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Tag Archives: coldpress paper

The above portrait was just plain fun to paint and try to capture the lift of the chin and the feathery neckline as well as the light. I found the reference photo for this on Paint My Photo. It was taken by photographer, Judy Wright.

 photo reference

This is Abner. I have painted him here and here.  This time proved to be the most challenging.

 Fig 1

I had wanted to try something new on masa paper.  Instead of toning the paper, first, I began this piece with a continuous line drawing, in pencil, on the shiny side of a piece of masa paper. I went over those lines with a brush and waterproof india ink. Fig. 1 is what I came up with .

 Fig 2

After the ink dried, I crinkled the masa paper into a ball and wet it thoroughly in a bowl of water, reopened it and allowed it to dry. I then glued it to a piece of taped down Arches 140 lb coldpress watercolor paper. I mixed 4 parts acrylic Matte medium to 1 part water as my glue. I turned the drawing face down and covered the back of the piece with a thin layer of the glue mixture and then turned it over and affixed it to the surface of the watercolor paper by stroking a thin layer of the glue mixture all over the front. I encouraged air bubbles to escape by stroking with my brush from the center out. I then let the piece dry overnight so the surface of the paper was flat to work on. Refer to Fig 2.

 Fig 3

I, next, explored the colors I might want to use for rendering this image and ran into a huge problem! The colors were “dead” looking on the colorful background. They came out very mid-tone and matched the value of the background colors that I had wanted to save for this. I also had another problem. I was trying to paint the dog more realistically than my loose continuous line drawing was going to allow for. I had already lost the light area on the topmost portion of his skull. My next step was to spray what I had painted and lift out as much as I could with paper toweling. Voila! It worked to soften the grays I had tried to replicate and I thought I could, perhaps, continue if I did something with the foreground and background, first. That would give me some time to think about how I might approach painting the dog since my original intent to follow the patterns of the photo were not going to work. Refer to Fig 3.

 Fig 4

I painted loose greens, yellows and blues for the grassy area in the foreground and tried for a bushy red and green background. The background just did not fit, so I sprayed water on the bushy background and lifted as much as I could. It looked awful! …but, at least the dog’s head popped forward some.  I added a very dark underside to the bushes, accentuating two of the colors I had used to begin painting the dog (hoping for harmony). I liked how the original toning of the masa paper began to help me as I painted the dog, so I opted to allow some of the reds and yellows to show through and define some of the dog’s form. I liked portions of what I saw in Fig 4, above, but was about ready to throw it into the trash because I was getting a painting that was largely midtones in value. What did I do? I went to bed on it.

The next morning, with a clearer head and a completely dried painting (Fig 4), I asked myself what I thought the major challenges were. I came up with:

1. Lack of value contrast

2. I would need to work with the quirky distortions of my continuous line drawing

3. I would need to provide some kind of contrast between the dog and his environment

4. I needed to divorce myself from the photo reference and allow my imagination and creativity to come forward

I disliked the background so decided that one way I may be able to provide contrast in value was with a white picket fence in the background. By doing so, that would give me contrast between the flowing continuous lines of the dog and the rigid manmade lines of the fence.

 Fig 5

I rendered the picket fence with white goauche and came up with Fig 5. The white goauche was not sufficient enough, even with two layers, to cover the layers of watercolor which kept bleeding through.

 Fig 6

I pulled out my white acrylic paint and painted it one more time.  What I liked about this was that it immediately provided contrast between dog and background, pushed the dog forward and even looked like a painted wood fence due to the crinkles in the masa paper.  Refer to Fig 6.

Note, also, how the dog’s value became lighter with the brightening of the fence between Fig 5 and Fig 6. This often happens when you make value changes and needs to be addressed. Thus, I knew I had to darken the dog again.

