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Category Archives: Watercolor

Tammy Enrietto

Our 2017 portrait class just ended. In this class, we studied painting parts of the subject we planned to paint the first week. Students were told they could paint figures and animal portraits as well. Everyone learned to grid their reference photo and paper to assist with proportion and likeness. They studied skin tones and laying color next to color and softening edges. They studied composition as it relates to portraiture. We also covered proper placement of eyes, nose, ears and mouth as they appear on a baby, pre-teen, teen and adult. If you would like to see examples of their work click here. Thank you to all my students who took part in this class and shared their work here.




The above painting began with a simple line drawing of a bald eagle. I used liquid frisket, masking fluid, to save the white of his hooded head, beak, talons and stripes between his wing feathers. I outlined the drawing using an eye dropper filled with waterproof black ink. Before those lines dried, I spritzed the ink drawing with water, creating all that blotchy and flecked look to the wings. For the eagles body, shoulders and legs, I wet the entire area with water and dropped ink along the outer edges (along the white of the hood, over the shoulders and along the eagle’s left wing) and allowed it to flow into the water. That left that lighter area along his shoulder and down into his left leg. After all the ink dried, I removed the frisket and painted the remainder of the piece with watercolor. It is the same process that I spoke of when I created this elephant. This gives you the idea of how the black and white looks prior to painting. Don’t be too concerned with the bleeding of the ink. It begins to come together more as you add color. You can view two more eyedropper and ink creations here and here.

I really enjoy exploring adding other media with watercolor. Some subjects just beg for a little something extra.



This is a new abstract using the rice paper collage with watercolor. As I worked on it, I saw a dove appearing in the upper right quadrant. I couldn’t help but to bring that dove forward and let it be about her, or him.



I began, as usual, working toward  abstract washes and marks and allowing the watercolor to mingle.



I glued some torn rice papers on the surface with glue made from one part water and three parts acrylic matte medium. You can also make a mixture of water and PVC glue or acid free Elmers glue. All three work for these. I waited for the glue to dry and painted some more. As I work these stages, I prop the painting up on my mantle and move away from it and study it as I wait for it to dry, sometimes overnight. I will turn the painting all different ways and search for imagery in it, especially areas where I can develop a center of interest.



I began to see an image of a dove appear and started darkening the shapes around her by adding more papers and painting around and through them.



As the dove came forward, I felt it time to begin balancing the red of the sun and describing the background just enough to suggest a few things like a horizon line, a watery landscape and maybe a bridge, trying not to get too detailed. I want to let the viewer see their own story in this so I just concentrate on guidelines of composition like values and contrast of shape and line and color combinations. I like it that these pull out a viewer’s imagination.



To finish the painting, I darkened and textured the the blue water behind the dove and carried that darker color over to the left. I added a rice paper that had little silver bits in it to the waterway under the bridge and softened the abstract shapes under the dove by adding some more stringy rice papers there.

These are fun!!!!!



Once again, my class is working with watercolor and rice paper collage. I always encourage them to create an abstract for their first assignment. We use the same glue (acrylic matte medium with a little water mixed in so it is not so thick) and tear our rice papers or cut them and glue them to our painting. We, then, go back in and paint some more as each layer dries.



Above are some examples of rice papers I use.




We begin by choosing a color palette and making marks on our watercolor paper in abstract patterns. This phase can include drips (by turning your wet painting several directions), splatter, light and loose washes and marks with different brushes. I always advise my students to keep some of the white of the paper and ask my students to look for potential areas to work toward a center of interest on or near a “sweet spot”. In the above painting, it is that area that is so dark near the upper right sweet spot. I wait for this initial wash to dry and then begin tearing and cutting different rice papers and adhering them to the paper with the glue I made. Make sure you use only enough glue to adhere the paper. Too much glue dries thickly and interferes with future applications of watercolor. The above photo has some rice papers already glued into it. I try not to think too much in the first layer. I am always working toward the area that I think will become my center of interest. I try to allow the painting to tell me what it wants and try to not get too dark or muddy in the first two layers. The gluing phases of these creations always takes longer to dry, so I try to have two paintings going at the same time and alternate between the two.



The above image is what my painting looked like after three layers of rice papers and watercolor painting.  My center of interest was still not strong enough and I wanted to add more gold  and some of that lime color to make it pop some more.



In the above, you can see I added those greens and golds to grab the viewer’s eye. Then, I chose a rice paper with some shiny silver things in it and designed a moon-like image on my sweet spot. I chose to lead the viewer’s eye there with some torn strips of that sparkly paper. After that dried, I took a small round brush and darkened some lines and shapes leading to the moon with diox violet.

Here is one I created last year.

I really like that I never know what I am going to get. It allows me to relinquish some of my control and let the values, lines and shapes draw me into what is forming on the paper. No two paintings are ever alike and there are endless possibilities!



I had so much fun working with this scene on masa paper. My sister has been generous enough to share photos of her journeys along the east coastline of Lake Michigan. She is a “lake girl”.  I fell in love with the colors of this scene and the chair waiting for someone to come and sit in it. Thank you, Sis!


