Saturday, November 25, 2023

Last Call for Persimmons

Last Call
4" x 6" ink and watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

The persimmon season is coming to a close. That means it's late fall in northern California. 

Such beauty, and so tasty when sliced with thinly sliced pear and sprinkled lightly with olive oil and honey-ginger balsamic vinegar. Over the top, just a little sea salt and a few strips of basil. Mmmmmm. 

Friday, November 24, 2023



4" x 6" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press

So thankful for Thanksgiving with family yesterday. And for these bright persimmons to paint today. Life can be so wonderful. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Couldn't Resist


Dahlia in Golden Gate Park
10" x 10" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press

I couldn't resist adding just one more dark background layer to the painting featured in the previous post. I think it helps the lighter areas pop just a bit more...but I have miles to go before I am even close to channeling Marney Ward

And maybe there's only one Marney Ward out there, though Cara Brown's style is similar. Such beautiful transparency and luminescence from both artists. I'll never be as painstakingly realistic with my paintings--I don't have the patience. But if I could achieve that luminescence once in a while, that would be something. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Anatomy of a Painting


Dahlia in Golden Gate Park
10" x 10" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press

I've been taking an online course from Canadian watercolor artist Marney Ward. If you check out her web site, you'll see why I'm dissatisfied with this painting. My goal was to learn how to paint with the kind of luminosity she achieves. Her flowers positively glow right off the paper. 

This flower...does not quite do that. 

She had us start with a somewhat detailed drawing, and then work first on the background. Here's my start, below. At this point I was thinking anything was possible--a very heady feeling! 

She then advised working petal by petal around the flower. I quickly realized I was getting carried away with stripes (see just below). Now I was thinking, "Dang, I'm messing it up." 

It helped to cover some of the petals in blue (see very top), to cause them to recede for some depth and to call less attention to all those stripes. 

But that version (see just below) still didn't glow like a Marney Ward painting. And my the colors veered too far into the blue territory. I hadn't kept enough pink for warmth. I felt I'd failed the painting entirely.

So I added more pink:

And then even brighter pinks and yellows here and there (same as top image):

I'm calling it finished, but it still does not sing like a Marney Ward painting.'s back to the drawing board, but probably with a different reference photo. 

(Here's the photo I was working from:) 

All in all, four days' intensive work just to yield a "Meh" painting. 

But I've learned some things that maybe will help the next one. 

This watercolor learning curve is mighty roller coaster-y, but it's still quite fun. 

Friday, November 10, 2023



From Mary's Garden
6" x 8" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

Yes, it's been a relief this week to abandon the literal and pull out the ink, using a stick for bold lines, and then after the ink dries, slopping on some juicy, bright watercolors. FUN!

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Fall Harvest


Mary's Harvest
6" x 8" watercolor
Fluid cold press paper

Yesterday it was a relief to get back to some bold ink lines made with a stick dipped in black acrylic permanent ink. After the ink dried, I layered in some light watercolor tones, let them dry, then added darker tones here and there. I used juicy washes that let the watercolors do their thing. Fun! 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Rainy Season?


Rainy Season? 
10" x 10" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

I moved the SF/East Bay area from the Midwest almost five years ago, but I still can't get used to going for months without rain from about April through October. Dust collects on the ground and in the trees. Each fall, it's such a relief to get our first big rain. But today the sky gave up only a few drops.

Not rainy season. Not yet. Not here.  

Pressure and Courage


Another Bougainvillea Study
Watercolor and gouache
8" x 10" on Arches 100% cold press paper

It's a little embarrassing to share these two paintings, but my intent with this blog is to be honest about this hodge-podge learning curve I'm on re: watercolors. 

A major surprise to me since quitting my day jobs over a year ago is the amount of pressure I put on myself about learning to be a better painter. It often feels like I'm taking a step forward to every dozen steps back, and then I question myself for even trying. 

Usually just slopping some paint on paper in a playful way helps relieve this pressure, especially if I don't judge the results. It helps reboot the brain, cleanses the palate (also, sometimes, the palette), helps me summon the courage to get back on the learning-curve horse and try again. 

These paintings will likely get chopped up and made into abstract gift tags, but I am hoping they have cleared the way for some decent paintings to come. Stay tuned. 

And Another
8" x 10" on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

Saturday, November 4, 2023



Bougainvillea Time Again
4" x 6" watercolor

This one had a mind of its own. I wanted it to be a fairly literal close-up of a few bougainvillea petals backlit by the sun. But the brush ran away with it before I could pencil anything in. This was after I'd drawn and then painted a very tight, composition of a few geranium leaves and petals--a painting not fit to publish. It is as if my psyche said "Enough!" afterward and hid the pencil for this one. "No more tight sketches that lead to tight paintings. Just paint!" 

I think I kind of like this. I definitely had more fun with it.  

More About the Sally Project

I met Sally forty years ago when I was twenty and she was the one in her sixties. I was a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on...