Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I haven't begun to assemble my Christmas cards yet, but here's a snowy scene that will likely grace several of my cards this year. May your holidays be full of family, friends and good cheer!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Iris on Aquabord finished

I'll be honest. I've found this to be one of the more frustrating paintings I've ever undertaken. I never could get comfortable with the characteristics of Aquabord. I kept trying to tell myself that it was a phase, and that it would grow on me. After all, I had similar pangs of frustration when I first switched from Canson's Montval line of paper to Arches cotton-rag papers.

However, those frustrations when first using Arches faded quickly as I began to understand the potential locked within those cotton fibers.

I never reached that sense of promise with this painting. Perhaps I really am too set in my ways. And I have six more small pieces of Aquabord tucked in my desk drawer, so they'll have to utilized in some way eventually. Maybe I'm just not ready yet and another attempt will go better.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rimmed in Rust

Rimmed in Rust
So here, finally, is the finished painting of the McCormick-Deering tractor I discussed in my last post. It's currently on display in Harrisonburg, Va, at VMRC as part of the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society Members Exhibition.

I had really liked this painting . . . until I saw it in on display in the show. Now I think it's too small. It's not quite 10x10, and in that long gallery with its high ceilings, it felt weak. I had to search to find it, in fact.

So, I think my solution will be to do a larger version during the winter. I like the idea, the composition, the colors...but I think it's got to be larger.

Aside from the size issues, there are many things that I still like about this painting, particularly the textures. In real life, this tractor is a rough beast, with layers and layers of paint covering its heavy frame.

I think I've accentuated those textures here. I used wet-into-wet techniques on the wheel, with pigments bleeding into one another to create the age spots and dominant highlight. For the gray-blue tractor body, there are many careful layers of paint, with lots of little dots in selected areas. I put my fine-pointed Loew-Cornell series 7020 brushes to good use on this painting.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I finished this painting a while ago, but I'm only now getting around to posting any images of it. It's currently hanging in the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society Show in Harrisonburg, Va., at the Park Gables Gallery at VMRC.

I've had this idea in mind for a few years. The old McCormick-Deering tractor is an outdoor display at the nearby Lost River Museum. I've painted the scene with the tractor twice before, but as more traditional landscape compositions.

However, I've always wanted to crop in more tightly on the tractor itself. I helped the group that sanded the tractor down and applied fresh paint prior to its dedication as a museum display, so the hands-on experience helped me appreciate the complexity of the tractor's assembly. There's incredible texture and weight in each individual component, and the shapes and colors are fascinating to explore.

So, years after first entertaining the idea, I've tried to break the composition down into a collection of shapes that entertain my eye, but is still recognizable as a steel-wheeled tractor.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Awards and cancellations

As it turns out, I'm not going to teach at Pinnacle this year because of a lack of signups....but I'm going to take a class instead, so the weekend will still be productive. I will learn about silk-screen printing, and I have all sorts of ideas for possible subjects.

I also have some belated updates on some exhibitions. I had two paintings included in the West Virginia Watercolor Society juried exhibition, Aqueous 2011, earlier this summer, juried by Roanoke, Va., artist Nancy Stark, and the original butterfly painting (Yellow Wings) won a merit award.

For more on WVWS, visit the website

"One Moment"

In late August, I sent the larger butterfly painting (Shall We Gather), and my recently completed portrait (One Moment) to the Randolph County Community Arts Center for their annual Gala Exhibition. Amazingly, my portrait won first place behind an amazing best-of-show work by Buckhannon artist Laurie Goldstein-Warren.

The Gala is a mixed-media show, including fiber, sculpture, and photography, so it's nice to see that  my watercolors can stand out among a wide range of styles. The juror for the show was Betty Carr. A list of participating artists can be found at the RCCAC site at

Next, I have a couple of new shows on the horizon. I have joined the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society, based in Harrisonburg, Va., and their member show begins this weekend at the wonderful gallery at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. I have three paintings headed there.

Then, I've been invited back to Tamarack in January for their Emerging Artists show. Last January when I participated in the Architectonic show, I told myself it would be the only opportunity I would ever have to show in such a professional space. So I'm happy to be wrong and look forward to seeing where the journey takes me as I paint for the show this winter.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


So I've been daring, and I've scrubbed out the dominant fall on this iris and repainted it. I'm not sure that it's any better than the original version, but I think it matches the upper standards a little better now. I've decided that I don't like the glazing properties of Aquabord

I'm using staining colors so I thought I might be able to glaze from a technical standpoint, but it turns out that I didn't like the effect. I like the mottled results from flooding an area with mingled colors. That's how the upper standards were painted, and that's what I wanted to accomplish with the re-do of the fall.

