GUEST ARTIST: “The Hunger To Create” by Rebecca Rhodes

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - bird - wren - Doodlewash

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!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - grey cat green eyes - Doodlewash

The School of YouTube

I learned to paint online, watching Youtube videos and finding artist whose work I admired.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - tiny beer - DoodlewashI’m drawn to detail, and always have been. It’s magnetic. I love to closely study flowers, facial features, textures, miniatures, anything.

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.

Online Teaching

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - violin painting - DoodlewashAfter the sabbatical, I returned to teaching for two more years, painting on and off when there was time. I retired in 2015, and am now a full-time artist.

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.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - eagle WIP - Doodlewash


Sheet Music Art

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - piano player sheet music - DoodlewashAs a musician, I’m naturally drawn to these subjects. During my teaching career, I would hate to throw away old music, wishing there was a way to repurpose it. And now there is!

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!

My Technique

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.


Step 1:

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - process Step 1 - Doodlewash

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.

Step 2:

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - process Step 2 - Doodlewash

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.

Step 3:

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - process Step 3 - Doodlewash

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.

Step 4:

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - process Step 4 - Doodlewash

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.

Step 5:

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - mongrel dog - Doodlewash

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!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - ostrich - DoodlewashWhat’s my advice to you? Life is funny. Five years ago, I never dreamed of being where I am now. Looking back at my former career as a teacher, it’s evident how I was led to where I am today.

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.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Rebecca Rhodes - green girl portrait - DoodlewashRebecca Rhodes
Online School
Take a free course here!


Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists, Tutorials
  1. Jean Marmo 5 years ago

    Oh – I love reading this. So much talent! Also great advice!

  2. memadtwo 5 years ago

    Very inspiring. I enjoyed this post very much! N.

  3. plimages 5 years ago

    Hi, Charlie, I know this isn’t your writing but there is a spelling mistake at the end of Rebecca’s post.
    “to do what you love, even if it’s just a bit here and there, and ever, ever give up.” shouldn’t it be never, never give up.

    Even so, it was a great post. Thanks for introducing me to so many new artists.

  4. Jill Kuhn 5 years ago

    Wow! Love all the fine details in your art, Rebecca!! 🎨👍 I like how you painted on top of old sheet music and how you have brought your love of music into your art! 🎵 Your animals all look so real! And thank you for the tutorial! 😃

  5. Teresa Robeson 5 years ago

    I’m completely blown away by Rebecca’s art! Wow!

  6. M. L. Kappa 5 years ago

    Lovely work, Rebecca! I’ve followed you on IG 🌺

  7. thejaemac 5 years ago

    fantastic work Rebecca. I love your piano especially. I’ll be checking out all your links and following you.

  8. June 5 years ago

    I really like the paintings on the music sheets. Really lovely. Thank you for sharing your technigue on painting the dog. I am going to have to try it.

  9. Yvonne 5 years ago

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted with you, Rebecca! (Thank you, Charlie!) Such fun work you create and I especially appreciate your musical inclusion!

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 years ago

    Rebecca, this is a wonderful story about perseverance and adapting to new circumstances. I love that you’ve reinvented yourself, moving from dream to dream. How creative to paint on music sheets. And your animal portraits are truly outstanding.

  11. Tim Olden 5 years ago

    Lovely work great style

  12. graham mcquade 5 years ago

    Lovely work

  13. naca A 5 years ago

    Love the idea of repurposing sheet music. It is absolutely beautiful as a background for portraits of musicians, butterflies, etc.

  14. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    I love the birds!

  15. Elizabeth Metz 5 years ago

    I thought, at first glance, that there could be nothing cuter than that bird at the top.

    And then I saw your dog portraits. I may have stopped breathing for a second. 😀

    THANK YOU for sharing your process! Off to check out Anna Mason now, too. 🙂

  16. Jennifer McLean 5 years ago

    what an incredible artist you are. thanks for sharing. WOW.

  17. Jill Gustavis 5 years ago

    Love the pieces and especially the knowledge you’ve shared! Quite inspired to try your process and paint my kitties.

  18. Marrianne Wadley 5 years ago

    I have been contemplating painting my dog. I am inspired! Thank you for sharing your process!

  19. Pamela Smith 5 years ago

    Great article,your work is wonderful..I like that you learned a lot from utube videos,that is where I learned a lot and am still learning…thank you for sharing your story.

  20. Debbie Nolan 4 years ago

    Your work is amazing. Also so generous with sharing your technique. Thank you.

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