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Welcome to the Archives

October 3, 2018

Welcome to the archived version of CitizenSketcher. This blog is no longer active – but, it remains chock full of advice on how to draw and paint.

You can start reading anywhere and just follow the links that interest you :) OR – you could go back to the first post and experience it all in chronological order.

Here are some of the more useful category searches and sub-pages:

My Books and Classes < Everything I know in one place, just to save you time.

Step by Step Demos < Posts with work-in-progress narration.

Sketching Tips and Tricks  < Helpful tips and suggestions for self-training.

Free Videos < Only a few things here, but I think there’s some good stuff :)

OneWeek100People < This is the best exercise for learning life drawing. If you only do one kind of self-teaching, this is it. Watch me do my own homework.

Download Workshop Handouts < Free PDF files from my past UrbanSketchers workshops

Painting in Watercolor < This is the good stuff :)

Gear_Easel (2)

Watercolor Painting Gear < What I use when painting in watercolor.

Drawing/Sketching Gear < There’s no end to sketching gear. This is my ‘basic kit’ to help you get started.

Reviews of Art Materials < Field testing various Urban Sketchers oriented gear.

That should get you started! Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your drawing and painting!



I’m moving to Instagram!

September 29, 2018

Hey everyone! Here’s my new home on Instagram:

So- what’s going on? Well – I’ve been writing about sketching on location for ten years now. In that time you’ve seen me go from an itinerant sketch-book artist to a published author and online art-instructor, and eventually, a painter inducted into our national watercolor society.

Today, in the fall of 2018, it’s time to start a new chapter.

Over on, I’ll be sharing my new work – alla prima painting in oils.

Life is change. Old dogs learn new tricks. As artists, we’re continually expanding our abilities and interests. I can only follow where inspiration leads.

I’ll be leaving CitizenSketcher online for now, as the blog is still a good resource for students and sketchers. But I won’t be adding to the archive or actively answering questions. Honestly, everything I have to say about art is here in these pages. Anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps can head back to 2007 and watch it all happen before their eyes :)

If you want to reach me going forward, give me a follow at on your phone, or anywhere you read the web.

Thanks so much for being loyal readers for all these years. (You guys know who you are!) and I hope you’ll come along and follow my new venture.

See you in the painting studio :)

~ Marc

Announcing a Limited Edition Print : We Own The Night

July 11, 2018

I’m excited to announce my first limited edition print

“We Own The Night”

From an original watercolor by Marc Taro Holmes

11×14″, printed with Epson 200-year-rated archival inks and paper

Only 12 copies made

$150.00 CDN + shipping

Inquires by email at: marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com

[detail, enlarged]

This is a very limited set of only twelve impressions. I want this artwork to be a unique experience for collectors. To own one of a select few reproductions, of a work I consider to be the best I’ve made to date.

I printed these myself in our home studio. The color rendition is my ideal representation of the original painting. This is a print I am proud to release into the world.

Every time I look at this scene, I am once again walking through that perfect night in early spring, when winter in Montreal is just losing its grip and the city is coming alive.

In a way, this image encapsulates my artistic career as an urban sketcher. This is what it feels like to be on the street, senses open, experiencing the world through art.

~ ~ ~

To purchase a print, email me at: marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com.

We will reply to inquiries in the order they arrive. Prints are $150.00 (Canadian), plus postage to your location. You may transfer funds via paypal, which supports e-cheque or credit card payments and international currency conversion. Artwork ships flat, in waterproof mailers, un-framed, and un-matted.

Thanks for your support!

~Marc Taro Holmes

Last video (for now): working a little more transparently

July 7, 2018

Here’s a portrait sketch (from a tiny black and white google-image). This is some more edge-pulling, but, with thinner, more transparent layers than I might use on location. Useful for more rendered things, that you want to look more three dimensional.

This is the last of these edit and audio test projects I’d made. So there won’t be any more of these right away. But I think they do stand as a good example of how I’ve been working in the last few years.



Watercolor in 2 (ish) Layers: Growing a Silhouette Shape + Sculpting Shadows

July 6, 2018

Here’s a bit longer demo (10ish minutes), showing how to grow a silhouette shape with plenty of color variation – which, you intend to cover later with a shadow shape.

This is another sculptural subject, but of course, this is the same way I’d paint anything, from a landscape, to an architectural subject.

Enjoy! And I hope you’ll find this combination of base layer + shadow can help you get more solid looking objects in your own work.

Thanks, ~m


Unfortunate news about Portugal – and a video by way of apology :)

July 5, 2018

I have unfortunate news, that I will not be traveling to the 2018 Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto.

I very much regret letting down the students registered for my courses, and I will very much miss sketching Portugal with friends new and old.

As regular readers will know, my stepfather has progressive dementia, and we are taking care of him at home. Though we now have part-time nursing, his condition has deteriorated to the point where I cannot be away overnight. There are falls, incidents of confusion and aggression, and many and varied late night panics that require a team of people to handle. It has become a health and safety issue that I can’t ignore.

Thanks in advance for your understanding, and again, I do apologize to anyone looking forward to my demos. Still – I know you will have a fantastic time drawing in Porto. There are so many tremendous artists and wonderful subjects – you will have the drawing event of your lives!

So, as a partial replacement for not being there to do a live demo, here’s a painting video :)

This is a detailed look at Edge Pulling. A fundamental technique for placing color on the page, and blending the edges with clean water.

This video was part of a larger project, I’ve had a few false starts learning to do voice recording at home, so I apologize if the audio is a bit murky. But! I’ve decided I might as well start sharing what I have – not sit on it forever, waiting to make it perfect. <This is a mantra of mine no?]

