Saturday, January 12, 2019


My first winter session at the Barn started Thursday. I wanted to do something with fog and mist.

First we talked about what it means for "more moisture to follow less moisture." That always confuses me. So I think of it as a sponge. If you have a puddle to clean up, would you use a dry sponge or slighly damp sponge to pick it up? Answer: a slightly damp sponge will wick up the puddle quicker than a dry sponge. The area of more moisture--the puddle--is drawn into the less moisture of a damp sponge. It will resist the dry sponge. (And yes, my students said they'd just use a towel.)

If you have too much water or paint on the paper and need to pick it up, you have two choices: you can dab it with a paper towel or tissue, which can leave the paper with a hard edge, sometimes soaking up all the color. Or you can attack it with a "thirsty" brush: one that has been dampened, but the excess water squeezed out of it. That will soak up extra paint and water leaving a softer edge. Both methods have their uses.

Another reason to remember this is when you are trying to create a smooth wash. If you have wet the paper, the paint is going to be attracted to the less wet...but not dry...areas.

If you are getting (or want to get) blossom effects, it is because an area that is wetter is placed next to an area that is drying but still damp, and the wetter area is trying to move into the damp area, creating blossoms.

Also, this concept is used to create soft edges in things such as fur, shadows, sunsets, and fog.

This idea is necessary to keep in mind if you want to create a picture with fog, mist, or "lost edges."

This picture was inspired by watching two other artists work on foggy pictures. One is David R. Smith, and the other is the Frugal Crafter, Lindsay Weirich. I will include the youtube addresses so you can watch their techniques. This is really a fun exercise. 

Start by taping paper down to a board so it can be tilted and warps less. Prop the board up at a slight angle so gravity can help move the paint. Wet the paper with a large brush. Keep it shiny but not puddly. With a 1" brush paint in some color for the sky. I used quin gold, quin magenta, and some paynes gray with French ultramarine. You can do this on the diagonal or horizontal or vertical. Then I put in some horizontal swishes of color in the bottom. I want to leave as much white passage as I can at this point. then, while it is still wet, use a flat brush to put some distant trees or bushes in the foreground. Have a clean thirsty brush handy to soften the bottom edges if they become hard.

Dry thoroughly. For the trees, spray some dots of water over the sky area. With a rigger brush, draw some tree trunks through the water dots. The color should spread a bit but still leave the impression of tree trunks. With a wedge cut from a kitchen sponge, and thoroughly saturated with paint, sponge in some tree branches. Don't overdo tis part. You want to leave plenty of space between branches for an airy look. 

You may have to use that thirsty brush to soften bottoms of trees as you go to maintain the foggy look. Have fun!!

David R. Smith

Frugal Crafter

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


This project can be done with any repetitive shape: trees, snowflakes, etc.

1.       Begin by taping down card if doing card size, leaving ¼ inch edges. 

2.       Draw some circles for ornaments. Leaving some white, paint background and add some salt for snow effect.

3. Paint around the other ornaments in the next value. I plan to go greener as I go, so I used cerulean and pthalo.     With each new layer, before the paint dried, (but was still damp) I spattered with water to keep the snow effect.                                                                                                                                                                        


4.       Draw in some small background circles for ornaments.
Paint around those with darker value…I used turquoise and green.
You can go darker if you choose. As the paint lost its shine, I
Continue to spatter with water droplets for snow effect. I also darkened some “shadow” areas on the small blue ornaments.


5.       I added some color to the ribbons.


6.       I outlined with ultra fine sharpie. Then I used the Sharpie to create a zentangle design on the ball I left white. I could also do the zentangle on some other places.


7.       To finish, I cleaned up some of my edges. I added a small touch of quin gold to the white zentangle ball. I also lifted out a faint ribbon for the blue ball beneath the white one. Then I spattered with gouache.

8.       WHAT I COULD CHANGE: I should have been more careful with making the ribbons perfectly vertical. I could add iridescent medium, but I am printing this, so will wait to do it on printed cards.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Before going into the lesson, let me cite several good references on negative painting. Steve Mitchell's Mind of Watercolor youtube has a very good lesson on negative painting. I highly recommend it. Linda Kemp has written two books on the subject, one of which is Watercolor: Painting outside the Lines. Gordon MacKenzie's Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook
has several good pages on negative painting. See the end of this blog for 4 other blogs on the subject.

Today we did three exercise to try to understand what negative painting is. Here is a simple explanation: The positive is the shape of an object and the negative space is the space behind the object. In this picture (the stencil) the positive shape of the leaves is on the left; the negative shape is on the right.

To do the first exercise, first use two colors to create a background. Salt to create a little texture.
When it is dry, trace the stencil and paint a color two values different around the shape. That is the negative. When that is dry, draw another shape, and paint around both of those shapes slightly darker values. Dry, and continue to draw and paint around the shapes until you are pleased with the picture.

For The second exercise, draw three circles onto the paper, and paint BEHIND them. I used yellow. T
Dry and draw three more circles, some ovelapping. Then paint around all the circles. (I used pale green) Now you can see white and yellow circles with green background. Then make three more circles, and paint even darker around those. Now I have white, yellow, and pale green circles with a darker green background.