However, in trying to get areas appropriately dark, I think I lost the mottled effect. But I still think it matches a little better. The first version felt highly finished, and really didn't look like watercolor anymore. It had the look of acrylic. I like the blemishes that indicate that watercolor was at work.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Class at Pinnacle

A view of my palette
I'm still working the Aquabord Iris (I've been trying out its advertised scrubbing properties) and I will post an update soon.

However, I also wanted to mention that I will be teaching at the Hardy County Extension Service's annual women's craft retreat in October. This will be the third year that I've participated as an instructor. The Retreat begins on Friday evening, Oct. 7 and will end at noon on Sunday, Oct. 9.

I can't figure out how to link to a pdf on Blogger, so I've posted the information form on my website for download. Go to my site to see the link:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting the hang of it

I'm slowly getting the hang of Aquabord's characteristics in a wet-into-wet application. You can see the difference between the larger fall in the foreground and the upper petals (on irises the lower petals are called falls).

I had painted the fall first and was still struggling with the unfamiliar surface. Then I moved into the upper petals and there, in a smaller area, I started to get the hang of things. I then went back into the dominant fall to improve its look, but I'm not sure that I managed that.

One observation so far: the colors are definitely vivid. You can see the underlying layers of permanent rose in many areas, so there is a sense of depth, but I prefer the textures that developed in the upper sections resulting from a single mingled-color wash. The texture adds to the ruffled look that characterizes this particular bloom. Once the paint is down, it seems difficult to go back in and recapture that effect if you've lost it.

I'm tempted to wash out one area as an experiment, and then see if I can recapture the texture with a fresh application of paint. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Iris on Aquabord

It feels as though summer is nearly over, and I have little painting progress to show for the last several weeks. In truth, I have two projects in the works, though my time for painting has been a little sporadic of late. 

I'll save the other project for another day, but here is my latest "Lunchtime Painting." Yes, yet another iris (easily my favorite flower), but the twist here is the surface on which I'm painting. It's not paper.

This is a 5"x7" piece of Ampersand Aquabord (formerly known as Claybord Textured). It's a a masonite board with a ground of kaolin clay on the surface. The company, and some other painters who regularly use the material, compare its painting qualities to cold-press paper, only lifting paint is much easier, they say.

I worked on the support in a workshop a few years ago and found it to be somewhat interesting. In the wake of that experience, I had purchased some small pieces of Aquabord. However, they've been  in a desk drawer ever since.

Given my painting doldrums, I decided to pull out  a piece and give it a try. And it's been a bit of a struggle so far.

I've been very much in the habit of developing these iris paintings with thin, watery glazes. The 300-pound Arches has been particularly well-suited for that kind of approach. But when I attempt the same procedure on the Aquabord, the outcome is very different.

First, the drying shift is deceptive. Normally, on paper, the paint looks very vibrant when wet and then lightens and loses some saturation as it dries. On this surface, the paint looks chalky and dull when wet, and then dries into more vibrant colors.

Second, it's difficult to soften edges and melt one color into the next because I don't have any feel for the hydrodynamics of the kaolin clay ground.

Finally, when things dry, there is a curious mottled effect that remains, often looking as though I had sprinkled a bit of clear water on the surface. I think it has to do with the textured nature of the ground. It's not unpleasant in this instance because of the texture of the flower's petals and falls, but it's unexpected.

So, it's been a learning experience thus far. I almost think that this surface demands more of a drybrush approach, or perhaps a very hard-edge, posterized style. Watery wet-into-wet seems to be problematic. But, I'll also admit that I'm a newbie, and I'm going to keep plugging along and experimenting on this project.

The watercolor painter I'm most aware of who is using Aquabord is Ali Cavanaugh, who has been featured in several of the national art magazines. She describes her painting process as "neo fresco secco," because she was inspired to paint on plaster surfaces, and then found Ampersand's product lines fit her needs. Her painting process is similar to that of egg tempera, using small overlapping strokes. To read more about her process, click here.

To see more of Ali's paintings, visit her website at:

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I've finally managed to complete another lunchtime painting. I've been working on this one for a while, and it took two starts to get something that I liked.

