Tag: background



Love. 4 letters.

lovely white spring blossoms, macro photo, debiriley.com
Love. reaches out


I’ll save my “art basics and techniques, my painting Recipes”  for another day…..

These reached out and spoke to my heart.



I love their simplicity of beauty and gentle lovely peacefulness.  I love them.


Love.   4 letters.




Zen In The Garden

Zen In The Garden

Gardens, such  lovely retreats.  With snippets of shy fronds peering out amidst the green fresh oasis.  Relaxing and serene.  In the zen like stillness there is action and movement, if I look. In the garden’s serenity,  I find my artistic energies refuelled.

zen garden tropical retreat, foliage greens, calm, debi riley art, debiriley.com
Zen Garden


Creating Art From the Garden


Zen In The Garden …  my creative art endeavour for today is this post.

It counts as art.

It is creative.


Many times,  students do not have time during the week to paint. To practice in the ‘normal’ way. i.e.   getting the paints out.     


  • But,  we can still practice art!
  • We can still create art, in many ways.
  • Just looking and observing, is studying.  Yes,  you are studying art!
  • Looking for a focal point, or for tonal contrasts, etc.  It counts as practice.
  • These acts,  accumulate knowledge within, and will be released when you do get to paint.



Liberal, Relaxed Ideas

By now,  many of you probably know how broad and liberal I am with my art terms, ideas and phrases.

Some of my students in class have a laugh now, when I mention ‘landscapes.’

I raise my brows, as I say,  “If you can see it outside,  go right ahead and paint it.  I consider it Part of The Landscape!”   So whether it is a person’s face, a waterfall, a window, a wild wave crashing, a patio garden… go for it.



Technically….. that’s not quite spot on.

But, who likes rules all the time?




As the well known artist,  Tony Smibert says,

“There are no rules,  just consequences.”


I love that,   don’t you?!!



Zen Garden  Photograph

When I look at this photo, I become immersed in these lovely tranquil greens. Its another world.


I look into the scene and study it for lights and shadows.  I can count about 10 various tonal ranges of greens in the photograph;  this is a helpful thing to do if I was to use this as a reference to paint from.

We need plenty of tones to make a painting successful.


I also can see many, many  versions of greens.  We need 5-7 versions of green at a minimum,  for the optimum success of a painting in greens.


If using watercolors  then perhaps I might use Perylene green for the deep near black greens I see.


Zoisite green, would be perfect for the greyed greens that are in the back and middle ground.   A nice winsor lemon py175 mixed with a tiny bit of prussian blue pb27  would be brilliant for the fresh, light, bright foliage in the front.




Color Burst Watercolor


easy watercolor flowers, mixing green foliage leaves, simple watercolor paintings, debi riley art
Watercolor Garden Sunburst colorburst 




Color Burst Watercolor


  • Cool and Refreshing, like a lemon twist on a hot day!
  • Tons of sparkle created by liberally leaving lots of Whites on the Paper.
  • A limited palette helps: cobalt teal blue, serpentine, winsor lemon.
  • Clarity of tonal values: Light, Mid and Dark provide visual interest
  • Leaf like and Petal like brush strokes draw the viewer in




Zen Serenity  in the Gardens



zen garden, calm peaceful greens, debi riley art, Perth flower, debiriley.com
Serenity in the Gardens


So soft. So tranquil.

The background in the garden is everything in this photograph.

The soft edges and tonal ranges all unite to gently, bring your eye to the tiny star flower in the foreground.



Summary Points  


  • Many studies have shown, that Creativity and a Relaxed mind are linked together.
  • Gardens are a perfect place to retreat to for some zen relaxation.
  • Time Poor, no Time to Paint?  I can still Create!   Just in a different format.
  • Ideas and Imagination, are a valid creative art form
  • Tony Smibert has brilliant ideas and artwork



Zen in the Gardens photograph has a delicacy and sensitivity, a story telling quality to it that I find quite enchanting.

If, the photo had been a riot of all colors…. this quality would not have emerged.  The near monochromatic nature of the photo enhanced the image’s content.



Further Posts you may be interested in

Tony Smibert 





Snippets of Vibrant- Teals and Lilacs

Snippets of Vibrant- Teals and Lilacs

A much needed rest day today was a lucky happenstance.


cobalt teal blue, lilac, violet purple, soft background, mixed media, digital art, debiriley.com
Snippets of Vibrant


Fun Art and Digital Painting

A combination of lovely lilac watercolor backgrounds,  snippets of vibrant teal foliage from around the gardens,  collaging,  and some digital change ups and cropping.


Watercolor Backgrounds

I enjoyed having a play with the soft focus watercolor backgrounds. Then, overlaying on top some  vibrant teal foliage shapes.  Creating nice patterns and great negative spaces.


The process of the piece involved viewing my blog, actually.

Starting off by looking at the post Vibrant Violet which then prompted me to also look at Simply,   with its 2 photos there especially the pairing of lilac purple violet with the teal and Whispers On The Wind.


Color Snippet Pairings

I was quite drawn today to the color pairing of Teal with Violet- Lilac today.

