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
available for purchase online
 at my Daily Paintworks gallery

Thursday, March 15, 2018


I usually have a few paintings and sketches going simultaneously, partly to allow damp paintings to dry thoroughly, and partly because I am easily bored if I work on one painting at a time! Right now, here's what I'm working:

• A floral (left) that I'm approaching with a question: "Can this painting be saved?" 
The tentative title for this floral is "Mardi Gras Iris." 
It measures 11" x 15."

• A large, vertical work, "Lochside Croft," 11" x 20." It's actually one-half of a large, square-format painting. It was unsuccessful -- so I cut it in half. After I did, I sold the right-hand side!

I'm also working on a commission for a friend. I cannot show you the watercolor thumbnails, but when the job is done, I'll post a few step-by-step images.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back-Yard visitors

Cardinal, adult male

Keeping our bird-feeder filled is a task -- even in summer when berries, seeds, etc., are readily available. The pay-off is that we have a wide variety of feathered visitors stopping by for a snack. Photographing birds is an exercise in patience, but I've been surprised at how many stay within range of my lens long enough for me to capture a few images.

The male cardinal in the photo at right was a regular visitor a few summers ago, and although somewhat shy, seemed almost proud of remaining within focus for a few minutes. 

In my watercolor sketch, I took a few liberties with the setting -- adding some blue sky for contrast -- but tried to capture his leafy hide-away.
"Male Cardinal"  6" x 6"  SOLD  
Goldfinch, adult male (right) with female Tufted Titmouse (left)
Goldfinches are smaller and more skittish than cardinals. To capture them in a photo means waiting for just the right moment, with the camera aimed at the bird-feeder. I used the automatic shutter on my camera to take a series of shots in rapid succession, knowing that my painting would be a composite of several images.
My goal was to get a good look at the coloration and shape of the goldfinch's beak, and then create a watercolor sketch that was reasonably faithful to the real thing. In the painting, I eliminated the bird-feeder and perched the finch on the edge of a large ceramic saucer that we fill with water for the birds. 
Goldfinch, adult male
Half-way through the process..
"Goldfinch"   7.5" x 5.5"  

Recently, several Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks showed up late one afternoon. I hadn't seen any of these for decades. I immediately thought of my grandmother, who was diligent about feeding the birds and who taught me the names of many of them. 
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, adult male
I had to consult our Audubon "Guide to North American Birds," when I first saw the male Grosbeak; I wasn't sure of its name. 
Young male Grosbeak, fed by adult male
But the bright red bib and sleek black feathers, which are quite distinctive, made it easy to identify. wasn't easy to get a good shot of this very busy bird. 
He was perched at the feeder along with a young male, and I learned that adult males often feed their younger counterparts. 

House Sparrow
When planning my watercolor sketch, I used a photo of a House Sparrow, taken the same afternoon as the Grosbeak series.
Early in the process...
Tree branch sketched in...
The sparrow's pose seemed more interesting and would show the adult male Grosbeak's red bib to advantage. Instead of placing him at the edge of the feeder, I sketched in a segment of tree branch.

"Rose-Breasted Grosbeak"     5.5" x 7.5"