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Announcing: Watercolor Workshop Dec 2, in Stowe Vermont!

November 5, 2017

There’s only a short while left to register for my one-day workshop: Still Life in Watercolor!

Given the time of year, we won’t paint on location – rather, it will be a full day in the studio. I’ll demonstrate some key concepts in the morning, then we’ll spend the entire afternoon guiding you through your own watercolor(s). We’ll have a variety of things to work from, but you may also bring objects from home if you have some favorite subjects around your studio.

Click Here to Register

Saturday December 2 – 9:30am to 5:340pm

Stowe, Vermont, at the Helen Day Art Center, 90 Pond Street, Stowe, VT 05672.

($135 member/$160 non-member)

A great painting starts with a great drawing. Any flaws in the sketch will be there in the finished piece.

So we’ll start with my sketching methods – some easy techniques for measuring proper placement on the page, checking object proportions, and thinking about overlap of shapes – but most importantly how to simplify complex objects into a silhouette + shadow shape.

We’ll also cover my three favorite methods for manipulating watercolor: Growing a solid shape, Charging-in, and Edge Pulling.

I’ll talk about layering from lighter to darker in three steps which I call Tea, Milk and Honey, and what that actually means for different objects of various values and materials.

Beginners are welcome, and we’ll work at your own pace. If you’re feeling confident, you can take on a complete composition of multiple objects – or – work on sketches of individual pieces.

My approach to watercolor is based on years of sketching on location. I hope to inspire you to capture the world around you, without getting overwhelmed by unimportant details. These are the watercolor sketching skills that can introduce you to travel sketching, drawing the figure from life, or plein air painting.

Hope to see you in Stowe next month!

Click Here to Register

Saturday December 2 – 9:30am to 5:30pm  – Stowe, Vermont, at the Helen Day Art Center, 90 Pond Street, Stowe, VT 05672.

($135 member/160 non-member)



Book Review: Sketch Now Think Later, by Mike Yoshiaki Daikubara

November 1, 2017

I’ve been a fan of Mike Yoshiaki Daikubara for a while now, so I was pleased to receive a reviewers’ copy of his latest book: Sketch Now Think Later: Jump into Urban Sketching with Limited Time, Tools and Techniques.

Daikubara is an urban sketcher based out of Boston MA, one of the home towns I’ve collected along the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t street-sketch when I lived there, so I’m catching up on what I missed by following his blog.

He’s a prolific sketcher, having trained himself to work fast and use every stolen moment of downtime. That’s no doubt helped him to publish his four previous titles (available online), as well as two more books of early work, now sold-out of print.

This, his latest book, is a beginners guide to Urban Sketching, published by Quarry Books, an imprint of the Quarto Group.

Sketch Now Think Later is a trade paperback book (5.25×8.25”) of 112 pages, looking a bit like a Moleskine sketchbook with an elastic bookmark.

It follows the now-classic approach of an Urban Sketchers monograph; starting with a deep dive into the sketching tools Daikubara carries every day, (something every travelling artist has honed down to their personal minimum), and gradually expanding into his techniques for line art, how he handles color, and how he annotates his pages of sketches.

Daikubara, like many Urban Sketchers, is a visual journalist. His drawings are insightful snapshots, not labored renderings. Spontaneous sketches briskly capturing whatever drew his eye, without any wasted energy. The sweet-spot between fine artist and reporter is a balance every Urban Sketcher has to find for themselves.

It seems to me he weighs in on the side of obsessive note-taker.

His sketches are also his diary; noting down odd details such as laser-sighted measurements of spaces, quoted snippets of conversation, contents of containers, tiny step-by-step illustrations of how things are built, or how they function. (This from his industrial design background no doubt). It’s these annotations that make his drawings fun to pore over. You feel as if you’re over his shoulder listening to him think as he sketches. Always learning something new about his subject.

Like his drawings, Daikubara packs the book’s margins with commentary – and they’re where the book excels. While written for beginners, Sketch Now Think Later is so jam-packed with information, even a practiced sketcher will pick up a thing or two from the many sidebars and captions.

The book is available from Daikubara’s site, your local booksellers, or – if you’d like to support my blog, you can order through the Amazon affiliate links used in this article.


Jean Paul Gaultier at the Montreal Beaux Arts

October 25, 2017

There is as was a show on at the MTL Beaux Arts, (closed Oct 22, sorry) featuring wedding dresses by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

It’s just a one room exhibition, with, mmmm, I’ll say about 30 mannequins? Each dress has it’s own theme – many of them borrowing from history, but others based on abstract forms. Everything is in high key neutrals and draped in yards and yards of gauzy veils.

The faceless mannequins are blank masks that occasionally come to life with the projected faces of models. But, strangely they only talk back and forth in banalities. How they are jet lagged, or which expression is good for the camera.

The white-on-off-white theme got me thinking – what a great subject for #Inktober2017. An event I’ve largely ignored this year, but hey – y’all have probably been watching other people doing it?

What a challenge to draw all these white dresses with black ink :) But of course here I’ve cheated – using my usual Platinum Carbon Black sparingly, and relying on dilute Lexington Grey, (sometimes just dirty water), Rome Burning (a pale gold) and Liquitex acrylic ink in Titanium White.

Did you know they made white ink? It’s not really all that white. I can’t imagine what it’s really for. You could never use it properly on black paper for instance. It’s only about 25% opaque. And it settles instantly making it very hard to pick up on a pen nip. I only tried it with a brush. I wouldn’t recommend using these Liquitex acrylic inks in a fountain pen.

