Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter Forest Watercolor Lesson

Winter Forest
watercolor painting by Rosa Phoenix

Happy Holidays!

Believe it or not, it's cold and wintry here in Arizona, and there's snow in the mountains!

We painted a wintry forest scene in my watercolor classes. 

This is a nice lesson for beginners. We learn about wet-on-wet technique, using masking tape, and color perspective (distant objects are lighter in color and appear blurry, while closer objects are darker in color and have more definition).

Step 1

We start by masking off the bottom part of the painting with masking tape, then applying a pale wash of paint (using lots of water) to the paper in a cool blue lavender color. 

This will be our sky.

Step 2

While the wash is still wet, loosely paint in the most distant layer of trees, using a slightly darker lavender paint that is very wet. I use a small round brush, using a quick back-and-forth motion. It doesn't have to be detailed, because the trees are very far away. 

We want the trees to blend in with the sky, to get a misty look.

Step 3

While our background tree layer is still wet, we loosely paint in the middle layer of trees in a blue green color. The colors will blend together and that's OK.

Step 4

We let our painting dry, and then we paint in our final layer of trees that are closest to us. We use a dark blue-green color paint, and we use less water this time, so our trees have more definition.

Finally, we remove the masking tape and paint the bottom part of our painting. I painted a wash of icy, light blue color.

My students used their imaginations to create a scene here: one painted snowy hills; another painted a deer, and another painted a river with fish jumping in it!

Remember to stay creative and open to possibilities. It's a wonderful way to live life!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


pencil and watercolor by Rosa Phoenix 

I used graphite pencil, watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons, and a paintbrush with water.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Autumn Colors: Watercolor Painting Lesson

It's Autumn in Arizona! 

What better way to enjoy the changing season, than by walking in Nature, and seeing the autumn colors?

I took these photos on a hike to Horton Springs, near Payson, Arizona. 

Up in the mountains, the trees grow tall, and their leaves put on a spectacular display of color, illuminated in the sunlight!

the creek from Horton Spring

The change of seasons gives us a chance to reflect on the changes in our lives. 

It's a time to celebrate our growth and progress! 

Autumn is a colorful reminder that we can make a brilliant impact here on Earth.

I'm very excited about a new change for me this season: I'm teaching art classes!

I love it, because I am sharing the joy of creativity with others.  


Here's a beginner's lesson in watercolor painting and color mixing, inspired by autumn colors:

First we learn about the color wheel. 

By mixing the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) we can mix all the colors we need. Do you see the beautiful colors of autumn?

It takes just 3 steps to make our painting of autumn foliage:

Step 1

First we wet the paper, then start dabbing primary colors onto the paper. 

The colors mix together right on the paper. (This is called wet-on-wet technique in watercolor.) 

Then we let it dry.

Step 2

We use a cut piece of sponge, dip it in more paint, and dab the paint on the paper with the sponge.

Here is what it looks like, after we have added color with the sponge. Do you see how it creates texture?

Step 3

To finish the painting, just use a small paintbrush to make the tree limbs and branches. The brown color was mixed using all three primary colors: red, yellow and blue.

And we are done, in 3 easy steps!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

San Francisco Street Art

 I went to San Francisco for a visit. What a lovely escape from the Arizona desert heat!

The cool fog and ocean air refreshed my body and spirit!

If you are an art lover, San Francisco has plenty to offer. The entire city is a canvas for multitudes of artists who must make a mark!

San Francisco is famous for murals.


Colorful works of art abound!

 Faces and fantastic creatures watch you from the walls.

Dreams or nightmares?

Mosaic is very popular.

 Haight Ashbury Hippie Counter-Culture.

 Remembering the Wild West era of the Gold Rush.

Where Life and Art blend together.

 I love the textures of the brick wall beneath the paint.

I shall save some more for another post.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sketchbook: Battery Park, New York

Small sketch from 2000 of Battery Park streetlamps and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the background.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Big Dream Little Bears: A Film by Wildhoop Productions

Imagine you are a baby, unable to feed or care for yourself. 

You are in the forest with your mother and she is suddenly shot and killed

Men storm out of nowhere and quickly butcher her for her valuable body parts -- her feet will be eaten as a delicacy, and her bile will be used as medicine for people in China. What’s left of your mother’s corpse is left to rot on the forest floor.

You may be left to starve, killed by another creature, or, in the best case scenario, taken captive and forced to live in a tiny cage for your entire life as someone’s “pet”.

 photo by Chris Bray

This is the sad story of young Suria the Sun Bear and her companions at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in the new wildlife documentary Big Dream Little Bears by WildHoop Productions (Howard Jackson and Dr. Audrey Low of Australia). 

Luckily, Suria and the other orphaned bears in the film were rescued and brought to BSBCC, where a team of wildlife biologists led by Siew Te Wong study and care for them. 

Siew Te Wong and Sun Bear
photo from BSBCC

Although the bears are still kept in cages at BSBCC, Wong’s big dream is to release the bears back into the wild.

Big Dream Little Bears shows Wong and his team readying the bears for their initial release into an enclosed nature preserve. In this protected area, they can learn to adjust to the wild, and still receive food and medical care. 

If the bears can successfully adapt to forest life, the hope is that one day they will be released for good back into the wild.

 photo by Chris Bray

Their release is important, not only for the quality of life for the individual bears, but because their species is endangered.

