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Day 13 : Progress Report : #30x30DirectWatercolor2018

June 13, 2018

We are approaching halfway through #30x30DirectWatercolor2018.

I didn’t manage a painting today – but I have some stuff to talk about :)

How is it going so far? 


I mean – I’m feeling good about it – now that I’ve had a few successes.

I was frustrated at first. For whatever reason, the first few days I was rushing myself and expecting too much out of each piece.

But things are clicking along. The skills are tuning-up just as planned.

Last year I attended a week-long life drawing workshop <warning, artistic nudity NSFW) which was a similar experience. This feeling of getting more capable each day. So, I knew this would be a thing, and frankly, this whole project is just a huge excuse to make that happen again.

Time for a formal confession.

Something I didn’t really spell out, and I’m not sure if anyone should even care about.

But – in actual fact, I did my 30×30 a month before you guys. I started May 1 instead of June 1. I think a few people probably already suspect this, just looking at the state of the leafless trees and grey skies in the first week’s images.

So – these posts about my daily progress – they’re coming from an alternate timeline where I’m already finished, and know the end of the story. <Please forget you know this, and just enjoy the artwork ok?)

I felt this little dodge was necessary. I had to know for sure I could both organize the event, manage my share at home, get ready for Chicago and Porto, and still get you some nice paintings.

Regular readers know we’re in a bit of a sticky situation. My stepfather went past the point of no return with early onset dementia, and we’re helping with the home-care. So, that makes things unpredictable around here.

And then there’s this:

I’ve been defining myself as a travel sketcher for almost 10 years now.

This event, #30x30DirectWatercolor2018, has been a kind of ‘gut-check’ for me.

What I’m seeing here is, calling myself a travel sketcher isn’t a good fit any longer.

Certainly, I’m not living up to the title of urban sketcher, considering the artistic rigor of the USK Manifesto.

Which, of course – I’m in complete support of the ideas behind I was there when we were defining the movement, and I’ve learned more than I ever hoped, living by that credo.

But – if we just look at the first half of this marathon, despite my hopes – there’s just not much painting on location happening. By my count, only 4 out of 12 were painted from life.

Again – I’m not sure anyone should even care, or what I will do about it, but – that’s the status report right now, as we approach the halfway point.

So, anyway, I hope you guys are sticking with our little challenge. Maybe leave a comment and tell us what you’re feeling about the experiment so far.



33 Comments leave one →
  1. Sherry permalink
    June 13, 2018 9:11 AM

    Well, I’m not doing the challenge, just enjoying looking at your artwork every day, but I just wanted to say that I give you major points for persevering while under so much personal pressure, well done, nothing short of brilliant. Looking forward to hearing what you do decide to call yourself, if you actually need to have a title at all. What about Happy Sketcher :)

  2. June 13, 2018 9:55 AM

    Marc I am having a ball and totally sold on the concept of Direct Watercolor. I’ve played with the technique a few times before and though difficult, I enjoyed it. You book was an eye-opener for me in many ways but I was intrigued by the idea direct watercolour every day for thirty days.

    Of course I had to deal with my inner critic’s “Hell girl, what the ….. You can’t do that!” Nevertheless, I hit the ground running with an enthusiasm I never quite anticipate and a growing desire to keep going beyond the end of the challenge and making the technique an integral part of my sketching adventure.

    I’m discovering new things about myself and how I approach sketching. The main thing – I’m taking my time, thinking things through, not so much that I lose the essence and joy of a quick sketch – moving quickly might be in my DNA or Liz Steel has infected me (all in a wonderful way of course).

    Yeah, like I said, I am having a ball.

  3. kristine iwasaki permalink
    June 13, 2018 10:33 AM

    This is a great challenge, however I’m overwhelmed. I do know that doing something everyday must show some progress. Thank you.

  4. June 13, 2018 10:46 AM

    Thank you, merci, thank you.
    For including the good, the bad, and the less than beautiful of your day-by-day practice of life and art. The one enhances the other, there are no compartments. Your painting style and narrative continue to inspire. We are lucky you somehow make time to share your journey with us total strangers who call ourselves fans.

  5. Catherine permalink
    June 13, 2018 11:14 AM

    Well I can relate to having so many life events going on all the time, that daily painting is often neglected in the rush. I am amazed that you find time to fit it into all that you have going on! This challenge has been a catalyst for me, as I have been doing so much ‘else’ in life, that it’s nice to try to keep up, and it is time to do something for myself that feeds my soul. Thank you for this challenge, Marc! Also, thank you for your openness regarding all the hard starts, and ‘failures’, as this helps us learn more than just seeing a perfect outcome every time.