Finished Painting

In the final steps of creating this piece, I worked with blending aureolin (transparent staining yellow),  permanent rose and prussian blue to develop a gray black on the surface of my dog portrait. I opted to allow and exaggerate some of the reds and yellows that were in the original toning of the masa paper, salvaging a quirky look to the color of the dog to parallel his loosely rendered continuous line form. I pushed these colors until I felt his contours read believable. I exaggerated the darkness of his pupils and iris and contrasted that with white goauche for the whites of the eyes and left his muzzle very light so as to draw the viewer’s eye to his face.

This is not at all the end result of what I had pictured in my mind. However, I now have a painting that is creative, somewhat quirky and reads well enough to avoid my trashing it.

The true test will be when my daughter sees this. This is Abner, one of her rescue dogs. He “IS” quirky, energetic and a bit of a prankster. Perhaps that comes through in the color and the playful way I have approached painting him.

What is the message? Don’t give up! Masa paper presents a challenge. As an artist, I have the tools and the creativity to learn from whatever any particular painting is trying to teach me! I can change it to a mixed media if I have to. I can create contrast and push for the values I want there. I may surprise myself.

To view other masa paintings I have painted click here.

The above painting was created by using watercolor in conjunction with rice paper collage.  My watercolor students are currently exploring the use of rice papers in their paintings. For the first exercise, we painted a cruciform design on our paper. This is an exercise that Gerald Brommer suggests in his book Watercolor and Collage Workshop.

The image, above, is my initial cruciform design. He tells us we can splatter, work wet-in-wet, and  make small and large marks. One thing we needed to watch out for is to try to not “muddy” our colors in this stage. We waited for this intial design to dry before going on. If we were in a hurry this phase can be dried with a hair dryer.

We, next, tore or cut  pieces of textured manila and white rice papers and affixed them to our initial design using a glue we mixed ourselves. We used 4 parts acrylic matte medium with 1 part water as our glue. Use old brushes to brush the glue onto the paper (less is more) and then apply them to your composition in an interesting  pattern. Cut pieces of rice paper would appear to be more man-made structures and the torn pieces looked more like forms in nature. I have learned, from experience, that I need to be very careful to not brush the glue off the rice paper and onto the adjacent areas of watercolor paper as this changes the way my pigment lays on the paper.  Some rice papers are so thin that I can lay them on the surface of the watercolor paper and stroke the topside of the rice paper with my glue brush. The glue seeps through the porous paper and adheres that to the watercolor paper below. I then stroke gently and lift the excess glue from the top of that piece of rice paper. Once my pattern of glued papers is dry, I again paint into my design. I concentrate on colors that will not create “mud”, often using the colors I used in the initial design. I may, after the pigment is dry, incorporate more rice papers. Sometimes the values are not clear and the artist needs to use more papers to rescue the light values again. I decided my composition, above, fell into that category.

To finish my piece I used permanent white gouache to accent areas of lighter value and went in with my original darks and accented the shapes I wanted to darken with them.

I thoroughly enjoy working with watercolor and collage in this way. It frees me from being tied to reference material and allows for self exploration of texture, value and color. I create these with nothing in mind other than what the paper and pigment direct me to do as they mix and form in front of me.

Two other examples of this technique can be found here  and here.


Remember when I said I don’t paint anything fast? …and that it takes me F-O-R-E-V-E-R to finish something. This is a painting painted in one evening.  I have a soft spot for yellow houses. This house sits on a hill on the edge of a small man-made lake called Trader’s Point Lake north of Indianapolis. I took the photo reference sitting in my sister’s paddle boat right before that awful dry heat spell began. There are a few things I need to watch for when I paint quickly. In this painting, the lean of the house?  🙂  and that real hard edge to the right and on top of the foreground hedge (wish I had softened that).  I also think I could have had a little more fun with the house without harming the value pattern I had decided upon. My favorite thing about this painting is that Huge oak behind the Huge house and how they seem to be trying to outdo one another.  My goal with this painting, other than completing something in one evening, was to work on the value patterns to promote depth.  I used greens, violet, yellows, burnt sienna, halloween orange cerulean blue and a few dabs of prussian blue to paint this piece.

