Falling Star

I was at at the beach seeking inspiration and saw the surf ebbing around a rock in the sand. I loved the way the foam was pulling away from the rock leaving a little depression. So I thought I might do it with a seashell.

Then I thought of a starfish. Yes, I have been entranced with playing with oranges lately – a color I don’t much like. However, the play of orange pigments against greens and violets can be so lovely.

So I went home and started pulling up photos of starfish on Unsplash and the Google. Although they come in all colors, I have only ever seen the orange ones in real life.

In photos, it is like each one is different. Each one has different markings/patterns!

I drew one out in pencil and tried to get a nice pattern of sea foam around it.

Pencil on paper

It strikes me that this looks like a falling star so I go with that.

Yes, I know. I am obsessed with masking fluid. It lets me do things that I never could before I tried it. Maybe it is cheating or something but in truth, I am painting for me not for some purists who make up “thou shalts and thou shalt nots”. Yes, the rules about keeping your work archival ARE important. But the rest, I shall pass.

Anyway, masking out the starfish and starting the sea foam.

Masking fluid on paper

Pretty happy with the flow of the foam. Now to fill in some smaller shells, pebbles and sand for texture. This looks horribly busy but I think it will look OK when the background is painted in.

Masking fluid on paper

Next step is to get the paper very wet with clean water and wet down the colors on my palette so that I can work fast. I have a general idea of the colors that I want to use but then usually end up making it up as I see how the colors blend.

One thing I have noticed is that other painters comment that their colors turn to “mud”. I find with many of the Daniel Smith paints, particularly the “Primateks” where they use actual minerals, the colors don’t really “mix” but instead, sit next to each other? I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe an analogy would be that if you dropped 3 colors of ink in your water glass, they would just mix but if you threw in ground glass and rocks, they would just float to the bottom.

But then again, I am painting a sea floor or beach which is – mud. So it is not so much a concern.

Here we go, French Ochre, Burgundy Yellow Ochre, Bloodstone, Terre Verte and Rare Green Earth. Maybe a few more. With Morton’s salt as a garnish.

I have also put in an arrow to show the direction of the light source so I don’t get lost in the shadows.

Watercolor on paper

And here it is dry. I am not impressed. Maybe another wash? And I couldn’t figure out how to get that feel of a wetter depression that a wave leaves around an object.

Watercolor on paper

Better. Still doesn’t look right. I am missing that sense of a dip left by a wave, but it is a bit more dramatic.

Here it is dry~

Watercolor on paper

Now to remove the mask… A little flat… maybe too monochromatic?

Masking fluid removed

Here you can see how the pigments granulate.


The lines left behind by a mask can be sharp and a bit harsh. I usually go over them lightly with a wet brush just to soften them a little but not smear things around. It just takes a minute.

Wet Brush on watercolor

Here it is just a little softer. Hard to tell in a photo!

Watercolor on paper

After painting in the little background shells and pebbles, it is time to tackle the starfish. Now here is the maddening part – every starfish I have looked at seems to have a different pattern of “dots” on it. And the more I look at them the more confused I get and the more my eyes cross. I have no idea how to do this so I just start doing it.

Masking fluid on paper

This is Quin Burnt orange, Transparent Red Oxide and Permanent Brown. To me, Daniel Smith Permanent Brown is quite orange. I am using a LOT of water as Transparent Red Oxide granulates so wonderfully.

Watercolor on paper

Granulation detail!

Watercolor detail

Another layer of color to … beef things up.

Watercolor on paper

Time to remove the masking and blend in the white spots a bit.

Watercolor on paper

Now just a few finishing touches cleaning up edges, removing white spots, etc. Also the outlines of the starfish are a bit harsh and could use just a little smoothing. Notice also a few “bleeds” where the oranges have strayed over the outlines. Easy to fix by just smoothing.

Watercolor on paper

And here it is done. At the last moment, a little sienna bled over the foam covering the starfish arm but it really does not bother me enough to try to fix.

Finished painting
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  1. Just lovely! You have changed your technique! Do you like this better than using the dip pen?
    I noticed that the ability to comment is not available except from the “read more” after accessing a post from the homepage.

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