Monday, December 16, 2013

Adding a New Background to a Watercolor Painting with Photoshop

My watercolor painting of a chocolate mousse dessert needed a little pizzazz for a package design. So this is what I came up with!

Here is the original watercolor with a plain, no distraction, background.

My idea was to come up with a design that resembled the chocolate spirals on the dessert plate. So I sketched random spirals and painted them in sepia watercolor. Then I scanned it into Photoshop.

I rotated the file several times, dragging each new layer on top of the next until I had about three layers of spirals. I made each layer transparent by clicking "multiply" instead of "normal" in the mode drop down menu.

But how do I get the black spirals to be white?  I inverted the black line-work to white line-work over another color (blue in this case, but it really doesn't matter because the blue color disappears): 

I held "command + I" (ctrl + I) to invert, and the black line-work turned white (with a black background)!  I renamed that layer "spirals".
At the layers panel I clicked to make a new adjustment layer, and for that layer I selected blue as my solid color background, painted that layer blue, and named it "blue".   Then I dragged the blue layer to the bottom, under my "spirals" layer (It again appears black with white spirals).
Then I went up and set the mode to "screen," and voila!  White spirals over blue!

Now This "spirals" layer is ready to click and drag over to any file (in this case, my chocolate mousse picture). And it will be white spirals with a transparent background so that my chocolate mousse will show through!  Of course, I used some tools for additional steps to adjust, erase, burn, & dodge the layer to get it the way I liked it.

I hope you enjoyed this. And now, here is a fun little math lesson about spirals. Go to  for the direct link.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Watercolor Patterns for Quilting

Painting patterns in watercolor has my interest lately. It reminds me of doodling on  my notebook paper in elementary school, kind of "mindless" and relaxing. 

My mother, aunts, and several friends are quilters and they patiently turn out beautiful works of art with fabric, a much more laborious and time-consuming process than watercolor painting! Watercolor painting is a solitary profession, for the most part. So what I love about quilting is how women come together and share the work of making a quilt, as well as the joy of each other’s company.  That's how the "quilting bee" was born in early America. Women and girls would come together at one house and quickly make a quilt that could take several weeks for only one person to make. Once the quilt was completed for one woman, they moved on to the next one. There are generations of family stories and history stitched into thousands of quilting fabrics, patterns and designs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

True Myrtle Watercolor Painting Finished

True Myrtle  -  watercolor  -  8.5" x 8.5"
True Myrtle is a pretty common bush where we live.  A hedge of it will be included in our front yard soon. The Western Garden Book says it needs almost no water, once established. So it's ideal for a drought tolerant landscape. And it blooms almost continuously!  My husband is digging out old trees and trenches for our drip irrigation system in the front yard. He's begun gluing PVC pipe together for the water lines and when it's ready we'll begin planting stuff. These weekend projects do take a lot of time but we sure learn a lot!  

Here is a nice drawing video by an English artist named Shoo Rayner. He has a bunch of tutorials videos on his Youtube channel.   Direct link here:  Get The Box Inside Your Head

Thursday, November 7, 2013

True Myrtle Watercolor Painting In-Progress and the Color Spectrum Song

This is what it looks like after I peel off the masking, revealing pure white paper.
Gradually I add details of the blossoms where the white paper used to be.

This True Myrtle painting is taking too long!  It has been a busy month with many distractions and changes here.  hope you enjoy seeing my progress. 

I really respect artists who paint trees and foliage, because that is not my forte'!  I've discovered that my mind wanders...I keep taking breaks to check my mailbox, get a snack, make a phone call, or clean a bathroom (no kidding!).  Getting lost in all those leaves and stems has me trapped!  I'm listening to audio books to get me through. 

Last weekend my daughter was visiting and reminded me of this classic video of Ludwig Von Drake's "The Spectrum Song". It's a lesson about color.  I hope you enjoy it!    

Here is the direct link:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

True Myrtle - Watercolor in Progress

I'm working this little painting in between some of my other work because I wanted to try something different while my computer crashed!  Yup, I kind of sensed it coming and was able to back up all my files onto an external hard drive. The next morning, literally, my computer would not turn on...the main logic board needed to be replaced!  While waiting to get all set up again with a new computer, I could not access my reference photos. So I started something new.  

This is the beginning stages of a True Myrtle bush. Our neighbor has some and we plan to plant it in our front yard as part of our DIY landscape project because it is very drought resistant.  Here I have isolated the white flowers and buds by painting them with masking fluid using a toothpick. I rarely use masking fluid but have tried all kinds of applicators. The best I've found is an inexpensive toothpick!

