Friday, June 25, 2010

Watercolor and Colored Pencil Painting


Woolaroc Landscape WC CP small


Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones


A few years ago, I took a photo workshop at Woolaroc.  This workshop is led by Jerry Poppenhouse.  I could write a whole article just about him.  If you ever get the chance, you should take a class from him.  His workshops fill quickly.  The advantage of taking the class is you have access to places around Woolaroc that you normally don’t get to use during a visit to their museum.

The picture I completed above with a view of the water is from one of the classes I attended at the beautiful grounds of Woolaroc.  It was the beginning of fall and the foliage was spectacular. 

I did this piece on Arches 140 lb hot press watercolor paper.  The underpainting was done in watercolor and the final touches was done with colored pencil.  Now, I normally do all my colored artwork with colored pencils. This piece is 9”x 11” and would have taken me 20-30 hours to complete.  With using watercolor as the underpainting, it probably only took me 10 hours! I only spent 2 hours with the pencils and the rest with paint.

My next project will be done using colored pencil first and then applying the watercolor on last.  I’m experimenting with this technique to see if the colored pencil will resist the watercolor.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Choosing the Right Photo Reference – The Drawing Board

086asmallThe first thing I do when starting a new piece is to find the perfect reference photo.   Believe it or not, I enjoy every part of the drawing process, including the subject selection.  It wasn’t difficult to choose this subject because he’s my darling nephew.  I also enjoyed taking the photo of him sinking his teeth into a juicy homegrown watermelon.  Grandpa is the happy grower of watermelons in our family.  You should see the watermelon parties he throws!

108aasmall I have two references to choose from.  I selected the second photo because of the expression on the little boy’s face.  Plus it shows how much he likes watermelon because the piece is eaten almost to the rind. 

I then take the color photo and turn it into black and white in Photoshop.

The second thing I look for in a photo reference is the lighting.  This one didn’t quite have enough contrast, so I adjusted the the lighting.   The reference I’m showing you already has the lighting adjusted.  I may still darken the left side of his face once I start working on the drawing.  I will also take out the chair in the background.  I may or may not put a background in.  That will come to me later.

So, I’m getting anxious to start this jewel of a piece.  The Drawing Board will be empty for 2 or 3 weeks for summer break.  Next time it returns, there will be more fun and exciting drawing tips. 

I’ll show you some step by step information on how this piece takes shape from how the eyes, nose, hair, and eyes are done, to how shading and contrast is very important.

Enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Hope of Memory


280“Memory’s Hope”

Acrylic on 8”x8” Canvas

Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones


I have titled this piece “Memory’s Hope” in respect to those individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease affects millions of people each year.  Not only does it affect the individual with the disease but it also affects families and those caring for the person.  You will be hearing more about Alzheimer’s from me in the future.

This piece is my favorite of the four in this series.  I layered this piece with many light washes of color.  The initial washes were very thin with quite a bit of water.  I wanted the shadow colors to run and blend with the lighter colors.  I thickened the paint once I had established the values.   I liked the washing technique the best.  The paint dried quickly, but not before the blending took place.  When I applied thick layers, the paint dried before the blending could happen.  There are about 4 to 5 layers of paint washed onto each petal. 

I’ll let you compare.

Orange Slush“Orange Slush”

Acrylic on 8”x8” canvas

Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones

First one in the series.  This was created using thick layers.


PinkPassion2Pink Passion”

Acrylic on 8”x8” Canvas

Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones

Second one in the series.  This was created using light layers of wash on the petals.  The green center has thicker layers.


Luscious LemonLuscious Lemon”

Acrylic on 8”x8” Canvas

Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones

Third one in the series.  I created this one using both light layers and thick layers.  Yellow is very light, so I thickened up the layers at the end.  I also used white for the highlights.  I found this different because I am used to using the white of the paper for highlights.  Usually not the case in acrylic.

What’s your vote?  Which one do you like best?  I had a lot of fun painting these and have a few other painting ideas floating around in my brain.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Luscious Lemon – Wacky Wednesday

Luscious Lemon

Luscious Lemon”

Copyright 2010 Valerie Jones


I cannot tell you how much fun I have had painting these flowers.  Flowers have been a passion of mine ever since I was a little girl.  I have refrained from painting too many of them because of being stereotyped as an artist who paints flowers.  But who cares about that anyway?  I’m learning to let go and let God, and I should be free to paint whatever God places on my heart to paint.

