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HONU: The Magical Creatures of the Sea
Watercolor Inspiration with Gina Rossi Armfield

My work has always centered on animals as they are my main source of strength, joy and inspiration. I love to capture their spirits on paper. Watercolor for me is the best choice of media with its organic qualities, pigments, depth and movement. My favorite paints are those with granulation that add that something extra to bring the animal alive. I gravitate to the DANIEL SMITH PrimaTek line of colors as their natural pigments create a look that is unique.

This summer I traveled to the magical island of Kauai. On my visit I was blessed to run into a Green Sea Turtle, Honu in Hawaiian, during my snorkeling adventures. Their soulful eyes and serene movement transported me to another time and place and I knew that they would be the subject of my work.

When I am going to work on a piece the first thing I do is look for images to use as references. I collect many that show different angles, perspectives, and colors. Often times I do research on the animal as well to get an idea of their habitat and mannerisms.

Click on Images to View Larger

Green Sea Turtles are some of the largest in the world measuring up to 5 ft. They are named for the green tone of their skin. Herbivores, they feed on grasses and algae. They warm themselves by swimming close to the surface of the water and prefer shallow seas and reefs. Mating occurs every two to four years. Females lay a nest in the sand of 100 to 200 eggs, cover the nest with sand and return to the sea. In about 2 months the eggs will hatch and the little ones try to make their way to the sea without getting eaten by birds and crabs. Green Sea Turtles are an endangered species. You can find out more about these lovely animals here.

Once I familiarize myself with the animal I carry around the images with me and sketch them from different viewpoints in my journals. I make detailed studies of the eye which I believe is key to capturing the essence of any creature. I make note of what colors I use and create a palette for future use.

Poetry has always been a driving force behind my work and I often use words and phrases from my favorite poems. This element connects me to the animal on an emotional and spiritual level which I believe transfers onto the paper.


“But happiness floats. It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.”

'So Much Happiness' by Naomi Shihab Nye              

My latest book, No Excuses Watercolor, is based on my approach to watercolor, which is intuitive, loose and fun. Most times I prefer to work in a wet on wet style so that the pigments can do their own thing organically. The following steps follow that same method.

DANIEL SMITH Watercolors


Wet-On-Wet Technique

  1. Do a contour drawing of a sea turtle in waterproof ink on a piece of watercolor paper. I prefer to use 140lb cold press.
  2. Lay down a wash of Quinacridone Gold on the body and Amazonite Genuine on the shell.
  3. Create a background wash of French Ultramarine, Moonglow, and Phthalo Turquoise adding lots of water and dropping in different colors to get a mottled effect.
  4. Sprinkle areas of the background with salt and allow to dry before brushing off.
  5. Mist sections and drop in colors of Raw Umber, Green Apatite Genuine, Quinacridone Gold Deep, Sodalite Genuine, Bloodstone Genuine, Zoisite Genuine and Serpentine Genuine throughout the turtle.
  6. Continue in this fashion building from light to dark.
  7. Use Shadow Violet along the edges of the turtle and blend out with water to create depth.
  8. Puddle Sodalite Genuine and Phthalo Turquoise along the edges of the fins and blow to create drips.
  9. Use a black Stabilo Aquarellable pencil to add details and depth to the eye and mouth.
  10. Use a white gel pen to add details to the face and fins.
  11. Add lines from a poem using the Stabilo pencil.
  12. Mist the writing lightly with water.

Animal Spirits
Animals touch our lives in a way that no others can with their soulful eyes and warm spirits. In this two day workshop you will explore Gina's No Excuses approach to watercolor. One that is intuitive, fun, easy and freeing. You will learn a way to use watercolor in a way you never thought you could using your favorite animals as your muse. Gina's work is inspired by the written word so you will be using poetry and quotes to enhance your connection to your work. Based on Gina's best selling book No Excuses Watercolor you will learn a variety of techniques and tools whether you are a beginner or seasoned painter that will inspire your work for years to come.

Watercolor Sketchbooks 3 Ways
One of the greatest things about watercolor is that you can take it anywhere and everywhere! In this two day workshop you will learn a variety of sketching and watercolor techniques while exploring 3 different journaling styles - Midori Travel Notebook, Field Sketchbook and the No Excuses Art Journal. Based on Gina's best selling book No Excuses Art Journaling. You will come away with a skill set and tools that will enhance your daily life and your travels.
Gina will be teaching workshops in Seattle at Daniel Smith this Nov 17-22.
Please contact store (206) 223-9599 to register.

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Gina Rossi Armfield is a painter, photographer, wife and mother. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Mark, two sons, Grayson and Payton, and a herd of furry critters. Gina started painting when she was six years old and was lucky enough to find many mentors along the way who encouraged her to pursue her talents. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and in addition to painting, spent most of her time riding and showing horses. A passion for the four-legged endures to this day and can be seen in much of her work. Gina received her degrees in fine art and education. She has taught people of all ages and continues to enrich her life by sharing her gifts with others.

Gina is the author of No Excuses Watercolor by (Northlight 2015) and host of two North Light mixed-media instructional videos: Art Journaling With Gina Rossi Armfield: The No Excuses Approach to Drawing and Watercolor, and Art Journaling With Gina Rossi Armfield: The No Excuses Approach to Mixed-Media Collage. Gina can be found teaching around the country and through her online eCourses. You can find her on her website noexcusesart.com.

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