Michele Clamp's Watercolor Blog - Michele Clamp Art



Eilean Donan Castle.


Eilean Donan Castle. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Always a favorite. There isn’t a view of this that isn’t worth painting. I especially loved the warm ochres of the castle contrasting with the blues of the sky and water.

Eilean Donan Castle 250.00 Add To Cart

Some intermediates:


I’ve also included a shot of my preliminary color swatches. I match the important areas to the Munsell system and practice hitting the right hue, value, and chroma. I can always tell if the color palette will result in a harmonious picture from the result. Definitely looked good for this one.


Wed, 22 Jan 2020 20:38:35 +0000

New Year Life Class

Life drawing. Michele Clamp. Conte pencil on newsprint

Life drawing. Michele Clamp. Conte pencil on newsprint

It was good to get back in the saddle at Andrew Cefalu’s life session. I’ve been getting to grips with Loomis heads on the ipad whenever I can but it’s no substitute for the real thing. As is often the case I was happy with the evening’s work at the time but a couple of days later I’m less impressed. This was my favorite of the night. Especially happy with the feet - definitely got the posture there.

I discovered I had a Conte Pierre Noir pencil in my bag which I didn’t know I had. This was a nice surprise as the wonderful teacher Proko recommends these and I’ve been wondering whether to shell out the $2 to try one. Sadly I didn’t have a knife and my attempts to use my sharpener ended in blunt, lead snapped, tears. Will have to remember to sharpen this for next time. So these are the usual materials - Conte pencil and 16”x20” newsprint.

As usual we started with some 2 minute gestures.


After the usual shaky start I was quite pleased with a number of these. A nice sense of pose and movement in a lot of them.

Next onto the 10 minute ones


I included my false start on the first one. Rather than struggle on I gave up and started afresh. This turned out to be a good idea as it was one of the best of the night.


The final set of the night (15, 30 and 20 mins) including another false start. This is starting to be a thing - abandoning the whole drawing rather than try and correct it. Is this a good thing? Who knows?

All in all a good night’s work. It’s good to be back.

Mon, 20 Jan 2020 14:03:19 +0000

Mill Scene

Mill Scene.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor.  11”x14”

Mill Scene. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

This is one plucked from the ‘I’d like to paint this someday’ pile. The light is somewhat overcast which gives the colors a muted quality which I like.

Thu, 16 Jan 2020 21:14:33 +0000

Misty Lake

Misty Lake.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor

Misty Lake. Michele Clamp. Watercolor

This showed promise early on but sadly went astray in the final stages.

Fri, 10 Jan 2020 18:37:19 +0000

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge

Kings College, Cambridge.   Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 14”x11”

Kings College, Cambridge. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14”x11”

Kings College Chapel, UK 250.00 Add To Cart

I started this intending it to only be a sketch but it turned into something more.

Tue, 07 Jan 2020 22:51:08 +0000

Leeds Castle Sketch

Leeds Castle.  Watercolor sketch.  Michele Clamp

Leeds Castle. Watercolor sketch. Michele Clamp

I’ve been using my ipad and apple pencil to draw with quite a lot lately. Coming back to the easel to paint I could feel much happier in the drawing phase than the painting phase. Quite enjoyed this but nothing to write home about really.

Sat, 04 Jan 2020 15:58:02 +0000

Marblehead at Sunset

Marblehead at Sunset. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 20”x16”

Marblehead at Sunset. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 20”x16”

Boy this was a toughie. Finally done.

Marblehead at Sunset 400.00 Add To Cart

Wed, 01 Jan 2020 17:11:34 +0000

The Ugly Stage - Marblehead at Sunset

Marblehead at Sunset.

Marblehead at Sunset.

Another big painting today but this one is much more detailed. Right now it’s at the ugly stage and I’m unhappy with a lot of it but will keep the faith and soldier on tomorrow.

As before I did some color swatches. I wasn’t quite so happy with the palette this time but didn’t want to diverge from the reference too much. We’ll see if it all works out.

And a couple of intermediate shots.


