Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lesson #22 Painting the Sky in Watercolor

For the past few lessons we’ve been learning some basic skills for painting a sunset painting similar to this one. This week we’ll paint the sky two different ways. You almost can’t make a mistake when painting a sky. It’s so free-form. Just have fun!

We’ll do a blue sky with fluffy white clouds first.

Let’s start by wetting your watercolor paper (about 5” X 7”) with clear water. (Since this is just for practice I’m not going to prep or staple my paper down on a board. But I will show you how when we actually start our “real” painting!). Then mix some blue paint (your choice of blue) with water and brush it across the top of your paper.

Now apply more blue in the shape of clouds. Any old way…just have fun! Leave some white space, probably more white on the bottom and more blue at the top.

Let it dry. You can use a hair blower to speed up the process.

With a brush and clear water wet some areas and blot with a paper towel to lift color and make more white clouds.

I sometimes use a “scrubber” with water to rub an area and then blot. This tool has tougher bristles than a watercolor brush. Children’s cheap paintbrushes are also good for scrubbing.

You can go back in and darken areas or soften edges where you want to. I showed you how to soften edges in a previous lesson.

Now let’s paint a sunset (or sunrise). Wet your paper with clear water. Wet it again to make sure it is very wet, but not dripping. Mix a blue color of your choice with water and apply it to the top of your paper. With more of the same color, while your paper is still wet, paint some jiggley horizontal streaks.

Mix some redish purple paint with water and Lightly paint just the top (or just the bottom) edges of your blue jiggley streaks. Suck up any harsh, dark edges with a clean almost-dry brush .

Let’s mix some red paint with a little water and make a few red streaks under the blue ones. It’s okay if it merges together a little bit. Now let it dry completely.

Wet the middle of your paper horizontally (from left to right) with clear water.

Mix a little yellow-orange and paint in the clear water area over everything you painted before. Suck up any hard lines with a clean almost-dry brush. Let everything dry completely.

Now let’s make some land by mixing some green and... paint it on!

Soften the bottom edge with clear water.

Mix a little red with that green to make a darker green and add little short brush strokes to suggest trees.

Add a little red mixture into the green for variation and then soften the bottom edge with clear water.

Now you can just tweak a little here and a little there by adding some more yellow, or any other colors you want to experiment with.

Since this lesson is about the sky don’t worry if your land doesn’t look right. We’ll work on that in another lesson. Just have fun watching the colors blend together. And don’t blend too much – just let the water and paint do it by itself. You can turn your paper upside down and sideways to get interesting affects also. And watercolors dry lighter than when you first put them on the paper.

For next week’s lesson have some masking tape or masking fluid ready to use.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wedding Portrait in Watercolor

Lets see…this portrait was painted nearly 30 years ago. At that time I didn’t keep very good copies of my work. So when I found this old copy of a positive film, I scanned it on my little scanner and tried to restore it to it’s original beauty in Photoshop. Well…it’s a “far cry” from it’s original! But I have to say, in over 25 years of marriage, this couple is still happily married and looks just as attractive now as they did on their wedding day.

She was a bridesmaid in our wedding and we share some happy memories! I love doing portraits and I really enjoyed painting the lace on her dress, as well as their smiles.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Graphite Drawings of Horses

Horses, horses, horses...almost everything I drew while in high school was horses! I lived and breathed horses. A neighbor and I even pretended WE were horses! ...until she told me, "Good grief, I like horses but I don't want to be one!"
So finally I got my own horse, an older, mellow, quarter horse named Toby. I spent part of my sophomore year of high school in a cast, with a broken wrist from a fall after I flew over her head and landed on the ground. The embarrassing part is that I wasn't bucked off. She just stumbled a bit in a little hole and over her head I went! Remember, I said she was an older horse.
Several years later my father did a carving of her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lesson #21 Eye-hand Coordination Exercises

Good Morning! I am a little late because of some technical difficulty with my camera’s battery! So today I’ll give you a few coordination exercises instead of the lesson I had planned! These are good for small children but you adults may find them interesting also.

With a pencil, start drawing a line through the Mickey Mouse maze by entering at his tail near the dog at the bottom. Don’t “bump” into the sides of the lines by touching the “walls” of the maze. Come out at the end of the paintbrush where the duck is.

