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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.



We just finished our 2015 class on Watercolor Landscape.

Ruth Karau4

Ruth Karau4

We discussed elements of composition as they relate to composition. We discussed how so many landscape paintings are devoid of little people or animals making the scene look empty. We all designed our paintings to include little people or animals.

Sue Joseph3

Sue Joseph3

Melissa Scare2

Melissa Scare2

The next week, we discussed value changes in the landscape and how the artist can control that. The whole class crated paintings using the Elegant Writer for this assignment.

Cherie Droege2

Cherie Droege2

We talked about buildings and man-made objects in a landscape and created landscapes with man-made objects or buildings in them.

Henn Laidroo2

Henn Laidroo2

Jan Reche4

Jan Reche4

We spent a session on  big sky, water or snow paintings and techniques for making clouds, waves and snow.

Cindy Guzik

Cindy Guzik

For the last week, everyone painted a landscape that could be on the front of a Christmas card.

If yu would like to view any of the above paintings in a larger form, just click on it twice. All the students’ paintings can be viewed by clicking here or by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking on the Student Art: Watercolor Landscape tab. There are over 70 student paintings in that gallery.

Thank you to all my students for their hard work as well as contributions to making this class experience so enjoyable…and for sharing your work so others can view it.


I experimented, here. I liked the sky in the reference for this scene and added the horses.

I see the snow has begun to fall for our Holiday posts and this one is going to look a little funny with the snow coming down. Sorry about that. I know I can turn it off but kind of like that we get this treat once a year.


I have been raking leaves. I was thankful that we have had some mild and warm days to do this task. I believe the trees in my painting may be old cottonwoods. I liked the bright light.

I added the cows.

I chose to use a piece of watercolor paper that I had previously grunged as I described in this post.


I have also been working on this river scene. This is Elegant Writer and watercolor. The pileated woodpecker was added.

I have noticed that many of my landscapes have been so empty. I am experimenting with adding wildlife and little people to them.

Thank you to Wet Canvas for the reference photos for these paintings.

We just completed our yearly Watercolor Portrait Class! These artists are just amazing me with their paintings. Every single one of them just keep improving with each year that goes by.

Laura Lyndsay3

Laura Lyndsay3

We began the class by studying and painting parts of portraits. We discussed what things on a face define the likeness of someone. Some practiced hands, too!

Leslie Vrchota

Leslie Vrchota

The next week, we discussed the general measurements of a head and the facial features. We learned to crop a photo and measure the format of our watercolor paper to be dimensionally correct to the reference. We then learned to grid each of them to help us get accurate proportions to our drawings and paintings.

Roxanne Yoquelet

Roxanne Yoquelet

Some artists included animal portraiture.

Kathy Smierciak

Kathy Smierciak

We discussed composition and where our center of interest could be located and cropped our photo appropriately. We talked about value and how we needed contrast. Some artists included figurative work.

John Kelty3

John Kelty3

We learned how to paint little people because we have a landscape class coming up and are thinking we might like to work toward including figures in our landscapes.

I was most impressed, however, with the night we explored creating a grunge background and then painted a portrait onto that background.

Any of the above paintings can be enlarged by clicking on them.

There are 62 works of art, right now, on the student Portrait page. You can access them by scrolling to the top of this post and clicking on Student Art: Watercolor Portrait 2015 or by clicking here.

Thank you, again, to all the artists who share their work here!

lion cubs

lion mama

Thank you to wet canvas for the reference photos for these lions. The cubs were fun to draw with their big paws and  all that loose skin.  I think I worked the hardest on trying to get that gaze that the lioness had.


This one makes me chuckle. This is my little dog, Payton. He is FIFTEEN!!!  I had fun with this painting and let it sit and sit for the longest time. I wanted to add more…. and more… and more, so it just sat. I finally decided that everything I wanted to add was not in how he looked but who he is and I hope I captured enough of him that you know what I mean when I say this falls short. Many of you share your homes with pets that are dear for all sorts of reasons.  Pictures and words just fall a bit short.  So, I decided this was finished.

So you could see how I added the watercolor, this is my initial drawing and wash with the Elegant Writer:


This pen will become part of the tools I use in the future.  Here was my tutorial on how the Elegant Writer can be used.