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Blacks are my Favorite Colors

April 1, 2020

So – Watercolor.

I was painting the other day, trying some things, came to re-realize – I really like black.

This should be obvious. But you don’t always think about your own paintings. They just happen sometimes.

I was trying to paint some florals from our photos of the botanical garden, as the real thing is closed for quarantine.

Pretty much convinced – I can’t paint florals! OMG. I was hating all of them. Really frustrated with bright, sunlit, subtle colors.

Until this one with the dark water.

This is what I like. Hard edged contrasts, dark backgrounds, and aggressive, direct, paint handling.

I have five blacks in my 21 color travel palette.

Indigo, Neutral Tint, Perylene Green, Bloodstone Genuine, Lunar Black.

That’s a lot of shades of black.

I have very few transparent colors. It’s almost impossible to be subtle with this palette. It’s kind of a blunt instrument. Made for drama, not for subtlety.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad. I’m actually fairly sure, it’s not what anyone else wants.

But this is what my eyeballs liked today.

And that’s kind of what it comes down to in art. You have to serve yourself. Your own vision. Art is inherently difficult, time consuming, expensive, and at the end of the day, for most of us the lion’s share of the reward has to come from inside.


At home, looking at old sketches :)

March 28, 2020

It’s always a pleasant surprise when you’re sorting out some papers, and a couple nice sketches fall out.

These are from South Carolina. We had a wonderful visit a while back, teaching a workshop and jurying a watercolor show.

Right now, during the self-quarantine, the old life of travel and painting with friends seems like such a luxury. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time.

I hope everyone is taking things easy, staying in the moment, not worrying about the unknown future.

And of course, painting at home ;)

Take care everyone!


One Minute Watercolor Ep.03 – Mossy Falls

March 21, 2020

So – to be honest, this sketch is just a test of my shiny new setup for recording paintings. New overhead mount and wireless remote control for Laurel’s DSLR, new microphone for voice over, and coincidentally – Adobe has some new software called Premiere Rush – made for editing quick and easy jobs like this.

Remarkably, with that many new pieces of technology, I was still able to record, edit and publish this today! Frankly, I’m amazed :)

Here’s the painting :)

And a few closeups of areas I like!

Scraping with scissors.

Wet-into-damp. (Indigo + Olive Green into watery Indgio + Titanium White)

A little area with calligraphic brushwork from a splayed out old sable. Old sables never die! They just get better at painting foliage.

Fly the Flag for St. Patrick’s Day! (25% off my oil paintings + free shipping)

March 16, 2020

We just recently heard, my painting “Fly the Flag of the Republic” has been accepted into the Society of Canadian Artists 2020 Online Juried Exhibition.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!

This was one of my early works, in a series of impasto oil paintings begun in 2018, painted from my wife’s photo, taken on a recent trip to Ireland.

In honor of the day, and having the painting up in the SCA show, I’ve put it – and all my currently listed landscape paintings – FOR SALE on my ETSY SHOP, 25% off with FREE SHIPPING!

It was months after hanging the painting to dry that I realized – perhaps subconsciously – I had painted the Irish Tricolor!

Here’s a fellow – wrapped in the flag, sketched at the Montreal St. Patrick’s day parade, back in 2015.

Of course, this year the parade is cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I had been planning to go sketching. It’s a rite of spring to watch the parade, even if it’s really too early to be out on the street, frozen fingers and all.

I read afterwards that the flag of the republic is meant to symbolize peace (white) between the Catholics and Protestants. That’s a wonderful story, I hope it’s true.

In my case, it really was an unconscious thing. These were simply the colors I saw in the land and sky.

Saint Patrick was supposed to have driven the snakes out of Ireland. Let’s not look too hard at the politics of that, and take it as a wish to keep the virus away as we spend this season at home for St. Patrick’s Day!

Please feel free to pop over to my shop: MHolmesFineArt on and see the rest of the available paintings!

And take care everyone,




That’s it for my #OneWeek100People 2020. Thanks everyone!

March 13, 2020

Another year of #OneWeek100People is crossing the finish line!

I’m sitting here at the computer, watching people posting up on the Facebook group. Most are saying they’ve hit their 100, a few that they need the weekend to finish, but either way, it’s been a great experience.

I must say, it’s so rewarding to be part of a group activity like this. Seeing everyone’s work appear each day – and watching your own number tick up –  it keeps you excited – and motivated to keep sketching, even with so much going on in our busy lives.

Besides all the great drawings, I’ve seen few fun ideas this year. I’m just going to link a few highlights (I hope direct-links to Facebook work for you, but if not there’s great stuff to be found all over just by searching the hashtag #OneWeek100People )

Paula Raudenbush – An ‘Advent Calender’ – See all your sketches fill up the page

Fabien Bartz – Hand Made Miniature Sketchbook

StanCreative – Put Everyone in a Single Picture

Barbara Eguchi – Keychain Sketchbook

So yes!

Really, I just want to thank everyone who participated this year.

I know everyone has benefited from seeing all your artwork and ideas, and all the creative ways you find subjects to draw. It’s been a terrific celebration of learning-by-doing :)

Thanks everyone for all your enthusiasm!

I hope we will see you next March!


Day Four : #OneWeek100People 2020 : In the Zone

March 12, 2020

Day Four, #OneWeek100People 2020.

