Wildlife Waterhole

Waterhole Sketch F3003A Northwest Wildlife Waterhole mural was up for bid at a local adult family home. I called and got what information I could over the phone about the desired subject, asking about the surface type and dimensions so I could estimate costs. The next step was to sketch an idea to use as a visual aid while discussing the project with the owner. After meeting with the owner the next day, the mural project eventually died due to a lack of funding. How many times does that particular scenario occur when you are a self-employed artist? Mucho! All is not lost.


Back at the studio, the pencil sketch lies on the drawing table catching my attention. I really like the whole idea and it says, “Paint me!” every time I notice it. This simple pencil sketch becomes an inspiration to render the scene in watercolor. So, I get out a sheet of 300lb WC paper and begin to place the animals in altered positions across the landscape.

Waterhole 01Setting up the paints, brushes, and pallets begins the watercolor journey for this wildlife waterhole creation. I put a brilliant sunrise sky over a snowcapped mountain top in the distance. The reflection of this sky is next on the water surface. The scene comes to life as layers of watercolor are applied to the meadow and waterhole shoreline.

Waterhole 02More washes are applied to each animal character and I begin to see a 3-dimensional quality begin to appear with the values as they develop.

Waterhole I6604The final painting is pleasing to the nature lover’s eye. Okay, my husband points out multiple times that you would never see that scene in real life. Killjoy, of course! I know that bears are not friends with moose, elk, fish, or anyone for that matter. Elk and deer are not buddies either, but all of that wildlife is beautiful to this artist so they are together in this painting. Logic does not always have to be present in an artistic adventure, silly boy. Both the originals sold.

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.

Great White Heron Watercolor

Great White Heron photograph
Great White Heron photograph by
Elise Beattie.

I am rendering this Great White Heron from a photograph by Elise Beattie who teaches, “Fearless Painting” classes. Now working on different approaches to The first post about this in a pen & ink study.

Step-By-Step Watercolor

Great White Heron Sketch
Layout Pencil Sketch

While studying the picture, I kept feeling as though the best part of the picture is missing. Do you ask, “Would that be?” Well, the reflection of the bird on the water would be quite beautiful. Being an artist allows me to go ahead with adding the missing piece in as I render this subject. I believe it is called an artist license.

Render Sun Reflection

Background Sun Reflections
Background Sun Reflections

Watercolor requires that you start with where you want to reserve white, then begin laying down the lightest colors first. In this that will be where the sun is laying on the water.

Background Reeds

Heron 03
Heron 03

I start to lay in the reeds behind and am careful to avoid where my Great White Heron is. Must preserve a pristine white area to work on later for the center-of-attention character.

Heron 04
Heron 04

As I add in the reeds on the right side additional lily pond-type leaves are added to help the composition move in a circular motion.

Render Water

Heron 05
Heron 05

Using royal and cerulean blues I begin to put the ripples of the water in.

Heron 07
Heron 07


A reflection is simply the original image turned upside down on the water. After turning it we need to take into account that the surface reflecting the image is not flat. As in this water scene with its many ripples that cut up and distort the image. The more I apply the reed reflections and watercolors I begin to lose the heron reflection so I apply a soft gray there that helps me to see it better.

Heron 09
Heron 09

This next step is scary as I apply a wash over all the water using ultramarine blue.

Heron 10
Heron 10

At this point, I am darkening reflections and making details and adjustments. I should be able to finish this image this week. When I complete it I will be sure to post it so you can see it. Happy painting.

Muley Doe

A muley doe pauses at the treeline in Glacier Lake National Park in Montana. This was one of my first encounters with wildlife after leaving Hawaii. Moments like this are like gifts from God and nature.

A gift of pristine wildlife standing still for a portrait at very close range.

muleydoe1Initially, the portrait starts with a pencil sketch drawn from my photograph. I have drawn and painted this image more than once. It is a photograph that I love.

Apply Washes

muleydoe2Next, I begin to wash-in large areas, reaching more for correct values than finished colors. I actually squint my eyes to see where the darks and lights are. The areas kind of blur together and show up better that way. I have been fortunate to have taken classes from talented artists, and one that I have been inspired by is Stan Miller who teaches watercolor and that it is the values that are more important than the colors and he is so right!

muleydoe3Adding sky background and foliage along with some of the dark values to the doe face and eyes starts to show the personality that I envision.


muleydoe4Things slow a bit as I work on the details of the deer. My focus is on the doe features and her background and I am being careful to leave white limbs from the tree behind.

Muleydoe5Progress is gradual as I add shadows to show where the tree trunk and limbs are, along with a ground tone wash to bring in a base for her to stand on. It is not good to have her floating above the ground.
muleydoe6Finally, I am getting more done as I add more details. First, some lights followed by some darks. Using an Azo Yellow, I am carefully applying the final wash. The whole painting is brightened up with the final wash and the greenery and her fur now have a much better glow.

Muley Doe C192019
Muley Doe C192019 – 9″w x 12″h watercolor

Here she is, je suis fini! A watercolor painting of a Glacier Lake National Park Muley Doe posing for the artist with her camera in the summer of 1990. Check out the beauty in this park. The picture was taken in the park at the top of Logan’s Pass.


First Day Back Skiing

First Day Back Skiing… in three years! YAHOOOOOO!

3 years ago, I had open-heart surgery so skiing was put on hold for quite a while. Yesterday we went skiing and I am feeling so glad to be alive. Life is SO GOOD! When you find something that makes you smile just thinking about it – go for it YEAH!

beginning oil painting of 49 degree North mountaintop 49NpanoG4306Thought you might like to see a favorite view I painted from time spent on the hill, here is a shot of the painting just started and then another of it finished. See more about a great mountain at, 49 Degrees North Ski Resort in Chewelah Washington.

Bison Let it Snow

Bison Let it Snow matches our weather today, I thought a watercolor of snow would be appropriate to post. Yellowstone in the winter is the most amazing vacation memory I have had with Pete. Really something worth doing. These Bison were walking so close to us I could not get a whole one in a picture frame.

Bison walking in the snow.


Watercolor a Rhino

To watercolor a rhino, I first need to sketch him holding whatever position he is in.
rhino 01I apply mastic to where I want the whites reserved on the watercolor paper. You can see this as the shiny yellow in this photograph. Then I can begin to apply light glazes or layers of watercolor wash.

rhino 02
Now Mr. Rhino himself starts to get some shading using blues to imitate a gray skin tone for him in Cartoon Ville.

rhino 03

rhino 04Grasses and more glazes are applied in the landscape.

rhino 05
Now I get out the Rapidograph to do some outline and crosshatch inking on this main guy.

rhino 06
You can see how crowded my drawing desk gets with one of these projects, painting supplies, and many photograph references.

rhino 07
Here is this image complete.

rhino 08

Preliminary Sketching

The preliminary sketching is complete. This children’s book is becoming quite fun! The characters are expressive and I love the African surroundings and wildlife.

pencil sketch ready - approved, and now for the ink
pencil sketch ready – approved

Sketch an African Rhino, “Bummer!” said the rhino. Here is one preliminary sketch of a rhino character for a children’s book drawn out in pencil.

Am beginning this project about a baby rhino. I love looking up the info about the animals, and locations in Africa. There is so much wildlife there. Did you know that there are black rhinos who have a prehensile snout so that they can grab branches and strip the leaves off? And then there are white rhinos that have a wide grass-eating or grazing snout? Ohhhh!!!!! and guess what, they are born without the horns, I bet their moms are saying Yay! about that fun fact!!!

Rhino Sketches

These are the first type of sketches done to begin the illustration process for a new book. As I read through the book I try to envision the character as the animal that he is, but, add some human emotion and gestures too. Like standing on his back legs, or making faces, or even gesturing with his front legs as hands. These all help to tell his story as he travels a desert expanse.