Learning to Paint Watercolor Portraits

The last week in October, I took a wonderful portrait painting class by visiting artist, Jane Paul Angelhart. It was so much fun. I had never tried to paint the likeness of a person in watercolor before and had no idea that I would enjoy doing so.

Jane gave us watercolor paper with sketches printed onto it in a light color. She did demos and talked about what she was doing and then we gave it a try and she walked around and gave us tips. Here are the portraits that I did in the class:

On the last day I started a portrait of my daughter. Below is what I accomplished. I didn't get very far.

The next day, I worked on it a little more. I still had a way to go, but was happy with how it was progressing. I think it captures her likeness and has a freshness.

I haven't had time to paint in the last few weeks. (I was doing jewelry for a craft show.) Today, I finally sat down and worked on this portrait. Here is the finished product.

I learned a lot painting this. First of all, the photo that I used isn't the best. You could not see the eye detail very well and it was extremely difficult to see what was the tip of the nose and what was the shadow. The lighting is not ideal for the method we learned in class. Here is the reference photo:

Secondly, in class, Jane taught to layer many, many washes. She encouraged us to use the class to see how far you can push the layers before you go too far. Parts of this painting fall into that category. I also kept changing the background color and it ended up being a very somber dark color that I didn't think matched the smiling portrait. I ended up scrubbing off a lot of paint and putting a brighter color. It helped a bit, but the paper I was using is not of high quality and was starting to pill everywhere I scrubbed.

I definitely need more practice, but I am enjoying the process!


Goal for 2015: Pen & Ink Plus Watercolor Sketchbook

Yes, it is only mid-November, but I have completed all my major art events for the year, so my thoughts turn to setting goals for the coming year.

Today as I was going through an enormous pile of paper that has been building for the entire year, I ran across a folder of magazine and catalog tear sheets. In the days before Pinterest, I had files and files and files of various things. Now, if I see an article that I want to be able to find again, I find it online and pin it on the proper Pinterest board. This system is not foolproof, but then again, finding anything in my house on a piece of paper when I want/need it isn't either. (I do have a huge fear of Pinterest disappearing overnight, but I digress....)

Anyway, I ran across this:

I wanted to "pin" this adorable drawing on Pinterest, but could not find it online or on Pinterest. While searching for it, I ran across several other well-known artists who do drawings and sketches in ways that I admire and the idea for this post came about.

The sketchbook drawing is from a content page of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion. This magazine ceased publication sometime around 2008. I was a subscriber for many years and always enjoyed the magazine, especially the inside look at one or two artists' studios. My favorites show a spunky side, like these:


Apparently, many people confuse Susan Branch with Mary Engelbreit. My google search turned up a lot of her drawings interspersed with ME's. Though equally sentimental, I've always loved seeing her work. I have several of her little books and cookbooks. My greeting card box has some of her cards in it too. I won't say that I want to draw LIKE her, but she is definitely an inspiration. Here is an example of her work:

I love the narrative quality of her artwork. Images like the one above tell a story.

The idea of learning to do a sketchbook isn't new. For years, I've wanted to take one of Peter Ulrich's sketchbook classes. Here is one of his ink and watercolor sketches:

He teaches at the Art League, but I would really love to do one of his workshop classes. Here is the sample of a previous workshop. I doubt that will happen this year, so if he offers one in town in 2015, I will sign up.

Recently, I began following Brenda Swenson on Facebook. She just returned from Italy. Oh, how I wish I could have done that workshop. Here is one of her sketchbook entries:

Today in my Googling, I also ran across a blog called Idle Minutes by Don West. (Idle Minutes is also on Facebook, btw.) I love his sketches; here's one from last Saturday:

I've added Idle Minutes to my notifications and can't wait to see what is ahead!

Are you inspired to sketch? If so, join me in my big goal is to learn to sketch and paint in my own style, under the influence of all these talented people! For a reluctant "draw-er" like me, this will be a challenge!


