Category Archives: water + color

More Two-Color Series and PPF





claw your way out of the valley : watercolor and alcohol on wood panel

This is the third piece in my two-color series (see the others here and here). It took me quite a while to get this piece just right. I was growing increasingly frustrated at how it was turning out and then with one final (miraculous) brush stroke, everything just fell into place. I think I’m starting to rely too much on anticipated outcome and that is not serving me well. The techniques that I am using in this series are meant to yield very organic designs/textures and trying to control them too much is counter-productive.


Also, I am submitting this piece to Paint Party Friday. I’ve never contributed anything there before because I’ve mostly been doing illustrative work. Now that I’m painting a bit more, I figured I’d give it a shot.


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Another New Painting





some kids weren’t meant to be cool : watercolor + alcohol on 8×8″ wood panel

This is the second piece in my two-color series. It isn’t a terribly unique color combination, but I did a lot of work creating variations in the shading and texture of this piece. I also used the natural grain of the wood to my advantage. I think it adds another layer of visual interest and is one of the advantages of using wood in the first place.

I am going to be adding this piece and kate is not a hipster to my Etsy shop today. I have mixed feelings about selling my original work on Etsy. I had intended to have my actual web site finished by now, but since I don’t (and I have no real desire to even work on it) and I really need to start selling some of my work, I guess I will put aside my ‘Etsy issues’ and just do it.

UPDATE : some kids weren’t meant to be cool and kate is not a hipster are now available on Etsy.


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It’s a Great Day to Spray (Fixative, That Is)

My absolute least favorite part of painting is applying fixative and varnish.  I have never been very good at it and it is part of the reason that I pretty much quit working with acrylic on wood years ago. I’m sure that part of the reason I tend to mess this step up is because I lack patience. I hate waiting for the varnish to dry completely before adding another coat or handling the piece. This usually results in smudges, smears, and other unpleasant blemishes that end up driving me nuts.

And then there’s the smell.

Spray fixative is stinky, which means having to find a suitable, well-ventilated area in which to apply it. My studio definitely does not fit the bill here. That leaves my basement (you know, the Kingdom of Canine Hair), the garage (I’m sure the spiders running across the wet fixative would add an interesting textural effect), or the front porch (which is the perfect place as long as it isn’t raining, humid, or sweltering outside). Today, I opted for the front porch since we are finally getting a break from the stifling heat and humidity. As long as no huffing teenagers catch a whiff of what I’m doing, I should be good.

This is the first time I have ever used fixative on watercolor. Typically, watercolor pieces are framed under glass, so there isn’t much need for fixative (although, I have heard of people using spray fixative and varnish and then framing watercolors the way oil paintings are framed – sounds interesting, but I have yet to try it). Because I’m working with watercolor on wood, a fixative and a layer of varnish are necessary to not only protect the piece, but also to help bring out the true colors, which tend to appear a bit faded once they dry. I chose Krylon UV-Resistant spray, which I will then cover with a clear matte varnish. So far, the fixative it going on well (just finished my third coat). It is definitely a slow process, but I am happy that there hasn’t been any change in the integrity or texture of the piece, which was my biggest fear. As long as I get enough fixative on, hopefully, I will be able to brush the varnish on without affecting the painting.

Fingers crossed.


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A New Painting? Yep!





kate is not a hipster : watercolor + alcohol on 8×10″ wood panel

This afternoon I finished the first painting in my new two-color series. I decided to go with wood panel rather than paper. It posed a completely new set of challenges, but also yielded new and interesting results. I am really interested in exploring what I can create with these limited color palettes. It is definitely a challenge, but I think that by incorporating some different watercolor techniques, I can create something meaningful and (hopefully) aesthetically pleasing (to someone other than myself – heh).

Also, I made a HUGE mess of my studio working on this and another piece in this series today. There is paint everywhere – on the floors, my desk, my laptop, my clothes. So, apparently, I am capable of making messes (out of things other than my life – heh).

So, thoughts?

UPDATE : some kids weren’t meant to be cool and kate is not a hipster are now available on Etsy.


