Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

May everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

We all have so much for which to be thankful.

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Oh Buoy!

The watercolor above is of a group of old fishing floats or buoys that we saw hanging on the side of an old fishing shack in the Outer Banks outside of a wonderful seafood restaurant on the pier.    They are just so typical of the beach and the fishing community of the area; I knew I wanted to capture them to remember this trip to the beach. Buoys are used to mark a location or suspend a net or bait and are usually painted bright colors to be easily seen.    The side of the fishing shack was a deep blue which made these buoys stand out.

Materials needed:
  • 140 lb. watercolor paper or watercolor journal
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Windsor Blue
  • Paynes Gray
  • Yellow Medium
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Yellow ochre
  • Grumbacher Red or red of your choice

Lightly sketch in your buoys.  These buoys were clustered together and to add interest I captured only  half of a buoy on the left side of the paper and let a tip of one of the buoys on the right be off of the page.

Paint the background first using Windsor Blue and deepen it in areas behind the floats for shadows.  Drop in some Paynes Gray in places to indicate changes in shades of the paint.  Paint around the buoys and the ropes. 

Paint one buoy at a time and moving from one to the next one.  However, do not paint ones that are touching until they dry or the colors will blue into one another.  Using the various colors mentioned above or colors of your choice and this technique, paint all of the buoys in slightly different colors:

To paint the buoy:
Using a lighter shade of the main buoy color, paint the entire buoy except for any different color bands.  Deepen the color on one side letting the paint flow across to indicate light and shadow.  Drop in Paynes Gray to “age” your buoy.  Paint the contrasting band the same way.  Add lines and drops of darker paint to show signs of use.    Paint all buoys in the same method using different colors.

To paint the ropes:
Using a very light wash of yellow ochre paint the ropes;  and while still wet drop in a light wash of Paynes Gray.  After the ropes dry, use a liner brush and a deep wash of Paynes Gray to detail the rope. 

Congratulations – sign your painting!

Happy Painting!




Lighthouses are one of my favorite subjects when painting along the coast.  I love the waves and beaches, but lighthouses lend that touch of humanity to an often desolate and seemingly uninhabited beach.   Designed to guide sailors or warn them of dangers, they stand as sentinels to inland waterways marking coastline hazards, shoals, reefs and safe entries to harbors.  Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and the popularity of electronic navigational systems.  

One a recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I painted several lighthouses that dotted the coastline in the areas in which we traveled.  One of my favorites, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, is shown above.  And, I will share paintings of other lighthouses in this area within this post.

Let’s get started painting!
Materials Needed:
  • 140 lb. watercolor paper or watercolor journal  (I used a journal for these paintings, as I painted while on vacation.)
  • Brushes:  Size of your choice - Round brush; ½” flat brush; Liner or detail brush
  • Cerulean blue
  • Windsor Blue
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Sap Green
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • VanDyke Brown

Kneaded Eraser

Small ruler (I usually do not recommend using a rule; however, in this instance the sides of the lighthouse and the structure of the building and the roof need to have straight lines.)


Sketch your lighthouse in lightly using your ruler to make the lines of the sides of the lighthouse straight.  Draw in the remainder of the lighthouse structure using a ruler as necessary.  After the lighthouse has been sketched in, put in your background and foreground. 

Paint in your sky first.  Since watercolor will only flow where the paper is wet, it is not necessary to mask out the lighthouse.  Paint in the sky using a wet on wet technique down to the horizon where the sky meets the water.  I used Windsor Blue and varied the intensity of the color for clouds in the sky.  Using a paper towel, gently lift some of the blue paint to further indicate clouds.  At the horizon line, I dropped in a small amount of red mixed with the blue to add a purple color to the sky at the horizon.  Allow to dry.  Paint in the ocean using a deeper shade of Window Blue with a small amount of sap green leaving small areas of white to indicate waves.  Adding a touch of sap green to the blue helps separate the sky from the water, yet tie together the ocean, sky and background trees.  Allow the ocean to dry.   

Add the background trees using a mix of sap green, lightened in places with yellow ochre and deepened in places with Windsor Blue.  Allow to dry and add a branches and tree trunks with VanDyke  Brown and a liner brush. 

