A Lakeside Fourth

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bunting? Check. Parade? Check. Kids waving flags? Check, check, check! M.'s family reunion on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio gave me the perfect opportunity to teach a sketching workshop at Lakeside Chautauqua's Rhein Center, and the Fourth of July holiday timing just added to the fun.

Despite the heat and humidity -- and kits with Prang watercolors(!) -- the group did a great job capturing small-town Americana vignettes.

Here are some of my demo pieces from the workshop, plus some of the other sketches from the weekend.

190704 Demo sketch Lakeside Ohio

190703 Red white blud demo sketch Lakeside

190704 Parade Lakeside Ohio

190704 Parade Lakeside Ohio 2

Shuffleboard is more difficult than it looks!

190706 Shuffleboard Lakeside Ohio

190706 Shuffleboard Lakeside Ohio 2

Bikes and golf carts are everywhere at Lakeside.

190705 bicycle Lakeside Ohio

On our way to the airport in Cleveland, we stopped at Sherod Park in Vermilion. The lake was angry, and the waves lapped at my feet as I drew.

190707 Lake Erie Sherod Park Vermilion Ohio


City of Contrasts: Hyderabad

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Spent last week in Hyderabad, India, for work. The previous time I was there was ~15 years ago; most of the development northwest of the city didn't even exist at the time. It is truly a marriage of old and new. I arrived early on a Sunday, so I had the chance to tour about and sketch.

Near the office early Sunday morning, the main activities seemed to be security and street sweeping. The street sweepers still use whisk brooms.

190623 Hyderabad 1

I stopped to sketch an impromptu game of cricket in a courtyard. This was my first time attempting to capture the action. Clearly I need to study it more.

190623 Hyderabad 2

There were people out on their balconies speaking on their mobile phones surrounded by drying clothes. The clothes say lots about who's living there.

190623 Hyderabad 3

190623 Hyderabad 4

In the afternoon a few colleagues and I headed out to Charminar by Metro and rickshaw.

190623 From rickshaw Hyderabad

190623 Charminar 1

190623 Charminar 2


Off the Paseo: San Jose State

Sunday, June 30, 2019

South Bay Sketchers explored Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose a few weeks ago. I played around with mixed media as I wandered the campus at San Jose State University. This building is Tower Hall, but somehow I chose to sit on the one bench from which you can't see the tower at all....



Touching the Sky

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton is a speck on a distant peak, a landmark we point at when visitors look up. Up close, we found not one but several domes on the terraced hillsides, a metropolis of glass eyes open in wonder at the universe.


Photography night brought a select few out midweek; they braved the serpentine roads at dusk with their tripods and lenses to capture the sunset and swap f-stop stories.



The docents that evening spun the telescope about and regaled us with stories of James Lick and the observatory's construction. Go, if you have the chance - it's a magical experience, to be a few thousand feet closer to the moon.

island time

Maui: Something for Everyone

Sunday, June 30, 2019

It's said that Maui strikes the Goldilocks balance: not just touristy kitsch, not just remote beaches. In our Memorial Day weekend trip to the island, we found that to be true. We stayed in Wailea, Hana, and Lahaina so as to sample the varied pleasures of the island.

Here's a sketch of Maluaka Beach, just south of our hotel in Wailea. Getting to beaches early was key -- in many cases only a handful of people were there with us. Bliss!


As we drove toward Hana, we saw vast sugarcane fields -- a reminder of what the island's trade used to be.


A highlight of our trip was seeing turtles on Kuau Beach.

190524 Kuau Beach turtles Maui

This was the scene at Haleakala National Park's Kipahulu District.

190525 Haleakala NP Kipahulu District Maui

Next year, perhaps we'll visit the Big Island.

plein air

Recap: Carmel Art Festival

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rain, rain, go away. That's what we kept saying every day at this year's Carmel Art Festival, from May 15-19. Some days the skies listened, some days not.

On Wednesday, I checked in around 4, got my boards and papers stamped (verification in case there is any doubt that paintings were done over the course of the festival), and quickly started on a watercolor a block from my hotel as the clouds were gathering. Good thing, too -- the drops fell fast toward the end, and I had to hastily pack up and run for cover.

