Layering Leaves by Negative Painting in Watercolor

•January 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

An easy & fun way to practice negative painting is by layering leaf shapes one on top of the other. In a previous post I showed you the simplicity of negative painting    ( ). Now I’ll do a painting with a variety of leaf shapes showing how I’ll create depth within the painting.


I start the painting with a colorful wash. Don’t be afraid to make your wash full of colors and textures. Use your favorite colors or try experimenting with colors you rarely use. We all have those tubes of paint we purchased but haven’t fallen in love with. Squeeze  some of those paints onto your palette and play with them. This is also an opportunity to see how your colors mix together or a good time to use new pigments to see how you like the colors. I recently purchased a variety of new Quinacridone colors that I love playing with. The wash I start my painting on are  thoroughly dried before I proceed with adding the leaf shapes.


Golden Fall


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The leaf shapes can be traced from a real or artificial leaf or drawn free hand. I then choose a color slightly darker than the original color of the first wash. I paint the negative shape around each leaf shape. The new wash will be blended to the outside edges of the paper. You can see the salt I added to my second wash which will add more texture at this stage of the painting.


Golden Fall3


Golden Fall4


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When you complete a layer of shapes and it is fully dry draw the next layer of shapes placing them “UNDER” the 1st layer.  NEVER PLACE THE NEXT LAYER ON TOP OF ANY PREVIOUS LIGHTER SHAPES OR LEAVES & NEVER PAINT OVER THE LIGHTER SHAPES…ONLY AROUND THEM. The only time I will paint any surface leaves will be to detail them or help separate them with shadows.


Golden Fall6


Golden Fall7


Golden Fall8

Here’s a closer look so you can see the details I added to some of the leaves.


Each wash I add gets darker. Don’t be shy using a juicy dark mix to create depth. Let the viewer see how far you can push the background within your painting. Do add some details to the leaves being careful not to make them too dark or they will no longer sit on the surface of the painting.

I also added vines or branches to the painting using the same negative painting technique, I just painted around them to make them appear. I splattered the completed painting with a beautiful gold watercolor paint by Holbein. I love using Holbein’s  gold & silver paints to add a bit of light to my paintings.


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This painting was fun, filled with exciting colors & shapes. Try negative painting and shift the way you see an object. You can always paint a leaf, now challenge yourself by painting the space outside the leaf and let the leaf appear as the light or unpainted object on the paper.

Once you start seeing objects in the negative you’ll love painting outside the lines.


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•November 18, 2013 • 2 Comments

Many artists struggle when starting a new painting. We question what subject do we want to paint. How to start the painting. What colors should we choose to use. There are many more questions such as how large or small should the painting be. The list goes on & on.

I keep folders filled with photos I’ve taken of various subjects including sunrises, flowers, shadows, clouds, animals and anything that interests me. I paint exclusively from my own photos or I will paint what I see outside.

I will Photoshop my photos using an assortment of filters to help guide me & allow me to better ‘see’ or understand the drawing needed for the image I desire to paint.

This is my starting point to help familiarize myself with the subject I want to paint.

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GARDEN statue2


Images have been changed using Photoshop.


GARDEN statue3


I draw using ink pens of various sizes. This lets me establish my values.


GARDEN statue4


I negative paint a wet in wet wash creating the background behind & around my flowers & statue.


GARDEN statue5


 I finally add some color to the flowers and using a violet gray I add definition to the figure of the girl. This is not a completed painting but a small rendering of the painting I’d like to do. I can see the areas I would change or where I’d like to add some extreme darks. I will do several studies of this photo and then take out a full sheet of watercolor paper and enjoy making my brush & pigment dance with vibrant colors across the surface of the paper.

I like the preliminary trials because they give me the freedom to play & explore the joy of painting with watercolor.


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Faces in Watercolor

•October 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

In my search to find new images to attempt to paint I came across a photo I took several years ago of a young girl. What attracted me to this image was the wind-blown pieces of hair.



To help guide me and help me see the lines to draw this image I applied several filters to the original picture using Photoshop.






Each picture allows me to clearly see the shapes within the picture.



My drawing of the face. All I’m trying to capture are the shapes that make up the face. I softly use an eraser to lighten the dark pencil lines.



Using watercolor I paint the shapes not worrying about creating the actual face. (If I paint the shapes a face should appear) This turns into a fun project and I paint fearless of the outcome.