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Illustration Friday : Swept

Wow, this is the earliest that I have finished an Illustration Friday submission. And, at only 2.5 x 1.25″, it is also my smallest Illustration Friday submission to date.

This was actually one of the two-color swatches that I mentioned earlier. I started doodling on a couple of them and thought that this one looked like the perfect setting for my favorite paper boat. So, here it is, being swept away by the sea. I hope it ends up somewhere better than where it started.

watercolor + alcohol + colored pencil on paper



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I’m Out of Control! (sort of)

Generally speaking, my artistic style is not very loose. I like to work small and controlled. I like to stay inside the lines. And I don’t like messes. In other words, I’m pretty much the exact opposite of what an artist is ‘supposed’ to be. Heh.

Working on a smaller scale helps me keep things neat, tight, and under control. It also satisfies my ever-present need for instant gratification (lest I lose interest in what I am working on and then never finish it). Oh, and then there’s that whole I-work-in-a-teeny-tiny-studio thing.

Lately, I’ve been in kind of a slump, not just in the artistic sense, but in pretty much every aspect of my life. Living with a two-year-old has pushed the limits of my ability to control my environment. Furniture gets moved. Things get spilled. Little handprints appear on my walls. There is sand and mud and mess. All the time.

I never cease to be amazed by moms who don’t even bat an eyelash as juice boxes spill on their floors and pizza sauce smeared hands brush across their furniture. I marvel at their ability to not cringe as entire bins of building blocks spill.

I am the same way with artists. I am so impressed by those with the ability to just try things and see what happens (without worrying about making a mess or wasting materials or screwing up). I long to be one of those artists who lets their work ‘tell’ them what it wants to be, instead of using all of my energy to control the outcome.

This week, I started experimenting with some watercolor techniques that involve a certain lack of control on my part  – a big step for someone who has pretty much dug herself into a rut of only using watercolor pencils (sharpened to a fine point, of course!) in order keep the colors from moving too freely. It has been interesting, if not a bit therapeutic. And, at times, it has been messy (but not too messy, since I have still been working small).

The one technique I keep going back to is creating textures with Isopropyl alcohol. It is actually fairly easy to do and can create some pretty spectacular results. It is also pretty amazing to watch. When the alcohol hits the wash, it repels the paint, which will start to snake its way around the paper, sometimes trying to flow back into the alcohol treated areas. I have actually seen paint quiver along the edges of the alcohol spots for quite a while. It really is quite fascinating.

Today, I did some quick two-color swatches and treated them with alcohol just for some color study practice. Rather than trying to control the paint, I just sort of let it run and flow however it wanted (another big step for me). The results made me very happy. I saw patterns and shapes that were new to me (with regards to my own work, at least).  And I gained an appreciation for my ability to create abstract work (without having a complete nervous breakdown – heh). I also put together some unlikely color combinations that I probably would never have thought to use in my tighter style of work.

A friend has pressed me to explore this more abstract style. I wasn’t so sure about it at first, but I have found that it is a nice break from and much less stressful than my current illustrative work. So, I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.

photo : color study in watercolor + alcohol by yours truly

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Random Drive-by Blogging

Just a few randoms before I wrap up this Friday afternoon…

  • I’ve been messing around with some different watercolor techniques this week. I started the doodle pictured above on Tuesday and it took me until today to finish it. The washes are watercolor splashed with alcohol and the doodle (heavily influenced by Deirdre McCormick) is white gel pen, which I am still trying to get the hang of.
  • I updated my blogroll yesterday. Be sure to check out the awesomeness there.
  • Oh, obviously, I was not killed in my sleep or spirited away by demons last night. Yay!
  • I have a surprise coming this Monday. It is something I’ve been meaning to add to the blog for quite a while now and I’m finally getting around to it. Stay tuned, it’s fun!
  • At the end of today, I will be 85 posts away from my goal of 500 by this blog’s one-year anniversary.
  • I am giddy over the number of comments I’ve received lately! Did you know that if you leave me a comment and include your blog link, there’s a 97% chance that I’ll add you to my Google Reader? It’s true (but I also suck with numbers, so I may be off by a percent or two – heh).

