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The above was my first assignment for my first class in watercolor.  The instructor had asked us to do a study in varying shades of the same color and use glass objects. I was so frustrated and remember this was my fourth try and the one I went with. About the only thing I liked about watercolor was the feel of the brush sliding across the paper. I remember fighting the water and constantly wanting to wipe it up.  The instructor continually reminded me that I needed to search for ways for the water to become my partner and not fight it so much.

I believe it was about the third class I took when I painted this picture from a reference in a book of reference photos for artists. I made up the horses and painted them into the scene. I have always considered this painting as my turning point and what spurred me on to continue to paint in watercolor.

I hope, by sharing these, others are inspired to keep trying . Perhaps I should call these early paintings my blue phase, as well.  I had not noticed my palette was so heavy in blue until I pulled these out to share with you.  We learn something new every day. 🙂


  1. Thanks for sharing these Leslie. I needed a little reminder today to “keep on keepin’ on”. My palette is a little blue heavy as well,…I make a conscious effort to change that occasionally, and end up right back to my blues before I know it!

    • 🙂 I thank-you, Karen. I think you are doing fantastic on Brendan and your other work is beautiful! Isn’t it fun to see where the paint takes us?

  2. Funny how watercolor can seem so un-natural at first. I have always loved the way the brush feels on the paper, too. The way the brush is held in watercolor is a lot like the way I hold a sign painting brush, so it flowed for me right away.

    I really love the blue clouds in your horse painting, Leslie!!

    • Thanks, Beth! 🙂 So that means I could possibly be an apprentice sign painter, too!

  3. Leslie … I am always awed by your willingness to share, current and early work, to inspire others to keep on trying. I took a session in Girl Scouts doing a still life, and my mother still has it hanging in her living room. 50 years later, I saw some of this same artist’s work hanging in a hotel. She inspired me then, and you inspire me now.

    • Thank-you, Kate! I was in Girl Scouts, also! Do you remember all those badges we worked for? I learned so much. We never had anyone help us paint a still life, though. That would have been fun!

  4. Thank you for sharing these, Leslie! Your glass study in blue has an oh-so-familiar quality to it. I immediately recognized the unsure quality of my first attempts, even though my subjects and palette were completely different. Knowing your current work and level of skills it is amazing to realize what your starting point was. How long have you been painting in watercolor? I want to know for my own sake, as in “how long will it take me to get to this level of surety.” Amazing… just amazing… there is hope for me here :).

    I recognize your style in the second painting – yes, this is Leslie! It is not in the first painting as far as I can see. How extremely interesting! When do we acquire our style?… Who knows…

    • Thank-you for your kind comment about my work, Alex. I have been drawing in graphite and ink, on and off, since 1981. I started watercolor in 2002. I am not always sure about the watercolor. 🙂 It seems I find something new all the time, or read something new someone attempts with the medium. Your work is absolutely beautiful! I have heard about that elusive term “style”. Do we even recognize that we have one? I see it in other’s work but fail to see anything significant in my own. I have often wondered about that. You make me consider ideas. Thank-you for that.

  5. this is a very interesting post. it’s nice to see how we can change and improve since we started. I’ll see if I can find my first life drawing (don’t know if I still has it cause I usually throw everything away after some time hehe) and comment about this post of yours who inspired that! I also think the same than Alex, I recognized “you” when i saw the second wc; before reading, I said this is not leslie, this is leslie!! hahah. best wishes, Martín.

    • Thank-you for this observation that you and Alex both had, Martin. That is helpful to me. I have saved about a third of the older watercolors. They were building up and I could not store all of them. I saved some to possibly use for collage work, something I would like to play around with. I hope you do post one of your first life studies!