Here I have applied some loose, watery washes of color to distinguish between the leaves and the background, cool and warm.

Below is a photo reference of the bush, Myrtus Communis. 

Our Do-it-Yourself yard project is slow going!  Seems there are always detours happening in life!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crystal Pier - Watercolor Start

This is a early stage close-up of a new watercolor painting of the Crystal Pier in San Diego.  It's early morning, the marine layer fog is still hanging in the air, people are surfing and jogging on the beach. I'm making slow painting progress in the past couple weeks because...

 I've been framing paintings...

and using my drawing table for planning landscaping and irrigation system for our yard because...

My husband has been digging and the neighbors are curious...

We've also been cleaning and rearranging the garage, but I won't post picture of that, we found a dead rodent in there!  Does anyone ever get organized and stay that way?  I'm still trying!  

I hope your week is productive and peaceful.  Thanks for visiting!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Transparent Watercolor - Steamed Pumpkin Hazelnut Smash

Steamed Pumpkin Hazelnut Smash       watercolor  -  6" x 8"
Painting this watercolor of a steamed dessert coffee nearly drove me crazy!  I have to watch the decadent food projects!  I think I must have eaten a chocolate bar every day I worked on this.  My daughter works part-time as a barista and she's always making up delicious drinks. The ingredients are listed below, and the pumpkin and hazelnut flavors are especially delicious this time of year. 

It's available as a print and greeting card also.  Enjoy the autumn season!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Decadent Coffee Watercolor Painting - More Progress

As I paint this watercolor, I can see that a little more work will begin to bring this painting out of that "ugly" stage, the stage that makes me want to put it aside and start over!  It is kind of flat-looking right now. The next layers of very transparent paint will add values (darks) and make the light areas "pop", which will give it a more 3D look.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Decadent Coffee Watercolor Painting - in Progress

This is the "ugly" stage of a painting in progress.  I start to paint, and I have no idea if the final image will be what I imagine in my mind. It's at the stage where I have to force myself to keep going because it just isn't turning out the way it's supposed to. All my paintings go through that stage.  One thing for sure, though, it's making me thirsty!  

My daughter made up this drink, so I will include the ingredients with my final post!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Watercolor Ice Cream - Comfort Food

ROCKY ROAD    8 1/2 x 8 1/2    watercolor 
A "rocky road can be an obstacle or an ice cream...and I'm willing to help you make either disappear".  If a guy says this to a girl on a first date, watch out, this is comfort food!

ITALIAN SPUMONI    8 1/2 x 8 1/2    watercolor
Italian brain freeze!  I tell ya, this is the real reason Italians talk with their hands!  It's so good!  And I say that in the kindest way because I am married to an Italian.

WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY   8 1/2 x 8 1/2    watercolor
I only had to eat about three cartons of this flavor.  It was so smooth on my throat goin' down. It's really hard to paint ice cream and not think cream. Try not to think about ice cream!

Actually, these paintings look very commercial, like for an ad or something.  Before I hand-lettered the captions they just looked like blobs of...whatever.  My son thought the Rocky Road blob was a scone of some kind.  So, by overwhelming consensus It was decided that descriptive captions were necessary!

Prints and greeting cards of these images are available here

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tennis Shoes in Watercolor

Tennis Shoes  6" x 6"   watercolor

This is a quick little watercolor painting of my tennis shoes.  I've traded my summer flip-flops for them, though we really wear flip-flops all year long here in southern California.  I hope your end-of-summer is nice and the kids get a good start to a new school year!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Three Watercolor Paint Palettes

This is one of my watercolor palettes, which contains transparent watercolor paints squeezed from tubes. It's the one I use when painting en plein air (outside in the air).  Occasionally I like to experiment with opaque watercolors.

This is my gouache opaque watercolor palette, which I use to touch up plein air paintings if I've made a mess of them out on location, you know, when I want to cover up my mistakes to try and salvage a bad painting.  It really doesn't work though, because it doesn't quite cover up!  You know, watercolor takes a little more up front planning than oils or acrylics, and I just hate to throw those mistakes away without giving them a second chance. Another thing about watercolors is that they end up a little lighter after they are dry. You have to not be surprised when you lay in a nice rich color and it ends up looking a little faded when dry, and learn instead, to go richer than your eye sees, knowing it won't end up that way!

