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Cresting the Hill

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Cresting the Hill, an Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Cresting the Hill (watercolor 16 x 23) not available

Another forest painting from Croisan Scenic Trail.

I reworked this painting in May of 2022.  The new version is warmer and had more contrast.  I like it much better.

Cresting the Hill Reworked (16 x 22) available

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Morning in Le Marias

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Morning in Le Marais, Original Paining of Paris by Jenny Armitage

Morning in Le Marais (17 x 23 Watercolor) SOLD

My husband, daughter, and I spent a pleasant morning walking through the Le Marais district in Paris, on our way to the Pompiduo Modern Art Museum.  The Le Marais was once inhabited by the French aristocracy and later become center of the Jewish community in Paris.  Post WWII, it is once again inhabited by traditional Jews.  I found the Jewish men’s back hats and suits striking against the back drop of more casually dressed tourists.

This painting has sold, but you may still purchase a art print.

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Divide and Conquer or the Power of the Scissors

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Italian Heat is not my first attempt at that painting.  It is the second.  I made several mistakes with the first painting, most of them having to to with composition.  I left too many people from my reference photos in the image, and that took away from the real subject, the biking couple at the end of the street.  Having reached the conclusion that the painting was a failure, I played around with photos the spoiled painting before sketching out the second version which ended up in the blog entry below.

That left me with a poor complicated painting with great color but no real focus.  So I set the failed painting aside for a while.  Then a few weeks later, I got out the mat corners (“L” shaped pieces of mat board used for visual cropping) and singled out the two bicyclists.  The result is Florence Bikers.

Florence Bikers, a Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Florence Bikers (9 x 16 watercolor) SOLD

Looking at the remainder on the contained yet another painting:

Three Italians, Painting by Jenny Armitage

Three Italians, (9 x 21 watercolor) sold

Both paintings have sold, but prints are still available. fine art print.

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Ompa Rainbow: Painting and Painting Again

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Ompa Rainbow, watercolor of a tuba by Jenny Armitage

Ompa Rainbow (watercolor 14 x 19) SOLD

I’ve recently begun painting on clayboard.  I love it.  But, may of the juried competitions I’d like to enter require that watercolors be on paper.  In response I’ve been repainting some clayboard paintings on paper.  “Ompa Rainbow”  is a paper repaint of  “Big Boy.”

Big Boy, Painting of a Tuba by Jenny Armitage

Big Boy (watercolor on cradled claybord 11 x 14) Available

The results of all this repainting  have been what I think are often better paintings, though not better  in every way.   Practice makes perfect is of course part of this equation.  But beyond that, looking at the finished work allows me to make serious design choices.

In “Big Boy” the idea was to make the tuba very large by looking up into a sky dominated by tuba.   In “Ompa Rainbow” I wanted to make the colors pop. I slid the tuba to the left to give it some space around the bell, but the big change is in the background.  “Big Boy” is set against  a blue background, resulting in a very cool painting, all blues, greens and yellows.  To make those cool colors really pop, I gave “Ompa Rainbow” a very warm background.  I also paid attention to color theory.  At the top, where the tuba gets blue the background is blue’s compliment, orange.  At the base, amidst all that glorious plumbing, the background becomes purple the compliment of the predominating yellow.   It’s a very warm red leaning purple though because red sets off green which is  the other color sharing dominance in the lower half of the tuba.

Brass Winds and Shadow, Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Brass Winds and Shadow (11 x 14 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

The Color of Music, Painting by Jenny Armitage

The Color of Music (16 x 20 watercolor on paper) SOLD


I made several deliberate changes when I repainted “Brass Wind and Shadows” as “The Color of Music”.  First, I backed up on the subject a little and allowed all the trombone bell to show.  The colors are deliberately brighter.  I lightened up the shadows.   In retrospect I like the lighter brighter colored version better but I think the tighter crop of the first painting works better.

Bouquet of Reeds, Painting by Jenny Armitage

Bouquet of Reeds (11 x 14 watercolor on Aquabord) Available

New Orleans Reeds, painting by Jenny Armitage

New Orleans Reeds, (12 x 15 watercolor on paper) SOLD


I did very little to the composition when I repainted “Bouquet of  Reeds” as “New Orleans Reeds,”  but I did deliberately change the mood by intensifying the colors.  I also reversed the basic value plan of the painting by making the background light rather than dark.  I’m not sure I like either painting better.  It’s the mood, not the quality that changed.

