30 June 2018

goin’ home

# 30 and done! 30 watercolor sketches in 30 days, most without pencil guidelines and all without ink lines. One of my sketches was sold, two given to family, and I’ve definitely learned to be a bit freer and looser in my approach to painting.

According to the “rules” of composition, you should never have a path leading out of the picture, but this is how I saw it on the way home from Waco. I thought it was fitting . . . after all, we were just passing through.

Waco Suspension Bridge

Twenty-nine out of thirty direct watercolor sketches . . . Only one more to go.

The Waco Suspension Bridge was about the only available crossing of the Brazos River in the 1800s, except for a dangerous ferry. Two stagecoaches could pass side-by-side, or cattle could move along one side while people crossed along the other. Toll for cattle was 5 cents a head.

The entry gate of the bridge itself was in deep shadow from the many trees growing nearby.

Though I didn’t do an underdrawing in pencil or fountain pen, I did do an undersketch with a rigger brush and watercolor to try and get the perspective correct. The bridge still seems to be leaning a bit in spite of my intentions!

29 June 2018

The Silos

This sketch, which I just finished, is actually yesterday’s sketch. We took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Waco, revisiting a bed & breakfast that we had stayed at some 12 or 15 years ago. When we arrived in town it was still early so we went to The Silos and Magnolia Market, made famous by HGTV’s Fixer-Upper. It was a Thursday morning so we were not expecting such a huge crowd! We walked around some, then ate breakfast sitting outside the Silos Bakery.

I did no sketching or painting while we were there — partly because we were visiting a few museums (I like to read all the info and watch the videos!), and partly because I was just getting over some kind of stomach bug and didn’t feel all that great. But much better now (and home!) so I did this sketch from photos. Very good Elderflower Lemonade!

Only 1 more day and 2 more Direct Watercolor sketches to go . . .

Bardie wants to go!

I’m a bit behind on direct watercolor sketches due to a couple of busy days visiting Waco. Our neighbors came over to feed and play with Bardie, but as I emptied our bag he let me know that next time, he goes too!

Or maybe after he meets his baby brother next week, he’ll decide that home can be a fun place even without us? I head towards Dallas next week to pick the new companion kitten, who will probably be named Scottie Dubh (but Bill calls him Scottie Dog — after the vintage Scotties I used to collect.)

27 June 2018

another sunrise

Another sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico from Mustang Island — I think this was the morning of the day we left due to the increasing high winds and higher-than-normal incoming tides. It didn’t quite storm but it was definitely windy enough to!

This painting seemed to be going fine . . . until I muddied up the clouds that were just below and in front of the sun. Before the sun rose, the sky was brilliant pinks, oranges, mauves and purples. After it rose behind these clouds, the sky was a bit yellow and pinkish-purple at the same time. Sort of weird looking.

my 2 current pocket palettes

These are my two most-used pocket palettes — I decided to make small color maps to fit inside each one’s cloth bag to remind me what’s currently loaded in them. I also have a pocket palette containing gouache which is more useful on toned paper.

The 30 x 30 direct watercolor challenge is nearly over but I once again tweaked the set of colors I’ve been using for it. My choices were loosely based on Marc Taro Holmes’ absolute minimum color choices. Sometimes naples yellow is just not bright enough yet my normal Hansa yellow medium was a bit too bright for this set, so I finally settled for adding quinacridone gold (this is the new formula). And mixing a good brown was more work than I wanted to mess with so I added a raw umber I already had. I wasn’t using those empty space pans for mixing anyway.

Actually I have the same colors in a larger set of whole pans that I’ve been using when at home. Some colors, like serpentine, are over half gone! But I keep a set in my bag, just in case.

The black palette full of 28 mini pans is just for fun — at first I thought these wee pans would be way too tiny to be useful but they are just right for adding a spot of color to an ink sketch. And with so many colors, I don’t fuss with mixing — just jump in with a waterbrush!

26 June 2018

wildflowers and cane break

I’m not too fond of today’s watercolor sketch but I’m posting every effort, good and bad . . .

This is a view of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush in front of a cane break alongside the road into Somerville, TX (from a photo taken this past April). The gentle rolling field reminded me of the waves in the gulf, with tiny spots of orangey-red and blue wildflowers forming the white caps. I worked quickly to try and keep this painting loose and impressionistic.

For anyone interested, this is the photo I was working from, taken on the way to church in April.

meanwhile . . .

While I have been doing the 30 direct watercolor sketches in 30 days this month, sometimes I just want to grab a fountain pen and draw. This Field Notes memo book is usually in my bag, making it easy to grab for a quick random sketch.

