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Never Fear the Blank Page : CSPWC/SFA Canada/France Exchange

April 18, 2018

I recently undertook a set of still life paintings of manual typewriters. I’d like to think, this is the one I’d use to write a detective novel.

Some people say they get stuck for ideas. Artist’s block! I’ve never had that problem – for paintings, (or for writing).

I keep lists. And lists of lists. Little books full of thumbnails, folders full of sketches. Subjects that won’t go away keep re-surfacing. I find the same sketches over and over (sometimes years apart). I come up with a concept, and I see I already have it on a list, buried in an old notebook.

I finally got around to these typewriters – just in time for the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor. We’re doing an exchange with the Société Française de l’Aquarelle (SFA), and, I’m happy to say ‘The Mystery Writer was selected for both shows. Halton Ontario at the Helson Gallery, June 6- July 7, and in Avignon, France at the Cloître St. Louis, Aug. 28 – Sept 17.

This one is clearly for a science-fiction screenplay. It doesn’t get more retro-futuristic!

Here’s a step by step of the painting process.

You’ll see I did a clean line drawing. Then it was simply a matter of taking on each major component one at a time. Not quite following my normal Larger>to>Smaller and Lighter>to>Darker approach. Mor of a nit-picky, one element at a time version. It’s a bit like assembling a model airplane or doing a jigsaw puzzle. A good rainy day activity.

Collectors of these antiques might know this particular machine. If you do, you’ll see I’m taking plenty of liberties. Just like that time I was sketching motorcycles.

I enjoy the game – giving the impression of mechanical gew-gaws without rendering every cog and flywheel.

This one is kind of a comedy of errors. I call it ‘The Cheshire Cat‘.

Once you see the cartoon grin, the painting is doomed. You can’t take it seriously any longer.

I debated showing this one at all, but I suppose it’s interesting that a piece can fail for reasons that have nothing to do with your drawing skills or paint handling.

I’d spotted that brassy grin early in the painting – and should have just junked it then. I’d hoped somehow I could down-play the illusion with the right values. But like the Cheshire Cat, the grin is persistent :)

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Beaumont Nancy permalink
    April 18, 2018 10:03 AM

    Well this could be one of those wonderful rabbit holes one stumbles onto by putting a few word in the search button

    19 Authors and Their Typewriters | Mental Floss


  2. April 18, 2018 10:06 AM

    Congratulations I am getting a 404 when I click on comments…maybe my technical expertise is lacking Linda

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Judy Sopher permalink
    April 18, 2018 10:36 AM

    I also couldn’t get to comments the usual way.

    But, Marc, these are just terrific. The Cheshire Cat is as well. Wonder if I would have seen that if you hadn’t pointed it out first. Enjoying seeing how you develop a painting. and–I love old typewriters. I learned on what would now be called “old”, but I would love to have one today instead of the one on my laptop.

  4. April 18, 2018 10:48 AM

    Hi Marc,There was a 1908 typewriter in the lobby of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago with a stack of stationery and envelopes and you could type letters and have them mail them for you.  I am attaching a link about it.  I love these paintings with the limited palette.The Blackstone Hotel on Twitter

    | | | | | |


    | | | | The Blackstone Hotel on Twitter

    “A 1908 Chicago original typewriter is now in our lobby for your own use! #makeyourownhistory” |



    Best to you and Laurel,Susan Torgerson James

  5. April 18, 2018 11:07 AM

    What fun! You are a wonderful watercolorist and writer, and the sense of play here is spectacular! Thanks for sharing.

  6. April 18, 2018 11:36 AM

    These are beautiful. It is nice that you also documented the process. So I can learn from it :)

  7. April 18, 2018 11:40 AM

    Fabulous… thank you for inhabiting that space of painting as writing, writing as painting. I know that space too. Did someone tell you that these paintings look like dresses, or women wearing dresses of keys? I like the dreamlike quality of the paint with the hard technical side of the the typewriter.

  8. Michael permalink
    April 18, 2018 12:02 PM

    Love the typewriters! Saw the Cheshire Cat before I even read your narrative. But I don’t understand your reluctance to paint it or your idea that is a failure. It’s a whimsical, humorous painting. I don’t paint, yet! So I see only something I wish I could do so well!

  9. April 18, 2018 3:09 PM

    I love the Cheshire C

  10. April 18, 2018 6:07 PM

    I think both paintings succeed marvelously. So glad you chose to include Cheshire Cat. Fun seeing your process too, and I totally agree about the artist’s block/writer’s block thing — there’s always something to do. Ideas are everywhere. Pick something and start drawing works for me when I’m at loose ends.

    These are wonderful. Writers seeing these typewriters are going to feel inspired. I am sure of it. So you’ll probably cure somebody’s writer’s block!

  11. Melusine permalink
    April 18, 2018 10:52 PM

    We all love the Cheshire Cat, though to me it’s not obvious in the final painting. In step no.3 it is definitely there and rather jolly! All these paintings are most appealing; the background and foreground are especially delicious.

  12. April 19, 2018 11:47 AM

    Typewriters and Marc Holmes art are among my favorite things so this post is pretty special for me. I confess that I didn’t see the “grin” until you mentioned it. So many of the old typewriters are smiling that I guess it just didn’t register with me. Love your stepwise presentation as well. Thanks so much. — Larry

  13. April 20, 2018 3:06 PM

    these for sale Mark?

    On Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 9:32 AM, Citizen Sketcher wrote:

    > Marc Taro Holmes posted: ” I recently undertook a set of still life > paintings of manual typewriters. I’d like to think, this is the one I’d use > to write a detective novel. Some people say they get stuck for ideas. > Artist’s block! I’ve never had that problem – for paintings, ” >

    • April 20, 2018 6:23 PM

      Hey Jeremy – Yes! The Mystery Writer will be at the Helson Gallery, Halton Hills Cultural Center Ontario, June 6 – July 7, and at Cloître St. Louis, Avignon, Aug 28 – Sept 17. (Added to post thx). The others I have here in the studio. They’d make excellent covers for a short story collection if you know any publishers :)

  14. April 24, 2018 9:55 AM

    Excellent marc this is your creations ?


  1. Writers Block | Citizen Sketcher

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