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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!



Day Two : #OneWeek100People 2020 : From Silhouettes to Puzzle-People

March 10, 2020

Hey Everyone! It’s day two of #OneWeek100People 2020.

How’s your sketching going? It’s only Tuesday – you’ve got loads of time yet!

I’m still working on the my street scenes.

I hope to have something to show tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s some more of my practice, practice, practice.

Like a lot of you I’m sure, I collect people on Instagram who post great self-portraits.

This is @Pinsent_Tailoring. He makes and models historical costumes. I think I could sketch almost everything he posts.

I know this is kind of a side-jaunt from my own #OneWeek100People – but you know – I’m always a little nervous before I do some ‘important paintings’.

Watercolor – it’s NOT like riding a bike.

It’s more like – idk – playing violin? olympic fencing? Something where you lose your timing and delicacy if you spend any significant time away.

So, remember in yesterday’s video – the bit about doing the skin tone in the right order? How I want the hair to be dry-ish by the time I come back for the features?

That’s the same thing that’s going on here. Each of these sketches is a little puzzle. What shape-blocks can I paint, wet-to-wet – where I want the shapes to fuse – and where do I make the hard/dry edges.

But mostly, it’s about leaving a gap for the face.

The hair, or a hat – then a white face-gap – then the collar or a scarf – that leaves me a nice dry fire-break.

As I’m taking a little more care to be illustrative – I’m taking more time here, fussing the reserved white-flecks in the color blocks. It’s those sharp whites that make the drawing.

This one from @creepy.julia was a little nerve-wracking.

Following my system, I painted all the hair in one go. That meant cutting a silhouette around both faces and their joined hands, the getting to the gowns – painted wetter to pull out pigment from the hair – and only then coming back into the white spaces and using a few strokes to make fingers and faces.

That’s a lot of anticipation before I find out if I’d drawn the hands well enough!

I picked the photographer up top (from @leicamaniatic) for the same reason. The enjoyed all the stacked negative shapes I’d have to cut around – BEFORE coming back to make the fingers.

If you can build a person out of these puzzle pieces of color – learning when to let wet touch wet, and when to keep a dry spot – well, that’s the trick isn’t it?

Sometimes, if the subject is strongly side-lit – (this is @teresadelsole by @unfioresullaluna – not very well drawn here – she looks like ScarJo) – you can use the background color to ‘close off’ the edge of the face.

If you imagine this sketch without the background, can you see how the left side of the face is ‘open’ to the white paper?

So, that’s some more of my learnings for #OneWeek100People

The puzzle pieces! The Interlocking shapes in a figure!

Hard edges OUTSIDE a shape, soft, fused edges INSIDE.

Only leave white gaps where you absolutely need them.

See how there are sharp white edges on @FannyRosie’s scarf, and fingers?

But not inside the shadowy hat? Not between her lower arm and torso?

Those are shadowed spaces – so they need to fuse together.

Hard vs. Soft choices.

This is why I’m gravitating away from pen and ink drawing. (Sorry! I know some of you still love the fountain pen best of all).

I’ve realized – watercolor gives you the ability to choose – when to use a line, when to use a shape. When to be hard, when to be soft.

This sketch of @takerukohara_sono1 – I’m very happy with the variety of puzzle pieces.

The face is razor sharp outside, but softer inside. The highlight on the hair is sharp, but within it, soft low contrast shapes. The scarf, fused to hair, but, soft inside it’s shape, but held separate from the body with line. The backpack fuses into the coat, but has just enough inside shapes to show it’s weight, it’s drape, hint at straps and buckles. And all this is done without using exaggerated color to break up shapes.

Fun hey?

All the puzzle pieces should snap together almost without thinking.

Day One : #OneWeek100People 2020 : Eyes on the Prize!

March 9, 2020

Welcome to day one of #OneWeek100People, 2020.

I like to start with a big push – get all 100 people on the first day. That way I can be free to mess about for the rest of the week :)

Well – to be honest, I hit that goal in year one, and then I meant to do it in year two and didn’t pace myself. I wasted half the day at a motorcycle show, drawing the bikes instead of the people. In year three I was just busy with life. So this year four, I said – alright! – all 100, first day, or bust!

But, as you can see, I didn’t exactly sprain my wrist doing it :)

I think I spent three or four hours actually drawing. Depending how you count it (lots of sketching while snacking). So that’s approximately 100 x two minute drawings.

That kind of seems like a waste of time when you say it.

A whole day of doodling!

BUT! In my defense – I was *thinking* about watercolor the whole time.

I really wanted to be doing big paintings filled with dozens of people – but I didn’t want to carry a drawing board or an easel as I ran round the city. Today was all about travelling light and getting to 100.

I figured – I’ll spend the day doing silhouettes in pen – and IMAGINE the watercolor I’ll do later.

All these little shapes I’ve sketched are imitations – visualizations – of how I’d make a figure in wash.


A few years ago, during our 30×30 painting event, I realised some of my favorite paintings come from bad photos.

Dark, blurry cellphone photos – they’re perfect. The less you have – the easier it is to simplify.

