Friday, May 29, 2009

Portrait of a Daughter-Planning the Background

The background of this portrait I'm working on needs some thought. The tree my subject is leaning on will be a Magnolia, since that is her favorite, and they grow in her area.

I’ve determined that this portrait will have a whimsical feeling to it, so I'll bring in some of the subject’s elements of childhood. I gathered pictures that represent some of her childhood memories, videos and pictures of characters in stories she enjoyed as a child.

Next I’ve been working on a few sketches on tracing paper to determine size and placement in the composition.

Come back next time to see more progress!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Portrait of a Daughter-a Beginning

One day as I was flipping through a fashion magazine I saw an article about the movie Beatrix Potter with a beautiful photo shoot of the movies’ star, Rene’e Zellweger by photagrapher, Mario Testino.

I thought, “My, wouldn’t that be a beautiful idea for a portrait painting?”

Well, I soon got a chance to use my idea! I had only one photograph to use for the portrait, and I thought it just might work, since I know the subject personally!

I did a detailed sketch on tracing paper, changing Rene’e Zellweger’s proportions by elongating the neck and legs, and adding the face from the subject’ photo.

I added a pet cat and a single stem rose as props to make it personal. I also changed details of the dress and shoes to a more generic representation from an old Sears catalogue, so as not to steal from the original designer.

Next I enlarged my sketch about 200% on a copy machine, several sections at a time. I taped all the sections together with clear tape and positioned the enlargement onto a prepared piece of watercolor paper with drafting tape at the top. Drafting tape looks like masking tape except that it’s not as sticky, so it won’t ruin your painting surface.

This is the enlarged copy of the drawing. I will next put a piece of homemade graphite carbon paper underneath my drawing and carefully trace the image onto the watercolor paper (See lesson #12-Perspective and Shading in Watercolor, where I show how to do this).

I’ll show you my progress on my next post!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Take Me To MY Friends, a Little Closer Look

Monday, May 18, 2009

Take Me To My Friends - A Finished Painting Series!

Side by Side

8 x 10..................................11 x 14

16 x 20..............................22 x 28

24 x 36

Now that I have finished this series of paintings called Take Me To My Friends, I hope you can see that it tells a simple story. It’s kind of hard, in this blog, to see the exact sizes represented here. But you can get a little idea.

I really enjoyed painting this clean, contemporary style with all the white negative space surrounding the elements.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Painting Series Progress by Adding More Fruit

Well, little by little I am making progress with this series! Here I have done a light under-painting for a bowl of fruit. I grabbed what I had in the refrigerator and had to make a run to the store for a fresh pineapple…and totally forgot some bananas!

I’ve slowly added more color. It was a little hard, by the way, to find a round ball of cheese. I found it at an Italian import market in our area. It’s really going to be aged by the time I’m finished using it as a prop.

This is still not finished. Notice that the strawberries have no seeds yet. And with all that fruit sitting on my drawing table I just had to take a break and find something to eat before continuing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Progress on a Watercolor Series with Wine and Pineapple

As I continue painting, I think the wine glass is just a little bit too small. It needs to be bigger! But what can I do?

I took a firm bristled watercolor brush with clean water and painted over the outside edges of the class and the foot of the stem, and pressed over it with a paper towel. Then I wet it again, and pressed again, lifting up paint. Again and again…until the paint was almost gone. Then I let it dry.

Then I began painting again, expanding the sides and top with new paint. The new paint covered the areas I had lifted and you can’t even tell!

Then I propped a big old pineapple in front of me and began painting that in, layer by layer. And I have started to add just the slightest under-painting of a shadow for the wine glass.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Progress on a Watercolor Painting Series with Wine

I paint liguid the way I paint something that is solid. I just squint my eyes until I can see only the light or dark colors, and the shapes of them. I imagine it’s something other that what it is (It isn’t a glass of wine!). And I paint it as though it’s just abstract colors and shapes…and I try not to think that it’s a dark, burgundy-colored liquid inside a glass…just a shape with color. Got it?

This isn’t finished yet!

Here is the reference photo I am using (a little off color), as well, I have the actual glass sitting in front of me on my drawing table.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lesson #28 Painting a Watercolor Sunset

Whew! This is it! Today we finish a whole painting of a Sunset in Watercolor! We will review all we’ve learned in Lessons 22 – 27 plus one more technique for painting grass.
Let’s get started!

Begin by preparing your watercolor paper. My paper is
12½ X 9½ inches. Stretch it and staple it onto a piece of plywood. I have added strips of masking tape all around the edges of my paper, on top of the staples, to make a nice border that the paint will not cover.

Next, draw a horizon line about 2/5 from the top of your paper. And draw a circle for your sun. I have placed my sun a little above my horizon line. Cover your sun with masking fluid and let it dry thoroughly.

Review Lesson #23 Stretching Watercolor Paper, and Lesson #24 Painting a sunset in Watercolor.

Wet your paper with clear water right over the masked sun and above the horizon line and then begin adding color. When you are finished let it dry thoroughly before you remove masking fluid from your sun.

Review Lesson #24 Painting a Sunset in Watercolor.

Paint your sun and add additional cloud details into it (Lesson #24).

When your sky is finished begin your water wetting your paper with clear water below the horizon line and begin painting your water.

Review Lesson #25 Painting and Scraping Water.