Perhaps,  my sheer exhaustion from yesterday’s marathon at the zoo all day long,  might have had a part to play with my color choices.

At any rate,  The colors and patterns are vibrant where I wished and nicely soft focus in the back. Happy enough.





Forest Landscape With Palette Knife

Forest Landscape With Palette Knife

Filtered light dappled the wonderful trees and foliage. The sun playing hide and seek behind clouds in the afternoon gave glimpses first of bright light and then sudden chilly shadows.

forest landscape acrylic painting with a palette knife, debiriley.com
Forest Landscape Painting



Our spur of the moment trip to the Valley of the Giants, Western Australia  has given me some lovely memories of the high canopy tree top walk. Of course,  I did take just a ‘few photo’  as well.


Creating  the Painting

I wanted to use an existing paper, so that there was a hint of background  there already.

After searching my studio, I found an old 8×10 inch watercolor painting that was just right. Then rinsed most of the paint off.  What paint that was left, became my background for the new painting.


I then painted the trees in acrylics with a palette knife.

It certainly is one way to remember our 900 kilometres in 24 hours trip.

forest landscape, acrylics knife, debiriley.com
Forest Painting “Detail’


Doorway Amidst Cobalt: symbolism

Doorway Amidst Cobalt: symbolism

In the leafy inner city suburb of Balmain, Australia the rich textures and patterns form a visual color field to rival Rothko, Turner, O’Keefe. I’m in artist’s heaven.  On a time clock, but even so,   oh my, its delightful!

solid timber Doorway, Balmain NSW Australia, buildings, debiriley.com
Doorway of Balmain

Doorway Amidst a Field of Cobalt in  Balmain, NSW


This door is all about Solidity.

Barred, locked, shut. A  barrier.  And gives rise to us wondering, “What lies within? What treasures are hidden  away?”

Sometimes –  the shut and locked, the closed,   can provoke more interest than what is left in plain view.

Mystery will nearly always intrigue us.  Engage us.  Draw us closer.

I think about that element when I am painting.


These solid heavy timber doors stand guard amidst a stunning Mediterranean cobalt blue; the weathered and battle scarred wood is as thought provoking as the fact the doors are locked.



This image is rife with symbolism.


Doors, open and shut;  the colors blue and golden orange;  solid heavy implacable timber; scarred and marked wood –  each has its own symbolism for us.

Mystery abounds and takes us on a magical journey.  Filled with celestial cobalt blue and its complement of sienna orange – a perfect pairing of Sky and Earth.

I think about complementary pairings when I am painting.

I think about the meanings of my objects, also when I am painting.



Doorway Location

I took the photograph in the inner city Sydney suburb of Balmain,  an area rich with old colonial era homes.

The architecture and details on some of these heritage buildings were amazing. This doorway was taken on the fly, walking to grab an early morning coffee.

Next time….. I must stay longer and really go on some proper Sydney wide photography ventures! There is so much more.




Watercolour Landscape in Blue and Orange

Watercolour Landscape in Blue and Orange

DRAMA in the Outback. The dark blue of an impending storm creates a sense of unease as we are led from the dry arid land in the foreground straight into the path of the coming storm.

watercolour landscape using blue and orange, debiriley.com
Dry Lands watercolour landscape


Watercolour Landscape using Opposites

This little impressionist landscape was inspired by the harsh condition of the Australian Outback.

I chose blue and orange, a complementary  pair (opposites) to dominate the scene.  Its the perfect choice for the rough and dry landscapes of the outback.


Creative and Artistic Freedom

The scene was a combination of various factors and sources.  Based on my frequent outback adventures, my numerous bush walks, my ‘plump’ photograph reference library  and my feeling for the land.

With these and a brush in hand, I was ready!

My impression of the subject and interpretation, remains for me a primary objective. I just love loose watercolour landscapes that express the artist’s authentic feeling for that place.

Indeed,  I think I can sense a little Fred Williams and John Olsen trying to escape from within. These artists are such great inspirations.


Specific Paints Used

Burnt Sienna PBr7, Permanent Rose Pv19, Winsor Lemon Py175,  Cerulean BluePb35, French Ultramarine and Prussian Blue Pb27.

By using these,  I was fairly sure I would not have any mud problems.   For ‘mud’ information and several ways how to avoid it, see the post linked on mud.


I mixed the Ultramarine, Cerulean, Prussian to create the stormy sky colour.

I used cerulean with a dash of ultramarine blue pb29 for the foreground sage like shrubbery.

The landscape’s foreground mix was burnt sienna, permanent rose, winsor lemon; cooled off at the back with cerulean + water.

I’d created my Orange: mainly the rose and yellow, but a dash of burnt sienna right in the front.    I needed correct Aerial Perspective,  warm colours in the foreground and cooler colours into the background.    And this is where blue and orange paint mixes come into play – orange in front, blue behind. Perfect.


Techniques used in the Watercolour Landscape

The watercolour landscape’s foreground was a variegated wash.  The shrubbery foliage was splatter technique using an old toothbrush.  The sky was a flat wash.   Basically,  3 steps.

