NMO ARGO – A Watercolor Progression

Watercolor progression photo #8 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen NMOmo Argo  – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more, ore view this painting framed, select the image.


NMO Argo, begins on a half-sheet of 140-pound, cold press watercolor paper. In this particular case. work is accomplished on a level surface. A large, flat watercolor brush is loaded with Manganese Blue and Cyan, then the paint is encouraged to drip on areas of the paper, combined with a bit of a splattering and flicking motion.

The large brush, held by the tip of the handle, is slowly dragged over the surface during various stages of wetness. This is done in an attempt to create interesting shapes that  help to relate various parts of the composition to one another.

Paint is removed, scratched away, in a few selected areas. This is done to help create “repeats’  of similar marks in blue, and to open spaces and add interest. A brush handle is used to make rapid, assured,  scratch marks in three places.  These marks can be seen starting in the lower left area and progressing diagonally toward the upper right of the painting.

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Once the initial layer of paint dries, the same, large brush is used to, here and there, apply a light tint of the same colors as used previously. This further helps bring various areas together. NMO Argo, is allowed to dry once again before proceeding.

Work continues using a large, flat brush loaded with transparent, Magenta paint. This layer of Magenta color carves out a continuous shape, encompassing the bottom, left, and right areas of the composition.

The painting is thus divided in to two basic shapes with the larger shape dominating the smaller blue and white area in the upper portion of the main, 15 x 22 inch rectangle.

At this point a permanent, black ink pen is used to divide the dominate shape into three, linked shapes. To visually add variety to the three, relatively equal shapes a transparent layer of Cyan is applied to the left and right shapes. (see below)

Watercolor progression photo #2 of 8 for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


The red is warmed and further intensified by a combination of colors in two or three layers. Each layer is allowed to become bone dry before adding an additional layer. (see below)

Watercolor progression photo #3, of 8 for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


The large area on the left could stand some variety. How about that small shape in the lower left corner. What would happen if that color was intensified? To accomplish this with transparent watercolor, the existing paint must first be removed, lifted, from the area.

The small shape is ;masked off and the paint “lifted,”, while being careful not to overly disturb the hills and valleys of the paper surface. This procedure is done in about three stages, Each stage allowed to dry completely before continuing to the next, and so on.

The masking  is removed, and the shape is repainted a bright red, to closely match the larger middle section to the right, lower middle. The same red, value and hue is added to a small area in the left of the painting.

Now the eye is entertained by the place meant and size of the bright red areas. his is noticeable in the upper left, lower left, and lower middle of the painting. Next, surface variety and texture is heightened  by the addition of black line in the form of calligraphy. (see below).

Watercolor progression photo #4 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


There is something bothersome with the upper part of the lower, middle shape. How about overlapping and lengthening the direction of the black line at the upper end of the left side of that middle shape?

The obvious solution might be to extend the black line further by simply adding more line. However, using a contrasting white line might be more entertaining. How to go about that?

One solution might be to add a red shape divided by the continuation of a white line. (see below)

Watercolor progression photo #5 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


How best to encourage the further development of NMO Argo? Two, of many, options are considered. The first option, is to allow the shape on the right to remain as is and develop the diagonal downward thrust of the three, bright red shapes. This would allow for a purposely unbalance motif (see above). The other option is noticed by a class participant who asks, “What about developing the shape suggested in the upper right like you did in the lower left?” Could this be a case of two heads being better than one?

Either approach appears valid. Option one would create a desirable sense of informal balance, however this would seem to leave the right side of the painting less interesting and lacking the entertainment than the more formally balanced left side. Of course, there are positives and negatives to either choice. I decide in favor of the second option. Problem solving; exactly the kind of thing that makes painting enjoyable.

So, a decision is made to lift the implied shape in the upper right side to allow the color to be intensified using the method employed earlier with the smaller shape in the lower left side (see above, Stage 3).

After lifting the color, and before the mask is removed, the area is over-painted with me more intense red hue.  (below).