With a colored pencil or marker, enter this maze by choosing a pathway to enter and coloring it all the way through to the end where you come out! (These aren't really mazes because there is only one way you can go...but they look like it!)


With a straight-edge tool like a triangle or ruler, practice drawing lines across the outer edge and middle of the wheel, aligning the dots and short lines as a guide. I have drawn two lines as an example.

In the exercise above, I have four boxes on the left that have several objects in them. In the space to the right of each square draw the corresponding objects overlapping each other. You may rotate them, change the order, make them smaller or larger, but they must all touch each by overlapping.

I’ll have an exciting lesson for you next week when we will continue techniques for our sunset painting!

Monday, March 23, 2009



This is the second watercolor portrait I ever did! It's of my little nephew. He's not so little anymore, a little over six feet tall and married!

I was exploring the web this weekend and found so many inspiring children's book stories. So I thought you might like to take a peek at what I found:

This website has a LONG list of short author/illustrator VIDEO interviews:
http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews

Recently I found some very fun, interesting, short video interviews on http://www.ExpandedBooks.com. Two of them featuring mere children, one of them an illustrator who began her book when she was 7 years old, and another of a young author who is only eight years old.

Emma Kragen with her father about THE TWELVE DOGS OF CHRISTMAS
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/60

Writing Prodigy Adora Svitak
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/100

The next five videos explain themselves!

Maurice Sendak’s new “brilliant and deliciously funny” pop-up book MOMMY. It only has one word throughout, can you guess what it is? (interview includes Mr. Sendak–legendary author/illustrator, Arthur Yorinks-writer, and illustrator/paper engineer-Mathew Reinhart)
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/109

Mark Teague, author and illustrator HOW DO DINOSAURS GO TO SCHOOL?
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/179

Marine scientist Ellen Prager, ADVENTURE ON DOLPHIN ISLAND combines fact with fiction for children
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/55

Husband and wife team Richard and Steffanie Lorig authors of SUCH A SILLY BABY! at a school visit
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/357

Daren and Daniel Simkin, author and illustrator brothers interviewed by sister, Shana about their book THE TRAVELER.
http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/393

Click on these and have fun listening to the authors and illustrators talk about their work!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Was Featured on News From the North Country


This is an original watercolor Thank You to Chris at News From the North Country.

Yesterday, on Thursday, March 19, Chris featured my blog in a short article there! She said:

“When you come across a great art blog, you want to share. That’s exactly what I found while reading art blogs when I came Mara Mattia Watercolor Art.

Mara’s art is warm and colorful. She is a confident artist with a deft hand. The blog design reflects her keen artist’s eye. The gray background allows her art to spring off the screen.

Her blog is a treat to read, with teaching lessons and plenty of advice for artists. Lessons are
written with plenty of photographs. Mara also illustrates for children books. Her illustrations are a delight.

Looking for a colorful vision treat? Stop over and visit Mara.”


Thank you, Chris, for recognizing me! This is what I know about Chris, an interesting artist and lady. She is:


“…primarily a self-taught and self-representing artist. My work weaves a tapestry of the realistic, natural, imaginative and historic, reflecting my deep love and commitment to the preservation of the natural resources of the Upper Midwest.

I am a long time supporter and volunteer of conservation efforts throughout the Midwest. In 2000, my husband, Norm, and I were commissioned Colonels by the state of Kentucky for our volunteer efforts at Mammoth Cave National Park. We are also co-authors of 101 Things To Do on the Wisconsin Great River Road.” (from her website)

Her site specializes in original watercolors and features news to inspire, Business, and Marketing information. When you visit click on her Site Map at the top of the posts. Lots of good information there! I also have her link on the right-hand side of my blog under My Favorite Art Links.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lesson #20 Art Terms and Painting a Watercolor Sunset

Art terms are so exciting! If you don’t believe me, just wait until you see the results of your work when you know and understand Art terms! This is the scene, or something similar, you will be finishing in only a few weeks. You didn’t know it, but you began learning your skills for this last week!

But first the terms!

A Hue is a color such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and so on…

Tone is the tint or shade of a hue (color).

