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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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Licorice Pieces

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"Licorice Pieces" Painting of a Clarinet in Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Licorice Pieces (11 x 16 watercolor) available

Another clarinet portrait.  Orange suits it don’t you think?
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Clarinet Candy

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Clarinet Candy, An Instrument Painting by Jenny Armitage

Candy Clarinet (14 x 20 watercolor) available

A portrait of a friend’s clarinet.   She can make it sound like candy too.

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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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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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37th Annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Exhibition

New Orleans Reeds, painting by Jenny Armitage

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

Each year The Western Federation of  Watercolor Societies hosts a  juried show open to its member associations. The Western Federation of Watercolor Societies’ members association include:  the Arizona Watercolor Association, The Colorado Watercolor Society, The Idaho Watercolor Society, The New Mexico Watercolor Society, The Nevada Watercolor Society, The Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild, the San Diego Watercolor Society, The Southwestern Watercolor Society, The Utah Watercolor Society, The Watercolor Society of Oregon, and the West Texas Watercolor Society.

I am pleased to announce that New Orleans Reeds has been chosen as one of the 100 paintings to be exhibited in the 37th Annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Exhibition.  The exhibit will take place at the Marjorie Barrick Museum on The University of Nevada Las Vegas campus, from April 13th to May 19th, 2012.  This year the show was juried by Gerald Brommer, who will pick the award winners in April.

This painting has sold, but you may still purchase a giclee print from my print-on-demand-outlet.

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Taking a Shine to Each Other

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Taking a Shile to Each Other, painting by Jenny Armitage

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

And here’s the completed painting.

This painting has sold, but

giclee prints are available.

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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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Reeds Between Sets II

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Reeds Between Sets II, Painting of a Saxophone and Clarinet

Reeds Between Sets II (watercolor 8 x 8 ) SOLD

This is a second and slightly larger version of Reeds Between Sets which sold before I could get it posted.  Like most of the rest of my instrument series it will be on display at Art In the Valley beginning November 1st.

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New Orleans Jazz

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New Orleans Reeds, painting by Jenny Armitage

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

A brighter version of Bouquet of Reeds. Painted a little larger–this time on paper.

Prints available through my FAA 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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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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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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Duet for a Pear

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Painting of a Pear, Piccolo, and Clarinet by Jenny Armitage

Duet for a Pear (watercolor on clay board 8 x 10) SOLD


The is another painting from my photo session at Weathers Music, but I painted it on the patio of a beach house just outside Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico.  Painting under an umbrella with the ocean just yards away–what could be finer?  We spent the last week there getting our fill of salt and sun.  After the long wet cold spring here in Oregon the sun sure felt fine.  But my is it hot and humid there.  I spent the afternoons painting in the cool.  I have five new paintings to post over the next few days.

This is the first one I did.  I really like the greeny black of the clarinet and piccolo in contrast to the greeny yellow of the pear.  The pear and clarinet bell shapes echo each other nicely too.

Another painting on clay board, the painting is finished with a clear coat of acrylic and mounted on a black wooden cradle.  This painting has sold, but you can still purchase a print through my Shop at Fine Art America.

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A Bouquet of Reeds

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Bouquet of Reeds, Painting by Jenny Armitage

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

This is my first painting of my brand new rental toy, the saxophone.   Actually, my sax is far from new, but for my purposes, it’s just fine. I’ve paired it with what is turning out to be most painted instrument, the clarinet.  The clarinet itself is hard to compose with because it’s so long and skinny.  It isn’t metal, it’s lacquered wood; so it does have the shine that drew me to painting instruments in the first place.  But it’s black body is the perfect foil for brass.   So here it is as co-star to the sax.

The painting’s name is thanks to my best friend and critique, who also lent me her daughter’s clarinet.  So I owe a double thanks to Terrie for this one.

Painted on cradled aquabord.  May be framed or hung as is.


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