna. I varied the amounts of each color on the roofs to include shadow and light. I also used my palette knife to scrape in some tile shapes here and there. The palette knife was also used to scrape in lines on the palm trees and leaves in the palms.

I only used three (3) brushes and a palette knife for this painting. A flat brush to wash in the sky and the street, and to shadow the buildings. I used a #6 round brush for the tile roofs, the windows, and the greenery. A liner brush was used to put in the details on the windows, balconies, street lights, etc.

If you like buildings and streets, give this painting a try. One evening sketching and only an hour or so of painting will give you a fun, street scene that you can enjoy without spending money and shopping!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Plein Air Workshop Masterpieces!

Autumn at Herb Parson's
by Karen

Two weeks ago, the Brush Strokes watercolor class painted on location at Herb Parson's Lake in West Tennessee. Photos of our class were on the blog at that time. Sketches and basic paintings were completed on location with most of the paintings finished in class today.

Debbie's Painting

Each student took a digital photo of their subject, copies were printed, and painting done in class today using the digital photo.

Susan's Painting

What a difference a couple of weeks has made in our weather! Two weeks ago, the weather was warm and sunny. However, today the skies were cloudy and the forecast for tonight is for the possibility of our first frost of the season. Those digital photos came in handy!

Tracy's Painting

The students did a fantastic job on their paintings. Painting "plein air" is much different than painting in a classroom - more difficult in many ways. The photos of the completed paintings are scattered throughout this entry. Paintings are shown in "ABC" order by first name....except for the teacher's - mine is at the top (After all, it is my blog! :) And, every one's painting turned out so well that I simply could not showcase one at the top.). I'll have one more student painting to show in another blog - just as soon as she as she has time to finish it.

Great job, class! Hope you enjoyed this workshop as much as I did!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spice Junks

The painting above titled "Spice Junks" uses several techniques that I have discussed recently:

1. Painting reflections
2. Use of "wedgies" or an inclined board
3. Blending colors

An inclined board was used to assist with the flow of paint when painting the water and the reflections.

Reflections of the boats as well as the mountains in the distance were painted in the water. With the assistance of the inclined board, the water was painted and then the colors of the mountains and of the boats/sails were dropped into the water and allow to blend.

The sails were painted by blending paint using a wet on wet technique.

Most paintings can be painted using various techniques. I think each artist should use the technique they feel will create the look they are seeking. Using different techniques to paint the same picture will add a different mood and feel to a painting.

I think the main objection in any painting is for the artist to express themselves and enjoy the process. If the first attempt is not successful, try again. After all, to quote one of my students: "It's only paper!"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Plein Air Watercolor Class

Today the Brush Strokes watercolor class was a plein air workshop at Herb Parson's Lake in West Tennessee. The fall weather was ideal for painting "on location" with warm fall temperatures, a nice breeze, and sunny skies!

With so much beauty around, the most difficult part of the class was selecting what to paint. I'll share photos of the class in today's blog and share photos of the finished paintings in another blog later this month.

The following are tips for "plein air" painting:

Plein air is a term derived from the French phrase en plein air, which literally means 'in the open air'. It's a familiar concept today. In the late 1800s when the Impressionists ventured out of their studios into nature to investigate and capture the effects of sunlight and different times of days on a subject, it was quite revolutionary.

The following are questions and answers about plein air painting:

What and Where Do I Paint Plein Air?
Your subject matter is entirely up to you, but remember that you don't have to paint everything you see; be selective, think about what the essence of the scene is. Focus on what you see, not what you can imagine or intellectualize about the subject (otherwise you may as well be back in your studio. Look right around, 360 degrees, so you don't miss the possibilities 'behind' you. Look around first before you start painting.

Don't think that it needs to be somewhere far away or exotic, you can go to a local park, to a friend with a lovely flower garden, or even set up your watercolors on a table in a coffee shop. The ideal spot to set up will be in the shade, out of the wind, but this often isn't possible.

How to Deal With Spectators While Painting Plein Air
There's something about seeing an artist at work that makes people extremely inquisitive, more likely to talk to a stranger, and prone to giving unwanted opinions. It can be disconcerting, especially if your painting isn't going well, and quite disruptive. Considering positioning yourself where people can't come up behind you, such as against a wall or in a closed doorway. If you don't wish to chat, be politely non-responsive along the lines of "I'm sorry I can't talk right now I've only a limited time to do this".

