New Year, New Focus


I’ve done watercolor off and on since I was a teenager, back before the dinosaurs disappeared, but I have never made it a resolution to spend time – a lot of time – mastering it.  Rather, the approach I have had has been sporadic and amateurish.  Now, I want to be the “serious student” I never was . . . and while I think I am off to a good start, the real question which lies ahead is how well will I integrate painting into my work life?  I’ve managed to integrate both sumi-e and photography into my life, but I began both of those long before I ended up working 10-hour days.

There are a lot of good books about “how to” watercolor, and I have looked through and purchased a number of them.  As well, there are a number of good YouTube channels with talented artists, with whom you get to cruise along with as they produce a painting.  For me, this visual is what gets me all the time.  While books show you step-by-step photos, some in color, some in black and white, there is absolutely nothing like the video of beginning-to-end, with commentary as the painting develops.

I still plan on pursuing photography – in fact, I have a 365 project planned, with different subjects on a monthly basis.  While I am shifting my focus away from photography as my primary creative outlet, I really want to master watercolor and drawing, and to do so, I need to spend more time doing it rather than thinking about doing it.

So, Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope you have new intentions to keep you happy and creative in your life!


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.