Watercolor Butterflies, step by step, now finished $125.00 -12″ by 17.5″










This photo (above) is the finished painting. After removing the masking from the butterfly shapes, I painted each butterfly directly in various painting styles.  Several were painted wet into wet.  Wet into wet is a term that means your brush is wet with color or water and so is your paper.  Other butterfly shapes were painted in a series of glazes.  The glazing method is where I paint a butterfly with color while the paper is dry, after each layer of paint is dry, another layer of color is painted over the fist.  This painting can be painted to a higher level of realism but I prefer to leave it in this ” Loose ” slightly less defined stage.  It gives the viewer’s eyes something to decipher.                                                             



The first thing you may need to do is plan a little. Usually most Artists would draw out their painting onto the watercolor painting. I don’t like to do line drawings but rather a simple road map drawing or mass drawing. Instead of drawing every detail, I place the larger shapes where I think will be best. I try to visualize some of the important compositional details. Such as, the dark and light areas, the directional flow of the painting and the focal point. This gives me an outline but allows some spontaneous happenings. It may seem scary to allow the painting to dictate many of the finer details, but we all know these things give your paintings a life of their own. Above you can see a page of my sketch book with several value studies (ink pen) which gives me the opportunity to explore several ideas. Often I don’t use any of them but each drawing helps me sort out (in my mind) what I want. Also, I usually include some notes about what works and apparently what I feel does not work. This can really jump-start the painting process. This is also a good way to record some of your ideas, often you may find you don’t want to paint “THIS” painting yet but later when you’re looking thru your sketchbook, you read over your notes and see your small sketches and you get a new inspiration and years later will find the time is right for “this” painting.

I have decided for our painting to use a simple butterfly shape which I will repeat at various depths of the wet into wet painting.
In this photo you can see I have used some mastic or masking fluid. I’m not a big fan of Masking fluid as it produces very hard edges and I like a mix of soft and hard edges. I chose to use the masking fluid to demonstrate it for you on hot press paper. Rule number one with masking fluid: “make sure your paper is bone dry.” Also Remember…Don’t shake your masking fluid, stir it, you do not want bubbles in the masking fluid. Tiny bubbles will leave holes in your masked area allowing paint to be deposited in your protected area. Most people use watercolor brushes to apply the fluid, I don’t recommend using a good brush to lay down mastic. This stuff is basically latex paint. Its rubbery and a mess when it dries. I use pipette or small oil painting brushes which I can throw away or clean with solvents. For larger areas, I pour it on and smooth it out with a palette knife or plastic spoon.

These photos show you some of my supplies laid out in preparation for painting. With any Watercolor painting you must have everything you will need at your fingertips. The process is less forgiving but when you make changes you can do so if you have everything ready. It’s just a matter of timing.

Supplies: Paints, container for clean water, cloths or paper towels, watercolor paper, a piece of glass or plastic like plexiglass to place under your paper for this very wet style of painting. I’m using Gator board (you can buy this product thru art stores like “Cheap Joes”), a spray bottle filled with water, butcher trays, palette trays,or plates to mix paint, and paint brushes, and if you want, (I didn’t use any of these in this painting.) you can also plan to have some of these other items, Saran wrap, salt, alcohol, inks, watercolor crayons or wax crayons.
The first stage is simple, you paint the mastic or masking fluid onto the paper where you want to save the white of the paper. I painted the butterfly shapes and also place dots in different places on the hot press paper. (Fabriano Atistico Hot Press 140 LB). You now step away from the painting and go do something else for about 20 minutes to allow the fluid to dry.

