Category Archives: Uncategorized

Coastal Ruin – Development of a Painting

This is one of my favorite images from the trip my sister and I took to Ireland in 2018! I did a watercolor sketch of it early last year, but wasn’t happy with the way the rocks came out, so set it aside. Feeling more confident this winter, I decided to do two similar views of the ruin. However, when I had them sketched out, the By the Sea image was lacking; I tore it up and threw it away. What if I try it smaller, and add some sheep?! And my artistic younger daughter had given me a Fineline resist pen – I could try that out! So that’s what I did. Sheep worked well; the rocks came out OK.

For inspiration and technique tips for rocks, I turned to YouTube and found a very helpful video by Dave Usher titled ‘Using a plastic card to create rocks and texture in watercolour’.  Just what I needed! With renewed enthusiasm and new tricks up my sleeve, Coastal Ruin came together nicely!

This piece will be on view and available for purchase this weekend at the Bon Air Artists Annual Show and Fundraiser at the Independence Golf Club here in Midlothian, Virginia. Information shown below. Hope you can join us!

2020 annual show

Development of an Art Quilt

Back in October of last year, I decided I would make an art quilt from a photo for my quilt guild’s 2020 challenge, On the Road Again. All entries will go to the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival the end of February in Hampton Roads, Virginia. I’d recently come across a National Geographic from 1949 with a story on expeditions into Bryce Canyon National which included a photo of a woody station wagon among the arches of Utah. Which brought to mind some of my parents travels. So I went digging thru my father’s extensive collection of slides, prints and negatives. I found the three photos shown above!

I liked the one of my mother and the campfire, but felt the other two had more general appeal. Since there were in black and white, I needed to decide on appropriate colors. Since I also needed some watercolors for Bon Air Artists upcoming art show February 22 and 23, I did watercolor paintings for the two images. I love the grill of the Chevy, but was a bit nervous about rendering it in fabric, so for the quilt I went with the car and trailer.

And today I finished the quilt! I’m very pleased with how both watercolors and the quilt came out. If you’re in Virginia the end of February, come by the art show and/or the quilt festival and check them out! You’ll find details on the links highlighted above.

Apples to Oranges

The Bon Air Artists Association All Member Show opened last  Friday evening at the Crossroads Art Center here in Richmond, Virginia. Each exhibiting member may enter one piece, and this was my submission. Awards were given at the opening reception, and competition was fierce! I was honored to receive a second last year, but none this year. Which is fine with me. Our judge, Joey Burroughs, did a grand job and his talk was insightful. I’m pleased with my effort and in case you might be interested, here’s the back story of the watercolor shown above.

While I was still working in the IT field, in the late 90’s, one of the system engineers explained to me how the computer transmits different data formats using the same software. His example was that the system is set up for one format, transmitting oranges,.  If you have an apple to transmit, the software wraps it up so it looks like an orange; transmits it; then unwraps it on the other end. Viola! Your apple!

If that sounds a bit confusing to you, you get a feel for the difficulty I had understanding it. However, the image of an apple wrapped up as an orange was amusing and stuck with me. I staged a photo representing my understanding a year or so later,  then my sister made note cards from it, and distributed them to our family at Christmas. I forgot about it.

Last winter, now happily retired, I spent several months sorting the letters and papers my mother saved thru the 80’s and 90’s and came across some of those note cards. I tracked down my original photos, and contemplated a watercolor. I’m very fond of that particular tablecloth pattern, and tho I felt the stripes in the sketch worked, I wanted to see if I could capture the woven design. I wasn’t worried about being able to paint the fruit, but I did want to be sure I remembered the lighting highlights. I masked those and the centers of the tablecloth flowers. And took my time. A fine brush helped with the tablecloth. Not bad!

The All Member show will be up thru the last week of November – if you get a chance, stop by. It will be worth your time.


River Barrow Bridge

The River Barrow bridge, in Graiguenamanagh,”Village of the Monks”, in County Kilkenny, Ireland was one of my favorite vistas in Ireland. Two of the sights I was particularly looking forward to seeing on our tour were thatched cottages and stone bridges. Didn’t do so well on the first; seems insurance premiums for electrified thatched cottages have become exorbitant. But the bridges were awesome!

The first photo above is a sketch I did on site and captures the mountain looming over the bridge, which I liked. However, when I got home the photo I worked from for the second sketch didn’t show the hill. When I decided to do an 11×14 watercolor for the upcoming Gallery 54 show, I asked my sister and travel companion if I could use her photo, and she graciously agreed.

The studio shot and the final painting are based on her image, which shows the hillside peeking over the bridge. She’d also had me and our third travel buddy get the ducks to pose to her specifications, so I’ve done my best to include them!




Dingle Peninsula


One of my favorite areas in our tour around southern Ireland was the Dingle Peninsula. It was a misty day with fog rolling in and out as our bus of 14 intrepid travelers stepped out briefly at this pasture near the sea. When I got home last fall, I made the first sketch shown above. I was fascinated by the blue house, and the view thru the fence. I masked the fence wires until everything else had been painted, then rubbed of the mastic and did the wires with a rigger brush and water soluble pen. I wasn’t best pleased with the result, but comments on Instagram were favorable, so I gave it another try.

This time I didn’t mask the wires, although I did mask some of the white lichen on the rocks. As the last step I did the fence with permanent pen. Better.

Meanwhile, the paints I had didn’t quite capture the color of the blue house. I tried cobalt teal mixed with cobalt but wasn’t happy with the result. So I had to visit the local art supply store (“please don’t throw me in that briar patch”) and they were very helpful. I came home with a tube of Verditer Blue – just right!