Do I Have to Finish the Painting Outdoors?

Purists will argue that a plein-air painting needs to be started and finished outside the studio, but surely it's the end result that counts, not simply where you created it? If you prefer to sketch or make preparatory paintings to work up in the studio, do so. I recommend taking a photo of what you are painting to complete later in your studio. Painting outdoors can be unpredictable – weather, crowds, wildlife, etc. Take a photo of your subject so that the painting can be completed later. It is very difficult to remember details of what you were painting when you are finishing it up back in the studio.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Tea" Time

In the painting above, I used "tea" texture on the pottery to add some "age" and to help accentuate the crack. In addition to texture, the tea mix added color and shine.

Texturing your painting with instant iced tea mix is similar to using salt or sand. However, when instant iced tea mix is used, in addition to texture a color stain is also deposited.

The effects will vary according to the following factors:
• How wet the paint is, and
• How thickly or thinly the mix is distributed.

How and why does it work?
Iced tea mix is granulated like salt and will leave texture. Tea is very staining and will also leave a brown stain on the paper after any residue is brushed off when dry.

What is important to remember when using this technique?
Practice first before it is used on a painting so that the amount of iced tea mix and water can be determined for your specific application.

When should this technique be used?
Use this technique when a painting calls for texture and color, such as pottery, rocks, trees, leaves, etc. One of the students in my watercolor class used this technique to add texture and color to a pear in a still life she was painting. It turned out great. Tracy, hope you like the results!

Use only unsweetened tea mix - without flavors, sugar, or artificial sweetener.

Another student suggested instant coffee. I have not tried that yet, but I happen to have a sample of instant coffee which I will never drink! I'll just have to try that and see what results I get. Thanks, Susan, for the suggestion! If anyone has tried instant coffee, let me know how that works.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Using a Palette Knife with Watercolor Painting

Use of a palette knife in watercolor painting is much different than using a palette knife in oils or acrylics.

In the watercolor painting on the left titled Wake Up Call, I used a palette knife to scrap in feathers. The scaly lines in the feet are scraped in using the palette knife as well as a few veins in the grass growing through the fence.

The rooster on the right titled Fighting Mad, was painted in oils using only a palette knife - no brush at all. All paint was applied using the palette knife.

Watercolor tip
When using a palette knife with watercolor paint, you must scrap in your lines/design while the paint is still wet. A palette knife can also be used to put in small lines, such a grasses or small, fine tree limbs.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Watercolor Wedgies


*Or to Incline or Not - That is the Question!

My painting above, Taos Pueblo, illustrates the use of an inclined surface to force the paint to flow as demonstrated on the bottom of the above painting.

There is a debate among watercolor artists as to whether to incline/ slant the watercolor surface when painting, or not. Some watercolor artists use easels, some use props (such as my Wedgies - photo below) and others prefer to lay the painting on a flat surface and lift as needed.

My husband made me the wedges "Wedgies" above in two different sizes so that I can increase the amount of incline that I need for a specific application. An easel can also be used or one can do something as simple as propping the painting board on a book.

Pros and Cons
• An inclined surface allows one to paint using gravity to help pull the paint down and across the page.
• An inclined surface assists in painting techniques requiring the paint to run as part of the painting process.
• An included surface helps prevent pooling of water and backruns.
• An included surface may make your paint run into areas where the artist does not want it to go!
• A flat surface allows the artist to place the paint where it needs to be and when – the artist controls the flow, not the incline.
• A flat surface can always be tilted or raised in certain parts of the painting.

What it comes down to deciding which way to go – incline or not – it is the artist’s choice. Use whichever method works for you and your painting style. There is no question….paint to fit your style!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bold Boulders

The painting above is of a lighthouse on a rocky shoreline. Lighthouses are always fun to paint. I take photos of them whenever I find one during my travels and bring those photos home to paint later if I have not had the time to paint on location.

