Posted in watercolor

Letting Go…in Art and in Life!

Hello creative friends!

Today I thought I would post a few of my latest watercolor creations. I wanted to try out some new materials and just have some fun, but what to paint???

Enter “Mo” my studio gnome…

Mo the Gnome

Mo is a daily inspiration to me.

I love his unkept salt and pepper beard and the perfect roundness of his nose.

Though his drab-colored clothing is practical and basic, and his shoes are different sizes and a bit wonky looking, his stocking cap speaks volumes about his whimsical nature.

In short, I can’t help but chuckle when I see him there waiting on my studio desk.

But what does Mo have to do with letting go???

Well, seeing Mo reminds me not to take myself so seriously—to let go of what others think of me and much of what I think about myself.

And since I’m a pretty serious person, I need this reminder on almost a daily basis!

Artistically speaking, being able to let go gives me permission to play and experiment.

In short, it gives me permission to ask, “What if….?” while I’m creating.

That playful attitude helps the artist in me to try new techniques, mediums, supplies, and application methods, which in turn encourages my overall artistic growth.

Even if I don’t end up liking what I create, it’s time well spent to help me know not to head in that particular direction!

Mo reimagined

Without the ability to let go, we lose the chance to grab onto something new or different.

So why is it sometimes so hard to let go in life and in our artistic process?

Fear can be a huge driver in much of this, at least for me.

Unfortunately, fear can come from any direction and take many forms: fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of criticism, fear of losing control, fear of comparison, etc.

How do we combat fear?

By faith in practice and by practicing our faith!

Gnome practice….

You don’t have to be an artist for long (or a human being, for that matter) to know that you will create lots of stinkers and make lots of mistakes.

But you can learn to let go of the failure and keep moving forward, and gradually you learn not to make the same mistakes.

Hummingbird Watercolor on paper Copyright R. Sorrells, 2021

I will leave you with a quote by one of my favorite artists of today, John MacDonald.

“Creativity and learning flourish when we’re on our edge, out of our comfort zone and out of our spheres of knowledge. We can only learn when we’re in the unknown. But the unknown is often terrifying…. When we’re filled with the joy of playing, there’s no room for fear. It is in the state of play that we learn the truth about fear and discover that we can live with it and manage it. And as we become more accustomed to playing fearlessly, we can relax, open up, and begin working fearlessly.”

John MacDonald, Artist

So begin a practice of letting go my friends.

Show yourself and others grace.

‘Till next time,

~R

Posted in studio peek

My Favorite Paintings of 2021!

Wow! I can’t believe 2021 is coming to an end…

Last year I began the tradition of designing and publishing a book of the paintings, studies, and sketches I created through the year.

I started with the idea to give the books out to family and friends as gifts, but the design process and end result have become so much more than that to me.

When I am putting each year’s book together, choosing photographs of paintings and inspirational quotes I want to include, I am able to stand back from the trees and get a good look at the forest I have been dwelling in during the previous 12 months—metaphorically speaking!

I find that when I step back to look at this retrospective, I am given the precious gift of getting to see the arc of my own personal growth as an artist.

And this year I saw BIG changes.

The first change I saw while looking over the paintings I produced this year was a focus on experimentation.

Soft pastel on paper
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

New techniques, new materials, even a new medium (water mixable oil) kept me on my toes and headed out in directions that kept my process from being stale and predictable.

Oil on stretched canvas
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

Another change I consciously focused on this year was quality over quantity.

It doesn’t bother me to set a painting aside and let it sit for days, weeks, or even months if it just isn’t “there” yet because I appreciate how it gives me fresh eyes to critique and move forward in whatever way is necessary to reach my vision.

But this year I have also made peace with the fact that I am probably never going to be a hugely prolific painter…and that’s ok.

I’ve realized that my painting process and personality do not lend themselves to popular social media challenges like “paint 30 paintings in 30 days”.

In fact, I have found that if I can’t stop and linger when I want or need to in order to produce the work my soul is crying out to create, I die inside just a little!—and that is not acceptable to me.

