30-in-30: Farmer’s market musicians


Guitar player
Guitar player at the Farmers Market
Pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Delta Series Sketchbook

I had great fund making this sketch. Musicians stay in one position long enough that it’s possible to capture their images—but unfortunately, not their music—in the sketchbook.


Yes, it’s time again for another 30 paintings in 30 days. I’m a little late for this one, and am playing catch up.

30 Paintings in 30 Days is hosted by Leslie Saeta at http://lesliesaeta.blogspot.com/. It’s fun to look at other artists’ work. The last time I participated, I made a couple new internet friends, and that was the best part.

However, the last time I participated, I felt the need to write buckets about what I was doing. This month I’m a bit too busy, so I will try to contain myself.


30-in-30: It’s all over now but the singing

Collage of 30-in-30 paintings made with PicMonkey
Collage of 30-in-30 paintings made with PicMonkey

Today is the last of my 30-in-30 paintings as part of Leslie Saeta’s Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days. I want to thank her for challenging the paint-o-sphere to take up brushes and post their results everyday of January. I also want to thank her for hosting all of us on her blog. It’s been fun; I’ve found some amazing and dedicated artists this way, and met some lovely people.

My goal at the start of January was to make 30 paintings strictly from life. I love the way that it made me see differently; made me see more clearly; and made color even more flavorful than it usually is to me. I’m excited to paint from life more often. I’m curious to see how it will affect my work from photos.

But just because it’s no longer February doesn’t mean that I’ve got to put down my brushes. Onward and upward! More eggs!



30-in-30: Watercolor portrait from life


Watercolor portrait
15-minute portrait
Watercolor on really terrible paper

I began this painting in the life drawing session on Thursday. But since the models (us!) only posed for 10 to 15 minutes, I didn’t have time to A. Catch a good likeness and B. apply much paint. So I brought it home and played with it in my studio. I admit, I cheated a little bit. I started it on Thursday, but finished it today. (I didn’t have time to start a personal painting today, as commercial work fell in my lap, and you know how freelancing goes: work when you’ve got it and starve when you don’t.)

This is paper that, even though it wasn’t cheap (although not at the top of the food chain either),  is even more unsatisfactory than the really cheap stuff. I was sorely disappointed in this paper, and have never really used it for anything much at all. It looks like it should be a wonderful paper, but when you start applying washes, it gets very strange speckles all over it. And you can’t take any of the paint off; scrubbing gets you nowhere. I won’t tell you the brand in public (I don’t like to kiss and tell), but if you really want to know, I can tell you privately.

Maybe I haven’t learned how to coax the best from this paper. Eventually I guess I’ll learn as I still have a whole pad of it.


30-in-30: Figure drawing in watercolor above the speed limit

Figure drawing in watercolor
2 5-minute poses on cheap watercolor paper

Today I went to the figure drawing session at Town Hall Arts Galerie Copper in Copperopolis.  Unfortunately, the model didn’t show up, so we took turns posing (clothed) for the group. It was fun to have so many different figures changing it up. But unfortunately, it’s really hard for non-models to hold poses even as short at 15 minutes. Readers, a good model who can hold a long pose over and over again? They are worth every penny they earn, and I hope that you always tip your models accordingly.

Figure drawing in watercolor
5-minute poses on cheap watercolor paper

Since the poses had to be really short, I had to develop a kind of shorthand quick-stroke, using very simple shapes that were separated with white space so the paint didn’t all run together into a big wet blob.

The time went so fast that I couldn’t draw with pencil and finish with watercolor. The work below was all I could muster in 10 minutes. I might play around with this a bit in the studio, but I really wish this woman would pose for me (for longer than 10 minutes). She has a beautiful face and elegant demeanor. If she reads this, I hope she’ll agree.

Figure drawing in watercolor
10-minute poses on cheap watercolor paper

Drawing with the paint brush (wait, that’s really painting, right?) forces my brain to judge shapes, angles, and proportion without the help of guidelines, angle marks, extra marks, and erasing. So it’s a great exercise. And it leaves me longing for a good, four-hour pose.


30-in-30: Drapery in watercolor, with orange

Watercolor painting of dishcloth and orange
Dishcloth with orange
Watercolor on #140 Arches cold press

I really want to title this, “It’s a dishcloth, fella. Orange you glad you asked?” But I thought I’d be kind.

