Thursday, May 31, 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES: Gathering Reference Material for Future Paintings

One of the most enjoyable parts of art for me is gathering reference material for future paintings. Photographs and on-site sketching are the two best ways I use to gather information -- for use later, back in my studio, to create my watercolor paintings.  I am happiest when I can also do this "gathering" with people I love . . .

Here are some photos from my latest outings, in preparation for three different painting series:


My granddaughter and I waited for the rain to stop -- then went outside to sketch the roses and take some pictures of the rest of the garden.

I can't wait to paint these roses! . . . and the poppies!

This would make a great painting!

Love the color of this Japanese maple, especially next to that green -- beautiful color combination.

Time to sketch the roses . . . 

Remy working in her sketchbook, made of handmade paper

I add a little color to my sketch, with colored pencils.

The clematis was beautiful, too.

 . . . and, one of these days, I must paint Nadia!

2)  CACTUS Series -- Hiking in the hills and neighborhoods of Anthem, AZ, with my friends

The ocotillo, with the "flames" shooting off the ends, might make an interesting painting.

I really liked the color of this prickly pear cactus -- it's different than the prickly pear in my backyard.

The neighbors probably loved my snooping around in their yards with my camera.

Definitely want to include an agave in this series -- love its shape and color.

3) COLORADO WILDFOWERS & TREES -- Hiking with Alan and Royal, west of Durango --

Purple lupines at the base of the tallest aspen trees I have ever seen . . . 

These are just a few of the hundreds of photos I took -- lots of inspiration for later use . . . 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

WATERCOLOR WORKSHOP: Painting White Flowers with Patterned Background

In this watercolor painting project, we'll be starting with a wet-in-wet MINGLING, doing some NEGATIVE painting, and LIFTING a pattern in the background.

You will see how much COLOR you can have in your white flowers and how to make sure your patterned background STAYS in the background.

You can purchase a pdf tutorial of this project, for $6, HERE.

For this painting, I used 7 pigments -- Aureolin Yellow, Quinacridone Rose, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Magenta, French Ultramarine, Permanent Sap Green, and Quinacridone Burnt Orange.

Begin the painting with a wet-in-wet mingling on stretched watercolor paper, using yellow, rose, and cobalt blue.  Wet the paper with clear water -- then, leaving a little white off to one side, paint a ring of yellow, then the rose, then blue.  Drop in a little yellow, rose, and blue on the left side of the paper, too. . . 

After this underpainting is completely dry, draw a large lily, right of center.  Take 2 or 3 of the petals off the paper.  Then, draw two stems, a bud, and a few leaves. . . 

Paint the bud, stem, leaves, and tops of the stamens with a yellow wash; and, let it dry . . . 

Mix up a very light blue wash (using Cobalt Blue), and paint only the negative space with this blue.  Don't wet the paper first -- paint the blue wash onto dry paper . . . 

When that is totally dry, draw two more lilies with their stems and a few more leaves.  Once again, take these flowers off the edges, so you break up the negative space into interesting shapes . . . 

Now, mix a blue-violet wash, using the French Ultramarine, and the Magenta.  Make sure there is plenty of water, and that it is more blue than purple.  Paint only the negative shapes with this wash, onto dry paper . . . 

After the background is dry, we will "lift" out a pattern in the background.  We are lifting out instead of "masking" the lines, because we want the pattern to be subtle so that it stays in the background.  If we were to use masking, the patterned lines would be too definite, so they would come forward in space, competing with the flowers.

Using a damp brush with a good point, draw a spiral with your brush . . . 

 Then, blot it with a paper towel . . . 

Repeat this process until you can see the spiral. . . 

Move around the background, lifting spirals -- until the entire background is covered with this spiral pattern . . . No need to draw this first with a pencil, and don't worry if your spirals aren't perfect -- it's actually better if they're not.

Now, start painting the stems and the tops of the stamens with a mix of Burnt Orange and Magenta.  Paint a green wash on the bud, the leaves, and the stamens and pistil -- using a mixture of Cobalt Blue and Aureolin Yellow . . .

Continue painting the stems and the tops of the stamens, using a darker mixture of Burnt Orange/Magenta, with a little French Ultramarine added.  Paint a darker value on parts of the leaves and the bud, using Sap Green -- and adding a little magenta to the bud and a little blue to the leaves. . . 

Create some dimension and form to the petals, by painting a light Cobalt Blue to some areas, and by dropping in some magenta to the underside of the petals.  Darken some areas of the flowers, as necessary . . . 

If you'd rather have a pdf version of this tutorial, you can CLICK HERE.  
For $6, you will get an instant download of this step-by-step tutorial, plus an introduction containing "Ten Things to Know About the Color BLUE".

For more on  




Friday, May 25, 2012


Two posters that I designed for Cottonwood Press years ago, with quotes by Emerson and Gandhi:

The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose     - Mahatma Gandhi

Earth laughs in flowers       - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TOP TEN GARDENS: My 10 Favorite Botanic Gardens

I love botanic gardens -- for inspiration and reference material, and because they are beautiful places to walk around in.  The first six are places that I've visited -- sometimes, more than once.  The last four are gardens that I really want to visit.

1)  THE BUTCHART GARDENS -- Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

 These spectacular gardens began in 1907, in what used to be a limestone quarry.  They are known for their year-round display of flowering plants, in wonderful color combinations.  A feast for the eyes -- it was impossible to take a bad picture here.

"Butchart Sunken Garden", watercolor by Pat Howard

2)  HAWAII TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN, a Garden in a Valley on the Ocean --

 A rainforest preserve on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There are 2,000 species of plants and flowers represented here!

3)  DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS -- Denver, Colorado

A Colorado favorite, as well as mine.  There is so much to see here with all corners of the globe well represented.  

4)  SONORAN DESERT MUSEUM -- Tucson, Arizona

A combination zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden -- with a focus on the plants of the Sonoran desert.

5)  The GARDENS at QUAIL HOLLOW STATE PARK -- Hartville, Ohio

A small gem of a place in rural Ohio.  Lots of weddings take place in the beautiful herb garden on the back lawn of the Manor House.

6)  PIKE PLACE FLOWER MARKET -- Seattle, Washington

I realize this is not a botanical garden, and technically, it is not a garden at all.  BUT, it FEELS like a garden, with its countless stalls filled with the most beautiful bouquets of cut flowers.  It's just a very cool place!

"Pike Place Flower Market", watercolor by Pat Howard

7)  GIVERNY -- Claude Monet's home and garden in Normandy, France

I was not much of a Monet fan, UNTIL I saw his monumental Water Lilies at the MOMA in New York City a few years ago.  They were mesmerizing.  So now, of course, I need to visit his garden.

8)  KEUKENHOF GARDENS -- The Netherlands

Over 7 million tulips in the world's largest flower garden!!  I've seen pictures, but I have got to see this in person.

9)  US BOTANIC GARDEN -- Washington, DC

Located right next to the US Capitol, this is a must-see, I hear.  Lots of water features mixed in with an unbelievable variety of plants, including a dazzling orchid display.

10)  BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN -- Brooklyn, New York

I've heard about the Cherry Esplanade -- a double row of cherry trees -- which I'm sure is stunning to see. Supposedly, the most visited botanic garden in the United States, it also includes a fragrance garden for the blind -- lovely!