Background Elements

Because we are often focused on subjects, backgrounds are sometimes not a major factor in deciding on, planning, or even painting a motif, which often leads to problems in painting. The above image of a female red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), almost camouflaged in its natural wetland reeds habitat, shows the painting about half complete. (MalesContinue reading “Background Elements”

A Summer Motif in Winter

This is the sketch for a fairly common skipper butterfly found in New England, a silver spotted skipper, or Epargyreus clarus, on Verbena bonariensis, a flower on which it typically feeds. For some reason these creatures do not favor yellow flowers. Since its coloring and the composite flower itself is relatively drab and unimpressive, IContinue reading “A Summer Motif in Winter”

Black, White & Sweet

Though not my pet, this black and white dog exudes sweetness. To paint her, I start with a pale, colorful background, dry- and wet-on-wet, to contrast her dark head, keeping the paper dry at bottom right to maintain darker value and edge control around her white fur: An initial wash of pale Cobalt covers shadowedContinue reading “Black, White & Sweet”

Painting A Seascape

Coastal scenes are often favorite motifs for artists, not just because they’re often simply beautiful, but also perhaps because the contrast of land and sea elements force introduction of different painting elements (shape, value, color, line, texture, pattern, etc.). In watercolor, various applications are also utilized. As mentioned in my previous post, sea (or land)Continue reading “Painting A Seascape”

Winter Landscape

Especially when painting landscapes, I try to keep the composition principle “Rule of Thirds” in mind. This prevents major spaces from visually dividing a composition in half. I give sky space either 1/3 or 2/3 of the composition space, and land or sea the rest. Sky is 2/3 of the composition in the piece above.Continue reading “Winter Landscape”

Making Connections

Here’s a basic contour sketch of a yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia), lightly drawn so pencil lines are not distracting. Supporting background branch shapes are far enough from its face so the bird has room to “move” into it. Before the photo above was taken, background branch and leaf shapes are painted right across the subjectContinue reading “Making Connections”

Uniting Different Values

When my subjects are of two different values or of opposite colors, I plan ways to unite them. The double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at left, a female, is much paler than the one at right, a male. A mid-value background in this case is an easy solution to make both stand out. I use pigmentsContinue reading “Uniting Different Values”

Smile more!

Here’s my brown tabby, who follows me everywhere. He’s happiest when he knows where I am and likes to occasionally let me know how sharp his teeth are with what I’d like to believe are “love bites.” To create this portrait completed in a few hours, I first loosely paint the pale shadows across hisContinue reading “Smile more!”

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2021 is a better year for all, especially for those who suffered immeasurable loss this year. Many THANKS to those who gave and continue to give help to others.

Not Just Paintings…

Though the holidays kept me busy, I also managed to work on creative projects in some down time, before and during the preparations. These are quite different from painting. Above is an almost-complete, close-up example of a beaded pendant (or ornament) created entirely intuitively. Below are others with a penny for scale. So much funContinue reading “Not Just Paintings…”


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