I Found My Prince

The two kissing bullfrogs you see on this year’s Valentine card were observed in Massachusetts.  I have never seen a more passionate pair of critters in my life!  Their courtship bordered on dangerous, a bit like “mating on steroids”.  They did however, finish with what really looked like a kiss.
Card from water color painting. Title is "Kissing Frogs". Text inside of card is "I Found My Prince"
I have always loved small creatures.  As a young girl I waded in a local creek catching frogs and observing the occasional muskrat.  I spent hours at Pauley’s pond with my brother.  We saw hundreds of baby turtles, toads, frogs, etc.  Even snakes intrigued me..

At some point birds became my passion, especially hawks and owls.  At age 21 my mother-in-law introduced me to the numerous songbirds which ate at the feeders stocked by the Bromleys all winter long.

… So it should come as no surprise that my children would be raised with wild critters.  Admittedly there were moments when I, an over-eager parent wanting to share joyful childhood experiences in Michigan, over reached a bit.  Probably it was wrong to take two Michigan frogs (a bullfrog and Leopard frog) on a road trip to Texas.  I did worry we’d get kicked out of a motel if anyone heard the noisy crickets we served up as the frog food.

Some months later the bullfrog died in a well-kept aquarium and the leopard frog was sold to a local Austin exotic pet store (Zookeepers).

A love of wildlife has been passed down to my children.  Stay tuned for some interesting Texas animal tales…

Thanks for listening!

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Unlikely Friends

The dogs in this painting/card are named Mufasa and Rafiki.  As the card suggests they are truly friends.  They are friends because they live together, and to a large extent because they are both dogs.  Friends - A watercolor painting by artist Barbara Bromley with the word "Friends" hand painted, and two dogs who are looking at one another. I met them when I first submitted a rack of my cards to the Decorator Warehouse in Lexington.  Mufasa and Rafiki are “store dogs”, happily spending their days with shop owner Natalie.

Ironically and more unexpected friends:  Sam, our family dog many years ago, and “George”, the orphan baby blue jay.   These two became friends as I nursed George back to health.  I fed George every day with Sam, still a puppy, watching.  As the jay learned to fly Sam became very interested, especially when he saw the bird poop on my friend’s head and my drawing in the same day.  A watercolor painting by artist Barbara Bromley showing a dog and blue jay looking at one another. When he was ready we released George near the town home where we lived at the time.  When I walked Sam the blue jay would follow us, flying high in the sky.  When I swam in the complex pool, George perched nearby on the fence.  When I opened the door to our house, George would fly inside take a bath in the small tub of water on my drawing table.   The entire neighborhood came to know and delight in seeing George and Sam frolic together.

It was the perfect yet dangerous (for George) friendship, a result of how a baby bird imprints on whoever it spends time with, in our case a dog and humans.  Following this imprinting experience with George I learned how to care for wild animals in a way to prevent such connections.  My ignorance in George’s case gave us the opportunity to really appreciate the antics of George the Jay, and our puppy Sam.

Thanks for listening!


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Free as a Bird

Watercolor painting of birds perching on the hand-lettered text Watercolor painting of a Red Tailed Hawk, by artist Barbara BromleyWatercolor painting of a bluebird, by artist Barbara BromleyI have been a birder for as long as I can remember. Chasing after birds as they flew actually made me feel free and unencumbered. It was the birds of prey that caught my attention first. The hawks and owls with their fierce eyes were a pleasure to sketch and paint. In Florida I discovered brown pelicans, watching in wonder as they dove beak-first into the ocean to catch fish. They way their bodies “kerplopped” into the water in such a bizarre fashion intrigued me. Then there were the Osprey diving feet first to grab fish with their talons. Sometimes they misjudge the size of their prey and are pulled under the water to certain death.

When I met my (eventual) husband Steve, I found a fellow bird lover in his mom, who introduced me to wrens, finches, and bluebirds. We observed these lovely critters together as they fed from the feeder just outside the large picture window of her Michigan home. Winters were hard, but the birds in her area thrived thanks to the massive quantity of seeds in her feeder. Who needed TV? We had ready entertainment watching a great variety of birds just outside the window.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara BromleyIn Texas the hummingbirds provided me with a favorite subject to sketch. I’d work on five different drawings in various poses as the hummers got “nectar” from our feeder. Every year a male black-chinned hummer would arrive perching on our peach tree waiting for females. After mating, off he went to chase another! The females laid eggs then raised two babies alone.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara Bromley

While living in Texas our entire family observed the pea-sized eggs in a nest constructed of spider silk and lichens. As the young hummingbirds grew the silk stretched to accommodate their growing bodies.

photo-hummer-on-nestP1Another Texas favorite was the roadrunner, which mates for life. I observed one wandering about seeming greatly disturbed only to find his dead mate close by, the victim of a fast-moving car. It always amazed me to know that roadrunners are capable of working together to kill a rattlesnake, not quite the cartoon image from long ago…

In Massachusetts the nuthatches caught my eye as they moved down a tree trunk head-first. Another treat was watching marsh wrens at Great Meadows. When the babies were fledging the parents had to come out of their hiding places in the reeds to feed them. I was ready with camera and sketchpad!


In Kentucky it was the common mallard ducklings that ticked my fancy. The young would follow their mommy anywhere including a busy street. I’ve also been shocked by the number of cooper’s hawks winging their way through housing developments instead of the forests for which their wings and tails were designed.

Get ready for my next blog about birds I’ve know “personally”.

Happy Birding to ALL!


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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 artfulpassages.com

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

Thanks, and happy painting!

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Best Friends – the furry kind

“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend….never owned a dog”

Watercolor painting of the word "Believe" with a Golden Retriever as a backdrop

I believed in Daisy, and I’m pretty sure she believed in me!

You often hear individuals describe themselves as a dog person or cat person.  I’ve always considered myself a dog person with a capital D!  I grew up with collies.  The “dog love” of my life was a golden retriever named Daisy.  She started out as my kids “best friend” but became mine when they grew up and left home.  Daisy turned gray with me and limped a bit, having sore hips just like me.  When I drew or painted she sat at my feet moving closer and closer.  This was very comforting except for the following moment.  Stop reading if you’re squeamish!   I had just sharpened 25 drawing pencils and placed them graphite point up in my pencil jar.  The bathroom was calling my name.  I took one step away from the drafting table.  As I put my foot down I nearly fell because it landed on the dog.  I heard a loud yelp.  To avoid hurting Daisy I dropped my hand toward the drafting table for support, and it landed on guess what?  Yes indeed all 25 pencil points!  Who said art was painless?!  It took an hour or so to pull the graphite points out of my hand.  Daisy was loaded with empathy.  She  acted a bit sheepish and concerned.

Watercolor painting of a three-colored cat named Abbey, sitting in a window sill looking out

Abby loves to stare out the window

Presently I’m a cat owner (or is she the real owner?).  Our three year-old adoptee Abby can probably avoid getting stepped on because cats are quick and limber.  Thanks to my husband, children, and a mostly friendly Abby, I have recently come to appreciate the finer attributes of cats.   I still miss the empathic love I felt with Daisy by my side, something I’ve never quite felt from the often aloof Abby.  Cat, dog, or whatever furry friend you may have, there is nothing quite like the love of a pet who can’t talk back.

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