Painting the Boulders
I used a 2 inch brush and painted background color on the boulders. I used a wet on wet technique and painted the background of the boulders in a light gray green created from a mixture of Paynes Gray and a little Crimson and Pthalo Green. I added a pale wash of Crimson, Raw Sienna, and Medium Yellow in the center to had some variety in the background of the boulders. This will only show through slightly, but will give you a hint of color and make the boulders more interesting. Let this background wash dry.

Make a thicker mixture of the gray mixture above and using a 1 inch flat brush begin to shape the rocks by painting the dark shapes. The strokes you make with determine the rock shapes. Add a dark crevice and bleed out the color using clean water to fill in the rock.

When you have finished creating your boulders, give them texture by splattering with Brunt Sienna using a toothbrush. Use a #4 or #6 round brush to add in some cracks or interesting detail.

Watercolor Tip
Be certain to let some background color in the boulders show through and let your brush stokes show as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hint of Fall in the Air!

There's a hint of Fall in the air with cooler temperatures, school starting back, and shorter daylight hours. In my watercolor classes I like to teach my students a painting that depicts the season. I wanted my beginning watercolor students to have a Fall painting that would teach them basic techniques while giving them a high level of success.

I decided pumpkins on a wooden bench would do just that. This painting teaches how to lay down a wash as well as blending and layering colors. Sketching this painting is easy as well - circles and lines.

Watercolor tip:
I painted the pumpkins a light yellow first leaving a few white highlights. While still wet I dropped in various shades of orange and sienna dropping in the darker colors in the shadow areas and leaving the highlights bright.

Get ready for Fall - there are wonderful Fall painting waiting to be done!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Texturizing A Background

The painting above is an example of two of the methods below to texturize a background. The background ferns are an example of both imprinting and stamping.

There are several ways to texturize a background. We will discuss three techniques for creating a foliage background using ferns or leaves: imprinting, stamping and stenciling.

1. Imprinting – This will create a colored image of the fern/leaf – usually with darker edges and a lighter center.
a. Prepare the surface of the paper with a wet wash of color.
b. Place the fern or leaf into the wet wash and leave it until dry before removing. This will create an excellent impression of the fern or leaf which can be left as is or touched up with a detail brush.

2. Stenciling – This will leave the area white.
a. Place the fern or leaf to be used as the stencil against the paper.
b. Use a soft brush (round or flat) to apply the dark background color.
c. Stroke over the fern/leaf and away from the center.
d. Carefully remove the fern/leaf and let the paint dry.

3. Stamping – This will create a “color copy” of the image.
a. Coat the surface of the leaf/fern with a heavy watercolor wash.
b. Press the coated leaf/fern to the paper. The paper can be white or a dry background color.
c. Cover with two sheets of paper towel and rub with your finger to transfer the moist paint from the fern/leaf to the paper surface.
d. Remove the fern/leaf and allow to dry.

Tips for texturing:
• Young tender plants are easier to use. Stiff contoured leaves need to be pressed and dried first.
• When the image and the background are dry, additional paint can be applied in washes to add shades of color.
• Details can be added with a detail brush or with a fine line permanent marker.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Granny's Rocker

Although the painting above is a very simple one, it is one of my favorites. What makes this painting stand out for me is the quilt. I love patchwork quilts and always admire the stitching and creativity of the fabric artist when piecing together a quilt.

This painting was created using only 5 colors. Paynes Gray and Ultramarine was used for the chair; the remainder of the colors were used in the quilt. The quilt was painted first, then the chair, and the shadows were put in last. The quilt is the most colorful part of this painting making it the focal point and the chair is simply its prop.

Watercolor tip:
When painting the quilt, don't use much detail. The detail is implied by simply adding paint to the wet surface. First paint the folds in the quilt using Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna - this creates the shadows made by the folds. Then block in the quilt squares and let the paint bleed. Use only a 3-4 colors so it does not look to busy or become muddy.

Line work details on the quilt blocks can be added after the area has dried completely.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Who could resist painting this lake with the bright sunny colors of summer reflected in the water? The challenge to me was painting the rocks just under the surface and the reflections in the water.

