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This is the Tutorial Page of my website.

I will share with you all the information I wish I had known when I first began to paint with watercolors and how/why I was so successful in such a short time.

Note to SAAG artists: Thank You for supporting my first presentation to a large audience on Dec. 8, 2013. The areas that may interest you the most on this page would probably be in "Words of Wisdom","Ideas: What to Paint", or "Paint Themes,Ideas, Problems", because they can be applied to any area of art you are pursuing.

You are welcome to download what you need for your own use however,
all the information on this website is copyrighted and may NOT be published

without my (artist's) consent.

Email me if you have any questions, corrections, or suggestions at: janet@JMachDutton.com

This page was updated on Dec.5, 2013

I will continue to add more explanatory photos and information to make it more easily understood.The topics covered in the tutorial are now linked to that section of this page. However, you will have to scroll up to the top, until I figure out how to make it easier to return to the topics listed.

I know i need more hours in a day! !


GETTING STARTED                  

  • Find a place to work where you don’t have to put away your supplies all the time.
  • Set aside a time to work every day.
  • Practice is the best teacher.
  • Get to 100 paintings as fast as possible.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes, you can loose a lot of battles and still win the war. I never give up on a painting until it is destroyed, and then sometimes I wash it off, turn it upside down and start over.


I would begin with just the top 3 primary colors listed below. These are the 3 hues your computer uses to print to create any color. You will learn to mix colors!

  • Primary yellow py 3:  Windsor yellow(wn)
  • Primary red (red-violet) pv19: Permanent rose (wn) Opera (h): DaVinci (dv)
  • Primary blue pb15: Windsor blue(wn) or Thalo Blue(dv)
  • Yellow-orange: Quinacridone gold( wn or ds)
  • Orange-red  shade dark:  Permanent brown (ds) and/ Quiacridone sienna (ds) or burnt sienna(wn)
  • Red: Windsor Red (wn) ,Quniacridone red(wn or ds) or pyrrol scarlet
  • Red dark: Alizarin crimson (wn)
  • Violet: Windsor violet(wn) or permanent violet
  • Green: Windsor green (wn) and/or pthalo Green(dv)
  • Make your own black by using  your alizarin crimson, thalo green, thalo blue

If  you want additional colors I would get these next.  Note that if you choose the earth pigments, they tend to lift more easily, may be more semi transparent and can create muddy colors.

  • Warm yellow:  new gamboge or raw sienna (earth pigment).
  • Cool yellow:  aureolin(dv) or lemon yellow(wn)
  • Cool brown or y-o shade: burnt umber or raw umber(h)
  • Transparent orange  (ds); brilliant orange (h);  I haven’t tried them. Putting red over a wet yellow area creates wonderful glowing oranges, so orange is not on my palette.
  • Warm red: scarlette lake, bright red
  • Cool red: Windsor red
  • Cool blue: French ultramarine (dv)
  • Warm blue: cobalt blue (is semi transparent)(wn or dv)
  • Warm blue: cereulean blue (semi transparent) (wn)used a lot by landscape painters. It does however contain a white pigment which pushes colors mixed with it to take on an opaqueness.
  • Warm green: hookers green or perm sap green(wn or ds)
  • Add additional transparent colors to your palette as you fall in love with them. Get to know them one at a time before you add another color to your family. Everyone loves to explore their favorite colors!

The internet contains alot of helpful information. Dont forget to go to sites that will help you understand drawing, design, perspective, composition, color theory, technique, texture, etc. One such website discusses the attributes of paints and pigments:  http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/palette2.html. Refer to color charts to see if the paint you are purchasing is transparent.


  • You can use any enameled or non porous surface with a large clean preferable white surface for mixing paints.  Just starting, use a cheap white dinner plate.
  • Palettes are not very expensive.   If you don’t know what you want, then wait and take a look at what other artists are using. Ask them WHY they like it. It might not be what you are looking for.
  • I chose a Cheap Joe’s  Piggyback palette because it had lots of deep wells separated from two main mixing areas then arranged my colors so that all the colors having yellow in them (except greens) surrounded the top mixing area, and all the colors (except greens) that had blue in them around the bottom mixing tray. It is a light weight plastic tray, and to travel with it, i need to place it in a sturdy box so that it doesnt get cracked. Daniel Smith also offered a hard plastic, more durable palette with 3 mixing areas with 32 wells 11.5x15.5, that i have really enjoyed because it compacts my space area.
  • Whenever you mix all three primary colors together you get gray.  To avoid getting gray, I try to mix any color having yellow in it in the top area, and any having blue in the bottom area. I use a separate little tray to mix colors containing green (or the cover of the palette). If you use all transparent paints, your greys will be very pleasing and not muddy.
  • You can also purchase mini trays that fit in the cover of the main palette of the piggy back palette that would allow you to create and experiment with new color pigments.


  • Everyone has their own way of setting colors on their palette. To keep my colors in some kind of logical order and to help me try to remember which colors are cool and which are warm. i arranged a color wheel. I went counter clockwise starting on the right hand side with a cool yellow, a primary yellow, a warm yellow, shade of yellow, and did that with almost all primary and secondary colors.

Reading across the top left to right:

spaces for burnt umber + Q burnt sienna (ds): space; ...Q.Gold:...... trans yellow; New gamboge(wn): space

...................shade of O...........shade of Y-O.................... cool Y-0.............warm Y-O...............warm Y



perm brown (ds)

  r-o dark  

bright red (wn)

i use as my orange

scarlet red(wn)

r-o warm

Q. red (wn)

r-o cool

opera (holbein)

primary "red"

perm. alrizin crimson (wn)

cool shade red

perm. magenta(wn)

cool RV

windsor violet (wn)

secondary violet hue


windsor yellow (wn)


aureolin(wn) or lemon yellow

cool yellow

titanim white(wn)

used when needed


sap green(wn)

Y-G warm

hookers green(wn)

Y-G shade

windsor green (blue)


Thalo green(wn) secondary



my own black; fr. ultra blue (red); cobalt blue (semi-opaque): thalo blue; peacock blue; 3 spaces  ..alx crim+thalo blue +green:..warm blue; warm blue;........................primary blue; B-G'   


  • You can choose to use a table or floor easel, a block of watercolor paper,  or work from a support board. Your support board should be at least an inch larger than the paper you are working on.  It can be made of anything smooth that does not flex.  While traveling I recently went to home depot and bought a very firm thin non flexible board for only a few dollars.  An art store will sell you gator board. It is expensive, but I love it because it is so light and easy to handle. My board to handle a full sized sheet of paper is  32x24 and ¼” thick, I got it for $19.  I have a wedged board I use to keep it on a slant, but a roll of paper towels can be used to do this very efficiently especially if you use a non skid fabric underneath.


  • I recommend that if you are a beginner, i would buy a block of 140 arches watercolor cold press paper either 9x12 or 11x14 depending on your comfort level.  Save your Michael’s coupon and get 40% off on this expensive item.   If you just don’t know, buy a full sheet of  arches paper cold press and cut it into half, and then half one half to get two quarter pieces.  You will then be working on one quarter piece of full size.
  • Paper comes in hot press which has a very smooth slippery surface; cold press which is textured, and rough which has more surface texture.  Children and smooth shiny objects are often most successful on hot press paper. For character studies, Suzanna Winton prefers  300 cold press.  I believe the majority of artists use cold press.  Rough press leans more toward the experimental, looser, more textured images. 300 pound is usually  recommended over 140 pound but working on a block of watercolor paper is very similar to working on the 300 lb paper because the block absorbs much the same as the 300. Different manufacturers paper varies tremendously in how it reacts with water. Experiment with different types of paper to see what you like the best. Some companies put together combinations of different papers which are available to buy in sets. Depending on what you want to accomplish will determine the paper you will want to use. Then of course there are those who want to paint on watercolor canvas or ampersand board. They are all viable. Just depends on what kind of painter you envision yourself to be.



