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Honking Geese

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I hear the sound of geese returning and I imagine something like these.

Canadian Brass Geese, Funny Drawing by Jenny Armtiage

Canadian Brass Geese (11 x 14 India Ink) available


Horn Necked Goose, Surreal Drawing by Jenny Armitage

Horn-Necked Goose (12 x 15 India Ink) $600 framed; $500 unframed



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Music Day and Night or the Bear Facts

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Midnight Duet, watercolor painting of a Sax and Clarinet by Jenny Armitage

Midnight Duet (watercolor 7 x 10) available

These two little instrument paintings were done at very different times in very different moods.  I began “Midnight Duet” yesterday afternoon and worked late into the evening to do it.  Given the painting’s dramatic night time lighting that seems appropriate. 

“Noon Trio,” I began on vacation in the early morning.  I think of it as the bear painting though there are no bears in it.

Noon Trio, painting of a Jazzy Trio, by Jenny Armitage

Noon Trio (watercolor 7 x 10) SOLD

I painted it at my brother’s woodland house above Albuquerque, which he had kindly lent us for a couple of nights.  I was working at the dining room table engrossed in the trumpet when a bump against the window caught my attention.  That was as close as I’ve ever seen a live bear.  He as only about six feet away peering curiously in.  I wasn’t terrified, but I felt very, very alive and my brain when into hyper-drive. The windows on the bear’s side of the dining room were closed, but just on the other corner they wide open.  So I stood up to close them, and the bear turned and lumbered away looking back over his shoulder just before disappearing into the forest.  I closed the rest of the downstairs windows just for good measure.

I told my father and niece at breakfast at a local cafe and got a raft of  neighborhood bear stories.  The most amusing centered around a bear reaching in through a kitchen window to sample a birthday cake.  But mostly the bears just want garbage and quickly learn which neighborhoods put out their garbage when.  I think mine was mostly curious.  “Look at the funny people.”


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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) available

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.

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Brass Candy Trio

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Brass Candy Trio, Painting of Brass by Jenny Armitage

Brass Candy Trio (13 x 22 watercolor) Available

More big brass.  This time I really went for the distorted shadows created by the blanket these instruments rested on.

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Flugelhorn and Friends

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Flugel and Friends, Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Flugel and Friends, (11 x 14 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

Don’t know what a Flugelhorn is?  Neither did I.   But I can now tell you it not only looks but sounds gorgeous.   Imagine a smooth  buttery trumpet and you won’t be too far wrong.

This particular Flugelhorn (and the silver trumpets too) belongs to Mac McGowan of Faerrabella.   Faerabella is a fabulous jazz trio consisting of  Dana McCarty (vocal), Paul Marche (bass), and Mac (flugelhorn and trumpet).   The sound is swing with a dark alternative rock feel to the lyrics and phrasing.   The songs are all original.  Dana’s voice is nothing short of luscious. Click here to hear them play.   If you like what you hear, Amazon has their first CD here.

Mac was kind enough to lend me his horns for half  hour or so at the Oregon State Fair where the trio treated us to a couple of fabulous sets.    This is the first of what I hope will be several Flugelhorn paintings.  Mac’s brass is beautiful and a joy to paint. One of these days I’d like to paint the whole band.

Painted on Aquaboard and finished with clear satin polymer varnish, this painting may be framed without glazing like an oil, or matted and framed with glass like a watercolor on paper.

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

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Laurel and Hardy

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Laurel and Hardy, painting of a Euphonium and Clarinet, by Jenny Armitage

Laurel and Hardy (18 x 19 watercolor on paper) Available

I have a confession to make– I accost musicians who like my work with pleas to let me photograph their instruments.   I’m not proud.  I prey upon the amateur and professional alike.  At art fairs where there is music, I bring a white blanket just so I will have a soft protective surface to lay instruments on and against.   Nothing beats sunshine for photographing brass and silver.

This painting comes from a series of photos I took at the Oregon State Fair’s Artisan Village.   It’s the result of just plain begging a fellow vender to bring in her trombone, euphonium, and trumpets in for me to photograph.  The clarinet I asked a girl friend’s daughter to lend me to use as a foil when photographing brass and sliver. I think they make a lovely pair.

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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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Brass at Rest

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Brass at Rest, Painting of Brass by Jenny Armitage

Brass at Rest (8 x 8 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

Trumpet and trombone share fabric space on a mirror.  This little painting  has sold.  But prints are available through my shop at Fine Art America.

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Brass and Silver Keys

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Brass and Silver Keys, Painting of a Trumpet and Flute

Brass and Silver Keys (8 x 8 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

I painted this little baby yesterday at the gallery. I like the contrast between the silver and gold, but I wasn’t really happy with it until the shadows went in.
This painting has sold, but prints are still available through my print shop at Fine Art

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Because Three French Horns and a Whole Pear Tree Was Too Much

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Horn d"Anjou (14 x 18 watercolor on clayboard) Available

This is another painting resulting from my photo shoot at Weathers Music.   I brought a number of things with me including table cloths, flowers, and fruit.  In the end though I mostly limited my fruit use to grapes and pears.  The pears are my favorite.  I think the shapes of the pears have something to say the bells of the horns, don’t you?  I hope so, because the pears are repeated over and over in the horn.