  6. Patti Kirch permalink
    June 13, 2018 11:50 AM

    This is such a real life creative journey. I love the lessons learned and the what went rights and lefts. Such a challenge yet exciting concept paintbrush to paper, calligraphy shapes and not too much detail. Thank you so much!

  7. June 13, 2018 12:17 PM

    I will keep reading ,enjoying and learning from your posts no matter what you call yourself. Life gets crazy every now and again but know it’s just a season you have to persevere through. Blessings. I love your work in all its forms.

  8. Linda permalink
    June 13, 2018 12:42 PM

    On location or from a picture reference, I don’t think it matters for this challenge. I’m seeing a lot of growth in my pictures as a result of direct painting. I suppose it has something to do with thinking first how best to capture what I want to paint. It’s a great challenge. Thanks for sharing it and inviting us to join in with you, Marc.

  9. suanc56 permalink
    June 13, 2018 12:51 PM

    My comments mirror those above; your paintings DO inspire, especially those of us still losing the fear of direct watercolor. I continue to be impressed, not only by your style, but also by your ability to educate and describe in concrete terms what you’re doing and the reasoning behind your decisions. Thank you so much. And while I haven’t managed one painting a day, I’m doing at least one every other day, and I’m glad for that.

  10. darylashby1 permalink
    June 13, 2018 12:52 PM

    Good morning Marc…although I am not doing the challenge, I have been watching what you are doing. What a wonderful way to loosen up and not only that but challenge the eye as well. I plan to try this once we get out doing plein air. Although I much prefer painting, drawing in house, it is good to stretch yourself.

    Happy painting Marc and kudos to you for doing this when you have so much on your plate. 😊


    Wendy from Nanaimo BC

  11. June 13, 2018 12:53 PM

    Always look forward and enjoy ALL your tips and stories – Over the last 3 years, I had subscribed to an enormous amount of art-related blogs and decided lately to only keep the top 10. You definitely made the cut!!! And, I liked Sherry’s suggestion of the name “Happy Sketcher”!

  12. June 13, 2018 1:36 PM

    Oh redefinition, after two years being held captive by the medical community to overcome breast cancer, by last December, almost all activities in the past had to be dropped, and new ones identified going forward. I have a cartoon image of me on Besides art (I am focusing on pencil for a year), I got into Royal Icing sugar cookies (a batch coming up soon), new topics to write about, wearable art which is now leading me into the idea of showing at craft fairs, if not a new business, and more (working to stay well and alive).

    Each step is into the new and unknown. Your constraints via Urban Sketchers have been lifted, you are seeing new life in your craft, you certainly are enjoying teaching, and now you have all these wonderful new tools to enjoy “doing it all” with.

    I was very impressed with your experience publishing under Amazon! And I am equally impressed by how your family is so caring and involved with one another. That is a career by itself!

    Student Note: after your class, I did try a few “drop color, create a composition” watercolors – I did, however, sketch over the colored areas. The technique of dropping color, however, is awesome.

  13. June 13, 2018 2:28 PM

    I also have a lot of issues going on that I knew would make it hard if not impossible to stick to the 30 days, but I’m so glad you rose to the challenge of putting on the challenge – for yourself and all of us. I’m just doing what I can, when I can, and simply having the opportunity to hear and see what you have done, and read what everyone else is doing and share in this way is so enjoyable. Particularly for people like me who are disabled and unable ever to get to symposia or workshops – it’s a big boost. It’s the only way to grow, in art practice terms – to push the boundaries and go through a bit of discovery and inevitable discomfort on the way to growing more skillful. So, thanks again Marc!

  14. Jerry Bukiewicz permalink
    June 13, 2018 2:31 PM

    Still not very good at this. Tend to overwork with a heavy hand. But, feel like I am getting better every day if only by a minuscule amount.

  15. June 13, 2018 4:57 PM

    The challenge has forced me to paint everyday. While just small pieces I am finally seeing progress with my painting skills. I am trying to work from life with small still life subjects to test my skills. Some work some do not. But the ones that work inspire me to keep going. During the second part of the challenge I will venture out more. I have enjoyed seeing your posting each day. Does not matter when you did them. I actually started early myself as we had an overseas visitor for the first 10 days of the challenge. It is the doing that is important. Thank you for putting this challenge together. It is like seeing your book in action. I wish you well and thank you sharing the good and the bad.

