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Expeditionary Art’s New and Improved Pocket Palette < Plus a Discount Code!

March 2, 2018

This is kind of timely news, as I’m planning to use this new piece of kit for #OneWeek100People2018.

Maria Coryell-Martin at recently sent me the next generation of her ultra-compact Pocket Palette.

The design remains the same as the original version, up-cycling pre-existing cases for 2×3″ business cards, but this update makes improvements to the magnetic tins, which should eliminate a problem with the trays rusting.

But more importantly – she’s introduced a super-cute square tin she calls a half-pan, which I find to be a perfect size.

The new mini-square holds just a dot of color, only a bit more than the cap of a watercolor tube.

I love the new tray size. It’s perfect for what this palette is designed for. It’s not about carrying a lot of paint. I doubt anyone’s going to rely on this tiny kit as their only palette for a month-long vacation. This is more of an everyday-carry. Something discreet to bring to a live event, a cafe, or a museum.

In the end, I’d rather have tiny amounts of more colors, instead of larger pans of fewer, knowing I’ll only be using this for a dab of color on a sketch, or maybe a postcard-sized piece. If I ever wanted the larger trays, I’d just bring my normal 3×5″ kit.

Basically, these half-pans (which I’d personally call 1/8ths) allow me to approximate my standard palette in miniature. I don’t have to change how I work.

You can see, in these yellow-green lorikeets, especially on the left, and upper right, exactly how I use my rows of color.

I’m placing touches of full strength pigments – Olive green, Perlyne green, Green Gold – then an accent such as the Turquoise – and of course the intense Pyrrol Orange on the breast – but never ‘smudging’, no manual blending – simply placing the colors right next to each other. I get a light-to-dark gradient by letting the strokes fuse on their own.

Yes, I could mix these colors – but by having three values of tubes in each row, I can make gradients faster, and get the wet-in-wet fusion I enjoy.

In fact, I used the larger rectangular pans for whites and blacks in this test setup, going forward I’ll just get more mini-squares. I could add a few more specialty shades, such as Lunar Black, or Tyrian Purple.

I did these at the aquarium, but this little paint kit is perfect for any situation where space or weight is a concern. Sketching in the cafe, on a long flight, or taking a sketchbook backpacking. Whatever reason you find to go on an art expedition!

If you’re interested in ordering a few of the new pans, or a complete ready-to-go kit, head over to the Expeditionary Arts store, and use the discount code: HOLMES at checkout time. Maria says this will be good for 15% off, from now until March 31st.


#OneWeek100People2018 is coming soon!

March 1, 2018

Hey Sketchers, here’s an idea for your #OneWeek100People2018 sketching marathon.

Try some brush pen miniatures!

You can probably do 100 people in a single day if you find a crowded place, and sketch everyone SUPER TINY :)

I did these in our main Metro station downtown, so there was a never-ending set of people waiting for the train – and – I only had 2 minutes between each train car to capture a person.

It’s a lot of fun seeing what you can do with a teensy tiny miniature.

Plus, it forces you to be decisive, and, it’s really fast. You can boop them out, one after another, and you’ll find your hand-eye skills warming up.

It takes me a few tries to get a zinger. But there’s always a great one in every batch of ten.

I hope you’re all getting ready for #OneWeek100People2018!

We’ll see you on March 5 with my 100 metro people :)

Interview on the self-publishing process, up on Gurney Journey!

February 28, 2018

If you’re interested in some behind-the-scenes on the making of Direct Watercolor – the ever-inquisitive Mr. James Gurney had some great questions, which we’ve posted as an interview on his blog. < Head on over to his place if you’d like to read about my process self-publishing with Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Direct Watercolor on Sale!

February 25, 2018

Just to say, Direct Watercolor, is reduced price right now on Amazon Canada – regular $31.36, now on sale $24.59.

In the USA <affiliate link, thx) it’s only a few dollars off – regular $24.95, now for $22.46.

I’m not entirely sure how Amazon decides these things, or how long it will be on, but it’s nice to see a price break for fellow Canadians! I just want to say – big thanks to everyone who’s ordered already! Things are going very well in the first week. We came out at #1 and #2 for ebook and print charts in Amazon’s watercolor category! ~m


Announcing my new book ‘Direct Watercolor’- Available Now!

February 20, 2018

This is a super-huge, major-mega announcement! I’m so excited to be able to say, my third book, Direct Watercolor <affiliate links, thx) is available now on Amazon stores worldwide!

We have painted, written, designed and published this book, entirely ourselves.

If you’ve been a fan of Citizen Sketcher for awhile, this is an opportunity to enjoy a new and improved collection of my watercolors, and tangibly show your support at the same time. (You have my thanks!)

Due to various life-situations, some personal, and some professional, I won’t be teaching in person as much this year, and I won’t be able to release a new video class in the near future. This self-published book is my first major effort at self-sufficiency in our new circumstance.


Order Direct Watercolor in Print or eBook Edition | | | | | |

Order Direct Watercolor in eBook Edition | | |


Direct Watercolor is a retrospective collection of over eighty of my watercolor paintings from the last five years. Most of them painted side-by-side with fellow urban sketchers as we gathered for our international urban sketchers symposia.

The book features my latest thinking on the technique of watercolor painting, with all new commentary on old favorites, as well as six completely new step-by-step demonstrations.

If you’ve been a reader of Citizen Sketcher, you’ll be familiar with my deceptively simple approach to spontaneous painting. I hope these examples bring it all together into something helpful for beginners, and still interesting to experienced watercolorists.

Direct Watercolor is my first independently published book and is printed and distributed through Amazon CreateSpace. As such, it is not available in bookstores at this time, only by online order.

I still have a good relationship with my conventional publisher, so The Urban Sketcher and Designing Creatures and Characters will still be selling through traditional book-channels.

It’s a big step releasing this new project on our own, but it has been an opportunity to make exactly the book I wanted, and I hope it will be the first of many to follow.

But – we absolutely need your help to make it work!

If you’d like to help, we are grateful for the assistance of every single Amazon review.

It can be as little as giving a star rating, or just a sentence or two. Every person who takes the time to send a review improves the chances my book will appear in searches and recommendations.

And please – tell your artist friends about the book! – you’ll be doing us a huge favor with every social media share and facebook like :)

As well, thanks to everyone who’s helped out in the past with reviews, by coming to workshops, by supporting, and of course being one of our blog readers. You are what got us this far.

It has been a wonderful journey, learning by doing and sharing the results with you. I hope to continue for years to come.


Announcing: #OneWeek100People2018 starts Monday March 5!

February 19, 2018


We’re doing it again! The sketching challenge that pushes you to draw 100 people in one week!

Taking inspiration from online challenges such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), or the popular Inktober, this year from March 5th – 9th, 2018, urban sketchers Marc Taro Holmes (Montreal, CA) and Liz Steel (Sydney, AUS) invite the world to join in with #OneWeek100People2018.

Every aspiring artist has heard the advice ‘Carry a small sketchbook at all times!’. We’re all told ‘Practice drawing every day!’.

This is great advice, but sometimes we need a little extra motivation.

Last year #OneWeek100People had me running all over – from a jujitsu tournament to the rehearsal for a comic opera, to a hip-hop dance class.

You don’t have to go to such great lengths :)

Feel free to work from photos, or do a self-portrait series. It’s all fair game. However you choose to do it, the simple goal is: Draw 100 people in one week.

You can use any media you like: pencil drawings, or pen and ink, maybe digital sketches? Whatever you’d like to practice most.

The goal is PRACTICE. Not perfection. Think of us as your gym trainers. standing behind you yelling ‘Get out there! Keep your hands moving!’

100 people is a pretty fair goal. It’s a lot, but it’s not impossible.

It’s going to mean working hard or working fast. I like fast :) Last year I hit my entire goal on day one, and then had fun the rest of the week. If you’re doing 1-minute gestures, it’s only 20 minutes of work each day. (It can take you more time to find a group of people to draw :)  But, if you’re doing 20 minute watercolors – you might have to find a way to catch up later in the week.

We’re committing to draw about 20 people a day, and we’ll be posting our work every day for the week of March 5th-9th. If you want to join in, please use the hashtag #OneWeek100People2018 so everyone will be able to find your work across all the platforms people use.

We encourage you to search that hashtag every morning, and see what other people are doing!

While you’re waiting for this year to jump off, here are some graphics you can use to make a progress bar of little people :) and – if you want, have a read through all my posts from last year. Or, here’s a google for last year’s hashtag.

Best of luck!


Broken Silhouettes at the Redpath

January 29, 2018

We’ve just recently spent an afternoon at the Redpath Museum. One of my favorite places to sketch in bad weather. It’s the only museum in Montreal that allows us to paint inside the exhibit.

They’re getting ready for their annual fundraising auction, so we stopped by to make something for the event. (Sorry, tickets for this are sold out).

I wonder, can you see much difference between this caribou above and this ferret below? I mean, besides the obvious fact they’re different critters.

One is what I’d call positive shape, the other negative.

The silhouette of the caribou is all darks on top of the mottled background tone. (Don’t forget to wait for your wet-in-wet undertone to completely dry). The darks are placed, stroke-next-to-stroke so they fuse together – but at the same time, there’s a lot of open ‘unpainted’ space where the background tone shows through. Particularly in the neck and shoulders.

This idea of leaving holes in a shape – that’s something I was getting at in my workshop “The Broken Silhouette“. You can read more about it in the workshop notes.

I quite enjoyed this play between what is ‘solid’ and what is ‘transparent’ in the subject.

This ferret, on the other hand, being a light colored shape, has to be reversed.

The dark background is pulled towards the body on all sides, making this figure a white hole in a dark field.

This is what I’d call negative painting.  Not painting the figure, but painting everything around the figure.

I like to alternate hard/soft with the edges. Some areas (like the tail) have a sliver of dry paper, making a sharp white edge. In other places (like the knee), the background is allowed to touch the wet fur, causing the pale grey to melt.

This isn’t completely planned. It’s done by instinct – and sometimes things melt more than you want. I had to use a bit of Chinese White on his front paw, to bring it back into focus. And a few dots of white along the s-curve of the neck.

Some subjects can be a mix of positive and negative shapes.

The shiny metal helmet on this suit of Japanese armor jumps into high-relief, because of the reserved-white negative shapes on the visor. Whereas the Mempo (faceplate) below is a positive form.

The forward shoulder plate and smaller shapes on the Do (breastplate or cuirass) are negative shapes, but, being a little further from the light, I choose to reserve to the background tone, rather than 100% white.

Sometimes, if I’m working too fast to wait for the undertone to dry, I might do the whole figure on white paper, all in a single pass. This gives everything a sharp focus silhouette. (See old example below). But, by planning ahead with this moody base tone, I can impart a better sense of dramatic lighting. I know nothing I do in the second pass, can be brighter than the base tone. It’s like (selectively) putting the breaks on future highlights to come. This takes some planning, or pre-visualization, but it’s easy enough to add it to your toolkit, given a little practice.

USK_Workshop 2017_Brush Drawing_Marc Taro Holmes_Example_03_Samurai

In reality, there’s a lot of fascinating detail on the armor. Mixed textures of brocade and chain-mail, ornamental rivets, and decorative plaques. But it’s a stronger statement if left in silhouette. If I wanted all that detail, I might take a photo :) Or, more likely, do a pen and ink drawing.

Right now I’m loving the game of implying shapes and highlighting edges with little gaps and holes in the fused silhouette. Drawing in the positive and negative modes simultaneously.

So, if you’re ever in Montreal, looking for something to do in an afternoon, consider our little natural history museum! It’s a wonderful space that takes you back in time. Almost a meta-museum. A preserved example of what 19th-century natural history collections were like. Provided free to the public by McGill University, (donations welcome, in the little box by the door).