A Tint is the variation of lightness or intensity of a Hue such as pale red or intense red. With oils, acrylics, gouache, and pastels we add white to make a hue lighter. Notice the different tones in the following painting:


With watercolor we add clear water to make the hue lighter or more transparent to let the white paper show through (as we learned in lesson #19 about atmospheric perspective where we painted mountains lighter and lighter as they receded in the distance).

A Shade, like shading, is a variation of a hue by adding black.

With watercolor we can add a little black to make a hue darker or we can add the hue’s compliment, the color that is straight across from it on the color wheel.

Above is an example of two containers. The first one was painted by using the compliment of red (which is green) to make a shade on the dark side of it. The second container was painted by using black to make the shade, or shadow. There is a difference, isn’t there? I used clear water on the lighter areas on both of them to make the lighter tint.

Now that you know four new terms, hue, tone, tint, and shade, lets do some exercises to test and practice training your “artistic eye”.

To test you, I have drawn some shapes. Choose the test that is most challenging but not too hard for you to do. Draw each shape in the space beside it, just like we did with the Grid. Level one is the easiest. I have left more spaces to practice each shape on the right hand exercises.

Level three is more challenging.

Children love these exercises! You may click and drag these images onto your desktop and print them from there.

See these trees? Can you tell what kind each one is? Practice drawing them on your own and next week I will show you some shortcuts.

Now practice drawing this line drawing. Notice that the composition is similar to the painted sunset at the top of the page. We’ll continue more next week – ENJOY DRAWING AND PAINTING!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watercolor Quick Sketches


These are quick sketches. They are tiny. The outlines are first quickly sketched with a #2 pencil and then the image is painted very quickly.

Painting from life is a good way to get fast at your craft. Strong sunlight helps with seeing the shadows.

A good place to go to do this is a park, beach, pool, zoo, or shopping mall. Sometimes I park my car on a busy street or parking lot, stay in my car, and privately sketch away! If I want to attract a crowd I get out of my car where passers-by can stop to observe. I get wonderful critique that way! It also helps to take some pictures with your camera or use pictures from magazines or travel books. That way you can practice later at home or in your studio.

This week I have added some exciting new blogs to My Favorite Art Links. Check them out when you have time! Look along the right sidebar of my blog.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watercolor Thank You Card

Thank you Ralph Serpe at ArtInstructionBlog.com and CreativeSpotlite.com for featuring me on your site! I have painted you a custom watercolor card.

He is not only great artist but shares his passion with others who want to learn or advance their craft and knowledge of art. His site is full of artist and crafter resources, instruction, and interviews. I could spend more than all day just exploring everything there!

Thank you!

You can always click on his Art Instruction Blog and Creative Spotlite on the right hand side of my blog under My Favorite Art Links.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lesson #19 Mixing Grey Watercolor for Atmospheric Perspective

I have gotten several inquiries about mixing warm grey and cool grey with watercolor. It’s really very simple to do with the three primary colors of blue, red, and yellow.

Some art teachers say, “Never use black”. I say, “Use whatever you want if you like it!”.

But if you go outside and really look at grey shadows on the ground or on the side of a building you will notice that they are not really light black…I mean if you look really, really hard! Shadows and grey actually have a lot of different colors in them. Some are warm grey (with yellows and reds) and some are cool grey (with blues and greens).

An example of cool grey would be snow-covered fields on a cloudy day.

An example of warm grey would be a bonfire on a beach with a fiery orange sunset.

Or you could have both warm and cool grey in a cold, dark cave looking out the opening into the warm sunshine.

Above are three greys. The one on the left is cool with more blue in the mix. The middle one is neutral with equal amounts of blue and red. The one on the right is warm with more red in the mix.

I hope you’re not tired of perspective…because there is another kind of perspective that shows distance called Atmospheric Perspective. When you look at mountains or water far in the distance it looks faded. Colors look bright up close and cool and faded when they are far away, especially on a hazy day.

This lesson will prepare you for painting a beautiful lake scene in a few weeks. Start by tearing some strips of paper. Place strips one at a time on a piece of watercolor paper as a guide to draw the outline of the top of some mountains. Start about 1/3 from the top of your watercolor paper.


Use another torn paper strip or flip the same one over and draw a second row of mountains a little above the first one.

Do a third and forth row, a little closer together than the first two because things look smaller in the distance.

