Baby & Mom or Jesus

Mom & Baby PhotographBaby & Mom or Jesus are the subjects of this family snapshot showing the “Smooch, I love you!” moment, between a mom and her baby. It used to be a common practice for me to fully draw any idea out on paper before laying it out on any kind of canvas for painting. So, I’d typically end up with a pencil drawing and a painting of anything I was illustrating.

Baby & Mom K4006” is a 24″w x 18″h pencil drawing on sketch paper inspired by the above photograph.
Baby Jesus 01


I started on a rub-out oil on board painting in the middle of December. Right when the layout began to take shape on the canvas, a great Christmas carol played on the radio. The words captivated my imagination, and immediately changed the people in the painting into the characters sang about in the song.Baby Jesus 02

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day walk on water?….

Baby Jesus 03Oil on board painting, ” Baby Jesus L704“, 27.75″w x 21.75″h x .75″t

Baby Jesus 04In 2004, this painting won a place in the west coast USA tour going from Seattle WA to San Diego CA for the Seattle VSA disABILITIES Art contest.

I received an unusual call right before the paintings were sent off for their year-long trek. They asked me to change the name of the painting. Having a religious reference in the title was not appropriate. Really? I was surprised and called them back saying the title was openly stated on my entry form from the very beginning. I would not change the painting’s name. If that is not acceptable, return the painting to me and choose another. They decided to go ahead and send it on tour and there were no problems that I know of.

When I received Baby Jesus back home, I took it to a show at a garden nursery, and He was sold on the very first day. I did not see very much of either the sketch or the oil painting before they found forever homes. The customers had no problem at all with the titles of the pieces.

Dragonfly in the Sun 05

Dragonfly Sunflower 21Finishing

The Dragonfly in the Sun 05 tutorial covers all the final finishing steps to complete this painting. It is still hard to immediately see the shape of the dragonfly with all the competing edges all around it. So, we can remedy this by creating “high contrast” to direct the viewer’s eye to where the main characters reside. Dragonfly Sunflower 22We greatly darken the entire background and add more foliage shapes randomly. A really good and dark mixture to use is crimson with hookers green, it is my favorite black. Kind of a powerful black with a heck of a punch. Once you use this mixture you will be spoiled for life and never even open a tube of black again. More red will make it reddish, and more green makes it greenish.Dragonfly Sunflower 23 With a sufficiently darkened background, we can now focus on the final details of Mr. Dragonfly and his sunflower.

Highlight & Shadows

Okay, now some people get all upset because I use “white” to render the final details, and I also use Paynes Grey to render the deepest blacks. “Frankly, my dear….” Hopefully, these people will get a life and move on at some point.Dragonfly Sunflower 24 Notice, the row of slight touches of acrylic white paint added to the dragonfly wing where highlights occur. A thinner mix is applied at each of these clear parts of his wing, which allows the underpainting to still show through. I only apply this where I notice shine and glimmer appearing. Dragonfly Sunflower 25It becomes a game of applying, re-applying, and then softening edges with a clean wet brush until you get exactly what you want. You can get amazing soft hints of light by applying a weak mix of white or black to the previously painted surfaces.

Lastly, I apply small amounts of highlight to the flower cone as well. You can see this painting on the artist’s website anytime, Dragonfly in the Sun G1618. Thanks for doing this lesson.

Dragonfly in the Sun 03

Dragonfly Sunflower 11

Dragonfly in the Sun 03 tutorial puts the greens into the background foliage and darkens the crimson background. Beginning with a pale sap green watercolor wash for the lower left leaves, I fill in all the foliage areas. There are a few areas left light where the light would be striking specific surfaces.

Dragonfly Sunflower 13Proceeding on, this wash fills the stem and leaves surrounding the sunflower.

Dragonfly Sunflower 14Before this wash dries I apply drops of hookers green and either lemon yellow to the leaves along with tiny touches of ultramarine blue for those deeper shadows. The water spreads these colors together for me. All during this process, you may think that the colors are too bright but remember that they grow pale as they dry.Dragonfly Sunflower 15


For Dragonfly in the Sun 03 tutorial, we start to apply a crimson wash to create the initial background. After applying alizarin crimson blobs in the background area, I wet the brush and carefully wet the paper to where I wanted the color to stop spreading. Once I touch the blob of crimson and connect it to this new puddle it immediately spreads into whatever area I have just made wet. I love the way this works because it gives me a dark edge where my puddle of color starts and gradually bleeds into the other side of the puddle perfectly.

