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 I challenged myself, two-fold this week. I had read on Stephen Quirke’s blog about how he was enjoying using Arches hotpress paper. The above portrait of Rudolph was done on 140 lb Arches hotpress paper.  I was amazed that I could paint much of anything on it as I have only been successful with it a couple times. What I have found to be true with this paper is that it is what I call honest. It shows your brush strokes, dries lighter(much) than when I work on coldpress and demands a certain amount of skill. Yes, I followed the basic guidelines of watercolor to create this image. I built my colors up from light to dark and background to foreground. I was able to do a little lifting and softening after paint applications and you can see evidence of this on the light areas of his antlers and the insides of his ears.  I like how this paper glows even after applications of numerous washes. Thank-you, Stephen, for giving me a little push through your blog!

 The other challenge was to create Rudolph decades after my first drawing I did of him in Kindergarten. When I was five, I loved the Gene Autrey version of Rudolph the Red Nose ReindeerThe book was my favorite Christmas story, at the time. It was also one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano.  I wanted to give him a believable appearance after all these years of viewing cartoon versions of him.  I never saw him as fictitious or cartoon-like.   I never bought into believing that Santa, flying reindeer and little elves making toys did not exist.  In each and every story and wish that surrounds this holiday, each year, I see evidence of  incredible miracles taking place and that is what I wish for all of you this year.  Have a wonderful Holiday!


  1. What a lovely Christmas present for all your readers, Leslie. And I join you in seeing the miracles of the season.

  2. Leslie, you have put the spirit in the holidays, not only with your painting, but with your words. I just purchased the same paper and now I will definitely give it a try. I don’t have the same skill level, but I’m going to give it a try. The colors are beautiful and I love the eyes. Thanks for sharing and for reminding us what the holidays are all about. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    • Hi Barbara. Thank-you for your lovely comments on my Rudolph painting. Hotpress is a paper that takes some getting used to. At first, I could do very little that I liked with it. The drawing seems important. Another thing I have had to adjust to is to lay my colors in light to dark and to be willing to blend color. Patience and perseverence. It was slow going, but I am anxious to try a landscape, next. Have fun with it and Happy Holidays to you and your family, also!

  3. Leslie, I love the beautiful, soft reindeer eyes and the painting glows with your subtle, beautiful color palette. Nice job on the HP! I hate it…always get blooms and I seem to work too wet on it. I haven’t done it for a while. Maybe I have enough experience now to incorporate the blooms. Thank you for your holiday wishes. Your actions reflect the holiday spirit every day. Thank you for inspiring so many happy, creative experiences this year.

    • I assure you that the glow to this must come from the paper, Linda. I hated hotpress, also, at first. I stayed with the coldpress because I could get all those juicy effects I liked. I actually wet the background four times to get those grays I wanted to read right. I built the reindeer up stroke by stroke and layer by layer. I also did some lifting, softening of edges and blending after the pigment had dried. I hope that helps if you decide to try it once again. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  4. He’s wonderful, Leslie! I like your version, rather than a cartoon one. So glad that you had a good experience on the hot press paper- it’s my preferred paper. Have you ever seen a bound tablet of hot press water color paper? I don’t know if there is even such a thing but I have been looking for years. Since I use hot press pretty much exclusively in my large, full size work, it would be nice to have the tablets to do my studies.
    Thank you for your holiday wishes and I hope the same for you and your family- May you have a new year filled with little miracles everywhere.

    • I am using paper off a block of Arches hotpress 140 lb. That is the only tablet form of it that I have seen. You can carefully lift the paper off of that block and tape it to a board. Check Dick Blick or Cheap Joes. They both carry it. Thank-you for your comments on my reindeer and you rock to work on this all the time! Happy Holidays, Karen!

  5. Les, this is beautiful! I appreciate the softness in Rudolph’s expression. I need to take a picture of the two camels they have on the corner at the tree lot. You could paint them next year 🙂 Yes, they are giving camel rides, only in Tucson!

    • Thanks, Nancy! I can hardly wait to get the pictures of the camels! At least they are somewhere warmer than here.They actually had reindeer last weekend at the botanical conservatory here.

  6. Aw lovely Rudolph! You did a great job with this very festive painting Leslie – and I remember Gene Autrey I think…wasn’t he the singing cowboy?
    Happy Christmas wishes!

  7. I LOVE the deer’s gentle eyes, and the shadow work is soo amazing. Wow, so beautiful Leslie!

  8. Rudolph looks excited to take flight!
    Beautiful painting of a beautiful animal.

  9. The colours are stunning and the muscle definition is excellent! I particularly like the shadows under the antlers and around the neck. The way this picture’s cropped creates movement, I’ve played with cropping pictures to help composition, but I bet you had this all figured from the start 🙂 Great painting Leslie, its one of my favourites!