I am learning a lot about acrylics while painting this series.  I’ve tried putting the paint on thick.  I’ve tried thinning the paint to watercolor consistency and layering many layers.  The technique I like the most so far is the latter.  It allows me to let the paint run a little and gives a softer blend in values.

I have one more painting in this series that I’ll show you next week.  It’s by far my favorite. 

Happy painting!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Paintings from the Earth

A Precious Golden Moment

Used by Permission of Narda Caton


Today, I am interviewing Narda Caton. I could go on and on about her many talents, but today we are focusing on her soil paintings. She creates beautiful paintings from the soil and other natural pigments from Oklahoma. What I love about her work is that each piece tells a wonderful story.

A Precious Golden Moment Story Used by Permission of Narda Caton


How do you best describe soil painting?

Narda: “I like to call it ‘earth pigments’ because I use not only soil but some wonderful juicy plants for blues, yellows and greens. My husband teasingly calls my paintings my ‘dirty pictures’.”


What made you choose this unusual medium for your paintings?

Narda: “A couple of my friends wanted to take a class at Woolaroc. The teacher of the class was not an artist and did not ‘really’ know how to use the soil to it’s full potential. She was a soil conservationist. She used a varnish type binder but it did not work for me. My Dad was a strong believer in soil conservation and I like the idea of using natural ingredients. So I went to the workshop just for fun. When I saw the possibilities, I knew I had to do it. I devised a way to use the soil with only water as the medium. It is much more challenging than water color as the soil tends to sluff off (like dried mud) if you do not use a very heavy, absorbent paper. I love the fact that the soil presents a new challenge each time because it is never the same at any two given times.”


Do you grind the soil to powder consistency or do you have different consistencies for texture?

Narda: “The soil is very soft…almost like flour…If it does have sand in it, I push it through a sieve.”


Is it difficult to achieve a smooth application?

Narda: “Not usually…some soils…some colors are more sandy than others. Sometimes it takes several coats to achieve the color and consistency I require.”


What other natural dyes or pigments do you use in your paintings?

Narda: “I use soil from all over the state of Oklahoma…very colorful soil. They tell me that there is blue, yellow, and green soil. I have yet to find blue and green and the yellow is not a very bright color and is very sandy…so I use the juicy plants of Oklahoma. My friends save me flowers from their gardens and I can always get fresh spinach and canned beets. I sometimes mix the plants with the soil to get a color I need. After I prepare the plants, I freeze the juice in tiny jars until I am ready to use them. The soil and plants will not fade as some paints will.”


Do you go on digging adventures?

Narda: “No, I do not dig.”


A person usually thinks that the soil is brown. How many colors of soil are there in Oklahoma?

Narda: “It is amazing how many beautiful shades of soil that exist. The reds are so exotic and I use those for many things…mostly for flesh. Thinly applied it can be very delicate. Thick layers can be a bright flower or a red velvet dress. There are many shades of red. I like to get a dark black if possible. It is good for many things. And of course, there are so many wonderful colors. But I constantly have to remind myself that I may not get the same color twice. So, it is a process of being versatile.”


A lot of people call soil, dirt. What is the difference?

Narda: “In Webster’s Dictionary soil is defined as: firm land; earth; the loose surface material of the earth in which plants grow. Dirt is defined as filth; mud; dust or grime. I guess that is why I like to call it soil better than I like dirt…although to some I suppose they are interchangeable.”


Any advice for people who might want to try using soil for their paintings?

Narda: “To me soil and plants (earth pigments) respond to my touch as no other medium has. You must be willing to experiment and to plunge in where others have not gone before…because when it comes right down to it…there is no one to ask.”


For purchasing information, contact Narda at


Narda has been featured in the Bartlesville Magazine Winter 2008 issue and the Cowboy Journal Winter/Spring 2010 issue.


Narda Caton is currently focusing her talents on creating bronze and copper jewelry that is inspired by her Indian ancestry. Her jewelry can be found on her website Narda Treasures.