Little White Church

This charming church is a historic building on the same grounds as our church, the Annandale United Methodist Church. Both are on Columbia Pike Road, but the "Little White Church," as we call it, is at the end of Gallows Road. It has a long history and from what I've read, several creative and unsubstantiated claims as well.

The original Annandale Methodist Episcopal Church on this site was built in 1846.

During the Civil War, Union Troops used the church grounds as a camp following the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.

During this time, the church services had been moved to a private home. 

Later, in 1863, Army Officers stayed in it for a while before it was dismantled to build winter quarters for Union Troops to overwinter.

The frame and clapboard church seen today was actually built by Thomas Walker, between 1868 and 1870.  The first public school classroom in Annandale was located in the basement of this building in 1880.  In 1907, a belfry, pulpit and vestibule were added at the cost of $50. A year later the Ladies Aid Society donated the bell for the steeple. It can be seen on display along the sidewalk on Columbia Pike. This bell was Annandale's fire alarm. I tolled for the last time on VJ Day. It was removed twelve years later because there were concerns that the weight was too much for the belfry to support it.

On November 8th, come tour the Little White Church and see my watercolor (18" X 24"). I will also have small prints ($15 + tax) for sale at the Annandale United Methodist Craft Bazaar, which would make great gifts for the history lover or Annandale native in your life.


My Month of September Paintings

I was really excited about doing the 30 in 30 challenge in September. I planned ahead and was much more prepared than I had been when I spontaneously committed to the challenge last January. I saw no reason why I would not succeed.

Instead of reading all of my reasons why it didn't work out so well, you could just go read Lillian Connelly's post at It's a Dome Life. She pretty much wrote what I had planned to. I did not fall ill during the challenge, but life definitely got in the way. School begins after Labor Day where I live, so that coupled with EVERY organization that I participate in having meetings, board meetings, etc., etc. AND beginning September 10th my daughter got a part in a musical that rehearses 17 miles from our house (read 45 minutes in DC traffic) and you can see that I needed to have painted far, far ahead to make this work out. I did paint in my car a few nights, but to be honest the novelty of that wore off quickly.

What good things did I learn?

  1. I experimented with some fancy sample watercolors that I had been wanting to try.
  2. I learned that my children may be teenagers, but I am not in a place in my life where I can take "a month off" from my job as COO.
  3. Beating myself up about not completing the challenge is just silly. Leslie said it was supposed to be fun. When it quit being fun, I knew I had to reassess.
  4. I need to paint more often that I have over the summer. The only good thing about super cold weather is fires in the fireplace and the desire to stay inside to paint.

Besides the 30 in 30 challenge, I did paint a large commission painting in September. (Yay me!) I've also done some work on a large piece and some jewelry pieces for a show next month. I had a big clearance sale of some prints too. Sometimes, I just want to do too many things in a finite time period.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the works that I did paint. Thank you to everyone who clicked "like" on my Facebook page and especially to those that clicked "share." The more people who see my work, the more potential there is that someone will fall in love with a piece and make it their own.

Congratulations to Jennifer Cantu who won my contest connected to the challenge. I was not surprised that she was randomly selected as the winner, because she faithfully shared so many of my posts with her friends!  I do not know which painting she will end up choosing, but if you have your eye on one, you better snap it up on my website ASAP!


Jewelry Additions and Presentation

In the last batch of pendants that I created, I used some dichroic glass. This is glass that has metals added. It gives a foil effect. I didn't think I was fond of it, but all of the my favorite new pendants include it, so apparently I am a fan.

I started making these pendants in January or February. I was having fun, but I didn't have a long-term plan to do an entire line of jewelry. Things have kind of snowballed. I have a lot of pendants these days and in several types. I've added a few new ones to Etsy this week, but I will not be adding the entire inventory until after November 8th, when I am doing a show. If you see a pendant in this post that you can't live without, let me know by commenting or by sending me a message. The line of fused glass pendants range in price from $35-$55 depending on the size and kind of glass used. Let me know if you would like a silver snake chain. The chain isn't anything fancy, but it gives you or the recipient a way to wear the pendant immediately.


