Sunday Ramble in Denver

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Had to be in Boulder, Colorado, last week for work, so arrived early on Sunday to wander around Denver and go to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The weather was lovely, and I enjoyed a long walk around the gloriously sun-warmed red-brick storefronts of LoDo. Larimer Square was bedecked in playoff flags for I assume the ... um, Avalanche? Sorry, don’t ask me about sports. (Or about beer, which is Denver’s other passion.)

190407 Larimer Square Denver

190407 LoDo Denver

going coastal

Saturday Drive South

Sunday, March 24, 2019

I had to pick up my paintings from Wargin Wines in Watsonville yesterday since the show ended, so took advantage of the drive to hit some other spots. (Here's a picture of me at the show from a few weeks ago.)

We stopped in at Gizdich Ranch for a slice of their fresh-from-the-oven sweet and gooey apple ollalieberry pie (married with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course). I had to take a few minutes to sketch the bakers behind the counter.

100323 Gizdich Ranch pies

Having had dessert, we continued south to Carmel, so I could scout the area in preparation for May's Carmel Art Festival.

We walked around the downtown (yes, many of the buildings there have this fairy-tale vibe) and then went downhill to the lovely sugary beach.

I parked myself on the sand and took out my sketchbook. Even at midday there was a mist on the distant hills.

190323 Carmel Beach CA

Watercolor in Hahnemuhle Bamboo Carnet de Voyage mixed media sketchbook. The paper seems to suck in the pigment so the finish is a little duller than I like. But, as mentioned before in this blog, I've got a backlog of sketchbooks -- and it's just as helpful to learn the papers I don't love.


Condiment of Spring

Sunday, March 17, 2019

When I sketched this Morgan Hill, CA, field last October, it was filled with rows and rows of pumpkin vines. Yesterday it sported an acid yellow coat: wild mustard as far as the eye could see.

190316 Mustard in Morgan Hill

Direct to watercolor, in Fabriano wirebound watercolor sketchbook. Not my favorite paper, as it doesn't love juicy washes ... but I'm on a self-imposed paper diet as I have too many UFSs (unfinished sketchbooks) on hand.


Fixing a Painting with Photoshop

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I'm all about the analog when it comes to painting, but sometimes a little technology goes a long way. Here's how I turned a dud painting into something passable with a little help from my friend Photoshop.

Remember when M. took me to San Luis Obispo to see Jon Batiste at CalPoly? Well, we stopped at at some vineyards on the way - first for lunch and then for painting.

Now, vineyards in January aren't your lush, verdant rows punctuated with plump grapes; they're raw and stark, their twisted twiggy fingers reaching hungrily for warmth. Still, it's California, so the rainy season brings out all the green on the hillsides.

I didn't have a lot of time to paint since we had to get to Morro Bay by dinner, and the light was changing rapidly.

I did what I could in an hour and then packed up. Back at home, I touched it up a little but I wasn't happy with the painting. The lines of clouds were too static, and they were largely parallel to the line of hills below. Plus, the painting wasn't dynamic -- it was pretty much 50% sky and 50% ground. No rule-of-thirds-to be found.

So I opened it in Photoshop to see what I could do. (I use a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet to make it easier to draw or paint in the tool.) I lightened the sky, reconfigured the clouds, and changed the distant hillside line to improve the composition.

I then used this version as a guide to revise my actual painting. I updated the sky color, the clouds, and the line of hills. I'm much happier with it now.

"On the Wine Trail," 8x10, oil.

190406 On the Wine Trail

How about you? Have you ever used technology to consider different outcomes for a painting?


San Pedro Square with South Bay Sketchers

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Along with Suhita Shirodkar, Srivani Narra Ward, and Steve Krapek, I'm a co-organizer for the South Bay Sketchers Meetup group. (Are you in the South Bay? Come join us!) Yesterday we organized a sketchwalk at San Pedro Square in San Jose. The weather was lovely (for a change), and we had a great turnout.

I chose a minimal kit - a Unipin brush tip fineliner, waterbrush, and Cass Art's quarter-pan watercolor set, with a Strathmore sketchbook.

Started off with a sketch outdoors as I was waiting for stragglers to trickle in.

190223 San Pedro Square 1

To warm up, most of us went indoors to get a hot beverage from B2Coffee and to sketch the new Three Sisters bar. I only sketched one of the paintings, but here's the story behind it.

190223 San Pedro Square 2

190223 San Pedro Square 3

This last one was done in the five minutes before we all met back up at noon to share sketches!

