plein air

Off the Easel: Hanalei Bay

Sunday, June 24, 2018

You may recall that I did a plein air oil painting at Waioli Beach Park on the last day of our trip to Kauai, Hawaii. I was painting it the glare of sunlight (didn't pack my umbrella kit, to save space), so it was hard to see what I was doing. Figured it would need to be reassessed once I got home.

Curious about the setup? I use a Strada Micro 7-inch-square pochade box and an Easyl tripod. Since I was painting a panel that was vertically smaller than 7 inches high, I taped it to the back of an 8x10 panel so that it would fit. Doing this also enables me to carry the wet panel in my Raymar 8x10 wet panel carrier box.

Turns out the painting didn't need too much touching up after all.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, oil on gessoed hardboard panel, 5x7. View it on my portfolio site.


Catching Up - Slowly

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Don't know about you, but the heat out here this week is making me sluggish. I'm up to 17 in the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge, so have a few more to go to catch up to where I'm supposed to be.

I pass this lovely San Jose building (the City National Civic theatre) on my way to work, so I snapped a photo and tried painting it in a more opaque, gouache-y style:

180620 City National Civic San Jose

To me it feels more "illustration" than "sketch" - what do you think?

My inspiration for these next two was Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle, streaming via Amazon Prime. Much of the action is set in Venice, so I pulled out my Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors and a large pad of Canson paper to play with:

180621 Imaginary head inspired by Venice scenes

No real subjects -- just my imagination.

180621 Abstract inspired by Venice scenes

I'm crushing on the metallic colors in that set -- aren't those shimmery gold accents fun? Might have to use that in some other paintings going forward.

And here's a quick sketch from a photo I took in Big Sur a while ago:

180623 Big Sur from photo


Back to the Challenge

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A few quick studies for the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge. Twilight at Santa Teresa County Park, trying to capture a blanket of fog that filtered the setting sun over the hills. Didn't quite get it, but had fun trying.

180616 Santa Teresa County Park twilight

180616 Santa Teresa County Park twilight 2

just lines

A Day at the Alameda County Fair

Sunday, June 17, 2018

And also, a (short) break from the watercolor challenge! After our lovely dinner in downtown Pleasanton a little while ago when returning from Yosemite, we thought it would be fun to go up there for the Alameda County Fair. We figured it would be a lot like the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York, and we weren't wrong.

Livestock, racing pigs, quaint competition classes of crochet, jams, and more? Check, check, and check! But we're in the West with a capital W out here, and not surprisingly there were reminders of that everywhere. Lots of Texas-size meat wrapped in other meat, on and off a stick, et cetera.

I stuck to my cheap Muji notebook and pen for quick captures of the activities. First there was team cattle roping (I get that these events evolved from ranching tasks, but honestly it doesn't really look so fun for the cattle or the ropers). The object, it appeared, was for a pair of competitors to get the steer on the ground with its front and hind hooves roped in a set amount of time.

180616 Alameda County Fair 1

180616 Alameda County Fair 2

180616 Alameda County Fair 3

After the cattle left the field, the motorcycles roared in. The stunts performed by the motocross riders (at least one of whom was an X Games medalist) were unreal.

180616 Alameda County Fair 4

The whole time I was at the fair, that song featuring Templeton in Charlotte's Web kept running through my head:

"A fair is a veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord-orgasbord/After the crowds have ceased.
Each night, when the lights go out, it can be found, on the ground, all around,/Oh! What a rat-ly feast!"


Families Belong Together Rally

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It was incredibly moving to join the San Jose rally (one of many nationwide) this past Thursday to protest the forced separation of migrant families at the U.S. border.

180614 Families Belong Together rally

I realized as I was taking the train down to SJ City Hall from work that I had forgotten to pack my sketch kit that morning. So I stopped at the Muji store and picked up a few inexpensive supplies on my way there: a black rollerball pen, a small blank notebook, a tiny box of markers.

180614 Families Belong Together rally 2

Publicly showing our support for these families is necessary but not sufficient. Here are resources, including a list of organizations that are helping in various ways. Show up, donate, fundraise, volunteer, demand action from elected officials, run for office, and please, please VOTE.


Recap: From Line to Design

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Last weekend, I led the Urban Sketchers Bay Area 10x10 series workshop "From Line to Design" in downtown Redwood City. It was a lovely and sunny day, and we had a fantastic group.


We started out with an emphasis on line and how it can be used for composition, keeping in mind some basics like the rule of thirds, focal points, and balance:


We then moved on to design, considering ways to use color to enhance the initial drawing. We talked about using complementary colors and balancing areas of color across the sketch.

Color notes

The results were truly a reflection of each artist's individual expression. Thanks to everyone who joined me for the session!


Have you been bitten by the sketching bug? Join me at my July workshop, "Stop, Drop & Sketch!" hosted by ARCH Art & Drafting Supply in San Francisco. All materials are included in the fee. We'll be sketching our way around Mission Bay and learning how to use a minimal kit for maximum enjoyment. Space is limited, so sign up through Eventbrite today.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Another side effect of the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge: getting to know the South Bay better. I'm constantly driven to find new views within the surrounding area. Painted this one from memory after going down to the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. It's a view looking back toward the ranches next to the road, at twilight.

Morgan Hill landscape imagined

The paper I used is a new one: Hahnemuhle 95 lb rough. I don't mind the texture, but 95 lbs is a little too lightweight for my taste. I'm used to painting on 140 lb or heavier paper.

problem solving

Fast Save with Ink

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sometimes, a direct watercolor sketch just doesn't turn out. Last weekend, my first attempt at capturing the Garden of Eden swimming hole in Felton was a hot mess. The colors just ran together on the smooth Zeta paper in my sketchbook. So when I was waiting for an event to start yesterday, I took out a black marker and idly started drawing into it.