Dragonfly Sunflower 16Remember in the previous tutorial, where I mentioned that watercolors tend to get paler when they dry? These last two photographs show a good example of that.

Right now, with all the paint dry the flower, insect, and background appear similar in value, a medium mush.


Dragonfly in the Sun 04

Dragonfly Sunflower 17

Flower Details

For the Dragonfly in the Sun 04 tutorial, we begin to add details to emphasize where the flower petals curve down to attach to the center of the sunflower blossom. There is a distinct division of surfaces right where the petal meets the blossom cone.
Dragonfly Sunflower 18Adding ultramarine blue and even purple accentuates how deep this crevasse is. Dragonfly Sunflower 19 The yellow petals are brightened with more opaque yellow washes over some of the areas. Also, reds are added to encircle the flower bud where the petals are anchored. Crimson or cerulean blue are then added to various petals to show where they is shadow. Dragonfly Sunflower 20Whenever I paint flowers with all of their curving bright surfaces, it amazes me how many surfaces you discover. Soft arms reaching out and then curving back under another. Do you see a more solid blossom in the illustration now?


Dragonfly in the Sun 02

Dragonfly Sunflower 05

The Sunflower

The Dragonfly in the Sun 02, this tutorial starts off by painting the foreground characters very carefully. Painting from real life is always better for me. I can see exactly where shadows curve and values begin to morph. I’d much rather paint from life, or a sculpture rather than a photograph.

Dragonfly Sunflower 06Beginning with the sunflower petals, I want to carefully preserve how there are light gleams intermingled when the petals are viewed through the dragonfly wings. Notice the small areas of color showing through the wings where we are going to preserve sharp edges to emphasize this phenomenon.

Dragonfly Sunflower 07After the initial Azo Nickle yellow base wash is applied, I can apply the smallest amounts of light cadmium or alizarin crimson and allow it to spread to give shadow and shape to the petals. In the wings, I purposely keep the values paler.

Dragonfly Sunflower 08

Now I begin to see the blossom under the dragonfly. As the petals begin to bend showing me where the light and shadow occur. It may seem like a painfully slow way of rendering the surfaces, a gradual process. I add more, stand back, and look. Discovery, then re-wetting areas needing a darker mix. Dropping paints into the puddles until I arrive where I want it to be. Doing one petal, then doing the next. Suddenly,  I have a full sunflower blossom coming to life in front of me. Warm values create all of this blossom (yellows).

Dragonfly Sunflower 09

The Dragonfly

Beginning to put the base wash on the dragonfly I use a cool value. Using darker concentrations of cobalt blue provides the darkening where I see the shadows happening.

Dragonfly Sunflower 10

More crimson has been added to the sunflower. With the addition of these darker hues, you see where the petals are anchored around the center. The artist is happy, Yahoo!


Dragonfly in the Sun 01

dragonfly photographThe Dragonfly in the Sun 01, this tutorial had a really neat start. My husband came in from the garden laying a perfect little dragonfly on my desk. An absolutely perfect specimen of a critter that I had never seen so up close and personal.

Dragonfly Sunflower 01
9″w x 12″h sketch for watercolor on 140lb wc paper.

I had never seen one up close and holding so still. There are four wings and you can see through right through them as they glitter. They almost look like the stained glass in church windows with clear glass. His body is a deep dark blue with flecks of green and black shadows but it also had a metallic gleam to it. The legs are long and spindly below the wings. What a wonderful opportunity to study a physical presence that never stays still while it is alive. I immediately took pictures of him from all views and began going through my sunflower pictures, because that is where I see dragonflies most of the time.

Dragonfly Sunflower 02It begins with a sketch of the layout. Then I slowly add an alizarin crimson background wash. You can see my photo reference in the front on the left. My messy pallet up above and the water and brushes on the right along with paper towels. I try to remember to start the wash on the left and work to the right so I am not resting my palm on the wet surfaces as I work.

Dragonfly Sunflower 03See how you can see the main images show better as the background becomes separated from the foreground.

