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Day 25 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Final Crit! (#4, Part 2) : Uma Shows Her Masterworks!

June 25, 2020

Day 25: This is it! The last – and very best segment of our art-chat-series. I was really amazed with what Uma showed us and I’m super excited to share these with you.

Click the video – don’t wait! You have to see these paintings!


Day 24 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Final Crit! (#4, Part 1) : Uma Crits Marc

June 24, 2020

Day 24! – Thanks for following along this far – and welcome to the finish line! Here’s the first half of our series of video-critiques. In this, I’m showing my final projects – and tomorrow we’ll post Uma’s big finish for #30×30!

Thanks ~m

Day 23 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Found Photo : Late Night Ramen

June 23, 2020

Day 23: Another exercise in abstraction.

I’ve turned the people into the simplest possible shapes, then built up everything around them in a mosaic of strokes.

Here’s the photo. Also found on the web, but the owner deleted themselves, and there’s no trace on reverse image search.

So – I’m of two minds about my painting. I mean, I like it – the balance between drawing and abstraction is good. But the photo is really quite strong. Quite a good story-composition.

As much as I say – artists worry too much about copyright – this is one case where I feel my work here doesn’t rise enough above the level of a copy.


Book Review: Hand Drawn Vancouver, by Emma FitzGerald

June 22, 2020

I have here in my hand a copy of Emma Fitzgerald’s third book, Hand Drawn Vancouver. <– affilate link, thx. (151pp, Appetite / Pengin Random House, $US19.95/$CDN24.97).

When Emma asked if I’d take an advance look, I was happy to agree. Who could say no to another one of her guided tours? I’m a big fan of her first two offerings: Hand Drawn Halifax and Sketch By Sketch Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

I gather she’s lived in a lot of places, and I think it’s given her the ability to be a local anywhere.

When she takes on a city, she walks it’s length and breadth in all four seasons, gathering stories and sketches, and a carefully-sifted collection of first-hand observations, eavesdropped conversations and street-side confessionals.

When you first flip through the book, it’s the charming drawings that grab you. Her keen-eyed, quirky sketches are fun and full of little details.

But it’s the stories that make you read every page – and in doing so, fall in love with Vancouver. Or, Emma’s version of a warm and friendly Vancouver with an undertone of real-world grit. Real people living real lives.

People love to find an artist sketching on the street. It seems to flip a switch that makes them willing to tell you the best stories. The way the world would be if you were everyone’s friend.

Emma’s book is full of exchanges with folks, that go from stranger to closest confidant in the time it takes to draw a line. It makes you want to live her life! She has a different world from the rest of us – with our earphones in and our podcasts playing.

I highly recommend Hand Drawn Vancouver – whether you collect art books, or you’re looking for a souvenir of the city – or if you want the perfect gift for a visitor.

Hand someone this book and you’ll instantly accrue Emma’s hard-won street cred. They’ll feel like they know the town like a local born stepchild. There should certainly be a copy in every AirBnB in the city!

Hand Drawn Vancouver, Sketches of the City’s Neighbourhoods, Buildings and People, available in Print and ebook on June 23 on the usual online retailers, or direct from Random House Canada– or best of all – phone in an order with your local independent bookstore.


Day 22 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Found Photo : Abstraction

June 22, 2020

Day 22: Problem Solving

So I’m dealing with this mandate: Dark. Abstract. Cinematic.

I found this photo in a street photography forum. Apologies to u/wannabenomads.

This kind of thing – with all the reflections – it’s an automatic introduction to abstraction. I just try and paint exactly what’s there, and end up with a Rothko.


Day 21 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Cormorant Fisherman

June 21, 2020

Day 21: Cormorant Fisherman

I was looking at all of my urban sketching reference material and thinking. Nope. Nothing here is not going to beat that rooftops painting. (Day 20).

Maybe I’m over-blowing it, but that’s how it goes :)

But also – this damned rooftop is my favorite thing lately – but it’s nothing like my stated goals. Which were to capture gritty, urban scenes. Potentially at night – but certainly with strong lighting.

Because – why?

I don’t now why.

I think I’m looking for something more dramatic. More cinematic anyway.

So I went back through the files with a new eye – and pulled out the best shots we have of people at work.

This is *also* nothing like my stated goals.

But let’s call it a warm-up.

Day 20 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Rooftops of Lisbon

June 20, 2020

Day 20: Rooftops of Lisbon

I think it might not get better than this :)

This is the winner. If you’re allowed to call your own paintings winners.

Of course, I’m looking back with the benefit of hind-sight.

I paint these things ahead of the game, so I’m done my #30×30 before we start doing it as a group. (This year it took 17 days actually). It’s the only way I can keep up with the scanning, posting and social networking. Even though I’m asking you to do it! But hey – nothing’s stopping you! I’ve said it before – It’s 30 *consecutive* days – you can fudge WHICH thirty days – within reason :) It wouldn’t hurt to start a little early to avoid the rush at the finish line. One fellow told us he did 30 paintings on the FIRST DAY so he could relax for the rest of the marathon.


Honestly – before I was half way along, I knew this one was special.

I was getting nervous – like – don’t let there be an earthquake or something because this is a miracle.

My brush-work was going down just right. I had the measure of the paper, the perfect humidity.

The painting looks like a puzzle, but it felt like watching someone solve a Rubik’s cube. Like – I wasn’t even doing anything.

A genuine out-of-body-experience.

Musicians talk about getting to the point where they enjoy listening to themselves play. This must be the equivalent.

This is why, looking back after all these years – I really feel it’s not about finding the right teacher or buying the right supplies. Those things help. But so does getting a good breakfast every morning.

It isn’t what your brain knows. It’s what your hands know.



Day 19 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Lisbon Train Station

June 19, 2020

Day 19:

There’s a reliable pattern to a painting marathon. You start out tentative, maybe a little rusty. You push through some bad ones, some exercises, and suddenly there’s a peak – (a little too close to the middle for my liking) – when you hit your stride. You’re doing things you never expected.

Making breakthroughs!

Or at least, taking risks – based on new-found confidence.

This is the point where you have enough good work in the bag you won’t be ashamed of yourself, but you haven’t beaten your personal-best yet either.

It’s a public performance after all – so you find yourself willing to bang out a piece you’d frankly have been scared to try previously.

It’s time to go big, or go home.

If I had to put a finger on it, I’d say what’s changing is my use of brushstrokes, versus shapes.

In the past I might have emphasized fusing all the strokes within a silhouette. So every wet shape is solidly melted together. (If you’re a regular reader, I’m sure you’ve heard me say that.)

Right now, I’m willing to leave things broken up. It’s turning into individual brush-marks floating and layering over each other – building up a mosaic.

Maybe this is coming from my last two years of oil painting?

I don’t know, but I’m open to where it’s going.

Day 18 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Video Crit! #3, Part 2 : Marc Crits Uma

June 18, 2020

Day Eighteen! Here’s our chat about Uma’s paintings at the halfway point.

As with all of these – thanks for anyone who’s interested enough to watch our un-edited conversations. I hope some people find these helpful. I feel a lot of what we say about each others work could well apply to anyone’s painting. So – here you go!



Day 17 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Video Crit! #3, Part 1 : Uma Crits Marc

June 17, 2020

Day Seventeen:

Our third chat – Uma Crits Marc at the halfway (ish) point in the marathon!