This lion was painted on masa paper, a rice paper that can be crinkled, soaked in water, toned, dried and glued to the surface of watercolor paper in order to provide a watercolor artist a different surface to paint on. The textural possibilities are varied and, oftentimes, very interesting. They, generally, take me longer to paint, but the extra time spent is well worth it. I have several tutorials. The first one is located here. The update is located here.

If you would like to view a selection of the paintings I have completed on masa, just click the tag, masa paper, under the title of this post.

century tree

In my recent composition class, I gave an assignment asking the artists to create a tree like no tree they had ever seen before and include a number and a word or words. There were so many interesting paintings that came from this assignment. You can see some of them on the Student Page here.

The above tree is my rendition. It is a combination of watercolor, ink, rice paper collage and collage. The entire background was created, first, last year. I had wanted to do an abstract painting that resembled bark and had torn pieces of fibered rice paper and glued them to the surface using a two parts acrylic matte medium, one part water glue. I then painted the bark-like forms with browns siennas and olive greens. I pulled this bark-like thing out of my stow-aways (unfinished things) and drew a humongous trunk of a tree and reaching branches on it using waterproof ink, which I spritzed with water, before it dried. It caused the ink to spread and follow various fibers and the edges of the torn rice papers, enhancing the bark-like look and feel. I let that dry overnight. I then painted into the tree trunk with darker tones of siennas and greens and browns and let that dry overnight. I found the word “Major” running across the trunk and darkened the rambling letters with ink. You might make it out if you study it carefully. The letters are wiggly and ghost-like starting with an “M” at the base of the trunk on the left and the tails of the “R” end at the figure’s leg on the right. I added the ghost-like figure, next.  May I mention that this became all-consuming as I created and I enjoyed every minute of the time it took to ramble around this tree? There is a huge figure of a woman kneeling, made up of the left side of the trunk and spreading arms of two of the large branches. Her nipples are quite distinct as knotholes on that side. It is as though her head is tossed back and she is rejoicing in the light of day. Enlarge the piece, stand back and look for her. You may see her, too!

I found words in a magazine that I wanted to include in my tree. There are four eyes in this tree and a bird (colored black like a silhouette). Can you find them? I chose blue and gray citra solv papers to cut the leaves from and glued them on. I wanted them to have a shimmering effect. I don’t know that I achieved that, but tried. I so enjoyed working on this and wish every painting I ever created was this much fun. I felt like the imagery was giving back every bit as much as I gave to it as it changed on the surface of the paper. By far, the most enjoyable mixed media I have ever worked on.

Melissa Scare

Melissa Scare

Sue Mendenhall3

Sue Mendenhall3

Linda Flatley3

Linda Flatley3

Anita Trick

Anita Trick

Joel Alwine4

                Joel Alwine 4

The above paintings were created by some of the students who just finished the six week composition class. We discussed center of interest and where to place it, value and contrast, how to attract attention, how best to divide a page. Three of their assignments required that they be extra creative. If you would like to view more of the paintings from this session, I have devoted a page to their beautiful work here.

Thank you to all my students!

Baha'i Temple


The assignment for my Creative Challenge class was to Paint an edifice.  I chose to work from a reference I had taken years ago of the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois. I lost the white when I painted the shadows and resorted to using white. I don’t like to do that but it surely gives weight to this building. My building appears much older and aged than the glorious real Baha’i Temple.  But!!!!! I learned I will need to be more delicate and light with my washes on white buildings and maybe make it less of a challenge.



Recently, I gave an assignment to my Creative Challenge class that brought up some interesting responses. The assignment was: Paint something “you” think is ugly and make it beautiful. Almost everyone questioned what I meant by ugly. Some responded that they could find beauty in almost anything. Others saw beauty in the ugly before they even began to paint. I thought all these responses were so interesting. One little assignment brought with it such thought!  As it turned out, not a one of their paintings was ugly. They all achieved beauty from something they thought was ugly.

This assignment made me think of something I learned from an instructor a long time ago. She said, “We all spend time creating drawings and paintings of things we love. The real learning and improvement takes place when we try something new. We have to rely on “seeing” the form, feeling the edges and become accustomed to something new.”  That is what happened with me, with the above painting. I chose the snake as my “ugly”. She almost immediately became beautiful when I studied all the intricate patterns and the shapes of her scales. I decided to give her a bit of a grin. The patterns of dark strips of color was there for me to do that. I learned it was not so much her looks that I thought ugly but how she had to constrict her prey and devour it whole. Just another example of how we categorize things, in our minds, without looking deeper.

If you study this carefully, you can see where I added some citra- solv collage.

I do not know what kind of Python this is. I did some searches and think it may be a Burmese Python by the markings. The Indian Rock Python has shapely patterns, also, but they do not seem to have that golden glow in the center of the pattern. Thank you to Wet Canvas for the reference image for this.