Watercolor. At its finest.

Want/need a book for inspiration?  To see how its done?!

Margaret Coen,  watercolor diva extraordinaire and master of the medium.  Who can resist her wonderful brush with the outback bush? Or her scrumptious florals?  Not I.

Margaret Coen, Sydney artist, watercolors, debiriley.com
Margaret Coen, Sydney artist


The Diva of Watercolor

Margaret Coen.  1909 – 1993


Margaret Coen often painted the St. Ives bushland, with its glorious colored trees and wild masses of  tangled undergrowth.

The forest painting above,  yes,  thats what its like. She conveyed the atmosphere brilliantly. I felt like I was back in Sydney.


Margaret’s ability to share her  walks with nature, her personal intimate adventures in the bush lands….. captivates.


  • She painted with openness, vulnerable, sensitivity and  From the heart.
  • Margaret, was less concerned about precision of exact details than expressing a feeling.
  • Rendering a replication,  wasn’t really her cup of tea…..
  • But rather,    to communicate a feeling of Joy and Peace, that certainly was.
  • To Express and evoke an emotional  response was.
  • Margaret’s paintings still connect with us
  • and shares the spirit of the bushland, in her irresistible  watercolors.




My brief analysis of Coen’s  painting


Tonal Values – Brilliant Use of tonal ranges!   clear evident Light Mid Dark tones

  • [This painting, could well be studied for quite some time, to learn from.]
  • Ratio of light tones to dark and mid tones is excellent.
  • The overall body of the work is a lighter Mid tone register, which work Fantastic with the ultra Dark Controlling Tone.
  • The master, the controller, the dominating force is the deep Dark.
  • This DARK tone,  Controls the painting.
  • It is the ‘conductor.’   The others are required, but know their place.



Color Palette –  cool is dominant  and in control  

  •   With a lovely use of complementary blue and orange (sienna.)  


Focal  Point  –  There is one.

  • Focal Point is clear, there is just 1, not several scattered all over.
  • Focal Point isn’t hard to locate, its not  ‘find Wally’!
  • Focal point, is The area of the whitest white in the entire painting.
  • helpful ‘lead in’  shape (dark branch on left)  used to guide viewer in
  • the other 3 trees guide the eye in to the focal point as well



Conveys the Spirit  –  the Magic of Spirit and Feeling  are expressed

Spirit and feeling are nearly impossible to express with tight, rigidity, tense, concerned lines of detail and accessorising.


  • Wet in wet technique background creates depth and hints of mystery.
  • There are cauliflowers, splotches, drips, spots, tangles, etc….
  • With NO    ‘going back in to tidy up.’
  • The Diva of Watercolor was smart,  clever enough to know just leave it alone.
  • She had overcome and won the battle within,
  • and thus,  was able to obtain a more evocative painting.
  • paintings of spirit and feeling,  have power and impact!



Gosh!   HOW  did Margaret manage that?!

I think…. she must have spent a fair amount of time in,  and with,  her beloved subject’s company!!

I just haven’t seen that depth,  of emotion/feeling conveyed,  unless the artist is on a ‘first name basis’  with the subject.




Irresistible Nature Parks


I became well acquainted with (Margaret’s)  beloved park land area when I first moved to Sydney.


Every day, I needed to take my exuberant girl, Laura out to burn off her doggy steam. Highly active, very intelligent, with more energy than any 10 dogs put together.

She needed a lot of marathon style, vigorous hiking.

90 minutes of hiking hills and dales,  streams and ponds, provides ample time for many things.

I soon became  quite familiar with the magnificence of the bush. The leaves, the bark types, the soil variations, all the flowers in the park – in each season. Sometimes, I’d sit and do some quick watercolor studies!

This bushland…..brings a smile still.


Lovely, soft and peaceful. Every day a walk in the nature reserves.





Irresistible Books

I couldn’t resist the book  her daughter has written.

Filled,   with so many of Margaret’s stunning artworks.

Though I bought it some time ago, it remains an irresistible favorite.


Margaret Coen, a passion for painting, favorite art books, debiriley.com
Book Margaret Coen, a passion for painting


Her book

Margaret Coen:  A Passion for Painting,   by Meg Stewart   ISBN10    073106609X




Some of my other book treasures on display:

best art books, Margaret Coen, Edward Seago, watercolor masters, debi riley
Best Art Books, debiriley.com


(Margaret Coen)    Edward Seago,    Hilary Page – guide to watercolor paints, Realistic Abstracts – Kees van Aaist,  Raw Color with Pastels – Mark Leach




Now,  I could say……

‘I wish I could paint just like the watercolor Diva,  Margaret Coen.’  


But,   thats not the authentic artist me.


I do want to paint the best, that I possibly can.

To steal a line…..

to   “Be All You Can BE.”