So enjoy, and – I’ll have a few more of these in the upcoming days!



#30x30DirectWatercolor2018 Guest Artist Wrapup

July 2, 2018

All too soon it is over! All great things must come to an end. We’re back to our everyday bland lives, with the post-partum, end-of-challenge depression.

Or are we?!?

Of course not!

I think everyone is maybe glad to be done the marathon? – but – filled with a new excitement for watercolor, and – surprised at our own ability to push forward.

I’ve been hearing variations on this theme from all over the world.

Here are a few quotes from our 3000 fellow 30×30’ers:

Hi Marc. I finished my 30th on Saturday. I think it has been a hugely valuable experience – some of the paintings I made towards the end – and since – are things I know I couldn’t have done when I started – it’s had the effect of loosening me up, and making me start to realise some of the possibilities that watercolour offers. So thanks! ~David Clark

That’s about the best feedback we could hope for David!

I’ve begun approaching almost all my other sketches with a brush instead of a pencil or pen! In the beginning, I’d reach for the pen, thinking “It’s okay It’s not for the challenge.” Then I’d say, “Why not sketch directly anyway?” In the last few days, it was only after I’d completed a sketch that I realized that I’d done it with watercolour only – without thinking. What did you do to me Marc? Thank you. ~Cheryl Wright

Hah! Well, of course, you did it for yourself Cheryl :) But yes! It’s great we have this online community to inspire each other.

And of course, this is a natural response from Sandra too.

It has helped me realize just how much I love (read depend) on pen and ink line…this is really hard.. so this is purification through suffering?.. I read that in a Russian novel…I have learned lots (such as ‘where is my fountain pen?” !!!!!!!!!!!!) glad I have attempted it however..thanks so much. ~ Sandra P MacDiarmid

I want to close out with a look at the other five Direct Watercolorists.

I had been meaning to check in with the others much more often, but of course, the Facebook group took off so well, and then it turned out it was next to impossible to do anything ‘extraneous’ during the marathon – so! I’m just now getting a real look at how their 30’s went.

I found the climax of the push surprising. (Day 16 was the ‘peak’ for me). The paintings went in a completely different direction than I expected.

So I asked each of the others the same thing:

“What was one surprising thing that you learned as a result of our grand experiment?”

Maria Coryell-Martin:

1) I surprised myself by loving hot press paper for direct watercolor sketching. I’ve previously had very little experience with it. I love the rapid drying and how smooth my strokes are.
2) I surprised myself by enjoying the rhythm and patterns of architecture. Painting buildings around my town in direct watercolor, I gave myself permission to let go of precision and total accuracy. I loved it and the experience has built my confidence for what subjects I can sketch.
3) I surprised myself by how much sketching I was able to complete while out with my nearly 3-year-old daughter. With her own sketchbook, it’s something the two of us can enjoy together. I have to work quickly and am sometimes distracted by requests to draw kitty cats and polar bears, but much more is possible than I previously realized. <How nice! That’s a great thing ~m]

Uma Kelkar:

Two things I learned:
1) People don’t like borders/limits but do like to have goals. We collected 3000 people!
2) Nobody needs a pencil, everyone can draw with a brush. Everyone. Eventually.
I learned the following of myself:
I am quite disciplined. Without the challenge too, I do force myself to practice – owing to limits of work-life balance I cannot always make it, but I’ve set up systems such that only bottlenecks are my career choices and dependents. Meaning, I am ok, I shouldn’t beat myself up anytime soon. <Exactly! this 30×30 is not sustainable – (for most of us :). We all need to learn how to practice art as part of living. Well done you! ~m]
Liz Steel:

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that the challenge was much easier than I expected. (I achieved 41 direct watercolour sketches – 11 in the last 5 days).

Granted I was travelling so I have been sketching all day, 6 days a week anyway, but I still expected to find it hard. Also, even though I start my sketches with paint 99% of the time, trying to resist adding my beloved lines was hard. However, I discovered that if I ignore the first urge to pick up my pen, then it’s relatively easy to stick with the paint. <Of all of us, you’re the fastest / most reliable sketcher (we have sketch-dueled to prove it, I admit defeat :) But also, VERY adept with line weight and edge variety. It’s impressive how you can add a new thing (tone shapes) to your ongoing process without skipping a beat. ~m]
Suhita Shirodkar:

I guess my big takeaway is: Do challenges that are outside your core strengths! Not only will you see lots of learning, but also, not being the expert means you feel free to experiment and to fail – both of which are fantastic learning experiences. <So true. Like a shark. Never stop moving. Expand the comfort zone :) ~m]

Anne-Laure Jacquart:

I would say: “You don’t need ideas. Inspiration is just HERE, when you pay more attention”.
Before the challenge, I wrote down lists of subjects, approaches, books, or online feeds to browse, I gathered some photos, in the case I would need some inspiration.
Once I started, I barely used anything at all.
I paid more attention, about what I could paint, so, when it was the right moment, I already knew what to do! Or, because I was trying to paint everyday, as soon as I saw something, I decided: “stop doing anything else and paint”!
So, that’s it, just pushing ourselves to think more about watercolor is enough to give us plenty of ideas!!
I am even thinking: let’s play this game even when we don’t paint! This would be my last advice, I guess. :) Think along the day: Oh, this would make a nice painting! – Hey, I could paint this with Green Apatite Genuine (!) – Gosh, this would make such a wonderful negative shape! – Hey, what if I could try to recreate the texture of the sand or rocks with my paints?! – Wow, the light is so gorgeous at this time of the day! – Today, if I had painted, it could have been the bananas on my counter… and on and on and on…
Feeding our inspiration that way, we would never run out of ideas, for sure!