Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
This is a piece I painted last February as a part of a four painting series of wine paintings. You can see the others on my website in the Still Life Section of my gallery.
Stay well and safe and have a healthy and prosperous new year. Thanks so much for visiting!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!
May God bless you this Christmas season and throughout the New Year!

Debbie Johnson
Watercolor Works

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Final Apple and Napkin Study in Watercolor

Here is the final painting! I went over many areas with some subtle washes to define and refine.
This piece is posted on my etsy shop for sale, if you are interested.

Thanks for visiting

Hope you have a Wonderful Christmas!

Almost Done Apple Study in Watercolor

Now I have added a wash onto the apple. I used a slightly damp kitchen sponge to soften the white areas of the apple. After allowing that to dry, I applied another wet wash of Permanent Rose to tie the apple into one unit. I also, after the apple was dry, used VanDyke Brown and French Ultramarine Blue to add the details to shadow areas in the stem and shadow at the bottom of the apple.
I used these colors throughout, to deepen the shadows and refine the piece.

More Apple Still Life...

I have added another glaze of French Ultramarine Blue onto the napkin. Each glaze creates a different value. Keeping the glazes wet and transparent adds to the eventual depth in the color.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Adding Shadows to the Apple Still Life

Prussian Blue is used here in some of the shadow areas on the napkin, around the apple and in the shadow on the table under the napkin.
Other colors that work well are Pthalo Blue and Indigo. Be careful with these colors, however, because they are very intense, dark and staining. Staining colors don't lift well, if you decide later that the application was too dark. So use lots of water and apply these colors frugally.

Apple Still Life in Watercolor

I have added some Permanent Alizarin Crimson to the apple and napkin. Alizarin Crimson is a cool red, so it works especially well in the shadow areas.
I have glazed the red over the blue in a small area of the napkin to the right of the apple. I will do more glazing on the napkin soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Apple Study in Watercolor Continued

The technique used for the top of the flower pot is again used in the bottom of the flower pot. I have dropped VanDyke Brown into the very wet wash again to create shadow areas. This technique also helps to create the organic-look of water stains. On the left center of the pot I added a little water back into the damp wash to create a "bloom".
I think one of the toughest things for people who are just learning watercolor is to use enough water. There is a reason why it is called WATERcolor. The primary ingredient in your application will be water. Of course, you will add various amounts of pigment to the water, but the most important element is water. Sometimes you will apply very wet paint to dry paper, and sometimes you will wet the paper first, then add some less wet pigment - but water is what keeps your washes smooth, controls texture (or lack of texture) and controls the value of the color on your paper. Paint that is applied too dry will lose it's vibrancy and freshness. It will look dull and dead. So, remember - water, water, and more water.
An excellent book on this topic is: Mastering Atmosphere & Mood in Watercolor, by Joseph Zbukvic, available through Northlight books. Beautiful artwork and a very clear description of how to use different water to pigment ratios.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Painting the Flower Pot in the Apple Study

For this installment of the apple and napkin study, I want to get a glaze of color on the flower pot. I have mixed a very wet puddle on my palette of Burnt Sienna, VanDyke Brown and Quinicridone Gold. I applied this wash to the top of the flower pot and then, while the glaze was still wet, I applied some of the individual colors directly into the wash, in a wet-in-wet style. I used VanDyke Brown to emphasize the shadows directly under the leaves, being sure to apply it only to one side of the leaf to indicate a shadow. Remember, the light will usually be stronger from one direction, which will cast shadows in the opposite direction.
I like adding the colors directly into the wash when creating a flower pot because it replicates the various rust and water marks that usually exist on the clay pot.
This glaze must dry before I apply the next wash onto the bottom of the pot. A hair dryer works well to dry the wash if you are in a hurry to move on to the next step.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Installment on the Apple Study

Using both Hookers Green and Sap Green I have added some very simple shadow work to the leaf area. This area is not the focal point, so I have to work hard to keep it simple and loose. Because I just love those details I have a really hard time not going in there and painting every stem and vein.
To strengthen the values in the shadow areas of leaves there are some nice tricks with color you can use. One, use a cool blue wash (either French Ultramarine or Pthalo or Prussian), keeping the wash wet so it remains transparent. Another way to deepen shadow areas is to use a color that is opposite on the color wheel. So, in the case of green leaves, adding a cool red, like Permanent Alizarin Crimson, will greatly intensify the values. I have also used VanDyke Brown for this type of application, but it is a very grainy color, so if you want to wash to look clean and clear, use Alizarin instead. Keep these washes wet and transparent to keep the most life in your colors. Pigments that are applied too thick will look dull and lifeless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apple Study in Watercolor Continued

It's time to add a wash of color to the background! I mixed some Indigo, with a little French Ultramarine Blue and a touch of VanDyke Brown. I started with a number 10 round brush and worked from the leaf area out toward the right edge of the paper. Once I worked around the leaves, I quickly picked up my one inch flat brush and completed the flat wash. I tried not to brush an area more than once. I applied a "row" of paint, then scooped up more pigment and just barely touched the brush to the already wet area, as I applied it to the next "row".

