& Studio 401 - the art of Mary Lou Arnold

HeARTSpirit Studio

Cascade ~ Giclees available


Poinsettias ~ private collection

In 2009 I did a tutorial of a poinsettia on illustration board on the website WetCanvas. The link to the original thread is here. Following is that tutorial: The poinsettias now proudly hang in my younger sister's home.


Tutorial - Poinsettias: A good friend comment that he loved a painting of a waterfall I did in a Cheng Khee Chee workshop, using glossy gel medium on Strathmore 500 series illustration board. I'd forgotten how fun (and forgiving) that surface is, so decided to 'say it with flowers'.

















I used a white candle to go around the edges of the illustration board so it won't separate if it gets too wet. It won't happen with this painting, but it's still a good idea.

​After the drawing was on the paper, I outlined the holly leaves with green watercolor pencil, and the berries in red. (I often get lost in these busy things, so it's a little road map for me). Then, I lightly brushed on acrylic soft gel glossy medium over the drawing, and used a damp sponge to 'blot' it to get rid of any brush strokes in the medium. The gel medium activated the watercolor pencil, but with a careful hand, it doesn't bleed out. And the colors won't move after the gel dries.

Then I let the glossy gel medium dry. Watercolors have a weird reaction to this surface - not slick like Yupo - but it does repel it in places. The nice thing about it is that even after the paint dries, you can lift it almost back to white, because of the gel medium. The shiny parts you see is the gel medium - I only put it over the drawing and the edges of the drawing. I started painting the petals, and after they dry, take a flat brush and lift out the veins.Now, what I *should* have done, is the background first, because I really suck at backgrounds.

But, to show you how easily the paint lifts, I decided to throw caution to the wind, I mixed up some juicy paint and had at it, going over the petals and holly leaves. I didn't have the nerve to go over the whole thing, because what I already painted would have probably been gone. The next photo shows where I wiped off the paint with a wet paper towel:I hit the top of the painting with a spray bottle and let the paint move around because I didn't like the background (already)

And now, I'm just painting the petals and leaves. I may just use only watercolor pigments for now, but depending upon how this goes, I'll get out my fluid acrylics. Oh - it's a 1/2 sheet - approx. 22" x 15".



















​​The reason for the illustration board is really because that's how I learned it. It's the Strathmore 500 series, hot press I think. I'll have to try it on regular watercolor paper, might be fun on that too. Chee calls this his 'improvisational splash color technique', because like on the rocks, you can just really slap on some paint and the colors move and mingle. Talk about watching a master paint - he is phenomenal. How he brings koi to life on a sheet of paper is truly amazing.But definitely, you need the glossy gel medium, because it repels the paint. A matte gel won't work, it will absorb the paint and it won't move or lift like the glossy gel. I think Chee used illustration board because it is so matte where there isn't gel, like in the 'mesa' and sky area at the top of the waterfall. That part has no gel. And the rocks, I used really thick gel on that one to get so much texture. I used a plastic fork to smash it around , and there was no drawing. 

Colors, wow, I'm using a lot of different colors. MGraham Napthol Red, W&N Perm Aliz Crimson, Quin Magenta, Quin Red, Perm Rose, Quin Rose, Pthalo Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Winsor Green, Hookers Green, Permanent Violet, Winsor Yellow, New Gamboge and Quin Gold. For the petals that have yellow in them, I started with the yellow, and then charged the red into them; same with the ones that have blues. Right now I couldn't even tell you which red are on the petals, because to change the hue and value, I just started mixing whatever red was on the palette to change it from one petal to the next, and added blue, or violet.  I'd be embarrassed to show you my palette right now - it's a mess.You can lift very easily with this, so if you want to layer, you have to make sure it's real dry before you glaze over it. (found that out the hard way)


But, as for making corrections, it's a breeze - just wipe it out with a wet paper towel or brush. I'll take some close ups so you can see how it repels the paint.I did get a little more done on this, but the light is lousy, and the flash shines on the gel too much, so I'll try to get a shot tomorrow in daylight.Oh, just remembered that Mary Todd Beam uses illustration board almost exclusively for her work with watercolors and fluid acrylics.


Here you can see the completed painting, after I've picked out some highlights on the berries, and veins on the holly leaves and flower petals.


​I'm looking at it now in grey-scale - may have to go back and adjust and add more darks near the flower centers, but for the most part I'm pretty pleased with this.


Okay, just a few modifications - picked out a few more highlights and added some darks... unless you see anything that needs attention, I shall declare this painting complete!  Thanks for looking!