Hello, I’m Rebecca Rhodes, a watercolor artist and teacher from Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. It’s a great pleasure to share with you, and I thank Charlie O’Shields for this opportunity.
The Hunger to Create
I’ve always had the hunger to create – an excitement – an urgency – bursting with ideas, like too much coffee but without the jitters.
It’s in the blood. My father is an artist, and so is my older sister. My mother was a writer and so is my younger sister. Music is in the blood too, on both sides of the family. I’m a trumpet and piano player and taught High School music for 27 years. Much of what I paint relates to music.
Teaching was fulfilling, joyful, challenging, and all-consuming. The urge to create was always there – but there was never time. By year 24 of teaching I was feeling unsettled. I took a sabbatical and earned a Master’s Degree in Music Technology. But there was also time to do something else! This was the year I began to paint!
The School of YouTube
I learned to paint online, watching Youtube videos and finding artist whose work I admired.
I looked up “watercolor paintings.” When I found ones that I loved – realistic and detailed – I researched the artist to see if they provided demos or tutorials, keeping records of those whose work I admired and wished to emulate.
The breakthrough came when I discovered Anna Mason and took her online courses. She was exactly what I was searching for. Her style of detailed realism fed the hunger, and is the basis of what I do now. I will always be grateful to Anna for offering these affordable, valuable lessons.
Around three months after leaving education, I started to miss teaching. So once again, I researched – this time, it was online education.
I began to record my paintings, edited the videos, and created a Youtube channel. It was amazing. After one year, there were 4,000 subscribers!
Now I offer online courses in painting realistic animals.
- I use Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor paints and Arches 140 lb. paper – Cold Press for larger works and Hot Press for smaller subjects that require more detail.
- I’m constantly researching and trying new brushes.
- For Cold Press paintings, I presently use a Raphaël Kaërell Synthetic Sable Brush #1 and #3. It’s affordable, holds a point, and creates nice fur markings when creating realistic animals.
- For the Hot Press paintings, I presently use a Billy Showell Sable Fine Tipped brush, #4 and #6. These are great for detail work, and the tip is lovely!
- I use an inexpensive white palette purchased at our local art store.
Sheet Music Art
Friends have been kind enough provide piles of old sheet music, and I sift through these vintage pages, looking for music in the public domain that I can turn into watercolor paintings.
The paint behaves differently than on Cold and Hot press paper, but the older, thicker paper accepts the color nicely.
Days are busy and fun. The online school keeps me focused, and I continue to create sheet music art and realistic paintings of all sizes, in addition to commissions, and selective art shows.
And the best thing is, there is always more to learn!
I tend to work with an almost-dry brush and many thin, watery applications of color.
Here’s an example from a tutorial called “Little Mongrel,” available in the Online School.
• This is an 8 x 10″ watercolor painting on Arches Cold Press paper.
• Colors (Winsor & Newton): Yellow Ochre, Winsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue – greys and blacks are a mix of the Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.
• I found the reference photo on Pixabay.
Look at the colors underneath the fur. Apply Yellow Ochre, a watery consistency, wet on dry, everywhere that will become brown and black. Work around the eyes, nose, and parts that will be white or just black fur, with no brown underneath.
I like to complete the eyes and nose early in the process, to create personality in the subject. First, apply watery Winsor Lemon, working around the highlight. When dry, apply watery Burnt Sienna, thicker in the corners (milky consistency), blending to the lower edge.
When dry, wet the eye, apply thicker Burnt Sienna mixed with a bit of Ultramarine Blue to create a darker brown. The nose – Apply a watery grey mix of Burnt Sienna/Ultramarine Blue (more blue than brown), wet on dry – working around the lightest areas. The pale blue on the top of the nose is Ultramarine Blue, a watery consistency.
Little by little, deepen the values with further grey.
Apply deeper Yellow Ochre to the areas that will be brown or black, a milky consistency, wet on dry. Begin to apply fur markings. Avoid the lightest parts of the face.
I completed the ears first to judge how dark to go in the face. Work from yellow (Yellow Ochre) to brown (Burnt Sienna), to dark brown (Burnt Sienna with a touch of Ultramarine) to a black mix of Burnt Sienna/Ultramarine Blue, always applying in the direction of the fur.
Now it’s time for the fur markings – browns and blacks in the darker areas, watery grey (Ultramarine Blue/Burnt Sienna) in the whiter areas. Use a watery consistency and create fur with flicks of the brush.
After the fur markings are complete, gently apply watery washes of brown and black to unify the colors and smooth the fur. Apply deeper, thicker black to the neck, put a dot of Ultramarine Blue in each highlight of the eyes, reinforce the darkest darks, including the nose, insert whiskers, and it’s done!
Life Prepares You for Now!
Those experiences prepared me for what I do now – organizational skills, working with people, technology, and perseverance. The biggest challenge now is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. I dream about painting at night, and can’t wait to get up and get working in the morning.
So whatever stage you are in your life, make time to do what you love, even if it’s just a bit here and there, and never, ever give up.