Tag: tonal values

Impressionist Watercolor Landscape (artistic license)

Impressionist Watercolor Landscape (artistic license)

Its about artistic freedom, artist license.

The joy of expressing in paints, brushstrokes, color, the things you’d like to say with words… but can’t.


artistic license, impressionist watercolor landscape, Daniel Smith watercolors, limited palette, debiriley.com
Artistic License Impressionist Landscape

Communicate Through the Arts



If I was a singer, maybe the words would be clear and perfect.

And elegant, eloquent, full ranged.  Sounding lovely and lyrical.

But then, maybe not.



Bruce Springsteen

” A great singer has to learn how to  Inhabit a song. 

You may not be able to hit all the notes.    That’s OK.

You may not have the clearest Tone.   You may not have the greatest range.

But if, you can Inhabit a song,  you can communicate.”


This is a quote from Springsteen’s December 19, 2016  PBS interview.





As artists, in any profession, in any media….. that, is a very fine goal to take to heart.





(Living, Abiding in the place)


I feel that in this landscape watercolor I do inhabit the painting.

It typifies me.  It is a signature Debi Riley artwork. Unique to me.  Created from my memories.


As I paint, I remember…. the Pages River in Murrurrundi.

The tall vertical poplar trees that dot the area.


I recall, the hill across from the Emirates thoroughbred stud farm, paddocks filled with gleaming broodmares.

The many times I’ve visited there and the soft spot it holds in my heart.



This location means something to me.

This subject –  has meaning.

And so, it is easy for me to inhabit the artwork as I create.



We can All… do this. 

Beginners, yes,  right on to the advanced.

Singers, chefs, writers, composers, painters, whatever.


But,  what we must do, however, is dare to

be our own selves,

to inhabit our songs… our creations.



John Olsen

Fred Williams 

Watercolor Hills 

Watercolor Landscapes and textures in color …. 

Watercolor Skies in Ultramarine, Cobalt Violet

Watercolor Skies in Ultramarine, Cobalt Violet

Wet in wet watercolors. Perfect beginners’ techniques to loosen up!

Let the paints, do their thing.  and You…. Allow,  accidents to happen.



watercolor skies, cobalt violet, wet in wet techniques, luminosity in watercolor landscapes, debiriley.com
watercolor’s horizons


Wet in Wet Technique

WHY I love showing and sharing the Wet in Wet Technique:


  • creates soft beautiful edges
  • its great for Depth, and backgrounds
  • helps to teach us about tonal values
  • we learn about color mixing, mud avoidance
  • helps us to loosen up, to lose the tight rigidity
  • fabulous process for creating a series of skies



Materials Used



Ultramarine Blue

2  Cobalt Violet

Both belong to the Granulating Category; creating sensational moody, atmospheric textures with their dense particles sinking into the deep hollows of the paper fabric.

By holding back, limiting my palette to two colors, I can be more confident that I won’t get mud.

That I will successfully get better tonal value ranges.

That the overall unity will be Great!



Arches Rough 100% cotton rag watercolor paper

Please note, this paper was  ‘pre-used.’

I’d previously painted on it.  However,  I didn’t care for it and so rinsed it off until nearly all color was gone.

You will still see remnants.

Ghost marks upon the page… I don’t mind these so called imperfections. 




Rekab #2 320s  squirrel mop brush



I chose Cobalt Violet to complement Ultramarine. It would soften the sky,  the cloud shadows.

It would create a sense of mood and atmosphere into the water to deepen the feeling of the painting.

It would help me, to communicate … More.


I paid particular attention, to making certain that I did not cover up all my white paper.

Especially in the areas that would help to guide the viewer’s eyes Inwards.


I jotted notes down to myself, ‘leave whites.’ 

Little post’its on my table, in front of my eyes, as I painted.



Writing notes,  giving myself  clear, sequential, Basic Instructions…. comes in very handy.

Because,  sometimes as I get to painting  – I get so enthused I forget things in my exuberance.

Perhaps, you do this too?



My Process of Working….

When I was doing this image, I set about it, like most of my other works.


I lined up about 7 -9 sheets of watercolor paper.  They are there, ready.



I need, to do this.

Or else I will over work, spend all my exuberant energies on the one image.

That is too much.

Too much color for just one paper.

Too many brush strokes, too much action, too much ‘energy’ for just one image.

It needs spreading out on several.


At what point, do I Move On?