This is based on a photo taken by a budding photographer who is a cousin to my husband. She was showing several of her photos during a family picnic last year, and I was struck by one image in particular -- a closeup image of a peony in bloom.

I asked her if I could use the image for a painting, and told her that the resulting piece would be hers.

So, it's been a year, but I finally have a small painting (4"x6") for her.

I like how this painting is divided into clearly warm and cool sections. Many of these colors aren't present in the source photo...I embellished as I built up glazes, and punched up colors to build a sense of depth. Warm colors tend to move closer, and cool colors recede.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mark making with markers

The folks with the Grant County Art Council hosted a "paint-out" last Saturday at Welton Park near the Grant-Hardy border.

Not very many people participated, but those who came had a good time and worked on some scenes of the South Branch, which borders the park on its way through Petersburg Gap.

I was meeting someone, so I could not stay for the entire session. I decided that I would use my limited time to play with my Prismacolor Markers and sketch -- it would be quicker and less messy to clean up when my lunch partner arrived.

The top scene is of a stand of trees lightly kissed by the bright noon sun.

This bottom scene is mostly made up...I'm getting better at imagining and simplifying scenes, so this one deserves a small pat on the back. Several canoes went by while I was working on the tree drawing, and I thought it would be fun to play with very simple shapes and reflections in an imagined scene on the river.

The markers are a little hard to get used to. I really wanted to smoothly transition from light to dark in places, and with the markers that sort of nuance is difficult. They're best in a posterized sense..mass strong, simple shapes, and use a minimum of values.

I bought the markers so I could develop thumbnail value drawings as a precursor to painting. As usual, the markers have remained in a coffee cup on my desk, and the brushes have reigned supreme. But, this was a good opportunity to play, and I like some of the results. I really had to think about moving shapes forward and back based on values and relationships to surrounding shapes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Portrait workshop project

I've been playing with a project from an April workshop that I wanted to share.  Jane Paul Angelhart returned to the Shenandoah Valley in April and conducted a workshop for VECCA.

Jane had prepared three portrait projects for us to work on through the three-day workshop. Since I'm so meticulous on these portraits, especially at the beginning, I didn't come close to finishing the first two projects, and I missed the third day altogether because of work commitments.

However, weeks later, I've finally finished the little girl from the first day of the workshop, and I thought I'd share some images of my progress.

For her class participants, Jane provides reference photos and a 7x10 piece of watercolor paper with several critical outlines pre-drawn. Those are the red marks you can see on the first image above. (I'm posting these images larger than I normally would because they are class exercises.)

This first image is my favorite because I love the hints of color on beautiful, clean paper. There's something so fresh about an image at this stage.

As you can see in this version, I've skipped quite a few steps, but mostly the changes involve building up the skin tones of her face by using washes of Daniel Smith's Quin Coral, Perinone Orange, Quin Gold, and MaimerBlu's Sap Green. I also used gentle scrubber brushes to soften and alter the line of the highlight along her forehead.

Finally, here is the finished version, which includes several more washes along the background, additional washes on her shirt, refinement of the shape and shadows of the ear, and some more touches of wispy hair. I didn't want to fuss too much with secondary areas such as the ear, because that's not the focus of the image. Her eyes, as well as the shape of that beautiful highlight, should be the dominant element. 

I cannot stress enough how much I have learned from taking two workshops from Jane Paul Angelhart. She is an extraordinary teacher, who provides the right kind of guidance from the onset. I never thought I could paint portraits because my early attempts at mixing skin tones were always disastrous. But Jane's palette, and her enthusiastic demonstrations and advice make all the difference.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mill at Babcock

Glade Creek Mill at Babcock State Park

So here is the colored sketch of the mill at Babcock. I'm not very skilled at these on-site exercises, and I really need to practice more to get better. I'm all for another weekend at one of West Virginia's state parks to give it a try!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vacation sketch

We had a great time at Babcock State Park this year. Unfortunately, it rained more that we would have liked, so our outdoor activities were somewhat limited.

On our only sunny afternoon, we were quite industrious, hiking to the famed Long Point to see a spectacular view of the New River Gorge Bridge. On our return to the park, we wandered down to the Glade Creek Mill to enjoy the scenery and sunshine.

I settled on a rock by the creek's banks, and drew this scene. I then tinted it with my handy travel brushes that carry a water reservoir in the handle, but I have to admit the results were less than stellar. I've used the brushes before while on vacation with some success (see this post to understand what kind of brushes I'm describing), but I was unhappy with this effort.

