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Chair with Sunflowers

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Sunflower Collage by Jenny Armitage

Sunflowers with Chair (16 x 20 Collage) $600

This is the first collage I’ve published on-line.  It is hand-printed paper on plywood.

I began my foray into collage by hand-printing and hand-marbling paper to create a paper palate.  I print paper using stamps, found objects, combs, palate knifes, and other implements to texture acrylic paint on a gel pad.  As I work, I stamp a sheet of paper with the paint I’m lifting from the gel pad.  When I have the gel pad textured to my satisfaction, I lift one or two prints from it’s surface by laying paper down on the pad.  Later, I may stamp the gel pad mono-prints with a contrasting color.  The goal is to have many textures in a full range of color and value.

Ultimately I tear the paper into little pieces and glue it to boards with liquitex to create paper “paintings.”

Or purchase a fine art print.

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Rue Galande

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Rue Galande, Watercolor of Paris by Jenny Armitage

Rue Galande (watercolor 19 x 13) $500

Another painting taken from our trip to Europe last summer.  This charming little street is close to Nortre Dame, but at least a little off the beaten path.    Like many of the streets in the area, it curves charmingly.

I poured this painting in much the same manner as  July in Florence.  The process is much like batik and leads to clear color passages that make buildings glow.

July in Florence, Painting of Old Florence by Jenny Armitage

July in Florence (13 x 23 watercolor) $600

Or purchase a fine art print.

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Jazz Improvisation One

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Jazz Improvisation One, digital painting by Jenny Armitage

Jazz Improvisation (digital collage) prints only

I’ve been been playing around with digital drawing and collage the last year or so.    I began by drawing silhouettes with the mouse.  I then use the silhouettes to sample various watercolor backgrounds I have painted and then photographed.   I’ve been using the results to make design mugs, tees, smartphone cases, ties and other things on Zazzle for sale in my Paintbox Silhouette shop.   Just lately though, I’ve been taking this a step further and creating digital paintings or collages.   This image includes five watercolor backgrounds and four hand moused silhouettes and over twenty digital layers.

I began with simpler but more graphic images like these:


Rainbow Violins, painting by Jenny Armitage

Rainbow String of Violins (digital collage) prints only

Cool Sax Band, digital collage by painter Jenny Armitage

Cool Sax Band (digital collage) prints only

These simpler images involve fewer layers by utilize the same hand drawn silhouettes and watercolor backgrounds.

All of my digital collages are available here as prints on paper, metal, or canvas.

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Tipping My Hat to M. C. Escher

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Pygmalion Joins the Band, Echeresque Painting by Jenny Armitge

Pygmalion Joins the Band, (16 x 22 watercolor) $600

When painting Flugel and Friends, I was struck by the way in which the unfinished the flugelhorn appeared ultra three dimensional.  It just wanted to hover above the paper.  It took some effort playing with the shadow to get it lay down and behave itself. But I was struck by how beautiful the floating horn was.

Flugle and Friends In Progress

The experience got me to thinking about the trick of making the flat paper look three dimensional and reminded me of M.C. Escher’s various perspective games playing with this concept.  So I decided to play around with the idea a little within a painting in a painting.

The process has been fun, but very meta.  I painted Pygmalion Joins the Band, with the very brush depicted in the painting with palette shown, using the paints in the tubes I painted.   If you paint on block pads, you may recognize the border of the pad cover peaking out from under the painting in a painting.   The most challenging  part of the painting turned out to be depicting paint on the plastic palette and making it look like paint on plastic rather than paint of paper.  I had the most fun painting the tubes and now plotting excuses to paint them again.