I had no idea how wonky my phone actually looks until I posted it here! In fact, that large styrofoam tea cup is a bit crazy too!

We are planning an impromptu overnight get-away to Waco just for fun so today I was planning what art tools to take. Not sure if I’ll take 1 or 2 pocket palettes — I only need the one with the paints I’ve been using for the challenge. With just one, the extra pocket on the right can stow the collapsible water cup with more ease; I can then tuck this memo book in the sketch kit as well. (After all, that’s what the fountain pens and white gel pen are included for!)

25 June 2018

a laughing gull

Day # 25 of this direct watercolor challenge . . . and I must admit that I am missing my fountain pens for simple ink and wash sketching! But I am feeling a bit more relaxed and confident in applying watercolor.

Today’s watercolor sketch is from a photo taken at sunset on Galveston Island this past April, of a laughing gull taking a stroll along the beach. Normally the gulf water in this area is a bit gray but at sunset it takes on a lovely strong blue color.

24 June 2018

a quick no-brainer

When all else fails, draw an apple. Or two or three . . .

I usually draw or pant apples when testing colored pencils or paints, so when I found myself with too many activities and very little painting time today, I grabbed a handful of apples from the fridge and ended up with this.

23 June 2018

another from the Island

Another watercolor sketch from our camping trip on Mustang Island 2 years ago . . . I think I may try for years to capture the waves and sunrises from our time there!

found this morning

So maybe yesterday’s deer wasn’t after my roses after all . . . This morning we found this wee baby in another part of our yard.

By the time I posted this, the mama deer came and moved the fawn.

22 June 2018

a morning visitor

As we were sitting on our patio this morning, Bill with his mug of coffee and me with a mug of chai green tea, this young deer wondered into our yard. Twice she started approaching the patio, looked hard at us, then backed away. Finally she gave up and left.

I’m sure she was wanting to continue nibbling on my roses!

21 June 2018

making things up

Day 21 of the direct watercolor challenge and I just made this one up (except for seeing a photo of a cottage in Scotland). Just playing today, too distracted by grandchildren and errands . . .

20 June 2018

yesterday’s barn, close up

For today’s Direct Watercolor challenge, I did use a very light pencil line to establish the barn’s general proportions, but still did most of it with watercolor, a couple of brushes, and a sponge for the foliage. This is a closeup of the unusual barn from yesterday’s watercolor, found just east of Kennard, Texas on Highway 7. We aren’t sure what specific uses this structure has but it is unlike any of the many barn designs we saw back in Kansas.

19 June 2018

an interesting barn

For day # 19 of the Direct Watercolor challenge, I painted one of the most interesting barns we’ve found in Texas, just east of Kennard, Texas on Highway 7 on our way to Nacogdoches. Bill and I both think this would make an awesome house! I left out the wooden fence that ran along the front where the wildflowers are, thinking they might detract too much from the barn. In fact, maybe I should have left the wildflowers out as well?

I also played around with painting in a vignette style, something I’ve wanted to learn to do but have never really tried before. I think I still don’t use a light enough hand at it.

18 June 2018

this morning’s cup of tea . . .

. . . in my favorite pottery tea mug. Okay, it might have been made for coffee as well __Bill has a similar design he uses for coffee__ but I can’t stand coffee’s bitterness and won’t allow coffee to be served in this mug! I also love loose leaf teas, something that is hard to find locally so I order it online. Oddly, I did find this clever tea infuser in a local shop, with plenty of room that allows tea leaves to expand and its own silicone tray to catch drips. It hangs on the side of a cup for brewing.

17 June 2018

posting a failure . . .

Today has been a day of distractions. At the last minute, I decided to paint this sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico — It should be easy enough, right?

With grandkids interrupting and Bardie checking out my paint water, wet-on-wet areas either too wet or drying too quickly, my forgetting to lay down the yellow first before the oranges . . . I see this daily painting as a total failure! But it’s part of the learning process so I’m posting it anyway.

This is the actual photograph I took a couple of years ago camping on Mustang Island as we woke up.

16 June 2018


Three of our grandchildren are with us for the next week, making my keeping up with a painting each day a bit more challenging! Judah and Josiah asked me to paint a cat . . . Not easy to do with them looking on and jostling me now and then!

This is supposed to resemble our son Matt’s part-Siamese cat named Blue.

15 June 2018

Davy Crockett National Forest

Today we drove to Nacogdoches, and drove through the Davy Crockett National Forest part of the way. So I snapped a few photos, planning to try a loose watercolor of it later at home. I love these tall silent trees in the piney woods!