  • Bring what watercolor brushes you have and prefer to work with. You do not need to buy any brushes if you already have them!  If you don’t have any brushes,buy only a few and figure out what kind of painting you want to do and if the brush lends itself to your desired results. Loew-cornell makes a series 1811 synthetic inexpensive  utility brush good for applying masking fluid, mixing paints, applying art glues etc.
  • The brushes I use the most for almost every size paper are a  size #8 to #10 Loew-cornell 7020 ultra round (black handle with red band). They are synthetic and can be used with masking fluid.  I use 2 of the same size , one marked with blue masking tape, whichI never put into the yellows, and one unmarked that I never put into the blue paints (unless I am not paying attention).  I like them because they come to a fine point, but have lots of bristles to hold a substantial amount of water and/or paint.  You need a third larger  brush (#16 to #24) for adding clear water to your painting and doing washes. The flat brushes hold less water and though I have a few, I don’t use them often. Often instructors have told me to include a one-half inch flat brush  and 1 inch flat brush in my selection.
  • I do have a set of  Cheap Joe’s   Kolinsky round legends set. The are very expensive, hold a lot of water and pigment but i find them harder to control.  Many artists who like wet and spontaneous swear by them.  I especially like them for blending as in portraits, where you want your paper to stay very wet.
  • I also have numerous  round, flat, angled, hake, brushes larger and smaller than the size 10’s which I use on occasion.  The only other brush, if you don’t have it, you might want to buy is a scrubber brush size 4. (I have a 2, 6, 12). I use them to soften hard edges caused by the masking fluid.
  • If brushes start to have a "teen" hairdo, dip them into hot water. It will shape them back up. Too bad you can't do it to your own kids. If they have been really misbehaving, when they are still wet, run the bristles over a bar of ivory soap, and point or flatten the tips to store for the night. (Wash them out before using them again.)


INCIDENTALS you don’t want to forget to bring, or you might want to purchase:

  • 2 rectangular sponges 3x4 inches  (place on top of each other, wrap in 2 paper towels, attach with tape. Place them  in a sandwich sized plastic box. This is your reusable blotter.
  • 2 plastic light weight  water containers ( I use old large iguana mia plastic cups)
  • Spray bottle to dampen dried paint
  • Little spray misting bottle for  texture and later spray on color.
  • Masking fluid ( I like pebeo drawing gum from cheap joe's)
  • Masking fluid eraser or remover
  • Bar of brush soap,  (murphy's oil soap or  ivory works well too)
  • 6B pencil
  • #2 Pencil or mechanical pencil
  • Ball point ink pen
  • Masking tape, blue painters tape, and a regular cream color roll.
  • Kneaded eraser and white eraser (I have a staedtler mars  plastic).
  • A small container of table salt.
  • Box of Kleenex
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Hair dryer on an extension cord.
  • Ruler, yardstick and or t-square.  If you are working small, a small  clear plastic 12” one is $2.
  • Tracing paper the size of your painting paper or larger.  Many instructors say rolls are better.
  • Glad ware interlocking disposable containers, round custard cup size. (if you have an aluminum cupcake tin or rectangular baking pan to put them in  you can manage them easier).
  • Name tag (I’m terrible with names)

Optional items you may want in the future:

  • Magic Eraser by Mr. Clean works well in lifting. Semi-transparent(thin) roll of wide masking tape to use for cutting out small stencils working with lifting.
  • A roll of transfer (graphite)paper ..never use carbon paper.
  • Clean smooth cork from a used white wine bottle used to roll out paper fiber that has been scrubbed.
  • Goo-gone from the grocery to clean masking fluid from brushes.
  • 6-8 Bull dog clips to hold loose paper to drawing board, and or display your work
  • Liquitex gloss gel medium can be used diluted to a milky to creamy solution  and brushed onto watercolor you buy that may be too porous, or used on overworked areas of your painting before repainting them.
  • Shiva casein, titanium white, to white out small areas where you just gotta have your white back (remember then, that it will make your entire painting no longer considered eligible in “transparent” watercolor exhibitions)
  • Credit card that has no value. Use for scraping salt off dried paper.
  • Day adjusted light bulbs from home improvement store for your painting area.
  • Collection of items you can make texture by using:  sponges, lace, onion bags, saran wrap, paper towels or toilet tissue with patterns in them.
  • Plastic burnishing tool.
  • Steam iron for flattening out paper quickly.
  • The list is as long as your imagination.


  • Check out art suppliers in your area.  I often  get odds and ends from Michael’s craft store because they seem to be in cities all over the US. I never go without a 50% off coupon.
  • On line I order from Cheap Joe’s,  Daniel Smith,  Jerry’s art-a-rama. ASW warehouse.   There are many from which to choose.


  • There are many good references books and magazines out there to buy. I usually browse the local library first just to see what information that they have and answer what I need for that moment. Spice Up Your Painting, by Kate Yarbrough, was one i enjoyed one day when i had the blahs.
  • If they don’t have the book you want, ask them to order it. They always want titles to good books.
  • I found many interesting books that helped me to take good photographs and then how to crop and paint from them. I thought, Watercolors from Photographs by Jan Kuntz was excellent.
  • My favorite how-to-draw book is Drawing on the Right  Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.
  • One of the easiest watercolor books  to understand and apply is Pat Weaver’s,  Watercolor Simplified.  She works very loosely, one-time-in-and-out with color. She resides in Dade city, Fl. It contains information on how to get started, basic design fundamentals,how to simplify drawing, color and value using nine direct demonstrations. 
  • If you are seeking an instructor that works more tightly, layer upon layer whose emphasis is on portraits check out Suzanna Winton. She loves to paint people and gives very thorough information, demoes and hands-on approach in her workshops. She did a DVD demonstrating the portrait painting techniques that
  • she uses in her workshops. It came out late in 2008.
  • If you dont need to have a hard copy in your hand, then the internet is FULL of everything and anything you ever want to learn. I do download information and photographs to provide me with visual additional information to understand and draw what i cant "see" in my photographs. For example, I was painting a moose from a photograph i had taken while we were in Maine. The photo was so dark, I couldn't see the tail.
  • I must have taken 500 pictures of him at all angles and not one of them told me what a moose tail looked
  • like. Do you? I did the same with a photo of bison in Yellowstone National Park in the winter.It took me forever to find it.These are my photographs that i cropped for a painting.
  • and these are my reference photographs. Now I have a better image of what i can't see in my photos.
  • The internet is the best thing that ever happened to secure right now information! Just dont copy it!


Classes and Workshops

  • I think the best way to learn, as a beginner, would be to attend a class where you get just one lesson, go home and practice that lesson. In a week or shorter, go back for a critique and pick up a new lesson until you are ready to learn something else. The real key to improving is to spend MANY hours doing it. Make sure you find an instructor who knows HOW TO TEACH, and just doesn't DO it for you or cant verbalize intellectually.
  • If you have the time and a little extra money, workshops can give you a quick boost. You will only be able to take in so much information at once, so you might start out with those only lasting a day or two. It helps to get a perspective other than your class instructor.
  • Some of the workshops I have taken have been better than others, but it would be difficult to tell you if they would work as well for you as they did for me. Find out what level the workshop is geared to: beginners, intermediate, or advanced painters. Decide what it is you want and carefully select the artist who you think might help you. These are some of the artists I considered helpful to me and why.
  • Joe Fettingis painted animals and people in the workshop i attended. He gave good step by step instruction. He begins very loosely, then continues to layer his colors getting tighter with more control as he emphasizes his center of attention. I can find him on the web, but not a website.
  • Pat Weaver, paints just about every subject. She gives much elemental overall instruction. Her syle is very colorful, full intensity, one time hit and get out intensity. She is very kind, patient and willing to take the time to help everyone. She encouraged me to enter one of my paintings into the Florida Watercolor Society's Annual Exhibition in 2004. I got in!!! Thank you so much Pat, for believing in us! Subsequently, i was accepted in 2006, and got my FWS signature membership in 2007. Her website is: http://www.watercolorplace.com.
  • Janet Rogers, a loose, spontaneous artist ,similar to pat weaver, who specializes in painting pportraits and flowers.Her husband , Steve,  paints impressionistic landscapes.  They both provide workshops nationally and in Europe. http://www.watercolorsbyrogers.com.
  • Sue Archer really knows how to teach! Her information is well thought out and planned in a logical sequence. She is excellent for artists of all levels. Basically she paints still lifes using layers upon layers of paint to get photographic looking results. She has a great instructional video/DVD available. Checkout her website: http://www.archerville.co
  • Susanne Winton has a style more like Sue Archer than Janet Rodgers. She instructs a great watercolor portrait workshop. Go to her her website: http://www.suzannawintonwatercolors.com to see her work and learn more about her instructional DVD. Suzanne has also produced a great instructional book.
  • Those are just a few names of artists from which i have taken workshops. Seek out names of artists in your area as well as their websites.
  • When selecting a workshop or instructor you should consider which ones would be best for you.
  • Be true to yourself.  Don’t let others dictate what you should or should not be painting.  I was always told I was too tight…that I should loosen up. So i signed up for classes and workshops that would loosen my style, and I was miserable. I don't need that frustration….this is about ME having FUN and enjoying my retirement. So I started looking for workshops that i thought would help me find my style. workshops that would give me the information i needed to succeed AND be technically pushed. Suzanne Winton was wonderful for ME and what I needed for a portrait workshop.
  • I've been physically growing since i was born, and boy have i had to wear a lot of different clothes. I tried my best to choose the ones i was most comfortable wearing. I've decided to do that with my art, and i will shed layers and put on layers just as my art will evolve with me. Whatever your style of art, be comfortable and enjoy the journey.
  • Just a reminder: In a classroom or workshop you will be copying the techniques, design system, subject matter, palette and even perhaps the same drawing of the instructor. Even if that instructor NEVER puts a mark on your paper, those pieces done in class are studies done to help you learn and should NEVER be placed into a judged or juried show.....or even sold to the public as YOUR art. Once a visiting artist leaves SW Florida, after conducting workshops to 25 artists in each city, i will see images in art fairs and exhibitions, being sold by those who had taken that workshop. If 500 students paint a Fettingis horse from his workshop, no two will be the same because we are all different. But all 500 horses will look like a Fettingis, because he was the one that took the photo, cropped and redesigned it. He chose the center of interest, simplified and removed unnecessary details then taught you step by step how to change the line drawing into a breathtaking three dimensional image that glowed of life. How can you call it yours? Stop and think about it? Someone not long ago won first place in a large local exhibit with a beautiful watercolor of a still life. If painted by a competant artist, and done in Sue Archers workshop and looked like a Sue Archer watercolor, do you think that artist should have gotten the prize?