Top: soft pastel on paper
Bottom: oil on panel
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

But this year the biggest change I actively encouraged in my heart, mind, and artistic process was to really seek out what it was I was trying to say with each painting, and then to let myself express those ideas, desires, and feelings onto the painting itself.

One of the wonderful benefits of allowing myself to work in this way is that I am becoming more aware of my artistic voice—who I am as an artist, what I value as an artist and human being, and how I want to grow in the future.

Oil on canvas panel
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

As a result, I can see the meager beginnings of a “style” that marks my work as mine and validates who I am becoming as an artist.

And that, my friends, is something I have been waiting to see emerge as the months and years of creating have slipped by.

Oil on panel
copyright R. Sorrells 2021
Oil on canvas
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

All of the photos in this post are included in this year’s book, and I wanted to share them with you.

If you have made it this far, thanks for sticking with me to read about my thoughts on creating and artistic growth.

Oil on panel
copyright R. Sorrells 2021
Oil on canvas panel
copyright R. Sorrells 2021

You can read the inspirational quotes that I included in this year’s book here.

But I will leave you with the quote I used to close my 2021 book.

It speaks to this idea of growth and not yet being who we were created to be….

“Beyond myself, somewhere, I wait for my arrival.” — Octavio Paz, poet

Thank you creative friends for taking time out of your precious life to read this post. I pray you will stay your creative course, wherever that leads your heart, and that on the journey you find joy in the process.

Till next time…

~R

Posted in watercolor

Painting A Watercolor Snow Family Christmas Card

Hello my creative friends!

Today I am sharing how I paint my own Christmas cards in watercolor.

My daughter and I painted last year’s card during her Thanksgiving break from school. It was fun to put on some Christmas music, have a cup of cocoa, and be together creatively—plus, it got us into the holiday spirit without having to go out on Black Friday!

So, grab your cocoa and a few simple supplies and let’s get going!

You will need:

* sketchbook or notebook paper to try out design ideas; a pencil with eraser

*5×7 inch pieces of watercolor paper, 140 lb (cold press if you want texture, hot press if you want less texture)

OR

*5×7 inch pieces of mixed media paper (I used Strathmore Mixed Media Paper—vellum surface, 184 lb., 400 Best series; it is smooth like hot press paper, less expensive than good watercolor paper, and perfect for this type of fun, sketchy painting where you might not want to use your best paper.)

*watercolors and a palette to mix them on

Check out the little porcelain mixing palette and watercolor paint tin I found on Amazon…

Watercolor palette paint tin
Comes with 40 empty magnetic half pans, but I fit 44!
9 well porcelain mixing palette
These are what I reach for when I am working at my desk, as space is at a premium! They sit side by side and take up about as much space as my previous metal folding palette.

*watercolor brushes of your choice (I prefer Silver Black Velvet rounds, size 4, 6, and 8 for most of my watercolor work.)

*and of course, water! One cup for cleaning brushes, and one for dipping into for clean water.

PROCESS

STEP 1: Start by considering what kind of card you want to send. Traditional? Whimsical? Cartoony? Elegant?

Then look at the inspiration around you that fits with the aesthetic you have in mind.

You might find that the ornaments on your tree, the toy soldier on your fireplace mantle, or your favorite Christmas carol sparks an idea for what to paint.

This year, I am all about snow people. In fact, tomorrow my family and I will be creating a snow gnome in our front yard, sans snow as of yet, but I’m sure that will be added soon enough!

So to that end, I decided to paint this little figurine of a snow family that we love.

STEP 2: On a plain piece of sketch or notebook paper, sketch out your design idea very simply by placing the major shapes within a 5×7 inch rectangle. Don’t worry about the details at this point unless you feel unsure about placing them correctly later with paint.

Once you are happy with your design, you can jump right to sketching onto your painting paper. Just remember to draw lightly onto your painting paper to make it easier to erase later—especially if you don’t want pencil lines in your final product.

Use light pencil pressure!

