Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lesson #26 Trees in a Watercolor Painting

There are so many kinds of trees. In this lesson I’ll give you four examples to draw in pencil or ink. Then I will do a quick watercolor demonstration painting a palm tree.

First I use a pencil to quickly sketch the outline of a tree as a guide (Erase this outline later). You can trace it from a magazine or book. You can also look outside and sketch what you see – that’s what I like to do!

Then carefully draw in the details with pencil or ink.

First the outline guide, then the details.

Now to start the painting! First I draw an outline sketch in pencil right on watercolor paper. Since this is a tiny painting, about 5” x 6”, I didn’t bother to stretch it and staple it to a board.

Next I painted the outline of leave with a little yellow. Then I painted a few main veins and leaves of a several palm fronds with sap green (light green).

On a scrap of watercolor paper I practiced some brush strokes for the leaves. And I went ahead and began painting them in on my tree.

It would be a good idea to go outside and really observe different kinds of tree leaves.

And I continued to practice on my strokes with hooker’s green (dark green) with just a touch of red mixed in to make it even darker yet (Red is the compliment of green – straight across the color wheel from it!). And I took a little clear water on my brush to “pull” the color out on the leaf stroke.

Now I do the real thing on one of the fronds: Dark green…

…and clear water to pull the paint out a little on each leaf. Continue painting this way one frond at a time.


In this second picture here I’m adding a few extra darker fronds behind. And a couple new unopened ones at the top of the tree.

For the trunk I mix some hooker’s green with more red to paint the trunk.

Then I lift out some of the color from the middle of the trunk with clear water.

With a mixture of brownish green (green and red) I paint in a bit of shadow on the ground.

Then I apply a little clear water to soften it a little. Next I apply a little brown (red and green) to the bottom portion of the trunk.

…and soften it with clear water.

Well, that’s a start! What do you think? How about practicing by exploring with the other species of trees in your area?

I think you are ready to do a complete sunset painting next week! Yes, a whole painting! I will guide you from start to finish. You are going to be so proud of what you accomplish! It will be beautiful! Just in time for Mother’s Day here in the U.S.!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Three Stages of a Watercolor Painting Series

I would like to show you three stages of the painting series I’m working on. It will be a little confusing to you at this stage because these are little sections of three actual paintings (There are five paintings total, and they are each a different size). When I show you the finished paintings you will see what I mean and it will all make sense. How’s that for mystery?

I’ll keep working on them and I hope you enjoy watching my progress!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Starting to Paint a Watercolor Series - The Background

After stretching my watercolor paper onto a piece of plywood and letting it dry thoroughly, I drew a horizon line on the top ¼ section of my paper. Then I sketched in the outline of one of my little mouse-on-a-ball characters. After wetting the top area carefully, with clear water, around the image of the mouse I painted in splotches of paint: Hookers green, Permanent Magenta, and Burnt Sienna. I then let it dry completely.

Next I wet the painted area with clear water again and painted over the bright colors with dark Indigo Blue. And I let it dry.

I’ll continue in my next post!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lesson #25 Painting and Scraping Water

This is a simple little lesson that I think you will find quite effective. You will need a blade such as the kind on an exacto knife, a one-sided razor blade, or a steak knife from the kitchen.

Start by Stretching a small piece of watercolor paper (see lesson #23). Since it is already wet you don’t have to wet it again but if it is dry wet it with two coats of clear water and let it soak in a little.

Mix some paint to make an aqua color with green & blue (or blue and yellow from two primary colors) and paint across the top of your wet paper.

Now paint across the paper with blue, overlapping the aqua a little bit.

Then under the blue with purple (blue & red primary colors), overlapping just a little.

Let it dry. You may aid the drying process with a hair blower.

Near the top of your paper paint in a skinny streak of aqua.

Soften the sharp edges with your brush dampened with clear water. Repeat with multiple skinny streaks of aqua (and soften edges).

It’s more controllable to do just a few streaks at a time because you want the streak to stay wet until you get the sharp edges softened.

Change color with blue streaks just a little wider, below the aqua streaks. Soften the edges. As you work down and get closer to the bottom of your paper, and closer to the viewer the streaks should get wider. Think of size and what we learned about perspective in previous lessons.

Change your color to purple and repeat the above process with streaks that are just a tad bit wider. Always soften edges. Let it dry thoroughly.