Mounted on a black wooden cradle frame and finished with clear polymer varnish,  this painting may be hung as is or framed.

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The Glowing Sound of Brass

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The Glow of Brass (16 x 18 watercolor on paper) SOLD

For this painting I used the very same reference photos that I used for Three Horns.   In repainting this image, I’ve made several changes besides the obvious change from canvas to paper.  This time I’ve kept the background quite light and emphasized the shadows and the reflected light from the horns into the the shadows.   I’ve also bumped up the contrast by leaving more white and taking the darks much darker.

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

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Silverton Fine Arts Festival Is This Weekend

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Watercolor Painting of a Tuba, by Jenny Armitage

Little Big Boy (watercolor on clay board 8 x 10) SOLD

Today I set up my booth for the Silverton Fine Arts Festival.  It will be the first showing of my instrument paintings in mass and only the second time any of them has been shown in public.  It’s fun to see them all hanging together. I’m in booth #71 right next to the information booth.

The fair runs Saturday and Sunday.  Admission is free.

The tuba painting pictured is not Big Boy.  It is still big, but this painting is smaller.  Painted from the same photo as “Big Boy.”

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Pear Roadie

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Pear Roadie, Still Life Painting By Jenny Armitage

Pear Roadie (6 x 6 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

This is another little painting, completed during my Southwestern vacation. I started it  in a little Victorian Hotel in Durango and completed it poolside in Cortez.

Finished with clear acrylic and mounted on a black cradle frame, this painting is ready to hang.

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The Color of Music

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The Color of Music, Painting by Jenny Armitage

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

This is a larger and more colorful version of “Brass, Winds, and Shadows.”  I liked the first version, but I like this one better.   Besides enlarging the painting and bumping up the color, I expanded the field of view to include more of the flute.  I also made the shadows more transparent.  I think all of the changes are improvements.

Prints available through my shop at Fine Art America.

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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) Available


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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I’m Still Painting on the Keys

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Watercolor Painting of Wind Instrument Keys, by Jenny Armitage

I'm Still Painting on the Keys (8 x 10 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

While painting this instrument series, I have been fascinated by the keys. So this time that’s just about all I painted. I like it so well, that I’ll probably do a few more, just keys paintings.

Another painting on clay board, this painting is finished with a clear coat of acrylic, and mounted on a black wooden cradle.

This painting has sold, but you may  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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Big Boy

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Big Boy, Painting of a Tuba by Jenny Armitage

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

Tubas are big.  Yes I know you think you  knew that already, but I don’t think you’ve really grasped my point.  Tubas are big, really big.  Tubas are person sized instruments. They revile the musician in bulk. But saying it just doesn’t do the tuba justice.  So I painted this tuba big.

I don’t know how I would have gone about painting the tuba from this angle working from life.  Taking the reference photo was easy.  I propped the tuba up against two chairs so it wouldn’t fall and lay down on the ground to photograph it looking up.  It’s the classic big general shot.  And unlike many generals, the tuba really is big. Did I mention it’s big?

Painted on cradled aquabord and finished with clear acrylic finish and black sides, this painting is ready to hang.


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A Magic Afternoon At Weathers Music

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"Quilted Brass" Painting of Brass Instruments by Jenny Armitage

Quilted Brass (watercolor on clayboard 11 x 14) SOLD

If you have been watching this blog of late, you know I have become fascinated with painting bright shiny band instruments.  I had been renting loaner instruments one or two at a time from a shop in Corvallis.  But renting instruments, especially expensive instruments for just a month at a time, makes instruments shops who rent to sell nervous.  So I was afraid I had come to the end of my supply of instruments to paint. But a couple weeks ago I got a brainwave.  Weathers Music, here in Salem,  has a recital room that sits empty most days.  So I thought maybe I could talk them into letting me rent the instruments and the room at once.  That way the expensive instruments need never leave the shop.

I gathered up two of my recent instrument paintings and went to ask. I had dressed nicely and rehearsed a little speech about how I would use the instruments for art, and how careful I would be with them.  I never got more than three sentences into my little sales pitch.  Keith Weathers simply said, “yes.”  And the very next Friday I had the use of the Bach Room, from ten to five and an almost unlimited supply of instruments to photograph.

I brought quilts, fabric, crystal, flowers, and fruit.  I also brought my studio lights. By eleven o’clock I had everything I’d brought in and Keith had gathered me a whole little band to play with.  I had three saxophones, a clarinet, a piccolo, a brass trumpet, a silver trumpet, a violin, a french horn, a trombone, and a tuba.

I spent a magic afternoon setting up and photographing one still life after another.  I spread cloth, arranged flowers, climbed on chairs, moved lighting, and toted instruments back and forth.  At the end of the day I was exhausted but happy.  I also had over five hundred photos on my camera chip.

Since then I’ve been too busy painting to post blogs, a sorry state of affairs for which I apologize.  So here is the first of many more instrument paintings.

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

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Daisies: Bold as Brass

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Daisies, Bold as Brass, Painting by Watercolorist Jenny Armitage

Daisies, Bold as Brass (11 x 14 watercolor on clayboard) Available

Another painting from my instrument shoot, though in this case the daisies steal the show. Painted on Ampersand’s aquabord,  coated with clear acrylic, and mounted on a black wooden cradle.  Ready to hang.


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