I love the look of freshly fallen snow, especially before anyone has walked on it.

Painting snow scenes in watercolor presents it’s own challenge, since snow is white.  But the snow is actually different subtle colors in the sun and shadows, and making that believable takes planning.

Last Night's Snow - value sketch, pencil

Last Night’s Snow – value sketch, pencil

This picture started with a pencil sketch to determine where I wanted to place objects.  I kept in mind that if I wanted snow on the top of the fence to stand out, there needed to be something darker behind it – maybe a tree off the picture plane casting a shadow.  The sky and mountains behind the barn would show off the layer of snow on the roof. The snow on the ground behind the evergreen on the left had to be slightly darker so the snow on the branches would show up.

Last Night's Snow #1

Last Night’s Snow #1

I made a sketch on my watercolor paper and then applied masking fluid to save the white of the paper for snow on the trees and the fence posts.  The barn’s roof and the field were big enough that I would be able to paint around those spots.  I painted in a sky and lifted out some wispy clouds.  I painted in some snow-capped mountains and the shadowed side of the evergreen trees.  To get an idea of how the darks would look, I painted in the shadowed side of the barn.

Painting evergreen trees with snow on them is backwards from the way I want to paint them.  I want to paint the trunk, then the branches, and then put snow on them.  Instead, I have to save the white of the snowy areas, paint in some shadows, then the branches, and then the darken some areas to create deeper spots in the tree.  After taking the masking fluid off, I can correct the shapes and add shadows to the snow.  Softening some edges also helps make the shapes look like they all belong to the same tree.

Last Night's Snow, watercolor, 10" x 14"

Last Night’s Snow, watercolor, 10″ x 14″

Adding shadows to the snow field gives it some slight hills. And although my value study called for a drive going to the barn, I liked the unbroken snow so much that I changed my mind and left it out. The sun shining on the side of the barn, the weeds, and the fence in the foreground adds some warmth to this snowy winter picture.

Today we have sleet and freezing rain coming down and this artist is ready for winter to end!

We have several inches of snow on the ground and have been having very cold temperatures, which makes it easy to stay in the studio and paint.  I’ve been experimenting with winter evergreens, trying out various color combinations and snow-laden clouds.

Hilltop Spruce, watercolor, 7" x 5"

Hilltop Spruce, watercolor, 7″ x 5″

Fanciful Firs, watercolor and gauche, 7" x 5"

Fanciful Firs, watercolor and gouache, 7″ x 5″










Magic in the Air, watercolor and gauche, 5" x 7"

Magic in the Air, watercolor and gouache, 5″ x 7″


Does one of these remind you of a special time or place?

Yesterday I had visitors, and while their mother and grandfather worked on their violin/guitar duo, we went into my studio.  Having my grandchildren in my studio is a special time for me.  At ages three and four, they still wonder uncritically at their ability to make marks on paper, and enjoy the fluidity of colors coming off a brush.

Visitors to my studio

Visitors to my studio

Enjoying colors

Enjoying colors








After enjoying the colors separately, this little one decided to try dipping the brush into successive colors, going all the way around the box of paint pans. “Hmmm. . . Brown!”  She rinsed the brush and picked up all the colors in a different order – still brown!  (Rinse, repeat.  Rinse repeat, with glee.)


Many adult watercolor painters spend a lot of time learning this same lesson: too many colors mixed together make “mud brown,” however their discovery is not usually accompanied by the same degree of satisfaction as this little imp felt.

Tropical!, watercolor, 5" x 7"

Tropical!, watercolor, 5″ x 7″









One of my adult students is painting a series of paintings using a pineapple as a motif.  I did a quick demonstration painting to show that there are ways to approach the subject that break away from the actual image in front of her.

I used three pigments (new gamboge, quinacridone magenta, and cobalt blue) mixed on the paper, a recognizable silhouette and some layering of color for value changes to get this colorful pineapple.  It’s not my usual style, but much like my granddaughters, I enjoyed putting sweeps of color on the page and watching the colors blend where they touched each other (without making mud brown).

Or, a picture is worth more than a thousand words, especially when words tend to confuse the issue.

At present, our church building is configured with pews attached to the floor and a platform at the front so that the center area is raised with curved stairs across the center front and a wheelchair ramp on the left side.  Not all of the front area is raised, and the grand piano sits on the floor in front of the ramp on the left side. On the right side is another area at floor level occupied by the praise band: guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, occasionally a violin, and vocalists.  Is that clear, or would a picture help?

Church PlatformSome members of the worship committee have been looking at the current configuration and wondering how we could get the grand piano and the praise band on the same side of the sanctuary so that this wonderful piano could be used more.  Because of the way a grand piano opens, the instrument is better on the left side of the platform, but there isn’t room for the rest of the musicians since the wheelchair ramp is there.  So, what if . . .

