Fine Art

Yellowstone Aspens in Autumn: exploring the background tones

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Yellowstone Aspens watercolor © Sandy Haight

A trip to Yellowstone in mid September brought me up close and personal with the turning of the Aspen leaves to all shades of yellows and oranges.  Their bright colors can’t help but make you feel sunny as they flicker in the breezes.  Getting close, the masses of color aren’t the only theme as the spaces in between the sprigs take on more importance.

I used this composition to teach a glazing process for creating colorful neutral backgrounds to my fall students at Bellevue College. I layered a thin flat glaze of Aureolin yellow, followed by thin glazes of Rose Madder, then Cobalt blue after each layer dried to create a luminous gray. This was too pale and flat alone for my interest, but made a foundation for adding more color wet on wet to blend and flow to enhance the neutral foundation.  After 6-10 layers of color here’s what the background looked like before I even started painting the main attraction….the leaves.

Luminous neutral background washes © Sandy Haight

Luminous neutral background washes-Yellowstone Aspens © Sandy Haight

In the beginning I masked out the leaves so I could brush the background colors freely over the whole surface.  This image shows the mask removed, the veins sketched in and ready for color with additional masking fluid added to the lightest areas preserving the white of the paper. Still, when the leaves were painted, the background needed to have more blues and greens to tie in the green leaf in the lower right to make it feel like it belonged to the painting, so more layers were carefully added to unify the painting. What do you think? I think it works and I’ll add it to my watercolor gallery on and enjoy the rest of the yellow Seattle autumn.

Northwest Watercolor Society’s Waterworks Show

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Crocuses © Sandy Haight. Watercolor on Arches - 14" x 18"

Here’s the watercolor painting of crocuses popping up through an overgrowth of ivy that I’ll be exhibiting in the NWWS member show opening next week.  These flowers are a bit out of season now, but offer a cheery anticipation that spring will eventually come as we plunge into the dark northwest winter.  They are first to tease us out of the cold with their bright smiling colors.  Crocuses was one of the 55 paintings from 181 submissions that juror Stan Miller selected for this show, so its an honor to be part of this watercolor event.

Exhibition: October 23 – November 28, 2012
Reception: Thursday, October 25, 6:00—8:00 p.m.
Kaewyn Gallery 10101 Main St. / Bothell, WA 98011 /

Gallery hours: Tues – Thurs 10 – 6, Friday 10 – 5, Sat 10 – 4.

A Seduction of Lilies

Friday, August 24th, 2012

A Seduction of Lilies - Watercolor - 19" x 14.5" © Sandy Haight

It was a total joy to paint this close up of lilies that I saw in Vancouver’s Granville Island Market.  The sensuous shapes, vibrant colors, and minimal texture were fun to build up with my glazing techniques making them richer with every layer.  Dark color, such as the background and the deep wells of the flowers, are always difficult in watercolor because the paint dries many shades lighter than when applied. It can take 5-10 glazes to build up to the dark value that I envision. I wanted the background to be dark and neutral yet still glow with luminous color to compliment the oranges and reds in the flowers.  Certain colors lift and move around when re-wetted making it even more challenging to keep from streaking a large smooth area like the background or blending into a gradient area like the left two lilies.

Flowers are a constant seduction for me.  They can be beautiful, ephemeral and oh so fragrant in nature. It’s another pleasure to capture the colors and the mystical designs within them to enjoy as art, larger than life.

This painting was just added to my Watercolor Gallery on my fine art site at There are a few other flower paintings there and more to come!

Watercolor process. Young Elk painting step-by-step

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Young Elk, watercolor by Sandy Haight

I decided it was time for me to record my painting process from reference photo to finish when one of my students, Rodney Hill, documented the different stages of completing his class watercolor painting.  His printouts were of great value to future students explaining the steps they would use to paint realistically using photo references.  Watch how my watercolor painting of a young elk evolved. The reference photo is at the end of this post.

1. Once the paper is stretched by stapling soaked watercolor paper to gator board, dried, and outlines of the shapes transferred to the paper, a mask is applied to the foreground subject to preserve the white of the paper.  Some of the flowers and lighter grasses are also masked to allow a free and loose underpainting. The mask has a yellow tint in order to see where it has been applied.  (This 1st  photo is not lit correctly).

1. Mask and 1st Underpainting


2. More background is added including the mountains and the dark forested hillside.  More washes are layered onto the underpainting of the field.

