Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Painting a Pine Tree

My students often want to learn how I paint the trees in my landscape paintings. Here is a quick demonstration on how to paint a pine tree. First of all, it's important to plan ahead with thumbnail sketches and drawings to understand the way the tree grows and the different values and colors it portrays. Then I start the tree with a number 10 round brush, or larger. I use very wet paint and stroke the lightest values in the direction the branches flow. Observation is very important! This first wash was accomplished with a combination of cerulean blue and perylene green.
I build the bulk of the tree , trying to allow room between the branches for the background and additional values. I don't want it to look like a big triangle! I like the look of varying the width and length of the strokes to portray the way the branches hang. In general, on a pine tree, the branches will be thicker, longer and more dense at the bottom of the tree.

Next, I begin to add darker values to create the illusion of shadow and depth. I have to remember to paint around some of the first, lighter, layer and sometimes to paint right on top of it. Layering the paint this way creates more variation in the colors. Again the quality of the stroke is very important. The stroke must represent the way the branches hang or sway. Some pines bows swing out and up, others sort of hang down. This wash was perylene green with a touch of permanent sap green.

I continue with layers of color, using a little less each time. This shadow area was created with variations of perylene green, and a combination of permanent sap green with a bit of burnt sienna. There are so many beautiful green pigments to try, and thousands of colors can be created by physically mixing them! I think that is half the fun.

The final touches are added sparingly. The trunk is added by touching it in the blank areas that show between the branches, and then at the bottom. The branches of an evergreen are usually well-hidden under the foilage. So I stick to adding the vertical trunk, and only a little where I know it will show.

Voila! My tree. Now if this were winter, I would paint around the white snow, but since I am really looking for spring, I will stick to the green!

This is a good example of how my classes work. We usually work on a project together. I demonstrate one step at a time, and then the students practice. We work on techniques, washes, brush work, etc. using real projects to see how the techniques are applied to a painting. Lots of fun!

Check out my list of classes and workshops at: http://watercolorworksart.com/classes

I have a booklet that describes how to paint several different kinds of trees in detail, with lots of photo references, a sample project drawing to trace, and lots of information on how to paint trees in watercolor. Visit my etsy shop to view and purchase.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Painted in Winter

This is my latest commission piece titled, Woodland Drive. It was commissioned as an anniversary gift for the couple who have lived here for many years. This piece posed several challenges for me. First of all, it is only about 10 x 14 inches. I am used to working bigger, so this piece didn't take as long, but I couldn't work in some of the details that I might have if it would have been a larger painting. This was good for me, though, since I have a very detailed style; I ended up working a tiny bit looser. The other challenge is that I usually take my own reference photos. I received some excellent reference photos from the client, but since I needed to see the actual home and take some notes to get the details correctly, I had to drive out to the home in the middle of February. The day I drove out was sunny and crisp, but we had lots of snow this winter, so everything was covered in white. My challenge was to paint what I saw, and use the reference photos from the client to create the summer scene. I really like the finished product and I hope the homeowner will enjoy it as well. If you would like to see some of my other Garden Portraits visit my website: http://watercolorworksart.com/GardenPortraits.htm

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A New Masterpiece!

Announcing the latest masterpiece in our family: Lily, weighing 5 lbs, 10 oz and 18 inches tall. She arrived on St. Patricks day. This is our first grandchild and she is beautiful. Mom and baby are both doing well and dad is truly proud! We are so happy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thinking Spring

Thinking about spring...Hmm. Tulips, daffodils, GREEN! We still have some snow in our yard even though the temperatures have been in the 40's lately. I haven't noticed any substantial buds on our dead-looking trees. I am not very patient this time of year. I want to see green and smell that wonderful scent of spring! If I can't have spring, thank the Lord I have my paintings to look at and enjoy the memories from last year. This painting was done for a couple in my neighborhood. In fact, I pass by this house any time I drive into town. They have always kept such good care of their place and it is charming. I stopped at a garage sale they were having last summer and we began talking. Once they discovered that I painted Garden Portraits, they asked me if I would paint one for them. I was so excited. I have always loved their home and it was a pleasure to paint. Their garden along the fence is always changing throughout the seasons and it is so cheerful. Now, when I look at the print that I have of the piece, I can relive the memories of how much I enjoyed painting it!
You can view a larger image of this painting on my website: http://watercolorworksart.com/HeppHouse.htm