Sat, 21 Dec 2019 19:28:09 +0000

Vermont Farm

Adjustments.jpeg Vermont Farm 400.00 Add To Cart

Fancied doing something big today. This is 16”x20” which doesn’t sound much bigger than my usual 11”x14 but is just over twice the number of square inches. Amongst other things it means you have some more elbow room in the large areas and you have to take care to make them interesting.

One thing I did for this piece is a sheet of munsell swatches. I went through the reference, identified the major value shapes and colors and mixed up swatches as close as I could. Here’s the result :


I think you can agree this resulted in a really nice color palette. I will certainly be doing this again.

Tue, 17 Dec 2019 21:44:51 +0000

Blocks and sunsets. Getting back in the groove.


Trying to get back in the groove after teaching. It’s proving to be hard - the mindset to teach is very different from painting my own stuff. I need to get out of the tram lines and trust myself to experiment a bit more. Even though I’ve been doing demo paintings each week I’ve held back a lot to keep to the principles we work on. It’s tough and makes the paintings a bit of a chore as I can’t experiment on the fly. And now I have the freedom to do what I want I can’t remember how it works.

So today is another wet canvas.com challenge as subject matter is eluding me.

And some blocks just for a warm up.


I made a yellow block as yellow shadows are tough. It doesn’t go with the pink of my studio walls (which I will get round to painting someday) but the colors are pretty close to life.

Sun, 15 Dec 2019 22:03:04 +0000

Bringing it all together - lighthouse edition.

In class last week someone requested a seascape scene with rocks. After browsing through my references I thought I’d throw in a lighthouse too as I can almost never resist a lighthouse painting.

This actually brought a lot of the things we’ve been practicing in exercises together. We have the value changes on the lighthouse (white cubes), edges and painting in layers on the rocks and skies. The only new thing is the water which we touched on in one lesson but only briefly.

If this hadn’t been for a lesson I would have pushed it a lot further. Especially the water which needs some more detail to better suggest the white foam and more depths in the blues. But I need this for tomorrow and didn’t want to trash the whole thing so here it is.

Some intermediates :

The drawing. Quite sparse here and only marking out the big shapes.

I was going to start with the sky and work down but the rocks were worrying me so I tackled these first. This wash is meant to hit the lightest values in the rocks and, as most of it will be covered up later it can be quite rough and ready with some slight color and value changes.

A darker color goes in in broad, squarish shapes to suggest the shadow side of the rocks and give them form. Some edges are left hard and others are blended out to reflect the hard and smooth sides of the rocks. The grassy area and the foreground are left with less value changes to keep the focus on the lighthouse and the rocks next to it.

The sky goes in with neat cerulean. I’m careful here to use the blue to define the edges of the lighthouse so it stands out against the sky. It doesn’t need to be too dark here - slight value changes are more effective in suggesting sunlight.

The water was a bit of a gamble. I really could have gone further here - after class tomorrow I may go back and add more detail.

The final stage was to add in the darks on the top of the lighthouse and smooth out some edges in the shadows so things don’t look too pasted on. I also darkened up the shadow side of the lighthouse a little and greyed it off compared to the sky.

There’s still stuff that’s annoying me but this will have to do for today.

Tue, 10 Dec 2019 21:54:34 +0000

Wet Canvas December Challenge

Well it’s another month and another WetCanvas challenge. These are often extremely challenging for me and this month was no different. I tried hard to hit the right colors and values with some success. The figure and dog are in shadow which made it harder. The skin tones are definitely too pink and the less said about the background trees the better but on the whole the struggle was worth it.

Some intermediates. This was at the end of the first session (about an hour).

I knew that I was too light in value on most of this and was intending to go back in and darken things up. Before doing that, however, I played around on the ipad trying some stuff out. Here’s the result :


I grayed off and darkened the skin tones a little which worked well. The dog’s white fur really surprised me in how dark it was. I didn’t manage to hit that in the final version but I think it worked well nonetheless. It was definitely a help being able to try things out without having to worry about ruining everything.

Tue, 10 Dec 2019 21:41:00 +0000

Cataloging Time

The painting situation was getting a little out of hand. They were in my office, on the floor, on the shelves, on the tables. Time for organizing and storage. Each year gets a box (or two) and I print out a picture of the contents on the front for easy location. If something gets sold then I mark the date and price on the front. Not the highest of tech but it works.