Recently I heard about casein watercolor paints. They are made with an ingredient found in milk.  So I ordered a set and I've just started playing around with them.  They are very opaque and they dry exactly as they look when wet. This is them, only 12 colors for now.

Here is a little experiment using a blue casein background and painting over it with two opaque white paints.  You can see they both whites look like they cover pretty well when the paint is still wet.  But when it dries...see how the casein in the second picture stays nice and white  whereas the qouache looks a little transparent? 

I hope you found this interesting and helpful!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Flip Flops in Watercolor - en Plein Air

Summer Flip Flops  -  6" x 6"  watercolor
This little watercolor of summer flip flops took me about an hour.  I can't believe summer is almost over and I'm not ready for that!   I wasn't really at the beach but I wanted to be so I propped my feet up on my table, did a quick sketch and painted it very quickly.  Then I added a very simple background to just give it the suggestion of an ocean.  This would be a fun exercise actually en plein air (at the beach out in the air).   


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Holland Post House Watercolor Now Available as a print & Greeting Cards

Holland Post House  -  original watercolor  21" x 28.5" -  prints & greeting cards
I have just uploaded my watercolor painting of the Holland Post House to Fine Art America. Prints make it affordable to own one of my paintings if you can't afford an original. Prices start at just $17.  I'm adding paintings slowly to the site and it's interesting to see the response of people!  The original paintings available as prints will be among the first ones I offer for bidding when I begin the auction for originals.  Thanks for being patient as I experiment with this new adventure!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Painting Plein Air Watercolor at hotel Coronado Island and the Zoo

Hotel Del Coronado  (en plein air)  aprox. 5.5"x8.5"

Quick Plein Air Paintings at Coronado and of my Daughter at the San Diego Zoo
These plein air sketches of Hotel Del Coronado and a walkway at the San Diego Zoo are the product of my daughter & I managing to get together twice this month!  Plein air sketching and painting means we do it quickly and outside in the air. In both cases it was hot and sunny and we wandered around quite a while trying to find something out of the sun that inspired us to paint!  Each sketch took me a little under two hours. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Print of Harlequin Tuskfish Watercolor Painting is now available!

Harlequin Tuskfish 
My watercolor painting of Harlequin Tuskfish is now available as a print here:

Fine Art America

Sizes range from approximately 5"x8" - 35"x60".  I'm a bit timid about selling prints online just because I've never done it before.  I am sooo not comfortable with commerce & marketing.  It feels so pushy!   I just want to paint!   But I think I may buy this print myself to hang in our bathroom! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Prints and Greeting Cards of my Watercolors now Available!

Chocolate Caramel Mousse
I've been planning to sell prints & greeting cards of my watercolors for a while now.  Right now it's just this one image!   You can buy it in a variety of sizes starting from about 8" x 8" to  40" x 40".  They are also available on canvas, as a metal print, an acrylic print, framed or unframed. And every purchase has a money-back guarantee.  I've added a new tab at the top of my site or click the link below:

Buy Chocolate Caramel Mousse prints and greeting cards here.

As I mentioned before, I'll be offering my originals paintings for auction soon.  This will be the first one on the block. It's priced at $350 but the bidding will start waaaaay lower.  I want to make them really affordable!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mara Mattia Watercolor Studio Tour

Painting area
Paper stretching, matte cutting, & framing area
I thought you might enjoy a little glimpse into my art studio. It may look a little cluttered to you but believe me when I say these photos were taken over a year ago and I have more going on in this area 8 foot lengths of wood and circular saws etc!  The top photo shows my painting area with two drawing tables (one of them is now with our daughter away at college), picture frame moulding samples in the back corner, and various art supplies on the shelves.  The bottom photo is where I prepare watercolor paper and frame the finished paintings. You see a sink, black carpet-covered framing table, my matte cutter, and framing supplies in the corner shelves & cupboards.  There is a computer, bookshelves, racks of paper rolls, a sewing machine, and a bathroom opposite these areas. It's a nice private area that I can lock and leave at the end of the day.  I should give it a good cleaning and update you when I get the time!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

White Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream in Watercolor - finished!

White Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream    8.5" x 8.5"  -  Watercolor
This ice cream watercolor painting came about only after trying many scoops in various cute and fancy bowls & cones with sprinkles, colorful napkins, and elegant spoons.  Somehow it was becoming more about the container and garnishes than the ice cream itself!  So my decision to forget the props and plop a scoop on a plain white plate for reference hopefully speaks only about white-chocolate-raspberry ice cream itself.  I hope you agree!