After completing the right side, I turned my paper around and used the same procedure to finish the left side. Remember that it's fine (and sometimes beneficial!) to turn your board as you go. Especially when working with large, wet washes, it is a good idea to allow gravity to move the paint around the wet area. It eliminates some of the brushwork, and helps the pigment to flow evenly. Notice that the value of the paint lightened quite a bit after drying!

On another note, as the holidays are quickly speeding by, I am planning to get my teaching schedule organized and I will be posting upcoming classes and workshops soon. If you are interested, please visit my website:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Apple Study in Watercolor Continued

For this section of the painting I have added a medium wash in French Ultramarine Blue to the napkin. The napkin is plaid, so I will have several washes to glaze on to make the total effect. I used a very wet wash and the puddles actually help to glaze shadow and texture in this wash. I used darker values behind the apple and on the edges of folds.

It's good to squint your eyes to better see the values in your reference photos.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How To Paint Trees Booklet Available

I have recently updated my How To Paint Trees in Watercolor Booklet. It is chock full of techniques, step-by-step instructions and photos for painting trees in watercolor. You can now purchase this little gem on my etsy webstore. If it's sold, just send me an email and I will post it again! You can either have it shipped as a booklet or you can have it sent to you as a pdf file and print it yourself.

Apple Study in Watercolor Number Three

The table now has the first glaze of color. I will add more details later. As I move around the painting I have decided to add a very wet wash of Aureolin Yellow and Sap green to the leaves on the plant at the top of the painting. Again, for my underpainting I have used a wet-in-wet wash. The blending of colors gives a lime-green look to the leaves. I dropped in the Sap Green in areas where I wanted to create the soft illusion of shadows. Later I will add more detail to this, but for now I am happy with the wash.
The painting is beginning to lose it's "flat" look. When painting realism, it's important to use the lights and shadows as a guide for how and where to apply the paint. I start out rather loose, then add details onto that foundation of color and value.
Check back soon for another update on this painting!
For more images of my work, please visit my website:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Apple Study in Watercolor Number Two

For this painting, I want to create a wooden table for the foundation. The first thing I do is wet the entire table area with lots of water. The water will keep the pigment edges soft and will allow any additional color I add to blend. Lots of water is required for this stage so the paper will stay moist and provide time to work. Keep the other areas of the image dry. For instance, I painted the clear water AROUND the apple and napkin.

Now I add a solution of Burnt Sienna and Brown Madder. This should be relatively wet, yet strong enough to see some color. It will become quite diluted as it is added to the very wet paper, and therefore lighten quite a bit as it dries. I continually tip and roll the board so the colors move about on the wet surface.

Now, while this mixture is still wet, working quickly, I use my Number 12 Round Brush to add a fairly strong, yet wet solution of VanDyke Brown. I don't want this to totally blend in. I just want softened edges. This will provide a foundation for the look of wood grain on the table. I apply this mixture in "V" shapes to replicate the shades of the grainy wood.

This procedure is continued with the same colors until I like the look. It is important not to scrub the paint brush on the paper at this stage. I just want to use the brush to push the puddles around and to drop wet paint onto the wet surface.
The more the board it tipped and tilted, the more the colors will blend and soften. Gravity and water will do a lot of work for you if you put the brush down and tip the board/paper around! It's lots of fun. The area that was wet initially will keep the paint from running further as long as the paper isn't tipped so drastically that the puddles run beyond those areas painted with water. (Hope this makes sense!)

More to come on this painting this weekend. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Apple Study in Watercolor

I have a new painting in progress and I wanted to share it with you. I used two different photo references for this piece, both taken from my own "stuff". One photo references the apple, napkin, and the bottom of the flower pot. The other photo was my reference for the flowers in the container. I want to make the apple and the napkin the focal point. I would like to keep the composition very simple.
The drawing is transferred onto the paper using a graphite stick on the back of my drawing. Then I tape the 300 lb. Kilimanjaro paper to a foam core board. It's important to be sure at least 1/2 inch of tape covers the paper so that when it gets wet it doesn't lift the tape and curl the paper.
I washed water over the image of the apple, leaving the areas I want to keep white dry. As I flow pigments into the water, I work to avoid the dry areas so the whites will stay crisp and clean. I use Permanent Rose, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Aureolin Yellow with only a little water. I don't need much water because the colors will be diluted in the water that I have already applied to the paper to control the wash area.
I have used Permanent Rose and Cadmium Red for the flower petals. And I applied them in a wet manner so the colors run together a little.
More coming soon on this piece. You can follow this blog by clicking on the icon at the left of the page.
More on my artwork :

Monday, December 8, 2008

Finished Painting - Geranium in Watercolor!