The best advice I was ever given:

  • Learn how to draw and see. Perspective is important. Take a drawing class or more as you need it. (I like the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. it has suggestions that really work.)
  • Learn how to apply design and composition principles. Find a good book or an artist who can "teach". The teacher has to be able to verbalize concepts and give you honest critiques. You need to know the rules in order to break them.
  • Painting at home without a dedicated place to just leave your stuff out, (even if it is a 2x4 foldable table)..and a dedicated time to do it….well it just doesn’t happen. So, I started asking successful artists how they managed to get their art done.  The best answer I got was: Treat it as if it were a job. Plan to get up each morning and paint from 8 to noon every day. Never schedule any appointments in the morning.  Tell your spouse and friends that you are not available until after noon.
  • NEVER open  the computer or your smart phone before noon unless you have unparallelled discipline!
  • You have to learn how to control the water and pigment. The only way to do that is to practice. Complete 100 small paintings (11x15) as soon as possible. As soon as you finish the first 100 get started on the next 100. wonderful things happen to your work when you get close to the next 100.
  • Identify your personality, preferences(things you like rather than dread), performance (talents that come easily so you wont despair). Learn from an artist who can TEACH not just DO in the style of painting you most admire that fits your profile.
  • Take a new workshop or class when you have succeeded at your level and want to be pushed out of your comfort zone.
  • Consider your mistakes as propelling achievements. You will learn more by trying to FIX them then by just tossing them out. I give you permission to wash everything off your paper, turn it upside down and start again until the paper is unuseable.
  • if you enter a competition using a digital image, photoshop that image until it looks as good as your painting, but dont enhance it to make it better. Prospectus will tell you not to alter the image, but to send them an image that doesnt look like your painting is not fair to you.
  • I see two distinct areas of art in the public eye. one style sells to the general public. the other style competes in exhibition. The public buys art to decorate their spaces. it has to be the right size, the right color harmony, the right subject matter to hang over the sofa. The artist competing for acceptance and prizes not only has to fit the criteria of being technically competent, but must be on the cutting edge of DARING TO BE DIFFERENT. The artist must make a statement that makes his/her work STAND OUT. if 2000 artists are competing for 100 spaces, one person will be selected and19 artists will receive a rejection.
  • If entering a competition, research the criteria that each judge uses for selection. I never paint FOR a specific judge, but if i know a particular judge likes an abstract style, i will enter either the most abstract or the best realistic piece that i have, or pass up that competition. Make sure you jump through all the hoops they ask for. Any excuse that helps eliminate a number makes jurying a bit easier.
  • Paint what you like. paint what you know. Paint to please yourself. Be passionate. Let emotion flow onto your paper and paint, paint, paint! . Practice makes perfect!  Its the MOST important factor in success.



  • I was looking at my stats:  remember that I have 32 years of teaching art to 150 students each day.
  • I spent 28 years teaching art in middle and high school classes in Michigan. I was a potter and printmaker having earned a MA in art education from MSU.
  • Divorced and remarried, with three of my own children, my art was on the back burner. In  2000, we got rid of the pets, the houseplants, and the kids were all out of the house, my husband, Jerry, and I  retired to a house and boat in Florida.
  • In 2002, we sold the boat, bought a motor home, and my husband took a 4 mo. job in Maine.  I began to paint 10 hours a day.  I took a week workshop on Mohegan Island. Decided I didn't like plein air painting and referred back to all my glorious photos.
  • When we got back to Florida, I took a local watercolor class. During that time my big discovery was learning to keep the white of the paper WHITE with a little help from a maskoid.
  • In 2003,  Jerry went to work again for 12 weeks.  I rejoiced, painted non stop and excelled making quantum leaps of improvement.  When we got back home to Florida that year for the 2003-2004 winter season, I signed up for 3 workshops instructed by nationally known watercolor artists.
  • Since 2002, Jerry has continued to work 3 months every summer. During that time,I paint fervorishly, taking fewer workshops as I become more comfortable with my own personal progress. I strive to get better, seeking wisdom from nationally acclaimed artists, looking at prize winning art, and dare to follow my crazy ideas.
  • 2011, Jerry was told by doctors in Florida "to go WEST, young man", so we put our home in Florida on sale, drove the motorhome to Tucson, Az. and found an adobe-styled house in the foothills of the Tucson mountains where we are residing. We are just starting to get aquainted with the community. I am painting.
  • To give you some idea of the amount of work that I have amassed, here is a chart of completed paintings (not all of which were kept) and the numbers of awards i received that year. What this chart should tell you but doesn't, was the number of rejections it took to finally get one accepted or win an award. I never counted because i didnt want to know. All i knew was i wanted to start climbing to the top, and rejection would never take me down a step, it would only keep me from climbing to the next step. So I keep on painting, keep on getting rejected, and slowly continue to climb.
  • If you don't take the steps to reach the top, you just won't get there.



image Size

#local art exhibit


# swfl. council exhibit


#state+regional exhibits:

slide entries accepted

# state+ regional exhibits


#national exhibits



* award

national exhibits


2001 19


0 0 0 0 0  
2002 50 11x14 0 0 0 0 0  
2003 54 11x14 0 1 0 0 0  





1 6



1 0  





6 10 5 4 Artists Mag









3 12





SW: p-1*

1* m+m's







2 10


FWS signature







Artist Mag*1st










1 7










NWS signature*T




  • My first competitive win came in 2003:
  • Dec., 2003  Art League of Fort Myers Juried Show, “ Lionfish”,11x14 image, 16x20 framed won 3rd place.  This was my 110th painting
  • Sept. 2004,  Florida Watercolor Society’s 33rd Annual Show , Quincy, Fl. “We’re Barefoot on the Beach“ 24x30 w/c. This gave me p-1 status in the FWS.
  • 2006. Sept. Florida Watercolor Society Annual Exhibit. Sarasota, Fl. "Rattle Me!" 30x24.This gave me p-2 status in the FWS.
  • 2007, Sept. Florida Watercolor Society Annual Show. Sept. 28-Nov. 26, 2007. Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Fl. " Clockworks" 30x38. P-FWS signature status was awarded to me for this third acceptance into the FWS.
  • 2008. Feb. SW: Southern Watercolor Society 31st Annual Exhibition. Quincy, Fl. Acceptance of " Out of the Jar V...Antique Buttons". Acceptance gives me P-3 or signature status in the SW.
  • 2008. Sept. National Watercolor Society. 88th national exhibition. Riverside, California. " Color a... Parrot" 38x30 framed. Acceptance of three additional paintings similar to "Color a....Parrot" gave me the highly regarded Signature membership NWS in this society. Awarded the Philadelphia Watercolor Society Award! It was on the 2009 travel circuit.

Hope this helps to show what you can accomplish by painting as many hours as you can squeeze into each day!



