Art Exhibits – Past and Present

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticArt Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticI’m participating in a new joint show with a fellow watercolorist Bernice Wood at the Artists Attic in Downtown Lexington.  This event has made me consider all of the shows I’ve been involved in over the years, along with the changes I’ve witnessed.  Recently my shows have taken place in areas where I’ve just moved and know virtually no one, at least in the adult world.

As I look back at the 80’s and 90’s in Austin TX, I realize how fortunate I was in my youth.  At age 24 I joined the Capitol Art Society, a wonderful group who welcomed me, mentored me, and cheered for every success.  Our group shows were magical, and took place in stunning venues.  We had a coop gallery too.  Artwork sold well for all the artists.  Ironic for me since my work at the time showed a lack of experience.  Before I left Austin in 2007 I enjoyed art shows where lots of hand-colored limited-edition prints of birds sold.   Austin was filled with bird lovers.  It’s hard to say which was more enjoyable:  The engaging bird-related conversations, or the art sales!

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticAfter moving to Concord MA in 2007 I met new fellow bird and art lovers.  I had a show the first year I lived in the area.  It inspired two commissioned pieces and sales of several small hummingbird paintings.  Before I left the area in 2013 I’d had several shows.  More importantly I taught watercolor and drawing to dozens of students, many of whom became friends and soul mates.  I learned new skills –  How to paint landscapes and flowers in order to teach my students.  This learning/teaching experience made me a better colorist than I’d ever been.  During my seven years in MA I definitely witnessed a drop in sales for all artists, and was thankful to be a passionate teacher.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticFast forward to 2013 and our move to Lexington KY where horses, not birds, rule the roost.  Oil paintings are much more common and popular than watercolors.   I’ve met a group of delightful and talented artists at the Artists Attic.   Out of 26 members only two of us are watercolorists.  Artists in all media have seen a drop in sales over the past decade.  The reasons are numerous:

  • The economic downturn
  • A flood of competing visuals on social media
  • Modern digital cameras allowing easy creation of personal and inexpensive artwork
  • Mobile devices and apps which allow easy creative manipulation and sharing of photos

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticSadly at the peak of my ability as a teacher and painter, I’m struggling to find students in the area interested in learning watercolor and drawing.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticThe current exhibit at the Artists’ Attic has given me an opportunity to show my best work.  Compliments abound!  Like all artists I appreciate the sentiment, but these days such sentiments rarely turn into sales or opportunities.

The one thing moving through the U.S. has shown me:  Change is the only constant and I need to adapt in order to survive and thrive.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticTo that end:  Horses, UK, and the beautiful Kentucky countryside will join birds and people in my paintings.  A love of learning has always been one of my biggest passions, so bring it on in the Bluegrass State!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Mini Lesson – Painting the Cat

I should clarify the title:  we’re not literally painting the cat 🙂 🙂 🙂   This “mini-lesson” shows step-by-step how I created a watercolor painting of my cat, Abby.

  1. Begin by sketching the cat with an HB pencil.  Make sure your drawing is accurate!  Lighten the pencil lines by dabbing at them with a kneaded eraser.  Contrary to what most books say, once wet, these lines can’t be erased completely.

    Pencil sketch of cat, in preparation for painting a watercolor

  2. Mix the following puddles (a puddle is paint mixed with enough water to dilute it to the desired value):
  • Cobalt blue + Brown Madder (warm purple mixture)
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna + Raw Umber
  • Burnt Sienna + Raw Sienna
  • French Ultramarine + Payne’s Gray + a bit of Alizarin
  • Sepia + French Ultramarine
  • Alizarin Crimson + French Ultramarine (make two puddless:  One very dilute warm & one cool)
  • Alizarin Crimson + Burnt Sienna
  • Raw Sienna + Ultramarine (very dilute for the cat’s eyes)
  • Viridian Green
  • Winsor Green
  1. Mask out small detail areas which you wish to remain white.

Use liquid frisket and a cheap brush coated with standard bar soap to “paint” these white areas.  When the frisket is dry it will look and feel a bit like dried rubber cement.

  1. Next I paint the base washes of the cat.

Base watercolor wash of a cat, in preparation for painting a watercolor

Glaze water over the entire cat until it glistens evenly;  drop in the following colors and combinations based on where they can be seen in the cat’s face:

  1. For the eyes use the diluted raw umber/ultramarine mixture;  then drop in viridian green;  add the pupil using sepia/ultramarine.
  2. For the ears paint the raw umber/burnt sienna mixture;  then drop in the cobalt/brown madder mixture;  finish with the ultramarine/Payne’s Gray/Alizarin mixture before the ear dries.
  3. For the face and body let raw umber/burnt sienna bump into ultramarine/Payne’s gray/alizarin, allowing the colors to blend alongside each other.
  4. Add Winsor green and drop in viridian for the collar.

** If necessary wet a section at a time to keep the paper wet while painting the cat.  It’s important that you paint wet-in-wet not wet-in-dry!!

  1. Allow all initial washes to dry completely.  Never paint into an area that has started to dry.
  2. Rub off the frisket to expose white areas.
  3. Add the final details:
  1. Use sepia/ultramarine for dark black highlights.
  2. Use Alizarin/burnt sienna for reddish highlights in fur
  3. Use a second glaze of raw sienna/burnt sienna and raw umber/burnt sienna to form the area around the mouth and nose.
  4. Use a 2nd glaze of alizarin/burnt sienna, cobalt blue/brown madder, and raw umber/burnt sienna for hightlights in the cat’s ears.
  5. The collar tag is created using alizarin crimson.
  1. Finally if you have lost whites such as the whiskers use a rigger brush and a diluted mix of permanent white gouache to paint over the watercolor.

Final watercolor of a cat.  Part of a mini-lesson tutorial for this blog

Hope you enjoy!  If you have any questions at all, please use the comment form below.

Thanks, and happy painting!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

The Little Things ARE the Big Things

Watercolor painting of an uncle making soap bubbles for his nephewwI have always known that little things matter.  Recently I’ve remembered that the little things often ARE the big things.

After a week spent vacationing in the Whalen House in Grand Haven MI, my mind replays lovely memories.  There were gorgeous sunsets, incredible views of Lake Michigan, and the red light-house just across the road from our rented cottage.   All glorious, ostensibly big things.

But what stands out two weeks later?

  1. Watching my eldest and his wife make soap bubbles with their nephews.
  2. Seeing the delight on my daughter’s face after she returns from geocaching with her boys.
  3. Sitting in the sand with my extended family, visiting while watching the grand kids build sand castles.
  4. Watching the love of my life, Steve, grill for the billionth time for his family (sometimes “mad skills” mean lots of work…)
  5. Photographing little items that might be fun to paint, like the tea cup covered with clover decorations that I discovered in the living room.  It will please the Irish in my family so much!
  6. Visiting over wine and pie in the “man cave”, a little hut outside the main cottage.

Most of the things listed could happen anywhere.  Often business encroaches on the important “little things”.  Today I remind myself again to do better:  listen more, send more notes, respond to emails more quickly, etc., because the little things really are the BIG things.

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature