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Coming up in June: #30x30DirectWatercolor2019

May 7, 2019

#30x30DirectWatercolor_Facebook Cover_02

Where did all the #30×30 posts go?!?

I’ve moved everthing from #30x30DirectWatercolor to its own page.

Click Here – or – go to the tab #30x30DirectWatercolor on the navigation bar.


Original Post:

It’s almost time again for #30x30DirectWatercolor2019. The annual event where we celebrate the speed and power of Direct Watercolor by making 30 paintings in 30 days in the month of JUNE 2019.

I’m sure most of you remember how this works, but let’s do a quick recap how simple it is:

  • PAINT 30 watercolors in 30 days, from June 1-30, 2019.
  • SHARE your paintings in our new Facebook group <HERE (We’d like to centralize the discussion around this group, to spare our usual sketching clubs all the extra traffic this might create :)
  • HASHTAG work on your own social pages with: #30x30DirectWatercolor2019. Here are some FAQs on how to use hashtags: FB | IG | Twitter.

#30x30_CastelliDelMondo_Paint Angry_Composite

Forward momentum is the key. You’ll surprise yourself when you push past caring if the work is ‘good’. Or if anyone else likes it. Or if you’re using the right colors. Or getting the perspective right.

All these things fall by the wayside when you’re working intensely. Showing up in front of the paper day after day. Past the halfway, your subconscious starts dreaming about painting. When you come back the next day, the paint just flows.

So get ready – buy a stack of paper –  and we’ll see you in June!


#OneWeek100People2019: It’s on!

April 8, 2019

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UPDATE!: EVERYTHING TO DO WITH #ONEWEEK100PEOPLE IS NOW ON IT’S OWN PAGE: [ HERE ]  Or just click on the tab #OneWeek100People in the navigation bar above. Thanks! ~m


So it begins again! #OneWeek100People2019!

All over the world, our little club of people are heading out sketching :)  That’s pretty fun to think about. It’s nice to be part of something bigger than yourself.

#OneWeek100People2019_Single Line Sketches01

I wanted to post another set of life drawings. Just to give a few more examples of how easy it is to get to 100.

I mean, it’s easy, if you let it be.

If you let yourself ignore the idea of impressing people with great drawings, and embrace the idea of sketching only to learn.

My ideal behind #OneWeek100People2019 was to prove to students the only answer to “How do I learn to draw?” – is – “Draw a lot. And quickly.”

The beauty of rapid sketching is: it trains everything at once.

  • Gesture: Capturing the posture, the emotion in a figure.
  • Likeness: Making a portrait is a matter of seeing a person’s specific, unique variation from the generic human features. Even in these single line sketches above, you can see the sharp nose, narrow jaw, and over-hanging bangs, which define this model’s face.
  • Proportion: We often want elegant, or at least realistic people – and yes, measuring works, it’s foolproof – but it’s kind of bogus. It takes too long. You’ll never successfully measure a person in the wild. But you *can* learn to get accurate (or stylized) proportions in an instant. Simple repetition will give you this ability in only a year or so.

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Gesture drawing can also teach you to paint!

I always say, your smallest tool for line, your BIGGEST tool for tone. (In this case a Pentel brush pen).

These kind of 2-5 min sketches are how you learn to see masses of shadow and volume. It’s not by painstaking rendering. It’s by learning to SEE the mass. And you do that by rapid repetition. Train your brain by doing it over and over, fairly quickly – much like you’re doing scales or chords on your instrument.

#OneWeek100People2019_Longposes#OneWeek100People2019_Brushpen Accents

So when people say – “How do you draw people so full of life?” The answer is NOT that I take time to do a good job (even though these are 20 min poses), it’s that I’ve been practicing Gesture and Massing, and I can keep that life and rhythm when I slow down.

Don’t let it stiffen up. Again – just like the musician – it’s not just the ability to play the notes – it’s to play with emotion.

#OneWeek100People2019_DrSketchys_Crimson Peak

So, let’s dive into #OneWeek100People2019!

And thanks to Dr Sketchy’s Montreal and model Eldirch Mor for the terrific Crimson Peak life drawing session to launch my week :)

Mini-Interview with Suhita Shirodkar, #OneWeek100People2019

April 8, 2019


This little interview is related to #OneWeek100People project. Find out more about the week long event over HERE.

MTH: You’re a parent, (I don’t know how parents have time for anything!) and a freelancer, and I know you’ve had to travel quite a bit recently for life/family-stuff. so – my question is – Do you have any special strategy for fitting 100 people into your schedule?

