Skip to content

Day 16 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Cortona Redux

June 16, 2020

Day 16: A side street in Cortona, Italy.

This one is intersting – because I can show you the painting I made on location, back in 2015.

Fascinating how different the color is eh? Is that due to working from a photo? Or just my sensibility changing?

I’m not sure – but I can say, the new foliage looks like it’s transmitting sunlight – where the old plants look plastic, despite the intense sun.

The old painting has this rusty orange sense of heat. The light is bleached out and high-key. It was brutal – painting out in the sun. (Crazy tourists!)

In the new painting, the drawing of the street is better – the perspective is less cheated – Because of the reference? I don’t see why, because I could have measured just as easily in real life. Just new skills I guess. Maybe because it’s easier to slow down and check things when you’re working in the comfort of home.

Either way – there’s more depth and subtlety now. I can see myself improving!

Here by the way, is the photoshop-tweaked-photo I worked from.

The weird angles on the sides are an effect left over after perspective correction. I’ve removed the wide-angle distortion of the lens, so it’s closer to how the human eye sees it. But then I just add back in my own wonky perspective :)

I guess that’s how I roll.

You’re welcome by the way to use any of these photographs on the blog for your own sketches. Or even copy the paintings if you want.

Take care – and see you tomorrow with new videos!

We’ll have part three of our critique going up – discussing the last few days paintings, and – two more big surprises!

Day 14 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Skip Day!

June 14, 2020


[ The North Remembers, 10×10″ Oil on Panel ]

Didn’t Paint Today! Here’s an old one!

I initially thought what I was doing with my impasto oil paintings was completely different than my watercolors. But – the more I look at them, the more I realize – I can only paint the way I paint. The medium might change the look, but the thinking, or the ‘way of seeing’ is the same.



Day 13 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Havana

June 13, 2020

I painted this alley in Havana because of that guy carrying the fridge.

At the time Laurel took this photo, I was drawing the dome in the distance. We’ve had this urban sketching photo in the archives for probably ten years, and I’d never seen that guy before. I used to be so laser-focused on drawing old buildings.

Weird hey?

So there you go, Day 13!

I’ll leave you with some more abstract brushwork.

Day 12 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Return to Rio!

June 12, 2020

Day 12:

What can I say about this one hey?

I like it!

I mean – I’m back in my happy place.

It took a week of pushing paint, but I’m feeling the flow. The return to fluency with the brush. And the ability to visualize the painting I want, when I’m looking at a ‘random’ street scene.

There’s a lot of mental corrections to reality going on – when you compare the painting to the photo below.

Besides removing the city, (returning us to 1910) and inventing an expressive sky, I’m subtly distorting the perspective and spacing to make the architecture more – I guess more elegant – more ‘rising above the street’. And simplified – into the almost orthographic perspective I enjoy.

I’ve also established a strangely dominant ground plane, and used the brush work everywhere around the focus to make a kind of frothy, windblown movement. And I’m trying to reduce all the street-life to brushwork abstractions that imply people. You feel their presence, but none of them are portraits. (Similar I suppose to the little people in Mr. Tram (Day 06)).

This one has the freedom that I would expect out of my own plein-air paintings. Which is about time – here on day 12!

Here’s the reference – Laurel’s photo of the opera house in Rio di Janerio.

I should say – I’ve messed up this image in Photoshop. Mainly to reduce values into silhouettes. I’ve squashed all the detail in the trees, and clamped out many of the specular highlights. (Glints). This is all just curves control layers. It’s only a few minutes work in photoshop, and it’s ‘non-destructive’. You can’t ruin your photo.

I know this might sound like a daunting step if you’ve never tried – but anyone who paints from photos should experiment with Photoshop – or an app like ProCreate on the ipad. It’ll only take an afternoon of trying out adjustments and color corrections and you’ll be on your way.

Funny story – I was told this theater in Rio is an exact copy of the opera house in Paris. I’ve been going around repeating that story to everyone. But I did a little research, and I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, the Theatro Municipal in Sao Paulo looks much closer to the Opera Garnier in Paris. There’s some kind of historical game of telephone going on there that I’m not going to bother untangling.

Ok – I’ll leave you with some close ups of brush work!


