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 says...you 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!