Emily – Imagine – 9″ x 12″ Watercolor on Paper

This portrait was so much fun to work on. When I saw the photograph done by my daughter, Miriam Doan – with all those fabulous freckles and red hair, the beautifully draped scarf delicately held back by gentle hands, the lace and color of the dress, and THOSE eyes – I knew it was a painting in the making. SO many challenges! This is my sweet grand-niece Emily.


I didn’t use any frisket for this painting, but rather just worked in sections. I put down the initial washes on the background (dilute French Ultramarine), dress (dark mixture of , Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna), scarf (dilute quinacridone red) and hair (burnt sienna).

The background was too blue and the dress too dull.


So I added a glaze of prussian blue to the dress and liked what it was doing. While this was drying I put in some of the lace design details with a dilute mixture of ultramarine and raw sienna.

These two colors are so versatile. You can mix these two to get hues from deep blue to deep dark rich browns. The painting “Ridgley Hayes” is done with just these two colors. The horse in “Hannah and Wolfe” is also painted using these two colors.

I will add two more glazes of prussian blue to the dress, letting each glaze dry completely before applying the next.


After the first wash is dry I lay in another and let it dry. One more glaze of the prussian blue but before it dries this time I lift out the gathers in the fabric. I use the prussian blue with a little Viridian added for a green tint to lay in the background over the ultramarine. The color turned out perfect.I’d never used Prussian blue before and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s deep, dark hue can not be overpowered in a mix. Mix it with Quinacridone Red or Rose Madder for the most gorgeous, rich purples.


Next I added a little more detailing to the hair, burnt sienna with a little ultramarine. Then the beginning color in the eyes with prussian blue. Here also I start building the scarf around the head with another wash of rose madder with a touch of Ultramarine.

The skin is glazed with a very light wash of burnt sienna and ultramarine and that brings us to the decision to mask or not to mask and I decide against it and opted to put in the face details.


Next I worked on the scarf in sections, using Quinacridone red, rose madder and prussian blue. I used a LOT of glazes and shading, building up the color in the folds.The color in the folds and creases is a really dark purple mix of rose madder and prussian blue. The quinacridone glazes would start out looking brazenly cool red but then blend and dry to a lovely deep pink. Lastly comes the skins tones on the arms and hands. layering in spatters of light, mid-tone and dark mixtures of Burnt umber, a touch of ultramarine and rose madder. The finished off with the shading on the hands


emily scarfemily freckles



Hannah and Wolfe – Eastfork

Hannah and Wolfe

Hannah and Wolfe – Eastfork – Watercolor on Paper  – 13.5″  x  20.5″ – 2016

Painting #4 on this journey. This one was such a redemptive process. We’ve missed this boy. Wolfe was just the best horse ever; full of fire and yet tender and quiet with camp children. He retired this year – rumor has it. He was a beautiful, heavily muscled 17 hands, the largest of all the horses Hannah ever rode.  He was almost black, but would bleach to a deep golden, coffee brown in the summer. Wolfe and Hannah took home a lot of ribbons and trophies in all events; English, Western, Jumping, Dressage, Gymkhana. But, what you see in this painting is the chewy caramel center of the relationship; just a slow, country stroll down a shaded lane after a hard day’s work; stopping to check out the sights and sounds. We all miss those days.

Danny and Abi – Cedar Key

Danny and Abigail

The next painting was from a small 4×6 photograph of my son John Daniel and daughter, Abigail. The picture was taken almost 30 years ago in Cedar Key, Florida. I’ve had the framed photo on the wall by my desk all these years.

I used Arches 140 lb. cold pressed paper.  Winsor & Newton Professional watercolor tubes. Palette: french ultramarine, manganese blue,  burnt sienna, burnt umber, sap green, lemon yellow, cadmium red.