So, the sketch you see below is actually a new drawing based on the original sketch, and I will tint it using my regular watercolor brushes. When drawing I use pencil first, then go over that sketch with Pigma Micron pens in three thicknesses.

When I've added the watercolor, I'll post a new image.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Postcard promotion

I promise I will post about painting soon... or at least as soon as I put my brush to paper again.

But in the meantime, I had to share this wonderful card that I received in the mail today from Anne Finlayson at VMRC. That's my painting in the bottom corner, and I am so surprised and elated to see that they chose that image for the promotional cards for the show.

Anne also sent one of the color brochures listing all the participants. That piece also includes some images of the accepted artwork, and "Wisdom Watching" was included there! So I'm really happy and humbled to see images of my work alongside the pieces of other artists. "How did that happen?" pops into my head every time I see them.

So, as the card above indicates, the show opens May 29 and runs through June 30 at the Park Gables Gallery at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, 1491 Virginia Ave., in Harrisonburg, Va. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Faces finished

Here are the long-promised close-ups of the faces in my most recent painting. So far all reactions to the painting have been positive, and I'm generally pleased with how it developed.

The faces have been developed using Jane Paul Angelhart's palette of transparent and semi-transparent colors. However, I did substitute one of her stalwart pigments, Holbein Olive Green, in favor of MaimeriBlu Sap Green.

I have found in difficult to work with the Olive Green in some past paintings because it pushes toward orange tones when glazed with reds and pinks. I found that the Sap Green was more neutral in skin tone applications. I want to test that idea further in my next attempt at a portrait.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

One Moment

Well, I've wrapped up this painting just in time for the entry deadline to the West Virginia Watercolor Society show. I've been working on this for about eight weeks, including the drawing, so I admit that I've reached a level of fatigue that says it's time to stop.

This is only my fourth portrait painting, so I'm still struggling with some things, but I am certainly pleased with how her face turned out. In the post where I had included closeups of their faces at an earlier stage, you can see how the lines and texture of her face were created with little bits of color.

It looked rough at that point, but a simply wash over a larger area melted all the bits together into a realistic portrayal. I'll try to scan the faces again so in a new post you can see a close up view of what I'm describing.

Honestly, I had a lot more trouble with his profile. Not having the lines and features of a face made it more difficult, and then there was the problem of creating a sense of texture in his weathered profile. My first washes were very much like my previous portraits of children...very smooth. And for him that was completely wrong. So it look a long while to build up enough thin washes to create the illusion of a mature adult's skin, but it finally worked.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Accepted at VMRC

Wisdom Watching

Shall We Gather

I received my letter from the VMRC annual exhibit this weekend, and I'm so surprised and pleased that I've had two works accepted in their eighth annual show!

The Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community is the host for the multimedia show, which is advertised in most of the national art magazines and artist call websites. I attempted to enter it once before, but I've always thought that my work was too ordinary to ever make it. The panel of jurors usually includes university faculty, and selections cover a wide range of styles and approaches.

Exhibit coordinator Anne Finlayson included some statistics in the notification letter. There were 532 entries made by 189 artists representing 31 states. The exhibition will include 103 pieces by 97 artists from 23 states...and I have two pieces (Wisdom Watching and Shall We Gather) included!

The exhibit will run from May 29 to June 30 in the Park Gables Gallery at VMRC, Harrisonburg, Va. More on the exhibit can be found on their website:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beautiful brush vase

I'm sorry this post has little to do with painting, but I had to share my wonderful find!

I went to Tamarack last weekend to pick up my paintings from the "Architectonic" show. Tamarack is mostly a showplace for fine craft, with the Dickirson Gallery as a revolving space for fine art. So I love to wander about the different sections to see the glassware, ceramics, jewelry, etc.

In the ceramics section, I decided I wanted a beautiful piece to hold my brushes. I've always used random coffee mugs, and they're never quite large enough, particularly with several flat wash brushes in the bunch.

So here is my find! It's made by a young potter named Lindsay Philabaun who lives in St. Albans, W.Va. This pattern has been her signature design, but she's adding some floral patterns into her product line. You can see her work at her website:

Friday, April 1, 2011


I've included some close-up shots of my latest painting in progress. I can't decide how well it's really going because I swing from optimism to pessimism every few moments as I work.

It's not turning out quite as I had intended...but I press on, determined to learn what I can from my mistakes.

UPDATE: I had to go back in and update the photos for this post because they were so badly taken. So these images better represent where I'm at in this painting now.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shall We Gather?

