Author Archives: Kathy Weiss

About Kathy Weiss

Kathy Weiss is an artist specializing on all things organic: animals, florals, pets, landscapes and abstracts. She also offers commission work.

Abstract Gallery


What makes a good reference photo for my painting

I paint from high resolution reference photos supplied by email. The best paintings come from the best images. I will review images and let you know if they are acceptable but here are some guidelines for what I am looking for.

1. Expression: Does your pet have an expression that is meaningful to you? Are the eyes bright? Does it truly display your best friend’s personality?

2. Lighting: Flash distorts lighting and destroys eye details. Please do not use flash photography. Is the animal lit well enough that hair texture is visible? Is there good separation between lights and darks? Images with contrast are far more interesting than flat lighting with no dimension.

3. Focus: This point is critical. Is the animal in crisp focus? I paint from an enlargement of the file supplied. If the resolution is low or the focus is soft, it only gets worse when enlarged and I cannot see important details that I need for a nice painting. I cannot paint what I cannot see.

4. Clear definition: Make sure the animal, particularly the head and eyes, is in full view and not cut off or blocked by another object. I cannot extract an animal from a group shot since details will be blocked from view and shadows will be visible from adjacent objects.

This is an example of a nice source image. Expression is good. It’s well lit. Eyes and hair are clearly visible. Taken with Samsung Note 8

Solution to warped watercolor paper

I often use #140 watercolor paper. Although I stretch before beginning work, oftentimes the final is not completely flat. I have been doing some research on this common problem and can offer a solution. These images show a before and after using a badly warped sheet of #140 Arches.

Severe watercolor paper curl
This same piece was ironed to flatten


I carefully iron the back side with a steam iron, protecting the paper with a completely flat clean bedsheet. Gently rub the iron back and forth, covering the entire surface.

I then stack a large heavy stack of books (coffee table type books) and let the piece completely cool.

If you take to Michaels or similar, they will not take out any ripples that may have occurred. Take the time to check over your piece before framing and follow the above procedure before you take to the framer.


A bird study

In celebration of Bird Day, I am doing a dedicated study of birds. Trying to understand body structure using different watercolor and acrylic techniques from watercolor pencils, to wet on wet loose style to more detailed studies.  If anyone has any specific requests, please let me know. There are many streets in my community with bird names.






Dylan Pierce Workshop

I am attending a 4 day workshop by Dylan Pierce who paints with exacting detail. Much to learn. The painting behind him look him 150 hours! He created with 12 meticulous watercolor washes.

Applying just water in background as we begin


Dylan explains how he does many small painting trials to test color palette and effects to see which best conveys his intended message



My painting process

I wanted to show some details about how my paintings are generally created.


First, I will work with you to get the image that I need. This is Shelby, a cocker spaniel from PA.  A good source image makes a good pet portrait so I am fussy about having a good one. See guidelines.  


Next a detailed pencil drawing is done (called a contour drawing) that marks tonal differences. I then applied masking fluid to all areas that I wanted to keep white. White can be used in watercolor but traditionalists do not use white paint but keep the paper devoid of pigment to show white areas. The image below shows the yellow tinted masking fluid and the first wash. Watercolor is applied in a series of transparent washes.


You can see in these images how washes are applied, going increasing from light tones to darker tonal values.


Here the masking has been removed and I continue to work in details


And here is the finished piece


Wildlife Gallery

A word about watercolor

Watercolor (also called aquarelle) is a beautiful media in which pigment is suspended in a water based solution and applied to the substrate, most commonly special paper made for this purpose. Watercolor paper is often made entirely or partially with cotton, which gives a good texture and minimizes distortion when wet. My paper of choice is Arches #140 cold pressed which I purchase in 22″ x 30″ sheets.

Watercolors are usually translucent, and appear luminous because the pigments are laid down in a pure form. Pigments can be in pan, stick and tube form. I have experimented with all and prefer tube.