Evolution of Swoops

In my last post about my recent gouache paintings, I mentioned that I painted the “swoops” painting after a sketch I’d recently drawn, but as I thought about it, I realized that the idea for the painting has evolved over time. I took a little walk down memory lane on my flickr stream, and I made connections that step back to a sketch I did back in early 2009.

I thought it might be fun to share the images that I keyed into to see if you can see the connection that became evident to me on my little journey.

Swirled Flowers

Flutter Bloom Clear

Violet & Transparent

For Cut Outs

Sprinkled on White

Hairband as a Compass

Heart Flowers with Clouds

Mesh Pattern, Original Drawing

Horizontal Pattern, Original Drawing





I took a renewed interest in this direction of overlapping, swooping lines during the Sketchbook Project, when I worked with Lines & Grids. I drew the above composition and the lines reminded me of loose threads. I really liked the delicate flowing quality of the lines, and wondered if I could continue exploring movement with thread-like lines, so I drew the following drawing, incorporating the swooping motif.


The next drawings unfolded less deliberately, but continued the overall trend.





ordered swoops


Tada! There you have it! I really enjoy the delicate thread-like quality of these recent drawings. In a round about way they remind me of tapestries and the fringe at the edge of carpets, which oddly enough fascinated me when I was little. In my mind there is a link through all these drawings/paintings, even if it’s not exactly a direct link in all instances. In any case it was fun to look through and find that common “thread” (hehe), if you will. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Also, I wrote a similar post on my old blog that you can check out if you are interested. It includes a few of the same images as this one, but also some different ones and has a different focus with more explanation and detail.

Small Gouache Paintings

After completing the week 3 assignment for Get Your Paint On, I hit a bit of a wall, and wasn’t sure what to paint for Week 4’s assignment on composition. My painting table lay untouched for many days until I spied a stack of “scrap” watercolor paper that was left over after I prepared paper for a bookbinding project. I tore the leftover strips of paper into squares, somewhere between 5 to 6 inches in dimension.

For me there might be nothing less intimidating and more inviting that a small piece of blank paper, especially paper that I’ve categorized as “scrap,” so it wasn’t much of a leap for me to pick up a piece and start painting.

Colors and shapes have been on my mind a lot lately, and I seem to be pursuing a couple of types of arrangements in these recent paintings: either very organic or very geometric.


I’ve played with swooping lines in the past, and most recently I sketched out some “ordered swoops” in my sketchbook, so decided to paint a variation of this idea.

I painted this free-form without previous sketches, or the help of a grid which would have made the whole thing more symmetrical and regular, but it was more about just getting color on the paper, and seeing what I could do.

arrangement of triangles
Also no previous sketches for this, although I had a general idea of how I wanted the triangles to be arranged. I came up with the various decorative lines as I was painting them.

geometric forms
This one evolved as I was working. I wanted it to be roughly symmetrical, so as I had an idea for a shape, I’d add it, then re-evaluate and come up with the idea for the next shape. The detail lines were added at the end.

I’m really enjoying making these paintings, and I have a few more sheets of these scrap papers, so I imagine I’ll paint a few more soon!

Get Your Paint On, Week Three

Week three’s assignment had to do with mixing color. Choosing, matching and mixing color is something I’ve become pretty good at over the years, so I chose my color palette and got to work. I painted an underpainting of bright blue, and then added several layers of texture in a yellow-green color.

I didn’t have an abundance of new ideas, so I drew inspiration from an old composition that I’d done last the summer. I wanted to try a technique that I saw in a video about Beatriz Milhazes where she applies acrylic paint to plastic, glues it to the canvas, and peels the plastic away, so the imagery of the stones was perfect to try out the new method.

Rough Edges

I used the technique for the gray round shapes. It worked pretty well, but some of the paint came up when I peeled off the plastic, I think because the sheet of plastic I used was rather stiff and inflexible.

The next step offered me an opportunity to practice my fine line painting again. Some of the lines are still better than others, but the practice was worthwhile, and I feel like I’m getting a feel for it.