I believe I've done all the damage I'm willing to do on this topic. And I'm still not certain which one I prefer. In some ways I am pleased with the more value-dependent first version, but I do like certain aspects of this one as well.

Which do you prefer?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More butterflies

So here is the result of the plastic wrap. . . pretty nifty! And, the bonus benefit is that the technique can be completed more quickly than the careful layers I built up in the first version.

Now, I'm not saying that carefully painted "random" shapes aren't fun . . . but truly, there is a benefit in regard to the paper's surface. I had so many thin layers of paint on the previous painting that when I got to the end, I was having difficulty keeping a crisp edge on some of the darkest ares. The paper sizing was no longer effective, and feathers and bleeds were creeping into completed sections every time I applied fresh, dark color. So, reaching this level of texture with only a single application of pigment and water was very helpful in the long run.

I next applied one layer of a neutral tone over the plastic wrap effects to unify the patterns and then tackled the difficult section: evenly applying a mixed black throughout the painting.

The darkest design shapes hold the composition together, I think. Here you can see the butterflies still covered in their masking fluid, surrounded by dark, velvety passages.

I mixed my black from Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green. It works wonderfully as a dark staining color, but it also tends to shift from green to purple if I don't have the proper balance of pigments in the mix. When dry, I went back over the dark areas once more, and added a touch of Cobalt Blue to the mix to even out the color shifts.

I had applied some masking fluid to areas that were wholly contained within the largest dark areas to preserve them, but the outer edges of all the convoluted shapes were painted freehand. I had to work quickly, and always stay ahead of the wet edge of paint to avoid obvious brushstrokes. Keeping these shapes sharp and flat-toned was critical to my concept in this painting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Butterflies reprised

Well, the butterflies intrigued me enough that I thought I would try them again, and this time I took some process photographs.

The new version of the painting is much larger -- nearly 24 inches across versus 14 inches for the original.

I first wet down the sheet and then dropped color into the areas of the butterflies. I also decided to go a little wild with some of the colors, so I have some blue, green and pink butterflies among the yellow ones.

After those soft color blossoms dried, I spent hours carefully masking the butterflies. I used some tape in larger areas, and carefully sealed those edges with masking fluid. Then the masking fluid went around the taped areas and into all the nooks and crannies that make up the butterfly shapes. I didn't photograph the masking masking fluid is colorless, so there wasn't much to see.

This image shows my next step -- painting over the entire painting with dark colors, and then crumpling sheets of plastic wrap into the wet paint. In the first version of the painting, I carefully painted all the textured effects. For this one, I wanted to try the random texturizing that plastic wrap could provide. The wet pools of color also tended to intensify pure pigments, so some colorful patches -- ranging from dark purple, to green to blue -- were created along with the texture.

I let the plastic wrap stay on the wet surface for about an hour. Then I carefully peeled the plastic off so the entire surface could completely dry.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Abstracting a mud puddle

How do you paint a mud puddle?

That was the challenge I faced with this painting of swallowtail butterflies "puddling." From what I've read, this is a common behavior with many types of butterflies. They will gather in these groups for the purpose of extracting moisture and nutrients from soggy, damp areas.

I photographed this group of butterflies several years ago at Holly River State Park. I found the photograph a few weeks ago and became interested in the visual path created by this grouping of the butterflies.

But, that darned mud puddle. I really did not know how to handle the surroundings, so I decided to make a move toward abstraction to simplify what I was seeing.

In the effort, the darkest areas helped reinforce the interior structure that helps guide the viewer's eye through the group of butterflies.

I liked this effort so well that I'm attempting it again in a larger format. I plan to try some different techniques in the larger version, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Favorites earn recognition

I'm so happy to learn that two of my favorite watercolorists have had work accepted in the new American Watercolor Society show: Lynn Ferris and Jeannie McGuire.

Readers of my blog know that I've taken workshops with both ladies, and I have learned a great deal from both. So it's wonderful to see accomplished artists with whom I've had personal interactions earn such recognition. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to meet them both and watch them paint.

To learn more about the AWS, visit their website at

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Architectonic" at Tamarack

"Wisdom Watching" (7"x10") is one of three pieces I'll have on display at Tamarack in Beckley, W.Va., for the next two months.

I was accepted as an associate artist at the Dickirson Gallery in 2009, but I haven't painted regularly enough since then to have anything available for any shows.

