Blog - Michele Clamp Art



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Fri, 15 Feb 2019 18:57:49 +0000

Still Life - WetCanvas Wedgewood Tea Set Challenge

Wedgewood tea set.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 8”x10”

Wedgewood tea set. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 8”x10”

They’re coming thick and fast today. This is my stab at the wetcanvas February watercolor challenge. A pretty tricky subject with all those ellipses but came out well.

Here’s the original image


Fri, 08 Feb 2019 20:22:18 +0000

Cadgwith Harbor, Cornwall

Cadgwith Harbor, Cornwall. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 12”x18”

Cadgwith Harbor, Cornwall. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 12”x18”

Yesterday I just fancied painting some boats. This is done from a lovely photo by Dottie Best on ‘Paint My Photo’ - https://pmp-art.com/dottie-best/gallery/136333/cadgwith-harbor-cornwall-england .

As always there were struggles but it was fun to do and has a lot of solidity to it.

Value sketch:


And part way through at the end of the day yesterday :


Fri, 08 Feb 2019 16:44:49 +0000


Ostrich.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 14”x11”

Ostrich. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14”x11”

I’m trying to keep up with the facebook page Paint Colorful Birds for Fun and this week (week 5) is the ostrich. I tried to keep some life in the darks but keep the white feathers distinct and fluffy. I think it’s pretty much there.

Mon, 04 Feb 2019 22:44:20 +0000

Unbiased Ram

Ram. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 13”x19”

Ram. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 13”x19”

There’s a sporting event on tonight. This is in no way intended to be a prediction.

Sun, 03 Feb 2019 22:11:30 +0000

Flying Snowy Owl

snowy_owl_watercolor_painting Flying Snowy Owl 350.00 Add To Cart

It’s been about a year since I did a snowy owl. I had the chance to do a live demo at Maine Audubon in January 2018 which was great fun. I didn’t really feel that I’d done the subject justice so I wanted to have another go.

I think he came out very well. The blues and grays define the wings and feathers well without getting too dark and the wings and body have a lovely rhythmic shape to them. Phew!

Sat, 02 Feb 2019 22:15:14 +0000

It’s in the bag 2019


It’s that time of year again.  It’s the Post Road Art “It’s in the bag” competition.   $33 gets you a bag of materials and you have to work your magic to create something.    This year it was a doozy!   This is what we got : 



Prominent in the bag were materials for making poured acrylic paintings.   Now this is something I have absolutely no experience with.   After a bit of googling and YouTubing I worked out that you put a lot of paint in a cup,  pour it onto a board, shoogle it around a bit, drop in some alcohol ink and voila! Painting. 

It’s a lot harder than it looks. 

I got paint everywhere.  On the table,  up my nose (!) on my tea mug, everywhere.  This is what I finally ended up with : 



Kinda cool but I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot more of it.   And what I forgot was that these things take days to dry so I didn’t even get to enter it into the competition. 

So what to do?   Birds of course!   I first thought of a peacock but after trying I wasn’t happy.   I next thought of a toucan which seemed like a better bet but I messed up the beak which blew out into a big purple splodge.   This one ended up being the poured one above.    

After coming back to the peacock I decided I quite liked it so it was one of my entries.    Since I didn’t have anything to lose I tried the toucan again in a more traditional manner and he came out quite well.  Here he is : 



Phew - all framed up and submitted.  Why do I always leave these things to the last minute? 



Thu, 31 Jan 2019 21:57:31 +0000


Avocet.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 14”x11”.

Avocet. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14”x11”.

Avocet 250.00

14”x11”/20”x16” matted.

A very muted piece but has a lot of presence.

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Sometimes things just work. I wanted the colors to be muted on this one so the stance of the bird, its markings and reflections stood out. And it all came together. Happy camper.

Tue, 29 Jan 2019 22:21:55 +0000



Just fancied painting a kingfisher. Tried to get him nice and sploshy.

Sun, 27 Jan 2019 22:43:02 +0000

Portland Head


So what to do with the rest of the afternoon. Looking for something quirky I found this from a trip we made to Portland ME almost exactly a year ago. So why not? Not sure quite what to make of this one yet.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 22:11:30 +0000

Mt Auburn St, Cambridge - Take 2

Mt Auburn St, Cambridge MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor on Yup 12”x9”

Mt Auburn St, Cambridge MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor on Yup 12”x9”

I was quite pleased with the first version of this but then I had a crazy idea of trying a second version on Yupo paper. This is a synthetic paper which doesn’t absorb paint or water which means the paint behaves in a completely different way to cotton paper.

I had a blast with this and, due to the non absorbent nature of the surface. the colors remain bright and vivid. There were regions where the paint just didn’t stick at all - see on the left - but it was definitely worthwhile having a go.

I had a final experiment on hot press paper (4th in the collage). I don’t think I’m done with this scene yet but I’ll take a break for now.

Thu, 24 Jan 2019 19:21:58 +0000

Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA

mt_auburn_st_cambridge_watercolor_painting 250.00

14”x11”/20”x16” matted.