190516 Carmel Ride

The next morning I rose early and went to the beach to do a small oil before breakfast. The light was almost tropical.

190516 Driftwood - SOLD

Both of the above paintings sold.

Between showers that day and the next, I went to the church across the street from the Cypress Inn (co-owned by the recently departed Doris Day) and did a quick watercolor of the hotel.

190517 Cypress Inn - Carmel

Friday morning I went back to the beach and got in another small oil.

190517 All to Ourselves

Then there was nothing more to do but frame the paintings, put them on the wall, and talk to potential buyers.


In the middle of it, M. and I decided to take the tandem bike along the Carmel Scenic Drive -- wow, what a lovely loop to ride. Stopped for a quick sketch on the way.

190518 Scenic Drive - Carmel

All in all, it was great to be selected to participate in this event, and I was happy to sell two paintings -- but between the Uber to get down there and the hotel nights and the rain, it was a bit on the expensive side. Had the weather been better, I would have considered it more of a vacation with a painting festival on the side.


Calling It Done

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Started this one outdoors in January, somewhere along the California coast in Montana de Oro State Park, on the trip where we went to San Luis Obispo. Went through lots of iterations before I was happy with it. "Rocky Cove," 6x8, oil.

190511 Rocky Cove oil


Local Color

Sunday, May 12, 2019

When we moved here four years ago, I told our real estate agent I wanted to live in a place where I could see palm trees, succulents, cacti — where I could look out the window and immediately know I was in California and not Connecticut. He delivered.

Last week was all about rediscovering the neighborhood in my sketchbook. Also, I wanted an excuse to try out some of the materials I got at the Plein Air Convention: a Princeton Aqua Elite travel brush and a Richeson Grey Matters travel brush, both synthetic size 8s. They both hold a good bit of water and come to a nice point, especially the Aqua Elite.

A few steps into the park behind our house, and I see views like these:

190505 Santa Teresa County Park 1

190505 Santa Teresa County Park 2

Here's one of the views from the swing in our backyard. I love how the side of the house glows in the evening light.

190505 View from backyard swing

And this, from our front yard.

190508 Heaton Moor

I've been going for quantity and discipline, as a I prep for Carmel Art Festival in just a few days!

plein air

Recap: 8th Annual Plein Air Convention (Part 2)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Friday, April 26.
On Friday, I started the day with Marketing Boot Camp again, followed by Keiko Tanabe's demo. She painted a scene of San Francisco's Japantown, and it was great to watch her loose, spontaneous watercolor technique.

The highlight of the morning was a panel on plein air painting and the movie industry. I sat in just to rest for a bit but was absolutely blown away by the artists (Mike Hernandez of Dreamworks; Sharon Calahan and Bill Cone of Pixar). Their plein air work (especially in gouache) was amazing, and it was fascinating to learn how their fine art informs the scenery and lighting in animated movies. Many of their paintings rely on high-contrast juxtapositions -- brilliant lights next to the darks -- to create dramatic atmosphere.

In the afternoon, I sketched while watching Marc Dalessio's lesson on glazing techniques.

190426 Marc Dalessio at PACE19

Friday's paint-out was at Golden Gate Park. It's one of those places that I kept meaning to return to but, well, hadn't. I walked down to Market Street and hopped on the 5R bus to go to the Conservatory of Flowers. It was chilly and overcast, but I was able to do a quick sketch of the palm trees and the building in between helping other convention attendees with their own paintings.

190426 Golden Gate Park San Francisco

Saturday, April 27.
Last day of bootcamp! Eric asked us to write down our commitments, as usual. What could we be doing to further our business, to sell more art?

A little while later, we found out that next year's Plein Air Convention would be in Colorado! Excited to share my love of Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding area with next year's attendees.

After the closing ceremony, we all went out to Land's End to paint. Again, it was foggy and overcast, but I still managed to do a watercolor of Baker Beach while chatting with some new friends from AZ. This is probably my favorite of all the paintings I did during the convention.

