Painting accepted into Watercolor Competition

Yesterday absolutely sucked.  And that is the nicest thing I can say.

So today had to be better, right.    I couldn’t possibly be living a real-life version of Flogging Molly’s “Worst Day Since Yesterday”, right?

So today:

1.  My wife received her promotion at work.  Congratulations babe, I knew you would get it.  That is why I left a rose and a York peppermint patty in your work mailbox (had you not received the promotion, you still would have chocolate.  :)).

2.  I ordered the canvas prints for my upcoming show in the Exchange Gallery at Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC.

(Continuous image photograph of Cambridge University- UK)

Holgaramas, for those hi-tech photographers who do not enjoy shooting with a $20 piece of plastic, are point-and-pray cameras that offer, among other things, excessive light leaks, faulty shutters, and questionable focusing.

What fun.

The photographs I will be showing take advantage of the unusual features of the camera, namely, that one can manually advance the film as far as he/she wishes.

When I create these images, I intentionally under-advance the film, so the previous and following images become one.  This is art.  And a little luck too.  Generally, by thinking in terms of positive and negative space, you can predict what will happen with the film.


3. Finally, I received an email about the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolor show I entered.

My piece was accepted.

I will be honest, this is a great watercolor show that displays the top names in Watercolor- Paul Jackson, Pat San Soucie, Judi Betts, ZL Feng, Cheng-Khee Chee, and others.  And that is JUST the 2012 exhibition!

Wow.  Considering I have painted less than 100 paintings in my ENTIRE lifetime, I am humbled, honored, and really encouraged by my late-night painting expenditures.  Perhaps, the endless hours I spend shuttling kids around, not-really-cleaning-the-house, and making sure no one eats anything that will kill them, make the few hours I get to create art so worthwhile.

Thank you Monday!

(Value and color study for future painting of Heidelberg, Germany)


(919) 645-8345




Faso- BoldBrush Painting Competition

I entered a photograph into last months FASO BoldBrush competition….

…and was in the top 15% of “liked” images.

Now, this does not guarantee a winning painting, and the juried results have not been announced, but it does make me feel a little better about my work.

Taking care of two children 5 and under, being the stay-at-home dad who is terrible at cleaning but good at entertaining the kids, sleep-deprived, and over caffeinated- I have little time to paint.

This watercolor, of the Basilica in the Ecuadorian town of Cuenca is composed of two photographs to create a horizontal composition.  The colors were drastically changed.  When I paint, I focus less on the photograph than on the line drawing.  I spend a large portion of the day thinking (this would AMAZE my wife to know I am capable of doing) of how I am going to paint the night’s image.  Since watercolor can be painted quickly, when I start, I like to have a good idea of the color scheme, and a mental image of the final piece.

When painting, I print a B&W version of my photograph for reference.  This establishes the tonal range and allows me to re-image the colors of the scene.

I especially enjoyed painting this image.  First, I established a light-yellow in the background sky.  After this had dried, I applied thick washes of Ultramarine Blue, and Burnt Sienna to the colonnaded area.  The colors were applied wet-into-wet and  were complemented by the use of table salt and a little scraping of the paper surface with a palette knife.

I used a spray bottle to remove paint from the right-hand side of the watercolor.  At the end, I dropped thick swabs of cerulean blue and windsor red into the still-wet painting.  These paints are opaque and float to the top of the surface.

The painting process took approximately 1.5 hours to paint.

This is why I love watercolor.  The wet-into-wet process can produce many unexpected results.  This painting worked.  Unfortunately, I have heaps of other paintings that did not.


R. Fox Photography/Fine Art

(919) 645-8345



Watercolor painting from photographs

Painting today is fantastic due to the wealth of information on the internet.   Interacting, and viewing works by fantastic watercolorists such as Alvaro Castagnet, Michael Reardon,  Keiko TanabeOscar Norblom, Sadhu Aliyur, and others inspire my watercolors.

While it is cool to see finished paintings, I have always been drawn to explanations, or demonstrations of the painting process itself.  Watching an artist paint is fascinating.  After all, there are thousands, millions, of choices you can make.    I have stood, many times, for an hour or more, at fairs and watched artists paint.

I spend many years as a professional photographer.  While I loved traveling & photographing worldwide landmarks I was bound by the limitations of my camera and the subject I was shooting.  You can zoom in or use a wide angle to distort.  You can double expose film.  Photoshop could create outlandish colors and remove (with work) backgrounds and objects. You can be creative.  Very creative.  But something was missing.

A blank canvas, or in my case, a sheet of white paper, knows no limitations.

Now that I am painting, I have 10s of thousands of photographs to paint from.  Recently, I began work on a watercolor of the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. I began with a preliminary painting several months, and recently completed the finished piece (below).

Original photograph and finished watercolor painting

Above are the original photograph(s) of Machu Picchu, with the finished painting on 300lb Arches to the right.

The photograph of the Incan ruin is a photo-montage of different photographs.  The savvy traveler might have noticed this is an impossible viewpoint at Machu Picchu….

Above is the preliminary sketch painted several months ago.  As you can see in the finished watercolor, I left out many details,  and drastically changed the colors.  The finished piece was fun- I painted the ruins in little over an hour.

I hope this gives you a little insight into my mind when I paint.  Unfortunately, no one will have the opportunity to witness me create my art (except neighbors, and I apologize in advance) since I have a tendency to paint in my underwear.