Watercolor progression photo #6 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


The basic hue of the larger, right and left shapes are changed from red to purple by adding a transparent layer of cyan over the red. NOTE: These two shapes, seen above, appear a darker value than what they were at the time of the photograph.

To add entertainment, a large, flat brush is loaded with transparent yellow. More opaque, Cadmium Yellow could have been used, but the yellow of choice in this case is a transparent, Lemon Yellow. Drips and splatter are added with care, stopping now and then to evaluate the overall pattern and effect.

The large, yellow drip in the lower right corner is an accident, but my, oh my, what a WONDERFUL accident. I could have removed it instantly with tissue. Years ago I most certainly would have. However, I have learned to embrace happy accidents. They are the jewels of painting. Contrary to popular, and much of academic opinion, there is simply no perfection in art. As Frank Webb asks, “Whose perfect?”

Try covering that yellow spot with your hand. Hopefully, you will agree how very, very important that happy accident is to the success of the painting. (see below)

Watercolor progression photo #7 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


To help unify the yellow splatter, the same transparent yellow is applied over the predominately blue and white shape in the upper, center of the painting. The yellow layer placed over blue turns the blue to green and provides an attractive primary contrast of red against green, warm next to cool.

The yellow area also provided an additional primary counterpoint, contrast, conflict,  of yellow against purple, warm against cool, that visually stimulates and excites the eye. Ah, entertainment!  It is fascinating to note  how one color has the potential to energize, and positively affect, an entire painting.

Additional calligraphic line work is added to the yellow-green shape specifically, and to a few  other areas in the  painting as well. Next, various color areas of the painting are intensified by adding additional layers of related, intense color .

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with this watercolor.

Watercolor progression photo #8 of 8, for NmoArgo, watercolor by Woody Hansen


I’ve commented on various methods of titling paintings in previous posts, so I’ll only note that this title is typical for me, in that it  came after the work was completed.

In the process of giving the work a title I became fascinated by that little shape in the bottom, left of the painting. After the fact, it reminds me, ironically of a slightly misshapen bug of some kind that unnoticed, ever so slowly creeps upward on its journey of destruction. Or, could it simply be on a journey of discovery? So, we ponder the old, question, “Is the glass half full, or is it half empty?”

Not wishing to be melodramatic, I must note that Nmo Argo, unexpectedly ends up being a work of unique, personal meaning. It began without a plan, without a direction, but evolved in a way that cannot be duplicated. It is not an abstract painting, it is a non-objective painting that came from I know not where. It is a painting, not an illustration. During its creative journey it evolved beyond my greatest expectations. That’s how I feel about it tonight. Tomorrow might be an entirely different story.

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TWISTED TREE 2014 – Original Watercolor

Image of Twisted Tree 2014, an original watercolor by Woody Hansen Twisted Tree 2014  – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To learn more, ore view this painting framed, select the image.



I observe the potential of a very large piece of watercolor paper which serves to protect the table tops of the classroom area. This piece in particular has many marks that have resulted over weeks, even months of student painting. The marks are of a random variety, a form of scattered painting residue. Some marks are pure accident, unplanned, without forethought. This will be the basis, the creative foundation for what becomes, Twisted Tree 2014.

After carefully selecting a smaller area, the larger paper is trimmed to half sheet size (15 x 22). This will be the starting point of the painting.  Now what to do? Is there a plan, an idea, a sketch, a direction in mind? Will the approach to Twisted Tree 2014,  be abstract or non-objective? The answer is “no,”for the former, and “yes” for the latter. See below …

Watercolor Class

Though often creatively studied and given thought, this sheet of paper sits in a state of limbo for several weeks as other painting opportunities take PRECEDENT. Eventually, a plan of action  develops for ,Twisted Tree 2014.

At the end of each day in which we paint in class, participants dispose of their left over water  residue by dumping it into a larger container to be properly disposed of at a later time. Of course this water contains a multitude of colored pigments, that most often become a dark, muddy  residue. Over time the water (unfit for plants) evaporates. This results in the various pigments settling to the bottom of the container where they eventually return to powder form.