Last year I had an extra box - 2018 R. James asked what the R stood for. I said ‘Rejects. It stands for rejects. Failures. Too awful to live with the other paintings’. Last year’s box was quite full. This year I only had a handful. Either I’m getting better or more tolerant of the rubbish.

Tue, 03 Dec 2019 17:31:48 +0000

Oil Landscape


Another quick practice before the big workshop with Kathleen Speranza tomorrow. I keep forgetting I don’t have to rush to smooth edges in oil.

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 21:39:03 +0000

Oil Ventures


I’m off to a rose painting workshop next weekend with Kathleen Speranza. This will be in oils and I’ve done precisely one oil painting in my life previously. So obviously I need to at least come prepared with some idea of what to do.

Armed with my new grey-backed glass palette I ventured in with the palette knife and first tried mixing up some neutral value strings. Harder than it looks and boy does this paint need a lot of mixing. Next up was trying out my trusty fruit arrangement and trying to hit all the colors of the fruits on the light and shadow side. This was a little easier than in watercolor as I can see the final color on the palette in oil.

I tried a quick white cube with the neutral values but then thought ‘to hell with it’ and went in with the full fruit picture. Having spent the time mixing the colors beforehand things went a lot better than I had predicted. It really helped already knowing how the colors mix from the watercolor painting and I was fairly happy at this stage.

After leaving things overnight I went back in with the darkest darks and did a bit of edge smoothing (still need to get to grips with this properly). I was pretty chuffed with the final image. Flowers, of course, are a whole different kettle of fish.


Sun, 03 Nov 2019 21:07:01 +0000

Macaw Demo

Macaw. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14

Macaw. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14

I keep trying to pick ‘easy’ subjects for demo paintings. None of them seem to turn out to be easy. Maybe nothing in painting really is.

There will be a full writeup on the tutorials page in the next couple of days. In the meantime here are some intermediates.

First the drawing. All is going well at this stage.


Next the first washes. In the demo I want to emphasize that we want to hit the highest value for each color area (so at this stage it looks pretty terrible and washed out) . and to just put the paint on the paper and leave it.

The next stage is to leave the lighest color areas as they are and go slightly darker everywhere else. Again it’s a case of putting the color on and leaving it. Maybe a little smoothing of the edges but that’s all. You can see that there’s a little form appearing here.

The third stage is to go in with the darks. This defines some of the feathers (not all - don’t need to do them all) and gives a little texture to the plumage. It’s surprising how little definition you need here. A little work on the head and beak and we’re done.

Not perfect by any means - I struggled with this. I may need to rethink this one.


And a nice easel shot.


Mon, 28 Oct 2019 22:41:21 +0000

Roses - Inspiration from Paul Foxton.

Yellow Roses. With kind permission from Paul Foxton. Watercolor. Michele Clamp.

Yellow Roses. With kind permission from Paul Foxton. Watercolor. Michele Clamp.

I’ve been avidly watching Paul Foxton’s oil painting videos on Facebook. He has a fantastic way of telling you what he’s doing that is incredibly instructive. I highly recommend looking him up and his website also has a wealth of information on it. He also runs online courses which I haven’t investigated yet but I may well do when I’ve saved up some pennies.

But anyway. I was watching him paint a still life of 3 yellow roses and thought that I’d like to have a go at that just for a bit of an experiment. I took a quick screenshot of his setup and just went in with paint without drawing. This is not my usual way of working and frankly I thought it would be a disaster and I’d end up throwing it away. However, I took it seriously and tried to carefully measure the colors and values and match them as best I could. Amazingly I got a lot closer to what I was intending than I ever thought. Now, things aren’t perfect by any means but carefully measuring the colors and values I got a lot closer to the effect I was hoping for than I usually do with flowers.

The main things that helped me was very careful consideration of the hue and value (with a bit of attention to chroma) for each area. I tried to hit it first time (failed for the most part) and in subsequent layers to keep any extra pigment within that value range. This kept me from making the flowers too muddy and close attention to the hue kept the deep parts of the roses close to the original.

