Enhancing a Gray Subject

I’m told that the subject of this portrait is an extremely friendly, exuberant dog, so, since she’s also dark gray, I decided bright color splashed into the background would both suggest her personality and contrast her dull hue. “Blue” in a creamy consistency is splashed onto yellow-green, wet paint, all of which cross the dog’sContinue reading “Enhancing a Gray Subject”

Mountains in Two Ways

Here’s a black-and-white (using Payne’s gray) and a colorful painting of a view of Alpine mountains in Switzerland. They’re spectacularly beautiful in every direction and at any time of day. The dominant direction in this view is a diagonal from top right to bottom left, so sky color is painted in the opposite direction (toContinue reading “Mountains in Two Ways”

Black with Color

This is the third of three recent posts featuring butterflies and flowers, which were all done as demos for my “Flowers and Insects in Watercolor” workshop at Yale Peabody Museum’s Natural Science Illustration Program. The first is a white insect on a white flower (“Emphasizing White”), the second is color on color (“Uniting Opposites”), andContinue reading “Black with Color”

Uniting Opposites

Though photographed at almost mid-stage here, one way to unite opposite colors like orange and blue is to link them with a paler, brighter color that can be hidden beneath one. In this case, yellow does the trick, so I splash a bright lemon yellow across mostly wet paper followed by bright green and thenContinue reading “Uniting Opposites”

Emphasizing White

A white subject appears brightest and whitest when its shadows are made with a clean, relatively pale blue. Of course, in watercolor, using white paint is unnecessary: the paper itself provides both the color and lightest value. Here we have a common butterfly where I live in New England called a “white cabbage butterfly” orContinue reading “Emphasizing White”

Wetland Reflections

This motif is of a typical scene along Connecticut’s shoreline, where many inlets provide necessary wetland habitat for wildlife. I begin with a wash of sky blue painted at the edge of wet paper where clouds and their reflections are suggested. On dry paper, the brightest shapes of green are added quickly, and while stillContinue reading “Wetland Reflections”

Evening Sky Reflected

Load a very large brush with sky blue, a slightly smaller one with warm yellow, a third with red, and a fourth with dark blue mixed with brown and set them aside. Wet just the middle of the paper, left to right. Quickly paint the blue sky at the top of the composition, then theContinue reading “Evening Sky Reflected”

Monochrome and Polychrome

Sometimes it can be challenging to differentiate midvalue tones from one another, but juxtaposing them against extreme light and extreme dark can help. In this post, you will see this same view of an old Irish castle painted twice: one in just one color and the other in many. I start by covering 3/4 ofContinue reading “Monochrome and Polychrome”

Fur and Grass Textures

I first add a warm color to both subject and background, wet-on-wet, to begin to unify the two spaces. Next, with a fairly dry brush used in a sweeping motion, I quickly apply strokes suggesting fur to dry paper, barely touching the surface with the brush. Note that fur direction and length are dictated byContinue reading “Fur and Grass Textures”


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