2. Background added


3. Not being a landscape painter, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle all the texture of the field but was eager to paint the subject. I procrastinated dealing with that dilemma and I removed the mask a bit early.  Usually I build up the background to a near finished state before removing the mask. Now all the whites are available for adding in pure color or lighter tints.

3. Masking is removed


4. At this point, the elk is painted (my favorite part) and the background herd, rocks and bushes are added as well as more foreground layers of washes and textures to make all the masked grasses blend better into the field.  Now that the animal is developed, though, I realize that the dark background hillside is demanding way too much attention, distracting the viewer from the beauty of the elk by advancing with its strong values.  Do you agree? I need to tone that down. My other concern was that having applied mask to details in the field I was stuck with the task of defining the grasses and wildflowers more clearly than I might have liked. Since this started out as a demo painting, it worked well for teaching purposes by showing various ways of using and applying masking fluid.

4. Elk & more grass textures painted in


5. Yes, it is possible to fix watercolor errors, to a point.  I scrubbed away at that dark hillside to force it to take its proper, more subtle place in the back of the picture.  I tried to straighten the horizon line a bit which was at an awkward downhill slant.  This was as light as I could get it, and it still has some room to create a sense of the trees by adding more glazes of color.

5. Background hill scrubbed lighter


6. I masked the yellow flowers again so that I could intensify the foreground with further washes and grass detail while preserving the color of the flowers. It’s hard to see the little blobs of mask over the flowers.

6. Flowers masked again


7. Here’s the finished painting again from top of the post, with trees suggested in the hillside, grasses more defined and yellows enhanced. Another layer of sky was added and more layers of washes in the mountains to finish it.

7. Young Elk, final watercolor by Sandy Haight


8. Below is the photo I used for reference.  Driving out of Rocky Mountain National Park we passed this brave young elk, grazing right by the roadside.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be a landscape painter…it’s hard to improve on Nature, but I loved painting this beautiful animal who let me get quite close for a photo.

8. Rocky Mountain Elk photo by Sandy Haight


“Illumination – It’s all about the Light!” Watercolor Exhibit

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The Northwest Watercolor Society has a new show in its gallery at the Seattle Design Center celebrating light in watercolor painting through July 28, 2012.  As a member I have two paintings in the show that were done early in my watercolor practice.  Feeding the Ducks not only shows a companionable scene at Green Lake of 2 young friends, Shayla Miller and Molly Yoder-Williams, but a brilliant display of light across the water.

Feeding the Ducks by Sandy Haight

Light implies shadow and the painting of my deck was all about the pattern of the shadows cast by the railings.  My back yard wasn’t really a beach, but I wished for that so I substituted the ocean and sand for grass, fallen leaves and garage siding in Dream Deck.

Dream Deck by Sandy Haight

To see the work of many more watercolor artists, visit the exhibition:

Mondays through Fridays, 9:00am – 5:00pm, through July 28.

Seattle Design Center

5701 Sixth Ave S  Suite P262

Seattle, WA 98108

“Unflappable” sumi book illustrations

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Hot off the press from Conari Press is a long awaited book by Ragini Michaels titled “Unflappable:  Six Steps to Staying Happy, Centered , Peaceful – No Matter What.”

I contributed several sumi paintings to this book about navigating the paradoxes of life, represented by the infinity loop,  that has us continually cycling through the polarities of our emotions.  Ragini draws upon the wisdom of the mystics and contemporary psychology to give us a process to become truly unflappable in a “land of  unresolvable dilemmas.”

Ragini has been a pleasure to work with.  Her upcoming webinar will feature 26 of my illustrations in a whole new style.  Stay tuned.  Congratulations, Ragini, on realizing the dream of this book coming into being.

Ozzie painting in artEAST’s “Creature Comforts” show

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

My Ozzie the Cat painting was juried into an art exhibit at the artEAST Art Center in Issaquah, WA called Creature Comforts featuring art of pets.  She’s even represented on the announcement for the show linked HERE and shown below. I’ll be at the reception on Saturday May 26, 2012 in the 95 Front Street North gallery from 6pm -8pm.  The show will continue until July 17 with several pet related activities.  Cheers to pets of all kinds!

artEAST logo

Here comes a wonderful series of events celebrating the heartfelt connection between person & pet! 