In North Carolina, that’s probably illegal. 🙂


(919) 645-8345




Photography and painting

Phototgraphy and watercolor painting Are something I both enjoy.  In the right hands both are artistic, but involve different methods and approaches (not to mention equipment).

After 13+ years photographing weddings, I have decided to halt my wedding and portrait photography business to concentrate on fine art painting- Watercolor, specifically.  I graduated University of Michigan with a BFA in Drawing/Painting.   I enjoyed painting, but had a tendency to paint in a photo-realistic manner.  I gravitated to photography as a result.

While i concentrated on photography as a career, I never changed my major.  What was the point?  I would have been in school another year and another $_K in debt.   Ow.

Since I was getting an art degree, and suck at waiting tables, I might as well finish school quickly.

Times change.  Film converts to digital.   Instead of spending my time shooting, I spent a large portion of it in front of the computer.

Computers are great, but I have never been a big fan of digital since it involves so much time organizing, storing, and editing on the computer.  Digital photography is great too, but lacks the element of surprise I enjoyed with film.  While I continued to mix digital & film with my wedding shoots, my clients’ desires for both decreased.  most people were not interested in true B&W film, Holgaramas, or the artistic & unique work I was producing with film.

The clients who hired me, not surprisingly, were artists.

With the birth of my second son,  my free-time during the day (my older son was in pre-k) were over.

There went my editing time…

The past few years I had started reading and browsing the web about watercolor painting.  I ordered books and looked at numerous websites.  And I became excited.

In college, my watercolors looked like photographs.  Now, my goal is to produce a painting FROM a photograph.

The first painting I created looked nothing like a photograph.  I could change anything- color, or composition.

I was pleasantly shocked.

I still don’t have much free time, but I am using the time I have to paint.

Will I shoot weddings in the future?  Probably.  In a few years.  Or I might stick to painting.  We’ll see what happens.


R. Fox Photography/Painting

(919) 645-8345

Tips and advice on mixing watercolor

Watercolor painting has always fascinated me. The luminosity cannot be replicated with oil or acrylic.

However, watercolor does have a bad rap because people associate it with old ladies painting flowers.

No offense, there is nothing wrong with flower paintings, but I quickly discovered that there are a lot of amazing artists creating wonderful and vibrant watercolors of cityscapes, abstracts, and portraits (and flowers too).  When I was in college, I took a watercolor class with Roland Roycraft– the first person I saw paint watercolors by masking the white of the paper & pouring paint on the surface. The effect was unlike anything I had ever seen. Of course, I was the youngest person in the workshop by, oh, easily, 30 or 40 years. But I learned a lot because Roland, and the attendees in the workshop, had decades of painting experience.

Since returning to painting, I have read a ton of books, tried a variety of styles, and spent a lot of time on the internet soaking up the knowledge. I love the online vibrant artist communities such as facebook and Fine Art America, but there have been a few things I have not been able to find easily on the internet, or in books (what are those?). Mainly, how to make the paint look luminous and, well, like watercolor.

The subject that has perplexed me has been color mixing. Sure, yellow and blue make green. But yellow mixed INTO blue, wet-into-wet, creates a green that is vibrant and sparkles. Painting yellow on top of a dried blue layer creates another color. Mixing yellow and blue on the palette creates a different looking color. Using the same two colors, even in the same proportions, creates different mixes depending on the application.

Last week I took it upon myself to investigate watercolor color mixing. Actually, I wanted to copy colors in paintings I have seen by Michael Reardon, Paul Jackson, and Alvaro Castagnet, and Iain Stewart. These guys are a few of the demi-gods of watercolor painting.  Their styles are different.  Some paint by carefully layering color over colors.  Some paint wet-into-wet.  No matter their technique, the quality of their paintings humbles me.

My experiments yielded some interesting results:

(Ultramarine Blue painted & Windsor Red dropped wet-into-wet)

The small swatches on the left are Windsor Red with layer of Ultramarine painted on top (TOP) and Ultra. Blue with Windsor Red layered on top (BOTTOM)

The large swatch shows Ultramarine Blue dropped wet-into-wet on top of Windsor Red.

The small strip to the right is Ultra. Blue and WR pre-mixed on the palette.  Notice how muddy this color appears, while the wet-into-wet swatches appear completely different.

Moving on, I have more examples:

(Indian Red  with Cobalt Blue dropped wet-into-wet)

The top-right swatch is Cobalt Blue with Indian Red dropped wet-into-wet.  The small strip underneath is Cobalt and Indian Red pre-mixed on palette.  The two small squares on the far left are Indian Red with Cobalt layered (TOP) and Cobalt with a layer of Indian Red layered (BOTTOM).

Again, completely different looks from two colors.  Oh, now I know how I am going to paint sunlit clouds against a blue sky for my next painting….. 🙂

Windsor Red with Cobalt Blue dropped wet-into-wet.  The small stripe on the left shows the colors mixed on palette.

Large swatch shows Cobalt Blue with Windsor Red charged into the mix (wet on wet).

Confused?  That is what I love about watercolor.

I realize I will never complete a painting without a few “happy” accidents, but small color studies like these will improve my choice, and the order, of painted colors.

Hope your brushes are busy.

(Watercolor painting of downtown Seattle- further examples on my website)


Ryan Fox


(919) 645-8345