Macaw Demo

Macaw. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14

I keep trying to pick ‘easy’ subjects for demo paintings. None of them seem to turn out to be easy. Maybe nothing in painting really is.

There will be a full writeup on the tutorials page in the next couple of days. In the meantime here are some intermediates.

First the drawing. All is going well at this stage.


Next the first washes. In the demo I want to emphasize that we want to hit the highest value for each color area (so at this stage it looks pretty terrible and washed out) . and to just put the paint on the paper and leave it.

The next stage is to leave the lighest color areas as they are and go slightly darker everywhere else. Again it’s a case of putting the color on and leaving it. Maybe a little smoothing of the edges but that’s all. You can see that there’s a little form appearing here.

The third stage is to go in with the darks. This defines some of the feathers (not all – don’t need to do them all) and gives a little texture to the plumage. It’s surprising how little definition you need here. A little work on the head and beak and we’re done.

Not perfect by any means – I struggled with this. I may need to rethink this one.

And a nice easel shot.


Roses – Inspiration from Paul Foxton.

Yellow Roses. With kind permission from Paul Foxton. Watercolor. Michele Clamp.

Yellow Roses. With kind permission from Paul Foxton. Watercolor. Michele Clamp.

I’ve been avidly watching
Paul Foxton’s

oil painting videos on Facebook. He has a fantastic way of telling you what he’s doing that is incredibly instructive. I highly recommend looking him up and his

also has a wealth of information on it. He also runs online courses which I haven’t investigated yet but I may well do when I’ve saved up some pennies.

But anyway. I was watching him paint a still life of 3 yellow roses and thought that I’d like to have a go at that just for a bit of an experiment. I took a quick screenshot of his setup and just went in with paint without drawing. This is not my usual way of working and frankly I thought it would be a disaster and I’d end up throwing it away. However, I took it seriously and tried to carefully measure the colors and values and match them as best I could. Amazingly I got a lot closer to what I was intending than I ever thought. Now, things aren’t perfect by any means but carefully measuring the colors and values I got a lot closer to the effect I was hoping for than I usually do with flowers.

The main things that helped me was very careful consideration of the hue and value (with a bit of attention to chroma) for each area. I tried to hit it first time (failed for the most part) and in subsequent layers to keep any extra pigment within that value range. This kept me from making the flowers too muddy and close attention to the hue kept the deep parts of the roses close to the original.

There’s lots of stuff I’d change of course. The vase is actually a different shape and the edges of the flowers are too crisp. I misread the background color and made it too red and the leaves are a little too broad. I still didn’t get enough chroma in the depths of the roses and there isn’t a lot of form to them. Oh I could go on and on…..

And the main thing I should change is that I did this from a screenshot and I should really be sitting in front of actual flowers. I don’t have a great lighting setup for that right now but I’ll be rectifying that in the next couple of weeks.

Oh and the final thing – painting flowers is

!! This took me a couple of hours I would say but I was basically useless afterwards. Very intense. Constant concentration and judgement required and one false stroke and all is lost. Never let anyone tell you flower painting is for wusses.

Oh and the final final thing – I actually did two. Here’s the first.


Poppies. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”. For Sale.

Poppies. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”. For Sale.



11”x14”/16”x20” with archival mat.

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I have a love hate relationship with painting flowers. As I’ve said countless times before they seem as though they’ll be enjoyable and relatively easy to paint. Bright colors, loose forms, doesn’t matter too much if you draw the leaves slightly off. And I’m wrong every time.

The thing about flowers is that their beauty has a lot of subtlety to it. The variation of color and value in the petals is key to capturing that and that is where a lot of us lack the required skills. If the delicate modeling of the curve of a petal is slightly off — slightly too dark in the shadows, slightly too abrupt in the change of tone — you lose the effect.

So considering what I was up against these poppies came out really quite well. Fresh colors – just enough change in the color to suggest petal shape. Not bad at all. Plenty to improve upon of course but isn’t there always?

Some intermediates :


These were the first washes. As you can see I’d been trying to match colors on a separate piece of paper and I

I’d gone plenty dark enough in the flowers. I was completely wrong.

Second layer :

I’d been wrestling with the flowers for a while here. The left hand one I did first and it has slightly too much value difference in the petals. The large one on the right came out much better.

The final thing :

I had quite a lot of fun painting the innards of the vase. Water is always fun to paint – you can be quite loosey goosey with it and it will still read well. And, for some reason, people are really impressed with it.

I did a little beefing up of the color in the left hand flower but left most alone. Pretty happy.

Fruit Demo 2

Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

As it was still early and I had a fistful of reference photos I thought I’d have another go at a fruit still life. I haven’t done one of these in a long time and I was interested to see if I could still remember how to do things.

First the photo. A little more complicated than the previous one and I’ve always dreaded doing grapes.


Drawing and first washes in. Not particularly confident at this point and I’d been a little tentative with the first washes so everything’s looking a bit washed out.

Next stage and things are looking a little better. Still not really very confident but at least the grapes aren’t giving me as much trouble as I’d thought.

Final version. To be honest I quit while I was ahead here. I could have gone back in and darkened up some of the grapes but felt the risk of ruining it was too great. Pretty happy with this to be honest.