    • I liked the “in-your-face” approach with this one.As a child, I would have tried to reach out and pet him. I like to think he would have let me. I really think the hotpress paper helped me with the glow to my colors because they are the same paints I have been working with. I had nothing figured out on this painting, though, as I have been looking at a lot of articles on painting on hotpressed paper and observing the different artists’ paintings. I would really like to come up with some comfortable ways of working on this surface. Thank-you Keith! Merry Christmas!

  10. Love your Rudolph, Leslie! So soft and dear he is. I am beginning to think that being this nice, he will after all stop at my place on Christmas night to deliver my art books, even if Ryan the Santa said that I was placed on a permanent naughty list. I’ll let you know :).

    I am not a fan of hot press paper. Streaks and puddles are not something I like to see, or fight, in my paintings. Some people swear by this paper though. And I am sure amazingly interesting effects can be achieved on it if the artist is tenacious. You are very brave to challenge yourself this way. I am sure it would become very useful in your arsenal of watercolor tools and techniques.

    Merry Christmas and happy and safe holidays to you and your family!

    • Thank-you, Alex. I am sure he will deliver your artbooks.
      I felt the same way about hotpress for a long time. This paper is difficult to work on. I don’t think it is very conducive to special effects, but requires a good drawing and painterly approach. I don’t think my skill was where it needed to be in order to have success with it, previously. I feel it asks more of me than any paper I have worked on. I also think it might teach me a thing or two about ways to use and handle my brush.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family, also!

  11. Your Rudolph makes me want to climb the mountains up by Yukon again so I can watch the whole herd of caribou in an incredibly verdant valley high up amongst mountain tops. After a long climb, what a joy to find the unexpected view on the other side of the peak – thousands of caribou.

    Your painting puts me in awe. I, too, love the eyes. You “get it” so often…it makes me choke up at times, Leslie. And know what? I see that Rudolph needs a tissue. Well done!

    Endless tones, shades and hues of blessings to you and everyone you love this Christmas.

    • Oh wow! You actually got to see them? I have watched several videos of them and have seen scenes such as you describe on them. I am sure that literally took your breath away. Thank-you for your comment on my painting, especially about the eyes. I originally had moredetail in them and they looked too glassy, somehow. I decided, make them warm and dark. I tried that and it worked.
      What a lovely wish from one artist to another. I return the same to you! Light to you this Christmas for all things good! Oh! and to Le Chat, too! That is his name, correct?

      • Ahem…Duc le Chat, but he is such a gentleman, he’d never be insulted. (No kidding, I swear his blink says “excuse me” after he burps. 🙂 )

      • 🙂 Please tell Duc le Chat that I am sorry and it won’t happen again.

  12. Rudolph is my son’s favourite, since last christmas he really likes to hear the song about his favourite deer. Your Rudolph is just mesmerizing, his eye so soft and gentle. Wish you and your family a blessed christmas and happy holiday.

    • Yay! I have a new Rudolph admirer friend! I hope you sing the song with him. Thank-you for your comment, Francis. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  13. Leslie, he is wonderful with those soft gazing eyes.. truthfully, you have been an inspiration all through the year, thank you for that.. wish you a happy Christmas and a new year!

    • Thank-you, Padmaja. I don’t even recall who found who but the paintings you create inspire me, also. Happy Christmas to you!

  14. I love the detail and the perspective of this painting Leslie, and the story. I also get blooms quite often as Linda said – though I find they add to the looseness of the painting. Hot Press does take some getting used to, that’s for sure. And I agree with your comment on honesty – It am what it am – heh heh – sorry that was my best accent.

    Thank you too for your wishes – your positivity is very beautiful and a source of great encouragement for me.

    • I am so glad you mentioned that you were working on it. I have seen phenomenal paintings done on hotpress paper and it was time to try again. Each time I pick it up, I learn a little more. Thank-you for that and your comment. I don’t seem to have as much trouble with the blossoming any longer as I try to work fast on large areas and never re-enter areas that aren’t fully dry. I believe you can paint on this paper if you take time to soften edges as you go with a slightly damp or thirsty brush and work the passages as glazes. There are times I want blossoms for an added effect and actually encourage them. I am using a layering approach with time for drying when I work on this paper. I am also blending and lifting after washes have dried. I would not start a beginning watercolorist on hotpress but would encourage those who can glaze, lift and soften to try it.
      Merry Christmas in Africa( I love that song), Stephen!!! 🙂

  15. Beautiful Christmas present for us, Leslie.You did an amazing job,loved it!
    Merry Christmas 🙂
    Marinela x

    • Thank-you, Marinela poet! Merry Christmas to you and your family,too! 🙂

  16. Thank you, Leslie.

  17. I love your Rudolph, Leslie! His eyes and mouth are especially wonderful!! Thanks for giving so much of yourself through your art! Merry Christmas!