Creature Comforts

The bond we feel with our animal companions is among the strongest of all our relationships. Deeply loved creatures make us rich beyond measure.

Join us for a series of art experiences centered on the theme of our upcoming exhibition.


Creature Comforts Exhibition:
curated by Pandy Savage McVay
May 26th-July 17th, 2012

Reception : Saturday, May 26th, 6 – 8pm

Presenting works from these artists:

Amy Weber Ann Elizabeth Scott

Audrey Knutsen Camille Vonnegut

Dorothy Bonneau                             Ed McCarthy

Gale Corkey Greg Bartol

Irena Jablonski Jessica Farren

Karen Abel Katalin Fazekas

Kim Doyle Leslie Moon

Lydia Sutton Mami Shimomura

Melissa Jander Michelle Ryan

Pamela Holderman Pandy Savage McVay

Patie Savage Sandy Haight

Tami Donnelly


Wait, there’s MORE!

“Reading with Rover” at artEAST

Reading with Rover
Boomer reading, courtesy Reading with Rover

Thursday May 31st 6:30 – 7:30

& Saturday June 16th 1:00 – 2:00

Families with school-aged children who are learning to read or developing greater confidence to read well are invited to come and read to established “Reading with Rover” trained dogs and their handlers. The dogs all promise to be calm and compassionate listeners, so please bring readers with the capacity to sit and read quietly with the dogs, library rules apply. To learn more about the “Reading with Rover” program, go to Reading With Rover.

Lucia a coucher by Dorothy Bonneau“Pup Walk” 

Wednesday June 6th 6:00 – 7:30

& Saturday June 16th 2:30 – 4:00

Visit the gallery and see the show with your own pup! Gallery guests may bring in well-behaved and leashed dogs during these posted times. Pups who have tails that break also have owner’s that buy. For pups with energetic tails, the back entrance will also be available for access to the show.

“Scout” by Rickie Wolfe

Canine Figure Drawing Demonstration:

Thursday, June 14th 5:00 – 7:00pm


Join artEAST’s own premier figure drawing group for a “Canine Figure Drawing” studio session. Guided by instructor Ellen Borison, members of the group will be drawing an established set of dog models. The  event is  open to the public.

Special thanks to our generous sponsors:
4Culture LogoRowley logoIAC Logo
artEAST Art Center
95 Front Street North
Issaquah, WA 98075
For questions please contact or call 425-392-3191
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Ozzie the Cat, watercolor

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

I just added a new painting to my fine art site in the watercolor gallery.  It’s a portrait of Ozzie, my cat for 15 years, whose grace and presence enhanced whatever space she chose to occupy. Ozzie The Cat is my first attempt at painting a furry creature in pure watercolor, and I found it extremely challenging to represent the texture yet softness of the fur and the complexity of the background patterns.  With a subject for painting that is close to my heart the magic of bringing it to life in a new (and permanent) way is very gratifying.  It goes beyond the representation of beauty in art to warming the spirit of love.

As a watercolor instructor at Bellevue College I get to start a new half sheet painting every quarter in order to explain the process of developing a painting from a drawing or photo.  I need to pick compositions that require some masking and texture to demonstrate, then, after that, its up to me to finish my paintings as my class time and attention is focused on coaching each student’s process.  Teaching has spurred me back into painting realistically from photo references, which I did early in my own training as a watercolor painter before stylizing my art for a career in the illustration market.  I’m trying varied subject matter that will help me coach my students through working on their own chosen images, which have included beloved pets. I’m starting to discover what subjects I enjoy spending lots of time with through painting.

Some of my student’s work from recent classes is posted on this blog.

Bellevue College Watercolor students-Winter ’12

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Once again the Watercolor for Illustration students in my class at Bellevue College came up with some very accomplished paintings, many for their first try at watercolor.  They worked on half sheets of Arches 140# cold press paper (15″ x 22″) enlarging compositions from a photo or photo collage and practiced a variety of watercolor techniques to create finished paintings. Many were not quite finished by the end of the course.  I’ll post those later if they are sent to me.  Here are the paintings that were finished, or close enough, to see the skill and challenges they brought to their chosen image using this difficult medium.  I’m so inspired by them!