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Trip to Fenton

Last summer I met a woman, Cherie, at an art show in Flint. She invited me to come to her home to take some reference photos for garden paintings. She thought I would be especially interested in an adorable little milk shed she and her husband rescued just in the nick of time from demolition. I really loved the shed and the little garden she had planted around it. Her shed was decorated with antique garden tools and a little sign that read, "Naughty Pines". Here is the finished painting. I tried to capture the feel of the sunlight as it trickled through the high tree branches. The shed was mostly in shade during the time of day that I took the photos, but a tiny bit of sun was peeking through. She also gave me a tour of her historical neighborhood. What a treat for me! I hope to see Cherie again soon and take her up on her promise to show me more charming spots around her hometown.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Starved Michigan

It looks like spring might actually make an appearance in Michigan this year! I have already poured through my seed and bulb catalogs, so now I am itching to get out into the garden! I watched the weather and it looks like we have a very small warming trend this week; it may actually get up to 50 degrees on Friday afternoon! I know it will be chilly and the snow will still be melting, but I plan to take a little tour of my garden and make a list of what I would like to do this year.
I love lots of color in my garden, especially because I love to paint the flowers that show up to visit. Most of my garden is filled with perennials, and then I get a few annuals to fill in the areas where color may be lacking through one part of the season.
These flowers were painted in 2004. The "models" were from my friend, Suzanne's garden. I called this piece Smiling Faces, because these daisies were so cheerful, colorful and full of character, that it seemed as though they were cheering me on as I painted. I have really enjoyed doing close-ups of flowers and I never get tired of them. When painting a close-up view it's like studying a detailed landscape. It is such a beautiful miracle to watch a garden grow and to focus on some of those incredible little details. If you are living in a warm climate, send some of that warm weather to our spring-starved Michigan, will you?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Students

I teach a Drop-In Watercolor class nearly every Friday morning. Last Friday we worked on developing hard and soft edges and used a still life set up for our subject matter. I think the thing I enjoy most about teaching is that even though many times we are all working on the same subject, with the same colors, and working step-by-step together, every piece of artwork is different. Each piece shows the student's style and personality coming through. Thanks to my students for posing for the photo!
More information on my classes can be found at: http://watercolorworksart.com/Classes

Friday, March 7, 2008

Watercolor Demonstrations

Twice in the past month I have given watercolor demonstrations for art guilds in the southeast Michigan area. The groups have been very gracious. I especially enjoyed the Romeo Art Guild, who paid attention to every detail of my demonstration, asked great questions and gave me such a warm welcome. The photo was taken by my husband, who usually accompanies me and supports me in living my dream. It was taken at the Romeo Guild demonstration. I was showing the group how I "build" a simple landscape with trees. Most of the artists in attendance painted in other mediums so they were curious as to how I developed a painting without using a lot of masking techniques. I really enjoyed this guild and the warm reception they gave me. Many of the group's members brought in artwork for the members to critique. Their work was wonderful. There were oil paintings, pastels, and watercolors. What a treat for me to see the talents of the group members!
I will be at the Shelby Fine Art Society next week giving another demonstration. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Work in Progress

Click the link below to view a series of photos taken while I was painting a recent work. I was asked to paint a series of wine pictures, which will be available on my website soon. I love painting reflective surfaces and these were fun to execute. The challenge is to look for the abstract shapes and to refrain from thinking of "glasses" or "wine bottle". The other challenge is to create drastic value changes to add depth and drama to the painting. This piece was painted on a full sheet of Arches 300 lb. cold press watercolor paper. The finished size is 24.5 inches in height by 17.25 inches in width. To view the progress photos go to: http://watercolorworksart.com/simpleviewer/index.html

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I have decided to join the blogger world! I hope that I can share my painting inspirations and experiences in a new and interesting way.
I specialize in Garden Portraits in watercolor. Throughout the spring and summer months I visit gardens and garden tours to shoot photo references, sketch and sometimes paint plein air. Most of my commission work consists of these garden portraits, which are such a pleasure to paint. Not only do I visit beautiful gardens, the home-owners share the many stories of why these gardens and homes are so important to them. I meet some wonderful and interesting people in my travels and I love what I am able to learn, as I am a gardener also!
Left, is one of my favorite pieces which I painted in August of 2006. It is called Suzanne's Front Porch. Suzanne Krueger is a friend of mine who has been involved with the Franklin Garden Club for years. The year that her garden was on the garden tour, I took the reference photos for this painting. She has a wonderful sense of design and I just love visiting her garden. It has always been an inspiration to me! One of my favorite parts of this painting was developing the slate walkway and steps. I used 14 or 15 layers of paint to create the little nuances of color and shadows in the stone. I love Suzanne's romantic touch of the pink rose print fabric on the little table.
You can see more of my garden portraits on my website: http://watercolorworksart.com/GardenPortraits.htm