  • Where can i find subject matter? Consider subject matter created in different cultures and numerous historical periods: America (northeast, northwest, central, southeast, southwest), Australia,     New Zealand, south America, middle east, Africa, India, China, Japan, Egypt, S. America, Caribbean, Islands, Hawaii and Pacific Rim.
  • Adages, Idioms, similies, metaphors, alliterations:  go online ask for lists of……what you are looking for or make up your own.
  • Animals: domesticated animals: cats, dogs, tropical parrots, farm animals: chickens, horses, pigs, goats, cows, emus, ostrich, prairie animals, desert animals, water life,visit: zoos, circuses, aquariums, aviaries, bird shelters, wild life sanctuaries; museums, state fairs, 4-H exhibitions, refuges.Antiques: visit stores, museums, period time exhibitions.
  • Art supplies or office supplies: paints, brushes, staples, paperclips, crafts, quilts, computers, radios, tv’s
  • Automobiles: old and new
  • Bags of: candy, lunches, onions, chips,
  • Baskets: things in baskets like breads, wines,
  • Birds: feathers, regional, global, penguins, auks, anhinga, burrowing owl, hummers, cormorant, eagle, egrets, flamingo, frigate bird, herons, ibis, kingfishers, osprey, pelican, sand crane, sea gulls, shore birds, spoonbill, stork, terns, cranes, crows, ducks, eagles, loons, owls, ravens, road runners, birds of prey.Visit natural landscapes: mangroves, beaches, marshlands, oceans, swamps, wild life refuges.
  • Boats: sail, motor, canoes, windsurfer, kayaks, shrimp or fishing boats, cruise. Visit recreation areas, restaurants, stores, piers, etc. on the water
  • Boxes: cereal, corrugated, gift wrapped, candy, games, card, oranges,crated
  • Buildings/architecture: churches, houses, urban, downtown high rises, condos, lighthouses, teepees, mesa dwellings, look for styles or eras of buildings in cities, historical or global heritage sites, coastlines, pueblos, ethnic communities,etc        
  • Parts of buildings: doors, windows, gates, columns, balconies, staircases,
  • Clocks : parts of clocks; new, antique, reflecting, cuckoo, grandfather
  • Collectibles.com: candy corn, fortune cookies, thimbles, old toys, old game ,stamps, cue balls, wine and beer bottles. Baseball, football, hockey, sports, political venues, broadway, Hollywood. Pool halls, bars, museums, themed and amusement parks, historical villages, expo’s, sports and recreational arenas.
  • Design elements of various global tribes and peoples past and present.
  • Employment areas: things that people use in their jobs, or recreation items: biking, hiking, boating, skating, fortune telling, gambling, golfing, etc.
  • Fabrics/wood
  • Flags
  • Flowers/plants: indoor plants, florist, outdoor markets, gardens, state fairs, arboretums, bougainvillea, hibiscus, orchids, wild grapes,  grape vines, iris, sunflowers, leis, potted plants
  • Food: vegetables: (whole or parts of ) artichoke, onions, mushrooms. candy: (wrapped or not) m+m‘s, gummy bears, gum balls.  fruits: pineapple, watermelon, apples, oranges, limes. bread, cheese, Street or art fairs, fresh markets,
  • Glass: crystal, goblets, perfume bottles, vases, jars, wine bottles, light bulbs,
  • Hats/clothing/fabric, boots, shoes, thrift stores, city windows
  • Hardware: tools, nuts and bolts,
  • Household items: kitchen, garage, drawers, attic, basement,  
  • Interlacing or woven: braids, baskets, ribbons, placemats
  • Laboratories: historical ones like Edison or Ford, hospitasl, schools, tubes, flasks
  • Landscapes /seascapes: skies/water , sunsets/rises, beaches, piers, docks, bridges, pilings, washes, deserts, underwater scuba, snorkle, aquariums, ski resorts (any season).
  • Manikins, Machines: cars, robotics, trains, computers, parts of, watches, clocks,
  • Mailboxes, Masks, Metaphors, Museum items, Musical instruments
  • Office supplies
  • People: portraits, actively engaged in sports, arts, dance, clowns, mimes, costumed figures,circuses, state fair: events where you are allowed to use photography.You may need to get permission from individuals before you can use their image.
  • Sewing supplies, laundry, knitting, crochet, quilting,
  • Symbols and totems: eagle: sacred messenger for cleansing and healing; Raven: secret keepers, darkness, sunlight transforms it. Butterflies: bringer of joy, peace, spiritual growth, freedom,  (look for meanings on the internet)
  • Shoes, boots, footwear, fashion styles throughout the ages.
  • Sports teams, accessories, colors, equipment,
  • Tools (shop) hobbies equipment, or people working on their trade.
  • Toys: dolls, old antiques, stuffed bears, game sets, Kachinas, museums, Native American reservations, antique stores. Permission is needed to reproduce or photograph other artists works of art.
  • Transportation: bikes, trikes, wagons, trains, gas machines, roller skates, tractors,skis,
  • Trees arboretums,
  • Umbrellas.
  • Underwater: fish, plants, anemones, shells, aquariums, fish
  • Wine, beer, drinks, wine accessories, wineries, wine stores, restaurants, bars, galas, New   Year celebrations
    The internet can give you LISTS of thousands of ideas, however, you MUST paint using a photograph that you have taken or your painting will not be considered ORIGINAL and will NOT be allowed into competitions.

    Paint Themes, Ideas, or Set up problems to solve such as:
    (The following ideas have been accumulated from various sources and are not necessarily original)

  • Paint white objects: white on white. paint around the white.
  • Paint something shiny, rough, reflective, matte finished, textured, soft.
  • play with pattern and texture. make unlikely combinations
  • Make objects look like they  smell ie. Sheep like lanolin and smelly; boots like  soft or hard leather, lemons tart, oranges juicy and sweet, roses soft and velvety.  
  • Work with atmospheric perspective or space making objects come forward or recede.
  • Doodle  to find new shapes.
  • Capture the charm of where you live.
  • close up look at everyday items.
  • Exaggerate color, or use unusual color schemes.
  • Find mysterious shapes positive and negative.
  • Draw buildings, speak to the audience of textures, emotions, weather climates.
  • Gather still life from your favorite rooms. 
  • Tell me about you through images.
  • Magical ideas, playing with figures and shapes,
  • create personal symbols, tell symbolic stories.
  • Stylize your photos or alter them in photoshop computer programs.
  • Hide negative shapes, images, lettering, music,
  • Use unusual perspectives, from high up looking down or down looking up.
  • puzzle pictures use interlocking shapes
  • Morph 2 or more images.
  • Choose items that weave or interlock,
  • Concentrate on the movement of light
    Pushing beyond your comfort zone often leads to creative growth. try something new.
  • Work in a different size—try painting bigger or smaller than you do typically.
  • Start a painting placed upside-down on your easel and work on it this way for at least 30 minutes.
  • Paint a self-portrait; it’s a venerable tradition.
  • Paint abstractly for five to 15 minutes every day for a week to reflect your changing emotional state.
  • paint over an old painting, letting some of the old come through the new.
  • Cut up (and re-assemble) value sketches into puzzle pieces defined by value shapes.
  • Work with a complementary underpainting (painting the green areas red and the blue areas orange, for example).
  • Paint a series of square paintings or use an usual format/orientation.
  • paint objects that come in 3'S
  • Pay attention to creating positive tension within each, rendering some as visually horizontal and others as visually vertical compositions.
  • Paint only the texture (bark or fur, for example) of something, filling the entire painting surface with it.
  • Compose a landscape painting with either a very high or very low horizon line imagine and paint an aerial perspective—take the bird’s eye view.
  • Create a painting consisting of primarily soft edges (mist, fog, for example) without using any finger-blending. or fade in the wrong direction.
  • Select a haiku (or write one of your own) and depict it in a painting.
  • select an idiom, illiteration,simile,metaphor,fable, words of wisdom, and illustrate it.
  • Select a subject which requires you to convey movement (wind, tide, dancers, cars, for example) using stroke direction and pressure, edges, value and temperature shifts, etc.
  • look for more "creative boosters" at www.pasteljournal.com to read more suggestions by Sally Loughridge or other internet sites.


  • Who are you? What do you want to tell the viewer? What is your voice?
  • Make powerful and suggestive statements.
  •  Decide on the EMOTIONAL connection you  want to make with your audience BEFORE you begin. Decide HOW you are going to convey this message. will you use....composition, color harmony, exaggeration, humor, any specific elements? Will you shout it or convey it mysteriously, hiding it to be found at a later time.
  • Always look for a new way of “seeing”. Decide on your point of view or perspective.
  • Dare to be different!
  • Think about all the shapes(positive and negative). trace all the shapes on your paper and see how they interlock. make them more interesting by changing their size, position, complexity and value.
  • same, same, same becomes uninteresting. Remember the rules of using thirds instead of halves when creating a design. Use a papa, mama, and baby spaces.
  • Think about composition and where you want your  focal point placed.  Placing it in the middle makes the design more difficult to succeed.This focal point usually occurs where the darkest darks meet the whitest whites, have the most detail, or be the most interesting area to which the eye continues to return to as it travels around your composition.

DRAWING FROM A GRID: open or plein air.

  • If you are drawing from live subjects, make a grid (frame) to see through. Close one eye. It flattens the forms, creating 2-d shapes which are easier to draw. If you are drawing outdoors in changing lights you might want to capture one moment in time, and put the shadows in last instead of chasing them all day.
  • Or perhaps work on 2 or 3 paintings at the same time, each day ie. painting #1 from 8-10am, painting #2 from 10-noon, and painting #3, from 1-3pm.
  • If you have a digital camera, take photographs of the live subject matter, so you will know where to place the shadows when you are ready to paint them.


