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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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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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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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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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