Welcome! This online journal will share my news of new paintings and upcoming exhibits, tips and notes with friends, collectors and other artists. Please visit often and enjoy!

Copyright notice: Photos and artwork images herein are property of the artist; no reproductions allowed without written consent.

Coming soon to this page:

- Latest sketches

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Novo!

I will likely not have an opportunity to add new posts for the remainder of the year, so I wanted to leave any new or returning visitors my best wishes of a wonderful 2010! Cheers!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Demo at the Depot Art Center, Progress Photos

In a post back in October, I described the demo I did at the Depot Art Center in Littleton. Jeff Owens attended that session, and was kind enough to allow me to share some of the photos he took at the occasion. They allow me to show the progress of the painting in more detail below:

1. Here I am describing my approach. I tried to describe my goals and decision-making process, as well as answer questions, throughout the session.

2. First washes in the sky area. I treated this demo as I would a plein air session. The photo of the scene was pasted on the wall, but the setup, speed, technique and level of detail employed were the same I use outdoors.
I used a quarter size sheet of Saunders Waterford Cold Press paper. It was not pre-soaked or stretched, I simply clipped it to my board, sketched outlines with pencil and started painting.

3. This photo shows the build up of wet on wet colors for the dark shapes of the farm buildings.
I am working here with a Rekab squirrel mop size 6. The palette is a metal watercolor box with both full pans and half pans. The colors were from Schmincke, Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci.

4. At this point, I changed to a size 24 Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin to work on the mass of trees and the details of the fence and other dark shapes that connected the left and right side of the painting.

5. I added the darkest shapes, making sure to blend them together for continuity. I worked carefully to preserve highlights, and to keep the negative shape of the figure.

6. In this photo, I'm adding the details of the figure, with the help of a smaller synthetic travel brush.
I was at the 1 1/2 hour period, so I had to rush to insert some last details and adjust some colors and values.

The final result is shown below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Golden Ponds II, November

Golden Ponds II, watercolor on hot press paper, 22x12

This is my first painting in more than a month (finally!). I went to Golden Ponds in Longmont with my wife and our baby for a walk two weeks ago, and found the quality of light on this cool late morning irresistible. I took many reference photos and worked on this rendering in the studio over many nights.

I chose this view of the scene, with the rhythmic spacing of the trees, and the bright highlights on the grasses. A multitude of techniques were employed: soft wet-on-wet passages in the background, applications of color over ivory black on the trees, free caligraphy on the branches, watercolor pencils on the grasses, splattering with water on the pond... Definitely fun to experiment with all these techniques.

Here's a detail that shows the varied approaches to the different areas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Graphite and the painter's mind...

Ever since the workshop with Mel Stabin, I have felt encouraged to do close-up figures and portraits in watercolor--the ones I did at the workshop were really exciting and fun to do. So when I did a sketch yesterday, I chose to plan for a portrait of this interesting character I met in the Caribbean.

Sketching already takes me one step into the painting, it prompts my internal dialog: "what kind of brushstroke will I use for this stretch of hair? which "strands" should I make dark and which should I make gray? how light should I make his long gray beard? how far can I obliterate detail in the face area and still leave enough of a sense of expression? is it important to leave some sense of the man's age, or is that irrelevant? how can I portray his gentleness and peace and avoid making his face hidden in shadow scary? how much do I need to describe his t-shirt? how much overlap to create between his hand and his head? which edges should be lost, and soft, and which should be hard, and found?" ...and I'm not even thinking color yet!

Those questions were set in motion and now will live in my mind, much like characters do in a for a writer during the writing of a novel, and I know the answers will oscillate back and forth until I finally pin them down in the painting itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time away from the brushes...

The first month of fatherhood and an intense work schedule have been keeping me away from the brushes most of the time these days. I have missed entering a show, have been away from the weekly plain air sessions, and have missed some exhibit openings... This does not mean I am totally removed from artistic activity though: I've submitted to two shows, have contributed an article to the October issue of the Colorado Watercolor Society newsletter, and managed to attend the society's monthly meeting this week. (The CWS website, by the way, has gone through a nice transformation the last few months, and is worth checking out, at www.coloradowatercolorsociety.org.) I am also taking the opportunity to review some of my older paintings and plan some new ones; hopefully the incubation period will yield good works soon...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Late Summer Days: Landscape on Yupo

Late Summer Days, watercolor on yupo synthetic paper, 20x26 inches

This is another piece on yupo, the second one I did. It started with a technique learned from Mark Mehaffey: I applied Winsor red, cadmium yellow and cerulean blue almost straight off the tube, diluted with very little water, and allowed the colors to merge and move on the surface of the yupo. After letting the mixture dry overnight, I chose a scene to "carve out" of that background by lifting pigment back to white, and layering other colors.

The green color was lifted partially to reveal the sky and negatively shape the tree masses. The white barn was lifted completely to white, with a brush wet with clear water. The silo was given a rough texture by applying multiple layers of color. Watercolor pencils were used to add random lines for texture and variety.

The detail below gives a better view of the main shapes and the techniques used and textures achieved. You can click on the image to view and even larger version.

