Wheels of Watercolor

I’ve long been a fan of online art classes and Sketchbook Skool in particular so you can imagine how excited I was to sign up for their brand new watercolor class, Watercolor Rules and How to Break Them. I’ve loved adding watercolor to my drawings and sketchbook pages but I’ve often wanted to dive deeper into the whys and wherefores of the medium.

Signing up was a given.

After waiting impatiently all summer I finally started in last week with our first assignment… learning about colors and pigments by mixing and creating color wheels from the paints in our palettes.

My palette contains both a warm and a cool version of the three primaries along with a few neutrals and a surprise color or two. One evening I sat down and made my color wheels using all the combinations of those primaries… the neutrals and surprises will have to wait.

I think my favorite wheel is the cool yellow, cool red, warm blue… the one on the right in the image below. It makes slightly neutralized yet natural oranges and greens as well as bright violets.

But as you can see, there are more lovely mixes in each of these wheels.

There was also an additional but optional homework assignment to paint a still life without the safety net of an ink or pencil under-drawing… and create it using only three primary paints. I just couldn’t limit myself to those three and found myself sneaking other colors into my mixes.

I foresee pomegranate seeds on my salad now that they’ve done their modeling. Delicious!

Color Me With Watercolor

I spent July continuing my watercolor portrait practice. These two were inspired by fellow Sktchy member, Lauren Arno, who challenged us at various times during the month!

And… in just over a week I’m also going to take her online watercolor class through Sktchy. I’ve always felt there’s no better way to expand my repertoire than by taking classes.

Color me happy!

Portrait Retrospective

Where does the time go? This morning I realized I haven’t posted in over a month and yet I’ve completed 2 additional sketchbooks since then.

I guess I’ll start in by showing you a few of my favorite portraits from May and one from early June. All were drawn from photographic references posted on the Sktchy app by other creatives. You’ll see I often switch things up by sometimes forgoing my beloved ink lines and instead choose to sketch in pencil before I paint. There’s a different feel to each of these methods but I enjoy them both.

This month watercolor was my only constant.

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Six

Finally! I hereby present the final five direct paintings I did for the June challenge.

Even with all its flaws I actually prefer the quick thumbnail portrait on the left to the more detailed portrait I did to follow. Again from a Sktchy photo.

More negative painting practice. I pulled out a teeny-tiny brush to do the darker lettering.

My ever-present studio companion. He truly is only 4 inches tall!

From another photo found on Sktchy. I had a vision of a zen monk in deep meditation.

Last day of June! Marquette grapes make darn good wine… they’re cold-hardy and they grow in Vermont!

Looking back on the month of paintings I can see where I fail but more importantly I see where things went right… things I learned and want to repeat. It was a great month!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Five

Marc Taro Holmes calls it direct watercolor while Liz Steel says straight to paint. Either way it’s quite the challenge to visualize the page and paint without a structural underdrawing.

I’ve now completed two thirds of the month’s challenge and I’m definitely more comfortable handling my brush and paints.

I took my paints to an outdoor concert. Great subjects but my painting was cut short as I spilled my water! Sigh.

I have a thing about ampersands! I discovered that I should have done the shading before I painted the details. More negative painting practice again.

Painted from a Sktchy photo. Another negative painting practice and another one of my favorites.

Foxgloves. I can’t grow them but I’m glad my friend can!

Cool and refreshing sour cherry cider! Another one of my favorites. I know many artists don’t like the blooms, also known as back-runs, but I love the variation in hues and the fuzzy edges.

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Four

Ooops… Somehow I must have had a brain cramp… this should have been published last Friday. Well, it’s here now and I’ll just push the others back a few days to compensate.

These five are the start of the second half of the challenge. I’m much less stressed and more inclined to just start in and see where my brush takes me.

Two quick views across the pond. This is one of my favorites because I can see myself using this technique on vacation.

Another people spread. I’m particularly fond of the woman with dog in the upper right. Just a few brush strokes allowing us to fill in the details ourselves.

My favorite pitcher! Not only does it glug-glug-glug when it pours but with its beautiful coloration it’s a great subject.

Another fun pitcher to paint!

Dogs… I really miss my ink when I’m painting them! They move so fast… I should be painting sleeping dogs instead.

See you in a couple of days for the next installment!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Three

Here I am fully one third of my way through the month and I’ve finally given up on perfection. I’ve started to “lean in” as the contemporary lingo says.

I love a few in this group but one of them in particular got away from me… it’s a real dog! (wink-wink)

I wanted to try something that had both wide swaths of color along with fine detail. This bottle had both.

Woof! Done from a photo on Sktchy.

Lesson One from Wil Freeborn’s book Learn to Paint in Watercolor with 50 Paintings. Who knew doughnuts would be such great subjects!

Out with my plein air group… just starting to get comfortable balancing my sketchbook, paints, and water jar without getting soaked… done that before.

Lesson Fifteen from the same Wil Freeborn book. I think this technique would be great to capture the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain.

More on Friday… until then have a great day and a wonderful Independence Day to all of us in the States!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part Two

After my first very uncomfortable 5 days of the Direct Watercolor challenge (see the previous post) I started to find my balance and decided to relax and just see what I could achieve without needing to create something “finished”.

The white iris is my first attempt at negative painting.

People! Thank goodness for Anne-Laure Jacquart’s YouTube video.

Yet more people practice… this time watching Trevor Waugh’s YouTube videos.

I have a few toys to model for me when I don’t know what else to paint or when it’s late as it was this night.

More negative and positive painting practice. I love this little jar, and yes… the jar has no e in saccharine, and no… saccharine is not better for me.

Committing to daily practice was key… and understanding that it was truly “practice” allowed me to start enjoying my painting time.

I hope you’ll come back Wednesday when the adventure continues.

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018… Part One

I just finished a daily painting challenge for the month of June. This was all spearheaded by Marc Taro Holmes and the point was to create a daily watercolor without relying on an initial pen or pencil sketch for guidance.

Whew! Often I felt as if I was walking a tightrope without a net and at times I needed to talk myself through the fear just to start! I’d sit there with a loaded brush hesitant to touch the page.

But begin I did. These would never be considered among my finest work but I knew I’d never get to my goal without practice. I’m going to show you my month’s work in chronological order.

June 1st – Sktchy portrait

Poppies from my side garden, painted in plein air.

Our black kitty and her favorite spot.

Both of our cats as models.

As I wrote above… I was really missing having my pen lines to guide me. I think this marks the end of my whining and the start of me getting my brain thinking of seeing volumes instead of lines.

I’ll post the next batch on Monday… hope to see you then!

#30x30DirectWatercolor2018

Cloud Illusions

Ah… the ability to paint believable clouds… that’s my ultimate goal, but for now, it’s a struggle. 


As you can see… the frustration was getting to me. 


It’s important to just keep working. 


Clouds are all about the mix of hard and soft edges and decreasing their size as they near the horizon.

So… I’ll keep practicing because… with apologies to Joni Mitchell… I really don’t know clouds at all.


(I may be concentrating on clouds but this might just be my best tree yet!)