Or purchase a fine art print.
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Arch of Titus

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Arch of Titus, Painting by Jenny Armitage

Arch of Titus II (watercolor 16 x 21) For Sale at Western Federation of Watercolor Society Show in June 2013

I knew I wanted to paint the Arch of Titus before we ever got to Rome this summer.   I remember being struck by it on our honeymoon, eighteen years ago and when I remember an object that long, it simply must be painted.  But eighteen years ago, things were simpler.  Eighteen years ago in September my husband and I felt as if we were alone in the forum.  We walked under the arch and touched the carved stone.  This summer in July the forum was mobbed and the arch was surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

The painting I had in mind, featured tourists walking through the arch.  Obviously, that painting, no longer reflects reality.  So instead, I shot the arch looking up from below, avoiding the ugly iron fence.  This turned out to be a challenge.  I like the striking steep upward angle, but perspective is difficult to pull off.  The fact that that exterior of the arch is a light blue marble and the interior a warm yellow orange didn’t help as it made the shadowed underside warmer in color than the cool exterior.  But more difficult yet, the upward angle exposes intricately carvings covering the  interior ceiling of the arch.

I began painting the arch and quit four times, each time simplifying the arch a little more.  The second to last attempt I used to demonstrate painting at the fair.   The result is good, but it didn’t have quite the oomph I was looking for.

Arch of Titus, Painting by Jenny armitage

Arch of Titus I (watercolor 15 x 20) $350

So I simplified even further and poured the painting. (For a description of pouring click here). The result is more richly colored and much more graphic.



Or purchase a fine art print.

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Work in Progress


Work in Progress (14 x 19 watercolor) NFS

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a work-in-progress.   But since I paint this instrument series quite differently than I do landscapes and people, I think it’s time.

When painting an image I usually  start with lighter colors and build my way up working the whole painting at once.  But because of the reflections, I treat metal and glass subjects quite differently.  The reflections create many small abstract shapes defined by hard edges and often extreme contrast.  The high contrast between the shapes is what gives my instruments shine.

Abstract Shapes

To preserve the sharp contrast between the shapes I work on just two or three shapes at a time.  I choose shapes near each other, but not touching so that damp paint never meets damp paint at the edges of the shapes.   Because I finish and let each shape dry before proceeding the the adjacent shape, the edges between the shapes remains sharp and hard.

Inside the shapes is a different matter.  Each shape may contain one or more of my favorite techniques: glazing (painting transparent colors over each other);


deliberate backwashes (allowing wet paint or water  to move back into damp paint);


and dropping in (applying paint from a highly pigmented brush to a damp surface and allowing it to disperse across the damp area.)

Dropped in Color

These techniques produce soft edges and subtle color blending within each small shape. Painting them separately preserves the sharp lines between the shapes.

To give myself a value guide for all of these little shapes, I proceed across the whole painting from the highest contrast outward.  I began with the place where the silver bottom of the clarinet bell meets the black clarinet body.  I also try to work on shapes that reflect each other at the same time.  For this reason I worked on the sax and clarinet at once.

Unlike other rounded objects, I don’t worry too much about giving my instruments the illusion of  depth with shading.  I don’t have too.  If I get the values of the little abstract shapes correctly, the instruments shade themselves.  The bell of the clarinet in defined by hard lines, but the value contrast creates roundness.

Clarinet Bell

Similarly, the shapes in the saxophone bell create the illusion of depth and roundness:

Saxophone Bell

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Silvery Night Music—Painted at Art Fairs

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Silvery Night Music, a Horn and Glass Painting by Jenny Armitage

Silvery Night Music (11 x 14 watercolor on aquabord) $250

I began this painting at the Silverton Art Festival and finished it up at the Oregon State Fair.  My photo reference is from the same group of photos I took for Silver and Glass make music.  But I wanted this painting to be more dramatic, so I darkened the background to make the light more obviously artificial  indirect lighting.

Painting outside in the heat on aquabord was an challenging experience. Most of the time I was painting the temperature was over 90 degrees and it was very dry. The challenge was to keep the board wet enough to work with. I brought in a spray mister the second day which helped considerably. I used cardboard pieces as a shield to keep from misting the parts I didn’t want wet.

Painted on clayboard and finished with a clear acrylic matte varnish and mounted on a black cradle frame, this painting is ready to hang. Alternatively, it can be framed like an acrylic or oil painting.