Watercolor Tip: How to paint the underwater rocks
• Mask your rocks with masking fluid.
• Brush clean water over the water area.
• Mix Burnt Sienna with a little red/violet and using a medium round brush wash this mixture loosely over the shallow foreground of the water where the partially submerged stones are clearly visible.
• While the water is still damp, brush blue over the upper area of the water adding a little of the above paint mixture as you work down over the stones. Deepen the colors if needed with a 2nd layer of paint while still wet.
• Dip a medium round brush in clean water and gently lift off the flattened elongated shapes of underwater stones, varying the sizes. You may need to stroke the brush back and forth several times on the paper to loosen the paint.
• As you lift off each shape, dab the area firmly with a clean paper towel to remove any excess water. Turn and re-fold the paper towel each time you use it to prevent the risk of dabbing paint back onto you painting.
• Mix a dark brown shadow color from burnt sienna and ultramarine blue and using a medium round brush, use this mixture to loosely paint the shadows underneath the submerged stones. This makes the stones look three dimensional and allows them to stand out more clearly from the base of the lake. It also adds texture to the base of the water. Allow to dry.
• Rub off the masking fluid.
• Using a fine, almost dry brush, brush more water over the exposed rocks and then drop in a very pale wash of burnt sienna. Drybrush a darker mixture of burnt sienna on to the rocks in places, for dark accents. To make the rocks look more three dimensional, stroke on a little ultramarine for the shadow areas.
• Add additional detail as needed.

I am certain there are other techniques for painting underwater rocks, but the above technique is what worked for me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunflower Season!

The sunflower above was created in pastels.

Sunflowers are my favorite flower and I plant them every year in our yard. Not only are they fun to grow, they are a joy to look at and a good way to feed the birds. After the sunflowers have bloomed, the seeds can be harvested to feed the birds during the winter. I like to let a few sunflowers go to seed in my garden to attract the birds---it is nature's own bird feeder. The remainder of my sunflowers I dry, place in a bag, shake the seeds out, and keep for winter feeding.

Sunflowers are easy to grow and easy to paint. I have painted several different sunflower pictures and have done sunflower paintings in different media: watercolor, pastels, and acrylics.

Watercolor tip for painting sunflowers
In the watercolor below, I masked off the sunflower blooms, leaves, and stem to paint the background. This allowed me to freely paint the sky and background using a wet on wet technique to touch in yellows and browns to indicate a field of sunflowers with only one large sunflower in focus.

Tip for Use of Pastels
I created the sunflower first and then put in the background. This was an easy way to help me not disturb the background when putting in the sunflower.

Create a sunflower painting to keep you smiling long past summer!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Covered Bridges -An Artist's Delight!

I enjoy finding and painting covered bridges. When we have traveled through different parts of the United States, we have located and photographed covered bridges. I do a Google search by typing in "covered bridges" and then locate the bridges in the area in which we will be traveling. Locations are usually given to locate the bridge and many Internet sites will even include a longitude and latitude for GPS tracking. We have followed written instructions and have wound up on a "wild goose chase" but have a great time doing it.

I never have time to paint the bridges "on location" but with photographs and a sketch journal it is easy to paint the bridge upon return to the art studio. The painting above is of a covered bridge located in Sevier County, Tennessee not too far from the Great Smoky Mountains. We have tracked down covered bridges in Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Here is a short history on covered bridges:
Early bridges were often made of wood, especially where it was a plentiful resource. Wooden bridges tended to deteriorate rapidly from exposure to the elements, having a useful lifespan of only nine years. Covering them protected their structural members, thus extending their life to 80 years or more. Covered bridges were also constructed to be used by travelers during storms and inclement weather.

Most wooden covered bridges employ trusses as their key structural design element. A popular design was the Brown truss, known for its simplicity, but others were also used.

Watercolor Tip for my painting above:
After sketching, I masked in the bridge so that the background could be painted without worrying about getting any sky washes on my bridge. I also masked in the flowers in the foreground to paint the grasses.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why Not Keep an Artist's Sketch Journal?

An artist's sketch journal is to an artist what a notebook or writer's journal is to an author. It's place to keep sketches, thumbnails, studies and plans for future paintings. Try it out on a vacation or a walk in the woods and I think you'll enjoy it enough to keep it handy for every day! Write down notes about what you see for a painting and it will be a valuable tool for those paintings you plan to get around to "some day" and will become a fun way to remember special days or "every" day!

