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Just a reminder: #OneWeek100People2019 starts April 8th!

April 5, 2019


Just a reminder: we have around 1000 artists in the Facebook group ready to help each other cross the finish line next week.

My friend E was doing a double-model the other day – something you don’t get so often – so I jumped at the chance for a warm-up.



Some tips on Direct-to-Ink sketching: (No pencil, straight to ink).

  • Just redraw weaker figures or missed lines right on top. Usually, you can save the drawing. The misplaced lines don’t detract if you don’t think they do :) I find the pages with all the over-drawn figures more interesting.
  • Use a small nib for finding contour, and the biggest nib you have for shadow shapes in contrast. I have a steel brush but you might also like a Parallel Pen if you don’t want to carry bottled ink.
  • I use dipping nibs so I can change ink color on the fly, but you’d can always just carry more pens. I like a red line for variety from the black ink.
  • Think about placement on the page – and scale – make some figures much bigger than others, for variety, and to include portraits in with full figures. Use the direction of the figure’s pose – and even the direction of gaze – to influence the composition.


I like to use ‘disposable’ paper. These are pieces of Aquarius II folded into little booklets. I feel so much more relaxed about bad drawings if they’re not in a sketchbook. It’s a phobia I have about ruining a book. People say, don’t let it get to you, but if you can’t let go of the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ book, this is how I side-step that whole thing.

I’m starting to love this little stack of folding paper I’m building up, just as much as my sketchbooks that I never finish anyway :)


Okiedoke! See you guys next week for #100Week100People2019. I’m looking forward to see what everyone gets up to :)


Copyright is a pain in the a&& and artists should stop worrying about it.

March 28, 2019


Because I’m a painter, I move around in a constant state of inspiration.

Everywhere you go you see paintable things. You can’t look at the sky most days without seeing a great painting.

It’s unavoidable.

Naturally, I’m also addicted to social media – just like most of you – I’m constantly inspired by images I see online. 

I’m also constantly anxious and afraid to do anything about that inspiration.

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For fear of Copyright Violation! (Cue Sinister Music).

As artists, we’re always hearing; “You can’t copy someone else’s artwork! You can’t paint from someone else’s photo!”

These regulations are always popping up in calls for entry, or in commentary about work online.

“That’s not real art, it’s just a copy!”

As if painting in nature, standing in front of the landscape, isn’t just a copy? Or sitting with a model, or a still life, or some flowers. Artists are just the world’s most subjective camera.

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So – I did some research and here are my thoughts:

  • I am not a lawyer so this is my lay-informed opinion.
  • Yes – diverting business income by taking work and re-selling it is wrong. Classic example: downloading artwork and making it into t-shirts. < People have done that to me.
  • Also, commercial use of a recognizable likeness of someone’s face – this is a theft of income. Every human has the right to be paid for the (commercial) use of their image. (Though, not in every legal jurisdiction. Personality Rights are not recognized in NYC for example).
  • Same goes for commercial use of a building, a car, or even street-art if it ends up in a photo. (Designers and Architects have the same rights).
  • No direct, mechanical copy FOR PROFIT. < This is common sense.


  • NON-commercial use of anything (art, photos, likeness) is totally fine.
  • Copies by students are an easy example. Copied work appearing in your illustration or portraiture portfolio is less obviously ok – but IS considered fair-use. It’s a true demonstration of your skill, not a commercial product. The commercial product is the future work you might gain, not the copy itself.
  • AND >>>> most people don’t know this >>> one-of-a-kind original art is almost always ruled non-commercial.
  • The Graphic Artist Guild of America says: “Generally, works of fine art are not considered commercial even if they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Courts are more likely to consider artwork commercial if it is sold as mugs or t-shirts…”
  • The key difference being, art is (generally) sold once, yes, the object may be re-sold a handful of times, but there is no mass (or mechanical) production.

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  • Being inspired by an image, making (and selling) a TRANSFORMATIVE work is totally NOT copyright infringement.
  • The existence of the new work does not in any way reduce the value of the old work. Often it actually increases value, by a kind of cachet effect. The original work must be great if it inspires so many copies.
  • Examples of Transformative work:
    • Translating to a different media: Photograph recreated in line-art or weaving or say – an impasto oil painting.
    • Creating a composite image: Use multiple images for reference. To be safe, take no significant amount, or at least, equal amounts from each. (eg: collage).
    • Altering the source image: Enough that it would not be recognized by a stranger – not by the original artist. (They are too close to the issue). This also covers portrait-likeness. If a stranger (not the model) would not recognize the individual, then you have not stolen their face – even if you admit to using their photo as reference.
  • Doing all of these things combine is (imo) bulletproof. But any one of these transformations *might* be sufficient to be within Fair Use. (It’s up to the judge).
  • Rules of thumb: Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? Such as parody, or recontextualizing or juxtaposition. Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

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OK! Still with me?
That’s my rant about why it’s OK to think and act upon your actual creative thoughts.

Every thought we think comes from somewhere.

You see something, you read something, and you combine old ideas into new ideas. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Don’t be ashamed of seeing a great painting or photo and thinking – man – I would love do my own version of that!

