Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Tryst Falls"--a plein air watercolor

"Tryst Falls"
 A Plein Air Watercolor on Archival Paper
9" x 12"

Painting on the spot offers many delights and challenges. Beauty is all around us, filling our eyes and souls, singing its siren song--"paint me if you dare"! Details crowd around us, clamoring for attention; the light changes rapidly. The wind picks up, or dies and suddenly we're hot!

I love the challenge, and some of my favorite paintings have been done on the spot--and sometimes I'm just not quite happy with what I've done. Just because you've started a painting on the spot doesn't mean it's set in stone and Must Not Be Touched. Satisfaction in the end result can be important, too.

I often put a painting aside for a few hours...or days...or weeks. If I'm still happy with it, that's marvelous! If not--by then I can usually tell what I need to do to come closer to what I responded to originally.

In this case the waterfall was glorious--sparkling, roaring, moving with energy that could move mountains--but my original painting was overdone and dull. I washed back the edges to form a vignette and focus the eye on the waterfall (as you can see in my art tip #93!), and added more color for a lively sparkle.

I featured this painting on a recent art tip on fixing watercolors--you can find it on my website at, at upper left. (If you're not already getting my Art Tip announcement newsletter, you can sign up there, too--we're up to Tip # 100, believe it or not!)

This is one of my favorite places to paint--I've done many of the falls and environs, and have yet to be bored...



I used a combination of techniques for the waterfall itself--liquid mask, painting around, and lifting the mist at the left with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and clear water.  Make sure to blot away the loosened pigment quickly!

Here, you can see I used a bit more scratching, with a sharp craft knife to give a bit of sparkle.  You'll want to use a good strong paper if you plan to do much lifting or scratching...

I used the Mr. Clean eraser, which is actually a fine-grained manmade sponge found in the household cleaning department of your grocery or discount store, to make a softened vignette effect on the final painting.  It draws the viewer's eye into the center of interest, where I kept the lightest and darkest areas, as well as the most detail and action.


This painting is offered unmatted and unframed to keep costs down. It will come to you carefully wrapped via Priority Mail, in the US. Insurance included in the shipping cost



I love painting on the spot; it's always a challenge, and I see things I can't, in a photograph. I share some of my love for this kind of work on my CD that was done mostly in the Shenandoah Valley, where my husband used to live.

I'm glad I captured some of that spectacular scenery, and the wonderful memories...


It's $15.99 + shipping, if you'd like to explore the wonders of painting on the spot--or of the Shenandoah Valley!


  1. A wonderful painting Cathy - sparkling and eye-catching, it's got that something special.

  2. Thank you, Maree! I really enjoy painting there...

  3. Beautiful! That waterfall is so wet- looking!

  4. I also want to say that I really appreciate your mini-demos. Very helpful and inspiring. Thank you for posting them!

  5. I'm glad you like them, Melissa! I used this painting for one of my art tips, too, showing what can be done with a painting you feel needs tweaking...I like it a lot better now!

  6. Really pretty. I enjoyed hearing how you did it.

  7. cathy fon is excellent blog and much creative charles

  8. AMAZING! I can't get enough of the details (and those beautiful trees at the back too) =)

  9. Thank you, Alex, I really need to get back to posting more here...

  10. Lovely work Cathy, I will be returning often to enjoy your blog. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Very nice work! I haven't painted in awhile and googled watercolor techniques for waterfalls and your site came up after the second try. The first try is someone on YouTube. Her techniques left a little to be desired. Yours, on the otherhand, were a joy to see.

  12. Thank you! One of my next art tips will be on painting moving water; you can sign up for my mailing list if you like, so you don't miss it. The form is at upper right!


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