SS: The closest I have to a strategy is to try and fit them into my schedule in whatever way I can. I’m traveling by myself with my kids most of the week (a last-minute plan), including a full day of flying and lots of driving, so the sketches will just be what I can do in what time I have. I think that’s going to be challenging enough, so I haven’t a special focus in mind.

I might also supplement my day’s sketching with some studies from photographs if I have the energy to squeeze them in at the end of the day. We’ll see! Can you tell I’m not a planner?

About being a parent and freelancer and sketching, I think it’s mostly about finding those bits of time in the day and having your sketchkit with you ALL the time. My sketchbag and me is a little bit like the character Linus (from Charlie Brown) and his blanket: it goes everywhere with me. It even goes from my studio to my kitchen table when the kids are having their breakfast before school, because, hey, if I get the time to sit down to coffee, I can squeeze in a sketch! < This is so true, it’s the only way! – Always Be Sketching :) 


MTH: I asked Liz this, but I want to get your take: What do you think about the ‘social’ issues of drawing people in public? Do you twinge when you get caught – or is it even an issue for you?

SS: It’s been a non-issue for me for a while now. It’s partly that I never was particularly self-conscious about how I draw (I think that’s really the issue, people wonder how their sketch looks to someone else), but it’s also a confidence you build over time: After a while you realize most people don’t care and some are even intrigued by what you do. Also, your sketches get better over time and that helps! But you gotta start and stay at it to get there. < Hah! You are so over it :) 

MTH: Related to that, have you ever had any unusually good or bad reactions?

SS: I can’t remember any disastrous ones, for the most part they’re really good. Drawing in public is a great conversation starter: I like talking to people but rarely approach someone I don’t know. But if I’m drawing, people come talk to me, and people are intrinsically interesting.


MTHI know we’ve all given our tips and tricks on our blogs, so I won’t ask that – but – how about this – If you could draw anything – person life not being a factor – what are some realistic projects you’d actually be doing? Is there a subject/project you’d like to share that possibly other people could try in their #OneWeek100People2019? 

SS: One little project I might incorporate into this week, (especially given that I might not get to 100 people sketches from life) is drawing the sport of baseball, from photos and then from video. Why? My son plays little league baseball, and I understand absolutely nothing about how the body moves and weight shifts in the pitching and batting actions. So drawing baseball has been hard for me! I’m hoping that drawing from photos and videos might give me some feel and understanding the helps draw live action: we’ll see!

MTH: Thanks, Suhita! We’re looking forward to sketches from your trip!!


Mini-Interview with Liz Steel, #OneWeek100People2019

April 7, 2019


This little interview is related to #OneWeek100People project. Find out more about the week long event over HERE.

MTH: You’re a busy person these days filming classes and managing your growing video channels. Do you have any special strategy for fitting 100 people into your daily schedule?

LS: Yes, things are pretty hectic for me at the moment – I just finished filming my next course and I’m now trying to complete some other projects before heading to Europe at the end of the month for a 3-month trip!

My daily practice is to spend an hour at the start of the day at my local cafe doing some work, sketching my coffee and a few people sitting at the other tables. This means it’s already part of my daily practice to sketch people, therefore, all I have to do is to allow a little more time for doing my 20 per day.

Perhaps I just have to wake up 30-60 minutes earlier and it will then be easy. Or spend 30 minutes less time on Instagram and only get up 1/2 hour earlier.

MTH: Any special goals for the week besides hitting 100?

LS: I know from previous years that it’s pretty easy for me to hit the 20 per day goal if they are just simple ink drawings of mainly heads. I did a test a week ago and it only took me 15 minutes to do 20 really fast loose sketches.

Therefore I need to make this more of a challenge! I want to aim for 100 watercolour people.

Ideally, they’ll be painted on location, but if not, I want to add colour later that day when I’m home.

I would also like to do a little more anatomy research during the week… but I’m not putting any pressure on myself for that.

LizSteel-oneweek100people2019-dry-runMTH: You’re a fast sketcher, but catching people on the go is hard :) How to you speed up?

LS: My theory is that I have to sketch from knowledge. So I see someone and very quickly form an idea of how this person is different from the classic male or female person I have in my head. I try to capture the gesture and then draw the distinctive features of that specific person, finishing it off from my knowledge, if they move.

MTH: If a person vanishes on you, do you finish anyway or skip that one? (This must be tricky as you save ALL your pages!)

LS: It depends a little on how much I captured – if it describes enough I leave it incomplete otherwise I finish from my knowledge as mentioned above. I might look for someone else to use a second model to help me finish – but while doing a challenge like this I want to keep drawing and not wait around for someone to turn up in a similar pose.

MTH: Do you do the sketch with a single tool and embellish later with color etc – or do you work with a variety of tools all at once?

