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Painting a Loose Scenery with Daniel Smith Watercolors

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a watercolor painting with Daniel Smith Watercolors

Last week, I did it. I bought some Daniel Smith watercolors because I had heard about them so much and for so long that I had to try them too. I bought the “Watercolor Essentials” set of 6 small tubes and a tube of Iridescent Scarab Red – a brownish red that has a green glow. Exciting!

Inspired by Ippolito Caffi

But what to paint? The idea came this week when I went to see Ippolito Caffi’s architectural paintings and landscapes at Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki.  It’s the kind of art that I personally don’t like to create, but I enjoyed the exhibition. Here’s Piazza del Pantheon by Caffi, an oil painting on cardboard.

Piazza del Pantheon by Ippolito Caffi, 1837

As said, realistic architectural urban scenes and landscapes are not what usually come to my mind when I start creating. But after watching a lot of scenes from Italy brought memories from my trip to Florence and Rome last summer. So why not pick a random photo of the trip and start painting?

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome

The photo that I quickly chose was taken at the inner court of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rome. The palace has a wonderful art museum that I blogged in July 2017. I thought that I could use it as a loose reference and create something totally different, abstract perhaps. Painting a scenery with watercolors felt too traditional to me. So I just started splashing water and blue paint.

Painting with Daniel Smith watercolors

Scenery with Daniel Smith Watercolors

Daniel Smith watercolors are lively. Not only colors are lively but the pigment seems to travel quickly, and it creates wonderful effects.

Painting with Daniel Smith watercolors

Here’s my painting after playing with big brushes and water.

Painting in progress by Paivi Eerola by Peony and Parakeet. Daniel Smith watercolors.

Then I changed to a water brush that is quite narrow. I love using this brush. It’s so easy to paint small details with it.

Daniel Smith Watercolors, water brush, iridescent scarab red.

Iridescent Scarab Red looks interesting! Very different from any of the watercolors that I know. At this point, I thought about making a fantasy scene of some kind.

Painting in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Daniel Smith watercolors.

Time to loosen up!

Loosening up with Daniel Smith watercolors. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

The more I painted, the more tempting it became to paint Palazzo Doria Pamphilj as I experienced it. It was a really hot summer day when I visited it. It’s located in the middle of busy Rome, yet its thick walls seem to isolate the museum from the city.

Painting in progress by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. Daniel Smith watercolors.

I let the image be visible while I was working but did not follow it to detail.

Painting with Daniel Smith watercolors. By Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. See her project of painting loosely from the photo.

I found Daniel Smith’s watercolors easy and fun. I don’t like the color selection of the Essentials set so much, and the paints are really expensive compared to any other brand. The owner of the art supply store said that he likes to sell the essentials set at a fairly low price because once you try them, you are hooked and need some more. He may be right! But because I spend quite a lot of money in top quality oil paints, I might not buy more Daniel Smith shortly.

Finished Painting and Signature

The painting of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj became quite loose, but it’s ok. I enjoyed connecting with the memories, and this is a bit like a souvenir from the place.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a watercolor painting with Daniel Smith Watercolors by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet

At my recent visit to the museum, I also saw Giovanni Battista Piranesi‘s amazing graphic works. They had beautiful signatures, so I also added one to the watercolor painting. I think it finishes the painting nicely.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a watercolor painting with Daniel Smith Watercolors by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet. A detail with a signature.

This project is a perfect example of how being a bit adventurous can open new ideas. Landscape and architectural painting don’t feel so boring to me anymore! I have ideas for next quick paintings too. This kind of exploration is not only fun but also important for the creativity. If you limit yourself to one theme, to one type of work, creating becomes tedious. To me, this kind of small and quick projects give ideas and energy to bigger paintings.

Create with an Inspiring Community – Join Bloom and Fly!

When you have been creating art for a while, it’s time to let go of step-by-step instructions, get a little looser, and explore the opportunities that art has for you.

Bloom and Fly, an art community led by Paivi Eerola from Peony and Parakeet.

Bloom and Fly is a community for you who wants to explore visual and adventurous ideas, get feedback and suggestions for your art, and connect with like-minded art enthusiasts. We have a private Facebook group, monthly themes, live sessions, and weekly opportunities for practical help and feedback.

Registration is now open for Spring season (April – June 2018): Sign up here!

13 thoughts on “Painting a Loose Scenery with Daniel Smith Watercolors

  1. Can’t afford these paints but love seeing what you do with them. You are always a pleasure to watch. You inspire me to try new directions.

  2. Paivi, I have these and love them, also. I get mine at and save a lot of money. When I sorted and recorded them, I was surprised that I had so many browns. I just can’t resist granulating colors. This piece you created above is exactly why I love to follow you – so much to look at. You capture the beauty of the scene and the beautiful colors even if it isn’t a copy of the inspiration piece. There is a watercolor artist on YouTube that I love to watch paint, also. He has a channel called The Mind of Watercolor and recently said he “celebrated the nature he observed while he painted”. I got a very clear picture in my mind of how he painted with that statement. I think your paintings are all celebrations.

    1. Thank you, Mary! I may not be as “classical” artist as Steve Mithcell from The Mind of Watercolor, but there are many ways to celebrate the objects we are painting.

  3. I love the idea of using a scene as a starting point! Could you say a little bit about what differences you see between pan and tube watercolors. Inspired by your enthusiasm for White Nights pan watercolors (also expensive), I have been using these and loving them. I wonder if you get more intensity with tube paints?

    1. I forgot to write about pans and tubes so thanks for bringing that up, Claudia! I personally prefer pans because I think they are more economical than tubes, and I love to dip the brush into wet pans and then let the colors get mixed on the paper. The pans that I normally use, White Nights set by St. Petersburg watercolors, are really intense, so I don’t see so much difference in intensity, in general.

  4. I have shopped in the original Daniel Smith store in Seattle, WA . It is so much fun – going to an art store for me is like a candy shop! I have a number of Daniel Smith’s watercolors – my favorites are the PrimaTek, which have real ground stones for the pigments, and have wonderful texture and sparkle! Enjoy your new colors!

    1. Thanks, Jackie! Just when I was visiting an art supply store last time, I heard someone calling the shop as a candy shop! Truly! And I can believe that visiting the Original Daniel Smith store must be even a bigger treat!

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