And of course an easel shot.

Fruit Demo 1

Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 11”x14”

I’m starting teaching on October 21st so I’ve been thinking about lesson plans and the like. I thought we’d start off with something simple to get people used to handling the paint and mixing colors.

I thought this would be much more straightforward than it was. Turns out that when you’re trying to think through what you’re going to say and paint at the same time everything gets more complicated. Added to that is that I was trying not to paint on automatic but only do things that I could clearly articulate. Easier said than done.

So here was the initial photo :

Nice basic shapes, good colors and distinct patterns of light and shade.

Drawing is fairly straightforward I hope. Concentrating on angles and junctions and negative spaces. I marked in the shadow areas and highlights more than I usually would for emphasis.

First layer with the midtones and some darks. My shadow on the lemon fell off but that’s ok.

final image with the darkest darks put in and some details in the stalks. I hope this isn’t either too simple or too complicated for people to follow along with.

And a nice easel shot. Always good to have one of those.

Value Studies

I’ve been watching the fabulous
Paul Foxton


who has some mesmerizing videos on the Munsell color system and judging and painting color and value. Having watched him measure value using the Munsell color chips and paint perfect spheres and blocks in oils I thought ‘that doesn’t look too hard’. There’s always room for sharpening up your value judgement skills so I thought I’d have a go in watercolor.

I found this value scale and printed out a few. These are for measuring values from 1 (black) to 10 (white) so you know which area is which value.

I then squandered $7 at Amazon to buy some 2 inch wooden blocks and painted them in acrylic. One white (10) , one black (1) and two mid values (3 and 5). I didn’t have a light box handy so I cobbled together a floor and backdrop from some old watercolor block backing board.

The task was to paint a white block (and its background) by

a) first identifying the value using the value scale.

b) Mixing up the right value in watercolor

c) Painting the relevant plane with said value.

Boy was this hard. At least with oil you can directly compare whether you’ve mixed the right color. With watercolor you have to mix it, look at the consistency and flow, paint a little square on the paper, wait for it to dry, and

check whether you have the right color. I’ve ended up with a lot of notes on how the paint looks and flows on the palette and how that translates into value. It’s turned into a bit of a game. Say I want a mid value – 6. I mix up what I think is a 6, paint a little square and put my guess next to it in pencil. When it’s dried I measure it using the value scale and see how close I get. It’s hard.

These are my notes from my latest attempt :

I don’t have the full range yet but this is what I have so far :

10 – No paint – just the white of the paper. This one’s easy.

9 – Water consistency, transparent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

8 – Water consistency, translucent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

7 – Milk consistency, opaque on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks

6 . – Light cream consistency and flows on the palette. brush leaves tracks through the paint.

5 – Light cream consistency and flows slowly on the palette. Brush leaves tracks and the paint is opaque in pools.

4 – Nothing yet

3 . – Heavy cream consistency. Leaves tracks when the palette is flat. Flows v slowly across the palette.

2 and 1 – Haven’t done these yet.

I’ve shamelessly borrowed the water/milk/cream descriptions from Joseph Zbukvic and they do work well.

Of course these descriptions only apply to this color and probably vary between paint brands so there’s a long way to go.

It’s actually quite fun and each little block only takes 10 minutes of so. Even over a single day I’ve improved my mixing skills.

Life Class Again

This came around quickly! Back to
Post Road Art Center

for life drawing with Andrew Cefalu. Had a pretty good week this week. I’m really getting into hands and feet and making good progress. This one was my favorite of the night due to the tight clustering of both the hands and feet.

So as usual we started with 2 minute poses.

It always seems to take a pose or two to warm up. The first one especially is very scruffy but but the third I’m off and running. There was a bit of a screw up in the second one where I had my pad angled too far away from me which produced distortions in the head. Nice line energy in these – pretty happy here.

Next were a couple of 5 minuters.

And the rest were 15 minuters.

New Printer!

Our trusty Canon pixma printer gave up the ghost last week in the middle of printing out teaching materials. After some back and forth we bit the bullet and bought a shiny new
Epson 7750

. I’m very excited about this as I can now scan paintings and print them out at actual size (most of mine are 11”x15”).

I have to admit there has been some fannying about before getting to this point. First, the scanner is only 8.5”x11” so there was a morning of working out how to stitch the scans together. Some things like

were overkill but then I found

. from Matthew Brown which so far has done a fantastic job with only a couple of clicks. No more dodgy iphone photos for me – scans all the way.

Getting prints to the right quality wasn’t quite as straightforward as I’d first thought. The paper makes a huge difference and, although the prints on
Epson’s premium matte presentation paper

weren’t bad the
Strathmore watercolor inkjet paper

gave the most faithful color and texture representation.

Sadly the Strathmore doesn’t come in sizes bigger than 8.5×11” so I ordered some of the larger Epson watercolor inkjet paper to see how that fared. In the meantime I thought I’d just use some of my cheaper cotton watercolor paper and see how that did. I wasn’t expecting much but I have to say I’m really impressed. If you have them side by side and look really closely you can see the difference but the differences are really very small. A good result I think.

And here he is in all his glory. A bit of a beast but he just fits on the filing cabinet.