Another trick is to get further away. Or paint a backlit subject. These are ways to give yourself LESS complexity to look at.

All these tricks can help you supress unnecessary detail.

With my little pen silhouettes, I’ve left out everything except the major form.

Painting from doodles is almost too easy! It’s certainly a fun way to get a solid sketch.

Ok – so, instead of reading about what I’m doing – how about a video demonstration?

This short video shows how I make the figure, all-in-one-go. Fusing brushstrokes to get a solid, blended shape – but – leaving white gaps in just the right places.

Ok! So that’s my ‘homework’ for this year’s #OneWeek100People.

I hope other people have specific things they hope to get out of the event?

You don’t have to do it like me!

If you’re trying to be a portrait painter – by all means, do 100 heads. If you’re trying to be a comic book artist – do 100 characters from imagination.

As with all of these online challenges – you should do whatever you need, to develop the skills you see yourself using in five years.

Otherwise five years will come around and you won’t find yourself making the works of art you imagined.

So please – post your sketches up to the Facebook group – (or just leave a comment here) and share with us!


Warming up for #OneWeek100People with 5 minute sketches!

March 4, 2020

More warmups for this year’s #OneWeek100People!

The other day I made it to a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event.

They say they have over a hundred branches in sixteen countries, so if you’re lucky, there’s one near you.

This often irreverent drawing event is a local favorite. Traditional life-drawing is invaluable to an artist’s training, but these days I find it more fun to sketch a costumed model.

This session was a Lord of the Rings, Galadriel theme, set to the epic music of the films.

To be honest, this was a more chaste session than usual.

Coming from the burlesque community, Dr. Sketchy’s is usually known for racy costumes and poses.

But I think the motherly character of Galadriel, and the sorrowful sounds of Enya don’t set the mood for the usual camp and shenanigans.

These are 5, 10 or 20 minute poses, but I try to treat them all the same.

My strategy is to use spare time in the longer poses to go back and paint the faster sketches – so I doubt I spent much more than 5 minutes on any of these.

In a life-drawing situation – I’m always aiming for less-is-more.

I love the rush of energy – trying to finish these to the best of my ability, in the shortest possible time. It’s 100% absorbing.

Really therapeutic. In the sense that you can’t think of anything besides getting the sketch. 100% of your brain is engaged in painting. All your other worries (and responsibilities) are put on hold.

I like to think #OneWeek100People can help with that.

Having the shared goal to get that many people in a week – it’s just enough pressure to help you get into this zone.

The very thin space between an elegant, instantaneous sketch, and an epic fail :)

My favorite kind of drawing.

#OneWeek100People is Next Week!

March 1, 2020

Just a friendly reminder to prep your pens and palettes and get ready for sketching!

Here’s a few quick warmups with ballpoint-and-wash. Turns out, this particular pen wasn’t fully waterproof. But that’s ok. I like the way it neutralizes the colors.

As of this morning, we’ve got almost 2000 people in the Facebook group. If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass the word.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys get this year!



I’ve reopened my Etsy shop!

February 6, 2020

I’ve reopened my Etsy shop! <click here :)

Original works of art, from my studio to your home!

You probably don’t even know I have an Etsy shop. I used to post prints of my favorite drawings here – it’s literally been years since I opened it up.

I’ve decided to use it to offer my smaller oil paintings for purchase. Right now, just my 10×10” panels. It seems like a good size for online sales – and – I enjoy painting them! It’s my favorite size – you can make incredible marks at this scale. One swipe of the knife can go across the entire surface. The scale of the impasto, compared to the image, is just perfect, in my opinion.

I’ve posted just a few paintings to get started, but I’ll be adding more in the next few weeks.

I get tremendous enjoyment looking at these every day. They’re miniature gems. Little windows onto another world.

It would give me immense satisfaction to send one to a reader. Or if anyone has an occasion where they might want a nice gift for friend or family? These small paintings can add life, color and contemplation to any home or office.

Oh and – just to kick things off – everything I list this month will be at 25% off, with free shipping to Canada or the US.

If you live elsewhere, just reach out, we can talk about shipping options.

Take care, and talk to you soon,


Ready to take on #OneWeek100People? March 9-13, 2020!

February 3, 2020

Hey everyone!

Spring is coming – ever so slowly here in Montreal – but it’s coming.  And that means we’re getting closer to street-sketching weather.

This is something I’ve been largely ignoring for the last year (or two). So I’m excited to return with a bang – starting with #OneWeek100People.

I’m talking of course, about our annual challenge to you, to draw 100 people in a single week.

Well, 5 days, because my co-founder Liz Steel and I think you should get a weekend off.

We’re taking on the challenge for the fourth year in a row – this March, 9-13, 2020. We’ll be sketching like mad, showing our progress, giving a few tips if we can, but mostly just cheering you on!

Want to find out more> Here’s a page with ALL THE INFO (and all of my posts from previous years). 

Sign up to the Facebook group, if you’re so inclined, or just comment on my posts here – or – just hashtag your other social media with #OneWeek100People and we’ll find you :)

I hope you’ll join us for this terrific exercise!