In the finished painting I feel the face came out looking older than the age of the girl in the photo. I like the strands of hair blowing across her face. I will return to this picture and do a practice series of paintings to see how different colors and techniques alter the finished results. Time spent painting is always time spent learning and today I had a wonderful lesson in painting a face.


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I Painted a Dog in Watercolor!

•September 10, 2013 • 4 Comments

When the reality of life distracts me and I find it hard to concentrate on painting I go to my studio and organize my supplies, rearrange my space, & clean. I enjoy reviewing the large collection of photographs I’ve taken, mentally planning my next painting . As I relax my mind and stop worrying about what I should be painting something always grabs my attention and this time it was a photo of my friend’s dog named Jasmine. She is a 200 lb English Mastiff that lives with my friends Sal & Alan on 250+ acres in VT.


Jasmine a


Working from these 2 photos I lightly sketched an outline of her face and started by painting the eyes. I couldn’t tell you why I start with the eyes but I feel if I can create lifelike eyes then I’ll have a chance of bringing a little personality or life into the painting.


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A close up of the eye & the detail of shadowing the area into a droopy shape.


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I continued painting the face making sure not to add too much color. This was challenging because I love COLOR but I resisted the urge to take the painting another direction by adding a variety of fun colors. My goal was to have a  realistic portrait yet not try to replicate the photo.  It was exciting to see her face take shape!


Jasmine d


Adding the ears helped to define the outline of her head but the most fun was creating the background or illusion of her body. Here is where my watercolor paints were allowed to run and merge and flow down the paper.

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 Her face she has so much expression because of the droop & sag of her loose skin. I’m quite happy I kept the color subdue and allowed her character & demeanor to shine through. My finished painting shows what a great animal she truly is.


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Excited to Paint Ducklings

•June 22, 2013 • 2 Comments

As I pursue, with enthusiasm, my desire to paint a select group of animals I turn my attention to the cute little duckling. I did a pencil sketch first to give myself an outline of what I was going to paint.


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The fun began as I filled the paper with luscious & juicy watercolor pigments. This is one of my studies. It’s extremely soft and the focus is on their dark eyes.


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I am trying to acquire the skills needed to allow me to paint these animals loose & colorful.


Baby Chick1_____________________________________________________________________

Baby Chick2________________________________________________________________________

I do not want to paint a photographic image of a duckling. Instead I want to give the viewer the energy & spirit of the animal in a unique way.


Here I continue, with determination, my desire to paint these ducklings.


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Learning + Practicing = Improving

Pick a subject you would love to paint

Discipline yourself to play with your paints daily even if it’s only for a limited amount of time.

You will see how fast you hone, polish & sharpen your skills





Animal Eyes……continued

•May 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have continued doing small studies of how to paint eyes. These are my latest exercises of dog eyes in watercolor.


Eyes aa 2



Bringing the eyes to life is quite a challenge.


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Here I explored not only the eyes but the entire shape of the dogs head.


Eyes aa 4 Eyes aa 6


The time I spent was fun & fruitful. With each study I felt myself growing towards a successful painting…BUT I’m not there yet. There will be many more sketches & lessons for me to learn before I’m comfortable painting the likeness of an animal.


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Animal Eyes in Watercolor

•May 13, 2013 • 9 Comments

Today I put aside my fear of drawing eyes and started a study of painting eyes from my photo reference collection. I enlarged photos of my dogs faces so I could see the detail & shape of their eyes clearly.


EYES #3 5-2013


I  started by drawing an elongated oval shape with pointed ends & added a circle in the center, that was the extent of my drawing. I used a very controlled amount of water & pigment allowing the paint to mingle & flow outside the drawn lines.


EYES #1 5-2013


I focused on the shape of the eye and the importance of having a white highlight within the iris to show the reflection of light in the subject’s eye.


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What an enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon in the studio

playing with the colors & shapes of eyes.


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Using a variety of cool & warm colors I attempted a portrait of my friend Moose. I’m not trying to paint a replica of him but I’m happy I captured the likeness of my departed companion.

Doing these studies of assorted eyes validated my belief that I could achieve positive results using my watercolor paints and not rely on drawing skills alone.

Trying something unfamiliar, like painting eyes, helps me to refocus & expand my ideas on what I want to paint as an artist. It felt good to be concentrating on the newness of the subject and gave me freedom to explore & probe the unknown. Tomorrow I might go back to a subject that I’m more comfortable with but I learned so much from today’s painting that I think I’ll fill another day with the challenges of painting animal faces.


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