The third exercise is pretty simple monochrome.  Draw a wavy line at the bottom of the page, and paint everything above it a pale value. Dry. Draw another wavy line above the white and into the blue. Then paint everything above that second line a darker shade. Dry, draw a third line, and paint everything above that line darker. Continue until you have several values of the same color. It will look like mountains or ocean waves. 

So why do negative painting? Rarely are any of my pictures totally negative painted. It's usually a combination of positive and negative. Negative painting can make things such as a grove of trees easier to do. 
You can see several of my other blogs on negative painting for more. 

8/13/17  water lilies
8/04/17 Trees
6/03/16 leaves
5/26/16   leaves

Pen and Wash

In class I demonstrated three ways to use pen with watercolor. The pens I used were Sharpie ultra-fine, Micron 005 and Micron 003. You need to use bleed proof, permanent inks, not waterbased.

Pen and Wash: Bee Eater,inked first

Probably the most common method is to ink the drawing first, and then apply washed of water color. When inking you can use several techniques to shade: cross hatching, stipling, scribbles, etc. This bird is a bee eater, and you can use almost any colors, since there are many varieties of color in these birds. I used cross hatching (curved around the branches to accent the roundness of them) and some stipling. It was a snap to wash over these with bright colors.

Pen and Wash: Old West Cabin, sketched in paint first

IN Watercolor Artist magazine, December 2012, DeAnn L. Prosia presents a different approach.
You first draw the basic shapes with your watercolors, not drawing or tracing in pencil first. Lay down sections of color that represent shapes in the image. In this first picture, you can see that I've just sketched with paint.

The second step is to go over the picture more exactly. Draw the actual image on top of the shapes of color. She uses black colored pencil or pen for the foreground, dark indigo for the middle ground, and a medium warm gray for the background. Parts of the drawing may match up to the sections of color that were first laid down and some may not. But it adds interest to the picture.

Then you can go back with a second layer of wtercolr to give more depth. Sometimes more drawing is needed.

Pen and Wash: Old West Cabin, over toned paper

Wet a piece of paper and apply some spatters of color. Allow to dry.

Then, using an ultra fine pen, draw in the picture. Then use smaller pens to add details. Fill in blocks of color. I just liked this with just two colors.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

San Jose Mission Part 3

This first photo shows a few steps, especially adding shadows. For the bushes, I wet the bottom half of the bushes and applied blues and purples at the very bottom, and let them "bleed" upward. The shaddows underneath the bushes are also French ultramarine and violet. The important thing about these shadows is that the edge that goes over the sidewalk is horizontal, not slanted. Otherwise the sidewalk would look tilted. If you look closely, you'll see the shadow takes a "step" over the edge of the sidewalk. I then shadowed the pot beneath the tree on the right and the pots in the foreground. 

In this picture, I have painted the low stone wall next to the sidewalk. Leaving much of the edge between wall and sidewalk dry, I wet the top of the wall and applied burnt sienna and coral.  After that was dry, I indicated some cracks and separations between stones with mostly horizontal lines. When dry, I painted the vertical side of th wall with burnt sienna and French ultramarine. 

I began making the trunks of th palm trees and shadowed the pots. To make the dirt in the pots,
just apply French, burnt sienna, and a bit of purple or burnt umber. I also put some red and yellow blossoms in the trees and bushes. Then I darkened the posts in the background. 

In the finished product I emphasized some of the arches and finished the foliage on the plants. Be sure to leave whites in the palm leaves, or they will fade into the bakground. 

For extra texture on the sidewalk or walls, you can wet the area with clean water and use sandpaper and watercolor pencil ... see the blog on watercolor pencils. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I just wanted to post some student work. I didn't get as many pics as I'd like, so hopefully next week I'll remember.


After the first coat is on the arches, I wet the bushes and added yellows throughout, still using a FLAT BRUSH.  While the yellow was still wet, I added in some blues and greens where it will be darker. 

While that was drying, I mixed burnt sienna and French  ultramarine and painted the outer part of the arches on the top. I kept it on the warm side, adding a little quin burnt orange in places. Then I did the lower outside arches with the same mix, but a little more French ultramarine.I also darkened the second row of arches. 

 For the little tree on the right I wet the tree, then painted in some yellow, adding French on the underside, and a little sap green as it went toward the top of the tree. When the tree dried, I added some purple shadow to the right and underneath. 

I removed all the masking fluid. For the sidewalk, I put a light coat of quin coral with some burnt sienna to tone it down, and painted right into the flower pots. I added some French into the flower pots while wet. I rewet a few areas and sanded some brown colored pencil into the pots and sidewalk.  

I began darkening the bushes on their shadowed side. Working upside down, I wet the dark side, added French ultramarine, and then added sap green as it came closer to the top of the bushes. I let that dry, and then painted the side of the bushes that face the sidewalk with a green and some French. Even though my reference shows the side areas of the bushes to be about the same value, I wanted to emphasize the square shapes of the bushes by making the values of the top and sides different. 

As the paint was drying, I spritzed soe water into the green to get a bit of texture and shaved some pale green colored pencil into the top. At this point, I still haven't used anything except a FLAT brush. 

Just a little bit more to go!