190223 San Pedro Square 4


Upcoming Class in San Francisco

Monday, February 18, 2019

Are you in the Bay Area? Get ready for spring/summer sketch walks (yes, the rain *will* someday end) with this dynamic workshop! First, we’ll learn to use line to simplify an outdoor scene and lay out balanced compositions. Then we’ll go over how to add vibrant watercolor to bring your designs to life. Weather permitting, we’ll use these techniques to create a progressive series of sketches as we explore the local area. A premium sketchbook, fineliner, and kit of hand-poured watercolors are included in the class fee.

We'll cover:

-How to choose a focal point, and where to place it on the page
-Drawing expressive lines to depict urban scenes
-Mixing a range of colors from just a few primaries
-Using notes of color to unify your sketch
-Creating a narrative with your sketches

Spaces are still available. Sign up now.

Speaking of San Francisco ... a few weeks ago I was up there to take some headshots and I took advantage of the time to dash off a few quick ink sketches of the views from Crissy Field. I colored them in later with watercolors; you can probably tell that I didn't keep my water clean, as the colors got mighty muddy. Lesson well learned!

190127 Crissy Field San Francisco

190127 Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco


Art, Love & Wine

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Two of my paintings will be included in Central Coast Plein Air Painters' upcoming show, "Art, Love & Wine," at Wargin Wines in Watsonville, CA.

Yesterday M. and I went to drop off the paintings, and we ended up shopping for antiques in Soquel and watching the waves at Rio Del Mar Beach in Aptos.

190126 Rio del Mar Beach, Aptos, CA

Here are the two paintings in the show:


Almaden Lake Park

The opening reception is on Friday, February 1, from 4 to 7 pm. The show runs through March 22.

mountain high

Colorado Sketchbook

Sunday, January 27, 2019

I had to be in Boulder last week for work, so M. and I took advantage of the long MLK weekend to plan a trip to the mountains. We flew into Denver Friday night and stayed at the Maven Hotel at Dairy Block, a hipster hotel not far from Union Station. The plan was to take Amtrak's California Zephyr -- reputed to be one of the most scenic rail routes in the country -- westward the following morning.

Well. We knew the previous night that the train would be delayed, as it was several hours late leaving Chicago. But as the hours went on, the delay just grew. And grew. And grew. The morning came and went. So did noon. We watched people play shuffleboard at Union Station.

190119 Union Station Denver

190119 Union Station Denver 2

Finally, around 4:30 pm, the train slowly backed into the station. We were disappointed; the sole reason to take the 5+ hour train instead of a rental car was to see parts of the mountains otherwise hard to get to especially in the winter. With the late departure, we were barely climbing into the rockies at sunset.

190119 Entering Rockies Colorado

Nevertheless, it was an adventure, albeit an overpriced one given the late hour; we had a roomette to ourselves, dined in the dining car, and sat for a few minutes in the lounge car.

In the morning we took a dip in the vast, steamy hot-springs fed pool at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort and then picked up our rental car to drive east.

190120 I-70 E Vail Denver Colorado

We stopped in Vail for lunch. I sketched the view from the window at Pepi's, an Austrian restaurant recommended to us by the Enterprise rep. So many colorfully dressed skiers and snowboarders in the town. And yep, those are the ski lifts in the background!

190120 Vail Colorado

190120 Skiers Vail Colorado

When we got back to Denver, we had dinner at Ace Eat Serve. It's food ... plus ping pong. Genius!

190120 Ace Eat Serve Denver 2

190120 Ace Eat Serve Denver

After M. left for home on Monday morning, I went shopping and then to the Christian Dior fashion exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. I used a few Zebra Zensations mechanical colored pencils (bought at Meininger, of course) to draw while in the museum, as they don't allow pens there. I used watercolor to color them later.

190121 Dior at Denver Art Museum

Dinner with friends at Avelina and then drinks across the street at the Oxford Hotel's Cruise Room rounded out the weekend before I headed off to work in Boulder for the week!


A Weekend in SLO County

Sunday, January 27, 2019

For the holidays, M. got me tickets to see musical virtuoso (and Late Show bandleader) Jon Batiste performing live at CalPoly, so we made a weekend out of it. After meandering through wineries and lunching at Cass Wines, we made our way to Estero Inn at Morro Bay. Got there just in time to capture the sunset over Morro Rock.

190112 Morro Rock

We proceeded to the town of San Luis Obispo, where we had dinner at Vegetable Butcher. Then it was time for the main event. What a treat! Jon Batiste started off on stage but then brought the music to the audience, playing his signature melodica. For a while he stood directly next to us.

I had a hard time sketching him since it was dark, but I made a few attempts.

190112 Jon Batiste at PAC SLO

In the morning, I did another quick sketch of Morro Rock. Hard to fathom that this volcano remnant's been around for some 23 million years!

190113 Morro Rock