Prints are available through Fine Art


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Silver and Glass Make Music

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Watercolor Painting of a Trumpet and Depression Glass, by Jenny Armitage

Silver and Glass Music (11 x 14 watercolor on claybord) $300


I painted this in my usual palette of  cobalt blue, phthalo blue, ceruleun blue, hasna yellow, new gamgee, burnt siena and dioxian purple plus a new addition, phtalo green.  Like phthalo blue, phthalo green is extremely staining and very transparent. Even on clayboard and canvas it’s hard to lift.  Typically, I mix my greens rather than pour them out of the tube, but there’s something metalic about phtalo green that can’t be mixed and it’s the perfect color for depression glass.

When I finish this one, my mother-in-law commented that she admired anyone who could paint glass. I will tell you the secret about painting and drawing glass. There’s nothing any difficult about glass than any other subject. The only trouble is psychological. If you just paint the shapes you see, no matter how abstract, when you step back, it will look like glass. It’s only when you worry about making it look like glass that it doesn’t. The same thing is true of metal.

Painted on aquabord and  finished with a clear coat of acrylic, and mounted on a black cradle frame.

Or purchase a print through my Shop at Fine Art America.

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Three Horns For Art Squared

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"Three Horns" (watercolor on canvas 16 x 16 inches) $400

"Three Horns" (watercolor on canvas 16 x 16 inches) SOLD

I painted  this one specially for Salem Art Association’s Salon: Art2 exhibit. All of the artwork in the exhibit must be 16 x 16 inches inclusive of frame.  I had to think carefully how to meet the size requirement.  I didn’t want to fit a watercolor on paper into a 16 x 16 inch frame since the artwork would end up being 12 x 12 at most. I didn’t have any 16 x 16 inch aquabord either.  So I stretched watercolor canvas over a 16 x 16 inch frame and gallery wrapped the edges.

It has been quite some time since I tried painting on watercolor canvas.  Paint lifts from watercolor canvas even more easily than it does from clayboard.  The surface feels like a cross between clayboard an yupo (a plastic paper) to work on except that the unlike board or paper the canvas gives a little to the brush.  I like the canvas’ linen texture, but I’m not sure I like the painting experience as much as the board, though that may be just a matter of getting use to the new surface.

This painting has sold, but prints are available through my gallery at Fine Art America.

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Five Pears and Three Techniques

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Painting of Pear and Grapes by Jenny Armitage

Pearcial to Grapes (watercolor on clayboard 6 x 6) $50.00

Pearcial to Grapes as Finished

These are a continuation of my experiments with Ampersand’s Aquaboard. This time I used cradled board, i.e., board mounted on two inch deep wooded frame. After I completed the paintings, I painted the wooden frames black and finished the watercolors with two coats of Krylon’s UV Archival Varnish, and three coats of Golden’s Polymer Varnish with UVLS (satin). The result is that the paintings may be hung without a frame or glass. The coating is not only protective, but archival and removable for conservation purposes.

This first painting, I painted almost the way I ordinarily use paper, except that I lifted the highlights rather than reserving them.

Still Life Painting on Clayboard, by Jenny Armitage

Meeting over Grapes (watercolor on clayboard 6 x 6) SOLD

Pearshall to Grapes as Finished

For the second painting I wet each section of the painting with clear water first and then offered the tip of a pigment loaded brush to the damp surface.   I hardly used any actual brush strokes at all.  I like the way this technique lets the pigments spread out into the painting.  This technique could be used on paper too.  It isn’t limited to clay-board.  However, this technique is easier on clay-board because the damp surface turns taupe until is dries,  making it easier to see where the paint is going to go.

Blushing Pears a Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Blushing Pears (watercolor on clayboard 6 x 6) SOLD

Blushing Pears as Finished

This third painting I did on aquaboard that I had used previously.  I scrubbed off the first painting  resulting in a clean, but  much smoother working surface than the virgin board, more like gessoed paper or Yuppo to work on than unused aquaboard. I worked wet on dry without any layering letting the water carry the color from one section of the pears to the other.


