Art Adventures

Posts from the ‘Step-by-Step’ category

He might have stayed home and nursed his indecision. He had a dream, this musician. It was to play in front of an adoring, appreciative crowd and make some serious cash doing so. That morning, when he woke up, he lounged in bed, wracked with indecision. How best to make it big? He could look online for work, or maybe see if his friends got a gig and hook up with them. Or maybe go down to Seattle Pike’s Place Market and play for the folks there. Someone might see him and offer up a job as a musician. Or…he could have just hung around the apartment and thought about it.

But guess what. He didn’t. He didn’t stay in his apartment and mull it over. He got up and did something about his dream. He performed. Because I can tell you with a 100% certainty that nothing would happen if he just sat at home and thought about it. And maybe this is the day where the high-tech google-guy walks by, hears him play, and offers him a gig at his home for a party. His dream starts. Just by stepping out the door and doing SOMETHING. Here’s to you, Mr. Musician. Thanks for getting up and going down to Pike’s Place Market and playing music. Even though most people rush by and don’t even notice you. Even when your music is drowned out by the chatter and the cars and the ear buds. Thank you for being there. I noticed. I noticed and took a photo, and you are now on my “famous” (ehem) blog, and in an incredible (yep) painting. You might not have made much money today, or maybe you did, but you did pursue your dream today. So should we all. Don’t stay home and mull over indecision and possible failure. Just start.

The Painting

The photo of this musician sat propped up in my studio for 3 weeks while I worked on other paintings. I had been planning on placing this musician in the middle of the market chaos, but struggled with a good composition. Here is a thumbnail sketch I worked on:

Rain jazz sketch

Then suddenly, a simple solution presented itself.  Colorful vertical lines representing rain found their way into the background of the Seattle market behind the musician. Here’s how:

I began by loading my brush with a deep, rich combination of quinacridone burnt orange and ultramarine blue. After laying in the color vertically from the top of the painting down to the musician’s shirt, I washed the brush out and shifted the color to contain more burnt orange. Another vertical line later, I added cobalt blue to the mix.


First wash of deep value color in the background, connecting to the musician’s hat

Next, cerulean blue melded into the vertical lines while I continued the pattern all the way across the top of the painting, changing the intensity and color depth along the way. Before reaching the bottom of the canvas, I sprayed water into the paint, tilting the surface and allowing the drips to run all the way down the canvas. I tied in the guitar color with the background by using the same burnt orange.

Alternating the colors across the top and allowing drips to fall down the canvas

Alternating the colors across the top and allowing drips to fall down the canvas

I continued the pattern across the top of the canvas, starting the drips earlier on the right hand side to give interest to the composition, and painting around the music stand.

Continuing the background across the painting

Continuing the background across the painting

Once I finished the background, I introduced color into the musician and his clothes. Red/orange seemed a good choice, contrasting sharply with the background blues. His tie is cerulean, connecting again with the background.

Rain Jazz detail

Warm red for his shirt provided a nice contrast to the background

Once I painted the colors and values, I removed the liquid mask I had applied earlier, to reveal the reflected whites on top of the musician’s clothes. I used a damp brush to soften lines in the clothes.

Rain Jazz, 11x15, Watercolor and collage on plexiglass

Rain Jazz, 11×15, Watercolor and collage on plexiglass. Original $300, prints available.

As you can see in the final painting, the shirt offers a warm counterpoint and a bright focal point for our musician friend. Collaged circles of sheet music show up in the background and give the painting texture and interest. Seattle rain drips and runs around him, but he pays no mind. Thanks again, Mr. Musician, for getting up this morning and playing in the rain to inspire us all! Pursue your dream, people! And Feed the Beast!

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All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen.

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When I saw the fresh (or not-so-fresh) deli meat in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator a day after I used it, I knew. Yep, I had lost it. You know the ad where the family finds the keys in the fridge? I felt like the woman who put the keys in the fridge. Alarmingly so. Yikes!

