Here’s how this painting took shape:


Years ago I painted Oregon artist Judy Hoiness, working from a photo I took of her at a WSO breakout session, holding a crayon in front of drapery. While it was accepted into the Spring WSO show in 2013, I later began to feel it could use improvement. I loved the portrait part but the curtain gets too much attention and the significance of the crayon was unclear — some viewers thought it was lipstick!


Then last summer I marbled the piece, which imparted a mythical quality. I immediately loved it, though it could still benefit from a few changes. Notice how I’ve I edited the pattern in the final painting by removing the part covering the mouth. It’s a wonderful thing that thin acrylic paint can be easily removed with rubbing alcohol, without disturbing the watercolor painting underneath! I’ve also lightened the patterning over the top of the hair by adding a thin layer of watercolor ground over it.

I also felt it needed more of a focal point. One critique group suggested cropping off the right side, but I liked what was there, or at least the idea of what could be there.

I wanted something that could draw the eye across the curtain. After being enchanted by blue morpho butterflies while teaching a workshop in Costa Rica, I’d also photographed them at the Museum of Natural History in New York. I began to imagine them fluttering across this painting.

My current work often features ordinary creatures, like the many illustrations of birds and flowers I painted during the 25 years I was staff artist for The Oregonian. I’ve developed a technique using acrylic marbling with my watercolor paintings, to create the illusion of movement. Paintings usually evolve over time to the point that even I can’t know what direction they will take in the end. It is this journey — the experimental component of my work — that is the most rewarding.


I added the blue morpho butterflies in watercolor, changing the crayon into a butterfly on her hand. It’s amazing how even red will lift with some hard scrubbing!

I love how wings are intensely blue while moving, but when still they close them, disappearing into their brown environment. I painted them by adding a thin wash of a white watercolor ground that was semi-transparent, then adding detail as needed, with watercolor, including opaque white and my black mix

The title refers as much to the transformation of the painting itself as it does to the subject. And it’s appropriate that morpho is in the word “Metamorphosis”!


I entered the painting into the American Watercolor Society’s 2021 open show, and it was accepted. As my third consecutive acceptance (how did that even happen!) it earned me signature status. It would have been a great reason to return to New York, but while the painting hung with the show at the Salmagundi Club in New York last spring as usual, traveling hadn’t resumed and the banquet gathering wasn’t possible.


I hope to soon be able to offer a video that will show how I transformed this painting by marbling it, another example of succession marbling.

Read more in my book, “The Art Of Paint Marbling”, published by Walter Foster

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