An idea forms. What if the muddy-colored powder, is combined with clear water, and then applied to the aforementioned piece of paper? Might this make the beginning of an interesting painting demonstration? With this process in mind, the biggest hurdle is overcome. Time to turn thought into action.


,The beginning process of Twisted Tree 2014, is that of creating interesting “marks on paper. Thought is given to the few initial strokes, their direction, and possible free-form results. Then, with the paper and board level, without hesitation the strokes are made, dripping wet paint onto dry paper.

The first strokes of Twisted Tree 2014,are made quickly, without hesitation, yet slow enough so  the marks will likely avoid a break, and have in a linear, or line quality about them. The painting board is then tilted at various angles to allow the paint to run, to find its own path. The process is that of suggestion, to facilitate, to encourage, but not to expect total control.


Next, the brush is held in a vertical manner, point down,and held at various positions while encouraging the paint to drip from the belly of the brush to its tip and onto the paper below. The size of the drips can be somewhat controlled by the distance between brush tip and paper. A few, quick, diagonal scratch-like marks are made  to open up the larger, round drip in the lower, upper right quadrant of the painting. See below …Watercolor Class
                                                                                                         Photo by Linda Sauer STEP 5 – THE MOTIF

To this point in the process the approach is thought of as being non-objective in nature. However, the basis of a possible landscape becomes apparent. Almost instantly, non-objectivity is jettisoned. A decision is made to further develop the painting toward a landscape motif, or what will become, Twisted Tree 2014.

With the addition of calligraphy, the large, slightly diagonal, vertical mark on the left side of the paining becomes a solid, mature tree trunk., while the mark on the right side becomes a spindly, airy, smaller, but determined, tree shape. Contrast. See below …

                                                                                                         Photo by Linda Sauer

The dominate color of Twisted Tree 2014, is warm yellow. This dominance, this exaggeration, is further enhanced by the application of yellow hued paint, in selected areas of the painting. The faint, gray, suggestion of a mountain shape is applied  to the background, along with addition of decorative, loose, calligraphic line work. Additional line work can be seen in the tree areas, and in the suggestion of an imaginary fence line along the horizon. See  below …

                                                                                                         Photo by Linda Sauer

A cooler, yellow sky is added to Twisted Tree 2014. Selected areas are intensified with the use of transparent, yellow, orange, red, and gray hues. Sky ;and mountain shapes make use of the powerful principle of gradation. The areas around the three,larger, dark, circular shapes are masked off. Then,  to open up those flat, looking circular areas, or shapes, opaque white is drizzled, light over dark.  Care is taken to make sure the white drizzles are loosely contained within the intended areas of the composition. See below …

Progression image of Twisted Tree 2014 by  Woody Hansen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                         Photo by Linda Sauer

As is the case in several of the previous steps, the painting is set aside, allowed to dry, studied, and evaluated  over time. Areas are then lightened, darkened. Compositional adjustments are made with the use of value, color and calligraphy. See below…

Image of Twisted Tree 2014, an original watercolor by Woody Hansen


The creation of Twisted Tree 2014, was an extremely pleasant experience. The painting may appear haphazard in application. However within the original free-form framework, there is more control and thought given to the process than what might first be noticed by the untrained – or even  the trained – eye. Watercolor is a wonderfully creative medium, if given it’s freedom to share in the act of artistic creation.

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FRESH AIR – Original Watercolor

Image of Fresh Air, watercolor by Woody HansenTITLE: Fresh Airt – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″ To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.


Bright, intense colors, combine to make a dominent  warm color scheme bring to mind favorite places of interest to people of various backgrounds and economic status. However, most will probably agree that the overall feeling of Fresh Air, despite perceived visual subject matter is one of clear, clean, fresh air.

The subject matter of Fresh Air is not as it may appear. Fresh Air, the watercolor is a painting not specifically descriptive of any one place in the world. This particular watercolor is an amalgam of images scattered here and there in my memory.