Draw one last line on the bottom that is a little more flat. If your lines are too dark erase them a little with an eraser.

Now mix a bunch of warm grey (Look back up to the beginning example of the three grey colors I mixed in the first picture) with the three primary colors. Test your color on a scrap piece of watercolor paper and paint in the first row of mountains.

Add a little blue to your mixture to make a more cool grey. Paint in the second row of mountains.

For the third row of mountains add a little more blue plus some more water to your mixture to make the paint thinner. This will look lighter when you apply it to your white watercolor paper. Paint the third row of mountains.

Now add even more water to your paint mixture, test it on a scrap watercolor paper to make sure it looks very light. Paint the fourth row of mountains.

I noticed that my second row of mountains looks a little too dark. So I am going to lighten that section by applying clear water with my brush, then blotting it with a paper towel. I could do it again if it is still too dark.

Now the sky! Prepare your paint mixture first, by adding some blue back into it and maybe just a touch of red. Test it. Add a touch of yellow if it is not grey enough (if it looks too purple). Remember it should look very pale and not very colorful because it is far away on a hazy day.

Then paint clear water onto the entire sky area.

Turn your paper upside down and start from the bottom (top of the sky) and paint in your sky paint mixture onto the wet area (wet into wet). Let it settle so it is darker toward the edge of the page. Let it dry.

There. You have a mountain ridge on a hazy day! Try painting in a foreground that gets more intense with color as it gets closer to the viewer. See what you can do and have fun!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Details of Children's Book Cover Art in Watercolor

Remember, I illustrated this book well over a decade ago! The book title was designed to fit on this little painted wooden sign.

I hand Lettered the original book title, Beary Tales from Honey Pine Woods in watercolor.

Everything was illustrated a little larger than final print size. Lucky for me the art director chose a different font or lettering style because this one was really “dorky” (a term we used in the 60’s & 70’s). And the shadows on these letters were coming from a different light source than the light source on the sign!

This is the finished cover Title. Now that I take a closer look, I notice that the light source here is still not right! Can you tell what’s wrong?

The light source on the lettering, indicated by the shadows, is from the upper right hand corner. The light source on the sign, by the shadows on the branch borders, shows to be coming from the upper left!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Garden Watercolor Portrait Commission

I understand that less than five percent of the American population has ever been inside an art gallery. So there was a time I took my gallery to a local farmer's market. I didn't sell much of my hanging watercolor paintings at that particular market but I did get quite a few commissions.

One talented lady designed, cultivated, and maintained her large garden surrounding her home, and asked me to paint it. I really enjoyed this project because it was so beautiful and peaceful there. Every corner of her yard had a spectacular view and if I walked just three feet in any direction I saw a totally new scene.

This little painting is very small, and I had a hard time selecting just a few vantage points to sketch and paint from.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lesson #18 Two Drawing Exercises


Two fun drawing exercises today – one you can do independently and the other is fun to do with at least one other person for comparison.

This first exercise strengthens eye-hand coordination.

The four images above are only half there (you may click and drag them onto your desktop and print them). I cut each of them off with a broken line.

In the space to the right of each broken line draw the mirror image or reflection of the image on the left.


This second exercise strengthens your mind’s eye – hand coordination. It will have lots of erasing and shading. Use pencils and cotton tips, shading stumps, finger, or tissue to achieve the shading. Grab a kneaded eraser, and some colored pencils or crayons. And paper.

Find a fun friend or group of people, give them each a copy of my instructions and follow them in the order given (Do not look at each other’s artwork until you are completely finished). Draw:

1. A light source in one upper corner of your paper
2. A long face
3. Red hair
4. Some freckles
5. Brown eyes
6. Brown lashes
7. Thick eyebrows
8. One or two piercing
9. Glasses
10. High cheek bones
11. Full lips
12. A birthmark or mole
13. A birthmark or mole
14. A chain or necklace
15. A hat
16. An ear
17. A pet on one shoulder
18. One dimple somewhere
19. A scarf
20. A scar
21. Long nose
22. Nostrils that flare
23. Chocolate cookie crumbs
24. Shade your picture with
the light source in mind.

When you are finished show each other your drawings. Don’t you think it’s interesting how differently our mind’s eye hears, sees and interprets? Such creativity!