It was ten years ago, and I was sitting on my old wooden swing on our lower deck, sipping coffee, while drinking in the peaceful view of the late afternoon woods. A very slight movement near the bottom of the slope caught my eye.

When I looked closely, I was amazed to see, nearly hidden amidst all the foliage, one deer gently washing the neck of the other. I sat there entranced, in awe for being included in such a tender moment of nature.

The sun behind them lit up the scene better than any movie set could have. I captured it with my camera and couldn't wait to paint the special intimacy that I'd just encountered.

If I repainted this now, I think that same emotion would come out again, but I'd be able to use several more years of experience to create a better painting. Still, I felt good about capturing that almost hidden moment that I still relish.

"INTIMATE ENCOUNTER" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Fabriano Artistico 15 x 11" SOLD



One good way to learn to control the amount of paint and water in your brush and on your paper is to paint wet-in-wet. Creating the look of worn, weathered barn boards is a great 'theme' to use to learn this.

I start out with a soaking wet sheet of paper which is wet on both sides to keep it wet longer. Previous to wetting the paper, I streak areas with miskit, especially along one side of each of the boards.

I also splatter a bit of miskit on the paper before I wet it. If I'm planning on putting in a chain or lantern, like the pictures posted, I miskit those entire shapes, too.
Next, streak the soaked paper with various shades of blues, oranges, purples, earth yellows, and browns. The colors blend softly together to give a muted depth to the eventual barn boards.

Now streak the paper with some narrow, darker lines where the boards meet, to help define the cracks between them. The color diffuses again since the paper's still very wet. Then randomly splatter some darks over the paper. Now pick up a 'broken-in-half' credit card and scratch some lines into the damp paper. The existing paint sinks into the scratch, making them much darker.

Repeat the process as the paper slowly dries, streaking with colors of paint, adding more dark in thin lines again to help better define the older diffused ones, then scratch again with the credit card. At some point while the paper is damp, add an irregular shaped knothole or two where there are no scratch marks.

Splattering at different times as the paper slowly dries results in various sizes of dark spots, some much more diffused than others. Take care to make each board have its own identity so that they all look slightly different, one more streaked, one more textured, one with lots of cracks, etc.

The whole process takes almost an hour, and you must wait for the right time to add more color, but make sure not to get it too dark. I'm careful not to paint on 'unshiny' but 'damp' paper, unless I'm dragging a dry brush or fan brush for one of the streaking layers.

I also make sure none of the streaks criss cross, since wood grain never crosses over itself, but always runs fairly parallel. I continue adjustments to the knothole, too, darkening it, creating the cracks shooting out from it, and darkening around it to look like discolored wood.

The final hour or more is spent working on totally dry paper to bring into focus some of the raised edges of the weathered wood. By adding a thin dark line along small areas that have an irregular edge, you can create the look of raised rough wood. I soften the outer edge of those darks, too.

The whole painting is truly a series of streak, splatter, scratch, streak, splatter, scratch. Using the broken credit card at various stages will help add texture, too, since the paint is squeeged off by the rounded edge of the card once the paper begins to dry.

Taking the miskit off (when the paper's completely dry) adds a lot of needed white to the painting. The white misketed edge is always too harsh (one of the big draw backs of miskit) so I soften it a bit, but make sure to maintain some clean, untouched white paper for contrast and sparkle.

I add Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Lunar Earth (Daniel Smith Watercolors) together to paint the rusted chain, etc. Before it dries, I touch in, not brush in, some very liquid but dark French Ultramarine. As the Ultramarine floctuates with the two browns, they separate to look exactly like rust. I love it. The less I touch the wet paint, the better it looks. Sometimes I have to tip the paper slightly to get them to blend better. Fold a tissue smoothly and place it on the very top edge of the hook while it's damp to lift off a highlight there.

Adding stronger darks under the shadowed side on the chain helps add dimension, too. A shadow of the hook and chain painted as one complete shape on the barn siding finishes off the painting.

It's almost magic to watch the blurry, wet-in-wet paint slowly be transformed into a surface that looks like weathered wood. When I teach this in classes, each artist's work is expressive and different, some looking like ocean side bleached wood, some like mossy covered wood, others like well cared for barn siding. It's amazing how the same wet-in-wet process in each artist's hands produces individually expressive results.

Both of these paintings are done with transparent watercolor on 140#CP Arches. The one at the top with the hook and chain is 15 x 11," and the one with my Grandpa's lantern is a full sheet, 30 x 22" Both were done many years ago and are SOLD.



Buck County, Pennsylvania Barn to left & Ohio Mail Pouch Barn below

My specialty --- "Maudlin" sunsets.... meaning '''overly sentimental!''' Enough said.

A couple of weeks ago, I threatened to post a bazillion old barn paintings I'd done over the last 20 years. Fortunately for us blog-aholics, I only found a few of them.