But,  timing, as you know – is critical.   A little like Goldilocks is our watercolours.  It can’t be too wet, nor too dry. It has to be “just right.”



The Blue and Orange painting finished

I finished up with this one I liked.  Of course,  I hid the others that didn’t work out so well.   I’m not alone in this habit, I’m sure of it!

Overall,  the deep blue of the ultramarine mix and the orange mix marry well together and give it a vibrancy and impact that a more subtle choice wouldn’t have carried off.

Keeping the  watercolour landscape loose provides relief for the eyes, as the drama of that deep dark intense blue is almost…too jarring, too dramatic.

As I intended.  Storm’s comin’



Judicious  Texture II 2015

Judicious Texture II 2015

Where does texture and detail belong?   When to stop painting!?  How to avoid fiddling?  It is a matter of simply reminding yourself as you are painting, there are 3 main areas to your composition. Background, Middleground and Foreground.

watercolour textures, landscape, debiriley.com
Salt Pan Lake landscape watercolours debiriley.com

3 Main Textural Areas:  Background, Middleground, Foreground


Each of these areas is to be handled differently in order to achieve to best illusion of depth and perspective. You want to handle the textural effects judiciously. You’re after a nice smooth, seamless, transition. A gliding walk through the painting rather than a stilted jumpy-bumpy, stop and go ride.

That is the goal, anyway!


Backgrounds in a painting

Backgrounds usually, need to be handled thoughtfully, so that their textures are the calmest and least ‘busy.’

This means with very little variations, textures, contrasts, etc.  They need to be kept more on the  quiet and subtle side. This can be done with flat washes or even soft graded washes.  Wet into wet will work if they are done with cooler, calmer, not bright colours.

Middlegrounds will be just a bit more detailed,  a little more of the textural effects and contrasts.

Watercolours Wild Floral fast and loose painting debiriley.com
Watercolour Wild Floral fast and loose! debiriley.com

Foregrounds:   Will have More Contrast.  More Detail.

Foregrounds (generally speaking)  are much more textured, brighter coloured, warmer colours, deeper darks, much sharper edges,  i.e. “louder.”

The above painting, Watercolour Wild Floral fast and loose!   is a good sample of the foreground grabbing the attention with its sharp edges, brightness and contrasting textures.

These textures grab your attention more than the background… as they should, usually. There are exceptions,  depending on where the artist/creator intends the viewers’ eyes to go.

The star of the show, the focal point,  will of course, have the most texture and detail and contrast of the entire painting,  this is in order for it to be the clear and evident Star.


In the below image, you can see how the background area is diffused with less detail, whereas the foreground has more texture, detail, sharper edges and contrast.   This is the theory, the plan of what you’d normally want to do in your paintings to create improved depth through the Judicious use of Textures. 

textural techniques, splatter wet/dry debiriley.com
splatter wet/dry debiriley.com



This image below, may be just a bit trickier.

In the photo below, if you look closely you will see the 3 divisions – far background,  the mid ground and  the foreground.

These areas are relatively clear and do follow the guidelines of softer calmer textures in the back. The edges are sharper in front with nice crisp textures and detailing along the paper’s front edge in foreground.

division of space debiriley.com
Divisions of Space debiriley.com


Ways to avoid the Curse of Fiddling

Sometimes,   restraint is challenging when you are having so much fun playing with all the colours, textures and techniques.

But, Restraint – is exactly what we need in order to obtain what we desire.  Improved paintings.  Paintings we ourselves are pleased with.

Judicious use of texture and detail will go a long way to help you create the illusion of depth and perspective you’re aiming for.

Perhaps  reminding yourself of 3, 5, 7  ‘rule’  ………   could be a method to help you stop fiddling.

Deliberately count 3 strokes of that fun textural effect, stop.  Do 2 more if needed. Stop.  and repeat.  Less is more.

Also I find by having 2-3+ papers/canvas  right in front of me “Waiting” to be Painted!  Helps me avoid fiddling and overworking just the one painting.

Counting and setting timers, seem to assist in curbing this Un-helpful habit that ruins my paintings.

Image Below, Watercolour with a Twist,  has lovely soft near flatness of texture in the background.  The middle ground gets progressively more textured.  And the foreground is  grooved and sculpted with heaps a gorgeous textural effects from the moulding paste I’d used.

watercolour with a twist debiriley.com
Watercolour with a Twist debiriley.com
  • mentally divide painting into the 3 areas back, mid, foreground
  • remind yourself often, of the 3 areas, while you are painting
  • befriend the word,  ‘Restraint’
  • make sure you have just one, lone Star of the show
  • judiciously  count  3, 5, 7   to prevent over doing it
  • These suggestions work for most general types of painting, there are some styles,  illustrative, graphic design, zentangles, etc.  that will naturally follow their own flow.




This is an overhauled,  updated version of my Dec. 3,  2014 post.

I felt the subjects of texture, backgrounds, restraint and fiddling to be well worth reposting. With  some serious revisions and additions to the original post, here it is.  Enjoy!