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Painting my neighborhood on a new paper

shades crest rdDSC_0223_312                                                     Shades Crest Road                 Hand made Ruscombe paper                                   9″ x 14″

Paint what you know:

I know that seems to be my common theme.  However, I don’t think it can be said enough nor often enough.  My point is simple.  You are unique. Even if you have an identical twin no one sees like you do. No one thinks like you do. No one reacts in the same way to those things that happen around you. In short, your greatest asset is your unique individuality. To be certain all of us have shared feelings and shared viewpoints.  In spite of that; your reactions are largely personal. While some may not see it our individual traits are our strongest asset.  I am reminded of two very powerful events in my life that support my belief. When I was very young, about 14, I was admitted into the Famous  Artist School, in Westport, Connecticut. It was my first experience with distance learning. I was absolutely amazed at the ability of the faculty. I recall submitting a project that was heavily influenced by one of my idols of the time. When my critique was delivered it was a sharp rebuke.  It read something like this,  ” I see you were heavily influenced by a particular artist, etc.,etc.,…in short why in the hell do you want to copy someone’s mistakes?”   Mind you this piece was influenced by a very famous, extremely talented  painter!

Many years later I had the privilege of training for 25 years with Saiko Shihan Oyama of World Oyama Karate.  Over a period of years one fact was replayed over and over again as young and old students would be demonstrating their knowledge of kata.  Students would get nervous before and during promotion and they would glance to see what movements their neighbors were making.  Almost always the neighbor would be doing it wrong! What is my point? Be yourself. To quote Shihan, ” If you make a mistake make it DYNAMIC!”  Have the courage to stand on your own two feet and follow your heart. Sheeple get led around and never break out of the herd.


While I stress individuality I do not stress it at the risk of producing quality.  Learn the basics first.  At the same time feel free to break out and explore.  In the realm of exploring this small piece was produced on a French handmade paper that is well worth your time and effort. This watercolor was painted on a paper from Ruscombe Mills in France. I love the quality of the paper and the color hold out.  I really have no complaints. You can find it by doing a search for Ruscombe Mills.

However, I will give you a caution. READ the instructions that come with the paper. It will tell you to soak the paper and then mount it in order for the paper to smooth out. After all, this is handmade and it comes out with some ripples.  At first you may think the paper is a bit thin or at least thinner than a number of commercially produced papers. Don’t let that fool you. This paper is strong. My first attempt at stretching resulted in disaster. I drew in pencil upon the paper and put the sheet in a tub of cold  water.  Since the paper felt lighter than other papers I placed the staples fairly close to the edge of the paper. While the paper was still very wet I washed in some Winsor and Newton Rose Dior and some random swatches of ultramarine blue. The very wet paper allowed the color to cascade down the sheet as it sat at an angle on my board.  I left the room in anticipation of painting the next morning.  That would give the paper time to dry and I would resume the process again.


The next morning arrived and as I walked into the studio I could see that what I had judged to be a thinner than usual  watercolor paper had the strength of a Goliath!  The wire staples had pulled loose from the plywood mounting board, while some had ripped through the paper. The result was a wrinkled mess. I was fresh and relaxed and realized that I had misjudged the strength of the paper. I removed all staples and plunged the paper back into the a cold bath. After it soaked for about 10-15 minutes I placed on my mounting board. This time I positioned the staples at least 1/4″ from the edge of the paper. The sheet dried with a beautiful taut flat surface.

Working Qualities:

This paper doesn’t disappoint.  I’m glad that I bought several sheets. The washes in this painting are all transparent colors. I very rarely use opaque color and when I do it is for special effects only. The glazing techniques I employ do not produce vibrant color if you use opaque paints or body color. Those approaches block the light and kill the vibrancy of the washes. The surface of the Ruscombe paper I am using produces clean sparkling color. It takes dry brushing and seems to be open to washing back or lifting color if you desire.  The paper holds a wide range of values with ease.  The surface is tough enough to allow for scraping. I can say that this will be one of my favorite papers.  Try it .  I think you will like it.   As I sit here and write this I am already making plans to visit a nearby orchard. More about that later.

Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff,  Bluff Park,  Alabama 

raven tableDSC_0189_298                                                    Raven        oil                                                                     David Rankin

While this is a watercolor site I want to share a first with you. Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff, in Bluff Park, Alabama  my son, David, and I will be having our first joint father and son show.  The art center was once an elementary school that has been refurbished as an art center hosting individual studios as well as new class rooms for teaching artists. One of those new studios will be for my watercolor students.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?  You can purchase Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor , Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin  at

Learn from a DVD entitled The Antique Shop that features Don’s approach to painting on the scene at

Study with Don Rankin On-line.  Approximately 2.5 hours of watercolor instruction that allows you to work at your own pace in the convenience of your home.

Study watercolor with Don Rankin.  For more information contact Ms. Linda Williams at Artists on the Bluff, Bluff Park, Alabama 205-532-2769

Quinacridone Colors and watercolor glazing techniques/painting for effect

Do pigment types make a difference?

If you look at the beginning of my page you will see two watercolors. The top piece is entitled Young Warrior.  It was painted on 300lb. Lana cold press watercolor paper. The image measures approximately 19″ x 23″,  This piece was painted largely with quinacridone colors. American Journey Indian Yellow, Copper Kettle, Pomegranate, Old Sienna, as well as Winsor Violet and Winsor blue to be precise.  Painting number 2 is entitled Dragging Canoe*. It was painted on 300 lb.cold press Lana watercolor paper as well and measures approximately 24″ x 18″. As you examine the two pieces you will see a difference in appearance of color. There are several reasons for that difference. As stated Young Warrior was painted using quinacridone colors almost exclusively.  Dragging Canoe was painted using pigments like new gamboge, winsor red and winsor blue. When you compare the two pieces there is a definite difference. Certainly the age of the subjects, the lighting and setting are different. The two pieces were painted several years apart. Considering all that, it is logical that there would be differences. Now look a little closer. The Young Warrior’s color is a bit lighter and perhaps a bit brighter.  The older man is portrayed with colors that seem to have more body. Perhaps the proper terminology is to suggest that the first painting has a higher key in its color range.  Considering that there was a physical age difference I think the switch in pigment types was helpful. The younger man appears to be almost innocent, somewhat fresher than the older warrior who had experienced a lot more.

Both paintings are transparent with no opaque colors. Both paintings were glazed in sequence over a fairly well defined under painting.  Dragging Canoe has a blue under painting, Young Warrior has a lot of violet,. One piece appears to have more substance to its color. At least, I get that feel as I look at them. In this comparison I am trying to point out that your choice of pigment types can make a difference in the mood and effect of your painting.

Some readers who scan pictures and read less have often assumed that I use a large number of colors in a painting. Not true.  While it is true that I have a large reserve of paints, I learned long ago that too many colors at one time can spoil the effect.  Personally I seek harmony in my work and I love working with a limited palette. Working with complements as well as analogous color schemes have their place and can produce incredible results . Strive to learn about color and its relationship to one another. Color is like a community. We all know individuals who behave in a different manner depending upon their neighbors or close associates. Well, color behaves in the same way. Explore. Try different combinations and see what happens.  Sure, you win a few and you may lose quite a few but the destination is well worth the journey.

* Dragging Canoe  is featured  Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I  Dragging Canoe by Dr, Don Rankin available at

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