Trina Davies

All that said: you should still credit your sources.

[Photo: Trina Davies, Playwright of Waxworks, Shatter, Silence, The Bone Bridge and the GG-nominated The Romeo Initiative:].

It’s just good grace between artists, and, if you are confident you’re doing transformative work, then there’s no reason not to.

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F+W Media (my publisher) files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

March 23, 2019

Cover ImageWell, the good times had to end someday right?

The publisher of my art-how-to books and videos including The Urban Sketcher has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

[Here’s some background info on that]. But it boils down to; their hobby-niche-magazine empire is fading into irrelevance in the internet age, and, their efforts to turn art-communities (WetCanvas,, etc) into paying ventures haven’t worked out.  Not all that surprising, as this stuff competes against Facebook and the other social media.

What does that mean to myself and their other authors?

Most annoyingly – it means a loss of royalty income for a while. Existing stock in the retail channel might sell, but I won’t receive any income until the situation is resolved.

Particularly bad timing for me, as I’ve recently stopped freelance work, in hopes of jumpstarting my gallery painting. But I knew that was an insane gamble when I threw the dice.

I suppose I’ve had a nice run for the last five years. We’ve sold about 35,000 copies of The Urban Sketcher. I think that’s pretty good for a niche topic like travel sketching.

Thanks, everyone! Good work!

The book income was never enough for me to live from, but it was one tent-pole in my hardscrabble artist-income. In the best-case, F+W can sell the book rights onto another publisher and sales can resume – or – perhaps the books go completely out of print. At which time, (after a significant contractual delay) I have the option to re-issue them myself.

Though, I seriously doubt I’ll receive any help in that regard (like, getting the page layouts back from the publisher? hah!).

Direct Watercolor_Cover 8.5x8.5_Color_100pp_v04 copy

Luckily, I do have my self-published book Direct Watercolor. Though – this has always been somewhat of a labor-of-love title. And fair enough! As honestly, it’s less of a how-to (and that’s probably why you’re a blog-reader) and more of art-book of beautiful images from my years as a traveling painter – and thus, it’s sold about 1/10th of The Urban Sketcher.

So, that’s just some news from me – mostly to say – if you were looking for a book on watercolor – my own title is currently one of my few income streams, so please buy my self published book! – not the publisher’s titles, which are now only paying back corporate debt :)


Ready for year three? #OneWeek100People2019

March 6, 2019


Top Posts!

October 3, 2018

Aug 19, 2019: I need to go on a blogging hiatus again. Various projects around the studio are demanding my full attention.

You can follow what I’m doing with my oil painting over on my studio page

And for now, here are some of the more useful urban sketching posts on the blog:

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Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your drawing and painting!


I’m moving to Instagram!

September 29, 2018

Hey everyone! I’ve set up a home for my oil paintings:

So- what’s going on? Well – I’ve been writing about sketching on location for ten years now. In that time you’ve seen me go from an itinerant sketch-book artist to a published author and online art-instructor, and eventually, a painter inducted into our national watercolor society.

Today, in the fall of 2018, it’s time to start a new chapter.

Over on, I’ll be sharing a new body of work – alla prima painting in oils.

Life is change. Old dogs learn new tricks. As artists, we’re continually expanding our abilities and interests. I can only follow where inspiration leads.

I’ll be taking a break from CitizenSketcher for now – but I’m keeping it up online, as the blog is still a good resource for students and sketchers. But I won’t be adding to the archive or actively answering questions for a while.

Honestly, everything I have to say about art is here in these pages. In need a bit of a break to learn something new! Otherwise I wont have anything to say.

So, for the next little while, if you want to reach me, give me a follow at

See you in the painting studio :)

~ Marc

Announcing a Limited Edition Print : We Own The Night

July 11, 2018

I’m excited to announce my first limited edition print

“We Own The Night”

From an original watercolor by Marc Taro Holmes

11×14″, printed with Epson 200-year-rated archival inks and paper

Only 12 copies made

$150.00 CDN + shipping

Inquires by email at: marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com

[detail, enlarged]

This is a very limited set of only twelve impressions. I want this artwork to be a unique experience for collectors. To own one of a select few reproductions, of a work I consider to be the best I’ve made to date.

I printed these myself in our home studio. The color rendition is my ideal representation of the original painting. This is a print I am proud to release into the world.

Every time I look at this scene, I am once again walking through that perfect night in early spring, when winter in Montreal is just losing its grip and the city is coming alive.

In a way, this image encapsulates my artistic career as an urban sketcher. This is what it feels like to be on the street, senses open, experiencing the world through art.

~ ~ ~

To purchase a print, email me at: marc(dot)taro(at)gmail(dot)com.

We will reply to inquiries in the order they arrive. Prints are $150.00 (Canadian), plus postage to your location. You may transfer funds via paypal, which supports e-cheque or credit card payments and international currency conversion. Artwork ships flat, in waterproof mailers, un-framed, and un-matted.

Thanks for your support!

~Marc Taro Holmes