Now we are ready to scrape glistening light reflections on the surface of the water. (As a last thought, we will be painting in a setting or rising sun just above where we started our aqua streaks). Begin gently scratching off steaks of paper just above the top edge of some of the streaks. Make the scrapes longer and wider as you go down to the bottom of your painting.

Brush off the debris as you go.

Now I’m scraping a half circle that represents the sun just above where the aqua streaks begin, to reveal the white paper underneath. You can also paint this circle with clear water and blot the paint away.

And I am painting in a yellow-orange sun. I’m also adding some yellow-orange paint in some of the reflections I just scraped in. I just make sure I leave a lot of white scraped areas without color.

There you have it! You can use your creativity to experiment with a moon, using only dark blues and grey-blues and leaving the half circle white instead of yellow (and no yellow reflections in the water. In that case the area above the water should be very dark blue, almost black (you can make black with a lot of blue and a little red and yellow).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Character Sketches of a Watercolor Painting Series

They are falling through the air on a ball. Which little mouse shall I choose?

Finally on solid ground…I think…

Let’s push this thing out of the way!

Rolling along…

Is it staying put?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Creative Process of a Watercolor Painting Series

I think this creative process will be fun for you to see.

My husband and I were eating at an Italian restaurant one evening. The atmosphere was festive with parents and kids, lively chattering friends, mouthwatering smells, and shouts from the kitchen. The dining room was dimly lit with a cozy little candle on each red and white checkered tablecloth. I was thinking of food and friends and got an idea! I had a picture story in my mind. So I started doodling ideas on my napkin.
Over the next several days I developed it a little more.

And over the coarse of a few weeks, between my other projects, I worked out the sizes and general compositions of five (I wanted to have an odd number) paintings that tell a picture story.

This is the beginning! To be continued…

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lesson #24 Painting a Sunset in Watercolor

This is a lesson that will be just plain fun! Your painting will end up looking different than mine – and that is what we want. You’ll choose the colors and let them blend and move and see what you end up with!

You will need some stretched watercolor paper (see lesson #23). Also, some Masking Fluid, (liquid masket, frisket, or Mask), masket applicator (toothpick, cheap small paintbrush, end of a small paintbrush, masquepen, or ruling pen), and a rubber cement pick-up (I have clipped a rubber piece off the sole of an old tennis shoe when I could not find a rubber cement pick-up – just make sure it’s clean!). It goes without saying you will need watercolor paint, brushes, paper towels, a pencil, and water!


With your pencil draw a horizon line dividing the top ¼ of your paper and a semi-circle representing a setting sun. Apply masking fluid to the sun with an applicator.

Let it air dry completely. This seals this area from water and paint.


Brush the top area with clear water…twice to make sure it’s sufficiently wet. Let it soak in a bit.

Apply blue paint to the wet paper so it looks like clouds.

Soften sharp edges with a clean brush and water, blotting with a paper towel if necessary. Let it dry or go on to the next step immediately.


Apply some streaks of reddish-purple. Soften sharp edges. Let dry.


Add some orange streaks and soften sharp edges. You decide if you want to let it dry or apply more paint into the still-wet paint.

How about some yellow? Go back over it with some clear water and blot a little to make it lighter.


Add more streaks, if you want, in the sky – and soften edges. A little more orange streaks around the sun. Paint right over the sun. The mask will prevent it from taking the paint and water.


Now remove the mask by gently rubbing over it with your rubber cement pick-up .

Paint the sun. *If you want your painting to be a night-time scene paint your sky in very dark blues and make the sun a rising moon by leaving it white (without paint). Let it dry.


Make some cloud streaks in front of the sun by lifting paint with clear water and blot if necessary. *For a night-time scene paint in soft blue, grey, or purple streaks covering parts of the moon instead of lifting out color as we did for the orange sun.


Add as many streaks as you want until you get it looking the way you want it. Notice below, I have added some green into the blue to give it an aqua color here and there (I actually don’t like it!). Try other colors or leave it to just a simple few.

Notice that the colors are warm (yellow, orange, red) near the sun, and cool (blue, purple, green) away from the sun. For a night-time scene with a moon just use cool colors.

Have fun…and next time we will paint water!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Changes to my Tuesday Teaching Lessons


Quick Draw!
Always draw! Anything and everything. Do it quick. Do it frequently!

This is of our daughter when she was 7 years old. It took about 3 minutes. The more you draw the better and faster you will get!