  6. so its true.
    you are a naturally talented painter

    • Thank-you, Kokot. That is pretty high praise for one who kept tossing her feeble efforts. You are very kind. 🙂

  7. Sumi-e next? 😉

  8. Hey! I love that You shared these early pictures. I actually really like the glasses! Reminds me of a FAVOURITE tablecloth I used so much I wore it out. I like the other picture as well…and am blown away by how Your art has grown and evolved. Amazing. How long ago did You start painting watercolour? ALSO, I love the whole ‘don’t fight the water’ bit. I’m tucking that in my pocket as a great life metaphor! 🙂 Thank You and Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Thank-you, Bliss. I started watercolor 8 years ago. I had been drawing for much longer than that. Thank-you for bringing the water thing as a life metaphor to my attention! Have a great day!

  9. You’ve managed to find your own style, and it’s good!

  10. I agree with everyone above, that second drawing really shows your distinct style. I don’t think i keep any of my early watercolor painting cos they are done way back in 1986, then i stop painting for two decade only start it again at 2006. I have the same feeling back in 2006, I just can’t control the flow of the colors and they just feel unnatural and yet today I have yet to master them still.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I know. Watercolor just seems to keep its own special intrigue don’t you think? It is fun and elusive all at the same time? Your recent grasshopper painting is absolutely wonderful!

  11. They’re both GORGEOUS! 😀

    • Thanks, Tacy! Have any of your teachers included a watercolor section in your art exposure at school? I just wondered because the teacher here includes it in her course work in a middle school. When I went to school, they didn’t have the supplies for it so we always painted with poster paints. I just wondered.

  12. Leslie, I am fascinated by your conscious development of your love affair with watercolors. You are well aware of how differently you and I paint/pen. I play with watercolors much differently than you do–perhaps it’s because I started out just wanting to see what WATER would/could do when playing with Paint. LOL. Love your horses and the obviously development evident in the two paintings. Wow! Btw, thanks again for your Questions –I do appreciate them because you help get the information OUT of my mind by showing your interest in the material.

    • Thanks, Eva. I absolutely am intrigued with your use of watercolor and the art you create.

      I think watercolor is a challenge to instruct because it can be used so many different ways and no one should be made to feel as though their take on it is incorrect. I try to teach technique and then share some of the things that do and don’t work for me. That does not mean it won’t work for another so I am glad you brought this up. I am thankful that you take the time to answer my questions!

  13. Both are amazing. Leslie, please accept a special gift from me

  14. I like your blue phase Leslie! Its always good to look back on work you did in the past. I find that you can view it more objectively. When you are involved in something so intensely, you have to take a step back sometimes to view it objectively. I like both pictures, but especially the reflective quality of the glass. Never lose that flow Leslie – it’s always such a delight to watch it!

    • Thank-you so much, Lynda. I have to go back and remember my struggles because I try to help others to get over their hurdles with what does and doesn’t work. I sometimes forget that I had issues with the medium that I don’t recall any longer. I can appreciate your comment about the intensity because of that.

  15. I really like the composition of this work. The trees and distant horses give great depth. I also enjoy your brush strokes. It’s so difficult to keep that translucent quality without overworking the subject. Your work is a joy!

    • Thank-you, Keith. Sometimes I feel as though I have not retained the brushstroke aspect in my paintings. I need to revisit some of that.

  16. Even your earliest works show your inherent talent and style!

  17. These paintings are beautiful.I like a lot the one with horses 🙂
    It makes me think at the unicorn.The fantastic horse 😀
    Thank you for making me dream 🙂 😉

    Enjoy the moment,mon amie!! 🙂

    • Thank-you, Alina. I never thought of the unicorn but , yes, a view of elusive unicorn. Your vision is special! 🙂

  18. Did you learn a lot from painting in one color? I’ve never tried to do that, but I think it would help because when I paint I tend to do so in one value.

    • YES! I don’t know if it helped decide which colors to use for my darks, but it showed me how dark I had to get to make a difference. If you try in just one color and making different strengths washes, use a pthalo color as they are very strong and dark. This way, you will have a larger range.

  19. You are so talented! The blue cups is my favorite.
    I have tried water color and I have not been impressed with my turnout.

    • Thank-you HackyPie! Watercolor does take some getting used to. If you like the cups, it was done similar to rendering a drawing only using a brush to draw with and shade. That is how I started.Most of my early watercolors looked as though I was drawing. That idea might help if you ever try it again.

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