I said it already, but watercolor is not at all like riding a bike. You spend even a month away from it, and you lose your sensitivity. Your dexterity. I imagine this is the reason musicians are always doing scales, athletes are constantly training.

I was missing something in the previous days sketches. (I only posted my favorite one :) Some of them seemed a bit lacking confidence –  too much reliance on under-drawing. Which leads to that feeling of coloring between the lines.

I still did a bit of sketching here, but more what I’d call a scribble. Just the loosest gesture line, almost a Dot Plot. (another here). This is the level of under-drawing I prefer. With too much planning, your figures become ‘second-hand’. Traced –  not fresh, bold statements.

If you’re taking too much care – if you’re painting too slowly – when you finally fuse one shape to the next – sometimes they’ve gone too dry to properly flood together.

And if you’ve filled the entire silhouette – effectively outlined the figure – you can’t have any ‘lost’ edges.

So! All that to say – This One is Much Better!

Speed is in fact, one of your tools. Confidence. Even aggression!

This is my clear favorite of the 100-and-some people painted I this week.

Those massive faux-fur hoods are part of the street-style in Montreal right now. Doesn’t it just look lusciously fuzzy?

They look great, but I don’t know they don’t get hit crossing the street. You must not be able to see anything under there.

This is of course, Montréal’s Chinatown gate, on St. Laurent and René Levesque. Just a block down from yesterday’s La Vitrine.

I’ve painted it before – but I like this rendition better :)

Night has more drama!

So – do you think it’s too rough?

I kind of like it.

It’s an important skill for an artist – to like everything you paint.

You have to love your own work. Don’t be shy, or self-effacing. If YOU don’t love your own work, nobody else is going to give you enough motivation to continue. Day in, day out, slowly slowly growing your skills – for what? The day you sell a piece? The day you paint something you’ll want on your wall forever?

Those days come and go, and you still have to keep painting. It’s not like you get there and you’ve won the race. You get to stop? Nope!

It has to be that thing where ‘The Work is the Reward’.

The feeling when those two big strokes dragged the night sky into the roof of the gate. That was an actual heart-leaping moment. So close to disaster. But then it’s not.

The joy of painting sounds hokey. But I think it’s a real thing.

There’s nothing like seeing a perfect brush stroke happen in front of you :)

So that’s been my #OneWeek100People for this year.

I’m going to call it done on this one! I can imagine I’ll beat this one tomorrow :)

Like many of us, I used the permission given by the group project to push aside work I *should* be doing, and after a few days of practice and play, I made it back Into the zone. The unconscious (dare I say effortless) flow of direct watercolor.

I guess that’s been a pretty good week all around.

Thanks for playing along and helping motivate me – and I’ll be hanging around the finish line (here and on the Facebook group) to watch all of you posting your last few 100 people.

Thanks Everyone!


[ Girls’ Night Out, 18×24”,  Watercolor on Cellulose Paper ]

Day Three : #OneWeek100People 2020 : Silhouettes on the Street

March 11, 2020

[La Vitrine, Montreal 18×24”, cropped]

Day Three, #OneWeek100People, 2020.

When I started thinking about my project for 2020  – I thought – OK – what’s the point of all this practice sketching people?

I’m not terribly interested in portraiture right this moment. I don’t have any reportage projects lined up. That’s not something you run into every day.

So – what do I want to do with these 100 watercolor silhouettes?

The next logical step is to put them on the street :)

Where can you find this kind of mood? People reduced to back-lit everyman-shapes.

In the city at night. Down on Montreal’s famous Saint Catherine’s, with the neon storefronts and LED panels.

It wasn’t thinking about this exact building – La Vitrine – a relatively new arts-and-culture project, built, I’d say, five years ago? As part of a revitalization of Montreal’s historic red light district.

But when I found it – with the walls cycling between, red to purple to a minty-techno-green. It’s pretty much perfect.

It’s still cold in Montreal. So this painting was made at home, based on some terrible photos shot from the hip as people crossed the busy intersection.

My goal in the studio is always is to paint as close as possible, the way I would do it on location. Down to using the same paper, the same size brushes and the same miniature palette.

I don’t want the fact I’m working from reference, to lead me into producing something I can’t make in real life.

It’s a slippery slope – studio painting.

I’ve been painting at home so much this last year or two, I start to think – what’s the point of getting out and working in the world? It’s so *easy* here at home. I can paint so big! I can take my time, they can get more and more complicated.

But there’s something bugging me in the back of my mind. I’m not sure I want to make *better* (or bigger) paintings.

I’m certainly not about being more realistic, or more polished. I do want to take on greater complexity – but at the same time I want a sense of immediacy. Like you’re in the moment.

The jury is still out on this instinct.

I’m not 100% sure what I’m talking about here.

I’m trying to remind myself – don’t make declarations about what’s good or bad in painting any more. It only means you have to back-pedal when you change your mind.

But this is getting somewhere :) The speed, and vitality of the execution is part of the effect.

It’s all about being in a place, capturing the atmosphere without getting tied down to the specific details that might make it into everyday boring real life


I have one more of these that I’m going to post. But I also have another day of painting in my plan – so let’s leave it here and see what else I get.

I am starting to feel the ‘stretch’ I wanted out of this week-long sketching blitz!

I hope it’s working for you too.

Please check in and link me some images of whatever you’re doing. Lets support and inspire each other to make the most out of #OneWeek100People!