Dragonfly Sunflower 04Notice how the wet parts seem so much darker than the parts that are partially or fully dry on the left. When working with watercolor it is truly amazing to see how much paler the pigments are when they dry, it forces you to try bolder amounts of pigment as you paint. Scary but great fun when you finally try it out.


Muley Doe lesson 02

Muley Doe 4Tutorial 02

Continuing with the Muley Doe, I lay in the greens of the shrubs behind the doe. Using mixtures of sap green, hookers green, and a mixture of hookers green with burnt sienna for the forest greens. I have to be careful to avoid where the lighter branches are crossing behind the deer. Neutral browns are laid in underneath the doe to give her a solid substance to stand on. Multiple tangled brush branches and weed shapes populate the ground area. Her body fur is shaped using reds, gold, and some blue or gray to create shadows.

Muley Doe 5Details are rendered with the addition of the darkest shadows on the branches and trunk of the tree. Shadows are then also applied under her belly, nose, eyes, and ears which begin to show better definition. Details are finished using darks and light accents.

You can see the finished image on the artist gallery website here.

Thank you for looking at this tutorial.


Muley Doe C1919

Muley Doe 1Tutorial 01

The painting of a Muley Doe C1919 standing by a birch tree begins with a pencil sketch. You may notice that I concentrate on marking where darks are located as I begin to sketch. The intention is to make the tree and the deer shape intermingled and in a looser rendition style.

Muley Doe 2By blocking in the majority of the background with light washes allow me to reserve areas of white that will be needed later on. The tree bark and branches are the majority of the whites that I am worried about. Those along with the whites needed on the surfaces of our doe that will be shining in the light.

Muley Doe 3The next step for me is to identify where the darkest areas are at. As I begin to paint those darker areas with more opaque mixtures of watercolor, the layout seems to work out well. With a more visible mixture of watercolor, I begin to see 3D shapes begin to appear. Things begin to pop-out and show their shape.


You can see the finished image on the artist gallery website here.

Dahlia Closeup 03

Dahlia Closeup 04

Now the process changes for this Dahlia Closeup 03 painting with a more detailed addition of brush fulls of color added to specific portions of the wetted canvas. It is almost magical and so very entertaining to watch the colors blend themselves together. These areas appear a lot more brilliant when they are wet and pale as they dry. So, I have grown accustomed to applying way more bold amounts of pigment than I used as I go through this part of the process.

I use mixes that sometimes seem quite unusual but they work out quite well when you watch them mix themselves together.

Dahlia Closeup B1020
12″w x 13″h watercolor on 300lb Arches paper. Three Dahlia blossoms with unopened buds, orange, magenta on an alizarin crimson background.

The process involves me putting in dark colors and then light colors. Back and forth and judging how things look before proceeding. Painting realistic flower blossoms is fun but I like to stop painting before it becomes a photographic representation. We have lots of cameras available now for that achievement, but artists remain a real human element that keeps art alive in our society.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love photography. However, I have noticed that there are way too many people taking poor-quality photographs on their phones and sharing them. Our human creativity is overwhelmed with thousands of unnamed and unremarkable images that are shared on the internet. It is way too much of a volume of mediocrity to wade through each day. Will our loving artistic souls survive the inundation of this onslaught?

Thanks for checking out this tutorial on Dahlia Closseup painting.

Dahlia Closeup 02

Dahlia Closeup 02

I outline the main characters in this Dahlia Closeup 02 with a light alizarin crimson wash background first. You know that when you mix reds and greens you get a real good and dark black. That is why I am using a red wash because I know I will be using greens for the foliage.

You can also see that I am putting Azo Nickle yellow as a wash on the prominent leaves and stem areas leaving only a few areas of highlight whites this yellow mixes so well. I will have to just be careful and reserve the most important of these light areas. Tricky. I have chosen the darkest areas of the left front blossom to apply a magenta wash so I can see where the darks are there.

Dahlia Closeup 03

They are many many shapes and objects put together that light and shadow do their thing all around. Each little petal catches the light and blocks it from casting brightness onto the surfaces below. The shadows bend and curve with each surface they touch. So many colors and shades when you start to illustrate them.

I love the way that the Hookers Green leafy shapes that seem to blur into the background as they are added. It used to scare me to try and paint realistic flower blossoms but now I really enjoy watching them appear during the process.