Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ruby, Painting # 30

Ruby    8 x 8"    $125
Well, it's all over.  Thanks to the skillful photography of my father-in-law (Tom McDermott) and a suggestion from a cousin-in-law (thanks, Beth!), I chose another bird as my final piece for the 30/30 challenge.  I'm delighted to have completed more finished paintings in the first month of 2013 than I did in all of 2012.  I don't have a final count on all the bird paintings I did but I think I have a good start to a bird calendar!

It's been incredibly valuable to have participated in this event and I don't see myself stopping altogether.  Next up is a children's book I'll be working on.  Throughout that project I plan to keep up with these small paintings.  Maybe not one per day.  Maybe one per week.  A treat to look forward to.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sandpiper, and Only One Left to Do

Sandpiper    8 x 8"    $125
Taken from another of my California photos, one that was unmarked.  I don't know what species of sandpiper it is, but it's one of the sweetest little birds!  Another piece done with no drawing; just the brush, pigment and water.  Lovin' it!

Only one painting left to do for this 30/30 event.  What should it be?  What would you like to see me paint?

Now, for Some DRAMA! Leo Has Arrived

Leo    8 x 8"    $125
Leo, a long-eared owl, is an ambassador at the Center for Wildlife in York, ME, a wildlife rehabilitation facility.  He arrived one day with serious injuries and, although he was cared for and nursed back to health, he wasn't a candidate for release back into the wild.  So he lives at the center and participates in educational programs.  He's quite a character.  I spent a number of visits sitting inside his aviary with him.  It always took a long time to find him but once I did he was a great model; he never moved!  Perched on a branch, he would stare at me the entire time.  Beautiful animal.

This painting was a bit of an experiment for me.  Not sure how I feel about it so your response is appreciated.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Out to Pasture, Painting #27

Out to Pasture    8 x 8"    $125
Been hanging on to this image for many years.  I always wished to be raised on a farm.  The animals, the pastures and yes, the hard work.  But mostly the animals and open fields bordered by forest. Never did get to live on a farm but I see more farm-life paintings in my future.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pools, painting # 26

Pools    8 x 8"    $125
Some of you know the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Massachusetts.  A birder's destination for many around the globe, it has some of the most beautiful saltmarsh habitats which attract all sorts of birds and mammals.  It has some forested sections but it's the saltmarshes and beautiful stretches of beach that draw in so many visitors, both animal and human-kind.  One warm day last October I enjoyed some time there working in my sketchbook in the company of a student/friend of mine.  The painting here is based on one of my watercolor sketches and one photo reference from that day.  I encourage everyone to take a day and visit this important place.  Bring a picnic lunch or get something to eat at one of the handful of restaurants on the island.  Just enjoy the beauty and the birds.

Friday, January 25, 2013


In Flight    8 x 8"    $125
No drawing here!  Just the brush, pigment and water, the style I love to work in.  It's quick and wonderful.  It's simple and beautiful.  It's very zen-like in that way

So, which style do you prefer?

Two Chickadee Paintings

Enjoying the Thaw    8 x 8"   NFS
Tonight I chose to paint black-capped chickadees but in two very different styles.  Enjoying the Thaw is more of a traditional painting: birds in their habitat.  Some drawing was done first to get shapes right and composition settled.  And the painting, although fairly loose, has more layers and colors.  The next painting is much more zen-like.  You''ll see.
This painting is for my mother-in-law.  She adored a painting we saw together on a weekend trip to Vermont this past summer.  That one was called Enjoying November and it was two, indistinct birds sitting on a branch with predominantly cool blues.  Ever since then I've been wanting to paint something similar for her.  Here it is!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Summer Pond

Summer Pond    9 x 6"    $90
Summer Pond exemplifies so much of what I am striving for in my painting:  a variety of edges (soft, hard and rough), a nice range of values and clear pigments.  I even love my reflections on the water!  All this practice is paying off.  I'm finding my own voice through painting and discovering that I have a lot to say.