LS: My preferred way of working is to capture gesture with my paintbrush first and perhaps some shadow shapes as well, and then draw over the top (into the wet) with my Lamy Joy (med nib and De Atramentis Document Ink) This means that I sometimes get unexpected black blooms of ink for a facial feature, but I can live with that! Whether this technique will be quick enough for the challenge is yet to be seen!

MTH: This is one I get asked a lot: What do you think about the ‘social’ issues of drawing people in public. Do you twinge when you get caught – or is it even an issue for you?

LS: I do feel a little awkward when the person notices me drawing them, but I normally just explain what I’m doing and show them my sketch. I haven’t gotten a bad response yet!

During #OneWeek100People2019 I feel more confident to sketch anyone, as I have a good reason to be drawing people. I just tell them “ I’m trying to draw 100 people this week as part of an international challenge” and that gets even more positive responses. Anything ‘international’ sounds impressive to others.

LIzSteel-Goodfields-example2MTH: Related to that, have you ever had any unusually good or bad reactions?

LS: As above, only good to date. In fact, I’m definitely making many more friends at my local cafes these days now that I am sketching people as opposed to when I only painted my coffee cups. It really engages people and I get a total buzz out of talking with other when I’m out with my sketchbook. Sketching people gets the best reaction without a doubt.

MTH: Finally: Let’s say you fell in love with people sketching. If you could do anything at all in the arena of reportage sketching, what would it be? Maybe someone out there can help make it happen :)

LS: Actually I have already fallen in love with people sketching (a lot has happened since we last sketched together hey?) although I’m still not super confident. I would just simply love to sketch more social gatherings with my family and friends.

For some reason it feels more intimidating to sketch people closer to you, but I just have to do it. I suppose that I would love to be confident that I could produce beautiful work at a friend’s wedding. That would be special!

Thanks Marc – its great to be doing this challenge again with you, Suhita and everyone else.

Just a reminder: #OneWeek100People2019 starts April 8th!

April 5, 2019


Just a reminder: we have around 1000 artists in the Facebook group ready to help each other cross the finish line next week.

My friend E was doing a double-model the other day – something you don’t get so often – so I jumped at the chance for a warm-up.



Some tips on Direct-to-Ink sketching: (No pencil, straight to ink).

  • Just redraw weaker figures or missed lines right on top. Usually, you can save the drawing. The misplaced lines don’t detract if you don’t think they do :) I find the pages with all the over-drawn figures more interesting.
  • Use a small nib for finding contour, and the biggest nib you have for shadow shapes in contrast. I have a steel brush but you might also like a Parallel Pen if you don’t want to carry bottled ink.
  • I use dipping nibs so I can change ink color on the fly, but you’d can always just carry more pens. I like a red line for variety from the black ink.
  • Think about placement on the page – and scale – make some figures much bigger than others, for variety, and to include portraits in with full figures. Use the direction of the figure’s pose – and even the direction of gaze – to influence the composition.


I like to use ‘disposable’ paper. These are pieces of Aquarius II folded into little booklets. I feel so much more relaxed about bad drawings if they’re not in a sketchbook. It’s a phobia I have about ruining a book. People say, don’t let it get to you, but if you can’t let go of the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ book, this is how I side-step that whole thing.

I’m starting to love this little stack of folding paper I’m building up, just as much as my sketchbooks that I never finish anyway :)


Okiedoke! See you guys next week for #100Week100People2019. I’m looking forward to see what everyone gets up to :)


Copyright is a pain in the a&& and artists should stop worrying about it.

March 28, 2019


Because I’m a painter, I move around in a constant state of inspiration.

Everywhere you go you see paintable things. You can’t look at the sky most days without seeing a great painting.

It’s unavoidable.

Naturally, I’m also addicted to social media – just like most of you – I’m constantly inspired by images I see online. 

I’m also constantly anxious and afraid to do anything about that inspiration.

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For fear of Copyright Violation! (Cue Sinister Music).

As artists, we’re always hearing; “You can’t copy someone else’s artwork! You can’t paint from someone else’s photo!”

These regulations are always popping up in calls for entry, or in commentary about work online.

“That’s not real art, it’s just a copy!”

As if painting in nature, standing in front of the landscape, isn’t just a copy? Or sitting with a model or a still life or some flowers. Artists are just the world’s most subjective camera.

