Watercolor Doodling!

I’ve always been a big doodler, usually with pencil or pen. As a student, I was always doodling in my notebook during class in order to have something to do with my hands, which allowed me to focus on what the teacher was saying. (Whenever teachers used to say “Stop drawing and pay attention!” I … Read more

Lessons from Shelby Thayne’s Layered Mountains

One of the first watercolor classes I ever took was Shelby Thayne’s “Night Skies” class, back in April 2021. Recently I took her “Layered Mountains” class, and it feels like I’ve come full circle.  It’s a funny story how I found Shelby. It was early 2021, at that point in the pandemic when everyone was … Read more

Lessons from “Making Color Sing”: Mouse Power

In Making Color Sing, Jeanne Dobie advises on the best ways to use color (primarily in watercolor, but in general). In the first chapter, “Mouse Power,” she takes on a common newbie issue: how to make colors look bright?

The urge is to use bright paints. And you know I love bright colors! Yet, you may use lots of bold, exceptionally bright colors in your work, and still create a piece that looks muddled. Meanwhile, someone else may use much more muted colors, yet achieve a kind of glow. Why is that?

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What is this painting… of?

Have you ever really thought about the way you look at a painting, a photograph, or even a scene in real life? Your eyes skip around. You don’t take it in all at once, or process it neatly top-to-bottom like a computer might. You jump from one element to another, your eye drawn by those shapes, colors, and contrasts that are most interesting, unusual, or surprising. 

Not everyone’s experience of the same real-life scene is the same, of course. Perhaps you and a friend are looking at the same landscape. Your eye is drawn to a yellow tree in a sea of green trees. They are more interested in a duck that’s swimming on the lake. Each of you might paint a different picture of the same scene: yours might focus on the tree and not have a duck at all, and theirs might paint the duck in loving detail while reducing the trees to a hazy background. 

As an artist, you can curate your viewer’s experience. You can lead their eyes to the parts of your painting that you find most interesting and meaningful. But to do that, you need to know yourself just what it is you’re painting. What’s the center of interest? 

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What is the Tool of Thirds?

I’d heard Photography People say “rule of thirds” long before I learned what it actually was, and it always sounded so mysterious. A secret rule that photographers use to make Art instead of Snapshots! I avoided learning about it, because I hate rules, but when I did, I actually found it very useful and now I use it all the time. 

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