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The above was another attempt to experiment with a figure on masa. I am discovering that this surface is adaptable to any subject matter. I painted a Westhighland Cow here,  a cat here, and a tiger here.

I had several challenges with this particular piece due to the colors of the stained background starting out. I was using oranges, burnt sienna, prussian blue, aureolin and sepia to render her form. She was appearing more and more colorless as my painting progressed. I then remembered something Don Andrews taught in a workshop I took. He said the midtone colors were the brightest and what brought “color” to a watercolor painting. The only midtones I had used were neutrals that tend to appear flat and lifeless. As soon as I began to use fire engine red in the coat of this orangutan, the color popped forward.

The photo reference for this came from the wet canvas library and the background was made up of some insignificant zoo shapes. I decided to complement the oranges and reds with a green and blue background and repeated the stringy shapes of the orangutan’s hair in the grasses behind her.

Information about the orangutan can be found here.


  1. Love when you paint animals, Leslie. This one is fantastic!

  2. Wow! The masa paper adds such depth to this painting and feels like a batik. The overall mood feels indicative to her surroundings. I see where the addition of red pops everything in the piece. and I love the repetition of pattern in the tall grasses!
    It is wonderful to see you painting!

    • The batik feel of these is one of the things that keeps pulling me back, Nancy. Thank you for the thumbs up on the use of repetition!

  3. My eye goes directly to the face which is the heart of the painting. NICE!

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you on that comment about the face pulling your eye, Gretchen. I really had to go for the details and shadows there to pull that off. For a long time, while creating this, the face was lost.

  4. A very interesting painting, Leslie.

    • Thank you, Val! Are you blogging? I took a trip over your way but only found a website, this visit.

      • With luck I shall be starting a new blog in a few weeks time. 🙂 Will let you know when it happens. Thanks for asking.

      • Thank you, Val. Do let me know!

  5. He looks very calm and relaxed. Love the paper and what you do with it, but yet to try it myself.

    • Hi Ryan,
      Thank you. This technique is only time consuming in the preparation of the papers. If you decide to try this, tone several at once. I think you would be great with this technique. They are mostly value paintings.
      Hope all is well with you. I have noticed we have both slowed down a bit. I hope I can get back into full swing come fall.

  6. Hi Leslie!

    I haven’t visited your blog for a while now. I’m all busy being a mother of two little boys, running around all day 🙂 How are you? I’m glad I came by to read your blog again. I really like the colors in this painting. I love when you use masa paper, I like the structure 🙂

    • Hi Camilla,
      Two little ones are a full days work and then some. Enjoy it while you can. They do grow up ever so fast…. Of course, then there are Grandchildren.
      I noticed you practice Yoga and a balanced life. My sister is a Yoga therapist and has just started a wordpress blog. She works primarily with children and you can find her blog here:
      I thought you might be interested in this as she is posting yoga activities you can do with children.
      Thank you for taking the time to visit and for your comment!

  7. I like the richness of her coat, Leslie.

    • Ah! Thank you, Amy! I’m coming over to try and catch up on your blog! I am so far behind…………

  8. He looks so relaxed in the warmth of the sunlight. Calming and bright. And I love his sweet face.

    • Thank you, Hannekekoop. I just had to give him something other than a zoo to sit in. 🙂

  9. Hi Leslie, My eye vibrates with the fire engine red of her fur against the green/blue of the foliage in the background. She really pops. And I just love her face. When may I come for Masa lessons?

    • This piece looks even more opaque in person but I couldn’t get the digital image just like the painting this time for some reason. The reddish orange really glows in the original, so thank you for that comparison of the foreground color to the background. It would be so much fun to paint with you! I do wish we lived closer and we could trade ideas. Your decoupage work is fantastic and I had some exposure to that from my Mom years ago. She loved doing decoupage! Thank you!

  10. The most colorful and interesting Orangutan I have ever enjoyed:-) You make animal paintings very lively Leslie!

  11. Your painting is amazing. Such wonderful detail and such strong beautiful colours

  12. She is quite engaging, Leslie. Rich orange shades in her coat. I wonder what she is looking at. I think I still love that cat portrait the best.

    • The cat portrait is now hanging in one of my Granddaughter’s room. I think I like that one because of the somberness and the built up night-like glow to it. Thank you, Ruth!

  13. As always, just stunning, Leslie. I am going to look up masa paper and order some myself. I love the effects.

    • Thank you, Sherry. Ithink you will like this. Just saw your boat painting and thought it was awesome. I could see that on masa, too! It takes longer to get your values on masa, but well worth the effort in the longrun, I think.

  14. Wonderful animal! They always look so wise, and yours is no exception. I love the bright red and orange and I can see how that would have made a big difference. I do love that batik look with the Masa. And oh my gosh, the others are terrific but that silvery cat is stunning with the great pose and the great feet and that rainbow play of color across his coat. Wow!

    (And thank you so much for the nice comments at my place!)

    • You are welcome for the comments. I find your work very creative and the joy is passed on through every character you develop. What fun.
      Thank you for your comment, here, about the animals I paint. The cat is one of my very favorites. All that play in color came through because I had to keep trying to push the darks. Many of these are actually paintings that teach me a thing or two. Quite humbling and I like that about them.
      I have a copic marker artist in my masa paper class right now. He is using primarily watercolor in his paintings but always finds places to enhance his work with his markers. I think the toned masa paper would work quite well with your markers, also. Afterall, the markers are transparent too!

  15. I love this! the orangutan is such a beautiful creature and your painting is superb!

  16. Another beautiful creation, Leslie, love the pose and the quiet feeling of your painting. Well done as usual! 🙂

  17. I love this picture with all the beautiful colors in it. The orangutan is so cute and looks like he is up to no good. Could he be sneaking up on someone? Summer is here so I will be checking your site more often. I missed seeing your beautiful work. 🙂

    • Hi Debby,
      Boy is summer ever here! Hot, hot, hot in the midwest this year. Thank you for the visit and the comment!

  18. Love the lively orange and reds in the coat Leslie, makes the animal so vibrant and real!

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