It was a hot Florida day. The sun was straight overhead, not a cloud in the sky.  We had gone over to Cedar Key, a favorite fishing, beaching, dolphin watching spot. Cedar Key was one of my favorite beaches because it was on the Gulf side. With small children, going to the beach on the east, ocean side was never a peaceful, relaxing experience for me as a mother because I had to be constantly vigilant of the small children. Cedar Key on the Gulf side was quiet, shallow waters and I could relax a bit. The peers and bridges were some of my husband, Pat’s, favorite places to fish. This spot, right outside of town, in the salt marshes, Danny and Abi would play for hours, digging up little blue crabs that skittered in droves over the sand from one hole to the next where they would disappear. They collected crabs in their buckets to save as live bait for their dad who was fishing nearby. Oh how I miss these days gone by.



A friend of mine posted a photo of a cardinal on FaceBook a couple of days ago and it reminded me of how much I love these little ladies.

This little painting was a particular challenge because of the softness of the lines, the subtlety of the tones and hues. This googled image was suitable and I decided to do a tiny, card-sized, painting on a scrap of Saunders Waterford paper to use as a card for my grandsons who are moving into a new home next week. Ridgley is a young bird watcher. I plan to get him a platform bird feeder for his bedroom window. And I hope that this little painting will hang on the wall beside that window – along with a few more. When I asked him yesterday what his favorite bird was, he said “woodpecker” and when I asked him what kind, he said “African.” I’d never heard of and African Woodpecker, but I have learned never to doubt my little Wild Kratts  aficionado when it comes to animals. So, I googled it and sure enough:

*List of birds of Zambia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org1063 × 1489Search by image

The golden-tailed woodpecker (Campethera abingoni) lives throughout central and southern Africa.
So this one will be next!
I mentioned earlier that I did this little painting on a scrap of Saunders Waterford paper. It was my first experience with this paper as I had decided to give it a try. It’s supposed to be tougher than Arches – it’s not. I’m not sure I like it. It’s very different. I think it would be good for some projects. It seems to be more absorbent, so pigment does not travel as easily, making it good for dry brush, but not for blending on paper and working wet in wet. I’m working on a larger painting of my oldest grandson on this paper . . . we’ll see.


Ridgley Hayes


After completing the painting of Ruth, I didn’t know where to go or what I might paint next. Christmas was approaching and I was thinking of Christmas gifts for my kids. My #2 daughter, Miriam, is a photographer/media producer for Rotary International. She sees life through a lens and the stories of the people she photographs and interviews all over the world.

The photograph that this painting is based upon is a little closer to home. It is her firstborn, my second grandson, Ridgley Hayes.

The photograph was a black and white, making it an interesting watercolor / values study. It was done using two colors: French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I gave the framed original to Miriam for Christmas and a giclee print to my other daughter Ruth. And, of course, I had to have one made for myself as well. Because the beauty of all this, is that if no one else ever sees or appreciates this painting,  I LOVE IT!

Ruth – Day Dream

This blog is going to be about my growth as an artist, if that’s what I am. This painting is how it restarted at 65 after 23 years of not touching a brush or thinking about painting. But after 40 years of parenting and 43 years of marriage, the nest is empty, so here we go.

My children have bugged me for years to start painting again. But, between work, family, homeschooling, volunteering etc. where was I to find the time? Well, as they say, “timing is everything.” Days after my last adult child moved out for Chicago, I received a text from a dear friend of mine, Tami. Not knowing my history as a wannabe artist, she asked if I would join her in a watercolor class. She needed the therapy and we both needed to company. During the first lesson we were assigned to bring a project to work on back to class with us the next week. I knew right away exactly what I was going to do.

I had started a painting almost 25 years earlier. I still had the original sketch and photograph image dated 1987, of my daughter Ruth, who is now 41 years old. At the time I originally started, she was in high school. The picture is of her when she was about 4. She was up in an apple tree in the back yard . . . Day Dreaming. It captures the essence of her melancholy thoughtfulness.

I am so proud of the woman she has become. She runs a summer youth program for the Center for Talent Development at North Western University in Evanston, Illinois. She’s a big girl now, but the essence is the same; thoughtful, critical, discerning. Painting this memory of her was a joyful, reminescent, thankful, experience which of course took me through many years of her childhood.

So, here it is. My first painting after 25 years. I was never more than a novice hobbyist. But, my desire to grow has been renewed.

Next, one of Ruth’s favorite people, her nephew and my grandson, Ridgley Hayes: