Watercolor demonstration- Cusco church, Peru

I began this painting a month ago.  Finally I finished it last night.

My inspiration for the piece was the artwork of Dan Burt.  I picked up a copy of his book on Amazon and have looked through it (you don’t read art books, do you?) many times, especially enjoying the 11 tutorials and the step-by-step photographs of the paintings in progress.


This was my initial line drawing transferred to the paper.  The original photograph, a church on the Plaza de Armas in the Incan city of Cusco, Peru, had a ton of detail.  I used artistic license and simplified the elaborate facade of the church.


In Step 1 I started by painting the sky a middle value.  Light colors were painted first and the blues and greens floated in afterwards.  The whole sky was painted wet-in-wet and allowed to dry.

As you can see, I do not paint realistic colors.


Step 2 was the painting of the foreground.  I wanted this to be darker than the sky and a tad cooler.


Step 3, as demonstrated by Dan in his book, was to paint hi chroma colors with opposites.  This stage is the hardest for me because I take artistic liberties by creating colors where they do not exist, hoping it makes sense in the end.


At this point I want to establish my near-darks.  I began with the side of the church facing the shadows, starting with red and dropping blue into the wet wash.  The cars and distant buildings were partially defined.


Details of the church were added.  The darkest darks were introduced and I painted the details of the church abstractly. The shadow on the street was added, as were the figures in the foreground.


YES, I DO PLAN TO USE ALL THESE COLORS –  20×28″  Watercolor on Hot Pressed paper

For my final step, I used masking tape and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to scrub out whites of the paper in several areas of the foreground (near the feet of the figures, on sidewalk on right-hand side of paper,etc.).

Hope you are keeping busy.


Ryan Fox

Etsy.com– fine art giclees


Venice carnival mask- watercolor batik tutorial

Last night I finished a watercolor batik on rice paper of a masked person at Carnivale.  The image was shot years ago on a trip to Venice, Italy.

Watercolor batik  is the process of painting on rice paper.  Melted paraffin wax creates a resist and protects the underlying layer from further paint.   When finished you iron the painting with newspaper on both sides.  Newspaper absorbs and removes the wax.


I began with a line drawing and transferred this to the rice paper.




I apologize, I did not photograph the first stages of the painting.  It was late and I wanted to paint.

In step 1 I painted the background.  This is highlighted in red.  Since I chose a cool palette, I threw washes of ultramarine blue, cerulean, cobalt, winsor green, viridian, and several reds on the rice paper.  At this point I had not applied any wax resist.  I simply put the wet colors on the paper and allowed them to mix.  Rice paper has little sizing- the colors will run and blend with adjoining colors.

If the colors run beyond the pencil lines, wet the rice paper and use paper towels to soak up the color and remove it from unwanted areas.



In step 2 I applied yellow and a few reds to the painting.  When these were dried I used the wax to protect the whites and yellows of the paper (as indicated in red).



I slowly built the middle and darker values, dabbing them to blend and fade values, and finally drying with a hairdryer.  Wax was applied to sections to protect from further paint.  When 90% of the rice paper was covered with wax, I applied the darkest darks and dried.

I crumbled up the paper to allow the wax to crack, added a very watery mix of ultramarine blue, then coated the surface of the painting again in wax.  Adding wax at this stage traps the beaded mix of ultramarine blue.  When ironed, the wet paint will bleed through the cracks and transfer to the painting.  It gives the painting energy, though can be very random.


Newspapers were sandwiched between the painting and I used an iron to remove the wax.  Careful- this can get messy and I do not recommend removing the wax near or above carpet.

Finally, Chinese opaque was used to pull out lost highlights and I added touches of black (alizarin crimson and winsor green mixed) to define the beads.

Supplies used:

Ginwashi rice paper

Cheap brushes for appying the wax.  Do not use nice brushes since wax will destroy them.  And please keep your watercolor paints and eletric skillet on opposite sides of the painting so you do not accidentally dip your sable brushes in the wax (that’s not the water!).

Electric skillet for melting wax.