I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. If you’d like to see it in person, come by the Gallery 54 at First Unitarian Universalist Church this coming week – hope to see you there!

Dungarven Evening

This is another of the watercolors from Ireland that will be up at the Gallery 54 show opening this Wednesday evening. A single boat was snugged up to the Dungarven sea wall, perhaps a dinghy for one of the sailboats anchored further out in the harbor. What captured my attention was the well used feel of the craft and the row of bumpers all the way around! At first I thought they were protection from scraping or being scraped, and perhaps that is their purpose. However, as I studied it further, I noticed water pooled in the stern, with makeshift bailers ready to hand. Which made me think of the bumpers as ‘water wings’ to keep the boat afloat!



Dungarven Harbor


Update: painting SOLD!

Last August I had the opportunity to tour southern Ireland with my sister – we had a wonderful time! We did some sketching in the many areas we visited, and then when I got home I did some more from my photos. This summer I decided to revisit those sketches for 11×14 watercolors for the upcoming Gallery 54 show in September. This is the first one I worked on, again using photographs and the sketch completed last fall.

I was intrigued by the double parked boats in Dungarven harbor. In the early sketch I focused on the boats themselves and didn’t attempt the dock and shore line. As I studied the images, I noticed the interesting buildings and bridge in the background an included them in the final piece. I think it added local color, and interest.

Since I’d already done this composition a couple times, I mixed it up a bit by flopping the image. As a result, I had to concentrate more on what I was doing, and I think that helped.

I hope these nestled boats appeal to you as much as they do to me!


Don Bright’s Daylilies

Yesterday I responded to Art for the Journey’s call for a paint-out at a ‘secret day lily garden’ not far from where I live. I’m always up for watercolor in plein air, and who can resist a ‘secret’ garden?! I was amazed at the beautiful acres of day lilies and waterlilies in a park like setting. Our host, Don Bright, was very gracious, and full of interesting stories.

In researching the web when I got home, I learned that Bright, influenced by the bounteous floral displays of Holland, started planting his 10 acres in 1993 and now has 750,000 or so day lilies, which this week are approaching their peak bloom for the season – no wonder they are so impressive! I took lots of photos, did some sketching, and composed several haiku, which you’ll find below. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this hidden treasure – grab it with both hands!

Watching lilies wave
Waiting for the paint to dry
In Don Bright’s gardens

Daylilies in bloom
Beneath tall trees row by row
Yellow, orange and mauve

Munching on triscuits
By the dragon fly batteau
With water lilies

Caressed by the breeze
Sketching by a sunk batteau
In a summer pond

Dragon flies flitting
Thru summer water lillies
With bullfrog chorus


Virginia Blue Ridge Rail Trail

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One more hiking story! Chesterfield County does hikes all thru the year, on Thursdays and Saturdays. On January 1st I sign up for a few in the Spring when bugs aren’t quite out and wildflowers are in bloom. This is the last one I signed up for this year, and it was another excellent hike: the Blue Ridge Rail Trail. Originally the rail bed for the Blue Ridge Railway short line, it was converted to a trail between 2003 and 2010 and provides seven miles of recreation for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

The trail head where we started is 1.7 miles along and provided parking for cars, basic facilities, and a gazebo. We hiked 2 1/2 miles or so, then returned along the same path, accompanied all the way by the Piney River! The weather was comfortable, but as summer warms the river would be great for paddling or floating. The trail is not wide, mostly forested, with occasional views of farmland (and one abandoned truck!). We crossed several bridges, including a trail-sized covered one over Naked Creek. There were a few wild flowers as you can see in the slide show. It was good to see wild roses and blackberries blooming next to each other so I could see the differences up close. Our naturalist at first thought there were also black raspberries, but showed us the plants had ridged stems which meant more blackberries. (note to self: come back in July for berries!)

We took a break at a lovely rock outcropping in the Piney, then walked a bit further to a bridge over the confluence of the Piney and Tye Rivers. If we had continued another mile or so, we would have reached the turn around at end of the trail, but we turned around at the bridge and enjoyed cool forest breezes, butterflies and the peaceful river back to the van. On the way home, we stopped in the small Virginia town of Colleen for ice cream!

If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area and interested in joining Chesterfield County for any of their hikes, check out the Chesterfield Parks and Recreation website.

Hiking the Chessie Trail


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Another hike with Chesterfield County! This time we drove a couple of hours to Buena Vista, Virginia to hike on the Chessie Trail. This is a seven-mile, year-round public access walking trail between Lexington and Buena Vista, located along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad right of way. It was developed and is maintained by Virginia Military Institute, better known around here as VMI. Typically we’re on state park or refuge area property, so this was a little different. More specifically, part of the trail was thru a privately owned cow pasture, with the cautions that apply to that terrain!

It was a lovely day and wildflowers were blooming in profusion. We parked a ways from the actual trailhead and followed a connecting path along the Maury River to the opening gate, lined all the way with abundantly flowering dame rocket, scatterings of flea bane, and bright orange poppies. Once on the trail, the Maury on our right and sheer rock towering on our left, we hadn’t gone very far when we reached the pasture. It was full of buttercups with lovely views across the field and river, where geese were bathing with their goslings.

As we approached the next gate into woodland, we finally saw the herd under the trees cooling in the water! The trail became a fire road with butterflies flitting thru the trees and more wild flowers in the under story. We hiked about two miles then returned along the same paths. We were blessed with beautiful fluffy clouds and pleasant temperatures, with cooling breezes from time to time off the river.  It was a grand day, with a perfect ending – rolled ice cream!

Scent of wild roses
Wafts over the Chessie trail
On cool Maury breeze.

Yellow swallowtails
Flitting around buttercups –
Chessie trail springtime.