Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Her Garden

Her Garden
Size: 10.25x15 inches
Medium: Watercolors
Detail views -here-
Prints -here-

---From Hans Christian Andersen: The Little Mermaid:
"She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds."

* * *

Some of the in progress shots:

Client specified she wanted red hair and a green tail. So with that edict in mind, I planned the colors of the background accordingly. The red and green would be very striking, and as they are complimentary colors already, I couldn't just make the background the complimentary color of one or the other as I frequently like to do in order to push a foreground element to the viewer's attention.

Instead I had to pick colors and tones that would really offset both red and green. So I chose to use a pale golden light, with the distant sea arches fading to purples. The starfish were little bits of red to tie that color in throughout the piece. And initially I planned to make the fish bright yellow. But when I got to that point (the 4th in-progress scan you see below) it felt like the starfish weren't enough to offset her red hair, and I needed something else. So they became bright red fish, which nicely pulls the whole composition together.

And if you missed it, the evolution of the sketch is -here-.

I used to be a Winsor & Newton girl for my paints. I've used them for over ten years. But ever since my friend Sophie Klesen gave me a few little sampler containers of Kremer Pigments to try out, I've been in love.

A lot of the colors are non-standard and unique, so I don't use them in my technique books because it would be too complicated for people trying to reproduce the results with the standard array of colors. But for most of my work these days now I'm moving more and more towards exclusively using the Kremer colors.

The amazing thing is how wide an spectrum of tones and shades can be achieved with very few actual distinct colors. I only possess 6 colors - a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. And yet I feel like with those six I have been able to get a much broader array and subtle shifting shades than I could ever achieve with my enormous selection of W&N paints.


  1. Your style lends its self so greatly to fairytale illustration. This peice turned out even prettier than I thought it was going too.
    I can't wait too see what you have to lend to Alice in wonderland, I draw so much of my inspiration for my paintings from you it would be kind of neet to see if I can draw even more for my sewing projects :)

  2. Stephanie,
    Thank you for posting images showing the process of how you layer on the watercolor paints. I've always loved your technique and style, and own several of your prints. In this case, the magic of what you are able to create is not lessened by showing us your hand -- it only increases my admiration and wonder.

  3. You are welcome. It is a pleasure to share the journey as I progress through a piece!

  4. This turned out beautifully! Thank you for sharing. You definitely inspire me to keep painting and just enjoy the flow of it all. :)

  5. Absolutely exquisite. The yellow hues gives the image a restful almost dreamlike quality and the movement and flow of the hair is beautiful. Thanks again for sharing the process. I love it! :)

  6. Beautiful!! I can't stop looking at this...your detailing is amazing! I love the colours and the movement.You inspire me to pick up my watercolors again! Thank you for sharing and job well done!! :)

  7. I really like this one. It seems much more colorful and dynamic than your pieces, which usually end up feeling more subdued and almost monochromatic. Since I'm a color junkie, I appreciate the change for this piece.

    One other thing I noticed about your paintings was that they usually feature rather passive figures: the main focus is almost always someone either sitting or standing in various poses. Your works also usually use a pretty centered composition. While this works for book covers/calendar/card art, I wondered: do you ever think about doing more dynamic or action scenes?

  8. Yes beth, it's just a harder mode for me to get my mind into!

  9. very nicely don, it is a beautiful painting.

  10. I LOVE this one! I had to get a print right away. :) It will look wonderful next to my Sparks print.

    Thanks for finding time to blog with your hands so full of Claire and work.

  11. actually amy, blogging is one of the few things I can do when I've got her in a sling fussing and I'm trying to calm her down. Bouncebouncebounce on the ball while typing. Can't really bounce and paint at the same time. :)