But I realized that most times, I’m just not where I am. For instance, on the day of the deli meat, I was making lunch and talking to my sons. Where should we go for a hike, was the topic of conversation. In my head, though, the thoughts ran like this: “Hiking…hmm…I should get more exercise. The dog, too. I wonder if anyone has let the dog out? Oh yeah…dogs…I should think about contacting my client about her dog painting. Then I could post it on Twitter. I need to check my Twitter account. In fact, maybe I’ll change my website up. Speaking of website, I saw a great recipe for stew on the internet. I’ll pull stew meat out of the freezer. Which reminds me. That tomato stained my shirt. I’ll start the laundry soon…” Mean while, I’m busily talking and listening to what is going on around me, as well as making the sandwiches. No wonder I put the meat in the cupboard!

Be where you are. Use all your senses to live the moment. When I paint, I try to capture those moments from the chaos. Smell the flowers, taste the ocean spray, see the beautiful colors and patterns, engage all the senses. I live too much in the future, planning. Or in the past, fixing. Not really being where I am.

This painting today is about being where you are. I’m capturing, for you and for me, that moment of brightness at Seattle’s Pikes Place Market. Can you smell the flowers? Hear the music and the voices? Taste the cookie sample on your tongue?

These flowers glow with gorgeous patterns and colors. The woman arranging is surrounded by chaos, by color and sound. She is living in the moment. She sees flowers and patterns and arranges them thus so, engaged and absorbed in the details.

I’m sharing this moment with you as best I can, through my voice in watercolors. Enjoy. Think about being where you are. I’m trying. Maybe I will save on the grocery bill!

Painting “Joyful Surroundings”

I began the painting my flower vendor by texturing the plexiglass, using real flower leaves and fabric paint, as well as collaged squares:

Flower leaves and fabric paint add texture to the canvas.

Flower leaves and fabric paint add texture to the canvas.

After the gesso and collage dried, I drew in the composition and began painting the beautiful flower vendor.


The flower vendor detail, showing liquid mask on the whites of the tissue.

Using a pallet primarily of green and red complementary colors, I painted the flowers around her.


Detail of first wash, illustrating the flowers, shirt, and green stems around the flower vendor.

Adding more detail to the painting:


Adding more detail to the woman in the third wash.

When I felt the painting was about 90% done, I removed all the liquid mask.

Detail showing the removal of liquid frisket from all white-preserved areas.

Detail showing the removal of liquid mask.

Almost done, I sat the painting in the living room and watched it for a week. Really. Things become clear as you glance at it now and then.

Almost done. I set it aside for a week, wondering if I was completely done.

I had propped it up against binoculars on the piano. When sun came through the window one day, the binoculars cast a shadow on the flowers through the front. Bingo! I saw what the painting needed. I painted the front white tissue a mid value to guide the eye to the focal point, the flower vendor. I also darkened the values in the back, especially around the woman shopping. Now the eye moves easily through the painting, with the whites forming an angled “T” from the lower LH side, coming up through the white tissue and background windows, and coming back down through the buckets and tissue on the right side.

Joyful Surroundings. 11x19 watercolor and collage on recycled plexiglass. $300 framed

Joyful Surroundings, 11×19 watercolor on plexiglass. Available for purchase.

Joyful Surroundings. Are you like me? Do you live in the future, planning? Try to “fix” the past in your mind (I should have said this or that…)? If so, I challenge you to try, for a few moments a day, to shut those voices out and engage the senses. I hope you can you smell the flowers and feel the joy in this painting, a moment when I fully took in all around me.  Live presently. Be where you are. Let me know how it goes…:)

To purchase, send me an comment. I accept PayPal and will email a PayPal invoice.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and deals!

Keep creating to Feed the Beast! Support each other, people!:)

All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen.

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I didn’t expect to be flung back into my teenage self when I went to Portland Saturday Market last year. Yet that’s exactly what happened as I rounded a corner and witnessed a small band of three guys, dressed in depression-era clothing, playing music.