I painted the lighthouse next and the foreground last.  Using Payne’s Gray, paint the dark areas of the lighthouse, working around the windows.  I used a round brush; however, a liner brush might be preferred at the top portion of the lighthouse.  Allow to dry.  Paint the roof of the building section of the lighthouse and the chimneys with crimson mixed with the brown to soften the red and add an older look to the structure.  Deepen sections  of the roof by dropping in some brown.  Allow to dry.  Add shading to the structure by dropping in a very pale wash of Payne’s Gray on the left side of the lighthouse for shadows and under the eaves of the roof.  Allow to dry.

 Paint the foreground using Sap Green and yellow ochre need the tree line and working down into the sap green.  Drop in a little bit of brown at the base of the structure.  Using a wash of crimson and brown, paint the wooden walkway.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush, put in the details of the lighthouse tower and building as well as the walkway.  Drop in a touch of yellow ochre in the top of the lighthouse.  Allow to dry. 

Check your painting for any details you may want to add.  When satisfied, sign your painting!

Congratulations and Happy Painting!



Wandering Watercolor or How to Keep a Watercolor Journal

Just like a camera is an excellent way to remember a location when traveling, a watercolor journal can do the same thing for the artist.

If you would like to remember your travels through your “artistic” side, but have not tried a watercolor journal, you are missing out on a lot of fun on your trip.  You probably have questions….such as the ones below:

·        What supplies do I need?
·        How heavy and how big?
·        How messy?
·        How do I get started?

I’ll respond to each of these questions and try to give you some answers.

What supplies do I need?
First off – you won’t need as much as you think you will and all of the supplies can be slipped inside of a tote bag or large purse.   The following is what I have in my travel watercolor kit.

·        Watercolor Paper - Journal:  There are many watercolor journals out there with different types of paper and bindings.  The most forgiving paper is a 140 lb. weight, which will allow you to work the paints.     The bindings can vary from the basic stitched or glued design of a book to a spiral bound notebook.   I have tried both kinds with success.  On my most recent trip, I found a beautiful leather bound book with handmade paper for 40% off at a local hobby store.  I usually try for smaller rather than larger for the journal.  My journal is 6.5” x 9.5.”  I have used 7” x 10” and 9” x 12” in the past.  The paper preference, as well as size, is up to you.  A word of caution:  Handmade paper is not forgiving of mistakes and does not allow for working the watercolor paint or lifting.  Handmade papers absorb the color much faster than a standard watercolor paper.    If you are not familiar with handmade papers, I would suggest a standard 140 lb. watercolor paper for best results.

·        Watercolor paint: 
o   Pan watercolor set:  I have a Winsor & Newton pan watercolor set with 24 colors and a built in palette.  It is not too large and works out great.  Each pan can be replaced when empty to keep this set in great shape for a long time.


o   Watercolor pencils:  I prefer the flow of watercolor paint over watercolor pencils.  However, pencils will work,  if that is your preference.

·        Brushes:  I always carry a #6 round brush and a small liner brush.  I do not like using the “waterbrush”  that contains water in the handle.    I prefer a small plastic contain for my water and my “standard” brush.  However, I know of several people that love the portability of the “waterbrush.”  I usually carry a plastic bottle of drinking water for my watercolors and use the lid for my water container.  The paintings will be small and I find that to be sufficient.    A word of caution:  Let your brush dry before placing it back in your tote bag or watercolor set.  If it gets tossed around in travel, the bristles can dry in an awkward shape and it may or may not be able to be restored to its original shape. 
·        Pencil, eraser and waterproof pen:   A mechanical pencil with extra lead is the easiest type of pencil to pack.  A standard pencil will also work as long as you remember to pack a sharpener.  I like a kneaded eraser to erase any lines that I don’t want to remain in my painting.  A “Sharpie” fine point black permanent pen is good to have on hand if you are looking for bold permanent lines in your sketch.

·        Masking tape:  Not all watercolor artists use masking tape in journals.  I like the “framed” look that it gives to my paintings, and it also “saves” me a clean space under the painting to write comments and the location the painting has captured.  I place the masking tape along the outside edges of the paper; giving me the open inside area for my work. 

How heavy, and how big?
How heavy?  Just a couple of pounds – much less than most women’s purses.

How big?  Of course, depending on the size of the journal you have selected, about the size of a hardback book.  A small tote bag to hold all of your supplies and a small school pencil case for the loose items will keep your watercolor travel kit portable and ready for any trip. 

How messy?
Not messy at all!  I am a very messy painter and can almost go through a roll of paper towels every time I paint.  For some reason, I find that there is barely any mess at all with this type of painting.    I do keep a pocket pack of Kleenex handy…..just in case. 

