The Art of Football

Fall and football have always provided me with such joy and entertainment.  Obviously the colors of fall would entice any painter to paint, but why be drawn to football?  I guess the answer is I grew up with it.  Watercolor painting of two hummingbirds holding up a blue banner that says My parents lived in Ann Arbor, MI while my dad attended the University of Michigan Law school.  I spent ages 3-5 romping the campus.  I’ve always loved the feeling in “The Big House”, U of M’s beautiful stadium.  When the Wolverine band plays “Hail to the Victors” I still light up and cry.
Watercolor painting by artist Barbara Bromley of a bobcat with the word
As I consider life transitions, I can’t help but mention how many college teams have been added to my cheering list over the years:  Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan,  University of Georgia, Universities of Texas – Austin and San Antonio, and of course the great Michigan State Spartans.  I followed in my brother’s footsteps to attend MSU in East Lansing.  I met my husband and earned a degree at this gorgeous campus.
Watercolor painting by artist Barbara Bromley of two hummingbirds holding up a blue banner that says
When I cheer for the various colleges attended by loved ones, I’m also cheering for my family and our shared love of learning.  I have “woofed” with my younger brother while watching the GA Bulldogs, toasted wine with my older brother after the Spartans beat Ohio State 28-24 in 1998, taking on their rightful position as season-spoilers.  I cried when my babies graduated from UT and UTSA.
Watercolor painting by Barbara Bromley, with a hand-lettered
Now that my daughter is a professor at the University of Kentucky, guess who has gained my loyalty?  One artistic benefit of this is my new love of painting bobcats.  Go WILDCATS!  Go BIG BLUE!  (except when you’re playing the MSU Spartans)

Thanks for listening,

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P.S.  –  Here’s me, my husband (right) and brother celebrating MSU’s 1998 football victory over OSU.

Photograph of artist Barbara Bromley, her husband (right) and brother (left) celebrating the Spartan victory over OSU in 1998 collegiate football

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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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!

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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

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

Thanks, and happy painting!

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Tribute to Albert J. Russell

Maya Angelou wrote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Simply put, my dad made me feel cherished.  Four years after his death this feeling remains.Watercolor painting of the word Cherished, adorned with flowers and hummingbirds

He treasured his family.  I think he actually thought all five of his children were perfect, or maybe he just treated us that way.  He lost his mother at age seven and learned early the power of family.  Shortly before his death he told my husband that life had turned out so much better than he expected.

I believe when he met and married my mom, in Japan of all places, life began again for him.

Pencil skectch of father and daughter, Artist:  Barbara Bromley a.k.a. artfulbarbI’ve included the drawing I did after his death.  As usual art helped me to cope.  The drawing was done from a snapshot taken at his surprise 82nd birthday party.  Normally there would have been lots of photos from my own camera.  Unfortunately I landed in the hospital the night before.  When I finally arrived at the party unshowered, exhausted, and bedraggled, he looked up at me with pure joy.  As always, even at age 82 and wheelchair-bound, his strength of spirit lifted me up.

Pencil sketch of old man walking away, carrying a flowerI’m so glad that I agreed to the photo because it captured how I felt toward a dad who was/is my hero.

I read this quote recently in a greeting card:

“You honor him by the way you live your life”

Dad, I’m still trying!!

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Love painting flowers???

Watercolor painting Pansy with Lettering by Barbara Bromley a.k.a. artfulbarbMay has always been a time of blooming flowers which I love to smell, look at, give and receive BUT, until recently, NOT PAINT. I slowly, slowly began to add them to my hummingbird paintings because hummers go to flowers for the nectar. Then, because I love to teach and students really like painting flowers, I had to add flowers as main subjects; I just can’t turn down a student request.

Finally, I grew to love the joy all those beautiful flower colors brought to me. I think aging has made me enjoy colorful things! Who knew!?

I have been rewarded in all of my work because, thanks to painting flowers, I am a better colorist.

Happy spring to you!

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Grandma’s Kiss

When my son Nick was young we lived in Austin TX, often visiting family in Michigan for the summer.  Our first trip was a very long car ride, and Grandma Russell had been impatiently awaiting our arrival.   GrandmasKiss-For-Web-300x291She was so excited to see Nick that she planted a big, very visible lipstick kiss on his cheek!  It touched my heart so, I knew this was something I had to draw.  I wanted to make it special so I drew a heart of flowers around the portrait. Prior to that time I had not been an avid flower painter but this event got me started down a new path.  I hope you enjoy the drawing – to me it’s a golden oldy, loaded with sentiment!

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Mini Lesson – Watercolor Hummingbird

This “mini-lesson” shows step-by-step how I painted a hummingbird from one of my photos.

  1. I begin by sketching the hummingbird 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) - Hummingbird Watercolor Lesson - Start w/Pencil Sketch

  1. I then mix the following puddles (a puddle is paint mixed with enough water to dilute it to the desired value):
  • Cobalt blue + Brown Madder (warm & cool mixtures)
  • Winsor Blue + Viridian Green
  • Sap Green
  • Alizarin Crimson  + New Gamboge
  • French Ultramarine + Payne’s Gray + a bit of Alizarin
  • Sepia + French Ultramarine
  1. Next I paint the base washes of the bird. - Hummingbird Watercolor Lesson - Paint base colors

  1. For the eyes, feet, and beak use the Ultramarine/Payne’s Gray / Alizarin mixture.  Leave the white highlights untouched.
  2. For the back of the bird paint the Winsor Blue/Viridian mixture.  While it’s still wet add Sap Green next to it, letting the colors bump each other.
  3. For the belly, let Sap Green bump into the Cobalt Blue/Brown Madder (warm) puddles, letting the colors blend alongside each other.
  4. For the wing and head, use both the warm and cool Cobalt/Brown Madder mixtures;  then drop a little Sap Green into them while still wet.
  5. The rosy area under the belly is painted with Alizarin/New Gamboge.
  1. Allow all initial washes to dry!  Never paint into an area that has started to dry.
  1. Add the final details - Hummingbird Watercolor Lesson - Add details

  1. Use the Sepia/Ultramarine mixture for dark highlights on the beak and feet as well as in the eye.
  2. For wing highlights use the cool Brown Madder/Cobalt mixture.

If you have any questions, please add a comment below!


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Happy 59th birthday to me!

Welcome to my blog!

Come join me as I celebrate my last year in the “frantic fifties” and document my “Artful Passages” into my sixties and beyond.   In my artful blog/journal I’ll use writing, painting, drawing, and photographs to chart my blog-journey.

Since its my birthday and all, I deserve some cake don’t you think? In lieu of the real thing, let’s serve up a couple watercolors instead.  Lots less calories! - Watercolor Birthday - Watercolor Birthday Cake

Thanks for making this passage with me!


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