Jazz Buddies (watercolor on Aquabord) $300

Taking a Shile to Each Other, painting by Jenny Armitage

Taking a Shine to Each Other (13 x 19 watercolor on paper) SOLD

With “Jazz Buddies” and “Taking a Shine to Each Other” the later is to my mind a much better painting. With “Jazz Buddies” I intended to really show off the way the bright sun washed away the sax. I think I accomplished that.   With “Taking a Shine to Each Other” I went for drama and I got it by really darkening up the instruments and complicating the dark colors.

Prints of “Ompa Tuba” and the other paintings shown in this entry, are available through my print-on-demand shop.

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Electric Reeds

Electric Reeds, a Painting by Jenny Armitage

Electric Reeds (16 x 20 watercolor on clayboard) Available


This is another painting competed at the Oregon State Fair.  I began it on the first day of the fair intending it to include a lot of shadow in the design much like Jazz Buddies and The Color of Music.   But the shadows actually competed with the instruments no matter how much I tried to knock them back by greying them down.  On the last night of the fair I got bold and simply did away with the shadows altogether substituting an almost black back ground.  This changed the feeling of the painting entirely.

The result is not subtle, but it certain grabs your attention.  And while it’s not what I was aiming for, I like it.


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Saxy Trio

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Saxy Trio and Musical Painting by Jenny Armitage

Saxy Trio (13 x 22 watercolor on paper) Available

Three saxophones I captured at my Weathers Music photo-shoot.  I liked this particular arrangement because they  look so social, like they are singing together.  I tried to emphasize that cozy feeling in the painting.

The composition is a new one for me.  I’ve been told that just about any letter makes a good composition.  “S” is very commonly used in landscapes with roads or rivers snaking in the the interior.  “O” is often used to frame landscapes. “X” pops up all over particularly in figurative work.  I’ve seen trees form “W,” but I”ve never done it.  This is the first “W” I’ve ever done and it’s so obviously a “W” that it makes me smile.

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Brass, Wind, and Shadows

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Brass Winds and Shadow, Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Brass Winds and Shadow (11 x 14 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

Another instrument still life painting.  I did this one mostly at the gallery yesterday working on little details between customers.  I love the way the shiny brass pops in this painting, when I finished it yesterday morning I was both vaguely dissatisfied with it and puzzled over where to put a signature.  You see, I had planned the painting to be hung horizontally with the big trombone horn at the bottom, and the  so the whole bottom edge was busy and full.   Then it occurred to me that since the view was straight down, it could just as logically be hung upside down.  So I tried all four angles.  I like this upright view much better than the horizontal view I planned.   It has more visual energy, and the eye enters from the bottom left hand corner, which is the most natural entry point.

Once again painted on Ampersand’s aquabord.  This time I painted on cradled board which mean that the clayboard rests on a two inch thick wooden frame which I have painted black.  The painting may either be framed like an oil or acrylic without glass or, for a sleek modern look, hung as is.

This painting has sold, but you can still purchase a print from Fine Art

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Spring Flood

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Spring Flood, painting of a field by Jenny Armitage

Spring Flood (12 x 16 watercolor) $200.00

Driving the countryside around Salem, I’ve been admiring the flooded fields.   At first I was only looking as I drove places I needed to go.  Then I began taking the back roads just to more of them.  Finally, I began driving  just to see them.

This particular field is  northwest of us out toward Silverton.   I loved the silvery blue reflection of the sky 0n the water and the way the furrows pointed to the horizon.  I took several high horizon photos  to emphasize the retreating furrows, but in my reference photos the sky was flat pale gray and uninteresting so I added the cloud where furrows meet in the distance.  I also removed a a railroad trestle that ran across the back of the field because it created a solid black line just where I wanted everything to fade.

Painted with cobalt blue, cerulean blue, burnt sienna and new gamge.

Or purchase a print through my shop at Fine Art

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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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Wyoming Glow

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

Wyoming Glow (watercolor 15 x 18 inches) Available

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.


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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) Available

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.