When the paint on image #1 is at the ‘cranky’ pants stage (not dry enough, not wet enough)  to successfully accept more paint.

I move onto paper #2 and begin the next Technique.


Normally, I will do about 7, but there are times its less or much more.  With varying levels of ‘beauty.’

I save my ‘judging’ for the next day. Its a better idea I’ve learned.



And what did the other 7 techniques I did, look like?


Wretched, I say!!

But, of course, they are “resolvable.”



So, its alright, I’m good.







3 Fun Textures in Acrylics

3 Fun Textures in Acrylics

Texture and Color are always fun.

Relaxing and exciting, at the same time.

Gorgeous aquamarines with copper and gold and a deep prussian blue in the first image were beautiful to work with.  The Naples Yellow, Cobalt Teal Blue and the soft neutral greys  in the next two were ….. Super fun!

3 fun acrylics

blue shimmering pools in acrylics, abstract textures in paints, fun textures, debiriley.com
blue shimmering pools



crackle with cobalt teal blue acrylic, fun and easy abstract texture effects, debiriley.com
crackle and cobalt teal



naples yellow and cobalt teal blue crackle and torn, abstract landscape grey background, debiriley.com
boulders…torn edges naples yellow + cobalt teal



Textures #6 color filled textures 

Add Excitement with Texture 

Acrylic Ocean Blue 

Naples Yellow

Torn Paper – Tearing It Up  

Fun and Creative Techniques 





Walk on the Calm Side: 55 minutes

Walk on the Calm Side: 55 minutes

I pulled over into the nature reserve’s parking bay. Quickly glancing down at my watch, 7:08 am, (just double checking.)  Mentally going through my morning checklist.  Organising the sequence of events.

Wondering if I, really, should be taking this time.

Should I, be using this time to enjoy,  a short walk on the calm side.




The Walk Begins

The Walk begins with limitations,  with less than ideal circumstances.


I’m going to do it regardless.

And  make the most out of it.



I grabbed my camera, locked the car, stuffed the keys in my pocket.

Mind’s in overdrive.

Be in the car and back on the road, by 8 am.

Be at the first appointment at  8:15

Yes.  That is doable.

OK. I’m set.



Strange way to begin a walk meant to relax, meant to be restorative, meant to de-stress.

All the while, thinking:  stick to the plan, move in the ordered sequence.

Get all the items marked off,  finished.


At least today,  I allowed my self more than 7 minutes.




Does any of this, sound familiar?

Anyone else, ever ‘over structure’  their time to relax,  their zen time so   that it just might not be  so very zen after all?


Usually I approach my walks, well, more like Zen Strolls.

But. You know….. the holidays.

Then, there is the sun.


Early mornings are still around 80 degrees right now and nice.

5am would be ideal.

I just don’t want to get in the car then.

I need my coffee.

It IS  about priorities.




Continuing….  Back To The Walk


The target goal is back in the car in 45.

Hop to it.

My first pause was the bridge again.


You saw it differently in the last post.  Here, I am.


nature walk photography in the park, debiriley.com
Bridge and reflections

Today’s bridge photo features the cool calmness of green, the reflections rippling.

Advising me perhaps, to “slow down.”



Calm Cool Florals  by the wayside

Lovely lavender – blue agapanthas were scattered around the parkland reserve.

The morning light, was perfect.

I stopped.

A few minutes went by………….

I was enchanted by the colors, the soft light of morning.


I felt myself relaxing.

Breathing in nice, big,  deep breaths.


soft light in morning photography, flower agapantha, nature walks, debiriley.com
Soft Light, Agapantha



Sit, Reflect.  Meditations

A park bench was right alongside the footpath.

I glanced then kept walking.

Thinking,  “No Time.”

I reluctantly walked on by another 30 meters.

I turned around.

Back to the bench and sat myself down.


After all,  this,  is going to be A Walk on the Calm Side.




Time – Spent

Tick Tock.

Ten minutes went by.

It was calm, meditative.

I was enjoying this.

Blood pressure was going down, I was going to be refreshed, energized.


Time was being spent, wisely. 

Not wasted.  Not sliding, careening away, forgotten.

Each of the moments here, I will, remember.


I jotted down color notes.

I engaged all my senses.

I wrote notations on the flowers, trees, the wind, the sounds, the temperature, the shadows, the softness of light.


rough bark photograph, canon eos, debi riley art, art basics

Even how the bark would feel, and how the petals did feel.


color and raindrops on flower, debiriley.com
Soft as Silk the petals…..


