Kilamanjaro won’t buckle when you need it most


For quite a while I have been fielding questions and listening to various watercolor painters who were /are venting their frustration about a very well known French brand of watercolor paper. In 140 lb as well as 300 lb weight, painters are complaining about D’Arches buckling before, during and after painting.  In some cases it has buckled even while it was been stapled down. Many are experiencing buckling while it is still in the pack and after it has been mounted, allowed to dry and then removed for matting.   The manufacturer’s specialists have offered various suggestions.  So far none of the suggestions apply.


I always love the way solutions often present themselves. A few day ago an old friend called and while we were catching I brought up current paper and brush woes. Joe  offered a possibility.  I have 15 watercolor students in my Spring semester watercolor class.  Joe Miller, most of you know about Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff,  proposed a test.   I readily agreed.  I provided each student, most of whom were frustrated with the buckling paper, with a sheet of a new paper that was also 140lb. cold press.. I did not reveal the name to them. I just told them that I wanted them to try this new paper. Immediately I got questions about the name of the paper, etc. I replied that I would answer all of their question but first I wanted them to paint on the paper and give me their opinions. All of them began to paint. It was interesting that some of them felt of the paper and said “Hey” this is really good paper isn’t it?”    I withheld my responses until AFTER they had finished layering and splashing washes. Everyone was very happy with the paper.The interesting thing from a teaching standpoint  was the respect they gave these new sheets. They began to develop sketches saying I want to do something really special on a piece of paper like this.

Now they know:

Yesterday, after a couple of days with the new paper,  I answered all of their questions and they know that the mystery paper is Kilamanjaro.   This is a proprietary paper made for Cheap Joe by the Fabriano Company in Italy.  I had said before that it was good paper. Now we have an entire class that is sold on the product. Joe it looks like you hit a home run!

Here are some of their collective comments:

1. No one disliked the paper.

2. Everyone liked the clean white appearance of the sheet.

3. All students liked the “feel” of the paper and its ability to take color.

4. Almost all exclaimed that it did not buckle.

5. The paper held up with every technique that was tried.

No one mounted the sheet in any way. Some worked large areas of wash while others used multiple glazes. That is quite a feat for 140 lb. (300 gsm) paper.  One student did soak his paper briefly and then laid it down on his board. It worked nicely and stayed flat.

So if you are looking for a solution to your paper worries check out Kilamanjaro from Cheap Joe’s  








Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Level II

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Level II.

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Level II


The Tunnel,  to be featured in Level II on-line Udemy course

Sorry for the delay in posting a new article. Health issues have intervened but I am now back on track…for the moment. My on-line course with is attracting students.  In fact, we are about to launch “Level II”. It will be an on-line tutorial of one painting from start to finish. The drying time has been removed but the basic critical steps are recorded. While it is not productive to record every step we have sought to preserve the key moments.

Subject matter: Process and Purpose

As I have stated before everyone is unique and we approach our work in different ways. No one can truly be anything other than themselves. While we may admire the work of others and often be inspired; at the end of the day we need to find our own way of working. There is no question that we can gain valuable insight in process from observing the works of others.  However, the bigger question is to what purpose do we observe and absorb?  Various writers have elaborated upon these two words noting the intertwined relationship between them. Consider it simply as a part of developing a painting or completing any task. Perhaps you would prefer to call it putting ideas into action. All successful art has a concept.  It may be the play of light upon a given object or the interplay of a selected color range. Once the art concept is conceived, if it is to be realized, then comes the necessity or process of developing it. This is one of the reasons I always encourage my students to develop sketches with loose color studies. The ones that follow the advice have a greater success ratio than the ones who don’t. 


Why do they have a better success ratio? I think it is because sketches help get the process started. Putting marks on paper begins the cycle that brings us forward in the march to realize our goal.  This previous statement is only valid provided the person making the marks has some idea regarding design, color harmony, etc. I interject this because regrettably we have too many voices today espousing “do your own thing” without any regard for basic fundamentals.

The Tunnel

This is a painting that I have been sketching and thinking of for several years. As a youngster, I was accused of being impatient with a tendency to rush things. I received excellent instruction from gifted masters about how to develop a painting. As a youth I ignored the advice. I wanted to paint!  I didn’t want to fool around with boring sketches, charcoal studies and color value studies. So I just jumped right in. Then I would lament that my painting didn’t work out too well. Finally as I got a bit older I learned to take one teacher’s advice. I was verbally spouting contemporary art theory when very abruptly I was told, “Shut up and paint!”

I have lived with this subject of this painting for 23 years. I have lectured, sketched and done quick watercolor demos for students on this site in all sorts of weather.  While teaching, my focus has been on teaching my students; leaving little time for a deeper personal on site exploration of the subject. There have been a few quick watercolors of various spots and numerous plein aire demos in relation to class.  Now I am gaining the time to really develop some serious pieces. 

Why name it  The Tunnel?

Great question. The open space is a gathering spot on campus named Ben Brown Plaza. It is a popular gathering spot for students and makes a logical location for various events. The large building is the Harwell G. Davis Library with a slight hint of Reid Chapel off in the distance. The beautiful oaks form a canopy along the sidewalk with wonderful shadows and playful light hitting the ground as well as the people and the buildings.  In this piece the tunnel is not fully realized but come spring and full summer and it will be a different mater. I have work on progress that depicts that tunnel effect more strongly.  However, for most of the students if you mention the tunnel they know what you mean. Hence, the title.  Image

Preliminary under painting:

This is the foundation. Take note of the various colors and their position as well as relationship to one another. As the work progresses these colors will play a stronger role in the painting. Do note that some of the passages were executed in a wet ‘n wet technique while the washes with sharper defined edges were painted directly on dry paper.  All of these techniques can be used in glazing.  I have left the edges of the paper showing so you can see the staple marks.  This is how I mount my paper to a 3/4″ marine plywood board to prevent the paper from rippling. Yes, unfortunately even 300 lb. paper will buckle these days.  My plywood boards are quite old and I sealed them with marine grade varnish over 30 years ago. Some prefer to use gator board and that is fine. I see no need to toss out something that still works for me.


The colors I used were Andrews Turquoise by American Journey,  Winsor & Newton Permanent Magenta, M. Graham Gamboge, Holbein Leaf Green, 300 lb. D’Arches cold press watercolor paper full sheet,and a  2 inch showcard sable flat brush, with assorted Winsor & Newton Series 7 rounds.


The Tunnel    20″ x 30″ watercolor

The final piece.  Very little activity on this day. It was very cold and few people were stirring. Other pieces  will probably have more people.  

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?

The revised, updated edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol 1 by Dr. Don Rankin is available at

Watch and learn about watercolor glazing techniques from  Don Rankin.  This is a perfect companion to the book.

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor

Classic video tutorial The Antique Shop, a remastered classic favorite now available on DVD

The Antique Shop



What Do You Want to Paint?

What Do You Want to Paint?.

What Do You Want to Paint?

TheCopperheadDSC_0084_107 18 x 22 image                                The Copperhead  watercolor 18″ x 22″

I want to share a bit of a story about some of my paintings. I have been painting Indians for about 20 years or more. These are not made up characters. Rather, they are friends and relatives who hold deeply to their traditions. They are living human beings that I have known for many years. We have laughed and cried together, we have faced challenges together.  A lot of folks don’t understand because they don’t have similar experiences in their life.   I’ve had some who would often say, “Oh no, are you painting ANOTHER Indian?”  Well,  yeah I am.  I’ve had occasions when I have asked myself, what is the point?  Sometimes it gets hard to continue on a road. This is true when you get a lot of questions about why you are following a given path.

About 3 years ago a dear lady named Mary Whyte took a look at some of my paintings of my relatives and friends. One  of her comments was, “Hey, I think you are on to something here.  Keep it up!”   Well, I have and now I am looking at a possible traveling exhibition that will record a little known portion of America.

Why am I telling you this?  I have a motive. I can write reams about watercolor technique or the do’s and don’ts of just about any technique. You must remember one thing.  Technique is only a part of the equation.

What is in your heart? What drives you to paint? What are you willing to continue to paint even if no one else understands?

Perhaps better stated what is it that you can’t avoid painting?  What draws you, what drives you to pick up that brush and try one more time?  What ever that something is; that is your passion.

I do paint other subjects.   I recall listening to Raymond Kinstler urging us to not only paint figures but paint landscapes, paint still life. Get outside and paint. Leave the fear behind.  Certainly learn some techniques. Find the best instructors you can and above all paint.  The more you paint, the more you learn.  I hope my words don’t make it sound too simple.  No, it is hard work.

However, it is work that brings joy.  

Every one of you who reads this has a still small voice inside of you.  You have your likes and your dislikes.  Find your path and travel it. Listen to your heart.

What about technique?

Yes, technique is important.  Make your brush strokes count. Do you merely want to render a surface or do you want to use strokes that help build the sense of form.  Think about this. Do you know what your colors can do?  Mix them to find out. Write  notes so you will remember. Pretty soon it will become a part of you.

If you have read this post you know that I have produced a new on-line watercolor course. I designed it with a method in mind. It is one thing to demonstrate or show finished watercolors.  It is quite another thing to share principles. I developed several easy exercises. Nothing complicated.  Just simple exercises that will help build confidence and share knowledge. The tutorials cover fundamental elements like paper, paints and brush handling; it is these things that build competence.  Nothing fancy, at first.  It helps you plant a seed.  Nurture it with thought and work.  Watch it as it grows.   You can analyze this foundation below.  the copperhead2DSC_0012_99 22x30 image

Under painting: this is the foundation.   Two colors; Holbein Marine Blue and Winsor & Newton Permanent Magenta were used. Note the areas of concentration. Both colors are staining colors which means they are not likely to be lifted or disturbed by additional washes applied over them. Also note  that in some areas the wash is applied directly to dry paper. How can you tell?  Look at the edges. If they are sharp and crisp it is a light wash applied directly to dry paper. At the end of the arm and around the back of the head you see soft edges. Some are wet ‘n wet while other areas were applied in a direct manner and the edges were softened with clear water. The colors were chosen for their staining ability to help create transparent washes but also because they can help amplify the effect of flesh.

What is the point?

Use the technique to create an effect. Use your brush to suggest form not to just merely color in an area.  Even a pointed round red sable has the ability to create interesting texture by dragging the side of the brush across the paper. Experiment, explore.

Want to know more about watercolor?  

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin


DVD: The Antique Shop, 56 minute tutorial selecting and painting a site

On-line  watercolor course, by Don Rankin  lifetime access. Watch the lesson, do the lesson, learn the lesson. Review as often as you like.  Regular price $49 .There may still be some reduced coupons available at $20 off the regular price. MGTIWa.  Slots limited!

Thank you

Thank you.

Thank you

I had a tremendous response from the readers of this post.  You put me over the top with your response to my last two posts.

All coupons were taken in less than 10 hours!  The on-line course for  Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor  is now publicly available. In order to say thanks I am able to offer a $20 off on the regular price of $49.  No guarantee of how long that will last.

The course consists of more than two hours of short easy to do tutorials. Lessons are broken into small segments do that you can hit the pause button, do the work and come back. I am told that you have lifetime access to the material and I will be updating or modifying from time to time. Right now there are 30 segments, dealing with brush handling techniques, paints, under painting, dry brush and other tips. In fact since some of you responded, I have added more material. One thing I ask; please write a review after you view the course. Those reviews are very important. I thank you in advance.

The coupon code is MGTIWa.  The site is

My apologies for those who tried to get in but were not able.  I was hopeful that people would respond. I just didn’t imagine that it would happen so fast.  While 10 hours is not a record it seems that Udemy considers any course that gets full response within 7 days to be a course that usually does very well.

In a few days I’ll be posting another watercolor tutorial.  My postings have been a bit sparse but we started this video project 8 months ago.  Now that it is completed I can look forward to more painting and posting.

I do want to make one observation.  In the course of doing research I have had opportunity to read various posts that are supposed to be about watercolor glazing techniques. I have to say that I was more than a bit dismayed by some of the articles I have read in the past week or so. I’ll not mention names but I will say that watercolor glazing DOES NOT require the addition of any substance other than water and watercolor pigment to develop the process. If you run across accounts that tell you to add acrylic medium or varnish to the mix you are definitely reading the wrong article.  Sorry folks but that ain’t watercolor glazing.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?  Order Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin http://www.   

DVD: A complete tutorial of painting from start to finish: The Antique Shop

All coupons claimed in less than 48 hours

All coupons claimed in less than 48 hours.

All coupons claimed in less than 48 hours

The new watercolor course, Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, was launched just under 48 hours ago. I want to thank all of you who responded to my last post regarding the launching.  All of the coupons have been claimed.  We had a flurry of activity in a 2 hour period that took all of the available spots. I am now offering a new coupon for $20 off the regular price of $49.

The course is designed to bring to life, via video, the foundational chapters of the book Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume1.  A number of my students had commented that they  would love to see some of the techniques up close on video. If you have ever been to a watercolor demo or a class you know that live demos can be a fleeting thing. You see it, you say Wow! Then you try to do it and POOF the technique eludes you. With a video you have the power of a pause button. You can stop the video, do the technique and go back to the lesson as often as you like until you make it your own. No more straining to see or hear.  You can even watch while wearing your PJ’s! 

So here is another opportunity to get the course at a steep discount. Better hurry though. If the last batch is any indication they won’t last long!   Here is the link

That coupon code is MGTIWa there are a limited number so hurry before the price goes back to $49.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?  Order the book at

Now in DVD format  a remastered classic demonstrating the watercolor glazing technique. ..The Antique Shop

Order at 


Here is to a Happy and prosperous New Year!

Yes, the site has been a bit silent but I have been busy. Back in June we started producing a video tutorial to accompany the foundational chapters of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1. The plan was to cover items such as paint, paper, palettes,and brushes. Along with that I go through about 25 lecture/ demos on various brush handling techniques, paint characteristics, etc.  and some of the basic elements of watercolor glazing. All of these lessons are designed to bring some of the first sections of the book to life.

I think we will all agree that while it is one thing to have an informative book it is quite something else to be able to peer directly over someone’s shoulder  and actually watch a technique. It is far better than looking at a reverse image in a mirror often seeing the back of a bald head! If you have been to demos you know what I mean. Yes, I know, not all heads are bald.  I just happen to be there at this time in my life!

The course is in a testing phase and I would like to offer you all a unique opportunity. This is my way of saying THANK YOU for your support of this site.  For the first 50 responders who sign up you get the course FREE of charge. No catch.  No gimmicks. I would appreciate an honest review with any tips or suggested improvements. That is all.

You must use the following code…MGTIW  Go to

Want to know more about Watercolor Glazing Techniques?  Check out 

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 at

DVD: a remastered classic

The Antique Shop: 56 minute demo of glazing technique  at


Don Rankin's Watercolor Studio..painting tips

Don Rankin's Watercolor Studio

Don Rankin's Watercolor Studio..painting tips News

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