Each animal that can potentially breed and perpetuate the species is important, when extinction is on the horizon.

Poachers aren’t the only threat to the Sun Bears. The decimation of Borneo’s rain forest is happening at an alarming rate. 

The most ancient forest in the world is being cleared to plant palm oil plantations--palm oil is used for cooking, biodiesel and many processed foods consumed in the West. With less forest, there is less food and habitat to go around, and more competition amongst all creatures for precious resources. 

rescued Sun Bear
photo from BSBCC

Big Dream Little Bears is a story of human cruelty and uncaring destruction, and it’s also a story of human compassion and hope. 

Siew Te Wong and his team work so hard to rescue, protect and study these animals, realizing that their actions could mean the difference between extinction or survival of a species. 

The filmmakers gave their time and skills. They funded and produced Big Dream Little Bears themselves and are donating part of the profits to the BSBCC. All understand the urgency of the situation: they are in a race against time, and the odds seem hopeless. 

Filmmakers Audrey Low (left) and Howard Jackson (right)
with Siew Te Wong and some of the BSBCC team
photo by Wildhoop Productions 

What I took away from Big Dream Little Bears: Every one counts! 

What we each do in our lives makes a difference. Every bear makes a difference, and every human. How do we spend our time? What work do we do? What do we buy? What do we eat? Every action, no matter how small, has a consequence, whether we are aware of it or not.

If I truly love Life, I will choose to make mindful choices. 

I will choose compassion over cruelty. I will choose hope over despair.

 photo by Chris Bray

Suria, the littlest bear, steals the show, and I am rooting for her happiness and freedom. 

She has lived in her cage for so long, that the outside world is now totally foreign to her. Will she emerge from her cage to touch the earth, and experience life in nature once again, as she deserves? The future of the Sun Bears may depend on it.

And their future may also depend on you and me.



Wildhoop Productions

P.S. You may know the filmmaker and presenter in Big Dream Little Bears, Dr. Audrey Low, from the blogging world. She has the blogs, Wildhoop Productions, Papaya Tree Limited and 365 Just Show Up. I am very proud of the work she and her partner, Howard Jackson, have put into this project.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sketchbook: Phoenix

Rosson House, Phoenix, AZ
crayon drawing by Rosa Phoenix

Hey! There's a Victorian house in Phoenix!

This is the Rosson House Museum in downtown Phoenix. It was built in 1895 for an early Mayor of Phoenix. It reminds me of the beautiful Victorian houses of San Francisco.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012: The World Mother's Story

I'm wishing you a peaceful Earth Day 2012.

To me, Earth Day is a sacred day. It's a day to celebrate all the beautiful experiences we have living on Earth.
My painting, World Mother, is my expression of my love of the Earth, and my desire to honor all Life.

I have never told my story of the World Mother and how she appeared to me. Rather, I have wanted each person to find the meaning in this image for himself or herself.

On this Earth Day 2012, I would like to share the story of how this image came to be created.

sketch of World Mother, 2006

This is the World Mother's first appearance in my sketchbook. 

This was a time of darkness, illness and grieving. I was physically sick and exhausted from fighting a battle with autoimmune disease, that had been going on for years. My father and grandfather had recently died.

I was sick of death, violence, disease. Wars were raging all over the world, horrific terrorist attacks were rampant, and the 2004 tsunami in Asia had killed hundreds of thousands of people in mere minutes.

I was also becoming more aware of great changes that were happening to the Earth: climate change brought on by pollutants, caused by industry; the destruction of forests and habitats; the poisoning of our water, air and soil.

I felt powerless to do anything, and sick that I was part of this chain of destruction.

On July 10, 2006, I had just heard a story in the news. It was a report of a gang of U.S. soldiers in Iraq who had committed a heinous crime on an Iraqi family. They had gone to a home, raped a girl living there, killed her and every single person in the house, including a baby, then set the house on fire. This attack had been planned out in advance.

This story made me cry. It made me feel that life in such a world is not even worth living. 

The World Mother appeared to me in a vision. This woman, this mother figure, appeared in my sketchbook as I was drawing, with the title "Weeping for the World."

She is weeping for all her children, cradling the Earth in her arms. She has created beautiful life, and yet her children cruelly destroy and ravage each other and everything on Earth.

The image of the World Mother has evolved. Her tears are gone and she watches over the Earth with serene and peaceful blessings. 

I know that she was created out of pain and darkness. I have made her into a healing and hopeful image, because I choose to shine a light in dark times. I want to show the potential of peace.

CD cover for Cyclub 

I am amazed by the responses I receive from people, when they see the World Mother.  They are seeing something that they recognize in their own heart.

Since I have painted the World Mother, I have made many connections with people, all over the world. This image, that I re-created to show Japan, is now the cover for Cyclub's CD, "Shining in Da Sun." The music on this CD was inspired by, and created for, Japan, after 2011's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The World Mother has truly changed me. Her appearance in my life was a true turning point that led me out of that dark place, into a path of hope. Since I painted this image, I have discovered that she is an archetype of Gaia, Mother Earth. I see her in images of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadelupe and works by many other artists.

My own personal World Mother continues to travel across the Earth and inspire people to cherish and hold sacred everything that is important to us.

I wish you and your family many, many blessings on this Earth Day 2012!