Irresistible – Watercolor Diva

Margaret Coen, Sydney artist, watercolors,

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,
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,
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,


(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.”



Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

40 thoughts on “Irresistible – Watercolor Diva

  1. What a lovely post – and I love the lesson in the end- to be the authentic artist “me/you.” It was so wonderful to meet your sweet Laura too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post and so much of it I can comment on, I really liked your observation about Margaret Coen by writing this: “She had overcome and won the battle within” so true! it is a battle to not just learn and control (laughing) watercolor but there is a battle that is settled within at the same time. True! Also, you brought up something that has been re-sounding in me lately. I have been focusing not trying to be like other painters, so when you wrote to paint like Margaret Coen that would not be the authentic artist in you. I agree so much, I see where so many people try to copy or “be just like” a watercolorist or an artist they admire, they don’t realize that these artists are painting what they know, what they have personally experienced. They are painting from within, that is probably why they are so darn good and well-known. This is true especially with plein air painters. I see where people try to emulate plein air artists that they admire right down to copying their style, their approach and even their exact paintings! what? Maybe I am wrong but how am I to expect to understand, let’s say, Sargent’s view over a hundred years ago. That was a whole different world and time, the lighting, the view and air was different. I think we have a lot to learn by analyzing like you did here, this is beneficial. I like your last statement “Be All You Can BE.” bravo! Sorry, didn’t mean to write an essay. I guess I am loving your post. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. well, hallelujah!! and Amen!!
      do us all a massive favor…. PLEASE, retype, paste or copy, and use it as your next POST. I’m so serious.
      every single word. is gold!!
      would you, repost this Margaret – for me? thank you, thank you. if you do!!
      your words
      about Sargent, about plein air, about artists painting what they know…. it just all needs let Out!!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I will and I will elaborate on it, I came to this epiphany while out painting at the river. It was crystal clear, felt like it sunk deep down and ever since it has settled that need and drive to “be like”. Thank you for your comments, here I thought I was being frivolous and pushing my feelings out there….lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. wonderful, there’s so many that might find the info helpful. a light bulb moment! there will be those (I know..) who do not want to change. whose personalities are not such that they wish to express them self. at this time. some are ready. some – aren’t yet. but the message is Beautiful!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks Mary, I’m happy that you liked her style and her work!! I’ve been waiting to do a post on her. I love just looking (drooling) at her book some days.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. you’re so welcome, my pleasure to share wonderful creative artists!
      and, it doesn’t hurt…that they painted the very same parks and bush lands I once did 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Deb. Am really enjoying reading your emails as they come in, or I save them till later to read uninterruped.
    Thanks for the inspiration and motivation to keep on going and to experiment without too much self criticism!
    I have both the books you mention and often refer to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julie, thank you! What a wonderful comment to get from you. I’m glad that you’re finding the articles and the images enjoyable 🙂 If you have Margaret’s book… I’d hazard a guess you’re OZ! Thanks again for your lovely comments. Cheers, Debi


    1. hi John, Thank you for your lovely feedback and great comments! I’m really happy that you enjoyed the work of the wonderful Margaret Coen! 🙂 cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the introduction and the wonderful analysis of why the painting works so well too, Debi. Your dog sure is lovely! Very oddly – I almost bought that Realistic Abstracts book just the other day, wound up with another of her books on textures that my library had. Looks like a good one, glad you like this artist! Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed the water colors from Margaret Coen, specially the one on top, because it has colors that I like and reminds me somehow of Sweden, even though it’s Australia. But of course it’s easier to like something that gives some “food” to my imagination. Thanks for introducing this unknown artist to me. Have a nice weekend, regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the notion of being on ‘first name’ terms with the forest. That perfectly describes how I feel about some of the places in nature where I spend a lot of time. When it comes to the actual paints, I think you’ve gone well beyond being on a first name basis with them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kerry, thank you! I’m kind of laughing at the moment about your paints comment! I think you are right. 🙂
      it is such a wonderful feeling, to get to know… A Place, so well its like a second home!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Jacob, thank you very much. 🙂
      I’m glad you liked Margaret’s stunning work!!! have a lovely weekend, cheers, Debi


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