I live in a yellow house, just not this one.  🙂




I have two people to thank .  Without them, this image would not have occurred. It has been about a year ago, now,  that I received an email from Anne Michelsen of Bright Spirit Studio found here. She had read how much I enjoyed painting horses and offered me several photos of these lovely Belgian draft horses. Thank you Anne!

The other thank you goes to a dear friend that I paint with. We were together painting last weekend and I took the drawing of the above painting, along with the reference. When she viewed the reference she asked me if I was going to make the background the red featured in the reference. I said, “Oh no. That would look rather garish, don’t you think?” She replied she just loved the color and thought it would make an interesting finished painting. I worked on the horses’ heads and harness and was only about a fifth of the way done with this when I left that day. Her suggestion haunted me as I continued with the painting for she often has interesting vision and takes on art.  So, on Wednesday evening, with a surge of confidence, I painted RED! Oh my….was  it  RED!  No matter what I did which was to add harvest gold and burnt sienna,  it still came up RED, RED, RED!!!  Here’s where the painting talked.

It said, “I’m flat!”.

I said, “What?!?”


By this time, I had worked for four nights on this image and I was getting to the point I wanted it to be done. I remembered my drawing teacher telling me it is only a piece of paper and Don Andrews talking about how we cut ourselves off from learning when a painting becomes “too precious” to try something new.  I looked more carefully at the barn siding, and noticed that the red was very irregular and faded in places and there were stripes of the siding showing. Not wanting to render a background as detailed as my foreground I began to swish my brush over the red and wetting it in areas. I’d then quickly grab a paper towel and lift out what I had done.  I became interested and swished in more harvest gold and burnt sienna abstractly and went back and forth between lifting and adding until I had something that looked more like I wanted.  Just goes to show you that artists don’t often get to end up with their preconceived notion of what something should look like most of the time.  I thank Anne and my friend for this offering. I feel like the finished painting means so much more for the gifts along the way.

Belgians are the most commonly seen breed of draft horses we see the Amish use in this area of Indiana.

Debby Frisella talks about the color red here.


I am beginning to see some similarities in my work, especially in portraiture, animals and figures.  The top lion was painted this week. Bill is from a post in 2009.

I leave you with a sing-a-long.  I have probably sung this song more than any other and have never tired of it. Sometimes carrying it through a day with me, not able to get the tune out of my head.

Thank you to LittleUkeleleMonster for these lyrics!

Have a GREAT weekend Everyone!

Gone is that chance to go to the Super Bowl.  Oh my……  so SAD.

But, thank-you, Bears, for entertaining me all season and climbing for your goal. I will be watching next year, “GO BEARS!”

The above painting was started by my drawing the bloodhound with one continuous line. If you have followed my blog, you have seen several drawings where I use a continuous line approach. I then painted the colors and  worked the watercolor in using the wet in wet approach to achieve the effects I wanted.  I left highlights white like I have spoken of in several posts recently. I painted on hotpress paper, a non-textured surface. It was a joy to incorporate many of the things I have been studying into one painting.

This led me to thinking about the work we all do, specifically in regards to art and different interpretations. I have painted this very same bloodhound differently using another approach.

In this version, I had placed a grid over the reference photo and then drawn a very distorted grid with the same number of spaces on my coldpress paper. Two completely different interpretations of the same dog! I suppose, to some, this is not such a wonderful discovery but I think it is a marvelous thing to remember when we sit down to create. I rarely paint the same reference the same way each time, even if I try.

When I view all the art there is available on these art blogs, I keep this in mind. I enjoy the journey of everyone’s individual take on an inspiration whether it be in writing, photography, two-dimensional or three-dimensional art. You ALL teach me and ENTERTAIN me! I thank-you for that!!!!