In any case, I really just used it for glazes, drips and spatters. Any sharp bright white retouches you do see here are ordinary white gouache.

That’s pretty much cheating in the world of #Inktober2017 right? By now it’s basically a black and white painting.

This one was my favorite dress. A kind of cable knit Irish sweater-dress, dissolving into a ragged net of ropes and fibers. It has a look of seaweed, or fishing nets, and reminds me of the myth of the Selkie. There were no titles on the work, but I’m sure that was the theme.

I know people will ask, so no, I didn’t ink-paint these in the museum. Splattering indelible black ink in the small room full of white dresses. That would have got me quickly ejected.

When I sketch in a museum I just get the most basic drawing inside the exhibit, then usually step out to the lobby or the cafeteria to paint. Or one memorable time, the washroom, as the building was deserted on a weekday morning so I figured I’d use the entire counter top.

This time, I just took them home and I inked over my very light 0.3mm pencil drawings done on 11×14″ plate bristol.

I wanted to use a wide range of tools including scroll writers, steel brushes, music nibs, some worn out synthetic brushes, some splatter, some dripping, even a little finger painting.

But my current favorite lines are coming from a new set of witch pens. I think I’m going to move exclusively to these, so I can have this conversation:

“What are the best pens to sketch with?”

“Witch Pens”

“Your dipping pens – the ones you sketch with…”

“yes, Witch Pens!”

“er, yes… but which one would be your favorite pen?”


“No, I mean – what KIND of pen do you like the best!”

“Witch Pens!!!!”


New Brush: Rosemary and Co, Comber Brush

October 17, 2017

The second interesting brush Rosemary offered me, was their Series 2250 Flat Comber.

The gimmick here is, we have a flat, with tiny serrations along the edge. Giving you rake-like marks – a series of parallel lines.

I do this normally using a pointed round and grinding the brush into the palette so the tip splays out into a jagged fan. But that’s kind of a grim way to handle your brushes. Nice that Rosemary’s created this serrated flat, to give you a similar effect.

I have a few more examples from figure drawing, but there’s hand-drawn nudity involved. If you’re of legal age to view such scandalous material, you can click over to my life drawing blog. Otherwise, you’ll have to take the word of that one example above.

But seriously, it’s really a neat effect – and I’m sure I’ll find many applications for this brush next time I go landscape painting.


New Brush: Rosemary and Co, Pyramid Brush

October 10, 2017

I’ve recently been given a couple of brushes to test – this first set of sketches is the Rosemary and Co Series 40 Triangular Pyramid brush. It’s a natural squirrel hair fiber, with a needle sharp point and an odd pyramidal brush-body.

By popular demand – photo of what the brush tip looks like. (Sorry, mine is a little blood-red spattered now).

My first impression – what fun brush!

It’s a little weird – getting the feel of it on my first attempts. But the fine line drawing with the point is excellent, and you’re able to lay it on on the triangular sides, squash into a wedge, or twist the pyramid to get unpredictable chisel shaped mark making. It goes from thin to thick very quickly, with a fun feeling of being on the edge of control.

If you’re at all a fan of gesture drawing, or a direct, calligraphic kind of painting – you might very much enjoy this brush. I’ll be looking forward to doing some more figure drawing or street sketching with it.

Lining up to visit Parliament

October 3, 2017

Sometimes it seems like I never draw anymore! With my watercolors – once you master mixing stronger colors, (and add some rich-dark pigments to your palette), you can do anything an ink drawing can do, but with the ability to work with shape as well as lines.

Still, there’s nothing more instantaneous than a direct ink drawing. Or more convenient. You can’t beat the immediacy of just a pen in hand.

These are done with a platinum carbon pen (extra fine line) and a brushpen (extra bold, of course).

They’re all done while waiting in line to visit the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Then, carrying on doodling while following the cellphone snapping tour group.

I’ve drawn this place from the outside – but never taken the time to go in. But we were vising with friends for the weekend, so we thought, ok – lets finally do this touristy thing.

Ok, well, the opening sketch up top is from breakfast at the hotel, not the tour itself. Our friends were some kind of card carrying VIPs. They had us upgraded so we could all enjoy the view from the members lounge.

So, actually, I hate to admit it – but the tour is kind of worth it. I must be getting old! I’d never have stood around for this before. But I was surprised to find myself enjoying it.

The interior architecture is fabulous – especially the Gothic library, the only one of it’s kind, done in carved white white pine. (No drawing allowed there, too hush hush. Important people working on important speeches!)

The halls are full of big’ol historical paintings and memorial statues. The docents do a great job of explaining the quirky traditions of our governments’ hallowed halls. Even with the canned jokes they must have to deliver 100 times a day.

I suppose, every so often it’s worth it to go on a holiday and leave your paints behind. Not everything has be a trophy winning piece – isn’t that right Lord Stanley?

Traditional Methods

September 30, 2017

You have to love sketching in museums – the lighting on the objects is always dramatic. You can learn a lot about drawing complex forms, using this kind of classical lighting.

Something about a museum trip encourages me to slow down and take my time sketching. There’s that hushed library feeling, if you can avoid the days there’s a school trip.

Nothing much to say about these, except, I’ll never pass up a chance to draw a suit of Samurai armor :)