Barn Finished

Pennsylvania Barn. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Here he is and I managed to build on a good start. Those trees took

and could maybe have some more work done on them but I didn’t want to overload them. Pretty happy. Love the light in this.

Some intermediates

The Gurney Sketch Easel is Complete!

James Gurney style sketch easel
James Gurney style sketch easel

The Gurney sketch easel is complete!!! Painting has taken a little bit of a back seat this week as I finally decided to make a James Gurney style lightweight sketch easel. He has a fantastic video showing you the details and many more details on his blog

Art Materials For Lightweight Sketching

The materials didn’t cost very much themselves. The wood was $15 and I have enough to make 4 more easels if I want to :-). The hinges were $10 and the little nalgene 2oz water jar was $6. Small neodymium magnets hold the water pot and the palettes to the easel. They cost around $10 and I have plenty left over. The easel fixes to the tripod using a t-nut and quick release plate which cost around $12.

My biggest purchase was the set of travel brushes that sit handily over the sketchbook for easy access. This was $40 but I suspect will get a lot of use.

Here are all the art tools laid out on the finished easel. The little paint palette is an ancient Daler Rowney watercolor palette with teeny quarter size pans. It’s highly portable and fine for outside sketching. The sketchbook is a pentalic sketchbook in the larger size. The smaller 5×8.5 version fits on more neatly.

Gurney sketch easel tin palette
Gurney sketch easel tin palette

Tools Needed to Make the Easel

I did spend a fair bit more on tools to construct the easel. I needed special forstner drill bits for the magnets and a spade bit to recess the t-nut for the tripod. Then there was glue, some clamps, epoxy putty for the hinges, screws, and oil for wood finishing (I found wood stain in the garage). I suspect after some use I’ll be making another one. Maybe I’ll try one a little bigger but who knows.

An Easel Shot with Sketch!

Here it is with a shallow tin as a palette which I’ve sprayed with white enamel paint. Good for gouache I think. This also shows the smaller Pentalic sketchbook which is still big enough for fairly detailed sketches.

Gurney sketch easel ready for action
Gurney sketch easel ready for action

Some Action Shots of the Easel

Here are some more shots! Can you tell I’m really pleased with myself? For its size and weight it really is a useful little thing. Can’t wait to try it out in earnest. Many, many thanks to James Gurney and all the wonderful helpful people on the facebook sketch-easel group


Still Life Photos

still life photo setup
Still life photo setp

Online classes are starting soon and I’m in need of some still life photos. I use these mainly for color matching and mixing exercises and need some good, clear still life references. Out with the trusty tripod and LUMIX ZS50, some coroplast board and assorted fruits.

White backgrounds are good for watercolor exercises

Fruit still life with white background
Fruit still life with white background

I like to have bright and light photos for my still life classes. The classes are great for practicing color identification and mixing and the fruit shapes are simple enough for beginners to tackle. These setups are intentionally a little, dare I say it, dull. They’re not meant to result in paintings you’d hang on your wall but a means of practicing skills that will pay off in your real paintings. An example video from my youtube channel showing how I approach these kinds of setups is linked below

White wooden blocks are great for practicing values

white block value study reference
White block value study reference

While I had the photography gear out I took some photos of my white wooden blocks and colored spheres. The blocks are great for practicing painting values and the spheres for modeling form correctly. They seem simple but they’re not.

You can get a selection of blocks from Amazon. I get plain wood ones and simply paint them white with some acrylic paint.

Colored spheres are good for color exercises and modeling form

polystyrene colored spheres for color exercises
Polystyrene colored spheres for color exercises

These are 3 inch styrofoam balls which I’ve also painted using acrylic. They’re not perfect – the bobbly surface disrupts the smooth change in value so I might invest in some wooden ones. Good enough for now though. (Update: the wooden ones are much better). As well as white it’s useful to paint the same shaped block or sphere with different values. These are good for modelling form through value. Hat tip to Paul Foxton for the idea.

Oh the Puffins!

Three Puffins

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Three Puffins. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”/16”x20” matted

A few years ago I sold a lovely painting of 5 puffins and, to be honest, I’ve never managed to quite capture again the looseness and lightness of touch with this subject. So today was the day to kill this once and for all.

For me this was quite a long painting. Even though the style is loose and sploshy it was very carefully planned and painted in several layers. I think I’m happy although I could possibly pushed it a little more to the sploshy side.

Here we go with the stages:

First stage after the drawing was to put light washes of color roughly where the darks and colors were going to go. I’m pushing through the edges as much as possible just being careful to keep away from areas of detail like the faces. Blossoms, drips and sploshes are welcomes at this stage. It will al add interest to the final painting.


Next layer is to start just indicating some of the darks and bringing some of the edges in. Nothing too defined at this point so we can keep that lovely shimmering image.


We’re sharpening up the image here. Going darker where it needs it on the black parts of the birds and being quite crisp on the face and beak.


The final thing. I beefed up the background a little to bring out the whites of the birds but without making it a subject in itself. A few more darks on the black feathers, a little shading on the faces and we’re done!

Loomis Sketch

I’ve been rooting around for something that really tickles my fancy to get me back into painting again. One of my Christmas presents was Andrew Loomis’ Creative Illustration book which has a lot of top notch painting advice and I highly recommend. One of his example paintings is of the lovely lady above and, as I haven’t done much figure work recently, I thought I’d have a go.

She’s done entirely in a combination of ultramarine and burnt sienna. I wanted to try and combine the granularity and washiness of the watercolor with the subtle range of tones in the flesh and face. Pretty happy with the result although the facial likeness to the original is not that close.

Here are some intermediates:


Started off with a rough pencil drawing and a fairly light wash to put in the main areas of light and dark. I was careful to not leave hard edges where they would draw attention to themselves but also lose edges where the values were similar.


Next I went in with some darks to define the arms and shoulders and the hair around the face. I put some detail in the face but was careful to keep the values light.


Next was putting some detail in the dress, defining some of the folds but leaving other areas quite in distinct. Some subtle shading for the hands but kept them with low value contrast so they don’t detract from the face. The face went in next and was almost a disaster as I was working quite small here.


The final thing and managed to stop before I ruined it. A little more definition in the face and some more interest in the background to frame the face. A little more detail in the hands and a few tweaks to the dress more to aid the composition than anything. Phew!

Cambridge MA Finished

Cambridge MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”

Cambridge Street, MA

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Finally finished this one and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Just enough looseness to give it life but precision where it needs it.

And here it is on my new hanging wall. This is my pride and joy right now. I used to put things on shelves in my old studio but everything got really cluttered very quickly. Now I can hang things immediately so I can see how they look.