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These are the most recent two paintings I have finished. The tree frog has a saran wrap print background that I returned and painted in each abstract shape by following the pattern that the saran wrap left. To get that print, I wet the entire background with juicy watercolors. I was careful to not wet any portion of the frog. I then took large sheets of saran wrap and crinkled them atop the washes, covered it with another drawing board and added the weight of several books atop the board. I left this overnight for the pigment to dry before removing the saran wrap. If you remove the saran wrap too soon, the water will soften and sometimes disturb any design. The background came out too light, so I repainted each individual section wet on dry and wet-in-wet.


The rice paper abstract began with a grunge background like I explained here.


I layered in some watercolor I wanted to  use for this abstract and allowed it to dry.


I select various rice papers with textures and colors I think might go with what I already have and begin glueing them to the surface of the paper. I use a mixture of acrylic matte medium of one part water to four parts matte medium. I blot each paper as I glue it on so there is little glue residue left on the surface of the paper. I allow that initial layering to dry and paint or add gesso splatter and marks, more watercolor and ink  marks and allow that layer to dry.


finished painting

I alternate layers of media, in this manner, until I feel I have developed a center of interest and decide I am done.

Here is a another post that describes this process.


The above painting was  created by using colored collage papers that I made by treating National Geographic photos with a solution called Citrasolv. I have a tutorial on how to create one of these here.

I felt the initial painting of these cows looked a bit washed out and wanted to deepen the darks in the cows and connect them a little better; allow them to stand out.

The original painting can be viewed here.



The above painting was created for an assignment I gave for my composition class. I asked them to create a flower like they have never seen before and ad a number and word or letters. It was designed to get them ready for our watercolor and collage class that began last week. I designed my flower from Fuschia and added things and decided to go giant with it. I need to do more of this. Those of you who follow my site might remember we had an assignment last year that was to create a tree like you have never seen before. You can view that here.



I just completed a six week course in Beginning Drawing. There were only two students who hung on for the entire six weeks and completed the course. We studied Blind continuous line drawing and continuous line drawing, contour and cross contour line drawing, negative space, perspective, gridding a photo reference, value study and the different marks we could make with graphite pencils, still life study and value studies using the Elegant Writer pen.

They began with Blind continuous line drawings of each other:

Dawn Amstutz2

Dawn Amstutz2

Betty Bercot3

Betty Bercot3

They finished with clear glass still life studies using the Elegant Writer pen.

Betty Bercot11

Betty Bercot11

Dawn Amstutz8

Dawn Amstutz8

If you would like to view more examples of their progress click here or scroll to the top of the page and click on the top bar where it says Student Art: Beginning Drawing Spring 2016.

Thank you to these artists for sharing their work on this blog!

Henn Laidroo3

Henn Laidroo3

Every year my watercolor students take a class titled Creative Challenge. It is the six weeks of every year we try new things and learn about the guidelines of composition. It is the one class that I try to assign interesting and challenging assignments to encourage them to be creative. We always review center of interest and the Rule of Thirds (finding the “sweet spot”) so we know where to locate the best place for our center of interest.

We review value and division of space, shape, texture, color, and line. We study ways to attract attention through emphasis or exaggeration at the center of interest, repetition, simplifying a composition and enhancing movement or color.

Here are some examples:

Nancy Longmate4

Nancy Longmate4

The above illustrates movement and division of space.

Melissa Scare2

Melissa Scare2

The above piece was created using repetition and to fulfill an assignment where the title of the painting was to be “Way Cool Cat”.

Judy Notestine4

Judy Notestine4

The above is a good example of simplifying a scene.

Linda Flatley

Linda Flatley

Sue Mendenhall5

Sue Mendenhall5

The above paintings are examples of creative ways to use shapes in a painting.

If you would like to view other examples of the student paintings from this class click here.


The above painting required some planning. I had a photographic reference sent to me from my daughter of this cat laying on his back, his favorite pose. I tried to lay it out and come up with some way to paint him that might be interesting, other than just him in paint. I finally decided on using another reference photo where there were a large assortment of overlapping grasses and combined the two. I also decided to use a sheet of masa paper to enhance the texture and maybe create more interest. I have a tutorial on how to prepare and use masa paper with watercolor here.


The above is my take on a lunar landscape.


The above painting is a gouache resist. I was attempting to create a composition using shapes. I describe how to create a gouache resist here.


We are studying composition in my classes, right now. One of the first things we do is work on discovering the most interesting portion of the imagery we use for reference.

I teach my students the Rule of Thirds.


This means we divide our format (the space that we are going to use to create a painting on) into thirds vertically and horizontally. The areas of the format that are good to use to place a center of interest in are near or around where the lines intersect. Time has proven that creating two dimensional art where the most interesting aspect of a painting is placed in the center usually results in a static image or an isolated and boring composition. Greg Albert calls these intersections “sweet spots” in his book “the simple secret to better painting”.

In the image of the Bateleur Eagle, above, I decided the eye, surrounded by all that bright red was the most interesting aspect of the image. In order to place it on my watercolor paper, I had to crop the reference photo and draw a grid over the image dividing it into thirds, horizontally and vertically, so the eye and red area would be near a sweet spot.  You can see that the eye and red portion of the eagle are surrounding the “sweet spot” in the upper left quadrant.

Below are examples of two other paintings I designed from my reference photos in this manner:


I had too much foreground in the above photograph, so I used two “L’s” that I created by cutting a matte in two, to crop the photo to meet my needs. By cropping it in this manner, I was able to place the far child in a “sweet spot”, the foreground child between and to the left of the left side “sweet spots” and connecting the middle child to the first child in a “sweet spot”. This creates a pathway for the viewer’s eye to follow when viewing the portrait, beginning with the first child and ending with the far child.


The resulting drawing would look like above. The artist then erases the grid lines and creates their painting.

However, when you work from a grid, it only works when you create a format space that is proportional to the format space of your cropped image.

Here is an example of how to do that in the easiest way I know.


I crop and grid the above image. Note that the sweet spots are on the heads of the two people. The arm of the Grandfather holds the viewer’s eye on the page and leads to the book that they are both reading.


I then place the photo in the corner of my watercolor paper and angle a ruler or yardstick from the corner of the photo and watercolor paper through the opposite corner, diagonally, and make a mark somewhere along that diagonal line. Anywhere on that line is a multiple of the dimensions of the cropped photo that I plan to work from.


I then divide the format in thirds


….and draw the image.

Thank you to Wet Canvas for the reference image for Bateleur Eagle.

The eagle was painted on a grunge background. I describe how to create a grunge background here.


Sometimes I draw and paint something that I am really excited about and it never quite gets finished. This is how I feel about this scene. I even set it aside, hoping for the inspiration or that special something to grab me again. I have learned, over the years, to allow some of my paintings to just be finished for the time being. Some of them are learning experiences that I don’t even know, at the time, what the lesson was. I return to some of them and complete them when the inspiration returns.  Move on is just the message I get sometimes. I have never been sorry I did.

This painting was started by using the elegant writer and adding the watercolor after the ink washes had dried.





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