What you see is an assortment of shapes, silhouettes, suggesting images similar to mountains, posts, trees, plants, rocks, weeds, etc. This type of approach,–ranslation– allows the viewer to use his own imagination, to participate in the construction, or the suggestion of a scene unique to one’s personal interpretation.
Finally, a note that Fresh Air was created–as the saying goes, before a live, classroom audience. If you would like to try your hand at watercolor painting, or to take your current skills to the next level, I invite you to register for an upcoming class. Details HERE.


STICKING POINT – Original Watercolor

Sticking Point, an original watercolor painting by artist Woody HansenTITLE: Sticking Point – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.


Sticking Point as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “Something that people disagree about and that prevents progress from being made…”

We’ve all experienced many sticking points during our lives. What are some examples you might recall? Here are just a couple that immediately come to mind.


From time to time throughout history, we seem to experience a Congress composed of a significant group of individuals who refuse to put the needs of the country and its citizens ahead of their own greed and political self-interest. The result? One sticking point after another. Perhaps the best example might be our present Congress, arguably the most ineffective group of free loaders in history.


According to the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California (JAHSSC), there is, what might be termed an educational sticking point with regard to USC, the University of Southern California and their former Nisei students. The sticking point?  Unlike the University of California (Cal), and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC), decided to award honorary degrees, only to LIVING Japanese American students who were forced to leave the campus during World War II, but not to those who have since passed away. Good, but not good enough.

According to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, the evacuation (Executive Order 9066), meant that thousands of Japanese Americans would be prohibited from attending colleges and universities on the West Coast. With the urging of the University of California’s President Robert Gordon Sproul, and his colleagues, including UCLA’s Provost, Earle R. Hedrick, these academic institutions were helpful in assisting and helping transfer as many students as possible to educational facilities in the interior of the United States.

Meanwhile, USC’s, Nisei students faced a sticking point, an uncooperative USC administration, led by then-President Rufus B. von Kleinsmid. Read more about this situation by following this link.


Those of us who paint realize, if we are fortunate, every so often we get a painting that just seems to happen almost on its own accord, as if preordained.

The development of Sticking Point was completely spontaneous. There was no advance planning what so ever. Once started, the painting simply evolved in a nonobjective manner, a team effort, a symbiosis between painter, paint, and paper.

In my view, a nonobjective painting such as Sticking Point must be more than the result of haphazardly  slopping paint onto a surface and calling it nonobjective. A non-objective work must show some understanding of design, of the relationship between shape, value, and color. Whether this is accomplished consciously or subconsciously is irrelevant.

Sticking Point is currently one of my favorite works, and will most likely remain that way well into the future

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Photo0-Alabama HillsWoody kMansanar DemoLEFT- View of Eastern Sierra from Alabama Hills. Photo courtesy of Al Setton.
RIGHT: View of one of five 2013 demonstrations.

In its 17th year, the workshop is in memory of Henry Fukuhara (1913-2010) organized by Albert Setton, assisted by Michele Peaarson, and Dan Dickman. Dates of the workshop are Thursday, May 15, to Monday, May 19, 2014. Workshop fee: $110.

FEATURES: The workshop features five demos, 3 critiques, plus daily offices hours with distinguished artists: Jan Wright, www.jan-wright.com; John Barnard, ww.wjohnbarnard.com; Al Setton, www.alsetton.com; Dani Dodge, www.danidodge.com; Phyl Doyon, www.phyllisdoyon.com.

FEE: Fee includes a “Meet and Greet” party on Friday, May 16, 2014, and a no-fee group show in Fall 2014.

HOW TO ENROLL: To enroll: e-mail your name, address, phone, and e-mail address to Michele Pearson and send your check payable to Albert Setton, 1244 12th Street, Unit 5, Santa Monica, CA. 90401. For more information call Michele at 1 (310) 663-9582, or e-mail at michelep11@verison.net, or contact Al at 1 (310) 428-0051. Email: alsetton64@gmail.com.

ª Questions? Comment? Leave your message below, or on my Contact Page.

