Watercolor paintings of Chapel Hill by North Carolina Fine Artist

Watercolor paintings of Chapel Hill

After doing many paintings of Raleigh, I am finally getting around to painting Chapel Hill!

I have been exploring new paints, and papers. For the University UMC painting, I used new (to me) QoR paints. I need to paint more before I decide on using this range long term (I normally use Holbein and Winsor & Newton).

I painted the “Carolina Inn Evening” on Ampersand Aquabord. This is a unique surface! The paint handling was quite different from watercolor papers which I normally use. I have several reasons to explore this surface:

(1) Plein Air: I normally paint on un-stretched watercolor paper en plein air. This works fine for smaller sizes. However, at sizes bigger than quarter sheet, the paper does cockle. Most of the times, this is not an issue. However, it does make painting difficult under humid conditions. This should not be a problem for Aquabord.

(2) Framing: I frame all of my work. This does get expensive and time consuming. Framing becomes bigger challenge for plein air contests and wet-paint sales. Aquabord can be framed like Oil paintings- without the mat and glass.

(3) Contests: traditional watercolor paintings, by nature, are subtle. This subtlety is lost many times on folks judging plein air and other art contests. I often see badly painted oil paintings being awarded top prizes- just for being painted with oils! Not enough attention is paid to framed (or un-frmaed) works on paper. I do not wish to change my painting style just for the sake of art contests! I work in traditional manner, and do want my paintings to have a fair chance in contests. So, I am open to try surface other than the paper.

Of course, this was my first painting on Aquabord. So, I have a long way to go before I make my final decision about its long-term use. Here are my brief observations:

(1) Warping: the board did warp very slightly initially. Leaving it flat for couple of days seems to have fixed it. I guess I can also use 1.5″ or 2″ deep panels. Of douse, this also depends on how I want to frame my work.

(2) Framing: The big one! I am following instructions on the Amersand website. I have applied Krylon UV Archival Satin varnish. I am yet to apply Golden Polymer UVLS Satin varnish. Not sure how this process will work for plein air contests and wet-paint sales. I may contact Ampersand to get their tips.

(3) Storage: I store my watercolors flat (with or without mat). Paintings on Aqabord will require more storage space and better handling.

(4) Paint handling: I like to draw (sometimes in detail) before I start painting. The drawing was not easy on this surface. I used softer lead (4B)- most of the drawing came off during initial wash. I did not fix the drawing since I was unsure about the paint handling after applying the spray. Paint handling was very different from my favorite papers. I was not sure what the washes were doing! I had to apply the washes very carefully as underlying layers seem to come off. Lifting the paint was easy, when I needed to. The board seemed to stay wetter longer. However, I like how the finished painting looks. Initial varnish seems to have saturated the colors even more.

So, I will be certainly painting more on the Aquabord. I will be trying Gouache, and Drybrush techniques over next few days. And I also plan to use it en plein air.

I am also exploring  another Ampersand product- Claybord. I am working on my first Egg Tempera painting on Claybord. More on that later….

– Tesh Parekh

Fine Artist


Chapel Hill University UMC. 9x12. Watercolor painting on paper.
Chapel Hill University UMC. 9×12. Watercolor painting on paper. Painted with QoR paints.
Carolina Inn Evening. 11x14. Watercolor painting on Aquabord.
Carolina Inn Evening. 11×14. Watercolor painting on Aquabord.


Raleigh NC Live Event Artist – Live Event Sketch at Top of the Hill Restaurant in Chapel Hill

Invisible Groom. Live Event Sketch in Watercolor.
Invisible Groom. Live Event Sketch in Watercolor.

I was recently in Chapel Hill to promote my Live Wedding Paintings. I was invited by my friend Joye Speight of Virtue Events for a wedding show called “Invisible Groom”. The show was at Top of the Hill Restaurant. I enjoyed meeting many of my fellow wedding vendors and couples. And while at the event, I did this watercolor sketch! Couple of years ago, I had done a live event painting in oil at Top of the Hill restaurant. After the event, I stopped by UNC Bell Tower to do a plein air watercolor painting. I love this part of Chapel Hill. Full of life.

– Tesh Parekh

Live Event Artist and Fine Artist


Watercolor painting of UNC Bell Tower – en plein air in Chapel Hill by Raleigh Fine Artist

UNC Bell Tower. Plen air. Watercolor. 14x21.
UNC Bell Tower. Plein air. Watercolor on paper. 14×21.

On a recent trip to Chapel Hill, I saw this beautiful evening view of the UNC Bell Tower. I always carry my watercolors with me and really wanted to sit down to paint! However, finding parking was a challenge! And outdoor light does not last while you are driving around to find parking. I got my opportunity again few days later. I was at Top of The Hill Restaurant Bridal Show (actually it was a show for Grooms!) to promote my live wedding painting. I did a live event sketch while I was at this event (the event was organized by Joye Speight ot Virtue Events). And then headed out to paint the tower. It was a Sunday, but, parking was still hard to find! It is a busy area! Full of activities. I walked around to find this view. It was a beautiful evening. Little chilly. I finished most of the painting on location. It got dark, so, I headed home. I added details back in my studio.

If you collect original watercolors, plein air work, Chapel Hill art or UNC art, this will be a great piece for your collection. The original painting is available, and I am also offering prints of different sizes. In fact, you can order prints of any of my paintings. Please contact me for details.

Last year, I had painted Jennifer & Ben’s wedding ceremony at University UMC on Franklin Street. I also have a plein air painting of Franklin Street available. 2013 wedding season will start with a live painting in Asheville area.