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A Little Bit of Garlic

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Little Garlic I: a painting on clayboard by Jenny Armitage

Little Garlic I ( 6" x 6" watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

I did these three little paintings at the Gallery on Wednesday.  My primary purpose was to continue learning to handle clayboard.  I had taken the reference photos some time ago and they seemed perfect for the little six by six inch panels I had to work with and they were great subjects for learning technique as they have soft and sharp edges and a full value scale from black to white.

I used  the same palette for all three paintings:  burnt sienna, red brown madder (much the same color as burnt sienna but much less sedimentary and brighter), cobalt blue, phthalo blue, new gamgee , raw sienna, and because both reds are really orange, dioxion violet.   This gave me a highly sedimentary pigment, and transparent pigment for each primary.  The transparents, new gamgee, red madder and especially phthalo and dioxion violet are difficult to lift from paper.

Little Garlic II: a paining in purples and yellows by Jenny Armitage

Little Garlic II (6" x 6" watercolor on clayboard) $40.00

I emphasized different pigments in each painting. Little  Garlic I is all about blues and greens with a little orange-red and  orange for punch, i.e. two analogous colors with a touch of each compliment.  Little Garlic II is a complimentary color scheme, violet and yellow.   Garlic III is simply the reverse of Garlic I; orange-red  and yellow predominate and blue-violet and green provide the punch.

I mixed the colors almost entirely on the clay-board, laying down the warmer colors first and dropping in the cooler ones.  Primarily, I mixed sedimentary colors with sedimentary colors and transparents with transparents. Mixing transparents with transparents and translucents with translucents is another trick I learned from Karen Vernon.  Droped into thier own kind, they spread out nicely.  Otherwise sedimentary colors tend to push everything else aside.

Little Garlic III watercolor on clayboard by Jenny Armitage

Little Garlic III (6" x 6" watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

Because of the ease of lifting  from clay-board, I didn’t use mask.  The very whitest whites are reserved through negative painting but most of the whites are lifted.   All of the soft edged lights in the garlic roots are lifted.

After I completed the paintings, I fixed the surface with two coats of Krylon’s UV Archival Varnish, and three coats of Golden’s Polymer Varnish with UVLS (satin). The result is that the paintings may be  framed without glass. The coating is not only protective, but archival and removable for conservation purposes.

Little Garlic II is still available for purchases.  Prints of all three paintings are available through Fine Art America.

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Mangos and Pears, a Color Exercise

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Still Life watercolor of magos and pears by Jenny Armitage

Mangos and Pears (watercolor on clayboard 11 x 14) $150

I started this painting in Karen Vernon’s workshop this October. The photo I worked from is hers.  The photo showed two mangos and a pear.  I broke up the trio by moving one to the mangos to the wall.

We spent one of the five days working on color. The lessons aren’t unique, but certainly useful. Color has several properties, hue, intensity, value, temperature. Hue is the actual color. Intensity is the brightness or dullness of the color. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Temperature is the warmth or coldness of a color. Blue is the coldest color and yellow the warmest.

We spent one one morning working on changing color value without changing any of the other properties. This is not as straight forward as it appears as some colors de-intensify or intensify as they are diluted with water. Adding a bright and warmer hue of the same color will re-intensify a color.

Then we de-intesified the colors at each value. As I discussed earlier in a blog about gray, the way to deintensify a color is to add it’s compliment. Red and green deintensify each other as do purple and yellow and blue and orange.

Colors will appear brighter next to their compliment and next to deintensified color.

In the afternoon we discussed the color of shadows. Shadows are generally the deintensified compliment of the color of the object casting them as altered by the color of the surface they fall on.

Light will bounce from surface to surface. Thus one object will affect the color of the object next too it.

This little painting is a lesson in color begun in the workshop.  I rarely work from other people’s photos, but this painting began with one of Karen’s photos.  The photo showed  two mangos and a pear.  I moved the second mango onto the wall.