Another view of Cambridge that I often encountered in my travels.

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This is another scene I’ve been wanting to paint for a while. Colors came out well and also the sense of late autumn afternoon sunshine.

Also the preparatory sketch :


Tue, 22 Jan 2019 22:08:48 +0000

Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose

Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14x11

Cathedral of St Joseph, San Jose. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14x11

The past few days I’ve been learning from Joseph Zbukvic’s painting.  After four days of this I was a bit jaded and losing enthusiasm.   It made me think how much of the satisfaction of painting is putting down your own interpretation of a scene.  Not just a straight representation but how you view something and which elements interest you.   All the time I was doing the Zbukvic copies that part of my brain was switched off and thus a big part of the joy of painting.   And no enjoyment = bad paintings.

So I was riffling through my back catalogue of ‘things I’d like to paint’ and I remembered our visit to San Jose last year.   I didn’t have any sketches but I’d taken some photos and one of the Basilica looked like a good candidate.   Here it is  



It’s not great as is but there’s lots I like.  The bright sun on the church walls,  the general shape of the building,  the palm tree.   And overall is the sense of California sunshine.     

There was a fair bit of rearranging and invention.    I took out various pieces - the tree, the front car and a lot of the signposts.    There was also some rearrangement - the background building encroaches on the church so I shifted it to one side. 

Off I went and tried to remember the guidelines : 

 - Big shapes with smaller regions of smaller shapes. 

 - Keep those values fairly constant within the big shapes. 

 - Economy of brushstrokes - no dabbing! 

 - Keep the color palette small.    


I also moved back to Fabriano Artistico paper.    I generally prefer this to most other papers.   The color seems to flow better across the surface and the colors end up brighter.    Arches in particular soaks up water like crazy which can dull colors when it dries. 

So - mid way through what did we have? 



Not too shabby!  Shapes are good,   Values are pretty good,   Darks are being connected so the cars don’t look stuck on.   And most importantly I was actually enjoying it! 

There was one thing, however.  The shadows between the pillars on the front of the church were bothering me.   So in the evening, sitting downstairs with the ipad,    I imported the photo and overdoodled on it with the procreate drawing app.   I pushed back the shadows and added in some elements I planned to add in in the next stage.


Ha!   I was pretty pleased with this.    Definitely need to lift off those shadows and my plan of a large foreground shadow fitted in well.

So here’s the end result.   I’m pretty happy.    



Sun, 20 Jan 2019 18:22:36 +0000

Bird Day - Quetzal

Quetzal watercolor.  Michele Clamp.  Photo reference from https://www.flickr.com/people/31267353@N03/

Quetzal watercolor. Michele Clamp. Photo reference from https://www.flickr.com/people/31267353@N03/

Bird day today. Need a rest from the cityscapes. Quite a successful quetzal although this was the second go.

First go which wasn’t very satisfying :


Sat, 19 Jan 2019 20:25:28 +0000

Learning Time - Zbukvic Day 4

Well that was one hell of a day. Sometimes you just want to pack everything up, put it on ebay, and take up golf. And I hate golf.

Only 3 paintings done today and none went well. Muddy washes, dodgy backgrounds, clumsy finishing flourishes. Nothing worked.

But let’s go through them anyway. Number one :

This was probably the most successful. Nice light on the sunlit part of the building and the foreground shadows work well. Not much else to recommend it though.

Onto number 2 :


Blergh. Not much to say about this. Didn’t enjoy it one bit.

And number 3:


I’d been quite looking forward to doing this as lighter buildings with dark accents are generally easier. It was not to be however.

Takeaways :

The main thing that is so frustrating is that I have no idea how to improve these. I know they’re bad - I just can’t see what to change to make them better.


Fri, 18 Jan 2019 21:34:30 +0000

Learning Time - Zbukvic Day 3

Stepping it up a bit today and completed 4 paintings. All are from Zbukvic originals. I was hoping that a fast turnaround would speed up the learning process and consolidate some things into muscle memory.

Before the pictures a summary. None of these came out as paintings. They’re obviously sketches or studies but I started to soak in a few things.

Anything else? I think I improved as the day went on and was making the paintings more mine than copying the original. No great breakthroughs but definitely worthwhile.

So to the paintings - in reverse order :


This was the last and I think the most successful. I’d got used to the sequence of washes - lightest in sky and the sunlit parts of the buildings. Second the background and shadows on the buildings. 3rd - cars and dark recesses. 4th and final - people and the foreground and other bits and pieces.

I’d also started to get used to some of the wet in wet for windows and background mistiness.

Next one - number 3 :


Struggled with this one. The original has lots of variation in the darks which I just wasn’t getting. The strong composition makes this one - especially the foreground shadow - which is of course all Mr Z’s doing.

Next one - number 2


This had quite a lot I liked. The color came out well. The combination of dull orange and the purple shadows worked without being too in your face. The center of interest has nice lots of choppy darks and lights which read well without specifically being anything. So not great but not too bad.