180609 Garden of Eden Felton 2

Zing! Apparently this watercolor just needed some line to bring it to life. (Sorry about the glare on the photo, by the way; I've been using my phone to shoot the challenge sketches instead of scanning them, to save time.)


Chasing Paper

Sunday, June 10, 2018

This #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge is great for using supplies sitting around my studio! I dug up the paper samples I got at last year's Urban Sketchers Symposium and took them for a spin.

First up, the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, on a Hahnemuhle hot press sample sheet. Hmm - tough to handle juicy direct watercolor on this surface, and it looks pilly.

180609 Fox theatre Redwood City from photo

Next: A Winsor & Newton cold press sample. I may like this in a block or stretched and taped, but as is it feels rather lightweight.

180609 Coyote Lake from photo

Here I went back to the Fluid 100 cold press paper I've been using a lot in this challenge:

180608 biking in hills from photo


Mark-making Experiments

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Day 6 of #30x30DirectWatercolor2018: Today I was struggling to find a subject, so I focused on brushwork instead. I chose to do variations based on a photo I took in the park behind my house. For the first painting I used only a flat brush. I am more used to using flats in urbanscapes so I found it hard to keep the shapes lively and organic and the colors clear without any rounds.

180606 landscape interpretation 2

For the second painting I used only rounds. This interpretation looks oddly southwestern, no?

180606 landscape interpretation

Do you like one better than the other?


Adventures in Portraiture

Thursday, June 07, 2018

180605 Michael portrait watercolor

Day 5 of #30x30DirectWatercolor 2018: In which I attempt to paint M. and end up painting his scowling, angry doppelganger instead. :-D


I Love a Good Challenge

Monday, June 04, 2018

Stand aside, #Inktober. Sit down, #OneWeek100People. Our sketching friends Marc, Suhita, Liz, and Uma along with a few others have come up with yet another great excuse to use up all those extra art supplies: #30x30DirectWatercolor2018.

Thirty days to complete thirty watercolor paintings, (preferably with no ink or pencil lines). Here I go!

Started off fairly simple: a red-crested cardinal from a photo I took in Kauai.

180601 Red crested cardinal

For my second one I leaned in the opposite direction: a complex scene painted on location at Garden of Eden, a swimming hole on the San Lorenzo River in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It's a mile-ish hike to get down there, and it was very sunny. This one was frustrating -- it was hard to see the contrasts in the bright light.

180603 Garden of Eden swimming hole, Felton, CA

Went back to a photo for the third one - this is a view from the park behind our house, taken by M. on a mountain bike ride.

180603 View from Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, CA

And here's my attempt at a direct-to-watercolor street scene, painted from a photo I took in Bakersfield late last year:

180604 Bakersfield Street twilight


island time

Kauai: Paradise Found

Sunday, June 03, 2018

I was afraid at first that Hawaii would not impress. Living in California, I've gotten used to landscapes that wow people: lush green hills swept with fog blankets, spindly fan palms reaching skyward, world-famous beaches within an hour's drive.

I needn't have worried. While there are some similiarities, Kauai, especially the north shore, is more jungle than turf; the palms are heavy with coconuts and are covered with Jack-and-the-Beanstalk vines. The mountains are emerald velvet, and there are vast watery taro fields, their leaves glinting in the elusive sun. Multihued roosters own the island, crowing at all hours.

180526 Rooster and road

We promised ourselves some relax-by-the-pool time on this trip, so we did just that on the day we arrived.

180525 Westin Princeville

On the second day, we had the decadent breakfast buffet at Makana Terrace, at the St. Regis. The view of Hanalei Bay was dreamy -- it was a rotating scene of fog, rain, and rainbows.

180526 From Makana Terrace

We then ventured further, to Anini Beach. It reminded me of beaches in the Virgin Islands -- rustic and sheltered by lots of greenery. There were several snorkelers.

180526 Snorkelers Anini Beach

At lunch (with a view of the ocean, because we could), I noticed some men putting up a driftwood arch, perhaps for a wedding. They seemed determined to make it sturdy and took their time building it so I got a sketch of them in while waiting for food.

180526 Men making arch

The next day we dodged raindrops all morning before taking a (rather rough) catamaran cruise to see the Na Pali coast.

180527 Na Pali 1

I'd wisely brought Yupo paper and a pencil since I'd heard the sea spray could be intense, and I was happy I'd done that. I used a plastic clipboard and a binder clip to keep everything in place as the wind and water whipped the pages. I added watercolor later -- that would have been way too difficult on the boat.

180527 Na Pali 2

180527 Na Pali 3

180527 Na Pali 4

The following morning we kayked the Wailua River. It was a two-person sit-on-top kayak, so I was able to sketch a little between downpours.

180528 From the kayak 1

180528 From the kayak 2

The last day, I set up my plein air easel and did a quick oil painting of Hanalei Bay, from Waioli Beach Park. I was working in bright sunlight (for once!), so it will need a few touch-ups in the studio.

Although there were some parts of the North Shore still closed after April's devastating flood, we were able to see quite a bit. It's sad that media coverage of the flooding (and of the volcanic eruption on the Big Island) has kept tourists away from this beautiful state. I've talked to several people in California who cancelled trips or decided against visiting. What a shame. Hawaii relies on our dollars, so it's a great time to visit. Go, spend time in this beautiful place, and spend money at the local businesses. Aloha!