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Relections in the Late Afternoon

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Gig Harbor in Watercolors by Jenny Armitage

Reflections in the Late Afternoon (14 x 19 watercolor)

This is Gig Harbor, Washington in the late afternoon, though it could be almost any harbor for pleasure craft. I love to do reflections and docks are a great place to find them. In the late afternoon, the water gets almost black and the reflections of white boats become even more dramatic. But it was the contrasting wooden hull of the right most vessel that really caught my eye.

I often delete the names of boats, but I liked the name Simplexity so I kept it in. I”m not entirely sure what “simplexity” means, but my painting is of a complex scene much simplified by the process of elimination, so it seems to fit somehow. The brightness of the light eliminated some detail for me and the deep shadows eliminated some more. I just went with the flow and removed some background boats, a lot of rope, and much hardware.

The real trick was getting the orangey wood of the boat to carry enough to make it the center of interest despite the extreme contrast of the white boats against the blue-black water. To get the orange I wanted I mixed burnt sienna with new gamgee. Then I glazed portions of it with quinacridone Rose Madder and more new gamgee. I deliberately downplayed the flag in favor of the hull. Down in the reflections the flag does become a secondary center of interest.

My palette also included cerulean blue, phthalo blue, and cobalt blue.

I worked without mask this time painting each boat, in tandem with it’s darker less vivid reflection. After I finished the boats I added the water in phthalo blue dulled with burnt sienna.


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Fort Robinson Paintings Times Three

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The View North From Fort Robinson

Through the Wind Break (watercolor 11 x 15) SOLD

I’m just back from an extended vacation that took  me across eastern Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, The Black Hills of South Dakota, Montana, and  the northwest corner of Nebraska.  These paintings come from that northwest corner of Nebraska,  at Fort Robinson State Park, where my Mother’s family held its family reunion this June.

The cavalry fort was once known as the country-club of the army because of the polo field, golf course, swimming pool, gymnasium and horse trails in and around the camp.  The swimming pool and the horse trails remain for the use of  park visitors.  My paintings depict what was once the polo field and is now pasture for both horses and long-horns.  We hiked into the bluffs and I may do some more detailed painting of them this summer.

I made my first sketch of the field from the shade of our house (0nce the officers’ club and lodging for 65).  I made a short job of it as the wind wanted to carry not only the paper, but also my palette, brushes, and everything else away.  My main objective to was to capture the hills as reference for later paintings.   I removed a number of trees from my line of vision.

Watercolor Sketch of Bluffs to the north of Fort Robinson, Nebraska

Sketch of Nebraska Bluffs at Fort Robinson (watercolor 10 x14) SOLD

Back at home, I decided I liked the trees and set about recording them as the main subject.  They reminded me of the view from numerous parks and rest-stops across the plains states where the view is pleasantly interrupted by a wind break.   Here is my first attempt:

Rocky Hills north of Fort Robinson and Painting by Jenny Armitage

The View From Fort Robinson (watercolor 11 x 16) Available

I wasn’t entirely happy with it although various people visiting the gallery while I painted it liked it.  I have trouble with trees.  Either I put in too much detail, or I put in so little they become bland.  The painting also suffers from lack of punch.  There isn’t enough value contrast and the fence interrupts the view without adding to it.  It is unclear whether the trees or the view are the subject.

For my second attempt I let go of realism and tried to paint the feeling of the cool trees with the dry view beyond.  To do this I placed most of the attention on the trees.  I began by masking everything expect the tree shapes.  Then I got out the large brushes and began adding wet juicy areas of raw sienna and new gamge to the tree tops.  I brushed the trunks with burnt sienna.  Then I washed over the damp yellows with cobalt blue, phthalo blue, and French blue (much like cobalt only darker and not as transparent).  I took the blue down the trunks too.  I allowed back washes and other water marks to form.

The resulting trees are less real, but much more interesting, and though they have a flat feeling to them, they convey the sense of light passing between the leaves and branches.

After removing the mask, I added a light cobalt blue sky.  I added some darker patches of blue around the edges of the leaves too.
Then I used the same palette to add the bluffs and grass working carefully to keep the distant hills blue, pale and receded.   FInally, I added a few small touches of orange mixed from burnt and raw sienna to the edges of the trees to bring out the green of the leaves.

I like the results.

I will do the bluffs again later, closer and in more detail.  They were beautiful to hike in.

