Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Late Morning Snow Melt

"Late Morning Snow Melt"

Class demonstration
by Michele Cooper

Yesterday's class demonstration got a little "tweaking" in the studio this morning. After various pauses to answer students' questions both am and pm, this one moved from a spontaneous wet in wet demonstration to negative painting on the dried paper. Back in the studio, I used some textural devices, such as spatter and scraping with an Xacto knife to balance the softer edges of the original wet in wet passages. The paper was now dry enough to create the dark accents of the tree bark. I usually need some time for thought after the initial painting session to evaluate it and add the "last five strokes". Those who took photos in class can compare, to see the final touches that were added.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


3 apples, north light
Original Watercolor Demonstration
by Michele Cooper

I painted this as a demonstration for one of my classes. Even though the subject was in north light, the photo comes out a lot cooler in this photo than the actual color of the original artwork.

Tip: Click the photo for enlargement

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Found still life photo
by Michele Cooper

I was taking a walk around the block in downtown Seattle yesterday when I found the perfect autumn still life right there on the sidewalk.

When I make my painting, I think I will call it "Markers", since fallen leaves are a sign of the season....and they just happened to arrange themselves like this around one of the geological markers on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

November Studio Open House Postponed

Section of "Apples and Lilacs"
Original watercolor by Michele Cooper

This November would be the 17th Annual Studio Open House at Michele's NW Studio. I regret to announce that this occasion will be postponed until further notice due to uncertain circumstances regarding family obligations.

We will welcome you all at another time in the next several months.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Rebind Your Moleskine Sketchbook

I'm participating in the 2012 Sketchbook Project. The paper that came with the official sketchbook is too thin for me to use with watercolor, so I replaced it with Fabriano Artistico and used a simple binding method to make sure it holds up to many (I hope) page turnings.

Here's the method I used to bind my sketchbook with watercolor paper. Watch on YouTube if you want to see it full screen.

If you think you'd like to try this project, see my other posts regarding the Sketchbook Project. Please let me know if you have any questions....or send me a link to your sketchbook. I'd love to see how it's coming along so far.

Monday, June 20, 2011

House Portrait

8x10" Original Watercolor
House Portrait Commission

June is such a busy month! I KNEW it would fly by with so much to do.

Above is a commission I finished on Friday for a client. There are a few things added that weren't there and quite a few things edited out of the original reference. I gave them nice big pots of flowers, judicious pruning of the existing foliage and lots of warm, homey atmosphere.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sketchbook Project in Seattle this weekend

Here's a link to the project in Seattle on vimeo.
The pages on the left are from the theme "In Flight" by Julia Jandrisits.

We were there on Saturday and it was a crush! The owner, curator, of the gallery said there were 120 visitors on Friday and probably around 250 expected by the end of the day Saturday. We were there around 1:30 and there was a line out the door, people reading and sitting on the stairs inside and on chairs and ledges outside.

One of the co-founders, Steven Peterman, was at the door while we were there and told us how the books were transported from city to city.

Read the article in the Seattle Times with a few photos from the show. Just saw something on the Project website that reports 1,000 viewers over the 3 days in Seattle.

If you missed it, there's a digital library where you can view the ones that were digitized so far. I'll be reading a lot of these, since I didn't get my fill at the gallery.

(I have mine rebound with empty pages ready to go for the 2012 tour)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sketchbook Project

Art House is an online art community that offers projects for artists and enthusiasts interested in showing their work in a gallery environ-

One recent project, set to tour the U.S in the coming weeks, is The Sketchbook Project.

This past year they sent 28839 artists from 94 countries blank sketchbooks. Just under 10,000 books were returned completed — all of which will be on display.

The tour started February, 2011. It's coming to Seattle, June 10-12 at:

Form/Space Atellier

2407 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121

Plenty of time to sign up for the next one! Go to for all the info.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Late Bloomers

Original Watercolor
Class Demo

The tulip festival in Mt Vernon was half over before the actual tulips bloomed this year.

This was a demonstration I did for recent watercolor classes using some of my famous "tricks and cheating ways".