Next, I took the paper to the sink and wet the front and the back of the paper with clean clear water. I placed the paper onto the gator board and smoothed it out (do not make any marks, dents or creases with your hands) lay it down so it is totally flat. Use paper towels or cloths to absorb any puddles. Next drop your paint onto the wet paper or uses paint brushes to apply the paint where you want color. Now you will lift the paper either by the corners of the paper or by the gator board and allow the paint to mix together, always watching for magic. In this stage I use some staining colors but if you are unsure, use no staining colors and you can still spray back areas and reapply paint, or for any area you do not like, you can lift the color back by absorbing paint from the paper with towels. Do not rub the paper at this delicate state. Gently blot.
You can use the spray bottle either with paint or water to spray on color or just water for dilution of color or as a directional element.
Here is a close up of the paper with water and areas of applied masking fluid.
Close up of wet paint and water on the paper. Here I’m using a towel to pull some of the water and paint from an area of the painting. Below you can see while the painting is still very wet, I allowed the paint to run and mix and alternating putting paint on and pulling paint off of the paper. Applying water and blotting. A very give and take method of painting.

After I have decided I have everything I want from the Second stage of the painting, I will allow the painting to dry. If I want to pull any paint away from an area I will do it now before it is completely dry. If the paint runs back into the area, it is still too wet. Allow to dry for a bit longer and use a soft brush to pick up the wet paint. Perhaps defining some areas.
This photo is after I have painted each area a little darker while the paper is still wet. Now I’ll let it dry, Watercolor paintings will be slightly lighter when dry.
Now the painting is dry and I will look at it upside down and even sideways to see how the composition is working.

Above you can see an example of negative painting. The larger butterfly is covered with masking fluid while the smaller one is created by painting the area darker around a lighter area creating a butterfly. I don’t try to make perfect shapes the impression of a butterfly will work best. I want the overlap effect to help push one of the butterflies behind the other.
Now is also a good time to pull out some shapes from the darker areas, creating light. I have decided some round spears would be a good shape to include, this is a fantasy painting after all.
You can wet a spot in the darker paint and lift out with a cotton ball, Mr clean magic sponge, a q-tip, or a paint brush. In these darker areas it will bring a mid tone which will create a more complex piece and add another element. If you only want tiny dots, a spray bottle can be used. You may have to cover up areas you want to protect. Spray a fine mist, allow it to sit for a while and blot off. If the dark areas are dark enough this will work. It works on lighter areas but obviously it will be less noticeable. If you want, you can also spray watercolor paint from a spray bottle. I make up small bottles of various colors (the kind you can buy for travel)and pull them out to use them over and over. Reconstituting the pigments with water when they dry out.

Below you will notice I’ve painted the painting as dark as I would like it. I did this by Glazing… after the painting is dry I paint another layer of color over the first layer. This can be the same color if you want to darken or intensify the area or it can be another color, which will work like stained glass.  You’ll be looking thru the two transparent colors.  For example, if you have yellow and you paint blue over it, it will appear green. Try different combinations and see what appeals to you. I still have the mastic in place and the next step will be to remove it.  Before removing the mastic the painting must be dry. You can use your finger tips to rub off the layer of Latex (Masking fluid is a latex medium) covering the paper, or you can purchase a tool that looks like a rubber eraser which pulls it off.100_4828

Below I have pulled off the masking fluid from the butterfly on the far right edge of the paper.  I have opted to leave the masking on the other butterflies until I’m ready to paint them.  By leaving the masking on till later I have more options, knowing my butterflies are protected. 100_4831To demonstrate another technique, I  have decided to use a waterproof black pen to draw small lines on the butterfly shape.  I’m using a Micron #05 black fine tipped marker. You can opt to use any pen that is waterproof.  Another brand I recommend is   Faber-Castell (Pitt Pen).


In the next step, I used clear water to paint one wing at a time dropping the paint on the wet paper allowing it to flow.  Since I painted the background dark and I want this butterfly to come forward.  I painted this butterfly very light and not wanting to bring too much attention to the edge, I didn’t use too bright of color combinations.


I continue to pull off  the masking fluid from one butterfly at a time.










Each butterfly is painted in various ways. please see the finished photo of the painting which should now be at the top of this post.  If you have any questions, contact me at shantmarie@aol.com

“Bold Lilly” Watercolor on gessoed masonite $50.00 USD 8″ by 8″ (inches)

What a great day! The sun was out it was like 65 degrees, Roo (my grandson) and I went out in the yard and played with the dogs, we sang, threw rocks basked in the winter warmth and ate Mickey Ds. I stayed up till three am last night so I painted a couple of small paintings, this is one of them.