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So – I did some research and here are my thoughts:

  • I am not a lawyer so this is my lay-informed opinion.
  • Yes – diverting business income by taking work and re-selling it is wrong. Classic example: downloading artwork and making it into t-shirts. < (People have done that to me).
  • Also, commercial use of a recognizable likeness of someone’s face – this is a theft of income. Every human has the right to be paid for the (commercial) use of their image. (Though, not in every legal jurisdiction. Personality Rights are not recognized in NYC for example).
  • Same goes for commercial use of a building, a car, or even street art if it ends up in a photo. (Designers and Architects have the same rights).
  • No direct, mechanical copy FOR PROFIT < this is common sense.


  • NON-commercial use of anything (art, photos, likeness) is totally fine.
  • Copies by students are an easy example. Copied work appearing in your illustration or portraiture portfolio is less obviously ok – but IS considered fair-use. (It’s a true demonstration of your skill, not a commercial product. The commercial product is the future work you might gain, not the copy itself).
  • AND >>>> most people don’t know this >>> one-of-a-kind original art is almost always ruled non-commercial.
  • The Graphic Artist Guild of America says: “Generally, works of fine art are not considered commercial even if they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Courts are more likely to consider artwork commercial if it is sold as mugs or t-shirts…”
  • The key difference being, art is (generally) sold once (or a handful of times). The intent is not mass production.

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  • Being inspired by an image, making (and selling) a TRANSFORMATIVE work is totally NOT copyright infringement.
  • The existence of the new work does not in any way reduce the value of the old work. Often it actually increases value, by a kind of cachet effect. (The original work must be great if it inspires so many copies).
  • Examples of Transformative work:
    • Translating to a different media: Photograph recreated in line-art or weaving or say – an impasto oil painting.
    • Creating a composite image: Use multiple images for reference. To be safe, take no significant amount, or at least, equal amounts from each. (eg: collage).
    • Altering the source image: Enough that it would not be recognized by a stranger – not by the original artist. (They are too close to the issue). This also covers portrait-likeness. If a stranger (not the model) would not recognize the work, then you have not stolen their face – even if you admit to using their photo as reference.
  • Doing all of these things is bulletproof, but any one of these transformations *might* be sufficient to be within Fair Use. (It’s up to the judge).
  • Rules of thumb: Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? (Such as parody, or recontextualizing or juxtaposition). Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

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OK! Still with me?
That’s my rant about why it’s OK to think and act upon your actual creative thoughts.

Every thought we think comes from somewhere.

You see something, you read something, and you combine old ideas into new ideas. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Don’t be ashamed of seeing a great painting or photo and thinking – man – I would love do my own version of that!

Trina Davies

All that said: you should still credit your sources.

[Photo: Trina Davies, Playwright of Waxworks, Shatter, Silence, The Bone Bridge and the GG-nominated The Romeo Initiative;].

It’s just good grace between artists, and, if you are confident you’re doing transformative work, then there’s no reason not to.

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F+W Media (my publisher) files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

March 23, 2019

Cover ImageWell, the good times had to end someday right?

The publisher of my art-how-to books and videos including The Urban Sketcher has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

[Here’s some background info on that]. But it boils down to; their hobby-niche-magazine empire is fading into irrelevance in the internet age, and, their efforts to turn art-communities (WetCanvas,, etc) into paying ventures haven’t worked out.  Not all that surprising, as this stuff competes against Facebook and the other social media.

What does that mean to myself and their other authors?

Most annoyingly – it means a loss of royalty income for a while. Existing stock in the retail channel might sell, but I won’t receive any income until the situation is resolved.

Particularly bad timing for me, as I’ve recently stopped freelance work, in hopes of jumpstarting my gallery painting. But I knew that was an insane gamble when I threw the dice.

I suppose I’ve had a nice run for the last five years. We’ve sold about 35,000 copies of The Urban Sketcher. I think that’s pretty good for a niche topic like travel sketching.

Thanks, everyone! Good work!

The book income was never enough for me to live from, but it was one tent-pole in my hardscrabble artist-income. In the best-case, F+W can sell the book rights onto another publisher and sales can resume – or – perhaps the books go completely out of print. At which time, (after a significant contractual delay) I have the option to re-issue them myself.

Though, I seriously doubt I’ll receive any help in that regard (like, getting the page layouts back from the publisher? hah!).

Direct Watercolor_Cover 8.5x8.5_Color_100pp_v04 copy

Luckily, I do have my self-published book Direct Watercolor. Though – this has always been somewhat of a labor-of-love title. And fair enough! As honestly, it’s less of a how-to (and that’s probably why you’re a blog-reader) and more of art-book of beautiful images from my years as a traveling painter – and thus, it’s sold about 1/10th of The Urban Sketcher.

So, that’s just some news from me – mostly to say – if you were looking for a book on watercolor – my own title is currently one of my few income streams, so please buy my self published book! – not the publisher’s titles, which are now only paying back corporate debt :)