Red Lines

At this point I considered calling it done, as I had initially planned to keep the gray shapes rough. However, I found the inconsistencies of the edges of the gray shapes distracting, so I retouched the edges and chipped areas and it felt much better to me.

Week 3

I find it interesting that the texture of the gray painted touch up areas is so different than the paint that was applied with the transfer method, which is super smooth and almost shiny.

I would like to try the peel-off technique again to see if I can perfect it. It would be ideal if I could get the shapes to transfer cleanly without the need for touch ups.

Get Your Paint On, Week Two

Week Two’s assignment for the Get Your Paint On class was to draw inspiration from a painter or specific painting and incorporate some part of it into our own painting. I ended up drawing inspiration from a couple of artists: Frida Kahlo and Tuco Amalfi.

Kahlo’s vulnerable self portraits that show her exposed heart inspired me to paint an anatomical heart. It’s a shape that I really love but always resisted drawing because it seemed complicated. Once I delved in and started sketching, I realized that it wasn’t so bad!


One painting in particular by Amalfi inspired the rest of the imagery.

I used a framed masonite panel for this painting, which was new for me. I really like the flat, firm surface. It’s only 6 x 6 inches which was a surprise to some people who thought it was much bigger based on the photos.

I painted the entire panel dark blue to start, then traced the shape of the heart onto the surface. I carefully painted a couple of layers of white so that they colors I was planning to use for the heart would have an easier time showing up.

Heart, first layer

Heart, White

At this point I had a couple of thoughts: I wanted to brighten up the background a bit, and I considered painting the heart pink so that I wouldn’t have white peaking through the color.

I painted the entire panel with a thin layer of light blue which brightened up the background to my liking and also turned the heart blue.

blue heart, oops!

I liked the idea of having a blue underpainting for the heart, so left it as is and moved onto the color. However, when I added in the lines that divided the different parts of the heart, I realized I’d forgotten to paint in a section of the heart! I had to carefully paint that little part white, and luckily I still had some of the same blue color to match the rest of the heart.

two blue hearts

Finally I was ready to paint the heart pink. I was eager to get to this stage, because I’d planned to use gouache for the first time. I mixed a few different tones of pink using Holbein’s Acryla Gouache.

Pink Heart

I was really happy with the texture of the gouache and liked how just a bit of the blue showed through. Since for me this class is about pushing myself to try techniques I’m not very comfortable with, I decided to add some shading to the heart to give it a little more dimension. I thought it would make a nice contrast to the final elements I had yet to add which I’d planned to be flat and decorative.

I was really nervous at one point while working on the shading because it was looking really dark and muddy and ugly. I saved it by revisiting the heart with brighter, lighter colors to even out the overly dark shading.

Heart with Shading

The final step was to add lots of fine white lines to create veins that turn into roots, and branches with blossoms. This was the step that I procrastinated on because I didn’t know if I’d have the skill to pull it off.

I spent lots of time sketching various options for the lines and working out their final look and feel. I used pencils, pens, and a little help from the computer to get them just how I wanted. Then I traced them onto the panel with the help of some graphite paper.

Pencil LInes

Once the lines were on the panel, I finally reached the moment of truth when I had to paint the lines white.

Week 2 -- instructor critique welcome

Although I was nervous, I was lucky to have a very fine brush and a steady hand. It took me a while, but eventually painted all the lines. I was very pleased with the final look, and overjoyed that I’d done a good job!

Once I’d finished painting the flowers on the branches, I had the idea to maybe paint the blossoms pink, but I got several responses that encouraged me to keep them white. My friend Maggie Nichols offered me a wonderful insight: “Hearts are on the inside, away from the sun, and when roots, leaves or other plant bits are away from the sun they lack pigment and stay white. So I think that makes sense here. It makes them stand out very well.” I loved her take on the imagery which settled my decision to leave the flowers white once and for all.

This is only the second assignment in the class, and I already feel like I’ve learned so much, just by making the effort to try a few new techniques.