I try to photograph the pendants on both a black background and I white background. It is astounding how different they look. The pendant pictured above is a periwinkle color, somewhere in between the two photos, but more like the one on the right. All the wire is silver coated copper wire. For some reason it photographs more gold, even with the daylight bulb lighting.


This pendant isn't for sale. I made it as a gift for the owner of the boutique I have jewelry in in Old Town Alexandria (Virginia). If you live near DC or come for a visit, you should visit Local Colour Old Town. It features artwork and crafts produced exclusively by local artisans and artists. You won't be disappointed!

My new cards came in! I ordered them so that I have the option to attach pendants to them if I do not include a chain. Since I am new at this jewelry thing, I want to see what works best for display, transport, etc. These cards are approximately four inches square. These are among the larger pendants that I have made. The majority of them are closer to two inches tall, but the two here on the cards are closer to two and a half.

For my fellow Auburn fans, I did a few orange and blue pendants too. I think I will make some more and add "AU" charms to some of them.


Pretty, Pretty Pendant

Double Blossom
Ink on Shell
1" X 1"

I just love this pendant. It is an example of alcohol ink doing what it does best. I love the pinks, reds and oranges with the contrasting lime green. I set it onto a silver square and added a red bead and a cut crystal bead to finish it off.


Striped Dragonfly

Striped Dragonfly
2" X 2"

This one started so well. I had high hopes. I don't like it. I do, however, like the white over the ink. Even in "failure" you can learn things. I might work on it more going forward. I might not. Happy painting and enjoy your tour!


Single Berry

Single Berry
2" X 2"

This sweet miniature painting depicts an individual blackberry on a colorful abstract background. The third painting in my tiny painting series and an exploration of my new grass effect. A little ink is used to define some edges. I have a crush on the strong coral color, which is new to me. I believe it is quinacridone coral. 


Lovely Lilac

Lovely Lilac
2" X 2"
$45 (includes mat and 5" X 5" frame)

This is the second of my series of mini watercolors. It features a stem of lilac blossoms at peak bloom. It is the second of my luminescent watercolor paintings and started as a doodle. After a few flowers, the idea took shape. I like the flowers, but the grass idea is something I would like to explore to a greater extent. I began painting grass this way last month while working on a commission. (See below)

I'm considering doing a large painting of "just grass." What do you think? Is it worth pursuing? For the time being, I will probably do a 2" X 2" study of grass. Stay tuned!


Teeny paintings and luminescent watercolors

Glitter City
2" x 2"
$45 (includes mat and 5"X 5" frame)

This charming watercolor of an imagined utopia was a joy to paint. It all started because I had some scrap pieces of my super high quality watercolor paper that needed to be put to a good use. Also, last time I ordered watercolor paints, I ordered a sample sheet from Daniel Smith. The luminescent watercolors on the sheet have been taunting me. I was curious. I was afraid to commit. What better way than to give them a try on something that didn't invest a lot of time and material.

The above photo is clear and you get an idea of the subject, but to truly experience the luminescent effects, you MUST click on the video.


For the Love of Fringe!

These painted shell tiles (1" square) were painted a while ago, but the metal squares that I was going to attach them to were missing something. I decided to hammer some wire into swinging metal tassel fringe. The pink one has seven pieces of straight fringe and the yellow one has three pieces of wishbone shaped fringe. I added a large bail at the top.

Each comes with an 18" silver-colored chain. I think they look fun and fresh!


Announcing...Wander Tram Jewelry Designs

So...I've been making and selling several different kinds of jewelry since about February, but in a rather "unofficial" capacity. I've been handling the sales as part of my nmdART business, but sending or giving my artwork business card with the items is awkward because it directs customers to my art website, which doesn't have my jewelry designs on it and the card doesn't have my Etsy shop on it either. Obviously, it is time to get new cards.

