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 us 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.

Sunflowers Brown & Yellow 04

Sunflowers 08Sunflowers Brown & Yellow 04 nearing completion. This is where we begin to add some really dark areas and things begin to pop.

Sunflowers 09The two sunflowers on the left are the darker brown variety named, “Earthwalker Sunflowers” and the ones on the right are “Russian Mammoths“. When you look at these blossoms in real life their colors are so amazing. They are named right cause their colors do look like sunshine in the gardens. This view shows how the paints look when they are wet and not all of the details are completed.

Sunflowers Ylw Brn J3719
10″w x 14″h watercolor, on 140lb Fabriano paper. Yellow and brown sunflowers peering out of a tangled green background.

Sunflowers Yellow & Brown 03

Sunflowers 04 Sunflowers Yellow & Brown tutorial 03. The petals are all started with a good yellow and orange wash. Now, the center of the blossom can begin with shapes that render where all the seeds are developing. This area on the blossom is an area where I have to simplify what I see and stay away from trying to render every single detail.

Sunflowers 05You can see how the introduction of green strokes and puddles of paint create a rich dark hue in the background.

Sunflowers 06The seed centers are darkened and finished in more detail. The petals close to the center are darkened also and the shadows that are cast on the different petal shapes are added. Adding more of the green foliage in the background helps to separate the main characters even more.

Sunflowers 07The addition of some purple alongside of the greens makes even darker shapes behind the blossoms.



Sunflowers Yellow & Brown 02

Sunflowers 02 Sunflowers Yellow & Brown 02 tutorial. I have put a light uneven red background wash using Alizaron Crimson. When I add greens later on, the red and green mixing will make a rich and solid darkness. I do not intend to put many details in the background because I want to concentrate on the flowers upfront.

You can see that I have black and white prints of the photograph on my desk above where I am painting to use as a reference. It’s easier to get the values right when I can see the shapes in grays. I look for the darkest areas first. It seems almost like an afterthought when I add more colors later on. Sunflowers 03

Am concentrating on rendering just the blossoms first. These initial wash layers use Azo yellow, lemon yellow, and touches of burnt sienna and even medium cadmium. The process starts with wetting of a single petal on the paper. Followed by mixing pigment with water and dropping it into the wet area of the paper. Dropping the paint where I want it to appear the darkest. I love to watch the paint spread. For the light petal tips I use a paper towel to dry up my brush tip. Then use the brush like a sponge to remove pigment from the tip area until light enough.

After getting the majority of the darkest yellows and rendered on the front blossom, I continue on with the same steps for the flowers behind or next to the big one in the center.




Sunflowers Yellow & Brown 01

Sunflowers PhotoPainting Sunflowers in Yellow & Brown tutorial. We are fortunate to have an abundance of all different kinds and colors of sunflowers in our garden each year. This artist takes many photographs that inspire rendering their beautiful colors and surfaces.

At this point in time around the world that is amazing. The sunflower is the Ukraine national flower or is a sign of their resistance forces. So, it must be a real goo time to learn about painting sunflowers.

Sunflowers 01See how much variation in value exists in sunflowers for each and every petal and the centers of the blossoms. This painting is a real practice in getting good gradations in the watercolor wash. Each petal goes from real dark to really light on the tips. They are not only yellow in color set a full pallet of paint up for this project. The blue-gray dots seen in the middle are watercolor resist (mastik) reserving white areas for better details later on.


Crawdad Tutorial 03

Crawdad Tutorial 03

Crawdad Boy 08With Crawdad Tutorial 03 it becomes apparent that fortunately, the blades of grass are interesting and are not distracting. Yay! I can continue to paint them in.

You may notice a magazine laying open on the desk, it is my favorite portrait artist’s magazine article showing the mixtures that she uses to paint different skin tones in watercolor. Look up Suzanna Winton to see this talented artist’s work. I apologize that I was unable to find this magazine in the studio so I can’t be sure if it was a copy of the Artists Magazine or the Watercolor Magazine. I subscribed to art magazines from the early 2000s to somewhere in the 2009 era. It was back when we actually looked for and read things on paper when we wanted to learn. Long ago, far away on a distant planet…

Crawdad Boy 09

Now to paint the little boy’s skin and facial expression. In this view, you can see how the skin tones look when they are wet. They may be ultra bright-looking right now but I don’t need to worry because I know it will be a lot less bright after it dries.

Crawdad Boy 10See how the skin tones appear, they are so much paler after they have a chance to dry. I finished this painting and sent it digitally to the client for approval.


Crawdad Tutorial 02

Crawdad Tutorial 02

Crawdad Boy 04Crawdad Tutorial 02 continues with painting the next phase. The book client had requested a specific watercolor scene. As the areas of color begin to receive their light washes, you can see where the water is meeting the shoreline. There are grasses behind the main character and the horizon line shows through in the background.

Crawdad Boy 05The brighter warm earth tones and the skin tone on the child are making my main characters come into a 3D feeling. This makes me confident that my plans for painting this scene are going to work out.

Crawdad Boy 06You can see how I prop the little boy’s faces samples right where I can see them on my desktop as I paint. This kind of visual guide is a common aid I use to maintain consistency. After adding the dull green for the grass blade background, the color scheme seems good.

I begin to paint the brighter individual blades of grass behind him. The remaining tall grass blades are painted into the background immediately behind the little boy and in front of the hat.


Crawdad Tutorial 01

Crawdad Tutorial 01

Crawdad Boy 02

This crawdad tutorial 01 begins with the initial sketch setup with the beginnings of the watercolor process. The orange washes on Mr. Crawdad with his hot dog are done in very light pink. Then the beginnings of the little guy’s jean bottoms anchor him to the stream bank.

Crawdad Boy 03

Each addition of paint improves the view. This little fisherman is sitting on the bank of the stream with his straw hat and bucket right beside him. His jean overalls are rendered in light blues. Next, the shore is filled in with some earth tones, consisting mainly of burnt sienna with some azo yellow. The stream bank edge defines the other objects and the arrangement becomes much more visible. It is easy to see the little boy hooking the crawdad on his hot dog bait, as he holds his hand line.


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.