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October 3, 2018

Aug 19, 2019: I need to go on a blogging hiatus again. Various projects around the studio are demanding my full attention.

You can follow what I’m doing with my oil painting over on my studio page

And for now, here are some of the more useful urban sketching posts on the blog:

Gear_Easel (2)

Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your drawing and painting!


New Mexico I’ve Never Been

November 11, 2019

“New Mexico, I’ve Never Been” 16×16″ Oil on Panel

Actually I have been to Grants New Mexico. But I’ve never been to this particular place. I’m not even sure where it is. This is painted from one of Laurel’s photos. She was out driving around while I was in class. I ran into this view on the hard drives and selected it for a small painting.

So why bring it up? I don’t know – it’s kind of a landmark for me. This is one more step past the line where I’m not a plein air painter anymore.

I used to be so religious about the idea that I had to paint from life. For very good reasons. It really is the best way to learn about painting.

I used to think the actual experience of color was the most important thing. But frankly cameras have surpassed the human eye in twenty years I’ve been an artist.

Today I would say it’s the inherent time limits that painting plein air imposes. That’s probably the best teacher. The motivation instilled by all the obstacles you have to overcome – finding the place, transporting yourself and your gear, and then trying to work in moderate comfort (or not). All these things effectively put you on a ticking clock.

Learning to paint *decisively*. Learning to mix color and put it in the right spot the first time. Those are key.

But, as artists, we must progress. Like the shark, you suffocate if you stop moving. The process of painting in the studio in oils is so dramatically different than working on location in watercolor – by switching modes so drastically I’ve been able to push my picture making so much further.

But the other thing about this piece. It may mark the point where I’ve painted everything I have ‘in the archives’. That is, all the photos that I’ve filed away as ‘you should paint this some day’.

Now, of course there are thousands more. Laurel has been a passionate photographer for this whole time. So I should never say never.

But for this set of work – I’m starting to feel – it might be done in five or ten more paintings.

I still want to do some really big ones :)

What does that mean for the next body of work? – I’m not sure! I’m taking some time off this November to focus on writing. (Thanks to Nanowrimo).

Then I’m not likely to do anything serious in Dec.

So it looks like 2020 will be an a year for a fresh start!

I’d be pleased if you clicked over to my Instagram where I’ve been presenting these impasto oil paintings, and had a look at the entire series.

Let me know what you think!

~Thanks, Marc


Book Followup: One Month of the Apocalypse Variations

August 3, 2019

My dear readers. I’d like to undertake a little post-project navel-gazing if you don’t mind.

It’s been a little over a month since releasing my latest book, The Apocalypse Variations.

Some of you might be curious about how it went? Heres some info:

  • Release Date: June 22, 2019.
  • Price: $19.99 USD. All other markets (e.g. Canada, etc) automatically price-matched by Amazon.
  • Sales in the first month were approximately 65 copies for a return of approximately $US 375. This is a fuzzy estimate as there are a lot of currencies involved.
  • Thanks guys! You know who you are :)

If sales of this book follow the normal pattern (the long tail) which I’ve seen with my other books, I can predict a steady drip of 1 or 2 sales per week, in perpetuity, which would mean somewhere around $500 a year, every year. This is probably based on organic search and Amazon recommendations, but there will be small spikes due to things like next year’s #30x30DirectWatercolor, or the release of a new book.

So, to make a modest living (say, $40k?) off of books like these, you’d need 80 titles in print. That’s only 6.5 years of work if I could keep making a book a month.

Not realistic, no. But theoretically possible! And I expect things would pick up steam if you kept at it.

So, thanks again, all of you who’ve ordered a copy, and posted a review. You guys are the best!

Talk to you soon,


Society of Canadian Artists 51st International Juried Exhibition

July 19, 2019

“No Matter, Fail Again, Fail Better”, 30×30″ Oil on Panel

The Society of Canadian Artists 51st International Juried Exhibition is opening 7-9pm, this Thursday, August 1st at the Papermill Gallery, Todmorden Mill Heritage Site, Toronto. The show will be up until August 26th.

I’m pleased to say, I have two pieces accepted in the show. This Irish landscape, titled after a Samuel Beckett quote that I might get tattoed on my chest, as well as one of my typewriters from the other day.

It’s exciting news for me, to be juried into the show AND elected as a member of the society – especially after only a few years of painting in oil. (They accept artists in all media, but I didn’t show them any watercolors :)

We’ll be at the opening thursday night, if anyone is attending please come say hello!


Writers Block

July 14, 2019
_MG_0684_36x36 Typewriter_Ex Libris

36 x 36″ Oil on panel, “Ex Libris”

I have ambitions to be a writer.

I’m already an author, and for goodness sake, this blog has kept me writing steadily. But so far, my successful books are non-fiction – and that’s not really what I imagine when I think about writing.

You know – novels! I’d like to be writing fiction someday. I think I have the imagination for it. The question is if I have the discipline.

Last year, I painted a set of typewriters in watercolor, and, over the 2018 winter, I made these larger ones in oil.