The Crow

The Crow    9 x 5"    $90
Imagination and memory are strong tools to employ.  I've looked at birches, crows and background trees enough to create this painting from memory and imagination with a quick bit of photo reference for the bark of the birch and the crow shape.  Twenty minutes later....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Winter Pond

Winter Pond    9 x 6"    $90
Picking through more old photos I found this one from I don't know where.  No memory of it but it was a wonderfully inspiring image.  The photo showed a summer landscape but I didn't have a lot of time today so I went with a winter landscape.  Cut some time and I love the scene!

Monday, January 21, 2013

California Poppies

California Poppies    10 x 5"    $125
Another photo from my time out west, these poppies were just "popping" with color!  Much of the foreground chaos was edited out for the painting.  I was very attracted to the colors of the background hill and the eye-level perspective of the poppies.  I want the viewer to feel like they might be lying on their belly amongst the flowers.  My bigger effort in this piece was to work with lots of rich pigment.  I'm getting better at managing this, the consistency of pigment and water.  It's no easy feat.  :- )

Birch on the River

Birch on the River    9 x 6"    $125
One of the trickiest things with watercolor is how light or dark a color will be when it dries.  I wanted some contrast between the birch trees and the background.  I got it.

I do so enjoy painting birches.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

All Tied Up

All Tied Up    10 x 5"    $125
I've been sick the past few days.  Was sleeping quite a bit.  When I finally made it over to my little studio space, I wasn't at all sure what I was going to paint or if I was even going to paint.  Shuffling through my photo resources produced a photo taken at Rye Harbor one gloomy and cold day some years ago.  "Why not?" I said.  Juxtaposing deep darks against whites or very light areas to create high contrast is something very intriguing.  To that end, I thought this was a good subject to work with.  What say you?

Friday, January 18, 2013

A little Bit of Warmth on this Cold, Winter Day and #17 is Done

Three Orange Flowers    10 x 5"    $125
So, this is a painting I started over three years ago!  I didn't like the flowers I originally sketched out on it but I liked the background so kept it on my inspiration wall all these years.  Today it worked!  With just a few brush strokes and a little bit of color we have a fun and colorful image.  Like magic!

The Pied-Billed Grebe, #16

Pied-Billed Grebe    8 x 8"    $125
This little guy is from one of my west coast photos.  I don't remember taking all these bird photos that I've saved from my west coast life but I'm sure glad I saved them.  The painting is a value study with just a touch of blue in the water.  It's mostly Sepia, Raw Umber and French Ultramarine.  It's another example of drawing with the brush and pigment.  The shape was painted in first as a solid brown shape.  I went in after that to take away some of the pigment, thus "painting" the form of the bird this way.  Later, a second layer of pigment was applied in a few areas to further develop the form.  I think he's adorable!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#15, a snowy scene

Snowy Corner    8 x 8"    $125
So, this one is a bit different for me and I love it!  Two of my favorite modern watercolorists are Hazel Sloan ( and Catherine Gill (  Each has their own very distinct style and mastery of the medium.  Some things I've learned from them to be very important are edges (rough, soft or hard), values, focal point/composition and use of color.  There is a great deal to think about and plan before ever putting pigment, water and paper together.  I sometimes feel impatient with this initial phase and want to get right to the painting phase, where the most fun is had.  That doesn't usually work.

Today's painting captures those skills and that pleases me.  I still have much to learn but it feels good to get it right some of the time.  Onward!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

#14 is Done!

Kildeer    8 x 8"    $125
This little guy took me five attempts to get something I liked.  I had different compositions started and various painting techniques attempted but nothing was feeling right.  Finally, I settled on "drawing" the bird shape with the brush and water then adding pigment.  Initially, the entire body shape was painted in with a light brown.  Eventually, the whites of the bird's feathers were created by taking away pigment.  After that, I could go at it pretty easily.