ª I invite you to visit my WEB SITE, www.woodyhansen.com

SPRING FLOWERS – Original Watercolor

Spring Flowers - Original Watercolor by Woody Hansen TITLE: Spring Flowers – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″
To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.

ABOUT … Spring Flowers



Spring Flowers begins as a class demonstration on a 140 pound, half-sheet of cold-press, watercolor paper. The initial goal is to create   a nonobjective painting. It will be a layered, wet on dry watercolor. As such, there is no preliminary value sketch for a guide, nor is there any thought given to subject matter.

However, there is the thought of a basic composition, consisting of a large, medium value shape over a light background, with dark accents. Beyond that there no preliminary plan other than to explore the glories of expressive watercolor marks on paper.

The above  approach will most certainly require some degree of mental shape, value, and color planning,  as Spring Flowers evolves. This might be thought of as composing “by the seat of one’s pants.” Another term may well be “High Risk, Low Gain,” but possibly “High Gain,” not normally recommended as a wise plan of attack, especially with regard to watercolor’s elusive and sometimes fickle character.

A flat, three-inch brush is used to apply the first layers of light and mid-value color while being careful to save some whites. The paint is encouraged to mingle, bleed, splash, and drip both on its own, as well as with a bit of guided help. This method is repeated several times, one layer over the other while patiently waiting for each layer to become bone dry before proceeding to the next layer.

I look to create entertaining overlapping shapes consisting of various sizes, colors, and value, while encouraging both soft and hard edges.  As Spring Flowers develops, additional brushes are introduced, mostly of the flat, two, and one inch variety. During the final stages, a small Webb Liner, and the typical, pointed, round brush are employed as well


At some point there remains a large white area in the lower, middle of the painting. This unique shape seems to suggest a vase or some type of container. That coupled with the arrangement of bright, colorful shapes is in keeping with the development of a floral arrangement, i.e., Spring Flowers. This is the point the painting evolves from non-objective into abstract. No problem, I often welcome what I think of as the painting “speaking” to me, and suggesting changes that one might be wise to consider.

These days I am more interested in the point at which communication between painter and painting takes place, than I am in having total control over the final outcome. I am not opposed to “listening” to a paining; to essentially share the process rather than dominate it.… Therefore this is the opportune time to decide to explore the suggestion of Spring Flowers as a floral statement.

Now it is a matter of evaluation, of considering and adjusting shape, value, and color. This evaluation is followed by s series of rapid, calligraphic marks directly on the paper surface with a permanent, lightfast black ink marker. The line work is often intentionally  out of register, and is intended to further clarify and define  various aspects within Spring Flowers, such as the aforementioned shape, value, and color.

When referring to the term, calligraphic, I think of it as the art of defining shapes in a loose, expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner. Whether this goal is accomplished is up to the each viewer to decide.

Unfortunately, the large white shape ends up in middle of the composition. Usually, one might prefer an informal approach over a formal one, but each to his own preference. I become aware too, that this means the measures between the left of the vase and the right  are relatively equal, thus the formal concept. However, the design of the vase-like shape and the addition of a dark vase shape to the left, and a smaller vase to the right gives, I believe enough visual enjoyment to Spring Flowers, as to overcome a boring, static appearance.

What remains is further evaluation and adjustment to shapes, values, and color. Some times this all comes very quickly, and directly. At other times the adjustments require a more lengthy process. I have come to understand the importance of trying to avoid rushing to judgement, to allow myself time to enjoy , and to further consider the process.

Often, I like to let a painting sit—in a critique frame—propped up in a corner of my studio so I can contemplate its development  as I go about the other business of the day. I suppose the truth of the matter is some paintings come easily, quickly, while others demand a bit more time to “percolate.” In time, one learns there is little need to rush things.


Despite appearance, Spring Flowers—start to finish—is completed over a six week period. However, within that time frame, actual work is accomplished in relatively short spurts of painting activity spread over about five days. Obviously, other paintings were created in between the start and finish of this particular painting.

