John Salminen workshop- Watercolor Society of North Carolina

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a workshop taught by John Salminen– one of the best watercolorists in the world.  His solo exhibitions and awards speak for the impact and popularity of his watercolor paintings

The workshop was in conjunction with  WSNC (Watercolor Society of North Carolina). John was the juror for the 67th Annual Exhibition at the Arts of the Albemarle in beautiful Elizabeth City, NC.

A slideshow of the exhibition can be viewed here.

I luckily, had a painting accepted into the watercolor show.  This year,  two of my favorite watercolor artists accepted my work into national shows- John Salminen, and Paul Jackson.

That should make me feel accomplished, right?

Well, after watching John demo a watercolor painting, I felt the opposite.

I was schooled.

It was great.

John Salminen watercolor workshop


John Salminen watercolor demonstration


As you can see above, John created a painting based on a value sketch in his sketchbook.

Unlike many watecolor artists, John creates a hi-contrast painting with a broad range of darks and lights.   Just look at his website for further examples.

His watercolors, when viewed from a distance, look like acrylic or oil paintings.  Watercolor is a medium known for it’s, unfortunately, sketching capabilities.   While oil and acrylic command higher prices in galleries, watercolor lags behind.

Intriguing, since watercolor is one of the most difficult painting mediums to master.

Detail of John Salminen giclee close-up

Internet photographs of John’s work do not do his paintings justice.  This is a detail shot of a giclee fine art proof showing how John creates representational shapes out of abstracted shapes.

Detail of John Salminen giclee close-up 2


John Salminen giclee close-up 3


John composes his pieces with a strong sense of values, color, and off-the-wall painting instruments such as the mouth atomizer, & Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  It’s not my place to tell you how he uses them- but they work.

John’s wife, Kathy,  so graciously captured this photo of John and I on the last day of the workshop.

John’s work can be viewed on his website and he offers instructional videos at ccp://

Additionally, another great NC painter Eng Pua added a link to the workshop via his blog.  Eng was kind enough to take photographs of the attendees’ paintings during the final critique.  Those images can be viewed here.

I’m still working on my painting- should be done next year 🙂


(919) 645-8345







Complementary color scheme in watercolours

Recently, I have been working on a series of watercolour paintings of the Moai heads on Easter Island, Chile.  my wife and I visited the island on our honeymoon (I know, not the most romantic place- but we continued onward to tropical Tahiti).

We stayed on Easter Island for five days, and loved it.  We visited the ruins at sunrise, sunset, saw a white scorpion, ate at a restaurant run by the Easter Island version of Pauly Shore, and (potentially) saw a UFO.

As an artist, and an artist who has been painting a short time, my goat is to create fresh, and different looking paintings every time I touch my brushes.  Monochromatic color schemes, hi-key, low-key, poured paint, mouth atomizers- the possibilities are endless.  I often look through books and magazines, facebook, or flickr to get ideas for color schemes and styles too.

Somehow, I decided my next painting would be a limited palette piece of complementary colors.  I am partial to blue, so orange would be my complement.

Unfortunately, I suck at making orange!  Not sure why.  Probably because it is a color I do not use much.

To plan my colors, I created a color chart of different Winsor Newton blues in my collection.  A few of these colors are standards on my palette:  Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean, and Cobalt Blue.  Winsor Blue (Green shade) and Indranthrene Blue are colors I rarely use, but I included them anyways.

For my orange selection, I decided to use Naples Yellow, a paint I NEVER use- too opaque for my tastes.  Naples Yellow, when used in light washes, appears yellowish, but when applied thickly has more of a yellow-orange appearance.

Naples Yellow is a color that looks different fresh out-of-the-tube in contrast to dry on a painting.  When squeezed from a tube, it is a pale yellow.  On a painting, it takes a yellow-orange cast.

The chart at the top shows my blues surrounded by a field of Naples Yellow.  Based on the outcome, I selected indanthrene blue to be it’s complement.

Where the silhouette of the Moai appeared in the sky, I decided to use swatches of Indian Yellow in the preliminary sketch at the bottom.

Below is the (mostly) finished 14×20″ piece, based on my watercolor studies:

This is a quick photograph I shot this evening-there is a hot spot from the overhead light.  Otherwise, the blue sky remains the same value throughout.

I am happy with this watercolor painting.  I have never worked in a style this graphic, and am now reminded of works by Jonathan Frank.

My travel photography collection can be viewed online at:

My paintings can be found on facebook,  and my website.

Lately, I have been experimenting with YUPO.  And I love it.  I’ll post those pieces soon.

Happy painting


Ryan Fox

(919) 645-8345






Illinois Watercolor Society exhibition- Small Waters 2012

A few months ago I entered a small watercolor in the Small Waters Exhibition sponsored by the Illinois Watercolor Society.   As luck would have it, my piece was accepted by juror Suzanne Hetzel, PWS, IWS, LWS.

The painting I entered is an architectural study of the Nyatapola Temple in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bhaktapur.  Bhaktapur is a gorgeous town near the city of Kathmandu, and the Nyatapola temple is the largest temple in the Kathmandu valley.

(Painting of temple in the Kathmandu Valley city of Bhaktapur)


In this painting, I used several photographs and combined elements to create the background and foreground buildings.  My palette consisted of raw sienna, ultramarine blue, and touches of additional yellows.  Salt was added in various areas for a weathered look.