I have been working on a series of paintings, and a couple children’s books lately. It’s pretty labor intensive and time consuming! So I’ll be making some changes in the style of my online teaching. After we finish our sunset painting my posts will be as step-by-step tutorials, showing progress of my current projects, including commentary. I will be posting on Tuesdays and throughout the week.

If you have questions about any technique or process please make a comment on the bottom of an individual post and I’ll gladly address it as time permits.

I hope this will give you a little insight into more advanced painting techniques while I also use my time to keep on target with my current project deadlines!

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Watercolor Art Studio

I thought it would be nice for you to see where I work!

My first studio was a designated area marked off by a toddler fence in our master bedroom. That worked until our son was about 2 ½. Then we bought a house with four bedrooms. Our son had his own room when our first daughter was born and she had a nursery…and I had a painting room!

When our second daughter was born each child had his own room and I lost my private painting room, but my paints and I got to share the nursery with the baby!

Soon we moved the girls together to share a bedroom, and the nursery was designated solely to my painting.

Before long I rolled the cars out of our garage and moved my art supplies and equipment into a room my father-in-law built. Then daughter #1 got her own bedroom again!

In 2003 we added a totally separate art studio to the back of our house. All I have to say is, “it’s wonderful!” Now I have plenty of room to function efficiently, and plenty of natural light. It has 3 sections. 1 - Watercolor painting needs access to water so I have a sink. 2 - My paintings also need to be framed so I have framing stuff like a mat cutter, glass, moulding, and big carpet-covered table on wheels that holds supplies underneath. 3 - There is a corner for my computer, printers, and book cases, and a special outlet designated for a kiln. And it has a bathroom!

With just a quick walk through our bedroom or dining room door and across the patio, I’m at my place of work. I don’t even have to dress up, put on make-up if I don’t want to, or stop at the gas station to fill up my car! And I have a place to discuss business with clients without having to make sure there are no dirty dishes or clutter on the dining room table first! But, you know, I am usually working on several projects at a time so it gets a little cluttered. All I need to do is close the door and lock it when I leave. Everything is then right where I left it when I return to work!

I didn’t think I would ever have such a nice place of my own to work in, but God has blessed us and I am grateful. That’s why I teach free lessons on my blog…I want to give out of a grateful heart!

And this Easter as my family celebrates the one who paid the price for our shortcomings and sins by dying as a sacrifice on the cross, and overcoming death by rising again, I wish for you a blessed season!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lesson #23 Stretching Watercolor Paper

Last week I told you to have some masking fluid or masking tape ready. Sorry…I changed my mind! We’re just going to jump right in and start doing our actual sunset painting by getting our watercolor paper ready by stretching it! Actually, it stretches or relaxes first in water, then it shrinks as it dries.

Start by cutting a piece of watercolor paper to the size you want. Mine is a little under 7 inches high or wide and it’s 140lbs. (It’s really not that heavy but that is how they designate its thickness - I think a whole rheem of paper weighs 140 lbs before it is cut at the factory). Fill a clean sink or container with just enough lukewarm water to cover your watercolor paper. Let it soak for 5 -15 minutes.

Grab a piece of plywood (not particle board or composite, because that stuff is too hard!), a little larger than your paper, and about ½ - ¾ inches thick. Choose the smooth side and make sure it’s clean (you know, get the spiders and cobwebs off!).

Lift your paper out of the water and let the excess drip off. Position it on your plywood and staple the edges about 2 inches apart and at least ¼ inch from the edge.

Use staples that are shallow rather than deep (like the ones on the right) because…

…they are easier to remove when your painting is finished and dry. To remove your paper off the board when your painting is done use a screw driver under the staples, aimed toward the outside edge of your painting (just in case it slips and scratches your masterpiece…ugh!). Use a plyers to pull those that don’t come completely out.

Now we will be ready to use masking fluid or masking tape next week!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Crosshatching, a Clear Example

Years ago I did an illustration for a Purim invitation. I think this shows, very clearly, the different layers in crosshatching. As you can see, each darker value adds pen strokes in another direction. This crosshatching example is very stylized and abstract with its precise edges of light but you can also do crosshatching in a softer, more gradual style.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Children's Book by Lemony Snicket and Composer Nathaniel Stookey

Since I love both children's books and music, I thought this would be interesting for you to watch and listen to. Turn up your volume!