Sunlit Moss

I have been hard at work at two watercolors inspired by one location. It’s a lovely open forest with ground carpeted by ancient-looking moss. I was lucky enough to be there as the winter sun was rising and shining a spotlight onto the intensely green forest floor. I hope these help you experience that magical moment, too!

Misty Forest with a sunkissed carpet of moss.
Sunlight on Moss I
KHertzler_Sunlight on Moss II
Sunlight on Moss II



SVWS Galleries

I’ve rejoined the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society. This is such a great group for beginners and professionals alike. I belonged years ago, but having small children in my life made that too difficult! Now, that season has passed and I’m enjoying the group again. One of the perks of being a Signature Member with the group is hanging pieces in its many exhibits around Harrisonburg.

My work is now on display at the Hardesty-Higgins House gift shop in downtown Harrisonburg. For this quarter, I have three pieces hanging there among others by Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society members. Other galleries at which the SVWS is currently displaying include: Taste of Thai restaurant (I have one piece there), Oasis gallery (I had two pieces for last quarter, but nothing this rotation), and a member show at VMRC (I did not enter this time due to other time commitments). I am slowly getting involved again and hope to take advantage of all of these opportunities soon! I’m definitely enjoying the companionship of painters again.

Early Spring, Shenandoah Valley
Early Spring, Shenandoah Valley

Other news: I recently contracted to share a two-person show next year at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nellysford, Virginia. More about that as it gets closer!


A new composition has jumped from my sketchbook and into a full-color painting. The sketch was done several years ago on a hike with friends at Douthat State Park in Virginia. We stopped at this ‘waterfall’ (per park map) for a break . It was a bit of a stretch to call it a waterfall, but it was a beautiful spot.

Tributary, a watercolor by KHertzler. Copyright by the artist. All rights reserved.
Watercolor, 9″ x 12″

Tributary came about while at a workshop at Rockfish Valley Community Center last weekend. The instructor, Steve Doherty, mentioned how watercolorist Nita Engle would use primaries selected because they were both transparent and easily lifted. Lynn Ferris used a similarly limited palette at a workshop I attended several years ago. For Tributary, I adapted that technique. In later stages, I pulled in additional pigments. I love how there is no flat color; even the rocks are vibrant.

This little stream called Blue Suck flows into Wilson Creek, which in turn feeds the Jackson River. The confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers become the James and winds over the Piedmont before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.

Pencil sketch done on location and a quick color/value study done before beginning the painting. (c) KHertzler.
Pencil sketch done on location and a quick color/value study done before beginning the painting.

Update: Tributary has been sold.

North River Watercolor


This one is finished! It’s a half-sheet of paper (that’s about 22″ x 15″ for the non-painters). I’ve been posting the progress but all the stages are included below.

I’m pleased with this painting because I’ve done a few things better than I have before. The river reflections were somewhat complicated and completely out of my head. I had to think out how everything should look based on past observation rather than direct observation. It was very freeing and the painting benefited by my not feeling like I needed to represent reality. (my reference photos were taken after the leaves had fallen and so doesn’t have this color, lovely light or quite the same composition.) I generally like earth tones and my paintings often are created with subdued hues, but this time I was determined to have clean color show the golden glow that illuminates autumn evenings. Earth tones play a supporting role here.

The view is looking upstream of the North River from the bridge in Port Republic. (Next project is the view downstream.)

Work in progress - North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.

Work in progress - North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.

North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.
North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.

Solo Exhibit in Harrisonburg

Early Spring, Shenandoah ValleyI’ll be the featured artist at Wilson Downtown Gallery November, December and January. Stop in during regular business hours (10am – 5pm, Tues. – Fri) anytime after November 5 through the end of January. Artist Receptions are being held on the following nights from 5 – 8 pmĀ  – with light refreshments:

  • November 6 – First Friday
  • December 4 – First Friday and Harrisonburg’s Christmas Parade
  • January 8 – First Friday is moved to the second Friday (hmm…)

On Harrisonburg’s First Night, December 31, the gallery will be open again with entertainment for the evening.

On display will be approximately sixeen recent watercolors. Most of these capture the natural beauty of Virginia’s public lands. Shenandoah National Park and various Virginia State Parks find their way into the subject matter, as well as some scenery from my backyard and even Downtown Harrisonburg.

Horsehead CliffsI’ve shown publicly before in group shows, but this is my first solo show. Come celebrate with me!

The Wilson Downtown Gallery is located within Kline May Realty, 83 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (in the old Wilson Jewelers building).

Thank you to the Harrisonburg Homes team for providing this wonderful gallery space!
lanterns - with reflection-smredoak-smWhite Oak Seedling

Bearfence Mtn. Watercolor Demonstration

Since a trip to California some years ago, I have often thought someone should give Shenandoah National Park the same kind of glorification that Ansel Adams gave Yosemite. Although SNP is every bit as pretty, it lacks the massive scale. When I saw the cliff at Bearfence, I decided it was perfect to aggrandize. From the trail at the base of the cliffs, you get an impressive look at the face of it. I’m guessing it is at least 60 feet high – one website said 100 feet. One problem: there were so many trees at the base of the cliff, I couldn’t get a clear photo. But in a painting, I can simply remove them. Problem solved.

Beginning a new watercolor. Here's the composition sketched out with reference material to the right (color and value studies and a photo I took at the site.)Ready to start! I have a detailed drawing on the paper and a few areas masked with frisket. On the side of the board are a color study, a value study and a black and white photo for details(my own taken on location). I’ve also selected my palette. I like to work with a limited palette of about six or eight colors, but the choices change with each painting. I make as many decisions as possible before the paper gets wet. Then I can concentrate on just painting. Here, all the color being applied early on is transparent. Later, I’ll add details with more opaque earth tones.

Initial color lay for watercolor painting.This is fun! I’m just killing the white everywhere that isn’t a highlight. I carefully chose my palette, but I’m not painting ‘local color’ at this stage so it doesn’t matter which color I use at this point .

Adding darker color and details to the rocks of Bearfence Mountain. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler.
Carving dimension out of the paper with shadows. I also put some sun and shade on the ridge in the background.

Finished watercolor, Bearfence Mountain, Shenandoah National Park by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved. 2014.Moving to the foreground, I’m shaping boulders and giving volume to the dead tree on the ground. Local colors are becoming dominant.

Finished watercolor, Bearfence Mountain, Shenandoah National Park by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved. 2014.Protective mask removed from trees. Texture and more shadows added. A hour or two of agonizing to decide if it is finished. Yes! The finished watercolor is 15″ x 21″. Completed in 2014.

I have taken some liberties with the color of the cliff here. My painting makes it look nearly white in the sun – it’s not. But truly, there are an amazing number of colors in the cliffs due to different types of rock. Read how a geologist sees the cliffs on If you now have a yearning to see it for yourself, read about the location and trail at