How to Chose a Journal
I suggest a hardcover journal rather than just a sketchbook....try to find one that has paper heavy enough to stand up to "light" watercolor paint or watercolor pencils (which take less water and are more portable). I like one with an elastic band to hold a pencil as well as an elastic band to keep it closed and a built in bookmark. There are all kinds and sizes available at reasonable prices, so get one that will work for you. The one I use is pictured above. Samples of my journal pages are scattered through this entry.

How to Get Started
After choosing your journal, decide what types of work you plan to include: sketches only, watercolor pencils, watercolor paints, etc. I usually like watercolor pencils or sketching only when I am out. I throw all of this in a small pouch; add an eraser, a small round brush, and a small cup for water, and I am set for sketching or painting whatever strikes my fancy. You can paint or drawn on both sides of a page or only one side. Again, whatever works for you!

What Do I Include?
Include whatever is important to you and what info you might want for completing a painting: notes about color, shape, size, anything that will help you to remember and create a large painting from your notes.

I often carry a digital camera with me and take a photo of what I am sketching or painting. This helps me with the right shade of color when I am back home in my art studio. I often add notes about sounds, birds, weather, etc. in my the journal and when I sit down to paint, those notes takes me back in my memory to that location. See a couple of samples of the way I use my journal.

The more you use your journal, the more you will enjoy it. It is a wonderful memory book and a great way to "keep on painting" no matter where you are! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cades Cove - Great Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove is a beautiful section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The watercolor painting of the church above is one of the preserved building along this scenic drive in the Smokies. When you are traveling, take photos of whatever strikes your fancy that you think would made good paintings. I have included in this blog a photo used to paint the church above. Remember you can put in and take out anything you would like. Your painting is your interpretation of what you saw and does not have to be "exactly" like the photo.

My favorite part of this painting is the roof and I enjoyed how the paint was applied to create this effect.

Watercolor Tip:
How to paint the roof
Paint the roof using a wet on wet technique. Apply section at a time starting at the top and working to the bottom. Apply washes of Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue.

Note: Use the colors sparingly and leave many areas of white paper. Layer these colors. The roof will be first layered in color, dry brushed, and then spattered. Using a liner brush apply a few uneven lines to indicate the indentations, etc.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July! Watermelons are a 4th of July favorite of mine...I love watermelon any time, but a good cold watermelon always reminds me of the 4th!

The painting above puts several techniques together that I have talked about recently. The special techniques used in this painting are:
1. The highlights on the bowl (both on the right and left) were made by using sandpaper to scrap away some of the paint after the bowl had dried.
2. Highlights on the small slice of watermelon on the right side were made using a craft knife and scraping down the edge and along the rind of the watermelon.
3. Highlights on the knife handle were also scraped in using a craft knife.
4. The wood grain on the handle was painted in with a dry brush after the initial wash had dried.

Watercolor Tip:
The drops of moisture on the bowl and in various spots on the watermelon slice near the knife were made using a very diluted wash of white paint. The paint was thinned with water just enough to allow the bowl and watermelon slice to show through, yet still retain the white color. Never use white watercolor paint to mix with other colors (like one would do when using acrylics); this will only "muddy" up the color. White paint is rarely used in watercolor painting. I only use it to add snow flurries or accents such as the water droplets in this painting.

Happy 4th of July! Enjoy some watermelon too!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blueberry Pickin' Time in Tennessee

Since it is blueberry picking time in our area, I wanted to share a painting and technique that highlights blueberries. Painting this basket of blueberries can be as much fun and as easy as picking and eating them.

This painting was done using watercolor pencils. Watercolor pencils can be used in several ways and one or all of the ways can be used in the same painting. Below are some tips on how to use watercolor pencils:

How do I use watercolor pencils?
Using watercolor pencils is very similar to using a “regular” pencil or colored pencil. You hold them the same way, you sharpen them the same way, and they can be erased.

When water is added is then their uniqueness appears!

• You can use by painting with clean water over your drawing
• You can lift paint off of the pencil with a brush and then apply it to your paper
• You can wet the pencil and then draw with it
• You can wet the picture and then apply the pencil.
• OR, you can use all of the above in the same painting!