    • Thank-you, Beth! Best wishes for your licensing and Merry Christmas! 🙂

  18. Always so interesting to read about your process and how you keep challenging yourself to paint in new ways.
    You’ve given Rudolph the tender visage that he deserved. I used to feel a little teary-eyed when singing the chorus about his not being allowed to play in any reindeer games.
    You’ve just dignified him.
    Happiest of holidays Leslie and a next year full of artistry and experimenting.

    • Oh Bonnie, you have said it, here. That is why I liked the story so much. I can not understand the bullying of others toward someone who is a little different, especially if their differences don’t harm anyone else. Thank-you for this comment on having dignified Rudolph. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  19. Leslie, only you could manage to completely change my image of Rudolph from a cartoon to a real animal. And you did it so wonderfully. I love his long eyelashes and his handsome face. (even if he does have a red nose!)

    Merry Christmas!

    • Oh thank-you! You got it, Carol. I just figured there are many animals that are born a little different, genetically, and went with the reference for this but re-pigmented his nose! Merry Christmas to you, too!

  20. Hi Leslie. A beautiful Rudolph! May you have a wonderful Christmas! Cecily

    • Thank-you, Cecily! Merry Christmas to you and your family, also!

  21. adorable…the eyes reach so softly!

  22. That IS Rudolph – is he bringing me anything tonight?

    Merry Christmas

  23. Hi Leslie;

    I stopped by to say hey and wish you and yours a wonderful and happy Christmas. 🙂

    • Hi Ichabod. I am honored when you visit. 🙂 Thank-you and Merry Christmas to you!!!!……..and wife and all the little dogs!

  24. Rudolph looks lovely with those little white dots drifting across the screen! Hope you are having a lovely holiday!

  25. Well you did great on this paper.
    I dont know too much about watercolour paper in all honesty but this seems to be quita a bit more animated that the majority of your works.
    I guess that’s because of the different paper.
    Excellent painting

    • Thank-you, Richard! I do hope to explore more on this paper in the future and will record how it goes. I know you are very busy this time of year. I am hoping you had a bit of time to enjoy the Christmas cheer! Merry Christmas!

  26. I have noticed that I am drawn towards portrait paintings done on HP papers. There is something painterly that you achieve by using HP as surface. I think I must have painted on HP papers during my childhood years, if my memory is right. I found out then that the surface couldn’t withstand repeated scrubbing but then I might have used not-so-good quality papers. I haven’t used a HP paper since then. I have some bristol plate paper I want to use. It has the same smooth surface. I might try using the bristol plate before moving on to HP. Thanks for letting us know the beginner’s experience with painting on HP papers.Rudolph painting looks so soft and velvety. Is that what you wanted to achieve?

    • I agree with you, Raji, that hotpress paper requires that the artist be “painterly”. I did not really know what I was going to achieve. I think the velvety came from the paper. I knew it would show my brushstrokes, so I was careful to paint in contours along his sides around his face as well as lengthwise down his face. The layering took care of that light look of the first few washes. I will work with this paper some more. Thank-you for this comment. 🙂

  27. I love your version of Rudolph – they are such beautiful creatures and it’s nice to see a more realistic expression of this animal. The details in his eyes really bring him to life!

    • Thank-you, Laurie! I do think a reindeer is beautiful. I guess they are actually used as domestic beasts of burden in some areas.

  28. This is lovely, Leslie. The paper sounds almost magical, but I’m sure it’s your skill that wins the day.

    Love to visit here. Don’t always comment … not an artist and so not sure sometimes how to respond, but I do visit and do enjoy more than I can say.

    Thanks for the grace of your art for the artful lessons.

    Hugs and Happy Holidays to you. Best wishes for the new year.

    Jamie Dedes

    • You may comment any time you wish. Art is fun to absorb just like stories and biographies and poetry. It helps me to hear from anyone who wishes to say something. I don’t know if the paper is magical but I like how it glows through the pigment. I need to practice on it some more. Thank-you for visiting and taking time to leave these wonderful comments. Happy Holidays, Jamie!

  29. Welcome to the family of Kindred Spirits. Your work touches my soul where words can’t convey the reality. Great works and again welcome.

  30. thank you for dropping by Leslie, and for your comment…New Year wishes to you.
    I’ve just been taking a tour round your wonderful site, and I’m in awe at your talent. I have to go and finish work, but I will be back to take a further look around.. Rudolph and his detailed expression is amazing..

    • Well, I really was drawn in by the note in the pocket. I have been trying to think of ways to actually use that with friends and family. A year ago, I found a blog where the artist was sharing her artwork by leaving it in public places…….a little gift for the unsuspecting
      Thank-you for the visit and the comment!

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By A Dog Named Biskit « Leslie White on 08 Jan 2011 at 2:00 am

    […] you see them in the reference material.  I did not see them in the Rudolph painting I posted here because his eye in the reference was soft and dark. Eyes can go wrong quickly and highlights and […]

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