Tulip – Day 2

Hmmm.  Not so sure that this is going anywhere good.  I added veins to the leaves, and then shadows within the tulip itself.  The fact is, there are not really any shadows in the picture I am using, so these are totally non-existent.  I made them up.

Tulips 5

I kind of like the veins. The shadows, though, are weak. I need to do something here – as far as I am concerned, I messed it up big time!

Tulips 6

On the other hand, two positives. First, no mud. Second, I am painting.

Tulip Painting – Day 1

Tulip 1


This past month has not been what I would have liked it to be. Instead of using my free time as I want to, I have had to use it for things that have to be done. The entire month of June seems to be that way. Sigh.

Today, though, I had time. Lots of it. Starting at 3 this afternoon, and going to 6, I got time to paint. (Yesterday, I did some baking.) The choice was to rummage through some of my paper in the paper portfolio, and see what I have. I have oodles of hot press 140# Arches, so I pulled out a sheet that was already cut, and went to work. Handling wet-into-wet and controlling color is today’s main goal. As I have also been watching some watercolor videos, I thought I would try to work with some of the information I observed, to see if I could remember it, as well as to see how well I could do.

Tulip 2

Subject matter is a pink tulip that has hints of yellow. The beginning task was to set down the first layer of washes, using WN Permanent Rose. Different layers of this color were used in increasing intensity to darken the areas. This took a lot of time. I applied clean water, and then worked in the paint as necessary, rotating the paper at times to have the color bleed, and at other times using a dry brush to pull out excess color. Other times, a damp brush was used to blur edges. I let the painting dry between sections.

After the pink was fairly well established, I pulled out some DS New Gamboge. Using clean water, I laid in a little wash in the areas of each of the petals. New Gamboge was blurred into the pinks, and edges softened using a large, dryish brush. Finally, around all of it, a combination of Phthalo blue and Hooker’s Green. Notice, I shaved off some of the tulip in the lower right corner, and probably will do more petal shaving with the next layer of color.

Tulip 4

So, that’s it for the day. Tomorrow more is planned to give the tulip more depth and dimension, and to do something with the background.

I’m rather pleased with it so far, but who knows what will happen tomorrow!

3 + 6

Three colors used to create six spheres. I think they are oranges or lemons or something.

Colors are Daniel Smith New Gamboge, Winsor Newton Alizarin Crimson, and Graham Phthalo Blue.

Everything was done with glazes.


Some glazes were pure color, others were mixed colors.


Some were more successfully done than others. Some shadows are pretty nice. Some of the fruits are nice. Some are pretty bad.


I used three primaries, and got greens and oranges and purples. I created some mud. I had to be patient.


At times, I let the paper sit, and watched granulation occur. Other times I rolled the paper around to get colors to blend more evenly. On a few occasions, I lifted out pigment with a slightly damp brush in an attempt to make a smooth transition of colors in different areas.


And when I ate up all the white highlights I had left, a few even got a touch of Chinese white. A no-no, but had to be tried.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

I am continuing the varied steps from Birgit O’Connor’s excellent video.  Upon her recommendations for brushes, I ordered the DaVinci Cosmotop Mix B in size 30, and the Cosmotop Spin Mix F in 20 and 14.  The brushes I have been using have been either pure synthetics or pure Kolinsky sable, neither of which seems especially suited for the painting methods she demonstrates.  I also bought the Pebeo drawing gum, which is thinner and more manipulable than the Winsor Newton masking fluid.

Shapes, Pebeo, and Color Splatters

Above is the very first step in the current practice piece.  I laid out my masks, then used Winsor Newton’s masking fluid and a toothbrush and splattered resist all over.  This fluid is thick and drops in blobs, big and small.  Some will become pebbles and ocean glass by the end of the painting.  Then, using the toothbrush, splatters of color, to make the sand, were used.  My colors were combos of burnt sienna, ultramarine, umber, and yellow ochre.

Splattered Shapes

After letting everything dry, I removed the masks, splatters and all, and set them aside on a piece of typing paper.  (Maybe I will use them again!)  You can see what a mess there is!

No Shadows

The next step was quite long.  The shells, stones, pebbles, glass, and what is supposed to be seaweed, were painted.  O’Connor demonstrates some really cool techniques in her video, and the new brushes made all the difference in the world.  I am also getting some control, at last, in the shadings of the shells and stones.  In particular, I like the stone in the upper left corner, and the seaweed.

Shadows #1

As you can see, adding shadows to the painting give the illusion of depth.  If you look closely, though, you can see that the shadow in the upper left hand corner is very over worked, and the shadows vary in lightness and darkness.  This is because of a number of things.  I did not mix up enough watercolor wash for all the shadows.  This is very important to create a consistent hue.  Another thing is that these shadows are far more challenging that you might think – a single stroke is best.  The one in the upper left I revisited two or three times.  I think it might have been best done with a layer of water laid down first, as it is so large, and then working the shadow is as a wash, being careful to tilt and shift the paper so the shadow color is evenly distributed.

Shadows & Sand Ripples

The final step was adding the ripples in the sand.  These are fun to do, and remarkably easy.  And, they can really add to the overall composition of the picture, helping to move the eye in and out of the shapes.  Part of me thinks that I need one or two small ones moving from upper left to lower right between the upper left rock and the tip of the mussel shell, but I am not sure.  Below is the final painting, cropped to remove all the distractions of the in-progress pictures.