For an example of some I actually painted on location see here and here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Group photos" from Class

Here are some of the handmade mini palettes that my students made.

Many of them have been used already en plein aire.

It's been great fun seeing the individuality and creativity that has gone into these travel palettes as well as the paintings that came from them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yarka Field Easel

Here is my Yarka medium size field easel, purchased in the 1990's. It fits in my medium size suitcase as well as being light enough to carry with the shoulder strap. I regret to say that it is not widely available now. That's a shame, because it is the only box type easel with aluminum legs, except for the new one with four legs by Cheap Joe. This makes it strong but lighter to carry and the legs don't wick up moisture while standing in the damp ground. Click the image to zoom in for details.

I have a Julian French easel, which is heavier with wooden legs. I used it in the tulip fields and once the legs got so swollen with moisture that I couldn't turn the wing nuts. So I closed up the top and drove down the freeway with the easel legs sticking up in the back of my car. It looked almost as if I had brought back a dead animal in full rigor!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Backpack Outdoor Kit

A single strap sling backpack is small but useful for carrying your outdoor kit while traveling. Make sure it's big enough to carry your favorite size sketchbook or watercolor block.

This is my windbreaker (folds down and fits into its own pocket), single strap backpack, and Anderson easel (in its own case).

For photos and description of contents click here.

To see it all set up on location click here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easel for Car Use

If you drive to your location and paint near or in your car you can carry more stuff and larger paper.

This little easel is small enough to use in the car (Pacific NW artists still consider that to be outdoor painting) You can keep your watercolors and yourself dry during occasional rain showers. I plan to use it this spring during the April SNOW that's predicted this week. Aaaack!

Called a book stand with drawer, it's only 13 1/4" x 10 1/4" x 2 3/4" and even fits into some larger back packs or sports bags. A drawer holds the implements of your work - pencils, brushes, papers, mini palettes, whatever; while a pop-up easel stand holds open your journal, or sketchpad.

Tri-Dee and Brushstrokes both sell the easel at their local art supply stores.

You can order the whole kit with carry bag, paints, brushes, etc. online.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Watercolor Kit in a Waist pack

Cheap Joe's used to sell an outdoor watercolor "Survival Kit" that was the perfect size for me when I took a group to Italy. It was packed with just the right stuff to paint anything you want and just the right size to go anywhere. I rode the vaporeti all over Venice with it and demonstrated for my class, too.

Now this great little bag comes empty and it's on clearance. You can pack it with your own personal collection of outdoor painting essentials.

If enough readers are interested, I can post a photo and list of my supplies that fit into it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Zip up Outdoor Watercolor Kit

Now for medium size portable painting kits that have their own case or can fit in a backpack or messenger bag. They come with a variety of supplies. You can add some of your own like I did here.

This entire kit zips up into its own case. It even has its own wrist strap. See it in use here with a description of contents. It's still small enough to use comfortably in the car.

Additional materials shown: small plastic mixing palette, 4"x6" watercolor sketch block and tiny Altoids mini kit. I can use the Altoids kit for quick field sketches in the small sketchbook. For larger field studies, I squeeze out fresh paint on the plastic palette and use my 9x12" Kilimanjaro Paintbook, a 10x14" watercolor block or 1/4 sheet 200# Saunders Waterford paper.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sucrets Compact Pocket Palette

This compact travel set will fit in your pocket, fanny pack or handbag. It's about the size of a digital camera case.
It consists of:
  • Small plastic accordion folder, like the ones used for coupons or index cards
  • It holds a dozen pieces of watercolor paper cut to fit
On the far right, from top to bottom:
  • I have a clip to hold loose papers together while painting
  • A travel bottle that allows you to use a little or a lot of water at a time
  • The Sucrets box is deeper than the Altoids one, so it can hold a travel brush, bottle cap for water, sponge, pencil, eraser, etc.
  • A business card size diagram of the colors and their names. Fits in an inside card pocket.
  • Use Sculpey or watercolor pans to arrange colors in the Sucrets tin as you would in the Altoids tin. See here or here for description

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Altoids tin pocket palette next size up

The regular size Altoids tin can be used to carry your tiny one, plus a sponge, additional color half-pans, travel brushes and bottle caps for water.

