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Best in Show!

August 9, 2021

Exciting news to report! My painting “The World has Appetites of its Own”, (Oil on canvas, 30×60″), has won the Antoinette Stevens Award for Best in Show at the Society of Canadian Artists 53d Open International Juried Exhibition. < Follow the link to view the entire show online.

The award comes with a weighty bronze medal, which has me feeling very Olympic. I’m very grateful of course to the Society and the judges. It’s a tremendous honor!

This was an online show, which means of course we miss the chance to see people and their work in person. But, on the other hand it is nice to be able to enter work of any size, and not to have to ship the work across the country.

As well – probably more people will see this post, than would have gone to a physical exhibition, so, there is that as well.

I would hope that we’ll keep doing online shows, even after the pandemic is resolved. There are ways of course we can make the online experience better, including something like this! Posting detail shots and work-in-progress along with the final artwork. One day we can offer an AR experience where we can see the piece on the walls of our home! I’m looking forward to online exhibitions getting better and better ever year.

Here’s a glimpse back in time, what it looked like after the first sketch. I kind of miss some of the unfinished, immediate nature of the sketch. Someday I will try something similar and see where I can land between the first impression, and a more advanced rendering.

Thanks! ~Marc

96,840 Paintings! #30×30 2021

June 29, 2021

Here’s some random stats about the group this year:

  • 4517 Total Members / 3228 Active Members < I think that’s a pretty great ratio of readers to contributors!.
  • 96,840 Paintings! < That’s what it would be, if every active member completed the marathon!
  • 77% Female, 22% male. < No idea why art clubs are like that, but it certainly matches what I see at workshops.
  • USA and India are the two top countries represented! with Sydney AUS scooping top top city spot, followed by San Francisco and Montreal – so that is the founder effect at work!

So we’ve come to an end of the thirty days of painting in June!

It’s been a terrific fourth year of the Direct Watercolor experiment, and I’m very much looking forward to next year.

For me, reaching five years of anything is a major accomplishment. I’m so bad at sticking to things! It’s you, the community, that is keeping this together! So you have my heart-felt thanks.

It’s been a great feeling watching this small community come together this year, and I think, offer up a much stronger array of work as the years go by.

As a group, all of us in our own studios, but working ‘side-by-side’ online – I can see that everyone is getting stronger together.

I personally entered this event a little bit ‘on the back foot’. I’d come off a year of very low motivation (pandemic blues). But the more time I spend looking at the posts everyone has been sharing, the more excited and energized I’ve become.

Everyone says art is a solitary activity – but I think, in fact, this is not true!

I also used to be a passionate believer in the ‘everyday artist’ concept – the idea an artist must work hard everyday or it’s all for nothing. It was an obsession of mine for years. But I’m beginning to think, as I get older, and get interested in more complex things, I think I’m changing. I feel, this marathon-model of taking a month out here, a few weeks there, and truly setting aside other things, putting intense focus on painting, at the expense of everything else for a set period of time – it’s much more sustainable, and possibly, more productive.

Set aside time to work, with intensity, and you can make more progress in a month than you might otherwise make in a year of casual ‘dipping into’ creativity.

And if you can’t – if one month is too much to put aside, do it for one week – or even do it for three days. Your family can live without you for three days! But then – find a way to do it many times a year. Whatever it takes to keep engaged with life and creativity, and not just fritter your days away doing a job, or taking care of a home.

So yes! You guys!! I am super energized and excited to do the #30×30 marathon again next year!

Five years will be kind of incredible.

I hope you all had such a great time that you’ll also be coming back!

Right now, I’m about to delve into a few months of writing. I’ve signed up to take some classes, and I’ve got a few writing buddies who’ve agreed to keep ourselves motivated :) (This team-stuff really works!) So I’ll be stepping back from the #30×30 Facebook group for now, (but feel free to post as much as you want in the off-season).

You can always reach out to me here on the blog, there on socials, or my email marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com.

So thanks again for doing this with us. Really! I am not just saying! Thanks – and see you soon!


#30×30 Day 29 : Rousseau, the Snake Charmer

June 28, 2021

I’m winding up this small set of artist portraits with Henri Rousseau.

I much prefer that he stayed home and painted fantasies of the jungles, instead of following Gauguin and going out to live them.

And here it is! This is my last painting for #30×30 2021. I’ve been wanting for a while, to make a jungle fantasy in the spirit of Rousseau. Today I thought – lets do it, using everything watercolor on YUPO has been offering. The drips, the floods, the self-erasing-color, and the ability to wipe out and paint back in.

This slippery surface may lack subtlety – but it offers a kind of flexibility that otherwise can’t exist with this media. It’s just the thing for anyone who has been struggling with spontaneity – or – feeling constrained by the intimidation factor of watercolor.

I’m excited to have ‘rediscovered’ YUPO, as it might allow me to be as experimental in water media, as our oil painting compatriots have been all these years, with all their fearless scraping-out and painting-over.

I want to thank everybody who followed along with this year’s #30×30, and especially the people posting in our Facebook group.