I immediately felt the wheeze of air and the rounded chord buttons beneath my fingers from my old accordion. I heard my brother plunking out a rousting rhythm on the banjo and we were both singing our hearts out. I could smell smoke from the wood fireplace and Mom’s homemade bread in the oven. “Mr. Bo Jangles” was our song of choice when we jammed, played over and over again with what seemed like amazing finesse. As a gangly, freckled 14-year-old girl playing the accordion, I was under no illusion that I could be considered cool. Or interesting. Uhmmm…this was the 80’s, people. No one “cool” even TOUCHED an accordion. But when my then-24-year-old brother played his banjo and I sang along and played the accordion? I actually felt cool. Really.

The three twenty-something guys at Portland Saturday Market WERE cool. They had a Portland retro-urban-folksy thing going on in a big way. When I snapped a photo of them, I wanted to paint my memories, infuse them with the vibe of these guys, and capture the surrounding organized chaos of Saturday Market.

I began by layering in collaged strips, along with randomly placed squares of sheet music, symbolizing their songs permeating through the market. Shiny areas shown below are dried liquid mask, protecting the whites of the gessoed plexiglass. I also used 3-D fabric paint to scribble on the surface, further illustrating the rhythm of the music and chaos of colors, smells, and sounds.

musicians detail 1

Detail of the drawing with strips of sheet music and liquid mask

Now I could fling paint without worrying about saving whites. I used a neutral green color scheme with areas of Daniel Smith’s Quinocridone Burnt Scarlet as my red accents. When I paint a large wash like this, I change colors on my brush often and let them mingle on the palette. Following my value plan, I washed in mid- to light-neutrals in a “T” shape composition, with the most intense green and red on the central figure. I tilted the plexi at a sharp angle to induce drips and splatters into the white foreground.

musicians detail 2

First wash using a “T” composition

After the first wash dried (I usually help it along with a blow dryer), I went into the figures and deepened value, intensified color, and added detail.

musicians detail 3

Second wash, enhancing values, saturation, and detail

I struggled to get the value deep enough, so went with a darker paint, Daniel Smith’s Sodalite Genuine, adding it to all the dark areas.

musicians detail 5

Darker values added using Sodalite Genuine

I didn’t like how the Sodalite muddied up most of the colors. It is better used with cool tones. Since this painting is mostly warm, the paints didn’t play nicely with one another. I removed most of the Sodalite with a wet brush and went back into the painting using Ultramarine Blue as my dark receding values.


After wiping out all the Sodalite Genuine, I painted Ultramarine Blue in its place

Below, I replaced the Sodalite with Ultramarine Blue in the background trees. Plastic wrap protects the musicians from getting water drops on them.

musicians detail 7

Using Ultramarine Blue for the background trees.

Much better! Brighter, and not so dreary:

musicians detail 8

Detail of musicians with Ultramarine blue in background

Especially the difference in the guitar case:

Musicians copyright

Final painting, Musicians at the Market, 16×12, watercolor and collage on recycled plexiglass

Musicians at the Market reminds me of both the Saturday Market and the times I had playing music with my brother. The music I heard at the market, though, triggered the memory. What music triggers an immediate response from you? Is there a song that transports you to a different time or place? It’s weird how music does that. Maybe more than any other trigger.  What do you think? Comment and let me know. 🙂


To purchase, send me an comment. I accept PayPal and will email a PayPal invoice.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and deals!

Keep creating to Feed the Beast! Support each other, people!:)

All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen.


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Surprisingly, during my stay in March, the Seattle sun shimmered brightly over Pikes Place Market. Looking for dinner inspiration, my friend and I ventured into the market’s colorful fray. As you can imagine, this place is one of my favorite markets for visual inspiration. Texture, pattern, people, smells, and chaos flood the senses. If you haven’t been there, vendors sell fresh produce, flowers, seafood and other items in both outdoor and indoor booths. On sunny days (which can be admittedly rare depending on the season), light illuminates areas of produce, casting interesting patterns and shadows across structures. Anyway, we were poking along very slowly through the market. Every few feet I took a dozen or so photos, diving into a fit of photo-frenzy, as everywhere I looked, there was painting potential. I especially love the signs. The signs kill me every time. “Don’t Touch Me, Don’t Squeeze Me, Until I’m Yours”, one sign prudently announced. Even just the price signs are fun with their proud proclamations of freshness and their loose printing.