The photo reference I worked from is one of my own, taken many years ago at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Getting tired of trying to keep up with the challenge but I have not lost interest.  You know what they have to do something for at least three weeks before it becomes a habit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Painting #13, Lily Pond

Lily Pond    8 x 8"    $125
Here's another image from my weekend up north in October.  This is Lily Pond, along the Kancamagus Highway.  Well known for moose sightings.  I didn't see any moose on this day but I did see a lot of tourists out enjoying the holiday weekend.  I was set up with my mobile studio in the back of my jeep when one group of young men from Japan asked me if they could take my picture while I painted.  That was fun.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Plum Island Marsh, Painting #12

Plum Island Marsh    8 x 8"    $125
This challenge has been somewhat of a cathartic experience.  For the past couple years I've worked more at learning and less at doing, not at all intentionally.  In the process I've taken many photographs and created lots of little watercolor studies as painting resources, always with the notion that I would get around to painting from them.  Then I get caught up in family life, the day job, teaching classes, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I'm now happily working my way through the many ideas that have been sitting inside my brain, waiting to come out.  And each painting offers a new opportunity to put down on paper something from all the learning I've had.  So, not only am I emptying my brain and clearing the decks for more ideas to arrive, I'm practicing what I've learned, something my own students are pressed to do.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Painting #11 and I'm Caught Up!

American Avocet    8 x 8"    $125
This beautiful little bird is not a resident or even a visitor of the New England area.  Although there have been rare sightings, the American Avocet is a west coast bird.  Today I pulled out a bunch of animal photos from over the years and was pleasantly met with some forgotten resources.  When I was in grad school and living out west, I was always taking photos of the animals and plants I saw.

I reverted to the pencil with this painting, feeling the need to sketch out some shapes before painting.  Still, I kept the drawing phase quick and simple, only trying to ensure my shape was as accurate as possible.  Due to the color pattern on the bird, loosely blending pigment was not as applicable here as it was with the Great Blue Heron.  I think it still has a sense of loose rendering while staying true to certain characteristics of the species.  What do you think?

Great Blue Heron, Painting #10

Great Blue Heron    8 x 8"    $125
Great Blue Herons are a big part of my environment for part of the year.  They feed in the Squamscott River at low tide and they hang out in various small ponds around Exeter.  My heart jumps with excitement when I spot the first one each spring.  I can't get tired of seeing them and I can't get tired of drawing or painting them.

In this particular painting I put a strong emphasis on letting colors bleed.  No drawing was done prior to the painting.  Just the brush, the water and the pigment.  I LOVE when I make this happen.  I wish to paint like this every time but I haven't mastered the technique yet.  Still, I believe the joy is in the journey and not always the end product.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kirkwood Day    8 x 8"    $125.00
Painting #9 is done.  Thanks to my boss, Scott Broughton, who provided an outstanding photo, I had the pleasure of painting this image of a ski slope in Tahoe.  I don't know what the altitude of this mountain is but I got the feeling it was really big.  I loved the giant cloud on the other side of the main peak and the shape of the dark, distant peak fits well.  Dotting the landscape were beautiful trees.  In the photo the slopes were covered with lots ski trails.  In my sketchbook I included these but decided that they broke up the white spaces too much so I got rid of them.
The palette for this painting was mainly ultramarine blue either straight up or mixed with prussian blue, manganese blue or payne's gray.  A little bit of yellow ochre was used on the tree in the foreground.
Two more paintings tomorrow....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

4 More Paintings

Chocorua Hiding    4.5 x 6"    $90

Across the Lake    4.5 x 6"    $90

Mountain Sunset    4.5 x 6"    $90

The Cove    4.5 x 5"    $90
I'm catching up!  Only one painting behind now.  These four paintings all began on a cloudy weekend in the Whites this past October, late in the month.  It was gray, off and on rain with peeks of sun, slightly chilly, especially at the higher elevations, even a few snowflakes were floating around.  No photo references were used here.  Each was started on site but finished in my studio using memory and a little imagination.  I'll have a couple more paintings from that weekend coming up, as I got out and painted in my journal at a variety of locations along the Kancamagus Highway, producing little watercolor studies.  You can see one of those studies on my website's homepage.  Check it out!

