Warm Up

Warm up is a good title today because it is about 15 degrees outside.  However the warm up I’m referring to are those days when there is window to paint and with so many ideas it is hard to focus on one subject…anyone?  The quick warm up painting below starts my creative wheels.  Sometime just putting out fresh color will ignite a particular image or making colorful shapes on any paper.

I began the quick painting below without a drawing.  Using a 1 1/2 inch brush the sky took on cool blues adding warm pigments as I proceeded across the top of the paper…leaving white shapes.  As the white shapes emerged buildings became my subject.  From that point on I began to visualize figures coming/going to their activity of the day.  Painting intuitively gives me many options…markets/busy streets/etc. letting the whites shape my imagination.  After big shapes are established, window/doors/signage began’s to identify a location.

Painting in this semi-abstract manner frees me up to paint what could be….not what is.


Something New

Although I paint almost everyday….life can become overwhelming.  It has been a while since I posted anything….so here is a recent watercolor project.

This is a study on paper for a 16 x 20 canvas.  I chose a triad of colors…purple/orange/yellow green.  These colors are the beginning of a family of colors.  Purple can be toned down with water….yellow green and orange become darker values by adding neutral tint or a darker green or orange to the original choice.  

Beginning on dry paper alternation of colors are applied in the sky painting around the buildings.  I continue down the composition using the selected colors for the shadows strengthening the value as I approach the center of interest.   The awnings and figures are the main feature.  Satisfied with the color and values the paper is set aside to dry.

After the paper is dry….dark values are mixtures of the triad colors.  Placing dark values in and around the center of interest create contrast and hopefully engage the viewer to finish the story.


Using this study for color, value, and composition…..this is the finished canvas.


Yes finally!  It has been sometime since my last post.  Life has many twist and turns….’things’ sometime have priority over posting.  After breakfast my idea of a perfect day ….is a cup of coffee in hand ignoring a long list of ‘do’s’  in exchange for studio time…uninterrupted.   Most of you can relate to my fantasy knowing all to well issues arise requiring our attention. As the song goes ‘that’s life’……

Below is the photo that was used for a quick fun study….one of those quick paintings when time is limited.

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The painting below has little if any drawing.  Of course the splashes of turquoise was the first thing to catch my eye.  Second would be the interesting furniture waiting outside for a buyer.  Next was organizing the shapes in my mind the largest to the smallest…no detail.  Painting is on dry cold press #140 paper so pigments are mixed with enough water to mix on the surface.  A natural bristle brush is used because it carries enough pigment and water avoiding hard edges.   Separate puddles of  reds/blue/yellow/turquoise are introduced to the mixing surface on the palette.

The brush is double loaded with red/blue or blue/green…to add a variety of color to the shapes.  Painting quickly is the key to keep edges soft.  The sky is painted first around the roof  shape.  As I approached the lower third of the painting a decision to add figures and preserve white paper for a contrast was executed.   The blues and yellows combine for the foliage in the lower right corner.  Laying down color and engaging my intuitive instinct is exciting.  Watching the colors run together some marrying some staying single.

Using color 1

After the paper was dry….separating shapes with line or additional small shapes were added with a round #4 brush and several size rigger brushes.  The dark lines give form or interest to the subject.  A few windows are suggested along with refining the figures and furniture for more action.  The ladder was added to break up and bring interest to the colorful side of the building.

Using Color 2

I encourage you to let go….paint the shape not a lined drawing.  It is freeing to avoid all the rules and paint with feeling….

Happy Painting!!!!




Watercolor on Canvas!

Watercolor on Canvas


  Painting on watercolor canvas is exciting and always an adventure.

I sketch then paint a loose impression of my subject with a painters eye.  Big shapes are first drawn using a photograph for reference trailed by the small stuff.   

On The StreetGreen Door Mystsery

JoBeth Gilliam

Tangent Connection

I am always looking for something beyond basics ….technique/design/composition/color/value to sharpen my painting inabilities.  Guess I like challenges like I’m not the major challenge….make sense?  If not keep painting and you will arrive on your own front porch.