Day 11 : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Second Video Crit Part 2/2 : Uma Crits Marc

June 11, 2020

Day Eleven: Second half of Crit#2- Uma Crits Marc.



Day Ten : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Second Video Crit! (Part 1/2) : Marc Crits Uma

June 10, 2020

Day 10: Part one of our second video-chat. Marc crits Uma!

As always, feel free to post questions!


Day Nine : #30x30DirectWatercolor : More Studies

June 9, 2020

Day Nine: Quebec City

Nothing to see here except some sketches that aren’t as good as yesterday!

Tomorrow we’ll start posting our second video critique! Looking back right now, I have no idea why I wanted to paint these. Maybe I’ll have something of an explanation?


Day Eight : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Back to Basics : Black and White Miniatures

June 8, 2020

Day eight:

It’s going ok.

I’m happy, and the work is happening, but – I’m not excited enough yet.

Can’t quite put my finger on what I’m hoping for – except – I want to get back to the feeling of adventure and spontaneity that I’m used to with plein-air painting.

Which – given that I’m still at home, not ready to break quarantine – that’s a big ask.

So! Ok then! Maybe it’s not about traveling to exciting subjects – maybe it’s about making exciting paintings!

If you want to tune the sensitivity of the eye>hand>paint>brush loop – there’s nothing better than simplifying – and speeding up – at the same time.

You have to give yourself more chances to FEEL the paint. More opportunities to make a perfect brush stroke by accident, or instinct – and FEEL what it was like. REMEMBER the viscosity, the humidity, the exact angle and speed of the brush – everything you needed to pull together to make a bold confident piece happen under your fingertips.

These are painted about 10″ high. Sometimes I like to look at them reduced.

It’s a simulation of what they’d look like on the wall, performing as paintings – which are viewed at room-scale, as opposed to illustrations which we engage at arm’s length – or closer, now that we looking at most things on our phones.

I really like the look of this hey?

That’s a bang-up painting. It’s a little compact gem.

This is what I need to be doing – a few hundred more of these!

Day Seven : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Missed Day!

June 7, 2020

[ Blue Mansard House. 8×8″ Watercolor on Cotton Paper. Found Photo @Archi.ologie ]

Didn’t paint today! Just stuff going on. Here’s one that was lying around. ~m

Day Six : #30x30DirectWatercolor : Ding Ding! It’s Mr. Tram!

June 6, 2020

I do like this one!

But – I also feel it’s too cute :) Almost like a children’s book illustration.

This was a small square outside our window in Lisbon. Every night there was a party at that cafe. Live music and people out on the street till all hours of the night. I suppose it was kind of fun, having that night-life. For the first few days anyway.

Sigh. I was born an old man, and I’m just now aging into it :)

Here’s the reference photo. Maybe you can see what I was trying to get at – with the sense of busy night life.

I didn’t quite make it down to these deep warm darks that are in the photo. It’s probably a matter of needing some different pigments. Cad Orange Deep maybe. And I need to stop being afraid of the black. Some people even mix India ink with watercolor. I don’t know what’s stopping me trying that.

Anyway – I know I can getting the hang on how much pigment vs. how much water. (Hint – the answer is always More Pigment Than You Think).

Unlike oils, with watercolor you can’t see what you’re mixing till it goes down on the paper. This is particularly hard with darks. Past a certain point, every dark looks the same till it begins to dry. I suppose, a person could try test swatches on spare sheets, but IDK man. That doesn’t seem very ‘Direct’.

For me, it’s a matter of drilling – practicing – repetition – until paint mixing becomes second nature again.

Anyway, I just went by instinct, because, it’s what I do, and I’m happy with what I got.

Besides the night-time mood – my other goal was powering through the crowd. Nicely grouping those people scattered in the square, not losing patience, making each one a character. It’s an endurance test. Trying to paint something like this and not lose your observational focus.

Another goal was coming up with a rendition of the mosaic cobblestones. I knew I was never going to draw the pattern exactly. That would have drawn far too much attention into the center. The tram is supposed to be the real focal point. I’m pretty pleased with how the pattern came out in a fan of simple strokes.

Blop, Blop, Blop – floor done.

I clearly remember thinking before the first stroke – this either works or it doesn’t! I sure hope I didn’t just waste a lot of time on those people!