Minerva Amaryllis Watercolor

Minerva Amaryllis 01This is a photograph of “Minerva Amaryllis”, one of our blossoming beauties that I will be painting in watercolor. Its petals range in color from salmon to pink with white tiger stripes extending out from the center. Peter grows this one, and many others in our kitchen window. When they quickly spring up with their bright blossoms it can literally take your breath away. Amaryllis always cheer up the house in the winter.


Minerva Amaryllis 02
First, I sketch the shapes using a 2H pencil, drawing very lightly so lines are erasable later. Then, I wet the first petal area being very careful to reserve (keep dry) the area in the middle. This dry area is where the white stripes will be. Proceeding on, I combine colors “wet-on-wet” in this pre-wetted area. Starting with a mixture of orange and gamboge yellow, then apply drops of quinacridone magenta and alizarin crimson for the darkest edges.

It is fascinating how the watercolors do almost all the work by themselves. They combine in expressive gradations until they make edges that are sharp right where the wetness stops. This picture shows how very brightly the colors look when wet, but, remember that they will fade as they dry.

Minerva Amaryllis 03

You can see how much the colors fade when dry when you compare the first image with this one.
Minerva Amaryllis 04The approach for the second, third (behind), and fourth petals are pretty much the same except for how the lighting and shadows change as they stack on top of each other.Minerva Amaryllis 05

Where a petal would cast a shadow on the petal underneath or behind it I add a touch more of the alizarin to darken it.Minerva Amaryllis 06

Next, look at the beginning of where the light and shadow occur on the flower surfaces. The stem below the blossom is heavily darkened.

Minerva Amaryllis 08Following this, apply a light wash in the background petals that is more muted in value to exaggerate distance.

Minerva Amaryllis 10

With a light wash showing the sky background and greenery texture from below to eye level, we can begin painting the details.

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.

Studying Figures

I began studying figures again this week. This is my first 7″ x 10″ watercolor on 140lb paper from this life-drawing class that started yesterday. I was worried but found that I am happy with the lighting in the rendering because it does appear like it was, on the model.

So, what is the news ? I attended a session on life drawing on Monday night. Wow, what a refreshing exercise that is for me. Drawing from a live human being really brings the drawing skills out to play.

The model can’t hold still forever, so you have to get those pencils to move fast enough to get the image down before the timer goes off. It feels a little stressed but so creative at the same time. I left feeling almost as if I had just had group art therapy and was ready to tackle the world. Well, at least tackle the art world anyhow. I had forgotten how much fun this is and how great it is to work on our skills with other artists.

Birds of a feather… really love to hang out together. There is absolutely no jealousy or negative criticism, just helpful suggestions. I love it. An artist needs time with birds of the same feather. When I surround myself with creatives just like me, I can verify that other artists have the same crazy logic as me. We look at where we want to draw from and analyze the lighting and positioning of the model. Then setup to try and get what we see down on our canvas or paper as fast as we can. We all like to dress comfortably. We have an abundance of pencils and lots of paintbrushes in our tool bags or boxes. It is a part of our art addiction.

Hopefully, this kind of study will improve my figurative renderings in the future.

Different Approaches to White Heron

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


Finding different approaches to painting this beautiful Great White Heron is what our Fearless Painting class guru, Elise Beattie, has challenged us over the weekend. This is some beautiful photography Elise Beattie!

If we choose to accept this assignment…. this challenge will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

Great White Heron Pen & Ink
Great White Heron Pen & Ink

Initially, I do a quick black and white study in my sketchbook with a gel pen (nothing special).

sketch Great White Heron
sketch of Great White Heron for a watercolor

I scrounge around in the studio to find a leftover piece of watercolor paper from a project to work on. This simply means there is a surprise ink drawing on the back of the sheet for anyone purchasing the image. Kind of a two-for-one prize for the art collector, you know. I decided on a much closer view for this Heron rendering in watercolor. The dimensions are taken off of my B&W sketch.

Proportional Divider
Drafting Proportional Divider

When I want accuracy, I have to grease those crazy artist mind gears. I break out a tool from the old drafting days that will ensure correct results twice as big on the watercolor paper. The tool I use is called a “Precision Deluxe Proportional Divider”  (made in Germany).

Would you like a tutorial about how to use this tool in another post on this blog? Leave me a comment if you do. It is unlikely that anyone is dying to learn how to do this though.