My thinking was – “I need something to hang over my writing desk. This will be the inspiration to finish these books!”

I have quite a library of false starts. I imagine some of you do as well. How many of you have a half-finished book in your cloud storage?

_MG_0684_36x36 Typewriter_First Draft

36×36″ Oil on Panel, “Do not Bend, do not Edit your Soul – Franz Kafka”

Last year, I painted a set of typewriters in watercolor, and, over the 2018 winter, I made these larger ones in oil.

My thinking was – “I need something to hang over my writing desk. This will be the inspiration to finish these books!”

Finishing this second painting was a battle. Maybe you can tell?

But – that makes it perfect for writing inspiration. It’s a visualization of the writing process.

Messy. Rough-hewn. Terribly unfinished in parts. Yet, there are passages that sing. Little fragments of the first draft survive untouched all the way to the final work.

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_magic realism

10×10″ Oil  on panel, “Magic Realism”

So, for now, I’m still focused on visual arts. But I’ll keep working on my writing in the background. And in the meantime, I’ll keep working on these typewriters. I’m curious if I’ll have a show of these paintings before I have a finished novel? Hah! We’ll see!

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_great american novel

10×10″ Oil on panel, “The Great American Novel”

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_the workhorse

10×10″ Oil on panel, “The Wordsmith”

Thanks to Everyone Ordering the Book! Please review on Amazon? Thanks so much :)

July 2, 2019

Tremendous thanks to all those who’ve ordered the new book!

I hope you don’t mind me asking > Can you write me a review on Amazon?

Print and E-Book. < affiliate links, thx ]

I hate to bother you on top of your generosity – but those early reviews make a huge difference for independent authors. The number of reviews, both good or bad, affects how often it shows up in Search, and how likely it is to appear in Amazon’s “Readers Also Bought” lists.

Thanks so much!

In a month or so I’ll report on how things are going. I expect some of you will be interested to hear how this experiment in self-publishing my artwork turns out.

Print and E-Book. < affiliate links, thx ]


Available now on Amazon in Print and E-Book. < affiliate links, thx ]

Excited to announce my new book: “The Apocalypse Variations: Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days”

June 26, 2019

I am excited to announce my latest book – available now on Amazon
in Print and E-Book. < affiliate links, thx ]

The Apocalypse Variations: Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days collects all of my work from #30x30DirectWatercolor2019.

The book was my personal goal for this year’s marathon. Not just finishing the paintings on time. But doing something worthwhile with them.

I’m proud of each of my books in their own way, but this one is special for me. I feel I’ve made something more mature. This slim volume is my most personal book to date.

This whole month of talking about the painting marathon, I’ve been intentionally quiet about the real thinking behind the paintings.

The story that so many of you have been seeing in the art.

I’ve always been in love with the technical aspects of painting. I can talk shop for hours. All that ‘what brush do you like’, ‘what are your favorite colors’.

The new book has none of that. But it’s full of everything else. All the reasons why the paintings came out of me as they did.

I have loved blogging and sharing stories about travel and art on this blog, and in my other books. But, as a plein air painter and an urban sketcher – the work has never been about anything personal. Not really.

Painting on location is almost a mechanical process. You are a kind of art-camera. You record what you see like a documentary filmmaker. Yes, of course, it’s art. Every person’s view of a place is unique. But still – it’s always been easy to stay on the surface. To avoid being too serious. Just go to some nice places and enjoy your visit. Make some pretty paintings.

This project has been an entirely different experience for me.

In recent years with the slow-motion decline of my parent’s health and the final sputtering end of my career as a commercial artist, and the realization that my dreams of full-time travel-and-art are no longer compatible with reality (I’m getting too old, and frankly, too broke), I’ve had to face some serious questions about why I do art.

What is the motivation to live this lifestyle? Is it even worth it? What is the value of my lifelong dedication to the craft of painting? (In particular, my brand of painting quickly, directly, expressively. Work that I love, but that might fall below the level of ‘real art’ in some people’s eyes.)

This book seems like my first real step towards the future.

(Sorry – you’ll have to indulge me in some self-congratulation. Which, I think is a crucial skill for a fine artist. You need to do this for yourself, or how else do you keep going? :)

So yes! There it is!

I hope you’ll be interested in this new type of book from me.

I hope you’ll find something worthwhile in my analysis of my own paintings, my own motivations – and in seeing a tangible example of what I think the whole process of living creatively might look like for an artist today.

And – if you do pick up a copy – please do leave me a review on Amazon.

I want to know what you think, and, leaving honest reviews is an immense help to the author. It’s the lifeblood of bookselling these days.

My thanks, in advance,

The Apocalypse Variations: Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days
now on Amazon in Print and E-Book

Echo Chamber: Do you want to read an interview with me?

June 2, 2019

If you are not tired of hearing me talk – Uma Kelkar has posted a short interview with me, myself – part of our mutual getting-to-know-each-other for #30x30DirectWatercolor2019.

Have a read on Uma’s blog RIGHT HERE>

It’s short :) Mostly about my in-progress attempt to be a painter, and about the relevance of watercolor in today’s culture.