  • If you are painting from photographs ONLY use photographs. Never copy someone else’s photograph without getting written permission to do so! That includes copying any image from the internet, magazine, brochure etc. If you didnt take the picture dont copy it.
  • If shooting indoors use  only 1 strong light source in a dark room or take the still life outdoors.
  • If you are photographing outdoors: choose a sunny day early in the morning or late in the afternoon when shadows are longer and more interesting.
  • When photographing subject matter outdoors, always keep your light source coming from the same direction.  If possible  keep the camera still, and rotate the item you are photographing.
  • Having a light source coming from the same direction is extremely important when you begin to merge two photographs together (such as trying to draw a photo of a bird into one of your landscape photos).
  • When photographing people outdoors, place them in a shadow so that the sun isn't in their faces, and shoot with your flash on.
  • There are many books and information on the internet to help you get great photos.


  •  Check photographs closely.  Photography  visually changes 3-d form toa 2-d plane making it easier to draw.  Images you see might not be true, so be careful to use only what you need to tell your story and get rid of everything else.
  • Simplify! If you dont start out with a good drawing, you will never get a good painting.


  •  Take a lot of photos that explain the item you are trying to capture so that later on you can understand what it is that you will be drawing.( I photograph flowers, then later have to bring them into the studio to study how they are put together).  Hard to do with a motorcycle or house.
  • Another way to get additional information about a subject is to go online, click on the IMAGE button, type in what you are searching for, and click on search. You can print many of them on your computer by going to FILE, PRINT. Or to FILE, SAVE AS, designate a folder in your computer and save as a jpeg.
    Do not copy the images, use them only for reference.
  • Using images you have taken on with your digital camera is a plus because you can enlarge areas you don’t see to understand their form better.
  • Using Photoshop Elements, i will often click on IMAGE, QUICK FIX, check CONTRAST + INTENSITY, FLASH FILL, and move the slider until i can see items more clearly. If saving that image, go to FILE, SAVE AS, type in a code to let you know later how you changed the original image. I use FF+10, if i increased flash fill by 10.


  • is probably the most important choice you will have to make for you to be successful. You have to decide HOW  TO CROP your photograph to get the most interest and best design.  You will need to consider the elements and design principles on which art is founded.   There are some rules of the thumb I will try to remember as we discuss each one. 
  • I have Adobe photo shop Elements 2.  To crop your photo, click on the crop tool in the tool box.  Type in the dimensions of your paper or canvas.  Open your photo, duplicate it 5 or 6 times.  Using your crop tool, pull at the corners and place the dotted rectangle over your photo to create an interesting image.  Click on image, crop and then under file  SAVE AS  image 1.  do it again on the next photo and SAVE AS image 2.  Once you have cropped a number of images go back and decide which you like the best.  I keep all my working photos in a picture file titled : adobe to fix.  Once you find the photo you like, make a black and white copy of it:  go to VIEW: MODE: GRAYSCALE: FILE:SAVE AS: b+w.


If the element listed is in SPACE

............................and is close to you it will be:... if the element is at a distance it will appear:

line detailed,sharp fuzzier it becomes
shape 2-D detailed, large less detailed, fuzzy
form 3-D detailed large less detailed,fuzzy
color intensity warm brillant cool, more bluish, less bright, more gray
color value

more saturated and darker

exception of the sky+water

less saturated, lighter, more gray

water and sky are lightest at the horizon+darken away from it.

texture very detailed less to no detail far away
size large small


bottom or lower on thepaper

positive spaceis closer to you. It is occupied space.



top or higher placement on the paper

negative space is the area that is not filled by an object but defined by the objects that surround it. "Holes"



Refers to how you arrange the above elements to engage the viewer through your painting.

  • BALANCE can be:
    a.SYMMETRICAL or formal with the weight equal on both sides of an imaginary center axis: creating a restful/calming effect.

          b. ASYMMETRICAL or informal where both sides of the imaginary axis: creating tensio and dynamics.

          c. RADIAL; where the design originates from a single point.

  • UNITY; Think of all the spaces (negative and positive) fitting together like a puzzle. Try to make all four corners of your painting different from each other. Make ALL the spaces interesting expecially the negative areas.
  • HARMONY: an organized together feeling, not out of sync. Good color relationships.
  • VARIETY: having an assortment of different elements. Boring is when something is the same, same, same. Size:if you have a large object, put in a medium and small object (mama, papa, baby rule). Line:if you have straight lines, put in some curved lines. Texture: add more than one, leave areas without any. Shape: get a variety of areas that are not all the same.
  • RHYTHM or pattern that seems to flow throughout and repeats in your objects.
  • EMPHASIS, focal point, center of interest. "sweet spot" The point to which you draw the viewers interest. It is the most Important part of your painting.  It usually DOESN’T work in the center of your painting.
  • MOVEMENT: the way your eye travels when looking at a composition. Using all the elements you can create a design that forces the way a person looks at it. keep the viewer's eyes moving throughout the painting,back and forth, discovering new things to look at. Most viewers enter a picture at the bottom, or at a white or light source. Try not to enter and exit in the corners.


  • Use the 1/3 2/3 rule to break up the paper space, and off-center the focal spot.
  • Create a high  vertical design (representing the height of a subject) or a high horizontal line (distant vista or desert scene);
  • Low  vertical (directs the eye low while resting in the no dominant section of the painting); low horizon  (still life or landscape where the viewer is reading the tops of things);
  • S or z curve
  • The grid pattern based on “squares”
  • Circles that overlap and extend beyond the picture plane
  • Cruciform based on 4 different squares extending beyond the picture plane (all of a different size andshape)
  • Strata; layers of horizontal stripes
  • Geometrical shapes; paint areas as shapes rather than lines.
  • Value studies (check for value using the computer by clicking the IMAGE, MODE,GRAYSCALE or view your painting through red plastic to allow you to see the values. 1 to 3 (light values);  4 to 6(middle values), 7-10 dark values, or  1-10(full range values).
  • Link or merge together the various darks and lights whenever possible. Create the effect of a checkerboard going from light to dark, then dark to light.  Try to get the darkest dark against the lightest light at the focal point.



for more information on COLOR HARMONIES  go to www.handprint.com/HP/WCL?tecj13.hyml

  • Monochromatic;   all values using one color
  • analogous,  3 colors next to each other on a 6 color wheel (www.realcolorwheel.com )
  • one set of complementary colors:  colors across from each other on the wheel.
  • analogous + one complement; one set of complementary  plus the  2 colors next to one of them.
  • triad,   3 colors equidistant on the wheel
  • tetrad,  4 colors equidistant on the wheel
  • all warm: reds, yellows, oranges
  • all cool,: blues, violets, greens
  • all the same brilliance,
  • off-original colors
  • all warm with a hint of cool,
  • all cool with a hint of warm,
  • full range of 6 colors, use only values colors of winter, spring, summer or fall;
  • all grays; from 1-10(full value); 1,4 +7 for a high key (mostly light) or 4, 7,+9 for a low key (mostly dark and mysterious). 
  • all combinations using ultramarine blue and burnt sienna;
  • 6 dynamic watercolor combinations (according to chuck long)
    1.ultramarine blue- alizarin crimson-burnt sienna
    2.cerulean blue- phthalo violet- raw sienna
    3. perm sap green- brown madder- cerulean blue
    4. burnt sienna- yellow ochre- ultramarine blue
    5.alizarin crimson- cad yellow- phthalo blue
    6.Windsor yellow- pthalo blue- perm rose


(note to myself to continue editing from this point on, use spell check.....and add photos!)


  • cool light produces warm colored shadows
  • warm light produces cool colored shadows
  • beneath the object a cast shadow is warm, as it recesses it gets cooler.  A good way to remember that as an object gets further away from you, it passes through more space. Space (air) we see as blue on earth, so the object will get bluer as it gets further away. Think of the mountains.
  • Use color in your shadows to tie them to their surroundings. 
  • Watch for color that bounces off one object onto another next to it.
  • Cast shadows are usually a value of 40% darker than the surface they are falling on.



  • To produce beautiful grays, let the paint mix on the paper.  If you have trouble seeing a warm gray from a cool gray, use your computer to enhance the colors and give you some insight.
  • You can create grays by using complementary colors. 
  • So called muddy grays result from over mixing the paint on the palette, overworking the paper, making wrong color choices or blotting the paper with tissue or paper towel.



