The rediscovery of my love for Plein Air Painting is now complete. I spent 2 weeks driving around Coeur d’Alene ID and painting outside. The beauty of where we live has brought my artist’s soul back to life. The art expedition involved multiple trips, cruising around, and sightseeing till I noticed a great view. Then, stopping to hop out, set up the easel, and paint my heart out.

Barn Elkhorn Flats H0523
10″w x 8″h watercolor on 140lb wc paper/board cradle. Old barn in the prairie where Elkhorn Flats Wildlife Mitigation Unit is in Idaho.

3 Paintings

This was the first plein air I did during the art expedition. An old barn stopped me on the road and I had to back up to go see it. The old barn won an honorable mention ribbon and was the first painting sold in our booth.

Roadside Centurian Stump
11″h x 14″ w oil on stretched canvas. Stump on slow vehicle turnout from Hwy 97 E side of Lake Coeur d’Alene ID 23.2 miles from I-90

I pulled into a slow vehicle turn out to let traffic go by, and this guy greeted me right up front and center. What a personality this tree stump has. He didn’t win a ribbon but there was one young man who fell in love with it. He went off and brought back his whole family to vote for it as the people’s choice.

Blooming Wet H0723
11″w x 14″h x .75″d watercolor, acrylic & ink on 140lb wc paper/boar cradle. A wetland about 25 miles south on Hwy 97, full of blooming lilly ponds, grasses and wildlife named Thompson Refuge in Idaho.

This painting won the “People’s Choice” award for the plein air booth. Bloomin Wet is a close-up view from the bank of the water full of blooming lily pods, grasses, reeds, and lots of mosquitos.

1 Demo Painting

sunflower As described in a previous post, I did a demo of plein air painting from some fresh sunflowers in the booth during the Art on the Green show.

Single Sunflower
4″ x 4″ wc on 140 lb paper from a plein air demo at the Art on the Green booth.

This small 4″ x 4″ demo sold. There is another partially done one that I intend to finish in the studio. I’ll share about that when it is done.

55th Art on the Green

Jessica Bryant Art on the Green
Jessica Bryant is a watercolorist worth knowing and fun too!

The 55th Art on the Green ( AoG) Festival was a pleasure to experience. We had the distinct pleasure of being right next to Jessica Bryant’s booth making it possible to get to know her over the weekend. She is an amazing watercolor artist doing landscapes that just blow you away. A fascinating individual with so many interesting stories about traveling and painting in her life. Jessica’s beautiful brainchild started two years ago, to help with the KEA fundraising and increasing public awareness.

The Plein Air show was sponsored by both “Art on the Green” (AoG) and the “Kootenai Environmental Alliance” (KEA) non-profit. They promote, “clean water efforts” in the Lake Coeur d’Alene water drainage basin area. The booth celebrated area artists who participate in the creation of art that is created outside while experiencing the beautiful surroundings around the lake.

We were located in the middle, close to the food booths and the stage. The entertainment included great music and phenomenal singers all day. The music inspired people to get up and dance, and even some toddlers got up to dance to the music. A great family fun day for everyone.

Even though the plein air painting contest requires that I spend a lot of time in the two weeks prior looking for views and painting outside. It is worth putting up with the “sun and bugs” because I love painting outside  so much.

Each day Fanie Van (first place winner), and I did plein air painting demos, using fresh sunflowers from my garden. People were relaxed and easy to talk with and were eager to cast their votes on their favorites for “People’s Choice”.  A lot of the paintings were sold and it was a successful show all around. This will remain an event that I look forward to being a part of next year.

Spokane in Bloom

Spokane in Bloom 2023Spokane in Bloom 2023 is this Saturday from 10am-5pm. This year’s theme is, “Journey Through the Senses“. Come and experience 6 truly beautiful gardens on the south side of Spokane. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online (PayPal) and at multiple locations listed on the flyer. A map is available on the Inland Empire Gardeners’ website.

The last time we did this invitational art show was in 2019 (before COVID). We are looking forward to seeing the art, food, and gorgeous gardens full of wonderful like-minded “garden lovers” to enjoy the day with. It is so much fun to talk with people who love to garden just like you do.

The Spokane in Bloom Garden Tour is an annual event along with the Garden Expo presented by the local garden club, “The Inland Empire Gardeners“. We want you to have a good time as you get to visit with other gardeners, artists, and craft vendors. Between 600-800 are anticipated to attend the garden tour throughout Saturday.

Come see us at the “Hear the Wind Garden” which is the creation of Jody & Todd Hechtman at 2020 E 23rd Ave, Spokane, WA 99203. Directions to the “Hear the Wind Garden“, starting at 29th & Regal, right on E 29th Ave. Right on S Southeast Blvd. Left on E Rockwood Blvd. Left on S Crestline St. Right on E 23rd Ave.

