Acacia on the Maasai Mara plain

Watercolor “Acacia on the Maasai Mara plain” 16” x 22”. This painting captures the grandeur and graceful structure of the iconic Acacia tree that seems to claim its space in the short grass of the plain. These few closeup photos show the watercolor pigments mixing while retaining their transparency. Getting the pigment to do this is always a challenge that must be completed quickly before the paper drys at all. Transparency is unique to watercolor, but can easily turn to mud if not done properly.

Watercolor Acacia on the Maasai Mara Plain

Acacia on the Maasai Mara Plain

Study Sketch of the Day “Maasai Woman”

Study sketch Maasai Woman from my trip to Kenya 2016. I wanted to paint this, but I have been intimidated to tackle this subject until now. Wait until you see the colors! Her skin is a rich red-brown, her clothing and jewelry are turquoise, red, black, pink and white set in a field of tall ochre grass typical of the Maasai Mara.

Maasai Woman sketch

Pencil study sketch

Study sketch Maasai Woman

Watercolor study sketch

I worked on another study sketch using an ebony pencil and watercolor to further explore and determine how to approach a larger watercolor that I will tackle soon.

My watercolor painting of the day: “Piazza del Campo”

This is one of the largest public plazas in the world. I spent many hours sketching and taking in the features and architecture that makes this space so wonderful. Narrow streets connect to the piazza at five locations with restaurants of all kinds surrounding the perimeter. The painting is 16” x 22” on Arches rough. This painting makes me long to be there again with my sketch paper and brush. That will have to wait until next year.Piazza Del Campo

My watercolor painting of the day: “Ponte Vecchio”

Ponte Vecchio

“Ponte Vecchio” in Florence, Italy 22” x 16” on Arches not (cold press) 140# paper. This is a bridge over the Arno River built in 1345 for the Medici family. I photographed this in the early morning with clear reflections in the smooth river surface before continuing on my cycling tour of Tuscany. I used a sketch 11” x 14” to start my 16” x 22” watercolor. A few hours of work sketching and study to see if I can capture this moment in watercolor pigments. I have about 6 paintings of this bridge to do in this series. While a photograph is good, a watercolor has more emotion and I have the opportunity to interpret what I saw and experienced so that you can get a glimpse into my mind and artist’s eye.

This was a difficult subject with lots of detail and complex water reflections. But it is exactly those water reflections that provided the unique view. The morning sun brought great contrast and color intensity that was washed out as the sun angle rose during the day.

This series of photographs shows the development of the watercolor. Watercolor is painted “backwards” from what you would expect. Unlike opaque mediums, like oil paint, watercolor is a transparent medium. “Mistakes” are hard to hide, so they need to be turned into features by the cleaver work of the artist. Come and visit my gallery and I can show you how I turned watercolor disaster into a delight! The light goes through the pigment to the paper surface, and bounces back with light waves colored by the watercolor pigments. It is this transparency that gives watercolors it unique quality. But it also requires that the pigments be transparent and not muddy.


I hope you enjoy viewing this watercolor as much as I did painting it this week.

Paul Franks Watercolor is launched!

After lots of work preparing watercolor paintings, giclee printing, framing, website construction and preparing the new watercolor art gallery for my artwork for sale, it is ready!

The walls of the gallery are filled with framed giclee prints. the Christmas tree is up and decorated, and the new web site is open!

Need a unique Christmas Gift? Fine Art would surprise and delight almost anyone. Remember those spring days cycling in the Snoqualimie Valley, or winter skiing at Whistler, or maybe touring in Italy and France. Go to the web site and see the selection of about 60 giclee prints that are available.

Italy cycling tour and sketches en plein air

I had the opportunity to tour the Tuscany region of Italy on my bike in September 2017. Cycling provides me with a great opportunity to view and experience Italy. I was able to stop and view village scenes, plazas and the landscapes that were spread out for me to view. I spent many afternoons finding a thousand-year old stone step to sit on in the corner of an Italian plaza with my selected vantage point for sketching, This was my first experience with plein air work. It has its challenges and rewards. The first challenge is sometime the weather, hot in most cases on this trip. Sometimes the place I wanted to sketch from was in the blazing sun. Then I needed to find a place the I was somewhat out of the way of the many tourists, taxis and delivery trucks. The best places were were I could find a step to sit on, hard as it was, I could site for a few hours and get the sketch completed.

I use these sketches to study the scene along with some photographs for a subsequent watercolor work in my studio. I do my best work when I have spent some time on location, feeling the temperature, sun and breeze, taking in the smells and the colors of the place. These help me decide how to mix my colors and makes my brush flow with emotion, hopefully all of which creates a great watercolor that allows the viewer to feel some of the same experience.