Here are the thoughts I had about painting drapery in the aftermath of a frustrating morning:

  • Take time setting up the subject. You want an interesting composition, with large shapes that are easy to see.
  • Plan the color scheme carefully. Remember what Jeanne Dobie says about “mouse power.” Those rodent-grays will make the saturated color glow.
  • Before you start slopping paint around, plan the highlight patterns. They will lead the eye and give shape to the drapery.
  • Draw the shapes of  the darkest shadows, and figure out how you can simplify them and connect them. This helps keep the painting from looking splotchy.
  • Then figure out your large shapes. Think of them as zones. Which zone will you use as the focal part of the painting? That should have the most contrast, the brightest colors. Which zone is closest to the light? Furthest? Paint accordingly.
  • Don’t get too dark too fast. It doesn’t give you any room to play.
  • Think more about the edges. For instance, figure out which side of a fold has soft edges (and maybe both sides of the fold have soft edges).
  • When painting the soft edges, don’t get all blendy. It looks mushy. If you look closely, there are some hard and soft edges in the rounded folds. They might be low contrast, but they are there.
  • Think more about reflected light.
  • Remember what Ted Nuttall says about shapes. Each shape should be it’s own tiny abstract painting.

It’s important to learn how to paint draped cloth for many reasons (like if you want to put clothing on your live model!). But as I was painting this, I realized how similar the folds in cloth are to the folds of hills and valleys in the landscape.

Drapery. More interesting but not as hard as eggs.




30-in-30: Painting a white dishcloth in watercolor is better than doing the dishes

White dishcloth with orange Watercolor on #140 Canson cold press
White dishcloth with orange
Watercolor on #140 Canson cold press

I swore that I’d give myself only one hour for this little painting. Honestly, I did.

But after about three brush strokes into this piece I knew that the kind of detailed work I love to do wasn’t going to be possible. I tried to tackle too much information in a short period of time and a small space.

The best thing to do in that situation is to work on just the large masses, so I concentrated on the dark and light patterns to strengthen the composition. And I tried to limit my time on it, in order to make big decisions rapidly.

It’s been a long time since I drew value studies of drapery. As you well know, drawing is the foundation of painting. I see a month of drawing in my future.

30-in-30: Painting an orange in watercolor is sweeter than painting an egg

Orange with cloth 5" x 7" watercolor on #140 Canson cold press
Orange with cloth
5″ x 7″ watercolor on #140 Canson cold press

I’ve been working hard on the Candled Egg painting, and I’m almost finished with it. After working on it for the last 4 mornings, I was tired of painting in such a restricted fashion (choosing colors carefully, debating about shapes and brush strokes, trying for realism), so today I gave myself an hour to paint this cheeky little orange on a dish cloth.

I’ll post about the Candled Egg soon, but that might be a series of very long posts, and I need to attend to business offline.

Happy Monday, everybody!

30-in-30: Going east at dusk, watercolor in hand

Jan22_LandscapeJournalJan21_LandscapesThese are what my car-journal pages look like. The smaller rectangles are 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches, and the vertical rectangles are whatever size my little heart desires.

We don’t travel much, so I don’t always remember what colors are in my little travel palette. It helps to make a little swatch palette before I begin (that’s why there are twelve color swatches all in a row on the page at top).

Interstate 680 through Pleasanton at dusk
Interstate 680 through Pleasanton at dusk

30-in-30: Plein air watercolor painting at 60 miles-per-hour

Distant water 3.5" x 2.5"  watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal
Distant water
3.5″ x 2.5″ watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal

This week I had to make a sojourn to the Bay Area. The fiddler likes to drive, so while the fiddler steered the infernal combustion machine, I painted.

I love passenger-seat painting. Give me a wide enough view and a straight enough road (I suffer from motion sickness), and I can paint for miles.

In the studio, it’s easy to get in that zone of hyper-focus where thought takes a backseat to conscious action. If you’re a painter, you know what I mean. Pick up some color with the brush, dab it on—ooo pretty—dab some more—ooo pretty pretty—dab, dab, dab—pretty pretty pretty—dab, no, wait, dang it, arggh! What have I done? If you don’t pause and move back, pretty soon you’ve created a muddy mess.

Green Hill 3.5" x 2.5"  watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal
Green Hill
3.5″ x 2.5″ watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal

Painting landscape studies in the car (while someone else is driving—duh!) is a good way to break that kind of zen-zoned out paint daubing. You can’t focus for very long on one scene, because the scene changes minute-by-minute. So you have to make your decisions rapidly and correctly.

Fallow field 3.5" x 2.5"  watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal
Fallow field
3.5″ x 2.5″ watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal

All you have time to do in the car is decide on a quick composition, draw the big shapes, get the right color and value on the palette, and paint the shapes. I start with the sky first usually, the brightest and lightest shape. The jiggling of the car prohibits any attention to detail; it’s all about composition, color and shape.

I love these little watercolors. The challenge is to bring this freshness and life into larger studio paintings.

Winter trees 3" x 6" watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal
Winter trees
3″ x 6″ watercolor in Strathmore Mixed Media Journal