Applying a Wet Paint Brush to a Watercolor Pencil Drawing
By painting over a watercolor pencil drawing with a brush that has been loaded with clean water, the pencil lines “dissolve” into watercolor paint. The intensity of the wash produced depends on the amount of the pencil that has been applied to the paper; the more pencil, the more intense the color. Hint: It is easier to lay down color using a dull pencil rather than a sharp one). Be selective in which areas you turn into washes to make the most of the unique properties of watercolor pencils.

Lifting Color Straight Off a Watercolor Pencil with a Brush
To load a brush with a particular color, treat the pencil tip in the same way you would a pan of watercolor—wet your brush, then use the brush tip to pick up the color from the watercolor pencil.

Wetting a Watercolor Pencil Before Using It
If you dip the tip of a watercolor pencil into some clean water or dampen the tip with a wet brush, then draw with it, you will get lines of intense color. As the pencil dries out, the line will be become lighter.

Using a Watercolor Pencil on a Wet Surface
If you dampen your paper before you apply the watercolor pencil, you’ll get softer, broader lines of color than if you draw on dry paper. Work carefully; pencils that are extremely sharp may damage the surface of the paper.

Scraping Color off a Watercolor Pencil
To create texture: use a knife or palette knife to scrape off bits of pencil. Sprinkle these onto wet paper, or drop a bit of water on top of them and watch the color spread out.

Using Watercolor Pencils “Dry”
You can use the pencils dry in the same way as an ordinary pencil. You can leave some of the pencil undisturbed or apply fine detail with a dry pencil once the washes have dried!

So "pick" up a watercolor pencil and work on a painting!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The technical name for scratching into dry paint comes from the Italian, graffiare, which means to scratch. Sgraffito can be used to reveal white paper beneath a wash, and is a good way to create highlights, such as sunlight on water. It can also be used to scratch through one layer of color to reveal the layer beneath.

Paint can be scratched into using a variety of sharp implements. A craft knife is useful for scratching fine lines, as are sharpened brush handles, paper clips, and even your fingernails. For larger areas, sandpaper is very effective – both fine and course grades of sandpaper which create different results.

All of these techniques work better if the paint sits on the paper surface, rather than soaking into it to any depth, so try to avoid using sgraffito with staining colors such as alizarin crimson, viridian or phthalo blue. Needless to say, it is best to use sgraffito on heavy paper as it is less likely to tear and on top of dry washes.

The following are three (3) types of sgraffito:
1. Craft knife – To scratch fine lines, such as highlights on water, use the tip of a craft knife, pulling the blade sideways to avoid slicing into the paper and damaging it.

2. Fine sandpaper – Stroke the sandpaper over the surface of the dry paint. This is particularly effective on rough watercolor paper, as the paint remains in the troughs but is removed from the higher ridges.

3. Course sandpaper – Because the sand particles on course paper are bigger, the sgraffito lines are further apart. You can also fold the sandpaper to create a crisp edge, enabling you to scratch off sharp lines.

The two painting above illustrate the use of sgraffito. Click to enlarge these paintings to enable you to see the "scratches."

In my painting, See Rock City, a craft knife was used to scratch in highlights in the wood of the barn and along the fence. A little sand paper was used to rough up the sky to add interest in the clouds.

In my painting, Listen to the Ocean, medium sandpaper was used to scratch the surface of the exterior portions of the shell, a craft knife was used to scratch in the lines in the shell, and fine sandpaper was used to texturize the background around the shell to resemble sand.

Watercolor tip: You can also use sgraffito to remove small areas of paint to correct minor mistakes – for example, if you want to neaten an edge or the outline of an object. To do this, scrape gently, using the edge of the blade rather than the point, so that the paper is not torn and the scraped area remains flat.

Try this technique--sandpaper is not just for woodworking!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Paint a Fern Leaf With No Brush!

I love using different textures in my paintings and you can do so in many different ways. As my title can paint a fern leaf with no brush. The painting above, Spring Baby, is a good illustration of this technique. The fern leaves are painted by placing actual fern leaves in paint and "stamping" on the paper. So before you start painting, take a trip to your backyard or to a park nearby and "pick up" a fern leaf instead of paintbrush. The following are the steps I used to "paint" the ferns:

1. I applied my background color wet on wet and allowed this paint to dry slightly. The paper must not be too wet or when the fern is "stamped" on the paper, the outline will blur.