Parrafin wax (aka Gulf wax).  Available at grocery stores- though most employees have no idea what it is or where it is located.

Watercolor paints and brushes. 

Paper towels.

Lots of newspaper.

Cooking/pan lining paper.  Place under your rice paper before you begin applying wax resist. This does not absorb the wax.

Thanks to artist Kathie George for indirectly teaching this technique.  I saw her work in Watercolor Artist several years ago and was inspired to try watercolor batik.

The original painting is available for sale, and I will have giclee proofs available on my etsy and Fine Art America sites within a few days.

Enjoy your weekend

Ryan Fox

(919) 645-8345





Raleigh First Friday- June 7th


Going to downtown Raleigh for First Friday art events? Stop by VAE to see my watercolor paintings in the Exchange Gallery.


More info on VAE and other participating galleries can be found here:


VAE is open from 6-9pm.

Watercolor painting of Capital building in downtown Raleigh, NC

Visit my etsy site for original paintings and giclees




Guest artist at The Sunflower Studio and Gallery in Wake Forest, NC- June 2013

watercolor Florence, Italy watercolor, Uffizi painting

In June I will have the honor of being the guest artist at Sunflower Studio & Gallery in Wake Forest, NC.  This is a beautiful gallery and I will be displaying many of recent works.


In addition, I will have watercolor paintings at VAE (Visual Art Exchange) as one of the featured artists’ in the Exchange Gallery.

If you want to see great art, Raleigh’s First Friday (June 7th) and Wake Forest’s Art After Hours (June 14th) are great times to support and see the work of  local artists- myself included 🙂

Addresses and times for both galleries are listed below:

Sunflower Studio & Gallery
214 East Jones Avenue
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587
(919) 570-0765

Art After Hours times (June 14th) 5-9pm

Visual Art Exchange

309 W. Martin Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601

First Friday hours (June 7th) hours: 6-9p.m.

Can’t afford an original painting?  Most of my watercolors are available as giclee proofs on my etsy website.  🙂


Ryan Fox


(919) 645-8345




En Plein Air Paint-Off in Fuquay-Varina

Actually, it should be called:

Pain-Air Paint-Off.

I signed up for this event three weeks ago.  En plein air (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ plɛn‿ɛʁ]) is a French expression which means “in the open air,” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

I have never painted en plein air.

My first attempt, during a painting session at Lassiter Mills Falls in Raleigh, NC was met with laughter.  Kids laughed.  Parents too.  Embarrassing.  I tipped my french hat and yelled in frustration- “Is there no civility?”

Even my wife said the paintings were terrible.

Luckily, watercolor paper is double sided.  For every failure- there is another opportunity to redeem one’s artistic vision and skills.  Flip the paper over and being again.

My next few plein-air attempts were better.


I never understood how different and difficult it is to paint outdoors- with the constant lighting changes, people talking to you, cars, kids laughing, and cougar attacks (kidding).  There isn’t coffee ready 24/7 either.

Though I practiced 4-5 times before the competition in Fuquay-Varina, I was nervous.  I had no idea what to expect.

For the painting event the artists would arrive and draw randomly from a hat, a location in Fuquay-Varina to paint.  You then had 4 hours to sketch and paint before the judging.

I picked the Toy Town store in downtown Varina.

Here is a photograph of the painting in progress.  The weather was beautiful though a strong breeze sent my brushes and easel flying several times (I have since learned from plein-air painter Dan Nelson to use zip ties to keep everything grounded).

FQ2 FQ3 FV_Plein_Aire2

This was the almost finished painting.  I added a figure and highlights at the end.

I was happy with the final painting- especially in light of my plein air painting inexperience.

Dan Nelson’s piece won first prize (not surprising)- another fabulous work by the Wake Forest, NC based artist.  His work, and the work of the 2nd and 3rd place winners will be enlarged and put on canvases to be displayed in downtown Fuquay-Varina for the next year.

Voting began today for the 2nd and 3rd place winners.  Please vote, and I hope you consider my wonderful watercolor (shameless plug).


(919) 645-8345