STEP 3: Now for the fun! Add your first base washes of color to your painting. Use lots of water for paler washes, less for stronger washes. Since watercolor is usually painting light to dark (that is, you save your white/lightest areas instead of painting over them), start with paler washes. You can always add more color later.

First layer

STEP 4: Continue layering each area of color until you get the value, texture, and depth you desire. Be sure to let each layer dry before you glaze more color on top.

Adding glazes of color to a snowman’s face

Texture tips: Keep in mind that as you are painting, you may want to add extra texture in certain areas. One of the easiest ways to do this is with salt.

In my painting, I wanted to create texture in the scarves of the snow people, so I sprinkled regular table salt onto the areas while they still were glistening.

You will get different effects depending on how wet the paint is—generally, the wetter the wash when you apply the salt, the more effect the salt will have. Applying salt to an almost dry wash will have, surprise, almost no effect. 🙂

You can also try out different sizes of salt granules—from kosher, to pink Himalayan, to very fine—each will give different results. Or surprise yourself and purchase a salt grinder which will give you various sizes to keep things more random looking!

Detail of salt blooms on snowman’s scarf

Whatever salt you end up using, just be sure to let it dry before wiping it off or you will smear the effect it created.

Another way to add texture is by spattering on or dropping in plain old water. This will create blooms by pushing the wet pigment out of the way and revealing some of the paper color underneath. Experiment with different applicators to see what gives you blooms with the size and randomness you desire — flicking the end of an old toothbrush will give you smaller, more numerous blooms; tapping your paintbrush onto your index finger is good for larger blooms; an eyedropper will help achieve boulder size blooms….you get the picture.

The sky is the limit when considering tools to help achieve texture and not what this post is about, but other ideas might include using the edge of an old credit card to scrape back into paint; placing wadded up plastic wrap onto a wet wash and letting it dry; dabbing back into wet paint with a tissue or paper towel to lift out paint; using an artificial sponge to dab paint onto a dried underlayer, etc.

Continue glazing and adding texture

STEP 5: Once you have your painting working as a whole, only then should you refine it with details and your darkest accents. For my snow family, this meant adding facial features, buttons, and the glittery paint for the metallic scarf threads (not really visible in the photo).

Adding facial features and dark accents

STEP 6: Once finished with the positive forms of the snow people, I erased my pencil lines and turned to washing in a simple glittery background using a mix of silver and light blue metallic paint made pale with lots of water.

I cleaned up any messy edges and made sure to use a clean, damp brush to soften any hard edges that appeared once my washes were dry.

“The Snow Family” 5×7 watercolor on Strathmore mixed media paper R.Sorrells, Artist

And here is the result of adding my artwork to a card-making template available from Snapfish.com.

I ordered my cards with Snapfish and they will be sent out to family and friends who I hope will enjoy the touch of whimsy in their holiday season!

So go on people! Make merry and get your creative juices flowing.

I hope you enjoyed this little demo and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season.

Peace and blessings to you all!

~R

Posted in Oil Painting

“Birdwire” Oil Painting

Hello creative friends!

Thought I would share another feathered friend from my latest oil painting adventures including some process photos for a behind-the-scenes look.

“Birdwire” Oil on cotton-covered panel, 9×12” Available!

I had a lot of fun painting this scene.

I especially loved creating the softly-blended background and juxtaposing it and the delicacy of the bird against the jagged imagery and symbolism of the barbed wire….

Here are the process photos, starting with the loose underpainting to get a start on the background.

Adding first oil layers…

Hope you like the sneak peek!

If you are interested in this piece, it is available here.

Stay creative friends. 🙂

Till next time…

~R

Posted in Oil Painting

Oil Studies: Getting loose and creative

Hello creative friends! This summer finds me busier than ever. How ‘bout you?

Our string band played the county fair providing ambiance for the fair-goers. That was a lot of fun. 🙂

Here at home our little garden is cranking out beans, tomatoes, berries, and zucchini—which means harvest and preservation are in full swing. Time to dust off the canning jars…

Yesterday was a chicken processing day—thank goodness for our chicken plucker!