  16. Susan Wessman permalink
    June 13, 2018 5:43 PM

    I really appreciate your candor and comments about balancing life with art-making. Thank you, it’s helpful to know that it all requirement making accommodations and lots of juggling.

  17. Ellie permalink
    June 13, 2018 7:38 PM

    Marc, I’ve learned more from your daily explanations than I have in years of painting classes and books. Of course, I learned from your online Craftsy classes, but now can slow down and absorb. Sure look forward to your postings. Best of luck with your caregiving.

  18. June 13, 2018 8:34 PM

    Love your candor, Marc. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You mentioned, briefly, a most important factor — caring for your father-in-law with dementia. Care-giving for our aging family members is a huge, huge challenge as we try to juggle our creative endeavors, a job that pays the bills, spending time with out family, exercising, and making time to regenerate our inner spirit.

    You have shown us some tremendous paintings so far, and shared some great techniques, such as “drive-by” photos, “bad photos make good paintings,” and sharing your rejects (and of course your successes and why you like them).

    Don’t focus on labels, such as “travel sketcher” or “urban sketcher.” Many of us follow your process — get out and sketch, take photos, and retreat to the studio where we can reflect on our field work and thoughtfully put brush to paper.

    Trust me, as someone who lost her 90-year-old father yesterday, after four intense years of care-giving across 1600 miles, life is very complicated and you have done amazing work while juggling plenty of responsibilities.

    You are an inspiration, we appreciate your disclosures, we love your paintings, and we love all that we are learning in your 30×30 series. Thank you very much, Nancy

  19. Chris permalink
    June 13, 2018 8:47 PM

    Hi Marc- I wanted to do the challenge, I really did – but I haven’t been able to. I am reading your posts and still love all your sketches, and I don’t care where or when you did them! You’ve got a lot on your plate and still manage to post almost everyday, and all I can say is THANK YOU! For keeping me inspired until I get the time to really devote to art- right now it’s catch as catch can…. Keep,up the good work and hang in there!

  20. June 13, 2018 10:47 PM

    Hi Marc….to answer your question about this experiment of painting each and everyday for 30 days……it is really difficult for me. Although I paint everyday I don’t usually finish one each day. I always set each piece aside and then come back to add a few strokes here and there. This has been my methodology for years. So with all this said, I am on schedule but behind in photographing my work because of what I stated above.

    • June 13, 2018 10:53 PM

      That’s interesting! I’m not sure I know anyone who works that way – it’s probably good to let some pieces sit :)

      • June 13, 2018 11:21 PM

        Thanks Marc, I guess I did not mention that I have been painting in watercolor since 1991 for exhibitions and competitions….mostly full sheet arches or fabriano. For this 30×30 are really small, less than quarter sheet or smaller. With that said this experiment, to me is to try various techniques, value studies, textures, etc.

  21. June 13, 2018 10:49 PM

    Hey Marc, my children have grown and moved away…so I don’t “Dad” everyday…but I’m still a father. Whether you paint on site or not day to day, you will always be “the” urban sketcher. Your Craftsy class on landscape painting was not done outside or on site..but that is what the whole context was about…it’s who you are. Be gentle on yourself….what you are going through will pass.

  22. June 14, 2018 2:26 AM

    About whether you’re an urban sketcher or not: you’ll always be one, I think . among other things. It’s not something you have to be exclusively. But maybe what you’re saying is that it’s not what you primarily are? That might be true. I’ve been wondering about similar stuff about myself: I love visual reportage and storytelling, but not all the stories I tell are about place, and that’s not urban sketching, is it?

    • June 14, 2018 1:49 PM

      Well, and I’m an all or nothing kind of guy:) so I have to know where I stand on these things :) hard go be a “public advocate ” of a movement like USK unless you’re clear on your relationship to the mission ;) if you know what I mean :) People want squeaky clean thought leaders. It’s hard to play a role, so I just like to spell it out!

      • June 14, 2018 10:41 PM

        I prefer to use references with respect to growth in drawing because, frankly, I cannot clearly see live, human models or staged centerpieces in art classes. And, frankly, I love the discovery process of drawing people from stopping the action in video (YouTube, TV, any movie) and from my own photos and videos.

        The Urban Sketchers, however, are my inspiration! There are many masters in that group, Marc included, and the things they share through their drawings/paintings as well as their books and tutorials surpass most available training today and *it is affordable!* Yes, you can learn stuff on YouTube, but the Craftsy classes are extraordinary (and I am a big investor).