The teamwork and the shared accountability has given me the motivation to keep pushing forward, regardless of whatever else is going on in real life.

I have to be honest – I wasn’t sure if I was going to even do the marathon this year. If it weren’t for all of us painting together, I probably would have given up. So I really can’t thank you all enough!

I’ll give the last words this year to Rousseau.

“There are two ways of expressing things; one is to show them crudely, the other is to evoke them artistically.”

“I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.”

“Politeness requires this thing, decorum that. Ceremony has its forms, and fashion its laws, and these must always follow, never the promptings of our own nature.”

Visitor: “Why did you paint a couch in the middle of the jungle?”
Rousseau: “Because one has a right to paint one’s dreams.”

#30×30 Day 27 : Gauguin, the Colonizer

June 27, 2021

I came across this rather horrifying picture of Gauguin, and felt I had to leave a few more of his own words next to this painting.

“All the joys—animal and human—of a free life are mine. I have escaped everything that is artificial, conventional, customary. I am entering into the truth, into nature.”

“The self-esteem one acquires and a well-earned feeling of one’s strength are the only consolation in this world. Income, after all, most brutes have that.”

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge — and has to content oneself with dreaming.”

#30×30 Day 26 : Francis Bacon, on Art

June 26, 2021

“In my case all painting… is an accident. I foresee it and yet I hardly ever carry it out as I foresee it. It transforms itself by the actual paint. I don’t in fact know very often what the paint will do, and it does many things which are very much better than I could make it do.”

“Some paint comes across directly onto the nervous system and other paint tell you the story in a long diatribe through the brain.”

“All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.”

“How can I take an interest in my work when I don’t like it?”

“I want to make portraits and images. I don’t know how. Out of despair, I just use paint anyway. Suddenly the things you make coagulate and take on just the shape you intend. Totally accurate marks, which are outside representational marks.”

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

“I should have been, I don’t know, a con-man, a robber or a prostitute. But it was vanity that made me choose painting.”

~ Francis Bacon, Oct 1909 – April 1992

#30×30 Day 25 : Van Gogh and Gauguin, in Their Own Words

June 25, 2021

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it. And the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”

“Real painters do not paint things as they are, they paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”

“Great things do not happen by impulse, but as a succession of small things linked together.”

“I put my heart and my soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process.”

~ Vincent van Gogh, 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890

“In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.”

“There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.”

“The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.”

“Many people say that I don’t know how to draw because I don’t draw particular forms. When will they understand that execution, drawing and color (in other words, style) must be in harmony with the poem?”

~ Paul Gauguin, 7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903

#30×30 Day 24 : Be Like Water

June 24, 2021

Hey all! Back for another day with the material YUPO.

It really is amazing how much flow you get from this synthetic surface. Once you grasp that in fact the water will continue to flow down to the lowest wet edge it can find – you can begin to harness this effect.

These silhouettes of Japanese traditional costume are some examples of thinking primarily about the outside shape, and letting things go crazy inside.

There’s a second aspect about YUPO, which is that you can wipe away any amount of paint, and get completely back to a white surface.

This sketch had a blotchy black background which I partially removed by wiping with a wet paper towel. It’s a bit like wiping our an oil glaze with turpentine.

I wanted to leave the streaks here, but if I’d kept going, it could be completely clean. I have other sketches that were in fact the third or fourth painting on the same page – just wiping completely down and re-using the sheet immediately.

If you look at the figure, in the center, on the chest, there’s a horizontal white mark. That’s another wiped-out shape. Just a small reminder to myself, you can draw-by-erasing.

As you get used to the combination of making wet-on-dry shapes and lifting out after it dries, or just redrawing with wet paint, you can begin to adjust silhouette edges and reposition shapes as you go.

There is never a point where you can’t wipe out – even the next day, or I expect, even months later you could just start painting on top and erase what went before. You end up with a final shape that looks as spontaneous as the first pass no matter how many times you repaint it.

You can probably tell, after all the serious thinking about watercolor this month, I’m having fun with the rest of my marathon!

Next time I will dispense with these ghostly faces, and try some little portraits.

See you then!


“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

#30×30 Day 23 : The Great YUPO Experiment

June 23, 2021

Two Kimono – Watercolor on Yupo, 20×26″

I’ve just recently made two pieces for an upcoming show, Beyond the Edge, which is a proposed exhibition by the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor with a focus on experimental works in water media. (Including a variety of mixed-media approaches that are not normally allowed in the annual competition). I haven’t heard yet if I’m accepted. We’ll see! < EDIT < Turns out, yes! I did get one of these pieces in. Thanks CSPWC!

These are both watercolors, on 20×26″ sheets of the polypropylene surface, YUPO.

At this stage of the marathon, my short attention span is taxed to the limit! It’s normal for me, when I’ve been working steadily, to need a new subject or a new material to jumpstart my creativity.

I had these sheets on the shelf for a while now, and thought – no time like the present! Lets dive in.

Yupo, if you have not tried it yet, is nothing like paper.

It’s a sheet of plastic, which is actually a little bit water repellant, a bit like the surface of a waxed car or a rain poncho.