I made these minutes relevant.


I spent my time. It definitely wasn’t wasted.



On The Way Back

I still had to make it around the small lake, though, back to my car.


The rust colored fence  with curved metal bars, intrigued me.

I loved the shapes, the tones, the forms.  I liked the depth of field.



light red iron fence in park, water fountain, nature photography, debiriley.com
Light Red, iron fence


I thought of how Light Red watercolor paint would be perfect for this fence.

I thought of how this image would be ideal for class interpretation.

How easily they could see the tonal values, light and shade in the shapes and forms.




Calmer Reflections

The next pause, was the quiet reflections.

Again, the hints of light red played a role, but it was softer in this.

Less dominating. Calmer.


calm gentle water reflections, debiriley.com
calm, gentle reflections



I’ve stepped up my pace marginally.

Not a brisk walk by any means.

No more sitting.




Abstractions on the Lake

Then my eyes caught the design,  the patterns, the light on the calm side of the lake.

I had to stop. 


The subject was right up my alley.


Swirling patterns, and so nearly monochromatic.


The most striking feature was the sense of peacefulness it seemed to evoke.


nature photography, water and shoreline, zen strolls in nature, debiriley.com
here.A  moment of Peace


Right Here.

I was here, for a much longer time.


The subject demanded it.

And who am I to refuse a subject, a Muse…. when she calls?



patterns close up, lake and water photos monochromatic and abstracted, debiriley.com
close up and abstracted





calm lake photography, debiriley.com
Serene Calm


Back on the road – 55 Minutes

Taking the last shot, I flipped the camera off,  put the lens cap on.

Grabbed my keys.

Glanced at my watch……..


8:03 am

55 minutes


In my car, on the road.

55  Memorable  Minutes.


A lovely Walk on the Calm Side.









Soft Trees across the waters: watercolor

Soft Trees across the waters: watercolor

Soft Trees across the waters is a nice little watercolor study, anyone can do.

It doesn’t take long.  Nor involve many paints at all.

Its just painting watercolor landscapes with simplification in mind.


beginner watercolor landscape techniques, painting simple trees and water in watercolours, daniel smith indigo, debiriley.com
Watercolor Trees and Water


Watercolor Basics

A very, abbreviated summary is in this post.  With just 4 ideas and tips listed.  It doesn’t really begin to scratch the surface of what beginners might be looking for or, needing.

I could, suggest heading for Watercolor Basics page;  No Fiddling; Impressionist Landscapes;  Trees;  the 3 edges of watercolor;   7 Ways of Watercolor 

and of course you can always

just go to  my   SEARCH Bar …..  type in a word and voila!





First thing to do is – break the many complicated shapes down into 3 or 5 Big, shapes.


ie  the sky, is a Shape.

the trees are a shape,

the water is a shape,

and then the shoreline from front to back is,  just one shape.


There.  Thats 4  big shapes.


Made so much easier than what was really there, in all that very confusing,  clutter of detail overwhelming the mind and eye!




Limited Palette

Using a nearly monochromatic palette of just 2 paints, goes a very long way in assisting your painting efforts.

In making your watercolor landscape paintings simpler, more successful, and easier to learn how to do.


I used 2 paints.

Indigo blue   and  Burnt Umber  Daniel Smith watercolors  mixed well together,  creating smooth browns with super darks where needed.



Shadows and Light

It is important….. to ensure you achieve a good sufficiency of light tones, mid, dark tones (LMD)  throughout.

LMD give you a 3Dimensional look. Depth.

Leaving enough of the white paper, well,  Plenty of it actually,  and  not covering it all up. Don’t  just …..fill it all in with your watercolor paints.


(all I did was mark the area to be left pure white;

then dampened AROUND that area.  And painted into the areas that were Damp.  That left my dry area nice and clean and pure white. Lovely!)


In my sample image shown, I have used a photo with a deliberate play on light and shadows.

It has a very strong shadow cast upon the white backing paper.

This….serves as a great reminder to make good use of your Light and your Shadows.

Contrasts are critical to success.





You might also notice the edges in this watercolor.


Almost every where are soft edges, gentle edges.


Except for the water in the front.

The hard sharp edges of the water, balances out the soft edges elsewhere.

Plus, gives some definition, form and meaning.

They tell us, where to Look.







We, almost all of us, get a bit frustrated when things don’t progress as we expect.