190427 Baker Beach from Lands End SF

The last order of the day was a hippie-themed party. A San Francisco cliche, yes, but it was still fun to dance to all the oldies!

Sunday, April 28.
We had the whole day to paint at Viansa Sonoma, a winery with absolutely stunning views. I wasn't happy with the oil painting I started, but I did manage a few sketches.

190428 Viansa Sonoma 2

190428 Viansa Sonoma 1

Till next year! Can't wait to see everyone in the Rockies!

plein air

Recap: 8th Annual Plein Air Convention (Part 1)

Monday, May 06, 2019

Just got back from the 8th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo, at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco. Third time attending (alum of Monterey and Tucson), first time as faculty. What an amazing experience start to finish!


Wednesday, April 24.
After working a full day at the office, I rushed across town to check into the hotel, pick up my swag bag, and attend the Opening Ceremonies. As always, it was quite a show, and it was so cool to be invited on stage with the other faculty members.

Thursday, April 25.
Started the day at 6:30 AM, at Marketing Boot Camp with Eric Rhoads. This year he focused on social media. There wasn't much I hadn't heard before, but I did come away with more motivation to be intentional and consistent in my posting. I was amazed at how many people in the audience admitted to being unfamiliar with hashtags.

In the morning, I attended some demos, including Brenda Swenson's excellent session on watercolor sketching. I also caught a little bit of Brian Blood's session, where he explained how to capture perspective on the steep San Francisco streets. I then had lunch at Kin Khao at the Parc 55 Hotel, across the street from the Hilton. It's become a favorite in the area, and I even got in a sketch as I waited for my food.

190425 Kin Khao San Francisco

After lunch I watched Randy Sexton block in a painting of a car. I've seen him do this before, when I took his workshop, and he truly has an uncanny ability to visualize exactly where the strokes of color should be to depict the shape of a vehicle without drawing it.

The late afternoon brought a new experience: the organizers had set up an indoor video of Crissy Field (the beach in San Francisco with views of Golden Gate Bridge) for people who didn't want to leave the hotel to go the actual location. I was asked to be one of the "field" faculty in the room. It suited me because I was leading the session right afterward. (Apparently we lucked out, as it was freezing and windy outside on the water.)

The screen with the video wasn't very large, so instead of fighting for space with all the other easels I just pulled up my own photograph of Golden Gate Bridge from my visit there a few weeks ago and painted from that instead.

190425 Golden Gate Bridge SF

Yeah, OK, I'll say it. I hate drawing bridges, with their just-so curves and tendency to look wildly inaccurate with just an errant flick of the brush. Plus, it was super intimidating to sit there trying to draw with some of the world's most accomplished artists around me. To wit: living legend and master pastelist Albert Handell actually looked over my shoulder and said something nice. Squee!

Finally it was 8 pm - time for my focus session, "Urban Sketching for Plein Air Painters." I thought I wouldn't have enough slides prepared, but I ended up speaking for nearly the full hour. I was floored at how many people stopped me afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation and liked sketching. It was also exciting to hear from people who had taken my class on Craftsy (Bluprint).

Whew! It was a long day, but I was glad my session was over so I could focus on painting and helping others for the rest of the convention.

To be continued...
Read Part 2


Tourist in My Own Town

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

It's no secret to those who know me: I don't love San Francisco. I think it's interesting, topographically speaking, but my affection generally ends there. We live barely an hour south, and I go up there for work or a sketching event fairly frequently, but I usually don't crave a ramble there otherwise. So when I was preparing for my focus session on urban sketching at the Plein Air Convention, I had a hard time finding sketches I had done of the city.

For a Bay Area "local," that was a bit ... embarrassing.

Time to change that, right? As a prelude to the convention, I took Heather Martin's gouache workshop at Yerba Buena Gardens. (Her work is amazing, by the way.) I had passed the place en route to the Moscone Center a dozen times, but I had never actually wandered in. So it was lovely to park myself on a bench and play with color, soaking in the SF sunshine.

190413 Yerba Buena Gardens San Francisco

I told myself I'd do my best to play (savvy) tourist during the convention: to explore and sketch and learn to love (well, at least *like*) the City by the Bay.