Water will bead up into droplets, and slide off in rivers. If you work with a tilt, water will sluice off the page making these distinctive kind of floods.

The principles of Wet-on-Dry painting still work – you still can draw with silhouette shapes and use wet/dry edges to make lines, but even the smallest shape will always show a hard edge – an outline – as pigment flows to the edge of the puddle, and accumulates there. It’s like the soap ring in the bath tub, where the particles collect at the water line.

I don’t mind hard-edged shapes, but for now, it is a little odd that I can’t soften a shape by pulling edges. Perhaps I will get the hang of it? Or possibly it will be hard edges all the time on this surface!

Much like a smooth (hot press) paper or a cellulose paper with a lot of sizing, on YUPO the color will flow with gravity. It is so frictionless, the amount of movement can take you by surprise. Everything is turned up to eleven. Everything flows faster, and further. The only limit is the edge of the sheet.

At times there will be odd occurrences – such as this bubble – which might be caused by skin oils on the surface? But – of course I don’t mind these things. It’s part of the nature of the material.

One thing you will not get – as far as I can tell right now – is blooms. I think that a bloom or a backwash will not happen here, with no paper fibers to wick up the paint like little straws. Again – more experimentation is required to say for sure.

Paper Lanterns – Watercolor on Yupo, 20×26″

I chose this theme of brightly colored traditionally Japanese clothing, as it seems to fit what I can do with the material right now.

These costumes are covered in bright patterns, which are often so complex as to appear random at a distance. As well, the white face makeup of traditional Japanese performers makes for a useful stylization for a first attempt. I can simply avoid trying to paint a small face – until I get more of a handle on things.

So – these are a few of my experiments with painting as freely, or directly as possible with YUPO!

Over the next few days I’ll be seeing how much further I can take this artificial surface.


#30×30 Day 22 : Gone Sketchin’

June 22, 2021

Took the day off from all the thought provoking art-making to go sketching with Shari Blaukof!

We had about the best weather you could ask for. It was such an amazing day, everybody going by was in an excellent mood. All kinds of good vibes from people happy to see artists out on the waterfront.

Kind of makes you want to get back into street sketching! I’d forgotten how much people like to stop and chat with sketchers.

Another advantage of sketching with a friend – I had forgotten to add the masts reflecting in the water, and – probably wouldn’t even have known how to do it – but I saw Shari put them into her painting with these confident squiggles – and so – bingo! Water reflections! That was 30 seconds work that made the sketch 100% better.

She also loaned me a Gelly Roll (white fine-liner pen) so I could add a little rigging and a few white masts. Initially I refused out of stubbornness – but they’re actually kind of handy.

Shari pointed out these interesting boats. They’re Martin-16’s , which are designed to give people with mobility issues the freedom to sail. Pretty great idea! There are some that have been outfitted with mouth control (sip and puff), making them one of the few (only?) opportunities for quadriplegics to be out on the water on their own – though, there is a second seat for a passenger if they want to take a friend.

I’m just out here having a great day, not training hard-core, so I used a single line sketch underneath this painting of the boats in the yard. If you zoom in, the drawing is visible underneath.

This might seem like a mixed message from me. Like, I’m offering up this technique of ‘Direct Watercolor’ then not even using it religiously. Well – here’s the thing – the goal is making your work easier. Getting free of *unnecessary* planning. I’ve used Direct techniques to teach myself how little drawing I actually need.

Once you know you can do it with nothing but the brush – it’s tremendously freeing. I used to draw everything. Every window, every fencepost. I used to draw lines around clouds or reflections in the water! I was a line-addict! My sketches were stiff and overworked. I used to draw individual leaves on trees for heaven’s sake! Don’t do that please. Life is too short :) The trees here are a good example of using direct painting and drawing at the same time.

So – Direct Watercolor – it’s not an eleventh commandment! Go ahead and use a line if you feel it helps set up proportions.

Drawing boats is hard!

#30×30 Day 20 : Glide Your Fingers Through Granite, He Said

June 20, 2021

And here on Day 20, we are now up to date with my artistic production!

This is the watercolor derivation of my very-most-recent oil painting, Glide your Fingers Though Granite, He Said which, incidentally, is a derivation of the work of @TwinTheWorld, which is two swiss photographers who post some epic views to their Instagram.

In the watercolor version, I took the chance to double down on my title. The physical process of painting was almost like finger painting. Even the marks in the composition took up the movement of the title.

Much like yesterday – I feel like I’m at the peak of my #30×30 marathon. The point where you’re tuned up, and maybe just a little more tired than you’d like – and that’s breaking down your inhibitions. The point at which my reflexes and sensitivity are at an unconscious, almost telepathic level. You know instinctively what the moisture on the paper will do. You can pick up the right amount of pigment by instinct, almost by weight and feel, certainty not by measuring. That’s impossible.

It’s a strange feeling of power. Just imagining an image, and your hand makes it appear before you.

I think there’s no other way to feel this with watercolor – only painting every day, for many days in a row, for months, going into years – it’s the only way to make it enjoyable simply to paint. Much like a musician, who realizes they are finally enjoying listening to themselves play.