What if the platform were changed so that the wheelchair ramp was on the right side?  And while we’re at it, could we put the pulpit in the center?  And do away with the curved steps and just build the platform straight across the entire room? What would that look like?  Words tended to confuse the issue, so I was asked to do a sketch:

Church platform idea, watercolor, 6" x 9"

Church platform idea, watercolor, 6″ x 9″

While I was sketching, someone came up and looked over my shoulder.  Not knowing my purpose, he pointed out that I had forgotten the ramp on the left side.  When I pointed out that I had put it on the right side, he commented that it would be an expensive construction project to move it.  My reply, “Not for me! I’m an artist and I can do it for the price of a piece of paper and some paint.”

The committee met and reconsidered their plan, now that a visual aid was available.  They wondered, “What if . . .the ramp were not moved?”  Doing the sketch again, this time in my studio, allowed me to straighten out the lines and strengthen the colors.

Church platform idea #2, watercolor, 6" x 9"

Church platform idea #2, watercolor, 6″ x 9″

When was the last time that a picture made your communication easier?


My husband and I recently drove across the United States and back again.  The motivation for the trip was delivery of an antique grandfather clock (circa 1790) that has been in my husband’s family since about 1940.  We felt that the time was right for it to become part of our son and daughter-in-law’s abode.  So we drove across the northern part of the country in mid-October, as the leaf color was at its peak.  We stopped at several places for me to sketch along the way, but most of my journal from the trip is something that I sketched while we were in motion, or a scene that I put down after my turn driving was over.  So the following scene is not a specific place, but more of a compilation of several places I saw along the way.

Autumn in the Mountains, watercolor, 5" x 7"

Autumn in the Mountains, watercolor, 5″ x 7″

The last time I painted this old Chevy truck, I was asked to paint it again, but this time showing the barrels that are stacked haphazardly on the back with pots of plants sticking out the tops.  The weather was nice today and Greenstreet Gardens, where this truck is part of the display, is starting to put out the holiday decorations, so I thought I’d better get to work!

Pumpkins 4 Sale, watercolor, 5" x 7"

Pumpkins 4 Sale, watercolor, 5″ x 7″

The changing colors of the trees has inspired me to paint some more “splatter trees.”  Watercolor pigments are tapped off my brush onto the paper in a random fashion and then sprayed with water so that many of the droplets run together. After this is dry, I go back into the splattered shape and find where the trunk and branches of the tree should go.

The brightest colors are the masses of leaves in the sunlight and are closest to the viewer, so the trunk and branches go behind these shapes.  Darker areas are leaf masses in the shadows and areas without color are the “bird holes,” (left so that the birds can fly through the tree without bumping their heads!)  The branches go through these areas, making sure that they are connected to the trunk in a logical manner.

The Daily Post’s current challenge is “Nighttime,” a chance to display pictures from that shadowy time of the day, with “all the rich textures they can create, and of all the ambivalent, intriguing stories they can tell.”

Summer Nights Passing, watercolor, 29" x 21"  This piece was inspired by a musical composition of the same name by Frederic Glesser and was part of my first solo show in conjunction with the New Score Orchestra's concert in Orlando, Florida

Summer Nights Passing, watercolor, 29″ x 21″ This piece was inspired by a musical composition of the same name by Frederic Glesser and was part of my first solo show in conjunction with the New Score Orchestra’s concert in Orlando, Florida

To be able to paint this nighttime picture, I had my father make his fingers into pretend fireflies and had his three-year old great-grandson chase the fireflies.  I took a daytime photo and was able to make the figure into the silhouette in this watercolor nighttime painting.

I am participating in an art show with the Muddy Creek Artists Guild this weekend at Greenstreet Gardens, a local nursery.  One of their display props is an old truck, which was used last fall as a platform for a giant pumpkin and then a decorated Christmas tree.  I have been intrigued now for almost a year by this derelict that has so much character.  Today I took an hour and painted this truck in its current setting, covered with sweet potato vines and other plants.

Love Me or Leave (Leaf) Me, watercolor, 5" x 7"

Love Me or Leave (Leaf) Me, watercolor, 5″ x 7″

When I was taking watercolor classes from Gwen Bragg I would often hear her say, “Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit.”  Value, or how light or dark a color is, allows us to distinguish between shapes.  Changes in value show us form within shapes.  Think of looking at a black and white photo.  Does your brain know which colors would be there?

Broken color is a technique Gwen taught us to illustrate this principle.  Mixing up each color in puddles of different values and then dropping the colors randomly into the shapes while maintaining the correct value gives a painting with lots of color – not the “correct” color for each shape, but the shapes are still recognizable.

Barns in Broken Color, watercolor, 5" x 7"

Barns in Broken Color, watercolor, 5″ x 7″

This is a one-hour study that I did recently while sitting in my booth at an outdoor art festival.  I had a drawing of these barns in one of my sketchbooks, and was able to stop between painting the different sections in order to answer questions or talk to patrons about the art in the booth.


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