Tree Studies

I don’t usually start doing tree studies until autumn, but in teaching one of my students how to paint a landscape, we stepped away from the whole scene to practice single trees. I’d forgotten how much I like doing these!

First, I used the lightest color to paint the whole mass of leaves, making the edges said “leaf shapes” and leaving some holes for the birds.

When that layer was dry, I added the shadow shapes using a darker value. Softening some of the edges of the shadow shapes helps blend them in with the shapes in the light. When that layer was dry, I painted in the trunk and branches, weaving the branches behind the lightest leaves.

These studies are small, about the right size for making into greeting cards.

“Do you feel like you are selling your children?”

Sometimes people ask me, “Do you feel like you are selling your children when you sell your art?” And I smile and reply that its more like having one of my children get married. I am thrilled that someone else likes them enough to have them in their home!

Three weeks ago I was out painting in the garden of a marina and as I finished, a group was going by on their way to a boat. They stopped and complimented me on the painting and enquired about my web site. I gave them a business card, picked up my gear, and went home for lunch. A couple of days later, I received an email asking if the picture was for sale. This resulted in a studio tour and the purchase of several of my pieces. This was so encouraging that I felt a hand-painted card was in order for a thank you note.

Yellow Rose Card, watercolor, 4.5 x 6
Yellow Rose Card, watercolor, 4.5 x 6

#11 of 120 Paintings – Positive and Negative Painting


Ferns, watercolor, 3.5″ x 5.25″

I gave myself a mind-stretching exercise today, involving both positive and negative painting.  Positive painting is painting the shape of an object, which in watercolor usually results in a darker object on a lighter field.  Negative painting is painting the space around an object.  In watercolor this usually results in a lighter object on a darker ground.  My goal today was to paint shapes whose edges described objects in the positive on one side and in the negative on the other edge.

It may be easier to see in this photo I took after painting a couple of the shapes.

The top of the shape describes a fern, and the bottom space also describes ferns, although I think I could use some work on the negative shapes.

I will use this painting as a card, but its value to me was greater as an exercise in learning to think about the edges of shapes.

____________________________________________________________120 Paintings

“It takes 120 bad paintings to know something about painting.”  –  Larry Seiler as quoted by Jeff Mahorney in his blog

Each painting is small in format and should be completed in about an hour or less.

My goals are to improve my technique, to paint faster, and to gain experience with a variety of subjects.

Negative Painting

Valentine Rainbow, 3" x 8.5"

Negative painting is the term used for painting the spaces around an object or shape.  One essentially paints that which isn’t there (the negative), leaving the object (the positive) as the lighter shape.  Today I used this technique to make valentines, since Valentine’s Day is next week.

Red, Purple, Blue, 3.5" x 5.25"
Reds and Yellows, 3.5" x 5.25"

My first step was to tear the watercolor paper into the size I wanted for cards.  The dimensions were mandated by the size of the envelopes.  Then I taped the paper to my painting board, covering over 1/2″ on each side to leave a border.  I wet the surface and put in a light wash of the selected colors.

Shades of Red, step #1

After letting this dry, I traced some hearts on the paper.  I painted around the hearts.

Shades of Red, step #2

When this layer dried, I traced some more hearts, overlapping them with the first layer.  Then I painted around both layers of hearts.

Shades of Red, step #3

After several times of layering in hearts, I penned in a border, removed the tape and had a finished card.

Shades of Red, 3.5" x 5.25"

After taking a week off from painting because we were traveling and helping my daughter with her new baby, this was a good exercise to get me thinking like an artist again and energized to finish the projects already started.

Our first granddaughter is now 15 mo. old
Now she has a little sister!