There’s lots of stuff I’d change of course. The vase is actually a different shape and the edges of the flowers are too crisp. I misread the background color and made it too red and the leaves are a little too broad. I still didn’t get enough chroma in the depths of the roses and there isn’t a lot of form to them. Oh I could go on and on…..

And the main thing I should change is that I did this from a screenshot and I should really be sitting in front of actual flowers. I don’t have a great lighting setup for that right now but I’ll be rectifying that in the next couple of weeks.

Oh and the final thing - painting flowers is exhausting!! This took me a couple of hours I would say but I was basically useless afterwards. Very intense. Constant concentration and judgement required and one false stroke and all is lost. Never let anyone tell you flower painting is for wusses.

Oh and the final final thing - I actually did two. Here’s the first.

Mon, 28 Oct 2019 22:31:17 +0000


Poppies. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”. For Sale.

Poppies. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”. For Sale.

Poppies 250.00

11”x14”/16”x20” with archival mat.

Add To Cart

I have a love hate relationship with painting flowers. As I’ve said countless times before they seem as though they’ll be enjoyable and relatively easy to paint. Bright colors, loose forms, doesn’t matter too much if you draw the leaves slightly off. And I’m wrong every time.

The thing about flowers is that their beauty has a lot of subtlety to it. The variation of color and value in the petals is key to capturing that and that is where a lot of us lack the required skills. If the delicate modeling of the curve of a petal is slightly off -- slightly too dark in the shadows, slightly too abrupt in the change of tone — you lose the effect.

So considering what I was up against these poppies came out really quite well. Fresh colors - just enough change in the color to suggest petal shape. Not bad at all. Plenty to improve upon of course but isn’t there always?

Some intermediates :


These were the first washes. As you can see I’d been trying to match colors on a separate piece of paper and I thought I’d gone plenty dark enough in the flowers. I was completely wrong.

Second layer :

I’d been wrestling with the flowers for a while here. The left hand one I did first and it has slightly too much value difference in the petals. The large one on the right came out much better.

The final thing :


I had quite a lot of fun painting the innards of the vase. Water is always fun to paint - you can be quite loosey goosey with it and it will still read well. And, for some reason, people are really impressed with it.

I did a little beefing up of the color in the left hand flower but left most alone. Pretty happy.

Wed, 16 Oct 2019 21:23:54 +0000

Fruit Demo 2

Fruit Still Life.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor.  11”x14”

Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

As it was still early and I had a fistful of reference photos I thought I’d have another go at a fruit still life. I haven’t done one of these in a long time and I was interested to see if I could still remember how to do things.

First the photo. A little more complicated than the previous one and I’ve always dreaded doing grapes.


Drawing and first washes in. Not particularly confident at this point and I’d been a little tentative with the first washes so everything’s looking a bit washed out.


Next stage and things are looking a little better. Still not really very confident but at least the grapes aren’t giving me as much trouble as I’d thought.

Final version. To be honest I quit while I was ahead here. I could have gone back in and darkened up some of the grapes but felt the risk of ruining it was too great. Pretty happy with this to be honest.

And of course an easel shot.

Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:57:29 +0000

Fruit Demo 1

Fruit Still Life.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 11”x14”

Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 11”x14”

I’m starting teaching on October 21st so I’ve been thinking about lesson plans and the like. I thought we’d start off with something simple to get people used to handling the paint and mixing colors.

I thought this would be much more straightforward than it was. Turns out that when you’re trying to think through what you’re going to say and paint at the same time everything gets more complicated. Added to that is that I was trying not to paint on automatic but only do things that I could clearly articulate. Easier said than done.

So here was the initial photo :


Nice basic shapes, good colors and distinct patterns of light and shade.


Drawing is fairly straightforward I hope. Concentrating on angles and junctions and negative spaces. I marked in the shadow areas and highlights more than I usually would for emphasis.

First layer with the midtones and some darks. My shadow on the lemon fell off but that’s ok.

final image with the darkest darks put in and some details in the stalks. I hope this isn’t either too simple or too complicated for people to follow along with.


And a nice easel shot. Always good to have one of those.

Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:42:49 +0000

Page created: Sat, Jan 25, 2020 - 09:05 PM GMT