I may do the Fort itself eventually too.  It is steeped in history beginning in 1873 when Camp Robinson was established to  to protect the Red Cloud Agency.  The agency was then home to some 13,00 Lakota Sioux most of whom were unhappy with the accommodations and the treaty which led to them.    Crazy Horse died during a rebellion there.  About ten years later, the 9th Calvary, an all black unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed there.  Eventually the Fort became a remount station in WWII, a prisoner of war camp, and a K-9 training camp.  Pieces of all these permutations remain on the site.


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Challenging Myself: One Subject, Three Moods

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Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

I set a challenge for myself this week.  The idea was to paint a single subject in a variety of moods.  The subject I choose was Deepwoods Estate, here in Salem.  I took all of the photos for the painting in the same light and although the various aspects of the building gave me different ideas, the photos don’t convey much feeling to me.

Its Greener on the Otherside (10 x 13) $125.00

Its Greener on the Other Side

Porch reference photo

Porch reference photo

I began with the front porch. I aimed to emphasize the softness of the light and the romance of the building.  I also wanted to draw the viewer into the painting.

As you can see from my reference photo, my depiction is a little fanciful.  I limited my palate to yellows and blues to mimic the soft shadowy light under the porch and the golden sunlight beyond it.

I think the painting works.  The most common comment about it is that the viewer would like to step through the porch into the garden on the other side.

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Cupola

Turret Reference Photo

Turret Reference Photo

Next I painted a detail of the roof-line from in back. This time I tried to contrast the harsh glittering light with the shaded parts of the building.

Because I intended to include many hard lines and less subtle variation in tone I looked for a place where the contrast between light and shade was particularly striking. But I didn’t want it to look like graphic art, so I poured this painting to ensure that the solid expanses of color were lively rather than flat. Once again I exaggerated, the light in the reference photo is not nearly as stark as the light I painted.

I like this painting, but it turned out rather softer than I had intended.  I may try it again with an orange and blue palate.

House Reference Photo

House Reference Photo

The latest painting in this series is of the whole house.  I’ve always found Victorian and Queen Anne houses a little creepy.  Like wrought iron, they can be both sinister and charming all at once.  On a bright sunny day there is nothing really creepy about the Deepwood House, but it does have a swallowed by the woods feel to it.  Despite a generous lawn, there are few places where you can see the whole house.  Instead what you see is patches of house through the trees.

So in order to bring out the sinister feel of Queen Anne archetecture, I pulled the trees in closer to the house and darkened the edges where the trees and house meet visually.  I also distorted the shape of the house stretching it upwards to about fifteen percent more than it’s real height.  Finally I chose a very earthy palate for such a pristine white house:  burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ocher, phthalo blue and cobalt blue.

I poured this painting too because I wanted a lot of variation in tone. But pouring produces hard lines at the edges of the mask. The result had too many hard lines for the shadowy woods.  I did so much scrubbing of the edges, washing over, and detail work that painting doesn’t feel poured to me.  But the more I painted the darker it got.  I finally had to stop for fear the house would no longer read as white.

I showed the finished painting to my husband yesterday.  He said he really liked it, but then added tentatively, “Isn’t it a little eerie?”  Yes, yes it is.  But I don’t think it’s so eerie that it’s a caricature of the house.

Or purchase a print from Fine Art

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A Little Wind and Water

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A Little Wind and Water (5 x 7) SOLD

A Little Wind and Water (5 x 7) SOLD

Twixt Wind and Water

Twixt Wind and Water

Yet another little painting I did at the fair. This one is a smaller version of one of my favorite paintings, Twixt Wind and Water. The only thing I didn’t like about the original was the vertical format. I thought the painting would look better with more sea and waves to her left. So I played around with that idea in this smaller version. I do like the extension of the the sea, but I think I made a mistake in showing too much of her right side. If I do a full sized painting of this one again, I will keep the extended horizon but still crop-out most of her right shoulder.

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

As you can see, both paintings show a complete change in compositional thinking from when I took the reference photo. Taking the photo, my thoughts were all about the shape of her figure and the rock. But when I looked at the photo up close, I fell in love with the hair spilling out of her braid. That required some rethinking. Looking at the photo again, I’m tempted to include more of her body to increase the feeling of movement.

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