The  other paintings in the show can be viewed online too (currently unavailable) .  I was really happy to see the work online since I will be unable to attend the reception.  For some reason (United cancelling flight, brother getting married on short notice, etc.)  I have not been able to attend any of the receptions where my work has been hung.

Perhaps next year.



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2012 WSNC Annual Exhibition Events and Workshop

The 67th Annual exhibition of WSNC (Watercolor Society of North Carolina-for those who can’t read the big postcard pictured above) will take place in early October in Elizabeth City.  I joined the organization last year to meet local watercolor artists and network.  I wanted to get into the yearly exhibition too!

As luck would have it, my piece was accepted. I am not going to show you the painting because I want you to drive to the exhibition with your wallet.  legally, you have to do this anyways.   I might know a beautiful lighthouse painting once purchased would look great on your walls….

Juried by the incredibly talented John Salminen,  I was honored he chose my work.  John’s style is the opposite of mine- controlled, planned, and detailed.  That’s why I am so excited to be attending his workshop the following week too.  Fellow NC painter Dick Wayne told me John is a great teacher.

However, I guess John likes to paint full sheet, and have his students do the same.  I’m terrified- I have never had the time to paint full-sheet (two young children limit my nightly painting sessions).

The watercolor show runs from October 7th- November 26th.  Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the reception due to a family wedding in Denver, but will get a chance to view the paintings on the 8th.

Hope you can make the show!


Ryan Fox

(919) 645-8345



Watercolor exhibitions- 2012

I have been painting watercolors for less than a year.

Yes, I have a painting degree from University of Michigan, so I do have experience in watercolor (2 classes- one taught very badly).  But I also have experience in oils, acrylic, printmaking, sculpture, etc.  And illustration.  And photography.  Basically, I had no idea what I wanted to do after college.

I pursued photography when I graduated.  Somehow, I conned someone into giving me a job at a camera store- where I learned about blowing-yourself-up-if-you-unplugged-a-head-from-a-power-pack when-it-was-still-live, and what not-to-drop.  Survival skills for the 20th and 21st century.

12 years later, after working with Lonely Planet Images, Alamy, agefotostock, and photographing hundreds of weddings, my first day of “freedom”  (my 3-year old started pre-k from 9-12), consisted of coming home.   Instead of sitting on the porch and reading a magazine, I watched a John Salminen video thru CCP.  I had been thinking about painting again, and decided to get back into the field.

Watching the video deflated me.  I sucked!  And I knew it.  Salminen was so good.

I was not good.


You have to start somewhere.  So I  subscribed to watercolor magazines, bought the Splash series books from ebay, and began to think color.  I had to relearn the names of the pigments, their properties, etc, boring, etc, boring (unnecessary details) blah, blah, blah.

In college, my watercolors were meticulous.  Detailed.  Took forever to paint.  Realistic.  I hated them.  Instead, I took pictures and was happier.

Several things change your perspective in life:  kids, and time.

The kids are going to wake up early, and you have less time.

So I painted fast.

And the results were not bad!

Watercolor of Nepal

Watercolor painting of Nepalese city of Bhaktapur, Nepal


Granted, this was a 1/4 sheet of paper, using a limited palette of browns with a few blues .  I was happy with the results, and so were the Illinois Watercolor Society and the 2012 Small Waters Competition show.  The painting was accepted by juror Suzanne Hetzel, PWS, IWS, LWS!

The painting of the Nepalese temple was a compilation of several photographs of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bhaktapur, and artistic liberties were taken with the shapes of foreground and background buildings.

I entered more competitions.  Unfortunately, since I have so little time to paint, I had to be very careful about the amount of competitions I enter since I have so few paintings completed.

Yes, there have been rejections.  I know this.  It’s expected.  Art is subjective.


Nearing the end of 2012, my work has been accepted into such shows as:

The 31t AnnualAdirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors

Judged by Paul Jackson, I was ecstatic to be included in the  show.  I was even going to fly to NY to attend the opening.

Until United cancelled the flight.  I’m not bitter, even though my next painting will be named:  UNITED CANCELLED MY FLIGHT.

I guess the plane was struck by lightning…..

So I couldn’t make the reception for the Adirondacks show.  There will be other shows.

And there was…

Well, I was accepted into the upcoming 2012Watercolor Society of North Carolina Show in Elizabeth City, NC.

Jurored by John Salminen himself!

Again, I was so excited to be included in this show, judged by one of the best watercolorists of our time.  Since I live in North Carolina, I envisioned a week renting a house in the Outer Banks (OBX), taking his workshop.

Well, I am still going to take the workshop.  But I will miss the reception for the show. My younger brother decided to get married in Colorado on short notice.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  I will miss the show reception.  John will understand.  But I will attend his scheduled workshop.

Finally, I had another painting accepted into a major show- the 2012 Pittsburgh Watercolor Society Show.

Watercolor of Inle Lake

This painting was inspired by watercolorist Gerard Hendricks.  I threw paint, splattered it, and had fun.  Using a limited palette helped.  I couldn’t have been happier with the results.

2012 was not a bad year.

2013 will be better, right?



(919) 645-8345