Finally - number 1


Again this didn’t come out too badly. I was feeling my way at this point and you can see the background washes are a bit muddy. Nice choppiness in the center of interest and the combination of darks and lights worked well.

So it was a busy day. As usual I’m too close to things to really assess whether it was worthwhile. It’s certainly a different beast copying paintings rather than scenes. The simplification and composition has already been done for you which are two things you don’t have to worry about. Once the drawing is done it’s a case of identifying which value wash goes where and trying not to get too fiddly. I think after another day of these (I have nine in total to have a go at) I’ll concentrate on extreme simplification of some of my own scenes.

Thu, 17 Jan 2019 22:27:52 +0000

Learning Time - Zbukvic Style - Day 2

I was eager to start another Zbukvic style copy today. This is one I’ve done sketches of before (see here) which were reasonably successful.

This time it didn’t really come together. I couldn’t feel the big washes properly and everything was a little bitty. One change was that this was done on rough paper and at a smaller size. I think this made a difference. I’ll go back to the original cold press and keep on soldiering on.

The Zbukvic original is this :

Wed, 16 Jan 2019 22:40:15 +0000

Learning Time - Zbukvic Style

Copy of a Joseph Zbukvic painting.

Copy of a Joseph Zbukvic painting.

After yesterday’s rather glum conclusion it was back to basics again today. I was having a lot of trouble with pretty much everything. The values were either too different or too similar. The colors were not cohesive. The brushstrokes were too heavy handed. The only thing that really held up was the drawing which is one less thing to worry about I suppose.

So what to do? After spending an hour last evening riffling through pinterest I went back to one of the masters - Joseph Zbukvic. His style is deceptive. It looks like he just dashes things off but that masks a mastery of drawing, composition and above all value. Copying one of his paintings is not for the fainthearted but I was ready and had a plan.

Plan :

- Do a preliminary thumbnail sketch and work out the big shapes and values.

- Draw carefully but not too rigidly detailed. Make sure all the shapes work - especially the negative ones.

- Work out the large shapes ahead of time and what values they are.

* Lightest = sky

* 2nd = sunlit portions of the buildings.

* 3rd = shadow portions of buildings and parts of the cars

* 4th = foreground

* 5th = cars and middle portion of the picture

* 6th and darkest = foreground buildings at the sides and the poles/wires.

Phew - that turned into quite a lot of values. Was only really planning on 3 or 4.

- Keep the values fairly close. No stark changes and keep the highest contrast in the middle area of the painting.

- Keep an eye on color. Use a restricted palette (ultramarine, perylene maroon, yellow ochre).

- Don’t rush!!! Simplification doesn’t mean slapping the paint around willy nilly.

And here’s the original I was using to paint from :


Okay off we go.

First the thumbnail :

Well I’m not sure what I learned here. Was it worth it? It didn’t really feel like it at the time. Well actually it did help. It made me remember to keep the sunlit portions of the buildings pale and mark in where the shadows fell across the buildings. This got lost in the sketch and it shows.

Second the drawing and first washes :

Fairly happy at this point. Drawing is fine and the first washes are light but have some color. Frankly it’s hard to go wrong for this part.

Next is the tricky bit and I think I learned quite a bit here. The plan was to go to the next darkest value and put in large even areas of the same wash. At this stage this means the roofs and the shadow portions of the buildings. However there is a wrinkle. A lot of the sparkle in Mr Z’s paintings come from the twiddly bits. The little dots and dashes and also the small pieces of white left in between brush strokes. In addition his washes aren’t uniform - they have variation in color and texture and maybe have a couple of layers.

I had to remember all this so I went about it as follows :

After the buildings I had a first pass at the cars. Things to remember about cars :

Things were looking fairly good so I then put in the foreground. It was too light to begin with and I had a couple of goes at it. It’s still a bit light but I felt I’d fiddled too much already. I made sure to get a rough brushstroke at the top where the shadow ended.

So at this point this is what I had :


Frankly I was pretty chuffed at this point. There’s reasonable variation in the washes. The brushstrokes nicely indicate the window and shadows on the buildings and the cars definitely read as cars. A little scrappy in the foreground but you can’t have everything.

Now I was getting worried I was going to screw everything up. All I had left to do was to put in the right hand side darker buildings, the people and the lampposts and telegraph poles. I almost went too dark with all of these but sponged off the worst of it. The final thing has a lot to recommend it :

So what did I learn? Let’s make a list :

Now all I need to do is to carry this over into my own paintings.

Tue, 15 Jan 2019 20:51:53 +0000

Vermont Thumbnail


A quick thumbnail sketch for a painting. Tried this at a larger size and failed miserably. If I try again with better results maybe I’ll post the failure but for now - just the sketch.

Mon, 14 Jan 2019 22:02:53 +0000

Vermont Scene


Still struggling on. Trying for a loose, calligraphic style here with a textured foreground. Much harder than it looks.

Mon, 14 Jan 2019 21:55:39 +0000

Page created: Fri, Feb 15, 2019 - 09:00 PM GMT