I used to have lilies in my pond but my Koi are large now and they think I’m putting those beautiful flowers in there for them to munch. So now unless I protect them by cordoning off a corner they get devoured in about five minutes.  But I can still have them anytime I want, I just have to get out the paint brushes.  Isn’t it wonderful to have an imagination?

“Incognito” A quick look at how Glazing can change a watercolor

This is a painting that is ready to be glazed.  It is completely dry  (more than 24 hours)  and will accept a new layer of paint very well.

The final finished painting is at the bottom of this post.

This is how the painting looks before I have glazed it.  Take a look at the painting and you will be able to see how different a painting can look after glazes have been applied.

You may also see area or shapes of some things which haven’t been painted yet.   Some direct painting or glazing with the same color will also need to be done to bring the values in line.  Values are difficult to determine unless you can see how  all the various colors and glazes effect each other.   Often an artist should go back and take a look at anything that has been changed just to make sure that anything that needs tweeking gets tweeked.   This means perhaps darkening an area previously thought to be OK.

Above you will see a section of the painting.  Look at the light green leaf here in the middle, I will glaze over some burn’t senna and  then some green and  last some pink which should push the leaf back a bit and look  like a shadow.

You can see this in the next photo below.

Under the bright orange leaf there is also an area which is not defined, look at this area and see how it will be redefined by direct painting & glazing. This photo above shows how I changed the shape of this area (under the large orange leaf).

Next look at the photo below… there was a very light  shape which was only painted a light grey blue but was left mostly white.  You can also see the blue leaf’s edges (in the corner) was given a blue and purple glaze .

 Here is the that same area and you can see it has been painted around (negatively painted ) also a few direct touches help to bring a little critter to life.
Below in the next shot there is an area of the painting I had to grey up a bit while defining the finger like shape.  I glazed over this area with Phatho blue.
Then I decided to scumble in some Andrews Turquoise and some Cerulean blue  Both are a bit opaque and can be layered rather then glazed. Opaque paint will sit on top of the first layer of paint, in this case the dark blue paint.
  This is the right hand lower corner of the painting, You can see I put in various colors as glazes to give the butterfly shape some dimension and I also added some colors to his body for a little more emphasis. 
 Here is the final painting.  Notice I also painted the little vine like branches again so they would stand out against the background.  I also glazed the big brown leaf at the right hand bottom corner with bright red so it looks a bit brighter.  These things are subtle but often these little tweeks are all a painting needs.

“Butterfly’s flight” watercolor and gold leaf on 300 lb paper

22 by 30 inches 470.00 plus $12.50 shipping.

The Mandarin Chinese word for butterfly is “hu-tieh”. “Tieh” means “70 years”, therefore butterflies have become a symbol for a long life. In this culture butterflies have also become representative of young men in love.
In the Japanese culture butterflies are thought to be representative of young maidens and marital bliss. Many Japanese families use the butterfly in the family crest design.
Germany has a very unique belief about butterflies. As butterflies can often be found hovering about milk pails or butter churns, they have become associated with witches trying to steal the cream. The German word for butterfly is “Schmetterling”, which is actually derived for the Czech word “Smetana” which means “cream”.
There are many links with butterflies in mythology from all over the world, many of which, in particular Greek mythology, link butterflies to the human soul. The Ancient Greeks also considered butterflies as the souls of those who had passed away.

