Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ocrafolk School workshop

We had a wonderful Watercolor with Grace and Ease workshop on Ocracoke Island last week. We stayed and I taught in the Soundfront Inn, one of the oldest buildings on Ocracoke. Our studio was a long glassed in porch with a fantastic view of Pamlico Sound.

Our class with their paintings

On Friday morning, we presented our work and talked about our week to all of the classes in the school. It had been a wonderful week of pushing ourselves to new creativity, enjoying incredibly delicious food, great music and fellowship with the residents of Ocracoke and members of the school.

Peaceful Journey

Our trip home from Ocracoke on the Cedar Island Ferry held one more incredible view..the most peaceful pastel water and sky I had seen on Pamlico Sound. This dreamlike vision becomes my special place. The porpoise evaded the camera, but will be in the painting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cotton Fields

I have been having lots of fun learning to paint a field of cotton in front of an old white house. I began with a pencil drawing lightly sketched and applied masking fluid on the tree trunks with a brush and on the cotton bolls with a slightly unwound q-tip. I did exactly that..held it in my right hand and gently twisted it with my left until the end was loose and floppy. My intention was to get a soft shape that drooped irregularly since the rains were loosening the cotton. It worked!

Sky and Trees

I first wet the sky and tree area keeping the house dry. I dropped in a wash of antwerp blue with a bit of cobalt blue for the sky going all the way to the edge of the field.

Quickly while this was still wet I dropped in tree shapes using antwerp blue with cadmium orange (WN artist's grade only) and darker shapes of antwerp blue mixed lightly with burnt sienna. My intent was to have most of the mixing happen on the paper. The glisten of the photo shows just how wet the paper was. Remember that you should mix the color thicker when you are applying it to a wet surface and that you should not use a thinner paint unless you want a bloom.

As the trees begin to dry I quickly begin the field, starting at the base of the trees with a thinner mix of yellow ocher and burnt sienna. That's right, I want a bloom. Watercolor grows grass better than any media I know. I continue toward the bottom of the paper, adding pure burnt sienna and dropping in a mix of burnt sienna and cobalt to make the rows stand up, then accents of even darker burnt sienna and french ultramarine blue.

Shadows on the House

A white house in shadow should be darker than the sky. I came close! I next painted my shadows on the house with a mixture of cerulean blue (WN artist grade only) letting the damp yellow ocher of the grass bleed a little bounce light into the bottom of the shadow.

To be continued in the older posts. I wanted the painting steps to follow each other so have fudged the time .....

House details

I finished the house by adding windows and doors with light shades of blue and yelow ochre dropped in, painted lines to suggest clapboard and added rusty tin with brown madder mixed with Indian yellow. I painted the chimney in a faded brick color and lifted out the far right post of the porch with a stiff brush and clean water..


I removed the masking fluid from the tree trunks and applied greens mixed from antwerp blue and cad orange and burnt sienna raggedly with a fairly dry brush, being sure to leave plenty of sky. Then I applied a mixture of rose madder genuine and yellow ochre to the tree trunk and quickly dropped in a mixture of cobalt blue and burnt sienna along the shaded side of the trunk. As the limbs grew too narrow to do this I mixed the two paint puddles and just applied that mix to the smaller branches.

Close up cotton

I detailed the cotton, after removing the masking fluid, with shadows of cobalt blue mixed with rose madder genuine. When dry, I added stems and branches with a mix of cobalt blue and burnt sienna. In the distant cotton, I found that I needed to break the whites down smaller with the field color to make them look farther away. Finishing the cotton turned into a fairly lengthy process of push and pull until I was satisfied with the look.

Completed painting

With a rigger and shades of yellow ochre mixed with burnt sienna and burnt sienna mixed with cobalt blue. I added a few sprigs of grass and weeds into the grass I had earlier splashed on in very wet tones of yellow ochre and burnt sienna along the lower edge of the painting.

I then decided to darken the windows and doors just a bit. I had started them in light tones because it is very easy to have them be too dark and flat and I wanted to keep them in the distance. This image is the scan I am printing the giclée print from and has been adjusted for the printer..It prints very close to the original but looks much brighter than my photos of the stages.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing the steps as I painted "Cotton Fields Back Home" and I hope the techniques will be helpful to you in your paintings.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ocrafolk School

I am teaching a watercolor class October 27-31 on
Ocracoke Island at the Ocrafolk School. It is a wonderful opportunity to paint on location a world away from the hustle and bustle of my daily life. You can visit for details, but my painting, Howard Street, is an example of the local landscape.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Welcome to my blog.

Watercolor is considered a difficult medium by many people. My goal is to create a space in which it happens with grace and ease. My very first art teacher was Margaret Cooper. I studied oil painting with her from the age of 10 until I went off to college at 17. She gave me an absolute love for the process and an innate color knowledge that has made my path what it is today. I hope that I can pass that on to all my students.

In this blog, I would like to share bits of knowledge that can make painting the joy for others that the process has been for me.