While reading a watercolor book written by Claude Croney the word tangent jumped off the page lightening fast.  I knew what it was but hadn’t grasp the broader meaning of that little word.   Tangents are common mistakes  usually overlooked because we don’t recognize their importance.  I dug out some old paintings, those hidden in a drawer only family will find one day, and had a jaw dropping moment.   The ‘tangent connection’  had not been dissected to it’s fullest in the beholders eye when these paintings were conceived.  If you paint from photos  I strongly suggest taking some extra time examining your references for the ‘tangent connection’.

What am I looking for…..two shapes sharing the same edge….bottom line.  A row of trees sharing the same edge as a mountain range/a vertical fence pale married to the tree trunk behind it….are a few examples.  All of these unexpected surprises need to be dealt with by overlapping /shrink/enlarge shapes or eliminating what is not necessary. Enjoy the photo for what it is…. a nice photo then create a great painting.  Print the photo out on computer paper then circle all the hidden tangents before you began the drawing.

Below is a nice photo of a lady selling her wares.  The photo was copied to my computer where it was enlarged and carefully analyzed.  The very first thing is the figure it  is in the center of the photo.  I don’t have a problem with her being the bulls eye as long as there is good balance with the other shapes that make up the composition.  Circles are given to each tangent that needs correction and an X on shapes that will be eliminated. When I am confident that the Easter egg hunt is over I proceed to sketch my subject which is the second image.

This is the photograph…nice color and interesting shapes…with several tangents to recognize and alter.

yarn lady tangent


This is the quick sketch with a gray watercolor stick…on cold press #140 watercolor paper.  The figure has been moved off center and because I like the red chairs they were included.  The steps needed to follow through to eliminate angels that would detract.  Pots of flowers were added behind the iron rail and the window added interest.  Only one column was needed and behind the lady would give a contrast for the head.  Although color choices were not changed values were more important.

Bead Lady Drawing

This was the first wash of colors of reds/orange/blue/turquoise/quinacridone burnt orange.  The colors mixed and mingled on the paper leaving soft edges for the negative shapes to be painted after the wash is dry.

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The paper is dry and ready for the negative darker values in the background.  There were various color changes to work with using a little imagination.  Although the original drawing is followed…I don’t always stay in the lines if color presents a different shape.  Pigment is more important than water because of the dark values that are required for hard edges.  When I am satisfied with the overall shape connection calligraphy lines are added with a rigger brush.  These lines declare or connect shapes.

Bead lady



First in Line


This is my painting First In Line chosen for first place in the West Texas Watercolor Spring Show.  The quality of paintings  entered in this show where exceptional so I was quite surprised when notified.  An accomplished and master  painter, Jerry Yarnell,  judged the show.  His teaching can be seen on PBS.   Instruction books and DVD’s are available on his web site.  It was certainly humbling to be chosen in the winners circle.

Thank you Jerry Yarnell….


Canvas Demonstration

It has been way to long since my last posting.  Not because brushes and canvas were on stand by, electricity/water turned off or a studio melt down…well there was that one day.  The current studio scene…painting discords overflow in the trash,  stacks of maybe’s in the bin and a messy wet palette….no question someone has been working.  Will someone identify themselves because help is needed… not more supplies.   Like most artists,  ‘most’ used loosely,  it seems there is more to do in a day than hours permit.  So thought I would share a quick demonstration born out of the chaos.  Generally speaking a brush is wet everyday except when priority calls.  The demonstration below is on a 11 x 14 stretched canvas.  A quick response to a photograph in my files of many waiting to be painted.  A yellow ocher watercolor stick was my choice for drawing.

watercolor stick sketch

watercolor stick sketch

My beginning is a sketch rather than a drawing.  This gives me the freedom to change direction while laying in color…

Beginning washes

Beginning washes

Ultra Marine Blue/Raw Umber Violet/Cerulean Blue/Quinacridone Burnt Orange are the pigments used for the first washes.  My attempt is to paint the value needed for the finished piece from the first wash of pigments.   Reason being the first washes will lift from the canvas because the pigment remains on the surface.  Paper absorbs pigment so glazing is effective.