“We will clean your crabs for free,” one sign in the seafood area claimed. That, mixed with the crab’s crabby look, made this photo a “Must-Paint”. This poor crab, he is as crabby as can be. “Cooked” indeed.

cooked photo reference and drawing

Photo reference and drawing for “Cooked”

I began by changing to a portrait orientation for the painting, to make it more dynamic. The crabbiest crab in the forefront needed to be the focal point, and arranging the canvas into a portrait orientation allowed the focal point to be more prominent in the lower LH 1/3 of the canvas.

Cooked first wash

First wash, “Cooked”

The Texi-Plexi surface had been created in advance using a plaster tool pulled through the wet gesso, for texture (no shells;)) and sprinkled salt, to give the snow/ice structure. This painting came together so easily, so quickly. Once I had the plan in mind and the drawing set, the colors fell into place as my brush danced along the surface.

I absolutely love it. Hope you do as well.

Cooked copyright

“Cooked” 11×14 watercolor on Texi Plexi $275

“Cooked” is available at Hood Avenue Art Gallery in Sisters, Oregon, for $275. Make sure you stop by and check out this little crabby crab.

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You’ve Got Mail. I know, I know. Sleepless in Seattle, right? I’m dating myself here, but if the title fits…And anyway, this is the snail-mail, old-fashioned way of mail-getting!

This little painting is the first of my Mailbox Series, inspired during my trip to Colorado this year. I took SCADS of photos and ended up with some crazy inspiration for paintings that should last through the winter!


First wash: Red flowers in the background


Second Wash: Adding all the colors and beginning to find the mailbox form

Youve Got Mail smallcopyright

You’ve Got Mail!! 8×8 watercolor on 140# gessoed watercolor paper. $30 today.

Finished! I love this painting. Hard to give it up, but in order to Feed the Beast, I must sell these little guys. Let me know if you want it! Remember to follow my blog so you continue to get updates and follow me on Facebook for sales and events. Have a great Thursday, everyone!

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While in Colorado this summer, my sister sent me some amazing photos of her chickens. She’s a chicken-girl, my sis(love you, sis). She LOVES her chickens, names them, breeds them, and probably spoils them rotten. Out of all these photos, this one sang to me…or, more like, cock-a-doodle-doo-ed to me? He puffed out his poof-poof chest and looked like he was crowing with all his might:  “See all these ladies here? These ladies are MINE!”

He’s a Silkie, a type of Banty chicken. A perfect name, since they have super-soft feathers that look like fine fur, and because they are from Siberia, they have black skin under their soft feathers…just like polar bears.

Top O' the Morning, 8x8 on gessoed 140# watercolor painting

Top O’ the Morning, 8×8 watercolor on gessoed 140# paper.

Isn’t he awesome? Super fun to paint, this guy, whose name is Heckle. I especially enjoy painting white critters, having fun with all the reflective lighting in the shadow side of their fur/feathers. White isn’t just white, you know! In the shadow side of a white object, there is warm and cool light that can add structure to your form. Have fun with it, I say!

Let me know if you want this little painting! He’s $30 today, on Thursday! Don’t forget to follow this blog (scroll to the bottom and click follow) and follow me on Facebook! Enjoy your day, everyone!! Top O’ the Morning to ya!

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Challenge…accepted. As I walked past a salsify plant, I asked myself, “Could you paint that, Sarah? How? What would it look like?” And so the challenge was made and accepted. First step, let’s take a quick photo with my IPhone and print the photo in the detective lab, do some DNA testing and see where we’re at (just kidding…too many detective shows for me).