Peel and stick magnetic strips can be used to make sure the contents don't shift around as you paint or carry the tin in your pocket.

If you prefer, you can mold palette wells out of Sculpey or Fimo. This tin would hold 8-10 colors.

The whole idea is to be as inconspicuous, portable and compact as possible while taking advantage of incidental sketching opportunities.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pocket Palette Possibilities

Here are just three possibilities for reusing items you already have to make your own pocket travel palette.
  • Some eyeshadow and makeup compacts even have removable sections that can be filled with your choice of watercolors from tubes. The mirror works fine as a mixing area. There's even a slot for your travel brush.
  • You can purchase empty or filled pans and half pans of watercolor. Attach a peel and stick magnetic strip under the bottom of each one and arrange as desired in your regular size Altoids tin. This has the advantage of repositioning and removal for cleaning. Spray the entire inside of the box with white enamel for waterproofing.
  • As seen in previous posts, there is the Altoids mini with pans made from Sculpey.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pencil Box Kit for your tiny Altoids palette

This little slide pencil box from Staples will hold an entire mini painting kit, including a full size #8 round brush, pencil, sponge, paper towel, Altoids mini palette, extra tubes or pans, etc.

Add a small watercolor sketchbook or block and a water bottle and the whole kit fits into a handbag or small waist bag or fanny pack.

Here's another way to Travel Light with Plein Air Watercolor.

Tiny Travel Palette DIY with Altoids Mini

For the next week, I will post my array of mini, compact and travel plein air set ups, from the tiniest to the biggest.

Make a mini pocket palette with
  • a tiny Altoids smalls tin,
  • Sculpey Oven Bake Clay
  • Wisp
  • plastic deli lid
  • self stick magnetic strips.

Cover the interior of the box with a thin (about 3mm or 1/4") layer of Sculpey or Fimo. Once you've covered the interior of the box with Sculpey, split it in 6 equal parts using strips of Sculpey. I started by laying a strip lengthwise in the middle of the tin, separating the interior in 2 long compartments. Then, I put four equally-spaced squares of clay to split each half-tray in 3.

Once you're done, you should have 6 compartments of roughly equal size. Use the Wisp to carve and smooth out any sections too small for your fingers. A crochet hook can be used as well. I baked this in the oven at 275 degrees F for 17 minutes. Thinner clay takes a little less time.

After it cooled off, I cut a thick plastic deli lid to fit inside the Altoids lid. I attached it with self-stick magnetic strips. It makes a nice mixing area for my paint and is removable for cleaning or replacement. (You could spray the inside of the lid with white enamel for a similar effect.)

Fill each of the empty sections from tubes of artist's quality watercolor. I used a warm and cool of each of the three primary colors.

Top Row: Permanent Yellow Deep, Vermilion, Manganese Blue

Second Row: Winsor Yellow, Crimson Red Lake, Ultramarine Blue Deep

Tip: Stir freshly squeezed color with a toothpick to make sure it is evenly distributed. Fill each well in two stages, halfway to start. Allow paints to dry with the lid open overnight before topping up and/or transporting.

You can use empty or purchased half pans with self adhesive magnet tape attached on the bottom to hold them in place. However, I prefer the extra width the Sculpey provides so that the adjacent colors don't mix together so easily.
Update: Scroll down my list of broadcasts for a replay of my live demonstration on

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Charcoal Drawing

Original Charcoal Drawing 14x20"

What I love about charcoal is the speed and expressiveness that comes from the medium. It's the perfect choice for a preliminary sketch.

Charcoal gives you the soft edges and gradations that will eventually be used to express the subject in watercolor.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Presentation

Demonstration Painting (section)
15x22" Original Watercolor

This is the right half of my demonstration for Stanwood Camano Arts Guild Wednesday night.