The bright fruit works well for playing with the color concepts we discussed in class.  The green pear and the red mango are compliments.  Therefore the shadow of each is the color of the other.  The red of the mango reflects onto the green of the pear.  The deintesified floor helps make the  relatively intensified color of the fruit pop.  The background is almost as bright as the fruit, but it’s darker and much cooler in temperature.  Both dark values and cooler colors tend to recede.

This painting is protected with a polymer varnish and may be framed with or without glass.

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The Columbia River on Paper and Clayboard

Foggy Morning on the Columbia River (paper) Painting by Jenny Armitage

Foggy Morning on the Columbia (watercolor on paper 12 x 16) $175.00

These are two paintings I did at the gallery in late September in preparation for a workshop with Karen Vernon. Karen, best known for her huge floral paintings on clayboard. My primary goal for the workshop was to learn to paint on clayboard. So the week prior to the workshop I painted the same scene twice, once on cold pressed paper and once on Ampersand’s Aquabord.

The first painting I did conventionally painting from light to dark and reserving the whites without masking. Some of the fog is lifted, some of it is reserved. I used a very restricted pallet of burnt sienna, cobalt blue, phthalo blue and new gamgee.

Foggy Morning on the Columbia a painting by Jenny Armitage

Foggy Morning on the Columbia (watercolor on aquabord 8 x 10) $60.00

For the second painting I added dioxon purple to my palette. I proceeded once more from light to dark getting to know the new surface. The first thing I discovered is that the surface has to be bone dry to accept an over glaze. The second thing I discovered is that it’s very hard to lay down an even wash on the clay surface. On the other hand lifting is very easy. Rather than reserved the whites, I lifted them after the painting was almost completed. The result is softer than the watercolor painted version.

In class I learned that the trick to even washes on clayboard is to saturate the surface and let the water soak all the way through the clay part of the board before beginning. Over glazes require that the board be thoroughly dry. A hair dryer is an absolute must for working with clayboard.

The workshop turned out to be a fantastic experience.  I will be detailing so of the lessons learned in the coming blog entries as well as posting the paintings I started in class.

The clayboard version of the painting is protected with a clear satin polymer varnish and may be framed with or without glass.

These paintings are currently for sale on line at my Etsy shop.

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Wyoming Glow

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Wyoming Glow, a painting of a Western Morning by Jenny Armitage

Wyoming Glow (watercolor 15 x 18 inches) $225

Back to Wyoming in the morning.  I used the same reference photo for this painting as I did for my last pastel.  I didn’t mess the seasons this time but it looks like spring rather than summer to me.  That’s because it’s been such a wet year.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wyoming so green.  The early morning sun on the grass was simply spectacular.

The problem for me was not to lose the forest in the trees.   It’s much too easy to get mesmerized by detail and try to paint every tree.  Yet the painting must still suggest individual trees  and I wanted the emphasis to remain on the sunlit grass.  My solution this time was to eliminate detail by using a big brush.  The entire painting is done with a number 14 round brush (about three eights of an inch at the shank but coming to a fairly tight point).*   Usually I work in numbers 12, 10, 8 and finish with 6  (the smaller the number the smaller the brush).

I did not use mask either.  Painting carefully around the lights rather than reserving them with mask forced me to keep them big.

I also used a fairly limited palette:  winsor purple, phthalo blue, cobalt blue, quinacridone gold, and burnt sienna.  This not only helped unify the painting, but helped me concentrate on big shapes.

But I have my husband to thank for the key to this painting.  He came upstairs and looked at it in progress.

“Too fuzzy.”

“But where would I put the detail?”

“I don’t know.”

Stephen is not good at seeing what to do to a painting, but he’s very good at seeing problems.    It pays to listen to him.  I thought about it.  One classic maneuver is to put a lot of detail into the foreground.  I used that approach with my pastel.  But my painting was already too abstract to allow much real detail in the foreground.  In the end I did two things.  I added texture to the foreground and sharpened up the trees just where they intruded on the distant grass at the center of interest.  Together the changes created instant depth.