Homeschool is just around the corner. I mean, it literally starts next week—yikes!!!

And throughout our busy schedule I am somehow managing to find time to spend at the easel.

Lately I have been working on monochromatic as well as limited palette studies in oil. I have also done some experimenting with new colors, but would like to spend more time really going deep into the possibilities via some color charts.

Here are a few of the studies…lots of fun to do and all from imagination.

Oil study on paper
Oil study on paper
Oil study on paper
Oil study on paper

These studies are done on canvas paper and take as little as 20-30 minutes, though some took longer depending on how much fun I was having! 😉

I could see these studies serving as inspiration for future larger oil paintings. Producing them was a fun way to test out ideas and materials, and engage in some imaginative playtime without feeling like I had to produce something frame-worthy.

So I highly recommend this kind of work for those times when you are in between projects, or for when you just don’t know what to work on next.

I think it is also something incorporated into a daily practice if you desire. Like daily sketching, but for oil painters!

Hope you are taking time to restore your creative juices as summer continues. Before you know it, autumn will be upon us and we’ll be longing for these long, lazy days, so don’t let them go to waste!

Till next time, stay creative.

~R

Posted in available paintings, Oil Painting

“Blue Days” – Available

“Blue Days” Oil on panel, R. Sorrells copyright 2021

Auction for this painting begins July 6, 2021! Click link below to place your bid.

https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/rhonda-sorrells/%e2%80%9cblue-days%e2%80%9d/905952

Blue Days” – Original Oil Painting by Rhonda Sorrells

Birds are some of my favorite subjects to paint, and bluebirds are one of my favorite kinds of feathered friends.

I couldn’t resist trying to capture their beauty in oil with this little bird portrait. 🙂

This is a one-of-a-kind original oil painting on 6×8” cotton canvas-covered hardwood panel, signed on the front and labeled on the back. The panel is 1/8” thick.

This unmatted/unframed oil painting is ready to be popped into a 6×8” frame of your choice upon its arrival!

Your painting will be covered by a layer of Glassine and cocooned between two pieces of foam core for protection during shipment.

With your purchase you will also receive:

*A copy of my “Oil Painting Care & Framing” tip sheet

*A hand-written Thank You!

Please carefully read the enclosed care and framing sheet when your painting arrives.

For more information regarding shipping, shop policies, and more, please visit this link: https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/rhonda-sorrells/%e2%80%9cblue-days%e2%80%9d/905952

To visit my online studio gallery of available paintings in oil and pastel, visit: http://www.rsorrellsstudio.com

Note: I do my best to color correct painting images; however, monitor types and settings differ and may not perfectly match painting color.

Thank you for your interest and support!
©Rhonda Sorrells, 2021

Posted in Oil Painting

What’s On My Easel???

Hi all! Just checking in before the Memorial Day holiday here in the states to share what I am currently working on.

I have been taking a deep dive into oil painting the last few months, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

That said, I feel like there is a pretty steep learning curve regarding oil painting, and specifically, water mixable oil painting.

One of the reasons I held back from trying oils is the use of smelly, toxic chemicals in the application and clean-up.

BUT NO MORE!!!

I bit the bullet and purchased several tubes of water mixable oils (WMO’s) and a few water mixable mediums, some brushes and canvas, and haven’t looked back.

What I have found is that there are really only a few basic rules one must follow to paint in oils, but once you get a handle on those, the rest is really about learning to manipulate the paint in ways that will give you the effect you are looking for. And that’s where your own individual style comes in.

So, enough of that. Here is what I am currently working on…

I’m loving trying to get that misty/foggy effect. This one’s almost done. Hope to finish it over the weekend.

That’s it for now. I hope you have an enjoyable week and upcoming holiday 🙂

Don’t forget to make time to feed your inner artist and do something creative!

Till next time…

~R

Posted in Oil Painting, Uncategorized

Baby Chicks, Oil Painting, & Thoughts on Being Creative

Hello creative Friends!

I hope today finds you well and happy. This week has been a little crazy around here.

