Jingle Bells

Doodlewash has issued a watercolor painting challenge for the month of December.  Today’s prompt is “Bells” so here are some jingle bells that have been in my button box for many years.  Their little “tink-tink” sounds brought back many memories of my children playing with them.  And my daughter, who was very quiet, wore them on her shoes so that I could find her when she was walking around!

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bells, watercolor, 6″ x 6″

Where is the Warm in Winter?

“As the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”

The temperature here hovers around freezing and the predicted wintry mix falls as cold rain.  This kind of rain feel colder than snow to me, which is probably related to my excitement at walking in the falling snow.  But here in my studio, I can have snow if I want it!

Friendship Warms the Heart, watercolor, 7″ x 5″

What warms your heart on a cold winter day?

Painting a Tree in Watercolor

I made this tutorial in order simplify painting a tree for my watercolor students. There are many ways to paint a tree, but this one has given me the greatest success in teaching how to think about the light-to-dark process of painting a deciduous tree.

Exercise for painting a deciduous tree in watercolor

This exercise uses three main steps for painting the tree.

  1. Using a light value of yellows and greens, paint one big shape to represent all the leaves. Make sure that the edges are irregular and “leafy.”  Leave some holes for the birds to fly through.  (The edges of the holes should be irregular also.)  Let this dry.
  2. Using a darker value of green, paint in some shadow shapes in the leaves on top of the first layer.  Only paint about 30% of the initial shape.  The arrow on the page is a reminder that the sun is coming from that direction, so the shadows should be mainly away from that side. Let this dry.  If the shadow shapes look pasted on, soften a few of the edges and let it dry.
  3. This is the hardest step to conceptualize.  Starting with the trunk, paint it down into the grass and up to the bottom of the tree.  Weave the trunk up through the leaves, making it thinner as it gets higher and branches out.  Only paint on the darker green and in the bird holes. (Because we want to suggest that the lightest leaves are in the sunlight and closer to us, imagine the branch going behind these leaves and coming out the other side.) The shadowed leaves and the bird holes are wonderful opportunities to show the branches dividing and going in a different direction.  Like the trunk, the branches get thinner the further out they are. (This tree could have had many more branches and twigs.)

I left a space on the left for my students to paint step 1 while looking at the example. Then they can use my first stage painting to practice step 2, and my step 2 to practice putting in the trunk and branches.

This is an exercise that I suggest you DO try at home!

Violin or Flamenco Dancer?

It is my pleasure to introduce “Camilla Serafina” who is here to dance for you.  Can you hear the haunting flamenco music?

While we are digging out after this weekend’s blizzard, she is on her way to Florida, to dance in the New Score Chamber Orchestra’s auction fundraiser.

Many thanks to my husband for his help in completing this project!

Will She Dance?

I wrote in December that I had been given a decommissioned violin to turn into a piece of art to be auctioned off at a fund raiser for the New Score Chamber Orchestra.  As I looked at and held this instrument, the idea that resonated most with me was that of a flamenco dancer.DSCN1039

So I stripped the violin of its remaining strings, pegs, and tailpiece and purchased some black and red fabric.


My husband built a stand for the violin, both to hold it upright and to give it the illusion of having legs under the skirt.


The bow became the arms, with the frog and the tip acting as hands.


Metal plates screwed into the joints allowed me to pose the arms at the angles I wanted.  Then the plates and screws were hidden under electrical shrink tubing.


A souvenier fan from my niece’s wedding was cut down and painted to become part of her costume.  Here you can also see two of the pegs and part of the tail piece that became her face.


Amazingly, as soon as we attached the arms, she took on the persona of a dancer.

Now to dress her!

I made a petticoat to hold the ruffled skirt away from the box stand and then began making her ruffled dress.  I have made clothes for myself and my children, usually from store-bought patterns, but I don’t know of a pattern company that has a dress pattern for a violin, so I was on my own.  As I was debating gluing fabric on the front, back and sides for a bodice, my daughter mentioned that she would miss the sound holes if I covered them up.  In what was actually a simpler option, paint would became the top of the dress with a ruffle to further define the bodice and a ruffled skirt glued on below.