At the point I feel Spring Flowers is complete, I sign it, and place it in the critique frame looking forward to a few days of self satisfaction. However, the next morning I am somewhat surprised to see further room for improvement. Now the question is the old, “Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” routine. Does this watercolor really need improving? In attempts to improve, might I over do the process and come up with an overworked, ponderous painting? I decide to continue working on it.

The original painting is seen below, the final, reworked painting is seen above. Can you see the difference between the two stages? Frankly, I’ve been doing this long enough to know viewers will have differing opinions as to which stage is best. Whatever the outcome its time to move on.


I often think of a quote by the late, Milford Zones, who wrote, “All art, if it is art at all is abstract.” Then too, there is the Mary Corita Kent quote, “There is no mistake, no right, no wrong, only make.” And finally, to paraphrase Frank Webb, art is to be appreciated, not judged; good advice for all.

With this in mind, what is it that I appreciate about Spring Flowers? I appreciate its deceptively simple, spontaneous appearance (including its warts).

I like the ambiguity in the work. Is the white vase meant to appear round or flat, clear or opaque? Does the form of the vase really matter? I think not. In this instance, it is the shape that matters, not the form. Is the smaller, vase to the right of the main vase sitting in front of, ahead of, or beside the main vase? I am pleased that the dark vase to the left is set back by the use of overlapping planes.

I enjoy the rakish, upward oblique at the top of the vase. I am also attracted to the color treatment of the main, red flower form to the top-left of the vase. Then there is the three patches of bright, red color that dominates the like number of detached flower forms. They create an implied, concave  line, much like the line that is suggested by the ends of the fingers of a person’s outstretched hand.

The way the values, and color of the flower forms (upper right of the white vase) have been adjusted to merge with the background seems appealing, and helps to push forward the rest of the forms.. I like that the work is not overly detailed, leaving areas to be filled in by each viewer’s imagination. All in all, this painting—at time of post—leaves me in an emotionally happy state of mind.

Okay, enough of this. Kudos to anyone who stays interested long enough to get to this point in the post (grin). As my wife reminds me from time to time, “Woody, you need an editor.”


Allow me to sum up by adding a bit to the Milford Zornes thought: All art, if it is art at all is abstract. I might add the phrase, and therefore flawed. Might I be so bold as to suggest there has not existed, does not exist, nor will there ever exist, a true work of art that is without one or more flaws, or—as some might say,“warts.” Perhaps this is a key to how art can help our attempt to better understand—and adjust—to the human condition.


ª For purchase information, go HERE.

ª Questions? Comment? Leave your message below, or on my Contact Page.
ª I invite you to visit my WEB SITE, www.woodyhansen.com


A HAPPY PLACE – Original Watercolor

A Happy Place, Original Watercolor by Woody Hansen
Title: A Happy Place – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen.
To see a framed version of this painting or to learn more, please click image.

ABOUT … A Happy Place



Not everyone is so fortunate as to live within walking distance of a major American river surrounded by a spacious parkway. Recently, my dog Connor and I took full advantage of our good fortune in life. We spent a beautiful, if a bit cool,morning walking, playing, working, and painting along the American River Parkway. Thus, the beginnings of, A Happy Place. 


After setting up my easel, I decide to cast aside my… LEARN MORE … Continue reading

Value Plan Sequence – Example 1

This is a one-minute video illustrating the sequential development of a simple, preliminary plan or sketch using three, or four values. I find this process helpful in the effort to create an interesting painting. As seen here, he four values include white, black, and two grays. A basic, non-complex plan can go a long way in making the creative process more enjoyable.

Of course, not every painting demands the above approach, but having a plan is helpful in the effort in understanding the initial stages of a painting. To my way of thinking, one aspires to first get the shapes (design of the rectangle) right, then the values right. Once this is accomplished,there is much flexibility with regard to color and the other aspects of painting.

I discuss the value plan process in further detail during my watercolor classes and workshops
Link to class info HERE
Link to workshop info HERE.