We hatched our first batch of baby chicks for the year, and though we are not new to the process, it’s still a little nerve-wracking every time we set eggs.

We also tried out a new incubator which added to the drama. Would it turn the eggs properly? Would it keep the eggs at the proper temperature? Too hot? Too cold? Humid enough? Not humid enough?

To us a new hatch usually means interrupted sleep, hyper-vigilance over the incubator, witnessing the first pip, and the occasional rescue of a shrink-wrapped chick… Get the picture?

Think “maternal instincts on steroids”!

PHEW!

I am delighted to report that as of this morning we have added 9 little peepers to our menagerie!

So CUTE!!!

I don’t know about you, but when I have too many irons in the fire, I tend to lose my creative energy!

But now that the chicks have been moved to the brooder and are settling in, I was able to spend some time in the studio experimenting with water mixable oils.

Being more familiar with pastel and watercolor painting, I decided to take it slowly. For me, that means COLOR MIXING.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

(Color swatches with a black check next to them are the closest to matching the paint sample.)

I decided to start by gathering paint chips from my local hardware and big box stores. If you try this exercise, be sure to pick a variety of chips to include the major color families (hue), as well as lighter and darker versions of each color (value), and purer vs. grayer versions of each color (intensity). The best part is that they are FREE!

Next, using a limited palette of titanium white, permanent yellow light, ultramarine blue, permanent alizarin crimson, and burnt umber, I worked to match each paint chip’s hue, value, and intensity.

Essentially, I wanted to see if I could get close to mixing most colors from just these five.

Why?

Because it would be less confusing at first and it would teach me not only the possibilities, but also the limitations of a primary palette. (A primary palette is one consisting of a single yellow, blue, and red. White is for tinting and the burnt umber is for creating shades.)

Now, I knew going in that I would eventually be using a split primary palette (one with a warm and cool version of each primary color) like I use when I am painting in watercolor, but like I said, I needed this to be less confusing at first. 🙂

So looking at the pics above, these 4 chips were mixed using the colors of my primary palette. I did lots of these matching exercises, and I have to say it was fun in almost a meditative way.

It was also very enlightening because eventually I came across colors I just couldn’t match using this palette of colors.

  • That’s when I added in a warmer red (Pyrrol red, Royal Talens’ Cobra brand).
  • I also switched out burnt umber for burnt sienna (more orangey and just as capable of giving me a dark value when mixed with the ultramarine.)
  • So far, the permanent yellow light (Cobra brand) is working for all my warm and cool mixes.
  • I am also trying out adding in titanium buff when I don’t want my color to be lightened AND cooled like it would be using titanium white.
  • And the verdict is not in yet as to what other blue I would add in addition to the ultramarine.

I foresee that there will be times when these few colors will just NEVER give me the color I may need–think very intense, highly saturated (aka high chroma) color.

And that’s when I would pull out tubes with specialty colors.

Alas, my color mixing adventure will continue for a while to come. That’s ok. I have a lot of work to do in this area!


In my latest Instagram post I briefly write about being creative. Please check it out and follow me if you haven’t already! Click here to view today’s oil study and leave me a like and/or a comment with your thoughts.

Thanks for taking the time to read my latest musings. May you be well and filled with creative musings of your own in the days ahead!

Till next time,

~R

Posted in pastel painting

Fresh Off The Easel!

Hello everyone!

I wanted to share a new pastel painting with you. The subject: bluebird!

I just LOVE bluebirds. In my neck of the woods, we see them only occasionally. So it’s a real treat when we discover a pair building a nest or moving into one of the many bird houses we provide. 🙂

As usual, below are some of the progress shots involved with this painting.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

“Bluebird” 6×8 inches, assorted soft pastels

Until next time…

~R

P.S. Follow me on Instagram for other sneak peeks!

Posted in studio peek

Studio Peek!

Enjoying time in my studio on a quiet weekend. I think Callie is enjoying the quiet too!

Working on a watercolor surprise for my sis-in-law’s birthday….SHHHHH…it’s a secret!!!

Hope your day is blessed with time to be creative. 🙂

Till next time.

~R