Reflected Mountain watercolor by Antony Marquez

Fallen Leaf watercolor by Ashba Zulfiqar

Above the Methow watercolor by Melissa Firuz

Cottages watercolor by Chelsea Lasater-unfinished

South of the Border watercolor by Kalen Lily Wong-unfinished

Sumi Paintings at Madison Art Collective

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Cross Knee Sumi - Brush & Ink on Rives BFK tan paper

This month I’ll have some unframed sumi paintings available at the Madison Art Collective including 4 half sheet figure paintings on Rives BFK tan paper.    I’ll also have some animal sumi paintings including horses, birds, fish and a crab.

Running Horse - Sumi on rice paper

There’s a reception Saturday Feb 4 from 2-5:00 pm at 2703 E Madison Street in Seattle for the featured oil painter, Jeanne Edwards, and the jewelry designer, Heather Kraft.  Come by if you can or anytime you are near the Madison Valley neighborhood.  Two of my close artist friends also have stunning work on display…. Pat Clayton with her oil landscapes, and Ellen Rutledge with her unique etchings with chine colle & collage

Adrien’s Tooth

Friday, October 7th, 2011

It’s the day after a horrible accident where my son was hit by a car breaking his perfect front teeth. Following an evening in the ER and an afternoon at the dentist, I found myself showing this painting to my watercolor students.  I’d brought it to discuss the usefulness of color comps to explore background color options before starting to paint, as I’d saved the studies. Then the tooth connection clicked! Remember when it was exciting to lose your teeth?  It’s no fun when you are 27. May the tooth fairy bring you a generous treat, Adrien. That’s her in the window of the house across the street, witnessing the loss of your tooth.  The painting was part of a proposal for a children’s book by Cooper Edens.

Sumi logo for

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Dara McKinley describes our serendipitous collaboration on her web site. Dara always makes me feel like a goddess and is a joy to work with.  We saw this image grow from a t-shirt idea, coming soon, to her realization that this image embodied her identity and now appears on her newly designed web site, VOLVER-Returning to Our Feminine Essense.

Sandy Haight is a fine artist who designed the sumi logo for this site. I first saw her art in a local gallery and immediately contacted her about creating a t-shirt. My logo above was the first image she sent me. I opened the file and to my pleasant surprise discovered that she drew my ass:) I had no need to look any further. “She” was the one. Sandy is a dream to work/create with and has a beautiful gift for the sensuality of nature and art.

This sumi-e figure was created for a show at ArtEast Gallery in Issaquah, WA where artists were invited to draw the figure on 1/2 sheets of tan Rives BFK paper to create a unified figure show titled Drawing on Observation.  I went to a life drawing session with my biggest sumi brushes and a stack of the sturdy paper and had some fun results, seen here.


Sumi painting sold at Unclad

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

My painting titled “Dark Face” sold at the Unclad show in Stanwood!  Here’s the piece.

3 Juried shows this month!

Saturday, March 12th, 2011
Benaroya Hall music festival poster, building banner, Tshirts & postcards

Seattle Symphony

I’m pleased to be represented in 3 juried art exhibits opening this month.  Maybe one will cross your path.
1. Parkland Art Gallery in Kirkland, WA. The show is Local Color featuring local artists depicting local scenes—opening tonight from 6-8 through April 3 at 130 Park Lane, Kirkland WA 98033.  An illustration I did for the Seattle Symphony is included….very local.  Its special to me that something I did as an illustration is suitable for a gallery.  My friend, Pat Clayton, has 3 beautiful oil paintings in this show as well. I’m teaching tonight and won’t be at the reception.

2. Unclad-The Fine Art of the Figure in Stanwood, WA. Opening this Saturday March 12th for 2 weeks, this is the 10th anniversary of the show, and my 4th year participating with my figure work. I have a sumi figure painting juried into the show and many, unframed sumi and watercolor figure paintings and cards in the gift shop. See the show online at Its at Gallery by the Bay 8700 271st NW, Stanwood, WA 98292 in the charming old part of Stanwood. This Saturday there will be live music from 2-5, so a fun time to visit the show.

3. The biggest honor is being juried into the NW Watercolor Society’s 2011 Annual Open Exhibition where only a quarter of the entries from around the country were accepted. It opens March 24 through May 13, reception at 6 -8pm on the 24th at the Mercer View Gallery, Mercer Community Center 8236 SE 24th St Mercer Island, WA 98040. Its an all watercolor show. My class will be ended by then and I’ll be at the crowded reception. My painting “Abandoned Red Shoes” will be displayed.