Proportional Divider in German
Prop Divider instructions in German

On the instruction sheet, there are some really useful instructions in German on the flip side, just in case you were wondering. How is your German? Mine is terrible.

I do anticipate making a third layout today using a different approach with acrylics on a canvas board, but I haven’t gotten there yet. First, I need to finish my piano practice.

Online Fearless Painting Class

Monochromatic Assignments
Monochromatic Assignments


I have not been known to be very fearful as far as my art is concerned, but I recently signed up for a class called Fearless Painting. What are my worst fears? Being an artist is what I am and always will be, but…

How do I sell the art that I am always creating?

After facing some “real” health issues, a lot of activities have had to be re-learned. It was noticeable that my creativity felt stymied. I really needed a little boost. This &#(@^$% quarantine is still in effect, so getting a weekly in-person class becomes impossible. I noticed that a friend of mine named Elise Beattie, from Spokane Watercolor Society was offering a two-hour online class on Tuesday nights through the Spokane Community College which I signed up for.

Fearless Painting with Elise Beattie

I am not quite finished with the acrylic “abstract” & a landscape of a “mountain view” that were started in last Tuesday night’s online Fearless Painting Class. We are using a primary color pallet allowing tinted MONOCHROMATIC values. Fun, fun, fun!  I love value studies.

Roses On a Snowy Day

rose bouqet
bouquet of roses up close

Bouquet of Roses

Having roses on a snow day is wickedly awesome! If you know about the 12″ rule, then I know you fully understand what I mean about the snowy the day part. Having a husband who buys you roses and takes you to dinner on that day too, is ever so much more heavenly. You know, I got one heck of a keeper in Peter Woelk!

bouquet of roses on table
bouquet of roses on table

These soft petals are so gorgeous as they coax me to come sit by them. They are just sitting there saying, “Draw me, and paint me Val. By the way, I smell good too – if you’d like to come on over here and sniff.”

My mind says, “Okay, after I get the tomatoes canned today.”  But, the blossoms sit right there arguing with me some more, “Forget about those dang tomatoes”.

I take pictures of them and sniff their wonderful perfume every time I walk past them. Eventually, the flower wins out and I get a piece of paper and begin drawing them in pencil. Hours later, I notice that a lot of time has gone by. Wow, it goes way faster than I thought. Oh, so what. I don’t really have enough time to get the tomatoes done today anyhow and the light is so perfect on that red one right there. I’ll just get out a little watercolor block and try some watercolors because it is so perfect right here and now.

The layout flows easily onto the paper and I happily mix up so colors to wash in where the darker shadows appear. Before I know it, I realize that it is time to start dinner. Oops. I quickly put the paintings on the drying rack in the studio, and clean the brushes. I can pull a ready-to-eat dinner out of the freezer and microwave it, to get things going fast in the kitchen. Whew.

Painting the American Flag

I am painting the American flag on our propane tank. The U.S. flag has always held a warm space in my heart. I was taught to respect our nation’s flag as a beautiful symbol of freedom. It always reminds me of the Olympics. So, as I start on this project it is important that I get the painting right to show how lovely our flag looks as it moves in the wind.

walk away look

Looking at the tank last evening and then while walking down to the tank this morning I have decided to change that fold near the blue and stars.  I am not seeing the flowing movement that I want in the flag fabric and the stars are bugging me because they are not very consistent in size.

No worries though, because we can change anything we want as long as there is a paintbrush in hand. I will change the stars area into a slight wave in the fabric instead of the fold keeping the fold on the right side with red and white stripes. That should do it. I need to move the blue part a little more to the left and widen the first white stripe into an easier bend. Adjustments!

star masking 2
star masking 2
star masking
star masking

I mask off new locations in more consistent sizes. Masking allows freedom to freely paint the shadows and highlights of the flag fabric without worrying about messing up the stars. Applying masking tape strips to cover where the stars should be, then marking a star outline using a sharpie, followed by using an Exacto knife. Wa La!

revised layout
Revised layout

The real painting begins, making adjustments to the layout and mixing paints to get highlight where the flag reaches out. I have to pay close attention to where light and shadow should happen. Add shadow where the flag tucks into a wave base or continues after a fold. The right side of the tank will have a red stripe leading off into the back. I decide to add a shadow around all the stars while the masking tape is still there, hoping to get them stand out.

stripes around end
stripes around end

Lastly I remove the masking tape covering where the stars are to be. Then carefully paint white in the stars and we are finished.

flag stars painted white
flag stars painted white

Tank Beautification

Original propane tank
Original propane tank look

Remove an Eye Sore

My propane tank needs some tank beautification! Seriously, this is the propane tank that I see when I look out my kitchen window. I asked Pete if we can move it and he just laughs. Really, it seems out of place in our natural forest landscaping. It is just one of those things that really bugs me.