Our booth will be exhibiting art originals and prints for sale by myself, Valerie Woelk. There are colorful watercolors, oil paintings, and drawings of a wide range of subjects. There are a lot of unframed originals, that are economical since we didn’t frame them. The last time we did the show in 2019, every bagged watercolor original sold.

Actually, the very best part of our day then was the conversations we had with others who love to garden just as much as we do. Hummingbirds were a frequent subject, and every kind of flower was fully described and discussed.

Coeur d’Alene Figure

figure 20230403Coeur d’Alene Figure Drawing get-togethers have started again at Terry Lees studio, and I am so happy. There is nothing as greatly inspiring to an artist as drawing with other artists. Practicing from a live model really improves my art skills significantly. This week was drawing from a nude figure. The human form changes with even a slight shift in weight distribution or a little change in the direction of gaze.

Last night we did a few 5-minute and a few 20-minute poses. I am obviously a little rusty after three months of no practice. Or, even a lot rusty. By the last 20-minute pose I was able to say, okay it is coming back. So, on the way to improvement always.

I’d be glad to show you the way, or carpool, if you are interested in trying this out. The next life drawing session is on

Monday, April 10th

It will be a clothed portraiture 3-hour session. You bring your own supplies, to draw or paint. As a group, we ask that you use odorless spirits if you are using oil paints. There are benches and easels in Terry’s studio to borrow. The cost is $15 for each session (to help pay the model), and it goes from 5:30 to 8:30 pm on select Mondays… Terry lets us know about the dates he is able to schedule a model via email. With good attendance, we have even had a class each Monday night before, so spread the word.

Figure & Portrait Drawing

Figure Drawing Dec 2022Practicing figure & portrait drawing or painting. Driving down to Coeur d’Alene ID to Terri Lee’s studio last night I experienced another evening with fellow artists, painting and drawing from a live model. This is actually an alternate definition of “Heaven” to any artist. Figure drawing always improves my art.

Our model normally does nude figure poses in multiple positions allowing quick impressions and sketches. This evening she remained clothed for three hours, taking the same pose each session for 20-minutes with breaks between. The increased time enables us to get up close and concentrate on her facial features. She is a young lean gymnastically active figure. Her features include dark hair, smooth soft pastel skin, and beautiful green eyes. We all loved her bright red Christmas turtleneck sweater and her charming personality. I look forward to figure-drawing with her again.

Since Terri is off taking care of sculpture work in Montana, you can see a cool video about his sculpture process here. It was an all-female group this time and some gorgeous work came out of this last winter session along with friendly chatter about the ways of life for an artist.


I will miss these Monday night drawing sessions so I plan on getting more involved so Terri doesn’t have to handle all of it. Having this kind of opportunity to meet others and improve is absolutely priceless. I love my artist dates hanging out with “birds of a feather” as I strive to improve my individual art skills by hanging out with people more talented than myself. It is so inspiring to talk and share secrets with like souls in this creative profession. Every time I make the effort to set up my supplies and drive down to Coeur d’Alene ID to make it to this my soul comes home with lasting a smile. It is an infusion of hope and inspiration with contact with other artists.

Coeur ‘d Alene for Figure Drawing

Brooke 220912 aI was so happy to travel to Coeur ‘d Alene for figure drawing class last night at Teri Lee’s studio. This is the first sketch portrait I did of our beautiful model. I used a piece of soft sienna chalk and then started to darken areas with black charcoal. Unfortunately, when the 20-minute timer went off, I had not completed the shadow darkening with the charcoal.

As the model rested, I did the self-critic thing that all of artists do, cause you know we are our own worst critics. Oops! The eyes were way off and crooked, and her corneas were absolutely humongous. It was not an accurate likeness but it was a great start after a few months off. I resolved to pay better attention to width in the next session.

Improving My Art

Life drawing is quite challenging as it strengthens my drawing abilities. It’s a favorite artist retreat for me and it really charges up my batteries. Some of them are my best friends there, and I love to be surrounded by them. The artists that attend are at all levels in the profession, some just learning, some are equal, and a few are phenomenally better than me. Artists are a special breed in the creative pool of life, and it is just fun to be around others like yourself. Learning from another artist is the way to go.

Brooke 220912 b

My third attempt was done using my favorite pencils for sketching which are the Palomino Blackwings. They are gloriously soft and easily darken with very little pressure, but, I wish they were not so expensive.  $2.50 is way too much for a pencil drawing tool, but I do love them.

Carefully placed her features as I remained conscious of making her face closer to me I laid the basic sketch out in the first 20-minute period and then in the second 20-minute session I focussed on rendering each feature in more detail. This sketch was a much better representation of the model even though it was a little too slender. Not bad for not actually measuring every step of the way.



