Michele Clamp's Watercolor Blog - Michele Clamp Art



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.

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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

Value Studies


I’ve been watching the fabulous Paul Foxton on youtube who has some mesmerizing videos on the Munsell color system and judging and painting color and value. Having watched him measure value using the Munsell color chips and paint perfect spheres and blocks in oils I thought ‘that doesn’t look too hard’. There’s always room for sharpening up your value judgement skills so I thought I’d have a go in watercolor.

I found this value scale and printed out a few. These are for measuring values from 1 (black) to 10 (white) so you know which area is which value.


I then squandered $7 at Amazon to buy some 2 inch wooden blocks and painted them in acrylic. One white (10) , one black (1) and two mid values (3 and 5). I didn’t have a light box handy so I cobbled together a floor and backdrop from some old watercolor block backing board.

The task was to paint a white block (and its background) by

a) first identifying the value using the value scale.

b) Mixing up the right value in watercolor

c) Painting the relevant plane with said value.

Boy was this hard. At least with oil you can directly compare whether you’ve mixed the right color. With watercolor you have to mix it, look at the consistency and flow, paint a little square on the paper, wait for it to dry, and then check whether you have the right color. I’ve ended up with a lot of notes on how the paint looks and flows on the palette and how that translates into value. It’s turned into a bit of a game. Say I want a mid value - 6. I mix up what I think is a 6, paint a little square and put my guess next to it in pencil. When it’s dried I measure it using the value scale and see how close I get. It’s hard.

These are my notes from my latest attempt :

I don’t have the full range yet but this is what I have so far :

10 - No paint - just the white of the paper. This one’s easy.

9 - Water consistency, transparent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

8 - Water consistency, translucent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

7 - Milk consistency, opaque on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks

6 . - Light cream consistency and flows on the palette. brush leaves tracks through the paint.

5 - Light cream consistency and flows slowly on the palette. Brush leaves tracks and the paint is opaque in pools.

4 - Nothing yet

3 . - Heavy cream consistency. Leaves tracks when the palette is flat. Flows v slowly across the palette.

2 and 1 - Haven’t done these yet.

I’ve shamelessly borrowed the water/milk/cream descriptions from Joseph Zbukvic and they do work well.

Of course these descriptions only apply to this color and probably vary between paint brands so there’s a long way to go.

It’s actually quite fun and each little block only takes 10 minutes of so. Even over a single day I’ve improved my mixing skills.

Mon, 07 Oct 2019 20:37:29 +0000

Life Class Again


This came around quickly! Back to Post Road Art Center for life drawing with Andrew Cefalu. Had a pretty good week this week. I’m really getting into hands and feet and making good progress. This one was my favorite of the night due to the tight clustering of both the hands and feet.

So as usual we started with 2 minute poses.


It always seems to take a pose or two to warm up. The first one especially is very scruffy but but the third I’m off and running. There was a bit of a screw up in the second one where I had my pad angled too far away from me which produced distortions in the head. Nice line energy in these - pretty happy here.

Next were a couple of 5 minuters.

And the rest were 15 minuters.


Sun, 06 Oct 2019 20:00:45 +0000

New Printer!


Our trusty Canon pixma printer gave up the ghost last week in the middle of printing out teaching materials. After some back and forth we bit the bullet and bought a shiny new Epson 7750. I’m very excited about this as I can now scan paintings and print them out at actual size (most of mine are 11”x15”).

I have to admit there has been some fannying about before getting to this point. First, the scanner is only 8.5”x11” so there was a morning of working out how to stitch the scans together. Some things like hugin were overkill but then I found autostitch . from Matthew Brown which so far has done a fantastic job with only a couple of clicks. No more dodgy iphone photos for me - scans all the way.

Getting prints to the right quality wasn’t quite as straightforward as I’d first thought. The paper makes a huge difference and, although the prints on Epson’s premium matte presentation paper weren’t bad the Strathmore watercolor inkjet paper gave the most faithful color and texture representation.

Sadly the Strathmore doesn’t come in sizes bigger than 8.5x11” so I ordered some of the larger Epson watercolor inkjet paper to see how that fared. In the meantime I thought I’d just use some of my cheaper cotton watercolor paper and see how that did. I wasn’t expecting much but I have to say I’m really impressed. If you have them side by side and look really closely you can see the difference but the differences are really very small. A good result I think.

And here he is in all his glory. A bit of a beast but he just fits on the filing cabinet.


Wed, 02 Oct 2019 21:23:02 +0000

Life Class


Life class again last night - this was the last of the session. I thought the session had gone pretty well over all but I didn’t check over my work until this morning. Experience has shown me that how I feel the session went is not necessarily reflected in the result viewed later so I opened the sketch pad warily. But it seems my impressions were right this time. Hooray! I’m really feeling my way round the shapes much more confidently and even the hands and (sometimes) the feet are coming together.