Salsify plant for reference

Salsify plant for reference

How the heck am I going to do this?! But, since I had accepted my own challenge, there would be no going back. I call this plant a “wish” plant (maybe, as in, I wish I could paint it?). Which, if you were a tiny fly buzzing around my childhood, you would have known that we would blow on the plant and make a wish as the little poofy seed-heads floated off on the breeze. Don’t ask me why or how, but the wish was supposed to come true if all the seed heads came off during the lung-induced gale. Maybe that’s why I never got my pink mustang? You know, the car? Or…maybe it was my breath?  Oh, but I do digress.

So, as I was contemplating how on earth I would try to convey the airy-ness, the shadows and highlights, the seed heads, and still convey the wishy-wish aspect of the plant, I had a brain storm.

Ooooo! Insert SEED HEADS!! Since the plant was still somewhat intact when I began this painting, I was able to go outside and gather the little buggers. You got it…the painting has seed heads from the wish plant IN THE GESSO! I love it!


Seed heads in the gesso

I carefully chose perfect little seed heads, but when I put them into the wet gesso, they mushed together and didn’t spread out like I wanted them too. Since the little seed part was too pronounced, I plucked the seed and the stem off, and used just the “parachute” part. I also worked on  keeping the individual parachute parts spread out. If some weren’t perfect, that was fine. In fact, preferred. I let it dry.

Now, I just needed to transfer my image onto the prepared Plexiglass.Here it is:

Drawing with Seed Heads

Drawing on prepared plexiglass

Up close and personal:


Seed head detail


Seed head detail

You can see from the photos above that the seed heads retain their original color. Even after the gesso covered them completely, once it dried, the yellow tint remained true.

Then, I went to Colorado with my prepared Plexiglass. Read: Painting BONANZA!!

At home, I had used my 1.5 circular die cut press to create some circles out of paper and had placed them around the painting. Now, when I began to paint, I used Daniel Smith’s Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Teal, Quinacridone Burnt Orange to establish the circular wishy-shape plant. When I went into the upper LH corner with some of the deeper, darker color, the circular shapes reminded me of moonlight. Hence the title.

Finished. Moonlight Wishes. 11x14 Watercolor on Plexiglass

Finished. Moonlight Wishes. 11×14 Watercolor on Plexiglass $250

What do ya’ll think? I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. I was aiming for explosive poofs everywhere, and like the background color. Overall it’s pretty fun.

Want it? Let me know. And follow my blog (scroll down and click follow) and my Facebook page to keep up to date on all the happenings. Take care everyone. Feed the beast!


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If I had to do it all over again, I would have done it differently. What, you ask? No, not my first boyfriend, though that experience probably would benefit from some improvement if I could re-write it! Wait…do I even remember it correctly?!

I do digress…If I had to do it all over again, I would have thrown out the pear. The offending fruit squished and exploded slime all over when I reached for it. Now, to clarify, I LOVE pears. But exploding pears? Not so much. And my freshly mopped floor? Not so clean anymore. So this painting reminds me of my volcanic pear incident. As I’m painting it, though, I’m thinking smell and taste, and all this I love. But I wouldn’t have grabbed the super-ripe pear, had I known. This painting, however, has been a bit of a bear…er…pear problem. How to make fruit colorful when in a shadow? It’s tough. Here’s the process: My photo reference is from Portland Saturday Market (LOVE this place). It seemed out of season for the spring(?), but a few pears were there in all their glory. Sunlight sang through and spotlit a group in front of the rest. Detail, below, of their container:


Detail area of pears in cardboard box

The painting has been a struggle. Mostly because of the shadow areas in the back. I want to spotlight the foremost pears by “killing” the back pears. A recessive wash seems to deaden the whole area. Also, in the handle area of the box, pears poke through visually. Maybe a little too much?

Pears mid-way through

Pears mid-way through

Kind of cool, this photo above. Galleries and exhibition foundations remind artists to crop and clean up our photos. This one is out on my patio and shows pavers, chairs, table, and hence, the scale of my painting. I’m keeping the crop out! BAN THE CROP. Just kidding. Only for now. Okay, after re-working, here is the final photo of my painting. I have a critique-group meeting this week, in which I’ll present the painting and probably result in a change…a bit…but for now, here’s the finished piece. 🙂

Pearz. 22x30. Watercolor on plexiglass.

