AnneLawsonArt In My Studio My art work

In My Studio

If you would like to show us what has been happening in your creative space over the last little while, write a post about it and then link to it in the comments. That way we will be able to see what other creative people have been up to. It doesn’t have to be a finished product, it may be a new technique or a poem that has inspired a short story or something that you have been working on. It doesn’t have to be a post either. Give us a link to your Facebook or Instagram page. Let’s share!

In my studio I have been busy creating things for my Etsy shop… like shells.

This is a small part of my shell collection. There is always inspiration here. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2015)

I haven’t done any for a while and I enjoyed using watercolour wash techniques that I have been learning in other parts of my art.

This sequence of photos shows how I painted the bottom shell.

Top left shows the initial drawing, with blobs of masking fluid to protect the white of the small holes. I have written more about masking fluid and why watercolour artists use it here.

The bottom left photo is of the first few washes. These lay down the base tonal areas and I have a depth of paint to work on.

The big one on the right was taken as I was adding in dry brush work. This is stroking small amounts of paint onto the image to build up the colour and tone.

And look, there is a secret lustre area on the painting that you can only see from certain angles ~ just like the lustre on the real shell!


I have also bought three frames. I want to give a little oomph to the listing photos on Etsy, and to show people how easy it is to use my paintings in their house. There are lots of inexpensive frames around that would work well. If you follow me in Instagram and Facebook, you will see these three frames pop up in different photos…..

My new frames (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2015)

….like here!

I am back to painting the Cullen cinereum, for the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project, and I am happy with the progress. It was hard to remember where I was up to after a 6 week lay-off!

Work in progress on the Cullen cinereum (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2016)

To refresh your memory, the Beckler Project is the one that takes me up to Menindee each year. You can find out more here. This is the fourth species I have painted in the Cullen genus. This one was growing on the very dry Lake Pamamaroo.

So, what have you been up to in your space? I would love to see. Just leave a link in the comment section. Too easy!


My art work

Using masking fluid

Image copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image copyright: Anne Lawson 2015

Before I show how I used masking fluid on the understory of my melaleuca painting, I need to explain two things to those of you who don’t use watercolours.

Firstly, the delight of watercolour is its transparency. Light is able to travel through the paint and bounce back off the paper. So, if you put down two layers of colour the first will add to the colour of the second. In the photo you can see the colours in the undergrowth, created by about three layers of watercolour washes. My limited understanding of oil and acrylic paints is that the second layer will cover the first. [Handy if you make a mistake!]

Secondly, masking fluid is a rubberised medium that you use to cover areas you want to protect. The highlight in watercolour is usually the white of the paper, so an artist may paint on masking fluid to protect the white paper. I put it on with a nib pen, but you could use an old brush. Once it is dry you can then paint over the area, knowing that it is protected by the masking fluid. It is easily rubbed off, with no damage to the paper and no oily residue..

I don’t use masking to preserve the highlights, although it is really useful for little slivers of light. I use it more to help me build up layers. I first used it when I was doing a lot of bird nests. I wanted to have method that allowed me to get the depth of the nest while still showing the strands of grasses. These photos show a bird nest painting in progress and you can see how I have used masking fluid to create the fine lines of the grasses.

The understory of the melaleucas is a dark, dense jumble of skinny trunks. I wanted to show this, but to also show it as a space that could be moved through. However I also wanted the contrast between the stark white trunks of the front trees and the more muted ones in the undergrowth. Masking fluid was the way to go. It requires a little bit of planning and understanding of tone.

The first wash was the lightest one, but while the paper was damp I added in splodges of other colours, starting to build up the depth of the understory. Once that was dry I used the nib pen to add masking fluid lines for the trunks of the trees that were closer to the edge of the grove, closer to the light.

Then I put on another wash, going right over the masking fluid, know that those areas were protected. The wash was not a smooth, even one, rather I moved the colour around, adding more in some parts, less in others. As with the first one there were dashes of darker and lighter colours.

This is the sneaky, happy part. The second layer has darkened the area a little more. Adding masking fluid over this created trunks that were slightly darker than the ones created with the first wash.

A third wash and more masking fluid and the darkest trunks of all. A final wash over the top. However, the number of washes is really dependent on the depth and effect you are after.

After the last wash the paper looking like this. The yellow lines are the masking fluid.

Close up of the use of masking fluid
Close up of the use of masking fluid

The masking fluid is very close to the colour of the paper, and this makes it hard to see where you have put it. Fortunately it is shiny!


As you can imagine, it is a rather serendipitous process — I am never quite sure of what the end product will be! It is fun to rub it off  to see how the painting turned out. I rub with my [clean] finger. That gives me a good feel for any that might have not come off. This is important because, naturally, bits left will continue to do the job and not take any paint.

Then there is touching up to do. Masking fluid leaves a hard white edge that looks artificial and usually needs softening. This caused by the wet watercolour running up against the hard edge of the masking fluid, leaving a slight line. Also, I had to refine the darks and lights in the undergrowth, making some parts recede further.

The process was a good one, and allowed me to create a complex scene. However I felt that the undergrowth was too dense — too many trunks = too much masking fluid. I used the same process on a second one, this time with a lighter touch in the undergrowth and on the canopy. I am happier with this one, but it will not surprise you to know that I am still playing around with melaleucas, still hoping to create the perfect one!

Image copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
anne4bags Botanic Art My art work

Shells — the second study

As I mentioned last time I am studying how to paint shells and other beachy things for an upcoming exhibition.

I wanted to have another go at shells, to experiment with masking fluid. Masking fluid is a rubber latex solution, used to retain highlights and other light areas. Watercolour painting works from light to dark, so it is easy to cover up lighter areas and highlights. They are crucial because the highlights, reflected light and shadows give life to a painting. And they are easy to lose. Masking fluid can help out.

Shells have very definite rings (that I suspect are growth rings — am I right?). On my shells they are subtle but obvious, if that makes sense. I wanted to try to use the masking fluid to develop those rings by allowing their different colours to come through. I had to think through what parts of the shell I wanted to mask; that is, what parts I wanted to be lighter than the next layer of paint. I planned to layer the masking fluid as I layered on the washes.

The photo below shows my set up. Obviously the top three shells are the real ones! You can see small dabs of paint around them. This was to help me decide on the colour mixes. I had recently bought a new paint — Perylene Maroon — and it seems to be perfect for these shells. Mixed with Windsor Lemon it makes a very potent orange and Naples Yellow makes it opaque. The shadows were Perylene Maroon and Blue Black.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

The next photo shows a close up of my work in progress, with a couple of layers of masking fluid already on. The right hand shell is the underside. You can see my drawing with some masking fluid on it. This shell had much less definition, so I wanted to see if I could create it by using washes of paint. The other two were built up by small brush strokes.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

Of course, the masking fluid masks what is underneath and it can be difficult to remember what is there. So when I was removing it, and it peels off easily, I had a little heart flutter in case I had done a major stuff up. Fortunately I hadn’t. However, it leaves quite definite, obvious edges, so there is further work to refine and soften  them.

This is the finished work.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

I love how the right hand shell has turned out. There are times when creations almost create themselves — and this was one of those times!

As for the masking fluid….I don’t know that I will use it in the final piece. I need to paint some other shells, so I may make a study of them with masking fluid. The masking fluid lines would need to be much finer than I have managed here. Also, I think it is too time consuming.

I have actually made prints of this study to sell in my Etsy shop. I usually sell the originals of my works, but  I want to have the original to use as a reference. Have a look here if you are interested.