As we want.  As we had envisioned.


I know.

I’ve had 30 years of painting. Things,  do not,  always go as envisioned!! 


So, to help out with this pesky little dilemma,  what I  suggest is to set out 5 – 7 pieces of paper.

Medium small  works just fine.


We will do…. several trials, practices, warm ups.

In other words, we Need, the experience! 



The first is always a test, a trial.  We learn a lot from this one.

The second is the second trial.  ……  “learning more.”

The third we are getting in the groove.

#4 Hey!  Things are going much better.

#5 You really do see improvements from #1 to  #5 or 7.


And to be honest, really,  that is   all we can expect from ourselves.  

To see improvements,  with the practice and over time.




My Suggestions

“My”  way,  is not the only way to create,  to paint.


There are many ways to paint landscapes, many ways to paint water.

This is just one simple way for watercolor beginners to get started.


To learn in easier steps, some basic watercolor techniques of trees, water, landscapes.

In an impressionist approach.

Simple, fun, enjoyable and with pleasure.








Peaceful Paradise ….  in cobalt teal blue

Peaceful Paradise …. in cobalt teal blue

Peaceful.  Another day in Paradise?

Well….. lets go with,  “almost.”

Cobalt Teal Blue isn’t a real magic wand!

But, it does wonders for a moment’s respite.  And that works, doesn’t it?


abstract ocean waters, cobalt teal blue pg50, painting peacefulness, debiriley.com
Peaceful Paradise, cobalt teal blue


Teal Blue Paradise

I can easily imagine, for a brief moment, a calm Lagoon Paradise.

Join me…..


See-through waters are lapping white sand shores,

pulling me in.


Immersed in the tropical warmth of the lagoon waters,






See how easy that was?  How Fun, how Relaxing?!




Compare these 2 images.  Both in blue greens, but 2 differing ‘moods.’

cobalt teal blue, ocean waters photo, debiriley.com
Aqua Turquoise, Cobalt Teal waters   – CALM –



sea waves green, glass bottle green sea, colors of the sea, photograph of waves, debiriley.com
Sea wave  – Very Busy Vigorous Action Restless




Design and Intent

Purposefully, with intent my Featured painting was created for maximum impact of rest and peace. 


There were 4 things I focused on to achieve that goal:






The painting, might just border on the too boring side, I imagine, for some.

Even myself……on another day, or  another week.


Its not a great work of art. Its far too simple.

Far too basic, I think.



I’ve  chosen to emphasize   “mood, emotion and atmosphere.”    (Feelings) 

Instead of multitudes of elements   “boats, sky, clouds, birds, waves, buoys, whales”  (Things)

  For me, especially in this painting – Feelings were more important than things.




I think  perhaps,  this painting might only  work well in  specific times.

On certain days and at specific moments.

When we all are in need of  some quiet time away from the endless stream of news.

That’s my guess.




Mission Accomplished

The painting,  accomplishes the mission it was asked to do.

Provides a sense of restfulness and peace.

That is a positive outcome.



Notes about Cobalt Teal Blue pg50

  • Its an Opaque; semi transparent when well diluted
  • Has a tendency towards granulating, if diluted
  • Doesn’t mix as well as Phalo or Prussian,  to create other color mixes
  • Creates almost instantaneously, ‘a mood, a feeling, an atmosphere’
  • Calm, relaxed, Peaceful, refreshed, inviting, playful


sea forms, cobalt teal blue, debiriley.com
Under the Sea Forms in Cobalt Teal and mixes


Under the Sea forms in CTB,  while still cool and refreshing is a Livelier piece.

The design here is more energetic, with the forms twirling and gliding through the waters, in an almost playful manner.

The warm Indian Yellow has intensified the sense of fun, and play the image has.


The CTB  acts to Unify the whole, there is now Unity.

It acts to cool and relax the viewer, giving rest… in a pool of moving sea forms.






I’d mentioned there were several new cobalt teal blue images prepared, and more will be revealed in the next few days.

After that,  my daughter and I have a little adventure planned to visit the Spring Tulip gardens. So. You know, what you will be seeing afterwards!




Yesterday’s post  Peaceful Places……

featured CTB with the orange terracotta.

Its livelier and more energetic than today’s featured painting, but still, with a calm relaxed vibe to it.


cobalt teal blue pg50, painting the colors of the ocean, acrylic beach painting abstract, debiriley.com
Beach and Teal