We had two reasons to go today: our granddaughter Jayna had been attending band camp and her recital was today (she won an award for top percussionist!) and we wanted to visit our youngest son, Jeff, who has been living in Nacogdoches since graduating from Stephen F. Austin University. He has secured a job in Ohio and he’ll be heading that direction soon.

14 June 2018

keeping it simple

Today has been a tiring day so I did a quick watercolor sketch from a photo of our oldest granddaughter as she was getting ready for her first day of training at the Houston Zoo. She earned a placement in the zoo’s summer program — 5 weeks of working all types of jobs, teaching younger kids, and shadowing zoo keepers as they care for the animals. Mikala wants to be an exotic animal vet someday so this was perfect for her!

Though this doesn’t really look like her, the pose definitely does! Even as a baby, she absolutely disliked cameras and most of the photos I took of her ended up being the back of her head.

13 June 2018

wading in the Gulf

I did not paint this until getting home after church tonight. I thought it would be easy — the gray waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the buff colored sand with washed-up sea wrack, and two of our grandchildren and a dog in almost simple silhouette form . . .

I also thought it would be easy enough to simply save the whites of the waves, painting the rounded upper forms and adding a bit of the cool green of the undersides. At least those were my intentions!

I lost most of the whites, the wet-on-wet clouds against the blue sky took on a weird pointy texture, and the grayish gulf water lost its “glisten”.

But I still had fun painting this so who cares?

12 June 2018

my beloved gift from God

Okay, for tonight’s watercolor painting I truly went out on a scary limb . . . and painted our second son, Matt. I call him my “beloved gift from God” because that is what his name, Matthew David, actually means. Of each of our three sons, he is the only one with my coloring (and the only one with my brown eyes!) but he is the one who most closely resembles his father in personality.

It is very scary trying to capture people you dearly love, even when painting so loosely. I admit that I did use a faint pencil line this time to get the proportions right.

thoughts on my 30 x 30 palette

A third of the way through this 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor challenge, and I’ve been using a modified palette based on Marc’s minimum selection (with substitutions wherever I already owned similar colors) . . .

After trying the different colors, I changed a few of the choices in my mini-pan set that usually lives in my purse. This set contains many convenience colors for when I just want to paint without taking time to mix. (And as you can see in the top row of the color map, I made an additional change after painting the map: I had Indian red but it’s a color I just haven’t learned to like, so I replaced it with burnt umber.)

I prefer transparent red oxide to quinacridone gold deep as my earth-orange. It seems more versatile and lively. I already love the effects you get from buff titanium and goethite. I do not like using Naples yellow — too opaque and dull! And even though orange is decidedly Not my favorite color, it is a good one to have available. In fact, I switched out my normal pyrrol scarlet for the reddish transparent pyrrol orange.

I replaced phthalo green, which I only use in mixes, with a variety of useful greens that can be used directly. Keeps painting simple! I love the usefulness of grey of grey much more than expected. But I prefer my mixed gray (ultramarine stirred together in the pan with either burnt sienna or burnt umber) over neutral tint.

Though I already had perylene maroon in my set, I definitely miss quinacridone rose for reds and pinks! The red you get from mixing the maroon with pyrrol orange is subtle but not as bright as is sometimes wanted.

For this 30 day challenge, I will probably continue to use the watercolors based on Marc’s minimum palette. Using color I’m not used to is a good stretching exercise!

I also wrote up this guideline ‘cheat sheet’ from Marc’s book, “Direct Watercolor”, and his blog — just to keep in mind as I paint this month!

11 June 2018

a bluebonnet meadow

This is a field of bluebonnets as seen driving down the highway near our home back in March. Sometimes there are other wildflowers scattered among the blue, sometimes it’s a simple wash of solid blue. Here, there were only a few Indian paintbrushes to the side and pink primroses on the outside of the fence.

10 June 2018

roses are not easy!

. . . at least, not the old-fashioned red roses growing next to our back door. I’ve seen such lovely direct-watercolor renditions of roses posted in the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 Facebook group, seemingly painted with ease with only a few brushstrokes. Mine, not so much.

Another challenge: getting a bright red color using perylene maroon and pyrrol orange! But I’m still having fun so it’s all good.

09 June 2018

more from Mustang Island

A couple of years ago we went camping with some of our kids and grandkids on Mustang Island on the Gulf of Mexico. I took a lot of photos thinking that someday I would turn them into paintings. I also did lots of sketches onsite . . . and got my first vintage Prang box sandblasted by the high winds and sand blowing everywhere!

This fisherman sitting on one of the rock jetties seemed like a ready-made composition but this is the first time I actually tried to paint him. Maybe this #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge has boosted my confidence a smidgen?