Unpaid Research Crawdads

Crawdad Boy 01

Have you ever considered all of the unpaid research that an artist does before they actually get hired to do the illustrations for a book? Imagine getting a request for a bid on illustrating a “Crawdad Boy” children’s book. In this photograph, you can see some of the unpaid research work completed during the negotiation phase of a contract.

This client fishes for an illustrator.

He asks to see his character (an 8-year-old mixed-race boy), who loves to fish for crawdads in the southern swamplands of America. I do a quick watercolor sheet full of 10-12 different angles of how I envision the new main characters’ faces in different expressions. The next watercolor sketch is an orange crawdad climbing out of a red bucket. These two items could be very helpful after the contract award because they would be what I use to make sure I could illustrate the characters the same way throughout the book. So, this seems like a logical expense of my time and energy.

The client okays what I share with him, including the character face examples, and the crawdad personality along with the general illustration style. He then requests one more test image to be painted showing the boy catching the crawdad with a hand fishing line, using a hot dog for bait. Okay. He said that he would be willing to pay $75 for this one test illustration after it was done. At this point, my gut starts to feel uneasy but I go ahead saying, “Awww, don’t worry Val this guy is sincere.” I should have listened to my intuition right there, but live and learn.


Yellow Rose 01

Rose Yellow PhotoYellow Rose 01 Tutorial. When your garden provides the perfect yellow rose, you just have to paint it. This photograph captured all of the curving surfaces so well that I could not resist.

Rose Yellow Sketch

Beginning with laying out the blossom I add some stem, leaves, and smaller buds alongside. I work with the arrangement until I feel a little interesting movement happening between the shapes and sizes.

Rose Yellow 02

Beginning with lemon yellow as the palest, and adding Azo Nickel yellow and then even some light cad I begin to get the first petals to curve and show me their light. Each and every petal has highlighted areas, medium tones, and the shadows making up the changing surfaces. Petals are not flat.Rose Yellow 03 As more of the petals are given their yellow base washes I begin to see the magic of three-dimensional illusion begin to appear. Flowers are so very amazing with the way they curve every which way showing light hitting their surfaces in ever-changing values.

The rose foliage is also given an initial watercolor wash in light yellow and thin sap greens.


Dinosaur 02

Dinosaur 02

Stegosaurus T-Rex 08There is a clear definition of who is who in the two characters in the dinosaur fight at this point. So, my focus moves to the use of my watercolor pencils to render foliage, grasses, and outlines along the darkest edges of the animals. When you look at the lines created with the pencils here they seem very dull but wait till you see how a little spray of water brings the color vibrancy right up.Stegosaurus T-Rex 14 After a simple spray from my water mister, the colors start to show so very bright. I am able to blend and move the color any way I’d like with my watercolor brushes from here. Stegosaurus T-Rex 12The next step for me is to put a pallet of acrylic paints to make final details with. The brightest highlights are first. Then careful rounding of the teeth surfaces, dotting of the skin scales and delicate whites of their eyes. It is amazing to watch how careful changes in water content change the opacity of the acrylic paint. I can have a fully opaque or transparent application with just a minor change in water content.Stegosaurus T-Rex 11 The last two images show how the foreground can be loosely finished using a combination of watercolor pencil strokes and paint strokes to help fill it all in. Stegosaurus T-Rex 10I ended up giving this dinosaur painting to a grand-nephew visiting us named Jonah. The finished painting can be seen anytime at the artist’s website gallery.

Dinosaur 01

Dinosaur 01

Stegosaurus T-Rex 02Welcome to Dinosaur 01 tutorial. Dinosaurs are a subject that I have illustrated previously.  Here is the initial sketch of a dinosaur layout.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 03You can see the horizon line skyline wash and the neutral ground surface watercolor wash outlining where they are standing. I thought a Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex facing off would be interesting subjects to paint. I imagine an armored vegetarian with a spiked tail facing off with a ferocious meat-eater that has tiny little front arms.

This fight could never have taken place.

Remember that the T-Rex didn’t show up till millions of years after the Stegosaurus had already gone extinct. Neither of these characters was alive at the same time period.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 04Even though the basic reptile skin will be in greens I use a red or brown base to lay in where the darker shadows will be on their body forms first.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 05Beginning with T-Rex’s body surfaces it immediately becomes apparent that the tail of Mr. Stegosaurus could easily get real lost in all the T-Rex surfaces in the immediate vicinity. So, I find myself being really careful about how I keep the two separated.

Stegosaurus T-Rex 07I use different colors to separate their surfaces. A sepia brown-based green on T-Rex makes a noticeable difference between his tail behind. The horned tail of the Stegosaurus is darkened with magenta around his armor plates.