Elements – Little Paintings in the Works

Those of you that subscribe to my newsletter know that I’m toying around with some paintings based on the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air). I’ve got some big ideas in a new direction, and to flesh them out I like to mess around with little 4″x6″ paintings. Most of them go in the “learning experience” box, but sometimes I hit on something that looks cool enough to stand on its own.

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with water and paint on an very small level…placing water next to wet paint or painting with water and then dropping paint into it. All with a tiny brush. I like what happens, but I’m not sure how I can transfer that to a larger painting! I suppose I could just take even longer to complete one…

I thought I’d show you one of the Element paintings I’m going to eventually put up for sale. This is Fire. It is 4″x6″ goauche on paper.


First I applied some gouache directly from the tube. I’ve never been able to remember the name of the paint colors I use, so I’m going to see if I can figure it out as we go. Here I’ve used sepia, spectrum red, perylene violet, and the new to my palette yellow ochre. I use Winsor & Newton gouache tubes.


The next thing I did was apply water to the paint on the paper. I rinse the paint off my brush after every couple of strokes so that I’m letting just the water blend and spread the paint.


I put pieces of wax paper on the wet paint, and let it dry.


You can see the patterns left behind by the wax paper. I also used a bit of water to pull the reds, ochres, and purples towards the top of the painting.


Later I touched up spots to give them some oomph (technical term) and added some gold. Here you can see the water and the gold working together.

If you had told me ten years ago I’d be happily making abstract paintings, I’d have said you were being ridiculous.

I hope to have this and a few other 4″x6″ Element paintings up on my Etsy shop in the next couple of weeks. I’m also in the final stages (flattening, varnishing, mounting on wood panel, sealing) of two Full Moon paintings, which means I only have one left to complete the year! Then I can really focus on my new direction, which I find exciting and slightly terrifying, as most pictures involve a child of indeterminate age and gender.

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2 Responses

  1. Great, Lesley! I love seeing the process how you did this. I’m excited to see where it goes and what your final larger pieces look like.

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