plein air


Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Painted en plein air at Sand City Beach near Monterey, CA, on New Year's Day. Yes, it was that warm here!

ice dancing

Sketching Skaters

Monday, January 15, 2018

180107_US Figure Skating Champ 1

M. got us tickets to last weekend's ice dancing free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships here at the SAP Center in San Jose. It was such a treat to watch it live and sketch the action.

180107_US Figure Skating Champ 2

no resolutions

Five Goals for the New Year

Saturday, January 06, 2018

171224_Watch Hill RI Beach

Happy 2018, everyone! I've always been inspired by artists' new year posts, with their tidy summaries of the previous 12 months plus eye-popping teases of future projects.

I won't bore you by reliving 2017, but I will share five goals for the upcoming year. (Why "five"? 'Cause clickbait.)

1. Work out loud. I like to draw and I like to write, so it should be easy to write about drawing, right? Sort of like doing a demo at a workshop? I actually don't do it as naturally as you might think; it doesn't occur to me to publicize what I'm doing while I do it, so this is something I'd like to work on over this year. I'd like to share more about how I choose subjects, materials I use, etc.

2. Stick to a routine. I'm not bad at squeezing random solo sketching time into my life (I mean, that's what my Craftsy class is all about). But I'm lucky to have a ton of opportunities for sketching and painting in my area, so I'd like to take advantage of them more regularly. I need to commit - whether it's to a monthly Monday-night life-drawing session or a weekend paintout/sketching meetup.

3. Be prolific. I've wanted for a while to create a themed body of work (such as for a gallery show). This I hope is the year I do it!

4. Go broad. I have a lot of art supplies in my studio. Why don't I use them? Inertia. This year I want to go beyond my minimalist, familiar daily carry of pen/sketchbook/watercolors. Let's find out what all that other stuff can do!

5. Go big. I tend to work small -- in sketchbooks or on compact plein air panels. In 2018, I'm challenging myself to do larger work in the studio. To get inspired, I've signed up for Michael Azgour's Abstract Figurative Painting workshop at Pacific Art League.

What are your goals for the new year?

San Jose

Morning in the Park

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Yes, I'm pretty lucky to be able to go out our back gate, walk along the trail in Santa Teresa County Park, and see this.

171216_Santa Teresa Cty Park 1

It feels simultaneously urban and rural up there. Those agave blooms are so striking against the sky.

As I was going back home, I did a few rapid captures with a Sharpie pen while walking.

171216_Santa Teresa Cty Park 2

No animal sightings at that hour, other than birds and a few deer in the distance. Where do you like to hike and sketch?


Messiah Singalong

Monday, December 11, 2017

Every year, the San Jose Symphonic Choir hosts a You-Sing-It Handel's Messiah at the California Theatre. As I was getting over a cold, I wasn't quite up to singing this time but I followed along on the score. I also sketched various members of the San Jose Baroque Orchestra with the fountain pen I got at the art supply swap. It's red because the pen happened to have red ink in it.

171204_You Sing It Messiah

This group always does the entire Messiah instead of just Part I (the Christmas section) so it runs very long. Both last year and this year we've left at intermission. So I've never actually stuck around to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Which is sad, because that's the best part!

art supplies

Art Supply Swap + Owls!

Monday, December 11, 2017

171202_Art Swap at Suhita house

Urban sketcher Suhita Shirodkar had the bright idea of hosting an art supply swap the other week. It was a great excuse to clean out my studio and part ways with superfluous sketchbooks, pencils, and paints.

Of course, I didn't come home empty-handed! My haul from the art swap? The composite sketch above, plus a Platinum fountain pen, a bottle of ink, a set of Kuretake pan watercolors ... you get the picture.

After the art swap, M. and I drove south into Morgan Hill (it gets rural very quickly just a few miles from my home) in search of barn owls. Squee! I do believe they were just hanging out on fence posts waiting to be drawn. They sat posing for their portraits, turning their heads this way and that in the glare of the car headlights.

171202_Barn owls

171202_Barn owls 2

road trip

Thanksgiving in Death Valley

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Instead of spending Thanksgiving in L.A. again this year, we decided to take a road trip to Death Valley National Park, on the California-Nevada border. Started off with the usual Pacheco Pass sketches on the way to the I-5.