*Actually, I used one other brush, but only for my signature.  For that I used a number 2 rigger.  Riggers are very long thin brushes designed to make long thin continuous lines without having to repeatedly re-dip then in paint.  The name comes from their usefulness in painting sail rigging.

This painting is currently for sale on line at my Etsy shop. Or purchase a print.

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Montana Road Trip or Playing With Photoshop

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Watercolor Painting of the Decent into Butte, Montana

Montana Road Trip (12 x 18 watercolor) $250

This is the descent to Butte, Montana coming from the east.  Crossing Montana on I90 the views alternated between narrow rocky places and expansive high plains, true big sky country.  I wanted to capture the feeling of the decent from the narrows to the wide open space below.  I took a number of photos through the dashboard trying to get that feeling. This one came the closest:

Reference Photo

As you can see, the four lane interstate dominates the picture.   Also the road looks much flatter than it actually was.   There are other problems too.   The end of the road is almost dead center in the middle of the picture.   Trees hide the expanding vista.  There is nothing about the vista to draw the eye in.

Adobe Photoshop to the rescue.  I don’t have a professional edition,  just Elements 6.  But it’s fine for my purposes.  I began by using the lasso tool to select the right hand cliffs.  I then copied them, flipped them right to left, and wedged them in over the left hand two lanes of interstate.  I selected and copied some of the left hand cliffs and slipped them in behind my newly transformed right hand cliffs.   I used both copying and the clone tool to remove the trees from my opening vista.  I lassoed the right hand cliffs again and stretched them upwards.  I enlarged the canvas and stretched the whole image to the right.  I added a band of sunlight in the vista:

Altered Reference Photo

The result was quick and dirty, but it gave me a good idea where I was going.   And it gave me a workable photo to draw from.  I used the bottom of the concrete barrier still showing in my altered photo to help me plot the new guard rail. The feet of the unaltered cliffs helped me imagine the feet of my new cliffs.

Here’s my working drawing:

Working Sketch

I left out the mountain range on the left as it would detract from the center of interest at the foot of the road. I also pulled the right hand cliffs even further to the right than in my altered photo, thus opening up more of the distant vista.

I did the painting itself quickly beginning with the sky, filling in the road while it dried and then laying in the trees to establish the dark values.  The trees are phthalo blue, french blue, new gamgee, and Winsor purple mixed mostly on the paper.  For the cliffs I used cerulean blue, cobalt blue, and yellow ochre, and purple.  I added more purple and blue to the right hand shadowed side and more burnt sienna to the sunlit side. Rather than using burnt sienna to dull the blues, I used hansa yellow deep.  The sky is phthalo, cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and more purple.  I used the same pigments for the road.  The result is bluer and stormier than the photo, but more like the day itself with was dark and threatened but rarely delivered rain.

Or purchase a print here.

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Yellowstone Lake Painting

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At The Water's Edge, painting by Jenny Armitage

At the Water's Edge (watercolor 10 x 15) SOLD

Here is another vacation watercolor.  This one is from Yellowstone National Park on the north side of the lake.  We picnicked here on our last day in the park.

Like my previous painting of Fort Robinson, I simplified the image by masking heavily and then getting out the big brushes.  I began by painting in the sky and the light blue of the lake.  Then I masked the sky and all of the water except the dark ripples.   I painted the trees and hills in used a one inch brush and moving diagonally in wet juicy strips of cobalt blue, raw sienna, and phthalo blue.   I blotted the rocky edge in with burnt sienna.  The lake ripples are cobalt and phthalo blue grayed down with burnt sienna.   After the paint dried I picked out the grass and the highlights on the rocks with mask and  added more paint to the rocks and foreground.

This painting has sold.  Prints are available from my Fine Art America website. More landscapes by me and others are available at landscape paintings

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Two Paintings of Reedy River Falls, Greenville, South Carolina

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