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Splashy Sunface Semi-Tutorial- How a Hot Mess Becomes a Painting

Sunface MSatterfield

This happy little fellow almost leaped off my painting table and I thought you might like to see a little of the “behind the scenes” parts of a painting.

I have a mild fixation on sun and moon faces and themes and tend to doodle them frequently. So, I wondered how one might turn out if I painted it instead. First, I drew the face on my paper freehand with a plain old mechanical pencil with a soft lead. Then, I lightened the drawing a bit and erased some of the outlines.

I chose Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Red, and Indigo Blue for my colors. It’s a variation of the Bright Earth pallet described in Nita Leland’s  book(If you want some insight in to watercolor pigments and how to combine them in attractive color schemes – this is a great book!)

Time to start painting!

I make my first pass loosely with the background color (Indigo) and then go right back with the sunface color (QG and QR). After laying the paint down, it looks like this:

Sunface First Painting MSatterfield


Really, it looks like a hot mess, but this is where painting with watercolor takes faith. The more you fiddle with it and try to make it look “right,” the worse it’s going to be. (See this tomato for an example of overworked paint).

When it’s dried to moist – no shine, but still cool and damp to the touch – I made the second pass where I painted in the smaller shapes like the mouth. Again, the trick is to get away and let the paint do its thing. It still doesn’t look all that impressive yet:

When it’s dried to moist again, I added those spatters that I love so much. They’re not as random as they look and let it dry to bone dry.

Finishing Touches

Finally, I go back to add some details and sharpen up the places that got lost in the painting. I use  artist quality colored pencils (Prismacolor brand) for this part because I like the detail and the sharpness they bring to an otherwise very loose medium. After touching up some key areas and tightening the focal details like the eyes and mouth, he’s ready to shine:

Sunface MSatterfield


Thanks for coming along with this painting. If you enjoyed this little mini-lesson, let me know, I’d love to hear from you.




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Watercolor Tomato and How Cropping Can Do Wonderous Things

Tomato 5 x 7 Crop
Tomato 5 x 7 Crop

This 5 x 7 watercolor is a prime example of what judicious cropping can do to salvage a less than successful painting.

As Painted

Here’s the painting as planned and painted at 8 x 10.

Tomato Watercolor 8 x 10
Tomato Watercolor 8 x 10

It’s overworked in several places and the lines got away from me during the painting stage. Some of that could be corrected by a little colored pencil work, but overworked watercolor is, well, overworked.

As I was getting ready to pitch it in the drawer, I noticed that one section looked pretty good. So, I pulled out my 5 x 7 mat ( I like to use standard sizes whenever I can) and framed that bit.

Wow! What a difference! There’s still a bit of muddiness on the edge, but that version shows that luscious tomato off perfectly. It also makes the picture about the fruit itself and not so much about the plant. Overall, I like it much better in the smaller format.

As usual, I kept my color palette simple and used Winsor and Newton watercolors in Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Gold, and Indigo on a Canson Montval block I’ve had kicking around forever.

New Digital  Art Work

In other art stuff I’m working on, I’ve started a new Etsy shop. It’s all digital: downloadable and printable for making your own tags, journals, and scrapbooking. If that sounds like fun, have a look:

 More Watercolors on the Way

If digital isn’t  your cup of tea, never fear, there’s always some paint meeting paper around here. I’ve got another painting almost finished and took process photos to show how it looks midway. Stay tuned for more on splashing paint around!

As always, I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and experiences. Just drop me a note!

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New Art: Three Watercolor Sunflowers

(For folks who get this in an email -I apologize for the missing images in that last post. I didn’t realize that the gallery wouldn’t translate to email – my mistake!)

Hello! It’s good to see you again!

First, like the title says, I’ve been painting and have some watercolor sunflowers to show you. This is the first time I’ve painted flowers that I’ve been pleased with. Oh, I’ve tried, so many times, to paint florals but they never turned out just right. They were either too stiff and starchy or too dark or too – something. Continue reading New Art: Three Watercolor Sunflowers

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Splashy Modified Contour Drawings

My friend, a lovely neighbor and ikebana artist, was lamenting her drawing skills so I was all “Do the exercises in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”* and then realized I haven’t done it myself in a long time. Since I’ve been feeling an urge to do something more free form and direct and after telling her that, I had to take my own advice! Continue reading Splashy Modified Contour Drawings