Defining the subject

Defining the subject

Halloween Orange/Andrew’s Turquoise/Naphthol Red are added to the palette to mix and mingle with the first pigments.  I enjoy seeing the pigments engage conversation with their next door neighbors.  At this point I am ready to stop and say ‘fini’ but the painting needs line.

Finished Painting

Few dark marks for windows….lines to separate or connect…a quick touch of pure pigment and it’s done….or at least it is done for me.

Hope you enjoyed the journey…thanks for participating.

Flower Demonstration


The  image below is a set up I created in my studio for a class demonstration.   Computers are a helpful tool for cropping photographs providing visual variations for future formats and compositions.

studies 398Below the  images are square/ close up/and smaller rectangle that emerged from the cropped original photograph.

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Demonstration on Paper

The demonstration is on A’rches  CP 140# paper using transparent  and a few opaque watercolors.   Pigment was applied to damp paper in a direct approach to create soft edges.  When paper was dry darker values were added creating hard edges bringing the painting to a finished state.  The image size is 15 x 22.

demo flower


Watercolor on Canvas

This  image is a 16 x 20 canvas using the same reference set up with the exception of an added object.   The paper is 15 inches wide and the canvas is 16….just one inch in width made a difference in the composition.  To maintain unity a red clock shape was chosen for the left side adding balance along with repeating  the red flower pigment.  The background is darker than the paper image which demanded  a light value  on the left side.  The white  face of the clock provided that quiet value.   Below is the canvas painting….

canvas fower


Student Grade

Workshop students often follow the instructors demonstration in class sharpening their technique/color/design/ and other elements to improve their talent and creativity.  Recently, I was surprised again when a painting was posted online that looked familiar.  My first thought was ‘when did I post that painting.’  Immediately it was one of those ‘what’ moments my painting was supporting another signature.  It looked like mine at first glance but upon closer look a class copy became evident.  The posted painting had been done in a class environment the drawing and color scheme were the same as my demonstration.  Not only was it posted as original work by the artist displaying the painting, it had sold.  This ah-ha moment is happening far to often and should be addressed.  So..I am compelled to explain copy work again to those who don’t get it, don’t know it or think it doesn’t apply to them…..the ethics of paint by number with students in mind.

Students and this also applies to me….when you follow along with the instructors composition/design in a learning mode, this doesn’t give you the license to claim the work ‘your original’.  An instructor has worked several weeks on a focused plan to share with you their method of painting.  They are sharing their knowledge/experiments/and failures so you can grow and not fall into a pit of despair.  Using your paint/brushes/paper and hands  allows one option, to use the class project as a reference.  The ‘paint along’ is graciously permitted by the instructor to make your day happy, eventful, excited while your role is put into practice what you have learned.   The masterpiece you leave the class with is not your painting.  The only original part of the painting is the labor of blood sweat and tears you produced while in class.   Entering the painting in shows or selling it deprives you from your own creativity showing disregard for an instructor who has invested her time for you.

The two portraits below were done with my paint/brushes/ and hands in a workshop several years ago.  They have remained in my flat file all this time because they were the concept of a good instructor.  The photos/drawings during the workshop were furnished and the demonstration gave insight into the technique….it was a paint along. Being proud of the fact I could follow instructions…few people have seen them.  Many years have passed and few would remember the workshop…I could enter them in a show frame them to sell and who would know.  Me….I would know they were not my brain work.  From the drawing to the final brush stroke was done by me but with little thought to the concept.  Why would I want recognition for something I didn’t create with my paint/brushes/ and hands.

article Website article on web

Composition View

There are many books and articles written on composition and design. Many of these informative publications have not reached my shelves which is probably a determent to my painting.  All in all this is brief view for stepping out of the box and visualizing what is not there….

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