How do I get started?
Grab your watercolor travel kit and go! 

If you have never painted outside your studio, it may take some getting used to the idea.   When we travel, it is usually to relax and most artists find painting relaxing.    So, take the time to sketch your impressions of an area.   If you see a location that you feel would make a great larger painting, do your sketch with a quick watercolor putting down the colors and your feelings.  Then take a photo of the same site and use your watercolor journal and the photo to complete a larger watercolor back in your studio.

So, start wandering and Happy Painting!




Painting the Old Hiker’s Tunnel – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The watercolor above is of a location that is hidden from view under one of the busiest roads in the park during tourist season – Clingman’s Dome Road.  This road is closed to vehicle traffic from December 1 - March 31 or whenever weather conditions require.   However, hikers or cross country skiers can use the road when road conditions on Highway 441 over the mountains allow.  The location of the tunnel is .2 of a mile from the gated entrance to the road.  It looks like you're just driving over another bridge or stone-walled culvert, but when you walk down a small slope from the road; you find one of the most unique structures in the park.  Some folks say this was once on the Appalachian Trail while others say it was Thomas Divide Trail that traversed through the tunnel.   

Just a little history of the tunnel:
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Office provides the following information:
“There are a few things that are certain: 
1) The A. T. has always passed within sight of the north end of the tunnel;
2) The A. T. has not passed through the tunnel since 1939. Beyond that, there is some evidence in favor of the notion that the A. T. passed through the tunnel between 1934 and 1939 and some evidence against the notion."

So it appears that the tunnel may or may not have been part of the AT, but the upper part of the Thomas Divide Trail which was obliterated by the building of Newfound Gap Road as it now exists.  Just another mystery to enjoy about the Smoky Mountains! 

I enjoy painting locations in the mountains.  While hiking, I’ll take a photo with my phone and paint when I get back to the studio; I especially like painting on a rainy day when hiking is not as enjoyable.   Now, for the reason for my blog…..painting instructions!

How to Paint the Tunnel:
Materials Needed:
  • 140# Watercolor paper – I use Arches
  • #12 round brush
  • Flat brush
  • Liner brush
Watercolor Paint:
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Sap Green
  • Ultramarine
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Van Dyke Brown
Sketch the scene on your paper which has been taped to a board.   We will be executing this painting wet on wet.  I painted this watercolor in this order:

Exterior Rock Walls:
Prepare a light wash of Payne’s Gray and a wash of Yellow Ochre.  Wet the entire exterior wall area of the painting.  Using your round brush drop in the Payne’s Gray and Yellow ochre in various locations on the stone allowing the colors to blend and leaving some areas white.  Deepen the color at the bottom section of the exterior walls. Allow to dry.  

To emphasize certain stones, it will be necessary to paint them individually.  Wet only the stone you would like to paint with clean water.  Drop in the paint using the gray, the yellow or both.  However, this needs to be varied on each stone you paint.  Not every individual stone is painted, only several to give some detail to the stone wall.  Allow to dry and using a liner brush and a mix of Payne’s Gray and VanDyke Brown, paint some of the edges of the stones making certain that you do not outline each stone.  Your pencil marks will show through in some areas which will be sufficient in defining the stones.  Allow to dry.

Interior Stone Walls, Floor and Foreground:
Prepare a wash of Yellow Ochre, Payne’s Gray and Ultramarine.  Wet the interior stone walls and drop in the colors deepening the shade and intensity toward the end of the tunnel.  Allow to dry.  Paint in the floor using the same colors, but using lighter shades to indicate the light coming through the back end of the tunnel.  As you move toward the front of the tunnel with the floor color, add deeper shades of gray and VanDyke Brown mix.  Vary the shades of these colors as well to indicate light.  Allow to dry.  The side foreground areas are painted wet on wet with Ultramarine dropped in the edges along with a touch of brown. 

Background  view on the back side of the tunnel:
Paint the landscape background using washes of Sap Green, Yellow Ochre and a mix of Ultramarine and Sap Green to create a deeper shade for the trees.   Paint over the support frame of the tunnel.  You will paint over the top of the landscape background with a deep shade of Payne’s Gray which will cover the landscape colors and provide you with an unbroken tree line.   Allow to dry. 

Finishing touches:
Spatter a mix of VanDyke Brown and Payne’s Gray to the foreground sections on both the left and right.  Using a utility knife, scratch in some highlights in various locations on your painting.

 Great job – sign your name!

Happy Painting!