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!