– Tesh Parekh

Fine Artist and Live Wedding Painter


Live Wedding Painting Commission – “Jennifer and Ben” by NC Wedding Painter


Jennifer and Ben. Live Wedding Painting Commission. 16x20. University United Methodist Church (Chapel Hill NC). Wedding Painter - Tesh Parekh


My latest live wedding painting is of Jennifer and Ben’s beautiful wedding in Chapel Hill! Earlier, I had done a live event painting in Chapel Hill at Top of the Hill Restaurant. That one was an oil on linen for the launch of Wish Upon a Wedding NC. Jennifer and Ben’s wedding was at the gorgeous University United Methodist Church. The reception was at the Carolina Club in Chapel Hill- a beautiful venue. Angie Wright of Chic Details Weddings and Events was the wedding planner for this fantastic event.

I arrived at the Church couple of hours before the ceremony. I setup my easel at back of the balcony. But, I really liked the view from the front. But, there was not enough space to set up the easel. So, I just sat in the front with my drawing board in the lap. Being flexible allows me to create compositions I want. I sketched the Church interior first. Normally, I would start laying in some of the washes. But, Jennifer wanted me to paint at the reception. So, I made reference sketches of some of the details while I waited for the ceremony to begin. I carry a separate sketch book with me when I paint. Here I am drawing the Church:

Here I am sketching from the balcony next to videographer's camera. I liked the view from front of the balcony. Since there was not enough space to setup an easel I sketched with drawing board in my lap. On my right is my sketch book.

One of the questions which I frequently get asked is: “do you use photos for reference?”. The answer is: it depends. I prefer to sketch and paint entirely from life. But, there are situations when use of photography is necessary (e.g. the venue has certain restrictions). I also take photos for my future reference, blog and as precaution. I did not use photos as reference for Jen and Ben’s painting. I made sketches during the ceremony. Below is one of the sketches:

I made several reference pencil sketches before and during the reception. I love these sketches as much as I love finished paintings. These sketches are from the direct observation. I use these as reference when I finish the painting.

When I sketch I do not focus on what will go in the final painting. I make that decision after I analyze my sketches. This is what makes my painting process different from other live event artists. For me, drawing is the foundation of my paintings whether I am painting in oils or watercolors. Another aspect is the composition. I like to spend some time composing a wedding painting just as I would for any other painting or commission (one exception is the plain air sketches: more on that below). This makes my process little longer. But, as John Ruskin once said: all art is delicate.

This is the sketch I liked the best to use for my painting:

I liked this sketch and used it in the finished painting.

The ceremony was beautiful! And once it was over, I finished my drawing. Then it was time to set up at the Carolina Club. The Church was bright and I was able to draw without additional lighting. I used my video light at the Carolina Club. I enjoyed talking to many guests while I painted. Here is finished painting on easel next to the dance floor:

Jennifer wanted me to finish her painting at the Carolina Club reception in Chapel Hill. Here is the finished painting on my easel next to the dance floor. I enjoyed talking to many guests as I painted.

I framed the finished painting and presented it to Jen and Ben. The couple was thrilled! Having a live painting of your event is unique! Like photography and video, a painting becomes part of your wedding memory.

Painting from life is big part of my art. I love plein air painting. I go out to paint almost everyday. Here is one of my recent plein air watercolor sketches of early North Carolina spring:

Painting from life is big part of my art. This is one of the recent plain air watercolor sketch.

Painting en plein air is like taking a snapshot with your camera. Most of the times, I am more focused on capturing the essence of what is in front of me. Careful composition and rearranging of things is possible but optional. Sometimes the sketch stays as a plein air piece and sometimes I would use it as a reference for studio work.

I also love to draw. My son Ian is my favorite subject! What can give you better practice in quick drawing than sketching a 4 y/o?! As Ian has grown, so have my drawing skills. And I have a collection of his precious drawings. Here are some of my attempts to capture him:

My favorite subject to sketch is my son Ian! I have made numerous sketches of him. This has trained me to sketch fast!

This week I will be painting live at Preston Bailey and Stacie Francomb’s Inspire Smart Success Experience in Durham. I look forward to it…

– Tesh Parekh

Live Wedding and Event Painter



Wedding Painting of Marci and Brian- Raleigh, NC Wedding Painter

Marci and Brian. 12×16. Watercolor on Arches 300 lb CP paper.

This is my recent studio wedding painting. I had photographed Marci’s wedding last year (when I am not painting, I do professional photography- www.iwpphotography.com). Marci was a wonderful bride. Many brides have their Bridal portraits photographed prior to the wedding. Marci opted to do the portrait session of her daughters. I did that on location at the Pullen Park. These portraits were presented to Brian as a surprise at the reception. Marci was very kind to us and has become a good friend. So, I decided to do this wedding painting for her.

The painting is done from one of my photos of the ceremony at the Meredith College Chapel. The ceremony was special since Marcy’s father walked her down the aisle and was also ministered the wedding! Marcy loves her family and so I decided to paint this scene which captures most of her family.

I did this watercolor painting on Arches 300 lb CP watercolor block. The 300 lb paper has its own characteristics. I have noticed that the washes dry little flat as compared to 140 lb paper. However, I enjoy painting on different surfaces. This is my first painting using Holbein watercolor paints. I am trying those because one of my favorite watercolorists- Joseph Zbukvic uses those. I love the effects which Zbukvic creates in his paintings. So far so good- I am happy with what I have learned.

Below is my initial sketch of the painting. As a practice, I always start my watercolors with a pencil drawing.

I painted this watercolor fairly tightly and over a period of few days (rather late nights!). That is something I won’t do on location!

I presented this painting to Marci as a surprise: she absolutely loved it!

If you are a bride, wedding planner, event planner or a family member, looking for a unique keepsake or gift, I would love to hear from you!

– Tesh Parekh