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.


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!