A couple of these works have pen & ink in them, another medium I like to use.  More work to come tomorrow.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Painting 4

Winter Maples    8 x 8"    $125
Started this one last night and finished this evening.  It's from a photo I took at one of my favorite places, the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary.  There's a lane of maple trees with a walking path and stonewall on one side and a field of grasses, wildflowers and bluebird houses on the other side.   It just might be my favorite spot on the sanctuary.

I've had this photo for some years now, always wanting to paint from it.  The day of the photo was a darker, more gray day but I wanted to show a more interesting sky.  For the sake of a clean composition I reduced the number of trees and details in the understory.  For colors I stuck to a mostly cool palette of Winsor Blue, Sepia, a cool red, and a warm yellow.  The scan isn't showing the color range on the  tree trunks.  This is one you have to see in person to really appreciate it.   I'll try to get a better scan in the coming days and repost.

Painting #3

Squamscott Marsh    8 x 8"    $125
This challenge really IS a challenge!  I'm painting every day, which is awesome, but not producing something "finished" every day, which can be frustrating.  For example, today's painting, Squamscott Marsh,  was done four times before I achieved something close to what I wanted.  We are all our worst critics, right?  When I'm feeling unsure about a painting I turn to my husband who has a keen and dependable eye for helping me.  He chose this version of the four.  There are a few elements in this image that are not easy to work with: water, reflections and trees.  I'm very pleased with the results.

The scene is one I pass every day as I drive to and from the office I work in.  It's where the boat ramp on route 108 in Stratham, NH is and I never get tired of passing through it.  The changes throughout the seasons are amazing.  Off to the left (not in this image) is an Osprey nest.  It's a gorgeous location.

Stay tuned, more to come later tonight!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Painting #2

I'm a few days behind on posting each painting but it's not for lack of painting, but for lack of good paintings.  This is a hard challenge!  But I'm not at all deterred.  Been working on painitngs all day today.  Got one good one so far.

This painting comes from a photo I took on one of our many family trips to Lake Umbagog way up north in NH.  It's one of our favorite places.  My husband named it Quiescent for the peaceful feeling it gives him.  Early morning fog adds to the calmness over the water, as does the loon family who was just floating along with the slow movement of the water.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

30 paintings in 30 days!

Shamefully, it's been over a year since my last post.  Goodness, how time flies.  It's all good stuff, though!

Know what else is good?  I've committed to a challenge put forth by artist Leslie Saeta to do 30 paintings in 30 days!  Her blog is posted at right.  This is where all 250 participants will post their work each day.  It's quite an amazing collection of works created by artists from around the globe.  Please visit it and view the works.  You just might find something that moves you.

I'm very excited to be a part of the challenge.  It's just what I need to jump start me into painting on a regular basis.  As you know, life has a way of getting in the way.  Although I've been maintaining a regular schedule of teaching with full classes (some with wait lists!), the painting part has lagged over the last year.

Mockingbird     watercolor    8x8"    $125.00
Posted here is painting #1 called Mockingbird.  I love this little gem!  The inspiration for this image comes from an incredible photograph my father-in-law sent me last week.  The little bird has been visiting my in-law's yard recently and Tom, my father-in-law, couldn't resist the opportunity for a photo shoot.  I'm very glad for that.  I tried capturing the roundness of its puffed out body while standing so regally.  The colors used are Sepia and Cerulean....keepin' it simple!

All 30 paintings will be the same size of 8 x 8" and will be $125.00ea.   Look for a new image every day.  And feel free to leave a comment!  I'm always interested in what people think about my work.