Shape, Color, Line & Value

Frisket protects the lit portions of branches surrounding this motif of an American robin (Turdus migratorius). This is a beloved bird in North America because it seems perfectly comfortable around humans as it nests and raises its young around our homes. It is named after the European robin for their similar coloring, but the twoContinue reading “Shape, Color, Line & Value”

Fur and Grass Textures

This motif was chosen because it’s a classic sign and symbol of spring. First it’s unified with its grassy setting on mostly wet paper in a muted yellow, hardly visible. Pale brown is added next with a mostly dry brush, followed by bright light green around it. Note that the animal’s white front and earsContinue reading “Fur and Grass Textures”

Light and Shadow

This daffodil motif requires a basic contour drawing of flowers and their light and shadow shapes with some suggestions of leaves, very little else. Much of the flowers and their foliage will be in shadow. This painting will go darker from two major spaces: from the white flowers, and from the mid-value background. The firstContinue reading “Light and Shadow”

Autumn in Spring

(Well, technically it’s almost spring for us here in the Northeast…) This view, as you’ll see, features contrasting color (orange foliage/blue sky) and reflections. Keeping these two colors juxtaposed and bright often has its challenges because if they’re mixed, they create a neutral. After loading a large brush with blue, I wet the paper onlyContinue reading “Autumn in Spring”

A Spring Thing

Local color and palest shadows are among the first washes of this pansy motif. Color bleeds a bit into the background where the paper is wet, but otherwise paint is contained at edges where paper is dry. A second wash of color in the same value is added to the pink pansies; this represents formContinue reading “A Spring Thing”

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”


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