I painted on a half sheet of 200# Saunders Waterford with a limited palette of raw sienna, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue and permanent rose. I first painted the entire sky wet in wet. Although I had a second sheet of paper with the sky already dry, it was still a challenge to paint and talk in 40 minutes. The trees in the left half of the painting were too wet to put in the dry brush effects I wanted at the end.

There are a few more corrections I want to do. When I paint them in, I'll post the results of the whole painting.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tree and Carrot Figure

Two more demonstrations of liquid pencil drawing on Arches 140# paper.

I love the expressiveness of the liquid pencil. It's a lot like watercolor, but allows the darks to stay where you paint them wet into wet without spreading.

I used a sumi brush to further enhance the spontaneous feel of the drawing.

Liquid Pencil

Class Demo on Arches 140# paper

I've discovered a fun, new tool for my studio sketch kit. It's Derivan Liquid Pencil.

Made in Australia, it's a liquid graphite formula that looks like pencil when dry, but paints like water color. You can even erase it like pencil when dry.

I use the rewettable formula. In comes in this little bottle that I used for my demonstration in class recently.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Watercolor Sprouts

Watercolor Sprouts
8"x10" Original Watercolor

Finally got a chance to work in the studio just for myself today.

These Brussels sprouts survived class long enough for me to paint them, too.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Back to Winter

Original Watercolor

Here we are, back to snow again.

I would rather think of the temperature in impressionistic terms. Brrr!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mist on the Koolau Mountains

Original Watercolor

I finally had an opportunity to paint the mist swirling through the crags in the Koolau Mountains.

Although most travelers wish for clear, sunny skies when they come here, there is always something beautiful to see as you approach the Pali.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Michele's South Pacific Studio

Short list of "studio supplies" for painting in Hawaii:

Sunshine, tropical breezes, palms, swimming pool, beach one block away, sunscreen, hat, camera, watercolor paper, paints, travel kit with brushes, pencil, eraser, water, sponge, Starbucks coffee and blueberry scone.

Have I forgotten anything?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Black Pearl at Ko Olina


We had brunch at the resort at Ko Olina yesterday and our son and daughter-in-law told us that the Black Pearl was moored nearby.

It's the ship from the movie series Pirates of the Caribbean. We're guessing that they will use it at the new Disney resort which is being built nearby.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Orange koi, blue sky and ripples

Photo of koi at Ala Moana Mall

I have collected references of koi over the years from the beautiful ponds at Ala Moana Mall.

The reflected blue open sky above, orange complementary color of the fish and the everchanging patterns of ripples......all these provide subject matter that I could spend a lifetime painting.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Studying the surf

Orignal Watercolor

The north shore of Oahu is known for its great surf.

What a great location for growing up in the fresh and warm air!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Koolau Mountains Other Side

Original Plein Air Watercolor

We got up early one day and went as far as we could go on the "other side" of Oahu. We thought we might see whales, but were happy just to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kailua Beach Walk

Original Watercolor

This is one of the views on our beach walk at Kailua Bay.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Windward Palms

Original Watercolor study
from the sketchbook

Sometimes it feels rewarding to study the textures, shapes and brushstrokes needed in a different climate.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Top of Diamond Head Light

Original Watercolor
Plein Air

My  daughter-in-law and I sat on the lava wall and painted together one day.

Don't try it without a beach towel, though. Those rocks are rough!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Diamond Head Beach

"Diamond Head Beach" by Michele Cooper
Original Watercolor 10"x14"

Walk down a steep cliff from Diamond Head Lighthouse and you'll find a beautiful beach.

I used a bit of artist's license here. The people with surfboards were there but I added the boats.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Diamond Head View

Original Plein Air Watercolor

We spend most of our time with family in Kailua, across the Pali from Waikiki. On the tourist side, this is what most people see from the park, looking toward Diamond Head.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ginger at the Foster Botanical Gardens

Original Watercolor (Section)

This is the part I liked from a plein air painting I did with friends in Hawaii at the Foster Botanical Gardens.

I'm looking forward to more opportunities to paint with them again this year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shop Fronts in Kekaulike Square

Original Watercolor

I painted this on New Year's day with some art friends in Hawaii a few years ago.