A parting look


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owl finishedRemember this fellow, who had just been started in an earlier post? I thought you might like to see him completed. I love using this watercolor technique: first painting the entire paper with the background color, then using clean water and a dry brush to lift away the lighter areas. Once that’s done, the detailed work begins with a #4 round brush and some rich browns. Highlights in white gouache are added in a final step.

A member of the breakfast club


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Red bellied sketch1He’s becoming a regular, arriving after the bossy cardinal couple and before the mourning doves. Red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents here, and apparently they have a hearty appetite for seeds. “My” woodpecker is a male, easily recognized by his red cowl. Females display a red patch only on the backs of their necks. (Despite their name, you can watch these birds for hours and never catch a glimpse of their red-tinged belly feathers. But the bold black-and-white bars on their wings and their bright caps make it easy to identify them anyway. Bon apetit, Mr. Woodpecker.)

The eyes have it


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Burrowing Owl picJust started a burrowing owl in watercolor. I always paint the eyes first — I think they are my favorite part of the process. Burrowing owls are the nonconformists of the owl family: often active during the day, they can sprint on their long legs when necessary. They nest and roost underground, inhabiting burrows abandoned by rabbits or prairie dogs. Their diet, too, is different from the typical owl menu. In addition to insects, frogs and mice, the little burrowing owl also dines on fruits and seeds. A particular favorite treat is the prickly pear cactus.

New course! Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil


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Heirloom pic1Old-fashioned flowers and their pollinators, including bees and butterflies, will be the focus of a new 10-lesson online course beginning November 3. “The Heirloom Garden in Colored Pencil” will provide detailed, step-by-step instruction in seeing and accurately drawing a wide range of flowering plants in graphite and colored pencil. No previous art experience needed.

The course is designed to be “work-at-your-own-pace.” Lessons will post weekly on a password-protected site, and students have a five-month window (through April 3) to complete all 10 lessons. Personal instructor feedback and guidance is provided through email, as often as you wish.

The cost of the course is $65. To sign up, email studio@valwebb.com.






Tutorial: Little Black Hen in Watercolor

Watercolor is an astonishing medium. Beginning with spatters and splashes, and using only two colors — Pyrrole Orange and Phthalo Blue — it’s only a short, happy journey to a completed hen. This is the warm-up project for Lesson 5 in my online course, Birds in Watercolor and Beyond. Watch the video all the way through and print the pdf pages that appear below the screen before you begin painting. Enjoy!


L5 Hen Progression

L5 Texture Sampler

Chicken Reference 1

Chicken Reference 2

Your preliminary sketch can be very simple — no need for detail. The watercolor will provide surface textures and shading. Here’s what my sketch looked like…

L5 chicken sketch


…and here’s the finished Little Black Hen:

L5 Little Black Hen



In Part 2, we’ll employ an unusual method for moving paint across the paper’s surface: blowing short, sharp puffs of air that push the color away. Feel free to use as much or as little of this free-flowing wind power as you wish, depending on the final effect you want. The bird in this image, for example, uses much more of the technique than our video demo bird does:

L5 Spatter Bird

Watch the video all the way through and download the pdf reference images before you begin painting.

Reference – Raven

Reference – Crow 1

Reference – Crow 2



Chickens are birds, too


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chick5aI always include chickens in my online courses on drawing and painting birds. There are so many things that make a hen fun to draw — scaly toes, fierce beady eyes, all those feathers — and everyone has a basic understanding of chicken anatomy. This lovely girl was a demo for the current session of Birds in Watercolor and Beyond.

Ink + Gouache = Lots of fun


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Val Webb pelicanI know, I know… ink and gouache resist was supposed to come several weeks later in my course schedule for “Birds in Watercolor and Beyond.” But I just couldn’t wait to share it. My all-time favorite painting technique, its inky outlines and sudden transformation (as the result of spraying it with a garden hose, the best part of the whole process) remind me of my years spent carving colorful raku tiles. There’s more information on the process in an older post.


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