08 June 2018

a persistent wildflower

This single blanket flower has been blooming a long time in the surface of a side road in Somerville, right next to where we usually park when we go to church. Temperatures have been as high as 100°, rain has been scarce lately, and yet the flower continues.

07 June 2018

a stormy verse and random sketch

This morning I was reading a book and a quote caught my eye . . . which gave me the inspiration for this watercolor sketch. I did the sky quickly, wet-on-wet, and tipped the sketchbook to allow the storm clouds to run — but it did not turn out like I envisioned in my head.

The quote is hard to read against the water (it dried darker than expected); it says:
“Furious winds often drive the vessel more swiftly into port.” -- Charles Spurgeon

And just because I am missing my fountain pens, I did these bluebell ‘doodles’ in my small Field Notes memo book.

06 June 2018

keeping it simple


Today was a busy day with several errands and appointments, so I kept today’s direct watercolor sketch simple: I painted what was directly in front of me! These are the paint colors I’ve been using for the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge, loosely based on Marc Taro Holmes’ absolute minimum choices. I keep a pocket palette of the same in my bag but so far I’ve been painting these at home, using this slightly larger palette.

Bardie was very interested in my sketchbook as I took the above photo. Or possibly he was wondering when I would finish this silliness and feed him?

05 June 2018

log cabin at Old Baylor

For today’s direct watercolor painting, I used a photo taken at Old Baylor University’s Women’s Campus located in Independence, Texas . . . just across the road from the home of Sam Houston. This original log cabin has been moved onto the site, just east of the ruins of the women’s buildings. Every spring the meadow next to the cabin is filled with wild bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and coreopsis.

I did use a very few pencil lines to ensure the cabin’s proportions were correct, and dots of masking fluid for where the wildflowers go. But I don’t feel that either of these tools were overdone; it was still painted directly in watercolor. That sky is nothing like I aimed for, but it worked!

04 June 2018

some garden tomatoes

I think my number one goal for the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge is to let go of my niggling ways. I get too caught up in trying to capture exactly what I see rather than produce a work of art that represents what is there.

My first lesson learned: I need to give up my expectation of how a painting will turn out, and just allow the watercolor to do what it wants.

I also tweaked the palette I’m using, loosely based on one that Marc Taro Holmes uses. I prefer the redder Transparent Pyrrol Orange but quickly learned that this selection of colors really needs the brightness of regular Pyrrol Orange, so I switched it back.

I also prefer Quinacridone Burnt Orange over Marc’s choice of Quinacridone Deep Gold. Both use PO48 pigment but the deep gold adds PY150. I get brown tones easier without the additional yellow.

At church yesterday, I returned to my favorite Kaweco Liliput fountain pen, drawing my current bag and iPad as I followed along with the lesson in discipleship class. Sometimes I just need to draw some lines! (Color wash added later at home.) This bag is actually not a purse; it’s made by LIHIT LAB to hold computer tablets inside a briefcase. I found it on Amazon and thought it would work well for art supplies with room for my journal as well.

03 June 2018

another sunrise

This 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor challenge is proving much harder for me than expected. Today’s painting is from a photo I once took as we drove south at sunrise. Details of the land were indistinguishable but the sky was brilliant. There were beams of light radiating up into the sky which were captured in the digital photo . . . but turned out hard to replicate on paper!

I have not been happy with any of my attempts so far but it’s only the third day. I can only improve with practice, right? At least that’s my hope . . .

02 June 2018

30 x 30, day 2

Today I tried a watercolor sketch of some red lilies that bloomed against our log cabin a few weeks ago. We took down the small fenced yard recently, no longer owning a dog, but I didn’t want to get rid of this gate Bill had built — so I leaned it against the cabin to let roses climb on it. Roses that may or may not have made it through the colder-than-usual winter.

I can see right off that I need to be more careful with tonal values. The leaves had a yellow-green for highlights but the deeper green bled into the lighter, overwhelming it.

01 June 2018

30x30DirectWatercolor2018 - day 1

Today begins the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor challenge . . . and we were traveling to Pflugerville for the day, attending our grandson Quen’s 5th grade graduation event. Even after returning home, I couldn’t seem to focus on painting. Procrastination, perhaps? Or more likely that old fear of the first page. We get such lovely images in our heads of perfectly executed paintings, so perfect that our actual efforts never measure up.

Tonight I set up my paints and found a photo of Quen and his dog Scout walking on Mustang Island beach at sunrise . . . and simply dove in, painting directly in watercolor. Maybe a bit overworked here and there, but so begins a full month of practicing direct watercolor sketches.

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