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A Few Alcohol Ink Mini Paintings

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These are my very first alcohol ink paintings. The process is fast and exciting if not exactly controllable. Each of these paintings was completed in under thirty minutes working on Yupo with an eyedropper, cotton ball, cotton swab, gravity, and a mister. The good news it creates beautiful glowing results almost by magic. The bad news is that over half the painting made this way are fit only for the trash. These are the winners:

Blue Mountains I, Small Original Painting, by Jenny Armitage

Blue Mountains I (alcohol ink 5 x 6) available

Blue Mountains II, Small Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Blue Mountains II (Alcohol Ink 5 x 7) SOLD

Blue Mountains III, an Small Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Blue Mountain III (alcohol ink 5 x 7) available


Blue Cliffs, Original Alchohol Ink Painting by Jenny Armitage

Blue Cliffs (Alcohol Ink 4 x 7) available

Coastal Moon, Small Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Coastal Moon (alcohol ink 4 x 6) SOLD


Cliff Dwellers (alcohol ink 5.5 x 7) SOLD



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Miranda del Castanar

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Via Miranda, Original Painting of Spanish Village by Jenny Armitage

Via Miranda (watercolor 9 x 19) available

From Miranda del Castanar, all the views are vistas but all the vistas are framed by narrow streets.  This little half timbered village, with a population of less than five hundred is a joy to wander.


The View From Miranda, an Original Painting of Miranda del Canastar by Jenny Armitage

The View From Miranda (watercolor 11 x 19) SOLD


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Montana Skyline

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Montana Skyline, a watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Montana Skyline (11 x 15 watercolor) SOLD

Touring Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and sliver of Nebraska this summer, I was forcefully reminded of what is so beautiful about the mountain west.  It’s the vast ever changing vistas with little or nothing to clothe them or block the view.  There’s a reason they call it big sky country.

I took the reference photos for this painting from the car window on I90 somewhere east of Butte but west of Bozeman.   But it hardly matters, there isn’t an ugly spot on all of I90 throughout Montana.

It was the light on the peaks that caught me eye.  If anyone can identify name of  the mountain for me, I’d like to know it.

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Wet Summer in Big Sky Country

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Wet Summer in Big Sky Country a Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Wet Summer in Big Sky Country (watercolor 10 x 14) (SOLD)

I grew up in the mountain-west.   It’s dry country.  On the plains it’s high desert.  In the mountains it’s not exactly a desert, but it sure isn’t lush either.   This summer, it was wet all across the mountain states.  Wyoming was green.   Let me repeat that, sage brush covered Wyoming was green. Yellowstone was positively lush with green grass. The park probably had twice it’s usual allotment of wet land.

This is the east side of Yellowstone National Park above the lake, but below Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. The colors looked like spring, but the grass was much too long.  The silver stream is really just endless wet ground—a spontaneous marsh, made just for this year.  But between the cloud shadows and the sky reflecting on the water it was beautiful.

I painted it conventionally beginning with the sky and stream, then building up the greens layer by layer.  To get all those shades of green I used three blues (cobalt, phthalo, and cerulean) and two yellows (quinacridone god and yellow ocher). In addition I used burnt sienna and quinacridone deep red rose.

This painting has sold, but you may purchase a print from my gallery at Fine Art America.

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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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Storm Off Trail Ridge: Pastel

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Storm Off Trail Ridge (12 x 15 pastel) $150

Storm Off Trail Ridge (12 x 15 pastel) reserved for La Salles show

My husband and I took a drive over Trial Ridge Road above Rocky Mountain National.  It’s a drive I remember fondly from my childhood.  But that late June day a storm was brewing.  I should have known.  Foul weather is perfectly normal in June, at 10,000 feet and even lower.  I have been snowed on backpacking in July at 7,000 feet.

But Stephen and I drove happily on.   We enjoyed the brisk cool weather and admired the clouds, ignoring their warning.  The later half of the drive was white knuckles all the way.  The coming storm brought so much snow and wind that we couldn’t see enough to turn around.  Road construction in progress but temporarily abandoned for the snow, added to the tension. We stopped with relief at would have been the half way point of the drive, the Visitor’s Center.   The Center has a lovely wall of windows for panoramic views.  But that day they showed white, white and white.   So we drove back down the way we had come, slowly carefully, tensely.  Twenty minutes later we were below the clouds and our experience was already becoming funny.

The I took photos for this painting at the last overlook before we should have turned back.  Shortly after that, all was white.

I used the rough side  Canson Mi-Teins gray paper for this painting. Mi-Tieins paper has a chicken wire looking texture on the rough side which I intended to use for texture in the foreground.  Like detail and warm colors, texture advances.

I began by blocking in the mountains, big and small in hard pastels.   I lowered  back range a little to emphasize  the looming foreground mountain.  In retrospect I could have brought it down even further.

Then I worked down and from left to right.  Once again I worked the sky in PanPastels:  phthalo blue tint, white, ultramarine, and magenta.  I added some blue and purple soft pastels as well. The back range of mountains came next beginning with dark blue shade and lightening it up until  it look far enough back.  The darker background hills came next.

Finally I added the mountain in dark blues and greens.  I used burnt sienna tint to add the lighter areas, but color contrasted oddly with the sky, so I added light violets and greens as well.  When I  got the mountain modeled to my satisfaction I added the trees with a final layer of dark green soft pastels which I applied lightly to allow the texture of the paper to show through.  Lower down some of the gray paper itself shows through.

Prints available at Fine Art

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Clouds over I5

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Clouds Over I5 (5 x 7) SOLD

Clouds Over I5 (5 x 7) SOLD

This little postcard sized painting is home. The view is looking west at the Coastal Range off I5 just north of Salem. I took the photo for it coming back from the airport this summer. But I could have painted it from memory. It is yet another painting done at the art fair in Tigard.

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Clouds over Boot Hill

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Clouds Over Boot Hill (9 x 12) $75.00

Clouds Over Boot Hill (9 x 12) $75.00

This is one more painting of the storm clouds gathering above Boot Hill in Central City. In this view the graves are not visible. Like the Dynamite Dome, I painted this one at Art in the Burbs in Tigard, Oregon. The palette and the method are the same.

Or purchase a print from Fine Art

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