Michele Clamp Art


Arlington Center Sketch

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

Sketch of Arlington Center. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 5”x8”

Just the one sketch today as taxes needed to be done and that took priority. Again this was fun to do and it wasn’t a great scene at first sight. Not as successful as some of the previous ones but it keeps my hand in.

For completeness - the bad and the ugly

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

After a relatively successful bird this morning I did a couple extra this afternoon. One was yet another stab at the Ponte Vecchio scene and the final one was the tower of Dunster House at Harvard. No comment really but it’s getting harder to see a way forward.

This is a previous version done in Jan 2016. Frankly I like this more - it has life and is looser. Pffft!

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

cityscapeMichele ClampComment
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

11”x14”/16”x20” matted. One of my favorite places - Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Add To Cart

Definitely on a roll today. A very complicated scene but with good bones. Very enjoyable and came out really well. Love the blues and oranges.

St John's College, Cambridge

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

St John’s College, Cambridge. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

When I’m in a bit of a painting funk like I have been for the past couple of months I find it easier to just pick a reference at random from my collection and just paint it. Every now and again I trawl through free-to-use photos, select a bunch that catch my eye and put them in a folder ready for situations like this.

So this is why I’m painting St John’s College, Cambridge. We lived in Cambridge for a number of years which was fab so this has a personal connection even though I didn’t actually take the photo. I love the intricate shadows on the lovely golden stone and also the way the building stretches horizontally across the canvas, leaving large areas above and below. But can I do it justice this time?

Anyway off we go.

Lately I’ve started doing digital notans of pictures. These are reducing an image to just black and white regions. Even more than a value study I find that if you can’t make a well-designed notan it’s highly unlikely to produce a good painting once you’ve got all the values and color in.

So this came out pretty well. The bushes and the left and right trees frame the building well. The shadows on the building also serve to create a good design. One thing I did change was to darken the roofs of the building. This framed the building and allowed some continuity between the left and right hand sides.

The drawing went well. I didn’t put in too much detail as it gets fussy but lightly marked where the windows and shadows went. The first washes I kept varied but warm with a little lavender dropped in here and there to cool things off and provide interest.

The next bit was the crucial bit. Putting in the shadows I had to be careful of keeping them dark but not so dark they look jarring. Too light everything looks wishy-washy. Too dark and it looks like you’ve gone over it with a sharpie.

the photo has actually darkened things up a bit here. The shadows were looking pretty good and had slight variations in color from warm to cool.

One other thing I finally remembered to do - work from left to right. As I’m right handed I’m constantly drawing or painting from right to left and messing things up as I go. Maybe I’ll put up a sign above my easel. Next to the one saying ‘tea is not painting water’.

So the final thing :

St John’s College, Cambridge. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 11”x14”

So this is the best result I’ve had in a while. The foreground and background were a bit nervewracking. You get one shot at these and I wanted to keep them smooth and not too fussy. Basically a deep breath and dive in with the brushes and stand back. This time I got away with it.

Happy day.

Boston Skyline

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

Boston skyline. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Two tries today. Both of the Boston skyline. The intention was to keep the colors muted and the values subtle. Not too much detail but enough to suggest buildings. The first one above was definitely the most successful but even this one suffered from some bad brushwork in the water. Nice in parts though.

Here’s the second:


cityscapeMichele ClampComment

It’s still a struggle closing the gap between vision and reality.  Keeping the palette very muted and the values as close together as I can.    I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.


Michele Clamp. Watercolor.  14x11”.

This was my previous attempt. 



New England Street

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

New England. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 12”x18”

This is a mystery scene as I was rooting about on pixabay.com for a New England street scene and this presented itself. This trundled along merrily although I can’t say I enjoyed it and the end result shows a lack of enthusiasm. But this isn’t the time to give up, at least for a while.

Some intermediates:

The drawing and initial washes. Maybe a bit tentative here but the final thing came out fairly punchy so all ended well.

After leaving things overnight I turned to the ipad and doodled a little on the photo. I find this helps identify the big shapes and allows me some practice before committing to paper. Watercolor really doesn’t allow you to do this so this is quite liberating.

Thinking back to my big shapes mantra the ipad doodling made me realize I should keep the big trees on the right dark and also darken up the roof of the tower on the left. Helps keep things together.

New England

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

Not much to say about this. Going through a bit of a rough patch enthusiasm wise.


Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA

cityscapeMichele ClampComment

14”x11”/20”x16” matted.

Another view of Cambridge that I often encountered in my travels.

Add To Cart

This is another scene I’ve been wanting to paint for a while. Colors came out well and also the sense of late autumn afternoon sunshine.

Also the preparatory sketch :

Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose

cityscapeMichele ClampComment
Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14x11

Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14x11

The past few days I’ve been learning from Joseph Zbukvic’s painting.  After four days of this I was a bit jaded and losing enthusiasm.   It made me think how much of the satisfaction of painting is putting down your own interpretation of a scene.  Not just a straight representation but how you view something and which elements interest you.   All the time I was doing the Zbukvic copies that part of my brain was switched off and thus a big part of the joy of painting.   And no enjoyment = bad paintings.

So I was riffling through my back catalogue of ‘things I’d like to paint’ and I remembered our visit to San Jose last year.   I didn’t have any sketches but I’d taken some photos and one of the Basilica looked like a good candidate.   Here it is  



It’s not great as is but there’s lots I like.  The bright sun on the church walls,  the general shape of the building,  the palm tree.   And overall is the sense of California sunshine.     

There was a fair bit of rearranging and invention.    I took out various pieces - the tree, the front car and a lot of the signposts.    There was also some rearrangement - the background building encroaches on the church so I shifted it to one side. 

Off I went and tried to remember the guidelines : 

 - Big shapes with smaller regions of smaller shapes. 

 - Keep those values fairly constant within the big shapes. 

 - Economy of brushstrokes - no dabbing! 

 - Keep the color palette small.    


I also moved back to Fabriano Artistico paper.    I generally prefer this to most other papers.   The color seems to flow better across the surface and the colors end up brighter.    Arches in particular soaks up water like crazy which can dull colors when it dries. 

So - mid way through what did we have? 



Not too shabby!  Shapes are good,   Values are pretty good,   Darks are being connected so the cars don’t look stuck on.   And most importantly I was actually enjoying it! 

There was one thing, however.  The shadows between the pillars on the front of the church were bothering me.   So in the evening, sitting downstairs with the ipad,    I imported the photo and overdoodled on it with the procreate drawing app.   I pushed back the shadows and added in some elements I planned to add in in the next stage.


Ha!   I was pretty pleased with this.    Definitely need to lift off those shadows and my plan of a large foreground shadow fitted in well.

So here’s the end result.   I’m pretty happy.