  • Using a grid (dot to dot plotting)/ same size or enlarge by ratio size
  • Draw the outline (silhouette) first through a grid or view finder, then  add the smaller inside details.
  • Drawing from a photograph and or grid, turn your paper upside down.
  • Trace a computer enlarged  image.
  • Print your photo image in B+W (after cropping) from photo shop so it retains its proportional dimensions  and  take it  to kinkos  to enlarge to the size of your paper and trace it using graphite transfer paper.  Don’t copy everything. Plan to omit everything that does not enhance your design.
  • Atelier way of seeing vertical and horizontal planes, with one eye closed, arm extended full length using your pencil as a marker to look and mark similar distances, angles, and images. (I would advise taking a class like this if you want realistic plein air  or portrait images).
  • I usually  draw on a sheet of paper with a grid underneath it.   I can erase all I want until I am satisfied with the larger areas of my painting. I sometimes do the whole drawing before transferring it to watercolor paper; sometimes I transfer the large areas, filling the details in by hand.



I use a transfer paper that contains no wax or grease, erases like pencil, can be reused called SARAL. When it gets too light, I often use a 6-B soft graphite pencil to re graphite it, or you can make your own by using the soft pencil on a piece of  tracing paper.  Do NOT use carbon paper.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO PAINT,  study the black and white patterns in your photo. Copy the photo 2-4 times in B+W, and with a 6b pencil or w/c paint, change the value patterns.  For white I use  a white casein by Shiva, or my w/c white or a white pencil.

You can also take the photo back to photo shop and play with the color adjustments. Go to ENHANCE; QUICK FIX; and make changes to brightness, contrast, color correction etc and when done click: OK:FILE:SAVE AS: then I usually make up a code like b-20 if I add 20pts brightness or c-4 for 4 pts of contrast.   Choose a color harmony, and begin to paint.


Flat wash;  wet on dry, wet on wet

Graduated wash: wet on dry, wet on wet

Pouring paint: wet on dry, wet on wet

Papers:  rough, cold press, hot press

Use of four S’s

    Salt: too wet, uncontrollable:  too dry, no effect; tilt paper for directional effect

    Scrape: wet wash, use end of brush for lines, surface bruises, gets darker. Can also use credit

                 Cards, fingernails, rulers, etc.

    Sponge:  paint with one, print or stamp on color. Turn, twist, lift color.

    Splatter:  wet into wet soft effects; wet onto dry, harder edges;

    Spray:  Aimed spray softens edges, clear water spray softer than salt; spray color.


Use of dry materials:

Use on papers other than rough ,cold or hot press: oriental, colored paper, scratch board,

Use of sand sprinkled on wet watercolor, get darker spots.

Use of gravel, beads

Plastic wrap or aluminum foil  wrinkled left on for hours or days, pressed with a weight.

Cardboard stripe effect

Paper towel patterns

Sand paper

Use of liquid aids:

Clear water, drop, spatter, spray, lifting (thirsty brush);

India or colored ink; wet or dry

Rubbing alcohol

Liquid frisket, rubber cement or  maskoid: use different brushes, spatter, drop into wet paper, (remove with special eraser, or rub with fingers).  If you cant get it out of a brush try  GOO GONE.

Melted wax (it cant be removed)

Opaque white; spatter for snow



Gel medium

Gloss polymer medium (I use to correct mistakes by mixing to a skim milk consistency, and paint

   over when it dries.

Use of other tools:

Round brush, most versatile

Flat brush, holds least water, good for edging

Other brushes: linear, fan, mops, bristle, stencil, riggers, utility,

Straws; blow watercolor around on your paper

Watercolor pencils

Bamboo pens


Squeeze bottles

Natural found objects: feathers, reeds, sticks, leaves, etc


Water textures;: still, reflective, moving, choppy, whitewater, waterfalls

Foliage:  shrubs, deciduous trees, evergreens, using natural sponges, wet in wet

Tree bark:  up close, at a distance, specific trees

Earth, pebbles, sand, rocks

Grasses and weeds ; use a fan brush,

Weathered wood, tree stumps, fencing,

Lichen and moss


Fruit and vegetables, shiny or matte, rough, complex shapes, textures, or in a field

Fur: wet in wet, dry brush, from a distance, close up, rough, patterns

Hair: straight, wavy, curly, facial hair

Skin tones, smooth, young, weathered,

Glass and metal, shiny, cut or molded glass, polished or matt metal, tarnished and textures

Rust: up close aging, at a distance, old cars, tractor


Sweaters and knits



Scales and seashells

And the list goes on.


I download from the internet stars, circles, ellipses, to trace when I need them to correct my drawing.

Be careful of changing perspectives with photographs.

If you find you are in trouble during your painting.  Stop.  Photograph  the incomplete painting with your digital camera, place it into the folder you are working with and print it out several times (4 to a sheet). I usually do a b+w image first, because  value  is difficult to see and  if the problem is  with design or drawing , it  will be easier to spot it in the  small thumbnail sketch . make a different correction using pencil in each sketch until you can correct it.   If color is the problem, print out 4-5 images in color and try various paint colors to decide what combination and value works best.

If  you are doing portraits and cant see the problem  it is generally in the drawing.  You can make a layer and superimpose it over your photo to see to identify the mistake.  To superimpose your image with a photograph: open photograph A: FILE; IMAGE: MODE: GRAYSCALE: OK: IMAGE: DUPLICATE: OK. Open your drawing image B: and repeat above . 

Go to tool bar. Click on magnetic tool (right click to get to magnetic setting). Trace either one of the images that you wish to move. When the line connects and the image is outlined go back to the tool bar and click on the MOVE tool.  Click on the image to be moved and drag it over on top of the other image.  If it is not the same size, use the corners of the box surrounding the clipped object to make larger or smaller. Click on LAYERS: move the OPACITY slider box to 50%, adjust the image to conform to your photograph, click outside the dotted area.  Click on LAYER: MERGE IMAGES: FILE: SAVE AS: make up a name like “merged”: PRINT or study the images to see where you need to make corrections.

By using digital, you can also use your magnifying glass to increase the image to look at it more closely.  Here is where having a lot of reference photos come in handy.  You need to understand the object you are looking at and how it is put together in order for you to draw it.

Having trouble with a hand or object that just doesn’t seem to make sense?  Find a friend who you can photograph to get that angle or position you need. For example:  I often photograph my husbands hands in a certain position to understand how they can be used in my drawing correctly.  If I have an animal and don’t have enough information on how it is correctly put together, I go online, check IMAGES instead of WEB, and various ones will come up to help you understand the form.


  1. To avoid elusive shadows, premix your shadow colors in plastic Gladware mini round lidded containers. I've had colors last months without drying up. i mix them at 40% gray scale (get a card to judge them with when they are dry) and keep more than one shadow color on hand (one warm and one cool shadow color). its easier to drop in your shadows getting them all the same. always wet the area first.

  2. To get rid of large or small areas of color: if it is a small area, i mask around the area with masking tape or place the tape directly on the spot i want to remove, cut carefully through the tape with an xacto knife and take out the center leaving the tape around the area i want to lighten. then, i cut off a piece of Magic Eraser by Mr. Clean get it damp and use it as an eraser, gently rubbing off the color. if its a large area i want to remove, i use pebeo drawing fluid to mask the areas i don't want destroyed and take the painting down to the kitchen sink and take the hose to it often using a brush to help nudge off the color. Make sure the paper is really dry before you continue.

  3. I next place the paper on a smooth table, spray the back of it lightly with water, and iron it until the surface is smooth. .to prevent osmosis when it dries, i put on a coat of very diluted Liquidtex matte medium polymer and let it dry before i try to paint over that area.if my paper is still in good condition, i will mask off my new shadow and try again. if it doesn't work, then i will repeat the kitchen rinse and after it dries, the magic eraser, then the polymer. if the paper is quite damaged, and i really need a white, white, i give up on "transparent only" and use shiva white casein to get my whites back. the watercolor then becomes labeled "water media" and cant be entered into a "watercolor only" exhibition. If your paper is really damaged, you can build up layers of the casein, in fact it does well if i have taken too much of the surface off the original paper. It will have a smooth, non adsorbent surface, so it will be harder to get watercolor to stick to it. At the Florida Watercolor Society i was given a formula for a mixture to put on the white paper before painting on it. Mix1/2 c. matte medium(this person uses Golden brand) with 1 cup white gesso and 1/2 water. i have not yet tried it, but the gesso should give it the tooth i have been looking for. (According to a definition i got from Watercolor West's website, transparent means to be able to see through to the paper. even if it is black and you can see through it to the texture of the paper it is transparent. check out the definitions to transparency rules of exhibit at the transparent watercolor society website.)

  4. When i am finished with the painting, i mist the back again and re iron it. be careful this time, because if the iron is too hot or you stay on the liquitex or casein too long it sticks to the surface or peels off. new texture idea?