Okay, I’m done.

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Illustration Friday : Shadows

Shadow Tree : watercolor + alcohol + ink on paper

This piece was a total experiment from start to finish. I incorporated some techniques that I’ve never tried with watercolor before and this is what it turned into. Admittedly, I had to tweak the colors a bit in Photoshop since I used some of my cheapy watercolors that I reserve for trying out new things. Plus, I rarely use dark colors and I’m not so good at it (yet).

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School’s Out for Summer

Today was Sir’s last day of school. It was bittersweet for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that he has grown quite attached to his two teachers.

Despite the fact that, as a class, we had all decided to pitch in to buy each teacher a gift card, I found myself frantically scrambling to add something personal in order to truly express our family’s appreciation* (and make up for Teacher Appreciation Week – also known as The Great Flower Debacle). I started out just writing a little personal note to each teacher and, before I knew it, I was pulling out my paints in an effort to create something worthy of the occasion.

Did I mention that I did this less than 3 hours before school let out…and that it takes me 30-45 minutes to drive to Sir’s school? Yeah.

I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to do something small. So, I dug out some little frames that I had in reserve and settled on just doing some 3.5″ square watercolor paintings. I think they turned out okay, but next year I WILL START EARLIER.

There, you all read that, right? I’m counting on you to hold me to it.

* Honestly, I have ‘thanking issues’ – nothing ever seems to be enough.

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Illustration Friday : Asleep



…as the clouds approached, nearly everyone was fast asleep.

This is my second attempt at watercolor pencil on wood. I have to say, I am quite happy with it. I may even put it in the Etsy shop!

The most difficult part of the process is inking over the pencil sketch – too much pressure and the ink will bleed quite a bit. I am loving working with the watercolor pencils on wood though.

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Illustration Friday : Soaked

This piece was an experiment. Was it a successful one? Eh, I don’t know. I guess it was in the sense that I learned about what definitely works, what could work, and what absolutely does not work when it comes to watercolor pencils on wood. Read on if you want to be bored out of your mind you’re interested in the process.

I recently invested in some wood panels on which I would really love to use ink and watercolors. Being that I have never really worked with either on a wood surface, I felt a little experimenting was in order, but I didn’t want to waste any of my smooth, lovely panels. So, I dug this out of my stockpile of wood-framed mirrors. It wasn’t the greatest surface to work on, especially since not all four quadrants of the frame had the same texture, but it worked well enough.

I started by lightly sketching the design on the frame in pencil. It went okay. I didn’t want to create any dents in the wood, so I had to be very careful not to use too much pressure. Also, erasing errant pencil marks wasn’t very easy, so I had to focus on getting it right the first time. This is not one of my strong suits.

Next, I used my Prismacolor pens to ink the outlines. I was a little worried about how much the ink would bleed, and, while I definitely didn’t get the crisp, clean lines that I am used to, it turned out better than I expected. There were a couple of spots where I didn’t wait long enough for the ink to dry before erasing stray pencil marks and I smudged the ink. Patience is also not one of my strong suits.

For the water and raindrops, I used my Derwent watercolor pencils. I used varying degrees of pressure when applying the pencils, resulting in the differing degrees of transparency. I found that the white watercolor pencil was too transparent, and so I used gouache on the paper boat and clouds. It definitely helped to make them stand out more.

I really, really debated about how to do the background/sky. As it turned out, that is the part I am most disappointed with. I mixed up and really thinned out some blue/green watercolor, as I didn’t want much color. Unfortunately, it resulted in a much dirtier looking wash than I anticipated. I also feel like the color is too similar to that of the water. But, it was a lesson learned, so I’ll take it.

I have a wood panel triptych in mind that I am kind of excited about. I just need to get the process just right before I attempt it. Good thing I have more mirrors than I know what to do with!

Also, this thing was a real pain in the arse to photograph. I apologize for the lame photographic representation. Heh.