So, as usual, we started with some 2 minute poses :


There’s some very nice stuff in here. I started off a little sketchily (first photo) and I had a few thoughts of ‘how do I do this again?’ but got into my stride quite quickly. Quite happy with these considering they’re only 2 minutes each.

Next a 10 and three 15 minuters.


Even had some time to do some shading on the 15 minute ones. Still having trouble with feet and hands but it’s a world away from where I was a while ago.

Finally 2 twenty minute poses.


Again I was fairly happy with these. Some screwups on the hands and feet but then there usually are. A good nights work.

Finally many thanks to Andrew Cefalu for organizing and monitoring the session and to Lindsey our model.

Sat, 28 Sep 2019 20:21:44 +0000

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak.   Michele Clamp.  Watercolor 14”x11”

Rose-breasted grosbeak. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 14”x11”

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak 250.00

14”x11”/20”x16” with mat.

Always love the color combination in these birds. A mixture of bold and subtle contrasts.

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Haven’t done a bird in a while and fancied something with some strong contrasts. This one never disappoints.

Some intermediates


The drawing. For once I carefully measured the length of the bird with respect to the body - 5 bird heads high.


The initial washes. Very light and I make sure I splosh through the edges to give a fuzzy underpainting. I only take care to avoid the eye area where I want to keep the white paper.

The next layer of the bird. A lot of this will be the final layer apart from the finishing darks. It often looks a bit meh at this stage.


Almost there. The feet and the branch are in and I’ve darkened up the head and put detail in the eye.

Done. A little light shading around the shoulders to bring out the white and a little touch of white gouache in the eye to bring back the sparkle.

Mon, 23 Sep 2019 22:28:48 +0000

Boats at the Naval Yard, Boston Harbor

Boats at the Naval Yard,  Boston Harbor.  Michele Clamp.  Watercolor.  14”x11”

Boats at the Naval Yard, Boston Harbor. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”


14”x11”/20”x16” with mat.

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I’ve been saving this scene for a bit since our painting trip to the Naval Yard in Boston. I had a disastrous outing with a previous scene but couldn’t resist the boats for any longer. I’m pretty happy - the effect of strong sunlight is there and the composition is pleasing. A good days work.

Sun, 22 Sep 2019 21:12:47 +0000

Grist Mill, Sudbury, MA

Grist Mill, Sudbury, MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Grist Mill, Sudbury, MA. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Grist Mill, Sudbury MA 250.00 Add To Cart

Don’t let anyone ever tell you painting is relaxing. I’ve been suffering a bit of mojo deflation recently and nothing has been coming out well. Until today that is!

This is a scene of the Grist Mill in Sudbury which was built as an ‘improved’ mill by Henry Ford (yes that one) in 1924. After spending some time on site earlier this year I’ve held off painting a full painting as I wasn’t sure how to attack such a traditional scene. But I think it came out pretty well. Very happy and the mojo is restored.

Some intermediates :


Fri, 20 Sep 2019 22:15:20 +0000

Paris Scene

Paris scene.  Watercolor.  Michele Clamp 11”x14”

Paris scene. Watercolor. Michele Clamp 11”x14”

It’s been a bit of a struggle at watercolor towers recently. A lot of frankly sub par painting and much frustration. This has been the best of the bunch recently (thanks to Gary Tucker for the inspiration).

The drawing - enjoyed doing this. Second time through doing this scene and the previous versions helped get some interesting shapes in.

Below is the first effort. Ugh.


Wed, 18 Sep 2019 00:02:37 +0000

Sketch of a Victorian House, Hudson, MA

Victorian House, Hudson, MA

Victorian House, Hudson, MA

I had a real stinker of a painting day earlier this week. I wanted to work up one of the Naval Shipyard scenes from our plein air session a couple of weeks ago. Failed so badly I’m too ashamed to post it. So it was back to the drawing board to work out what went wrong.

This was an attempt to work on capturing shadows on buildings in a more subtle way. I wanted to capture the effect of sunlight on the building - especially the roof areas that had just enough value change but no more. I’m fairly happy with this. I could maybe have gone a little darker in the shadow sides (or may be a little lighter on the sunlit sides) but it has a sense of strong sunlight which I like. I’ll probably revisit this and push it slightly to see what happens.

Fri, 13 Sep 2019 14:42:08 +0000

More News! Daily Paintworks Featured Artist for September 2019

Clamp_MysticBridge2019.jpg Mystic Bridge, CT 400.00 Add To Cart

It’s been a hectic week! Great news yesterday that I’m a featured artist in the Daily Paintworks August 2019 competition for my Mystic Bridge painting.

Tue, 10 Sep 2019 22:33:28 +0000

Page created: Fri, Dec 13, 2019 - 09:05 AM GMT