Evaluation: am I done? Ask everyone if there is anything that bothers them about the painting. Does anything about it still bother you? Ask them what part of the painting they like best and why.  They won’t be able to tell you how to fix it, but it will make you look at it differently.  Take a digital photo of it and place it on your computer.  Turn it into black and white to check the values.  Flip it horizontally (go to IMAGE; FLIP HORIZONTALLY or VERTICALLY: and look at it again. Does it have a balance and a flow ? Does it need additional dark values, or should you get rid of too many light highlights?  Tone down areas or beef them up? Can you ask any more questions?

FURTHER SUCCESS:  on a need to know basis!

Take classes and/ workshops with instructors who paint as you do. As you learn and are comfortable, sign up with instructors who challenge you to be different.

Read books or access information on line:

        Learn to apply the principles of design

        Learn drawing rules

        Learn one and 2 point perspective

        Learn the proportions of the human figure

Experiment and play  using other water color  surfaces besides paper (yuppo, oriental, scratchboard, ampersand, canvas, illustration boards, wet media acetates), paints, brush types and sizes, media enhancers (clear water, ox gall, granulation medium, texture mixture, gum Arabic, India inks, rubbing alcohol, melted wax, granulating pigments, opaque white, glue, soap, gel mediums, cooking spray), techniques ( salt, masks, pouring, layering, lifting, use of saran wraps, foils, spraying, scraping, sponging, spattering, scumbling, waxed paper, thread, string, yarn, tape, fabrics, paper towels, cotton balls, collage, drinking straws, colored pencils, stamping tools, natural ingredients).  (And I don’t enough hours in a day to do what I’m doing now!)

Take computer classes to edit and design art on your computer.(I should listen to my own advise.)


Painting silver, chrome and metallic surfaces: look very closely at the object and paint the color you see don't think you are looking at grey or silver or even gold and it will magically just happen when you stand away from it. no kidding!

A few hints.

1. Use very transparent colors. i use a base mixture of black made with thalo blue, alizarin crimson and winsor or thalo green until its neutral in color. i keep it in a little plastic jar as a thick liquid.

2. Harmonize it with the colors you are currently using. When i go to use it, i pour a little in the middle of my palette and add spots of whatever paint i am using on my painting at the time placed in the corners, i then i look carefully at the colors i am trying to reproduce and push that black toward one of the colors in the corner.

3. Pay close attention to its value, lightness or darkness in comparison to the values next to it.

4. Hard edges painted on hard press, DRY paper give the most degree of "metallic", but they still work on cold press.

5. To get non shiny metal, paint soft edges into prewetted areas.

6. Metal reflects what is around it, so if it is outside, the colors on top of the metal are generally blue reflecting the sky, if someone or something is standing next to the metal, its color will be reflected and its shape will be distorted.

7. Carefull observation is the key. its magic and just happens...and you sit back and say......ahhhh.... how did i do that? and can i make it happen again?



Some have asked what signature membership is.    It is rather hard to define, but my interpretation of it is that an artist should have a consistent body of work that fits together as a unit and is easily recognizable without looking for the artists signature.  For example if I say Van Gogh…..many similar images of his work would conjure in your head.  If I showed you 3 different paintings  could you pick out the Van Gogh?  Yes, if you are familiar with his “signature” or style of painting.  So if someone familiar with your “style” and/or color palette, who has never seen a particular piece of your art,  walked into a gallery, they would be able to select the piece that you painted based on what they have seen you paint in the past.  To obtain a signature membership in a national watercolor society, usually requires that you get an art piece selected in 3 annual shows.  If you get one painting accepted into The National Watercolor Society (housed in California), they ask you to send 3 more of your paintings matted and plastic wrapped to be reviewed by the judges.  If the judges feel that you have quality, control and a consistent style, they will grant you signature membership.  So as long as I am a member in good standing and pay my dues each year, I can place their initials after my name.  After accepting the honor,  my signature status would read, Janet Mach Dutton. NWS (national watercolor society), FWS (Florida watercolor society), and SW (southwest watercolor society).  I have written numerous people, but have not yet been able to ascertain the order in which these signatures should be placed.  If you know…please contact me so that I will know.  The other question is HOW do I list my MA  Masters of Art Education?

September, 2008


The National Watercolor Association accepted "Color a ...Parrot"

to be exhibited at their 88th Annual National Exhibition, Riverside California.

(It was Awarded the Philidelphia Watercolor Society Distinction

and selected for travel during 2009.)


Here I am, Janet Mach Dutton, (middle row, third from the left) from Cape Coral, Fl.

Sue Pink (bottom row, second from left) from Ft. Myers Beach, Florida

Lynne Kroll (pictured to the left of me in the middle row), Florida

Susan Hanssen ( top row second from the left), Florida

attend the 88th National Annual Exhibition Awards assembly in Riverside, California.


We were all awarded our NWS, signature member status.

Sue's painting was used on the national postcard invitation, and

I received the Philadelphia Watercolor Society Award for my "Color a...Parrot".

It will remain on exhibit in Riverside, California through Nov. 1, 2008


.These are the 3 paintings I submitted to apply for Signature Status:




Here is the information I gave the NWS about my "Color a ...Parrot" painting:


The concept behind the painting:

In 2005, Janet met a poet, Brenda Goodwin, who dressed as a green crayon to motivate kids to speak. Seeing the “live” crayon interacting with the children, Janet remembered her own childhood and   the countless hours she had spent coloring pictures.  At that instant, she knew that “crayons” would be the beginning of a new series of paintings. Crayons could connect her with her childhood and let her comment on her place in time and history. In the first crayon painting a box of new crayons was placed on top of the coloring book outline of a tiger. In the second and third paintings, Janet used a green turtle, and then a red-eyed tree frog. “Color a…Parrot” was the fourth of eight paintings that evolved from the first inspiration.  In this painting she, for the first time, takes the photograph of the animal outside the borders of the photograph making it an animate living entity.  Unfortunately, by facing the reality of coming out of the photograph, the parrot on the left can no longer be the mate of the naïve love-struck two dimensional parrot on the right.  All is not lost; however, the painting of the parrot has not been completed. Would you finish coloring the parrot, or leave it like it is? What would happen if you left it like it is, and what would the statement be if you finished it? 


Materials, techniques, inherent qualities that interested and challenged her:


Starting with a photograph of a parrot, an outline of another parrot, and a box of crayons, Janet photographed multiple still life compositions. After finding one that suited her purpose, she transferred the image onto 140 pound Arches watercolor paper. Using a drawing gum resist (pebeo), areas that she wanted to retain white were covered . Initially she wanted to use crayons to color the animals in the series, but opted not to create “mixed media” paintings in favor of taking the challenge of making transparent watercolor look like the objects it was depicting.  She wants you to feel the innate quality of waxy crayons that look real enough to make you think you could take one out of the painting.  Next she proceeded to layer Windsor-Newton, transparent watercolor pigments using round brushes onto the paper.  To achieve the flatness of the colored image, she tried to use only one layer of a premixed paint.  In areas where she wanted items to appear three dimensional, she applied many thin layers of paint onto pre-wetted or dry areas (depending on the reflective surface desired). Hard edges are used when you need a glassy reflection, soft edges for matted reflective surfaces.

Janet invites the viewer to sense, identify or “get the message” she is making through her images. Her interest and challenge is the magical ability to make two dimensional images on two dimensional paper suddenly seem real and even sometimes alive. Within the same composition, Janet has used two and three dimensional images, cartoons, photographs, inanimate and live images to make a statement, recall a memory, evoke an emotion, share a concept, or change the viewers perception of what he/ she thinks they have observed, taken for granted  but not really seen.    Do you think she has succeeded?


Below are the visual steps of the painting.



1. I printed out a photograph that i took of two parrots, tore it in half, traced one half and taped them both on a drawing board. After taking many digital photographs, i decided on this composition. Before going further, i had to fix the concept in my head so i would be headed in the right direction when painting.

2. I transferred the cartoon on to watercolor paper, used pebeo drawing fluid to mask out my white areas and started on my first layers.

3. after another days work, the form of the parrot started to emerge.



4. I started washing the colors of the right parrot.

5. adding the lines which would help him look 2 dimensional as the coloring book.

6. I rubbed off the masking fluid and put

many more layers on both the left "real" parrot emerging from the photograph on the left.



7.After many more layers of paint, i didnt like the "real" birds shoulder and it was becoming too dark. So i masked out the areas i didnt want to damage, took the painting to the kitchen sink and washed off much of the color.

8. After the painting dried, i ironed it to make it flat again and started reforming the birds. Still not liking the darkness of the beak (toooverbearing)

9. I made the painting lighter again,changing the pupil of the real parrot. The final painting is shown at the top.




In competition  your paintings will be judged on emotional impact, strong graphic design/competition;

Original quirk different perspective/broken rules that work. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT.