A gallery invitation from Christine Humphrey, gallery manager, finally spurred me into some action. I completed three paintings in quick succession over December and January for the show. My favorite of the three is "Wisdom Watching."

"Wisdom" is based on a photograph I took of the ornamentation around the East Entrance of the West Virginia Capitol in October. The afternoon sun highlighted the side of her face perfectly, and I couldn't resist the opportunity.

To read more about the mythological figures around the Capitol Complex, check out this link from the West Virginia Legislature's website:

"Architectonic" opens Feb. 13 and runs through April 9. For more about Tamarack, including directions, visit their website at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Our House - Finished

The saga of painting my father's childhood home ended this Christmas when I finally presented the finished piece to him.

I started this project back in the early part of 2009, but it had roots in an even earlier date when my father first asked me for this painting.

The simple structure on my grandparent's farm burned in the 1970s. Very few images from the family photo albums included the house, and when it did appear, it was always as a background image, mostly cropped out of the frame.

Here's an example of one of the photo references I was working from, and this is one of the more complete views of the structure.

I detailed the obstacles in the project in earlier posts from 2009. You can find the posts by clicking on the "Our House" label to the left. The lack of reference photos pushed me into constructing a model of the house in foamcore, and then setting up lights to create the illusion of sunlight and shadows.

The large tree next to the house posed its own problems. I eventually hit upon photographing a pine from my yard, which ended up being a close match to the kind of rough, irregularly shaped tree dad remembered.

I completed a drawing of the scene in a horizontal landscape format, started a color study of the composition -- and discovered it was all wrong. There were too many unknowns with the pasture field and steep hill surrounding the house that I didn't know how to solve.

I went back to the drawing board -- literally.

Early in 2010, I finally managed a drawing of the house in a new vertical composition that eliminated most the background hillside. The emphasis in this view would be the house, not the setting. It was probably too simple of a composition, with little to help lead the eye around the frame, but I had come to the conclusion that in this case, that was okay. The house was what interested my father, and if I could render that in a realistic manner, he would be satisfied.

I then started developing a series of tiny color studies to work out a palette. I wanted to limit my palette severely, to concentrate on value and shape rather than on a rainbow of colors that might distract.

My first plan was to limit myself to French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna -- my favorite set of complements.

But when I tried that, it didn't work. I had difficulty distinguishing the brightly lit front planes of the house from the background hill, for example. The Sienna also was adding too reddish a tint to the tar-paper siding that covered the house. You can see my difficulties in the first color study to the left.

I could have tried another brand of Burnt Sienna (W&N's BS leans toward red; other brands can lean toward yellow), but I already felt too constricted by the severely limited palette.

I then experimented with a touch of burnt umber, quin gold, added cobalt violet and then moved back toward ultramarine violet.

You can see the progression of color modifications in these studies. These two are a sampling of my endeavors. I completed six in all, and never was satisfied with any of them.

I also considered modifying my composition to a square. My Christmas card for 2010 was one of my experiments along this line. Ultimately, I decided against it. The house was so dominant in the scene that I felt the large grassy foreground was needed to offset its weight, almost in the sense of a cantilever.

I finally worked out a simple palette of FUB, Burnt Umber, a touch of Hookers Green, and Ultramarine Violet. I did a larger color study with this set of pigments, and finally found what I was looking for.

In some ways, I like this little 5x7 study better than the full-size painting, which is 16x22. I like the softer edges of the house, I think. It seems as though the light is softly bouncing off it, and it has more of a late evening quality because of the light.

The full size painting, with its crisper edges, feels harsher. But in that size, I didn't quite know how to soften it. So I left it alone.

In the end, I understood that I was painting this for my father, not for me. For him, the crisper edges helped to solidify memories that had grown dim over the decades. He was pleased. And that was all I needed from this project.

Pinnacle recap

Back in the fall, I mentioned my class at the women's retreat at Hardy County's Camp Pinnacle.

This was one of the painting projects my students completed.

I paint example paintings and have the students work from them, rather than from photographs. I think it is harder for a person learning to paint watercolor to juggle the medium and the translation of a photographic image into a panting. So the students have my interpretation of reality to work from, so they can concentrate on the medium itself.

The crock painting was a hit with several of the retreat's organizers, many of whom are involved with 4-H. Camp Pinnacle's primary function is as the county 4-H camp, and plans were already underway for a silent auction a few weeks after the retreat to benefit 4-H programs.

So my painting became a donation for the silent auction. I'm an old 4-Her myself, so I truly appreciate what the program means to children in West Virginia.