Tag Archives: watercolor

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


Hiking as Inspiration

This is a follow-up to my last post on Hiking the Rapidan and Staunton Rivers. One of the others on the hike asked what do I do with all the photos I take on our hikes: here’re some of their uses! The first two sketches were done on the hike, with water colors added in the studio. The third nature sketch I did from a photo you can see in the earlier post. The fourth and fifth water color sketches were also done in the studio from photos and are studies for larger works still in process.

Many years ago when I was still an eager young photographer, I was told “never stop taking pictures. Even if you don’t use them right away, you’ll have them for later inspiration.” At that time it never occurred to me that I might at some point use photos as reference for other art. As I moved into textiles, then watercolor, images captured years ago on film, and more recently on electronic media, retain their vibrancy and value.

Here’s an example of photo-influenced multi-generational inspiration. In 1953 my father was in Japan for a year with the Marines and took many slides as he traveled around the country. He mailed them home to us where we youngsters alternately endured and were fascinated by regular extended slide shows. In later he years gave talks in our school classes. In 2008 he scanned those slides and did a presentation for his retirement community. In 2011, he shared the scanned slides with me. I combined them with his notes and thru the wonders of the internet produced a book, at this point a period piece!

So, I always take lots of photos, use them, and/or save them. Who knows?!

Developing a Painting

The Bon Air Artists Annual Show is coming up this weekend! I’m one of the exhibiting artists, so I’ve been working these past few months on getting work together. I’d originally laid out the one shown above back in August, hoping to have it done for the Unitarian Gallery show in September. But I couldn’t get up the nerve to paint it – I was scared of the wires.

In February I gritted my teeth, and started. I was still worried about the telephone wires, which is what attracted me to this image in the first place, along with the reflection in the cobblestones. But how bad could it be? If it didn’t turn out, I have enough other work by then for the show.

I made good progress, as you can see from the progressive images above, up until time to do the wires. So I let it set for awhile, and took it to the Bon Air Artists critique in early March. By that time I’d penciled in the lines. Suggestions I received where: leave as is; use a pen; use a twig. I thought on it some more and decided I wanted to paint the lines, but was unsure of how even I could make them. Finally I pulled a thin bead of water with a small rigger brush, then touched the water with a water soluble pen. Ink shot in both directions! This is cool! So I kept going. I’m pleased with how it came out!

Hope you like it. If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia are, please join us for the show this Sunday – admission is free. See you there.