I didn't want my cards to say Nancy Murphree Davis Jewelry, so I sat pondering what to call it. My son suggested that I make an anagram of something, which I found an intriguing idea. Wander Tram is a fun name that encompasses all letters of nmdART(wear)! Do you think it is completely random? Here is why I don't think so...One of my favorite quotes is:

"All who wander, are not lost."
                        J.R.R. Tolkien

That is what my jewelry is about...creative wandering. I love making the fused glass pendants. I love painting the domino pendants and the domed glass pieces. It is fun. I hope they make people as happy to wear as they make me while I create them.

I also love the idea of a tram! When do you ride on a tram? 
  1. The airport? That says travel and new places to see and explore! 
  2. From a stadium or amusement park parking lot? That is always exciting!
  3. Downtown? Playing tourist at home or while traveling is one of my favorite pastimes!
I'm currently ramping up for a craft show on Nov. 8th. After that, I will be putting all of my remaining items in my Etsy Shop or taking them to Local Colour Old Town. Here is a sneak peak of some of the items.




Loving Yourself and Loving Your Art

I've been in a bad mood for several days. Why? Because, I have overcommitted my time and the things that are personally important have had to go to make room for the obligations that I knowingly agreed to take on.

This morning, I went to the 30 in 30 Challenge link ups and realized that the Saturday and Sunday "linkz" are now CLOSED. My heart sank. I knew this was possible, even likely, but the reality of it hit home. WHAT AM I DOING? WHY AM I DOING IT?


Falling behind has made me feel inadequate. That is ridiculous.

What HAVE I done while I wasn't painting the last three days?

1. I've taken a day to connect with other women and grow in the Spirit at my church.

2. I worked at a festival to support an art organization and ran into a few friends and sold a couple of pieces of art/jewelry.

3. I've taken my daughter to a tea for her friend's birthday.

4. I've packaged and shipped some online orders.

5. I've done the shopping to ensure that my dogs and children have food.

6. I've sketched several future compositions.

7. I've driven countless miles and listened to a good book, The Invention of Wings.

8. I played with ink on canvas and started some teeny tiny watercolors.

9. Today, I'm going with several good friends to a military spouse event which will be fun, but more importantly, will likely enable me to fully engage in activities in DC in the year to come. (i.e.- INSPIRE ME creatively)

There will be plenty of time to paint (and get my hair cut) in the days to come. I need to enjoy each moment and stop being so hard on myself.

I'm hoping to paint this afternoon. I'm not quitting; I'm just re-starting.


In Maria's Garden

Pink Coneflowers
4" X 6"

My friend Maria is a portrait painter. Early in the summer, my daughter sat for her as a model. I was mesmerized by her lovely flowers by the driveway. So, technically, I provided her inspiration for a painting and she provided mine!


Avian Blues

California Jay
4" X 6"

This was a really beautiful bird. The photo that I got of him was unimpressive. I'm not sure that I did him justice. I think the problem is that when your paper size is 4" X 6," you don't have room to paint the feathers in a convincing way. Here's a detail; it comes across a bit better.

I guess that I can't be pleased with all my results. This one is only okay. I had fun painting it. The next bird that I paint is going to be on a LARGE piece of paper.

Painting in Your Car

Small Pinecone
4" X 6"

If you follow my art page on Facebook, you probably saw the photo of me painting in my car last night. 

On occasion, I have a day so busy that I can't sit still to paint. Yesterday was one of those days. However, my daughter had rehearsal for a little over two hours, so I decided to take my paints and work in the car. The arrival of night was a bit of an issue. I alternated between running the car, leaving the interior light on with the car off, and using my iPhone flashlight. It worked out pretty well. I should probably look for unlocked rooms at the rehearsal space and stake out a desk or table for the future rehearsals this month.

Back to the painting itself... There are certain objects in nature that have always been visually appealing to me. Some of these are acorns, mushrooms, seed pods (including pinecones) and tendrilled vines. Add to this innate attraction, my current love affair with the Daniel Smith Lunar Blue watercolor and you get the above painting. I hope you like it.