The barns at the top are the most recent, probably done within the last eight years as something I taught in an intermediate class lesson. The farther down this
post you look, the older the paintings are.

The gray barn with the two white silos and fence posts was done as a result of reading an excellent, inspiring book by Valfred Thelin regarding pouring on paint and letting it run. Somone's since borrowed my book... the price I pay for loaning them out..... I still have hopes of seeing it again.

There's an old mail pouch barn near us that HAD to be painted, of course, (see 2nd painting.) The late evening sunset was done before they moved the barn and put it on a concrete block base - looks ugly now, but it surely is a relic from the past.

Some of the barns came out of my imagination while some are from photos I took. The weird (and profitable) thing is that all barn pictures sell well here in the midwest. And there are lots of them, some much better than others.

Talk to an artist who's been painting a while, and they will roll their eyes about painting barns. I will too, probably, because I realize now that it's not the barn that should be painted, but the feelings we have about 'old' things like barns that need to be expressed in our paintings. I've done a couple of more modern, abstracted barn paintings that were fun to do. They took the longest to sell.

Fortunately, I'm not counting on sales to survive, so I no longer care to paint the things that I think might sell the best. I can paint what I want to paint, what interests and challenges me. And seldom is it barns anymore.

Back when I got excited about getting commissions to paint, a woman asked me to paint her grandparent's old homestead, the one here with the big white house, oak tree, garish green pines, and two distant barns. After it was done, her siblings all wanted a copy.

Now days, with the giclee' process, that would've been easy to do. But seventeen years ago, I had to repaint the same picture, with a few minor 'memory' adjustments, for all four of her siblings. GROAN... or so I thought. I found out the value of challenging myself to make it a better painting every time. Each painting was a full 22x30" sheet of paper, and I charged $129 each. YIKES. What was I thinking? But, maybe I got the best end of the deal, too, considering the lack of mature composition, garish green trees, awkward oaks...

Enough about barns. And thank goodness, they're are all sold.

Big barn above with mountains was done when I attended my first workshop in Estes Park, Colorado with Tony Couch. What a great week with gorgeous surroundings. And as he explained, we can't really paint barns. We can only paint shapes, textures, colors, lines, values, sizes, and direction.

Left barn is a scene I usually teach in my beginner's classes.

This was painted about 8 weeks after I started a beginners class with Suzanne Mayes Wentzell in Kokomo, Indiana. Nice fog but what pathetic trees:-(
THE END! (Transparent Watercolor used in all these barn paintings.)



I've been participating in a weekly challenge from Myrna Wacknov, and this is week four's painting. Using the same photo that I started with early this year, this time I had to come up with a way to make 'size' be the important feature or element in the painting - so I stretched the people and gave them raisin heads (a Carla O'Conner ploy.) Plus, I had to use some sort of grid in the background with an assymetrical balance of the subject. Challenging, for sure.
First I glazed the whole sheet with a pale glaze of Quinacridone Violet to help unify the entire painting. From there, I began to develop the background areas, not caring if they had depth or dimension to them. I was going for more of a design quality this time, with flat space, not depth.
I painted rather timidly for a while because I felt unsure about the grid/asymmetrical compositional thing. I made the colors match, etc., instead of taking my usual liberties with color choices.

After a class critique (Thank you, Tuesday's class,) I moved in with flourish and added color and value where it was weak. I liked the results and think this is my favorite of all of the paintings of this subject that I've done. Thanks again, Myrna. And there are 3 more paintings to go. Can't wait to see how they turn out. The next one is a 'STAGGERED' composition, new to me.

"STRETCHING THE TRUTH" Transparent Watercolor on 140#CP Arches 12 x 17"



Painting portraits is exciting and challenging. When the brush gets it just right,the person comes to life. This photo of an old man from China was taken in the 1940's and brought back to the U.S. by a serviceman. His wife said she'd let me paint it. I was thrilled. There was a certain regalness about him that I liked, although he must've been very poor.

His droopy eye, his beard, and his hat - I loved them. And his coat wrapped him up so snug in that cold climate. My friend Linda has the painting now, looking down on her in her kitchen. He has a good home now.

"LOOKING BACK" Transparent Watercolor on 140#HP Arches 16 x 21" SOLD



Playing with an idea or theme can be like a story telling itself. The artist only holds the brush and goes with the ideas that come each moment.

This watercolor started out like that story waiting to be told. Using stamps I'd fashioned out of mat board as well as stencils I'd cut from sheets of plastic, I added and subtracted shapes and colors as it seemed right.

Both transparent watercolor as well as gouache watercolor made the process easy and fun. Gouache is made of the same dry pigment as transparent watercolor but has a type of chalk added, making it easier to lift and very opaque. I liked how the opaqueness of the gouache seemed to make the transparent watercolor seem even more luminous. The hardest part was knowing when to stop.

"HOOK, LINE & SINKER" Transparent Watercolor and Gouache Watercolor on 140# Arches Hot Press 15 x 11" SOLD