Sunshine in a Box. 22×30. Watercolor on plexiglass.

So here’s to you, you pears! Ban the squishy pears (which these weren’t) and ban the crop(ha!). It’s been fun. I love the cut-open pear and the brightness of all the pears in the sunshine(hence the title). In person, those front pears SING in the painting. And, of course, I love the container. I’m a big container-person. This one, this cardboard container with fake wood painting is wonderful. As for the reason I’d do it over? Never grab an over-ripe pears with freshly-mopped floors.

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No, no…no worries.  I’m not doing crazy science experiments on my poor little yard chickadees!  What were you thinking??

This small chickadee painting went together so smoothly and that I found it hadn’t quite quenched my yelling beast within. It was so fun and quick I had to do another. Okay, okay, I didn’t really need to, but there was an uncontrollable desire (you must do another, Sarah)!

First, here’s a quick time-lapse of chickadee painting #1. I call it Chickadee Spring:

I enjoy pushing colors in my paintings. The bird does not necessarily have all the colors on his little feathers as I have depicted. But if I wanted him to be perfectly rendered, I could always just post the photo. And you all know what a disappointment THAT would be. 😉 The colors are pushed to more extreme; the blues are more intense, the black is actually purple, but he looks pretty normal, right?

Chickadee Spring. 8×8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

I think I’d like to do another one with weird colors (queue uncontrollable desire to paint another).

Oooo…great idea. Is a chickadee recognizable as a chickadee if the colors are not realistic?  After that thought, I postponed this post and had to do an experiment:

Crazy Chickadee 8x8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

Crazy Chickadee 8×8 watercolor on gessoed watercolor paper

What fun this is! Isn’t he cute? What made him even more interesting was that I had just purchased a new paint, Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Coral.  Gorgeous color! You will be seeing more it from me in the future. It’s a warm red, so it mixes very well with a warm yellow such as New Gamboge Yellow. I LOVE it!!!

So? What do you think? Which version do you prefer? Comment and let me know. Hope you all are feeding your creative beast this week!

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Someone asked me this week if I would ever consider painting lemons.  Why, yes! As a matter of fact, I would! After a quick trip to Safeway to recruit my lemon models (I had them sign a contract), they were ready for their photo session.  I played Madonna’s Vogue to get them in the mood.  A big sheet of white foam core, grandma’s old wooden bowl, and an Iphone provided all the necessary tools.  In my back yard, the afternoon sun came in at the perfect angle to create gorgeous lemon light through the lemon slices. After a bunch of photos from different angles and set-ups, this photo worked best because of the connections in the lemon shadows.  Since I had planned on doing a small 8×8 Thirty-dollar post, I chose just the three lemons, without the bowl in the background.  I’ll come back to this photo for a large painting later.

Reference photo for Lemons in Summer painting

Reference photo for Lemons in Summer painting

By the way, here is my favorite lemon bars recipe. Sinful, but delicious. Or, you could skip the dessert and go for the Lemon Drop Martini!

Lemons in Summer. 8x8 gessoed watercolor paper.

Lemons in Summer. 8×8 gessoed watercolor paper. Matted with white mat to fit into a 12×12 frame.

Here it is!  Your Thirty-Dollar Thursday painting! Own it for just $30 (not including shipping). Message me to let me know you want it.  First come, first serve.

My fellow blogger from Geek Gardens purchased a thirty-dollar painting a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s what he had to say:

“As the proud new owner of the Orange Chair (which came beautifully shipped and matted today!) I can honestly say that the pictures do not do the paintings justice. Beautiful color and amazing texture and on top of it all, it is frame ready! At this price I may have to break my art rule “the frame should not be more expensive than the art!” A great problem to have.”  Check out his great blog about succulents!

Follow me on Facebook to get more announcements about upcoming events and sales. Also, I now have a store! Order paintings or prints at Please share, follow, comment and/or like, to give me a boost and help keep this beast of mine fed.  Feed the beast!  Now…back to the martini 😉

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