Oh, and if you haven’t entered the GIVEAWAY yet, go do it now!

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Illustration Friday : Safari

This piece isn’t really finished, but since I don’t know if I’ll get it done any time soon, I decided to post it as-is. I’m not sure what to do with the background and rather than rush to finish it and inevitably screw it up, I’m just going to let it sit for awhile until I’m inspired.

This has been a pretty fun topic and I’m really looking forward to sharing my Friday Favorites this week. In the meantime, you can check out my previous Friday Favorites here.

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Illustration Friday : Beginner

When it comes to illustration, I am very much a beginner. I feel a beginner’s frustration. I make a beginner’s mistakes. I get discouraged. Sometimes I quit. And then I try again. Sometimes I can find no inspiration. And sometimes I find it in unexpected places.

A dear friend of mine recently celebrated a milestone birthday. She and her family took a vacation to mark the occasion. Yesterday, she posted some gorgeous pictures from their trip. Many of them were of her canine kids enjoying the beautiful pastoral setting – sometimes frolicking like puppies and other times just relaxing. There were also photos of the house where they stayed, and one of them – of a gorgeous and colorful stained glass window in a room painted yellow – compelled me to create this piece.

This is actually a small shadow box. The ‘window’ is a separate piece that frames the illustration of my friends’ two dogs (inspired by a photo of the two of them looking off into the distance). It was done in pen & ink and watercolor pencil*.

I truly hope that, despite the fact that it is a beginner’s effort, my friend loves her belated birthday gift. Happy birthday, K! (keep an eye on your mailbox)

* For anyone who has a Michael’s nearby and is in the market for watercolor pencils, you may want to head there ASAP. I got a great deal on open stock Derwent watercolor pencils ($.49 each) and Derwent Aquatone pencils ($.99 each) on Sunday.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Hobo

I grew up in Saginaw, MI – a town that boasts such famous former-residents as…um…my dad? Oh, and Stephen Lynch. And that guy who wrote, directed and starred in the movie ‘Street Boss‘ (so bad it’s…still not good). And the guy in ‘Street Boss’ who wears the fedora and hides under the table. Yeah, I think that’s about it.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of strange experiences (many of them in the aforementioned bustling metropolis hive of industry place). As a kid, I didn’t really recognize the absurd for what it was, especially when the absurd was a school-sponsored function.

Like Hobo Day.

Yes, you read that right. When I was a young lass of about five or six, my school declared that there would be a special day for us to dress up like those charming vagabonds who ride the rails.

My mother put together quite the spiffy hobo ensemble for me to wear to what would become one of the most memorable bizarre events of my educational career (a career that fortunately, did not lead me down the dusty tracks of hobo-ism). Some goofy knee-socks, a pair of baggy blue knickers, a green vest, and the all-important red bandana on a bindlestick and before I knew it, I looked like a miniature version of a deranged down-on-his-luck Payne Stewart.

Now, it wasn’t enough for all of us kids to show up to school in tattered, mis-matched rag bag couture. Those bindles would prove quite handy as we made our way to…wait for it…the Hobo Picnic!

Yes! We packed up our mulligan stew, slung those sticks over our shoulders, and paraded through town to a nearby park to stand around a roaring trashcan fire dine on our delicious hobo fare. And, you know, climb on the monkey bars.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Was this really a school-sponsored activity? What did the good people of Saginaw think when they saw droves of mini-hobos sauntering down the street (with the required 1 chaperone per 5 children, of course)? Didn’t Simon and Garfunkel sing about Saginaw in some song? What is mulligan stew? Where can I get an official Hobo Convention tee shirt?

And here is my reply. Yes, yes it was. Why, I do not know. Really, it’s Saginaw, so probably nothing. Yes, yes they did. The song is called ‘America’ from the album Bookends. A dubiously tasty dish made of whatever one can beg, borrow, or steal (my guess is that owning a shiv is really helpful in procuring the ingredients for this particular delicacy). Right here!

illustration : portrait of the artist as a young hobo in pen & ink + watercolor by yours truly

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