After applying a wash of paint onto the wet paper suck up any dark vertical streaks with a clean brush (Review Lesson #12 Perspective and Shading in Watercolor).

Finish horizontal waves but don’t scratch in highlights yet.

Draw a line for the beach. It’s a little hard to see in this last picture but you can see it more clearly in the next one.

Lift off any paint from the area in the middle for a small beach. Wet it with clear water and blot. Wet the beach area again to get it ready for paint.

Mix a beige color (yellow, and a touch of red and blue) and paint it onto the wet area for the beach.

Paint in some messy green paint for grass. Just kind of dab it on. Let it dry.

Dab on darker blotches of green (Add a little of it’s compliment, red, to make it darker), a little area at a time, and quickly smudge it with clear water on your brush as we did on the trees in lesson #27 Painting Another Tree in Watercolor.

Continuing a little area at a time…

Add some red blotches to make it interesting. Smudge with clear water on your brush – a little area at a time while it is still wet.

Dry thoroughly. With a small pointed brush, add little streaks representing grass. Lift some of the paint from top edges between the grass blades with clear water and blotting (See insert). Lift more blades of grass the same way in the interior of the grassing mounds.

With a pencil, draw some lines representing tree trunks rooted in the earth under your grass.

Begin scratching water reflections (See Lesson #25 Painting and Scraping Water).

How about painting in an island on the horizon line? Mix dark green (green and red). Review Lesson #22 Painting the Sky in Watercolor.

Continue painting the island...

Paint in tree trunks by painting dark green lines which are wider at the bottom.

Add some branches. Dip your brush in dark green paint and fan it between your fingers or on another piece of paper to separate the bristles. Dot on some leaves, a little at a time. This may take a little practice to get the affect you like. The separated bristles give it a jagged look and you’ll have to keep separating those bristles each time you dip it in the paint because doesn’t want to stay. You can also use a small sea sponge dipped in paint. Test it on a scratch paper.

Touch up the sandy beach a little with darker beige. Add just a little yellow to the scratched reflections on the water.

Add some dark green shadows by blotching just below the tree trunks with paint and the smudging a little on the edges with clean water.

When all is thoroughly dry gently pull off the masking tape from the edges of your paper and remove your staples.

Don’t forget to sign your painting!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lesson #27 Painting Another Tree in Watercolor

This will be the last ingredient before doing our complete painting of a sunset. Tomorrow will be the day! Let’s paint another kind of tree today.

Start with a stretched and dry piece of watercolor paper. Notice I have one stapled here to a piece of plywood. Sketch the shape of a tree as I showed you in lesson #26.

Begin painting little dabs of light green (I used sap green) onto little sections of leaves at a time, leaving some little areas where the white paper shows through. Before it is dry, swish your brush in clean water, let the excess water go by dabbing your brush lightly on a paper towel. then touch the edges of the painted leaves with just enough water to “smudge” them (as I have done above). Leave little white areas of paper still uncovered.

Continue little areas at a time until the whole tree is painted with the illusion of leaves. They are actually paint scribbles!

Next, we’ll add a little depth by doing the same thing with darker green by mixing light green with it’s compliment, red (the color straight across from it on the color wheel – see Lessons #8 and 9). But don’t cover all of the light green on your tree. Leave some areas for the light green and white paper to show through. Continue in little sections at a time until finished.

Now mix some brown with a little blue, red, and green in the right proportions. Just experiment on your pallet or mixing dish until you are happy with the color. More red makes a reddish-brown. More blue makes a grey-brown. Sometimes I have to wipe my mix dry and start over many times until I get the color I want!

And paint in the trunk and branches. Paint a few branches over some leaves – just a hint – and let some just disappear by not painting at all. It helps to have a small paintbrush for this technique.

There you are! I’ll have the sunset painting demonstration posted some time tomorrow evening if all goes well!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Illustrator and Author, Mara Price

SCBWI is a national organization specifically for children's book authors and illustrators. With members in all 50 states, plus many area chapters in each state, dedicated to the craft of writing and illustrating books for children from picture books through young adult fiction and nonfiction. The organization is a great resource not only for published authors and illustrators, but for those who want to learn to write and/or illustrate for children.

They feature two conferences each year, one in New York in the winter and one in Los Angeles in the summer.

Mara Price is a member I recently met through that organization. I love her colorful illustrations. Her forthcoming bilingual picture book (illustrated by Lisa Fields) will be released soon by Arte Público Press/Piñata Books.

Check out Mara's website at and her blog at

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Progress on a Watercolor Series

This little guy and his ball of cheese is slowly taking shape. Notice how the colors have changed? Especially in the shadows. The purple under-painting is still there in all that shadow. You see it on the edges. I have painted over it with a mixture of bluish grey colors using a slow process of glazing, letting it dry, wetting sections with water, and lifting off color by blotting with a paper towel.

Hmmm…maybe I should do a lesson on that process with shadows.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Progress on a Watercolor painting series

Good morning! I’ve been working late into the night with this series of paintings – Five in all. Here is a peek at a section of one of them. I tend to love painting detail so this is not nearly finished.

When I begin a painting I always think it’s a candidate for the trash can. But I force myself to continue on…painting…painting…and it’s fun to see if it will turn out ok and escape the deep, “round container”! At this point I am starting to like it – but not quite!