Two more flavors to go!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

White Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream - in watercolor!

I’m painting an important subject right now, ice cream!   Seriously, my cousin’s husband, a very loved member of our family, passed from this life to be with the Lord this past year and he loved ice cream.   So I wanted to do a series in honor of him.   I’ve been taking pictures of various compositions but it just wasn’t working!   

Then I remembered the rule: “simplify”.  So I placed a big scoop onto a plain white plate & took a reference photo (then ate it before it could melt, of course).  I like to draw and paint from life rather than photos but there is no way I could paint this before it melted!  When this one is finished I plan to paint two more flavors.  

This shows my progress so far, with a lot of pale yellow masking fluid covering the white paper in strategic areas.   I don’t know, do you think simple is a good idea?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Franciscan Tea with Wildflowers in Watecolor

Franciscan Tea with Wildflowers   6x6   watercolor
I painted this cup of wildflowers my daughter gave me, knowing the real ones would quickly wilt.  She's on a college student's budget so lucky me, wildflowers are a frequent gift.  This little hand painted Franciscan Ware cup is so tiny, the size you drink a shot of espresso in!  The cast shadows from multiple light sources was probably the most challenging part of this painting. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Harlequin Tuskfish in Watercolor

Harley     16" x 9 3/4"   -  watercolor

My watercolor painting of this Harlequin Tuskfish is an experiment using plastic wrap scrunched on wet paint and left to dry.

I got away from my studio for a few weeks a while back, and took a watercolor class from Helen Schafer Garcia just for fun.  My art training is primarily classical like figure drawing from live models, perspective, anatomy, and copying old Master”s know, really serious stuff!   So I didn’t know how I would like the touchy-feely, experimental exercises she introduced us to.  She demonstrated her techniques in a relaxing, patient, skillful manner and I had so much fun and learned a lot too!  

Helen's website:


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peddling Beside the Wine Train - In Watercolor

Peddling Beside the Wine Train  -  18" x 18"  watercolor
 Reference for this watercolor painting is Napa Valley, California, a fun destination for a relaxing dinner on a wine train.  My husband and I joined several of his cousins for a fun weekend eating, talking, and touring a winery in some of the most beautiful country of northern California! I poked my head & camera out the window to snap a photo for this painting as the train moved along.  The bicyclist is from an entirely different picture in a different place but I added her to the scene for interest!   This painting is also a good example of one point perspective!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Paintings for Auction Progress

Totally fake photo of my art auction here!
We've been doing a lot of research about offering my paintings for auction. And we're gradually getting things in place.   I'm thinking about starting the bidding for my paintings at a very, very low price, and maybe free shipping. This is all new to me so I am going to feel my way through to see what the response is.

One of those "things" is calibrating my computer screen so that the color of my paintings is as accurate as possible when I post them on my blog.  This little technical gadget is a calibrator and we're waiting for it to be delivered any day. It reads color and creates a profile of information. Printers, papers, & computer screens all have different profiles that they use to do their thing.  

Thanks for being so patient!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mara Mattia Original Watercolors at Bruski Burgers & Beer!

Eleven of my paintings are hanging in Bruski burgers & Beer. This is a fun family owned restaurant with delicious gourmet casual food. The neighborhood needed a good friendly place where "everybody knows your name" and they are super friendly!

They recently added a room which can be used for conferences and parties that features wine from all over the world and have added a new breakfast menu & coffee bar with a trained barista. 

My painting there are for sale and it's a good chance to see an original watercolor up close. Check them out if you are in the San Diego, California area!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Mousse in Watercolor

Chocolate Caramel Mousse  -  watercolor  6" x 6"
I took a photo for reference when I did this watercolor painting of Chocolate Caramel Mousse.  I wanted to paint it directly from “life” but I just couldn’t resist eating it …after I took a photo first!   Don’t you just want to have a bite?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Building Frames, Frames, and More Frames!

The arrival of art and framing supplies is exciting! The boxes are from the art store and the lumber is from Home Depot.  I have been experimenting with building my own rustic "floater" frames at a cost of about $14 per frame for materials.

Here I have mounted my watercolors on homemade panels (which were constructed almost identically to the frames).  The mounted paintings are drying upside down with books and paint cans as weights.  What a mess!

And an example of a finished painting mounted and framed, hanging on the wall.