Thursday, August 16, 2018

Painting Colored Glass

When I started this painting, using a wet-into-wet technique, I assumed that the focal point would be the flowers...  but as the process unfolded, it became clear that the star of the show is the blue glass vase. Painting glass in watercolor can be a challenge because of the need to preserve highlights. To begin, I dampened the paper (I chose a piece of 300-lb. Kilimanjaro Bright White for this painting). I dropped color into the center area for the foliage, using Winsor & Newton Green Gold, Holbein Shadow Green, and Daniel Smith Undersea Green. As I added color, I used a negative painting technique, going around the shapes of the white daisies. After this step dried, I added washes of bluish-gray (a combination of Shadow Green and Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue), further outlining the shape of the daisies. 
Before beginning work on the vase, I experimented on scrap paper with pigments. I wanted  to make the glass vivid, so that it would stand out despite the proliferation of flowers and foliage. To obtain a really bright blue, I mixed Cobalt Blue with Winsor & Newton Winsor Blue (GS) and Winsor Blue (RS). 
I preserved highlights in the glass by leaving some of the white paper showing, and I also put in a thin wash of both Winsor Blues. (GS and RS) for emphasis. I didn't plan these steps ahead of time -- it was entirely an intuitive process. The flowers emerged slowly, as I dropped in color wet-into-wet, and also painted around the flower shapes. The purpose flowers were done with a combination of Winsor & Newton Mineral Violet and Permanent Rose. When the blossoms were dry, I painted the yellow centers of the daisies, using Winsor & Newton New Gamboge. After the daisy centers were dry, I used a wash of Burnt Sienna to add shadows.

Once the flowers areas were complete, I built up the vase. I worked around the vase, painting the background with multiple washes. To soften some areas of the background, I washed over them with clear water, which lifted some of the pigment and let it settle into the paper. In the final stages of this painting, I deepened the color of the upper- and lower-right corner, dropping Winsor & Newton Dioxazine Violet, French Ultramarine, and Winsor Blue (GS) into the damp background. I also added some fern-like fronds on the left side of the painting, using a small brush and dotting the damp paper with Daniel Smith Undersea Green. 
Finally, I used a spattering technique to loosen up the image: with a loaded brush held over the upper area of the painting, I spattered color by tapping the handle. (Before I began this, I protected the vase in the lower area of the painting by covering it with a piece of vellum.) 

"Blue Glass Vase"  
transparent watercolor      12" x 16"       unframed

Available for purchase -- contact me by email for details

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Massed flowers offer a challenge to those of us who prefer to paint realistically. I've been experimenting with the "wet-in-wet" technique, and have enjoyed both the process and the outcome in two recent paintings. In the first, "Ivory Vase," I began by dampening the background area, and painted around the vase shape with washes of Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue, with a few drops of Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue. I used this blue, also, on the lower portion of the vase. When the first background wash dried, I built up the depth in some background areas with subsequent washes of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue (which make a really nice gray), allowing each layer of wash to dry completely before continuing. I used this same combination to model the rounded shape of the vase.

For the blossoms, I dampened the area where the flowers and leaves would be and dropped in splotches of color, using Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose and Permanent Magenta, with tiny amounts of Holbein Mineral Violet. I let the colors mingle to create the flowers shapes. Then, I used Winsor & Newton Permanent Sap Green and Green Gold, plus (my new favorite) Daniel Smith Undersea Green. I also added touches of Holbein Shadow Green to intensify the darkest areas of stems and leaves. To suggest feathery foliage at the top part of the arrangement, I loaded a #8 round brush with Shadow Green, blotted it slightly to remove excess moisture, then dragged the brush sideways on the paper.
The finished painting shows various details in flowers and leaves which were added after everything was completely dry.
"Ivory Vase"         Transparent Watercolor   matted & framed   11" x 14"
Available at
Creative Hands Gallery  

812 Main Street, Unit 2
Osterville, Massachusetts
(774) 521-4304

Friday, April 6, 2018


Original painting
 prior to adding more color
Sometimes when I review older watercolor sketches, I decide that they'd be improved by some "tweaking." 
To help take my mind off this (unseasonable!) April 6 snowstorm we are having, I pulled out of my stash of small paintings this one, of a clump of crocus. It had a somewhat flat, bland quality and I thought adding some deeper tones in the background might help, as well as adding more nuanced color to the blossoms. As a way to bring the latter forward, I dampened some areas on a few of the petals. Then, I dropped in Quinacridone Magenta, and a few spots of Opera pink and let the colors blend by themselves. 
After adding more color to the petals
Finally, I deepened the contrast by using more Dioxazine Violet in the central portions of each blossom.
After dampening parts of the lower right of the paper, I dropped in a mixture of Sepia and Burnt Umber. While these colors blended, I used a dry-brush technique with Undersea Green and Green Gold in the middle background to suggest grass/foliage.

The last step was to suggest shadows on the flower stems, with several washes of Ultramarine Blue and Dioxazine Violet. Although these changes were not radical, I believe the result is a more lively painting.

"Harbinger of Spring"
5.5" x 7.5"Available for purchase at my Daily Paintworks gallery

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mardi Gras Iris - completed!

Finishing "Mardi Gras Iris," which I’d shown in my previous post, meant identifying the colors I used when starting the painting several months ago. I'd neglected to keep color notes, so I had to do some paint swatches to be sure I'd get them right. I wanted to stay with mostly transparent, and staining or semi-staining colors. 
Step #1

Holbein's "Opera" -- an almost neon-bright pink that is fairly easy to identify -- was the main color I used in the center iris blossom. Pigments used in manufacturing Opera make it a 'fugitive' color (unstable, and not very permanent), so I wouldn't normally use it in focal-point areas of a painting. But in this painting, I was experimenting with a more vivid palette and wanted to determine how Opera interacts with other pigments. I do know other watercolor artists use this color to good advantage, especially in detail areas.
Background runs and blooms
After a little experimenting with color swatches, it was clear that I'd used "Winsor Blue GS (e.g. 'green shade'), " Dioxazine Violet," and "New Gamboge," along with "Transparent Orange," "Quinacridone Gold," "Permanent Rose" and "Quinacridone Magenta," all of which are Winsor & Newton, professional-grade paints.  
I did the background in a blended wash, using Winsor & Newton's "Permanent Sap Green," "Cobalt Blue," and "Green Gold," making deliberate use of "runs" and "blooms" (detail, above left) in the process of laying down these washes. Also, I lifted small spots of color (detail right) using a wadded-up paper towel, still allowing the paint to blur and blend naturally.

Step #2
You can see how beautifully some of these colors combine with each other in the stem and leaf areas -- Winsor Blue (GS) and Dioxazine Violet make a lovely, soft shade when they mix together on paper. When mingling on paper, it is critical to use staining, or semi-staining, transparent colors -- and to allow details to dry completely before continuing to paint. (A hair-dryer set on low helps speed up the process.) 

The completed painting (below) shows what a visual impact results when you use intense, saturated colors throughout all areas of a painting. It makes a bright and colorful statement at the tail-end of a snowy New England winter. 

"Mardi Gras Iris"  
10" x 15"      transparent watercolor    SOLD