        The only thing that is different about the work done under the US flag and anything else is that it is supposed to be done outside and of something representing the outside (“urban” is not strictly honored). (And yes, drawing interiors of restaurants and subways is OK . . . who am I to judge).

        Perhaps what we need is a Urban Sketchers at Home section, or an Urban Sketchers Study Group where people can actually learn techniques or participate in challenges that do not require actually going outdoors.

        As an aside, I participated in Marc’s 100 people in X number of days. I did not finish, but what I did accomplish is defining a drawing style and acknowledging that I really love drawing people. If you look at my stuff, you’ll note a huge improvement from my first couple of drawings which were stilted, to my last. But I digress . . .

        The Urban Sketchers have very strict rules about getting new groups started. I tried last year after going thru radiation, and was confronted with the requirement of having 3 leaders (! ! !) in an area where no one was getting together because nothing had been started. I don’t know who dreamed up that rule! Anyway, I persevered and photographed and mapped all the potential meeting places in Hudson County, NJ, was introduced to Mike Skelly who went on rounds with me, then I found out that a quarter of my heart was knocked out due to chemo, so I had to stop progress until this year.

        I’m a member of the NY group, but can’t go to the events, so am trying to attract people in NJ using all the methods forbidden by the Urban Sketcher group. This will be slow going, but hopefully, by next year, I’ll have formed a rag-tag group with 3 leaders (Mike would be fab, but has to take care of his family first).

        Ramble. Anyway, I think the Urban Sketchers should “formalize” some of the things Marc is trying to do, such as the competitions, and online workshops (like this series of his) because 1) too many people attempt the outside workshops, and 2) for people like me with a few physical challenges, the elderly (er, like me), and the people who work who don’t have a heck of a lot of time to get out and about. With those things in place, they could leverage new groups like the one I am trying to get together.

        And then how about fees of some sort . .. I don’t mind paying. I know that this is an all volunteer organization, but I’d be more than happy to know that people like Marc are being compensated for their work. The two people leading the NYC Urban Sketchers are absolute saints for contributing their time. Should they be paid? At least it would be nice if they had a bit of wind behind their sails . . . just say’n

  23. Jen G permalink
    June 14, 2018 8:58 AM

    Hi Marc, thanks for being organized enough to manage your painting & blogging with other responsibilities. It has continued a connection to people like me…so when I open your post by email I read about your thoughts on how impatient and expectant you are on yourself and think “Wow, this guy has been doing it for x years and still feels this!” That fact blows me away and something inside me feels a burden lift. That’s me and now I can see the same thing I do, remember you and that it’s ok, let it go, move on and keep at it. A lot of the time these thoughts stop me from creating and I find other things to do. Now this will shift the dark clouds along. Sincere thanks (heart & hugs icon)

  24. Jen G permalink
    June 14, 2018 9:10 AM

    oh and by the way- labels schmabels… part of my brain loves labels and order, trying to structure the chaos in life. Life is changing and labels can provide some comfort. But if labels form cliques then I have no time for them. Rules decided by groups often exclude due to democratic compromise. I keep coming back to what I value…connection and creating…just saying’…

  25. June 14, 2018 12:42 PM

    I don’t see why you have to be ONLY an urban sketcher? Thanks for sharing… art will keep you sane through this period so make time for it where you can. The 30×30 has been very helpful to me and I really appreciate it! I’m in next time you host it as well and hopefully will have done it on my own between now and then!

  26. June 15, 2018 9:08 AM

    Thanks for sharing your process and thinking out loud about “Urban Sketching” which I can only contribute to some of the time. I follow you 30 x 30 blog every day and am learning a lot.

  27. June 17, 2018 7:21 AM

    Hi Marc, I continue to follow your blog even after realizing that I’m not an urban sketcher because you write the most interesting things about painting and your process! I find your posts interesting because you continue to grow and challenge yourself. You don’t stick to what’s familiar or what you’ve already mastered. You inspire me to grow too!

  28. Beverley Clark White permalink
    June 21, 2018 12:21 AM

    hello, Marc, I just LOVE reading and watching you and the other leaders of the group (like Anne-Laure….just love her), but, like many others here, I have not been able to do the challenge, physically unable, and just reading about the things you are going thur….kudos to you!!! about the “urban sketcher” label….you will always be one in my book!!!

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