As an artist, I can change that, so this project begins. First I get a water hose out there and spray the tank down. With a bucket of warm water and TSP (trisodium phosphate) and a green kitchen scrubber, I get to work. Over the years, layers of pitch from the pine have accumulated a thick layer from the trees alongside it. That combined with lots of mildew have created a gross thick layer of icky stuff on the tank. Good-old TSP is a powerful cleaner that easily removes all the coodies on any surface needing paint. Make sure you read the label before you use it though because it is not a nice chemical if you handle it incorrectly.

clean propane tank
Clean propane tank

Looks quite different clean doesn’t it? I go back into the studio to come up with a drawing to get things right.

tank as a canvas area
Tank as a canvas area
design and paints
design & paints

I am wanting to put the American flag flowing in the wind on the tank. Starting with the blue background for the stars on the far left with the stripes going over the rest of the tank at an angle.

chaulk lines on tank
Chaulk lines on tank

I know it isn’t that easy to see but, I use blue chalk to layout areas on the tank for the different colors. Then I quickly paint a rough underpainting of the design on the tank.

undercoating of design
Undercoating of design

I walk back up to the house and let it dry overnight.

walk away look

Stan Miller

Stan Miller watercolor portrait
Stane Miller Fine Artist

I have an artist friend/teacher named Stan Miller who is phenomenally talented. I look forward to any classes I can arrange to take from him. We both live in Spokane Washington but I was surprised to find out how famous this artist friend of mine is, during our travels. Check out these recent pictures taken while in Breckenridge Colorado.

Stan Miller Truck Far
Stan Miller Truck Far
Stan Miller Truck Close
Stan Miller Truck Close

I didn’t know Stan had  businesses,

Stan Miller Sign
Stan Miller Sign

roads and

Stan Miller Road
Stan Miller Road

machinery in Colorado.

Stan Miller Office
Stan Miller Office

Now, this antique grader does look like something Stan would have us draw in class. I have a better shot of this if anyone would like to draw it. Just personal message me and I’ll send it to you.

Have you been holding out on us Stan?

What have you been up to in the Colorado mountains?

Three Watercolor Paintings

Three East Basin Paintings

I dropped off three watercolor paintings for the show at the Spokane Art School. They are of my favorite subject, winter ski views admired during my ski patrol days. Snow scenes up in the mountains still hold a real dear place in my heart. I carried a camera with me when it wasn’t common for everyone to have a camera on their person.
Spokane Art School 05
If you have not participated in an art show before, you may not know what it looks like before the gallery goes to all the hard work of hanging the work. You walk in with your pieces of art, sign papers and stack them where they tell you to put them.
Spokane Art School 04 Spokane Art School 03This is going to be a unique show displaying Spokane Watercolor Society members work. All of the paintings are small, and the same size at 8″ x 8″.
We used an alternative method of framing for this show where the watercolors are mounted on board, then waxed to seal them.  I love this method of preserving a watercolor painting without having to cover it in the glass. When we are matting, and framing it under glass it often seems to make the painting harder to see under the glare. The colors are so vibrant and warm in this waxed method and I can’t wait to see the display of this wide variety of talent up on the walls of the gallery. There are many You Tube videos showing how to do this alternative method of framing for watercolor paintings, see Angela Fahr here.
Spokane Art School Gallery
811 W Garland Avenue., 99205
Phone: 509-325-1500
Spokane Art School
811 W Garland Ave.

This gallery is on the south side of Garland near the milk jug in downtown Spokane. The art show runs from 7/10 – 7/31st, being open only on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 – 2:00 pm.

Unfortunately, we are not able to have an art show opening due to covid 19 restrictions.Three East Basin PaintingsBut you can go see the show two days a week if you wear a mask. Hope you can get a chance to go see some really stellar work done by our local artists in the Spokane Watercolor Society.