2. Apply paint to one side of the fern by simply dipping your fern leaves in paint already prepared on your palette. Make certain that the paint is placed on all areas of the leaves, by gently pushing down on the fern leaves with your fingers. Vary the color of the paint in several areas of the fern to create dark and light areas for shadows and highlights.

3. Apply the fern to the painting and gently press into the paper with your fingers.

4. Lift the fern carefully and you will find a stamped impression of your fern leaves.

This technique can be done with all sorts of leaves, etc. and is a wonderful way to add a realistic touch to your painting.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ghost Town

I like painting different parts of the country - each has its own special charm. The painting above is of an old abandoned store in the Southwest. This is another painting from the book I mentioned in my blog that was a present from my son.

Painting the Southwest gives you opportunity to paint deserts and barren land; however, there are still touches of color in the desert with bushes and trees as well as mountains.

The sagebrush in the lower left is done with a brush with missing bristles to give spiky textures. You can purchase a special brush made specifically for that purpose or put to use an old brush that you have given a "haircut." The small branches in the tree and in the shrubs were "painted" by using a small palette knife loaded with painted and pulled across the painting.

In desert scenes, don't overpaint the ground....let some white paper show through and add a little spatter here and there.

If you have not painted the desert yet - give it a try!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sometimes Less is More

Sometimes less is more, especially in a painting like the one above.

Color: I used a muted palette and only two compatible colors to set the tone of this old "momma dog" looking forlornly at the viewer.

Subject Matter: The main objects in the painting are the dog and the doghouse...everything else is just background.

Space: When I first started painting, I thought I had to fill in every space on the paper...the sky, the grass, everything. However, leaving empty spaces sometimes keeps the eye on the most important part of the painting. More detail would simply be clutter and detract from the painting.

When painting, remember sometimes less is more!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reflections......and Memories!

The painting above, titled "Breakfast Anyone?" is a good illustration of reflections; and, it brings back memories to me of breakfast at home. We had a coffee pot like this one when I was growing up and when I see one of these coffee pots, I can smell coffee! I can't remember the last time I saw a coffee pot like this any place other than a yard sale. But, you can have one of these coffee pots and still go to Starbucks by painting one like this.

Reflections in watercolor paintings are easy to achieve by simply laying in stripes or sections of color along with the color of the object. Reflections are found most often in water, skies, and shiny objects.

Below are instructions for painting reflections in a shiny coffee pot.
1. Sketch the coffee pot.
2. Dampen one section of the coffee pot with clear water.
3. Work with only one section at a time to prevent drying.
4. Start at the top section (not the lid) and work down.
5. Lay on stripes of color and let them bleed together. Colors used in painting a coffee pot are painted in this order from left to right:

Payne’s Gray + Ultramarine Blue
Light Orange or Peach
Payne’s Gray
Ultramarine Blue
Payne’s Gray
Yellow Ochre
Payne’s Gray

6. Let section dry and move to the next section.
7. Paint top and bottom of the coffee pot in the same way. Add reflections of surrounding objects such as a basket, tablecloth, reflected light, etc.

Now, does anyone smell coffee?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Velazquez Palette

My son surprised me this Mother's Day with an excellent watercolor book titled, Creating Nature in Watercolor - an Artist's Guide by Cathy Johnson. He knows I am always looking for new books for watercolor tips and to share with my watercolor classes. He made an excellent choice!

The painting above was taken from this book and uses a limited palette, a variation of the Velazquez Palette. The Velazquez Palette was named after the Spanish artist who used it so frequently in which Burnt Umber acts as the red, Yellow Ochre acts as the yellow and black (and in this case Payne's Gray) acts as the blue.

No drawing is required. Simply lay in a wash of Payne's Gray with a touch of Yellow Ochre about 3/4 of the way down the page. While this is still wet, lift the clouds using a paper towel. Dab in washes of Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, and Payne's Gray to suggest the trees and shrubs. While still wet, scratch in the branches using a piece of a credit card. Add shadows under the trees and shrubs and a small bird in the sky! A fun painting and an excellent exercise using a limited palette!

I can't wait to try some of the other tips in this book and painting samples. Thanks again, Shawn!