171122_Pacheco Pass

171122_Pacheco Pass 2

I brought a mix of random paper along on this trip -- my Strathmore sketchbook with very thin paper, a Hand Book journal, a Fluid 100 watercolor block, even a Canson mixed media paper sample from the USk Symposium.

Contrary to popular belief, Death Valley is much more than extreme summertime heat and vast salt flats well below sea level. Our first stop was the Mesquite Sand Dunes. They are exactly what you envision dunes to be if your frame of reference is, say, Lawrence of Arabia.

171123_Death Valley Mesquite Sand Dunes

We also went on several canyon hikes. Here's a sketch of Grotto Canyon. We couldn't go too far in because of a sheer, high wall of rock beyond that cavelike area. Apparently there's a way to go around it, but we didn't know it at the time.

171123_Death Valley Grotto Canyon

I tried to paint the view of the pigmented hillsides from the parking area at Devil's Golf Course (a field of otherworldly salt formations), but the Fluid 100 watercolor block I was using was acting more like hot pressed than cold pressed paper. I couldn't get the paint to sit on the paper and move around.

171124_Death Valley Artist Drive

We hiked Golden Canyon in the early morning, before everyone else mobbed the parking lot. The payoff was Red Cathedral, its sienna-colored formations contrasting with the ochre of the surrounding rock.

171124_Death Valley Red Cathedral

And this is a sketch of Natural Bridge Canyon. The trail was overrun with tourists posing for Instagram shots.

171124_Death Valley Natural Bridge

A highlight of our trip was the natural hot springs in Tecopa, outside the park. It was quite an experience to walk out on the flats in the moonlight and sit in the warm water in perfect silence, toes in the squishy mud, looking up at Milky Way.

On our way home, I rapidly sketched the Salt Creek Hills as we passed them on the highway.

171125_Salt Creek Hills

I'm surprised that so many of my colleagues and friends here in the Bay Area have never been to Death Valley. They don't know what they're missing!


Happy First Decade, USK!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Times Square colors, USK Global Sketchwalk Nov 11

Urban Sketchers celebrated its 10th anniversary on November 11 with a 24-hour global sketchwalk. Search for #USkGlobal24hrSketchwalk on social media to see everyone's drawings. It's amazing to be connected to so many people sharing the same mission -- to meet, sketch, and share -- all over the world!

Since I was on the East Coast for work, I hopped on a bus up to New York City for the day. It was extremely cold, and I didn't have a heavy coat with me. After lunch and some museum browsing with a friend, I went to Times Square to try to meet up with the local Urban Sketchers chapter group. Sadly we somehow missed one another, but I got a few sketches in anyway before my toes froze -- 'cause that's what we do. :)

Times Square, USK Global Sketchwalk Nov 11

Thank you to USk founder Gabi Campanario for starting this fantastic movement and giving us this global family of artists!

city view

A Flying Visit to Philadelphia

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cloudy afternoon in Philadelphia

Work took me to the University of Pennsylvania campus last week, so I spent some time wandering places familiar and new. I have alumni access to the Van Pelt Library and took the opportunity to see all the changes on the sixth floor.

It's practically unrecognizable. I appreciate the large glass windows and lounge seating, but I miss the coziness of the old Shakespeare library, with its vintage chandeliers and slightly shabby air.

Still, I admit the views of Center City from the new terrace windows are amazing, even on overcast November afternoons. I stood in a little alcove and sketched the view as the clouds blanketed the buildings.

It's odd to think that during my years there, the skyline's defining shapes were the tops of One and Two Liberty Place, and their construction was controversial because they were higher than the statue of William Penn above City Hall. Now Philadelphia is a veritable forest of skyscrapers, with the forthcoming Comcast Technology Center slated to become the tallest building in the U.S. outside New York and Chicago. Wow.

on the go

Train to San Francisco

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The other day I had to take a train up to our San Francisco office for some meetings. As usual I chose a window seat so I could capture the fleeting landscape.

En route to SF

Interested in how I approach sketching on the go? I walk through my process in my Craftsy class, Urban Sketching in 15 Minutes a Day. Check it out. Right now, you can fave your most-wanted classes on the site to unlock Black Friday pricing -- how fun!