The finished painting!
To view more of my flower paintings (and other pieces in a variety of topics) visit my website:
I'll have to get busy this week and start another painting and I will take photos along the way to show you, once again, how I build a painting.
My classes are set up such that I bring in a drawing and photo reference, and paint with my students. I demonstrate every step of the process so each student can learn how to develop a watercolor painting, and begin to have their own style, once they learn the process. We have lots of fun. Hope you can join us. I also have workshops about once a month. You can register online!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Red Geranium Nearly Complete

I am just tweaking areas that can use depth. I continue to use the same colors used previously to glaze little washes throughout the painting. Each glaze, whether in the same color or a different color, will enhance the values and intensify the colors. Using subtle variations of soft and hard edges also adds depth and realism to the piece.
My next post should be of the final piece.
Thanks for visiting!

To learn about my classes and workshops please visit my website:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Painting a Red Geranium - No. Five

At this stage of the painting I have continued to add Burnt Sienna to areas of shadow in the stems, leaves and shadow areas. I have also used Hooker's Green to develop some of the shading in the lower leaves. Notice that I have used both hard and soft edges. To soften an edge I apply the green, then use plain water with a damp brush to touch the edge of the still wet paint. The pigment flows into the wet area and the edge softens. It's important to pull the water from the dry area into the wet pigment. If I pulled the water from the pigment out, I may cause a bloom, or I would just continue to pull the pigment out and still have a funny edge where the pigment dried.
I used Perelyne Maroon and Rose Dore to glaze the flower in subtle wet washes. I use different colors to glaze the petals that are facing different directions to give the illusion of light reflecting in different directions.
More to come soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Red Geranium Painting Installment No. Four

This particular geranium had a beautiful dark variegation on the outside of the leaves. This was added with a brush-dance type of stroke (holding the brush straight up and down and using the point of the brush only), using a number 10 round brush with a good point and natural hair. I used Burnt Sienna for the color and I used it very wet. The water is what gives the variation in the values of the pigment. I painted this very wet onto the dry surface of the leaf.
I also used the Burnt Sienna to create some tiny details in the shadows of the flower petals. This piece is moving along quickly!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Red Geranium Painting Installment No. Three

I have added a very wet, Sap Green wash to the leaf area. As I come close to the red bud at the bottom, I allowed the green to come over the red a very tiny bit to create a shadow where the green leaves surround the petal. I added small touches of Hooker's Green in some of the shadow areas to intensify the value. I allowed some water to spill into the bottom of the large clump of leaves in the center. I think the underpainting, when glazing like this, should have some variations in value and tone to add subtle depth and interest to the subsequent glazes.
Keeping the glazes light and transparent gives me the control I like, and prevents me from getting too dark or opaque with the colors too quickly.
I still have room in my Friday morning Beginner's Watercolor Class. If you would like to know more about my classes and workshops, please click here to visit my website.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Red Geranium Painting Installment No. Two

This is the second installment of How to Paint a Red Geranium.
At this stage of the painting I have used a cool red, Alizarin Crimson, to paint some cool shadow areas in the flower petals. The value (lightness or darkness) of the shadow areas is important. If it is too light the painting will look pale and washed-out. If the value is too dark, too soon, subsequent glazes will just look dull instead of transparent.
I have also used a very wet, thinned wash of Scarlet Lake to brighten and enhance some of the warmer petals. I don't plan to do a background wash for this painting, so I am leaving it alone and concentrating on the flower and leaves.
It's important to use a variety of edges, both crisp and soft. Check back for the next installment, hopefully tomorrow!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Red Geranium in Watercolor Process

A few posts ago I showed a red geranium painting that I did with my students. I thought it would be fun to show you how that painting was developed.
First, a drawing was done from a photo I took of a geranium in a flower pot in my back yard. I greatly simplified the picture by leaving out the background and only focusing on one stem of petals with corresponding leaves.
After applying the drawing to my watercolor paper I have applied the first wash with Winsor Red, a Winsor Newton color. I used a varied wash with light and dark values to provide a foundation of color on which to layer future glazes. I will post the next stage of this painting soon.
Classes are starting this week, but I am always open to new students anytime. Stop by my website to see the schedule - you can register online! Click here for class information.