Final Impression

To sum it up, this has been a wonderful learning experience, and has renewed my confidence.  Yes, I am doing exercises, but exercises are necessary for mastery.  I will do a lot more because there is a lot to learn in these seemingly simple studies.  Again, O’Connor’s video is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

Rocks & Shells


As with sumi-e painting, in watercolor painting, much is to be learned from observation.  Recently, I purchased a video by Birgit O’Connor.  As an artist, she excels in vivid, colorful, large and intimate perspectives of flowers, but in looking on YouTube, she also can do a lot more than flowers.

The video I bought is Rocks, Sand & Sea Glass.  What makes it excellent for me is that she is very clear in her demonstrations, and more importantly, clear in her verbal explanations.  Her voice is nicely modulated, and proceeds at an even pace.  I really like the fact she identifies the brush she uses so explicitly, such as “my number 30 natural hair brush.”  Detailed as it seems, it allows the viewer to hear while watching.  I don’t have to sit and stare at her brush to think about what one she is using because she tells me.

In addition to watching, practice is paramount.  Seriously, you have to sit down and do it.  And do it again and again.  I know this about painting, because brushes vary, papers vary, my mood varies, and colors vary.  Self-control is necessary.  So is practice.  Having something interesting to paint makes it more fun.

Mussel Shells

Brushwork is so critical – knowing how to use a brush, how to load color, how to move the brush, maneuver it for shape, and how much pressure to apply.  How the paper responds is also important, simply because different papers have different characteristics, as well as come in different grades.

These are what I’ve produced.  More will come, as my supplies show up, too!  Thank goodness for Dick Blick and Amazon!

In a Pickle!

Pickles - 1

If it weren’t for Elizabeth Fluehr, I wouldn’t be in such a state.

I did a search for negative painting on YouTube, and came across a series of three videos on the subject which she did.  The first one is pretty simple – it explains what negative space is, and what it is not.  Very clear explanation.  The heart of the matter is in the second video, all done with a pile of pickles.  The third is the actual painting, time lapsed a bit because of the time needed for paper and paint to dry.  Check out her website as well as her YouTube channel.  You will see some lovely work at her website.

Pickles 2

As Elizabeth defines it, you are painting a defined edge, and painting away from it.  You can have a lot of edges, or a few.  A whole painting may be made of negative space, or integrated inside a painting with positive space.  Her suggestion is to paint what is closest – in the video’s case, and in my practice sample, the pickles on the top of the pile.  Then work to the next layer, on down, until the very bottom layer is done.  She explains, too, that in a landscape, it would be the object closest, such as a barn, and the last painted would be the horizon.  I think that would apply for a landscape done entirely in negative painting, which might be worth a try, and could create a really interesting abstract.

Pickles - Finished

For me, negative space is a hard thing to address. Working in sumi-e, one does some work with negative space, but its handling, from my perspective, is a bit different. Partly this is because of color, which for me is altogether a big distraction. However, Elizabeth Fluehr’s pickles are a great exercise, and one which I intend to follow up on with more paintings.

Hard Edges & Negative Space

And while I was doing the pickles, in between I tried a bit of a still life, painting around the flowers in the background, and some of the edges, working wet-into-wet. Not a nice painting, but the practice was the purpose.

Brushwork and Value in Watercolor

Watercolor Brush Strokes a la Sumi-e


Having been doing sumi-e with some regularity for several years, I am finding it helpful in watercolor. Because the brush is the vehicle for watercolor, as it is in sumi-e, it is important to understand how the brush works.

Pencil Outline

Kolinsky sable watercolor brushes can be considerably stiffer than the white-haired sheep brush used in sumi-e, but much more flexible than the wolf and horse brushes, which have darker, more stiff bristles. Basically, a western watercolor brush combines both qualities in one brush, but this does not mean that it is the same at all! A good point is important for a Kolinsky round (I am using DaVinci Maestro Series 10s and Escoda Series 1212) just as it is with sumi-e brushes, as is the ability to carry water and color.

Layer 1

Many of the same techniques used in sumi-e can be applied to watercolor. These include brush strokes, such as increasing and decreasing pressure to change line thickness. Two or more colors may be applied to a brush, as in sumi-e when different ink intensities are applied. In Western watercolor, a brush stroke may be modified, working wet-into-wet, wet-into-dry, dry-into-wet, and glazing or layering colors. This does not work well in sumi-e, unless one is doing fine line Chinese painting.

Layer 2

The major differences between sumi-e and western watercolor are responsiveness of paper. Japanese and Chinese painting papers are generally much more porous than traditional Western watercolor papers. Heavily sized Asian papers are used for fine line painting, where color layers are used, and bleeding of ink, so characteristic in sumi-e, does not occur. Western watercolor papers will vary in the amount of sizing used, and this, in turn, affects the absorbent qualities of the paper. Knowing how a paper responds takes time and practice, whether in Asian painting, or Western.

Layer 3

Value in sumi-e is achieved in how the brush is loaded. Ink can be very pale, and while it is still damp, darker ink may be applied to good effect. A sumi brush can also be loaded with pale ink, then a medium ink, and finally a tip or dark, or even one edge of the brush in dark ink. The stroke of the brush creates all the gradations. In watercolor, value is achieved by layering, as well as working wet-into-wet. Layering, also known as glazing, is the application of wet paint on a previously painted layer which has dried. Glazes are also built up light to dark. Wet-into-wet can be sopping wet, or in varying degrees of dampness.  In some ways, wet-into-wet requires more self-discipline than glazing, which requires patience and forethought.


Each painting technique, sumi-e and watercolor, have similar techniques, as well as some which are exclusive to that medium. The key is to learn from both, and to master each.

All these paintings were based on demonstrations from Linda Stevens Moyer’s book LIght Up Your Watercolors Layer by Layer.