In ancient Greek the word for butterfly is “Psyche”, which translated means “soul”. This was also the name for Eros’ human lover and when the two figures are depicted they are often surrounded by butterflies.
In one of the Russian dialects, butterflies are referred to as “dushuchka” which is a derivative of the word “dusha” also meaning soul. There is also an Irish saying that refers to the symbolic meaning of butterflies. This saying is: “Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory”.
There is a small town in Mexico that also associate butterflies with souls. It is to this town that Monarch Butterflies migrate every year, around the holiday known as the Day of the Dead. The people of this town see these butterflies as the returning souls of the deceased.
Butterfly symbolism is closely tied to the idea of spirits and souls. It has been also been used in many religions and cultures. In the western world, the symbol of the butterfly stands for freedom, fun and joyous times. It is also symbolises a state of naturalness and purity.
In the Christian religion, the metamorphosis a butterfly undergoes is symbolic of the spiritual evolution all Christains go through. Butterflies are all small and appear to be the same(like the catapillar), but as we grow older our true beauty shows. Like a butterfly, we are all different, and beautiful in our own way.
In ancient mythology, the butterfly stands for wisdom and everlating knowledge. Butterflies symbolizes change or transformation in many cultures purely because they change from one thing into another.

There is a Native American legend that says, ” If you have a secret wish, capture a butterfly and whisper your wish to it. Since butterflies cannot speak, your secret is ever safe in their keeping. Release the butterfly, and it will carry your wish to the Great Spirit, who alone knows the thoughts of butterflies. By setting the butterfly free, you are helping to restore the balance of nature, and your wish will surely be granted.”

Tribute to Monet 24 by 30 inches Oil painting on canvas

Another water painting from my Tribute to Monet series.

This is a large painting I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. It has a little bit of texture and a wonderful sense of reflection. Walking my dogs in the morning I’ll walk down to the water and come out from under the thousands of trees which have been blocking my view and look up to see something like this. It usually takes my breath away.

$400.00 oil on canvas. The sides have been painted…. so, no need for a frame.

Tribute to Monet # 14 Oil on canvas panel

This serene water painting is an Oil painting done on a canvas panel. The size is 24 by 30 and can be purchased for only $400.00. As it’s on a panel it can easily be mailed directly to your home ( continental US) for $5.50 USD.

This painting is part of my ” Tribute to Monet” series, it’s slightly more grayed down than many of my usual more colorful water paintings. I think the warm yellows are set off very nicely by the grayed down blue of the water.

“Under the falls” oil on gallery wrap one inch canvas. 24 by 24 inches

I have been in a bit of a quandary lately over what to paint next, no not these little paintings, but bigger paintings 1/2 sheets to full size sheets or bigger.

I just finished a series. I decided I wanted to start another series or so I thought. The problem is: I cannot for the life of me get the fourth painting started. I also have been reworking the second in the series even while others tell me to leave it alone, its great. This tells me maybe I really don’t want to make it into a series.  Then again…I have to admit I struggle thru this foggy quagmire of first attempts every time I start a series. It only seems after I’ve painted four or five paintings that I have a sense of what it is that I’m trying to say. It almost like I have to take the idea of a painting from a concept into a breathing living thing. Right now I feel like these paintings need CPR and I can’t remember how to administer mouth to mouth. Until then Until I can breath life into these paintings its just paint, paper and brushes.

As you become a better painter with more skills and techniques, you start to search for your style, you crave uniqueness. Why do painters constantly advocate breaking from the traditional school of thought? Is it the case of attempting to create paintings that will owe nothing to any other piece of work or artist–something unique and original in the world of art?” It’s a wonderful philosophy, but unfortunately an unrealistic delusion, simply because no one has ever been able to demonstrate a work of art that is entirely different. Every painting I ever gazed upon, including those in any gallery and those of the great masters all echo some previous painter’s accomplishments. Painters are by nature trying to achieve something new by using parts of something old. Every work of art, consciously or unconsciously has been subjected to traditional values in one form or another. The truth is that there is nothing original and if it appears as original there are most likely some less known artist doing the same thing but not getting any credit for it.
There may be new mediums, new colors or pigments but the basic way we take paint and create has not changed.


Blue Fairy , watercolor on paper

“Money can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, encourage unethical behavior, foster short-term thinking, and become addictive.” (Daniel H. Pink)

I got this from robert glenn’s weekly letters and knew it was so right but of course also know we all have to pay the bills. Sugar bear, my 100 lb lab is eating me out of house and home… This painting is$200.00 watercolor on paper. it’s slightly larger than 12 by 15 inches.