Craftsmanship and technique



  1. Direct the eye:  diagonals, vanishing point, center of interest.  Center of interest should be detailed, bright, focused, warm and contrasting. Find the sweet spot and focus the spot.
  2. Plan for white spaces
  3. Simplify backgrounds. Have a sense of space, foreground, mid and backgrounds
  4. All spaces should be 1/3---2/3. no halfsies
  5. All 4 corners should be different
  6. Don’t cut off 4 sides of a subject or make it too closely cramped in a box.
  7. Place nothing dead center
  8. Decide on a limited color scheme
  9. Use a variety of shapes, no doubles. Use complicated shapes.
  10. Landscapes should include figures, birds, houses or something for a focal point
  11. Break up lines, let eyes put them together
  12. Make a strong value and contrast sketch
  13. Break each shape into thirds, cool to warm from light source
  14. Designate a light source
  15. Look closely at color, especially in reflected and cast shadows.
  16. Create black and white value patterns using interesting negative spaces
  17. Bounce light throughout the painting
  18. Put color or variety in all windows.
  19. Stay away from, same, same, same
  20. Balance the color throughout the composition
  21. Never cut off a figure at a joint, knee, neck, etc.
  22. The same value of a color should never be used in foreground, midiron and background.
  23. Make sure you have a resting place.
  24. Try to get clear beautiful darks and grays.  Don’t use complements because they go neutral.


I take a colored digital picture of my final painting, number it and place it in a yearly file.

When I have accumulated 3-6 paintings.  I click on the photos I want to print while holding down the ctrl button then click on :  FILE: PRINT and it takes me to my PRO PRINT Wizard. I select the format that prints 9 wallet sized prints click PRINT.  When dry I cut them apart.

On the back of each one:  I write in:  it’s sequential number, year ,title, and image size.

When selected for each show, I write in the month, date, place, judge, acceptance/ rejection/award/$.

I place all the new paintings in a pile and rubber band them together.

Here is what the back of my clockworks picture looks like.  After winning the FMBAA show I noted in the corner that it could not be shown locally again except with State Open exhibitions.


In the meantime: I gather a bunch of colored index cards:

White are for members shows

Yellow are for OPEN or SW Council shows.

Pink are for OPEN STATE shows

Green are for OPEN STATE shows requiring slide or digital entries

Blue are for OPEN NATIONAL or REGIONAL shows

Purple are for  SOLO or GROUP personal  exhibitions

Next, sometime around September,  I start  looking for planned seasonal shows: I find the information either on the website, distributed in local galleries, by word of mouth, mail forthcoming to me…etc.

As I find information about each show, I record that information on a specific colored card in a specific order on the card and file it by the date on the left hand corner.  When it comes to the top of my pile to send an entry to it,  I grab my picture cards, page through them and decide which one or two if possible I can submit.  Lets say I pick clockworks as it is still eligible.  I physically take the clockworks card and paper clip it to the TWSA card, leaving the slide date showing.  Once the slide is sent, I X out the slide due date and re file the index card under Feb.. 21.  when I get notification, I either write rejection on both the index card and picture card, returning the painting to the contest pile, and the index card to reject pile.  If it is accepted, the painting that has not been selected returns to the exhibition pile, but the clockworks remains on the index card, notification date Xed out, and the receiving date exposed….and refilled to the end of april to be fed-ex ed . After it is shipped, I cross out the shipped date, expose the reception date, and or the date that it will be picked up or shipped back to me.

Note if you begin to ship paintings call fed ex or ups and create a business account that you can access on line.  You need to be able to print out address and  return labels at your home to be attached to your painting.   ULINE.com has art boxes comparable to other companies at a lesser cost. Ask for a members discount if you are a member of a national organization!

With this system, I just keep rotating my index cards, reshuffling my paintings to wherever they are going without making the mistake of entering them into two contests at the same time.  If I see that 3 or 4 cards come to the top during the same week, I play whatever painting I think best into the highest competition.  

As picture cards are sold, get too old to compete, given away as gifts, put under the bed etc. they are all bundled up and rubber banded and placed somewhere.  If I cant find a painting in my house, it doesn’t take long to locate it somewhere else, like perhaps in the back closet at the Wild child gallery, or locked in Claudia Goode’s law office.

I do keep an excel sheet on these shows as a master, but the dates move around so much, it isn’t really filled in until after the season is over.

Air Travel with Art Supplies

I am no longer able to carry on or gate check a portfolio at the airport unless it is small enough to go through the initial scanning machine, and i don't want to check my portfolio as a piece of extra baggage and pay extra for it. So, i bought a suitcase that is a bit over 24" in length. My husband orders 24" printing paper that comes on a sturdy cardboard roll placed inside a good box. When he finishes with those rolls and boxes, i quickly steal them away to use for shipping full sized (22x30) unmatted giclees or to transport my own paper in them tucked away with all the other stuff that i can cram into a suitcase and have it weigh less than 40 lbs. I find the easiest way to do this is to make a pile of all the full watercolor sheets, 140 and 300 lb papers that i think i will be needing during my stay away from home.

i start with one piece of the140 lb paper and begin to roll it onto the large cardboard print roll 3.25" in diameter. When i get 2/3 of it wrapped, i pull the second sheet over the top of my first sheet and continue rolling. When 2/3 of the second sheet is on the roll, i pull over the third sheet placing it on top of my second sheet and continue rolling. I repeat these steps until i get to the last sheet of my 140 lb paper and then continue by adding the 300 lb paper the same way until I reach the last piece. I then, take one of the plastic bags that the paper had originally came it and insert and roll it onto the roll. when i get to the end of the plastic, i place a piece of tape on it to hold it together as i immediately place it into the 6" square box (the plastic protects and helps it slide easily into the box). Upon my return, i repeat the same process putting all the finished paintings on the roll last before the plastic roll up. When i went to Hawaii for 3 months, i was able to take a total of 20 or so pieces of paper in this manner. Unfortunately i only completed 8 paintings, and brought back allot of unused paper. If i have sheets that are not full sheets, i add them to the roll before the plastic with the smallest sheets last. After the roll is in the box, i have inside the 3" roll to put in large sheets of newsprint, drawing paper, tracing paper, transfer paper. When unrolled, they take a little longer to flatten out, but that is not of any consequence.

1st photo shows empty roll in box. You might ask a printmaker in the area for his discarded boxes and rolls. 2nd photo shows the epson 24" box that i use. In the 3rd photo you can see the cardboard roll with the sheets of paper wrapped around it with the plastic outer covering. I have not yet placed my newsprint, tracing or transfer paper in the middle of the tube. I also in the center compartment, place straight edges that i don't want bent.

Should you want to carry this aboard instead of another item, I recommend that you make a duct tape handle for easier transition. I think my total package weighed close to 15 lbs before i closed it up and packed it in my luggage. Be careful not to pack anything like liquid or tubes of paint that security might conviscate.



Organizations listed in green are national or regionally oriented:


American Watercolor Society. NY. AWS     www.americanwatercolorsociety.com

Arizona Watercolor Association: AWA www.azwatercolor.com

Georgia Watercolor Society; GWS    www.georgiawatercolorsociety.com

National League of American Pen Women; NLAPW   www.americanpenwomen.org

National Watercolor Society, Ca; NWS     www.nationalwatercolorsociety.org

Paint America www.paintamerica.com

Painters Key      www.artists.robertgenn.com

Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild; SAWG www.southernazwatercolorguild.com

Southern Watercolor Association: SW       www.southernwatercolorsociety.org/index.html

Stumble Upon     www.stumbleupon.com

Tallahassee Watercolor Society, Fl; TaWS   www.tallahasseewatercolorsociety.com

Texas Watercolor Society www.texaswatercolorsociety.net

Transparent Watercolor Society; TWS www.watercolors.org

Visual Arts Center, Punta Gorda, Fl; VAC  www.visualartscenter.com

Watercolor USA Honor Society, Mo. WHS;     www.watercolorusa.org/about_whs.html

Watercolor West; WW    www.watercolor-online.com/WatercolorWest


Step by step visual examples of "Mirror the Southwest"


Accepted into the Arizona Aqueous National Exhibit, Tubec, Az. Feb. 2009





In 2007 I started this painting: "Mirror the Southwest". 22x30 image. While browsing

stores in New Mexico, I noticed the variety of mirrors they had for sale. When I

took a closer look, I was intrigued by the images they reflected back to me.

Declaring it finished, I put it away, but was never happy with the end results, so i

brought it back out in April 2008, and superimposed a Georgia O'Keefe skull over

the front mirror to give the composition a an aura of mystery and a soul.







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