Late Summer Days, detail

It was very exciting to work with the loose characteristic of yupo and still try to impose some measure of control in the creation of shapes and details!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Season Bells

The Season Bells, watercolor on paper, 12x16

This was an exercise in which I worked without any preliminary sketch or pencil drawing, and used mostly two colors: perylene maroon and phthalo green, with some cobalt blue and cadmium red. I started drawing/painting directly with color, with the bell tower, and worked my way out and down from there. This approach sacrificed some of the perspective, which became skewed, especially in the case of the foreground buildings. This was based on a photo of Venice on a dark, rainy day. It made me think of a cold Christmas eve and the church bells calling the devout to navigate the labyrinth of wet streets for their prayers. So I introduced figures in procession towards the church. The main couple was taken from another sketch I made of rainy Venice... This was a fun exercise, but definitely challenging.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Boston Harbor: From Sketch to Final Work

I had meant this study to be more of a step-by-step demo, but I ended up forgetting to photograph more often or more evenly during the painting process, so now all I have is some snapshots of the work in progress. They still provide some insight into how the painting evolved, so here is the development of Boston Harbor:

1. Pencil sketch, fairly detailed. My goal was to practice painting water, and to use a combination of colors I hadn't used before: turquoise and scarlet. I was attracted by the diagonal lines that lead to the main boats. I "invented" some details, such as the figures. In my reference photo, somehow, the scene is deserted.

2. First washes, using cadmium scarlet and cobalt turquoise in various combinations, with some cobalt blue and some magenta as well. I didn't want the sky to be blue, so I used the diluted scarlet for a pale orange hue.

3. I added glaze of cadmium scarlet to unify the distant buildings, and of cobalt turquoise over the scarlet on the nearby buildings, to darken and cool down the color. It was difficult to work the sunlight because this photo was taken in the middle of the day, with the sun high in the sky. It is trickier to define shapes without longer, darker shadows.

4. I added the water very quickly, with loose strokes of a large brush, with cobalt turquoise and a little scarlet to gray it down in shadow or reflex areas. I pulled some of the cobalt turquoise onto the boats as a reflected color. I added darks and other details, using indigo mixed with the previous colors.

5. I got tired, moved on to other paintings and left this unfinished at this stage for a couple of months, until I finally got back to it yesterday. I finished the shapes of the boats and added details in the middle ground (too much I think). I used watercolor pencils to add lines and details and color in some areas, as in the poles, for instance, to finish the piece.
Boston Harbor, W&N watercolors on Waterford CP paper, 22x15

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sketching the Passage of Time...

Miguel Lucas turned one week old today! Christina's prenancy is over, but it was a joyous time of anticipation, and I am glad to look back and find it documented in so many photos and in my sketchbook. It was only a week before the birth that I made this sketch:

And before that, I had sketched her in color, rehearsing with her Balboa group for a dance performance at an event. She was seven months pregnant then.

And earlier still, at four months, when her belly was just beginning to show...

Now we are beginning a new phase in our lives, with many more sketches to come, to mark the passage of time with the scenes that touch the heart and spill onto the paper...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Baby Correa is a Boy!

Welcome Miguel Lucas Correa! Our little boy was born healthy and early, on October 15th, at 2:21pm, in Boulder. He weighed 6lb 7oz, and was 19 1/4 inches long. Both baby and mom Christina are doing well, though extremely tired, and dad is super busy supporting them. He is a joy, and we couldn't be happier!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Carrying Brushes in a Palette and Other Tips...

Some fellow artists and students have shown interest in some of the tricks I use for my gear, so I'll start sharing some of them here as well...

1. Drying your brushes: After you wash your brushes, you must take care to hang them upside down to dry, so water will not stay in the ferrule and loosen the hairs. I put mine in a bamboo brush holder, and then turn the brush holder upside down and stand it against the wall or curved, standing on its own. Very simply and effective.

2. Carrying brushes inside a metal paint box: I use a full pan paint box for plein air, and it has room for brushes between the rows of pans. I don't place my brushes loosely into the space, as their tuft would get jammed against the box during transportation. Instead, I place a small elastic band around the widest part of the handle, to make it fit tightly between the rows and stay in place.

3. Carrying brushes inside a folding palette: I found a way to carry a brush or two inside my Holbein metal folding palette, by cutting a rectangular piece of sponge and making a groove in it where the brush handle rests. When the palette is closed, it presses the sponge against the brush and keeps it in place.

4. Gloves for painting:
To paint outdoors in cool or cold weather, you need to wear gloves. The problem is that I found regular gloves were slippery to the brush handles and restricted movement. So I got an old pair of sports gloves (similar to liners for ski gloves) and cut just the tips of three fingers off. Now my painting hand stays warm and dexterity is not affected by the glove anymore. Another benefit is that these gloves hardly take any room in your painting gear of pockets.

That's it for today! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Itch to Sketch...

This is a journal after all, so it is okay to register how difficult it has been to find time to paint the last couple of weeks. Between the extended workload of my daytime job and the preparations for the birth of our first child, time has been scarce. Even the late night sketches have become rare, and I'm itching to draw and paint... I did manage to do a very quick study late the other night, I should title it something like "Moving out..." or "You are making a big mistake."

Study of a back alley scene in Valley City, ND, watercolor on Fabriano hot press, 11x15

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Demo at the Depot Art Center

This week I was invited to do a demo at the Depot Art Center and Gallery in Littleton, Colorado. The event was very well organized and well attended. It was a challenge to paint while avoiding blocking the view of the 20 or so participants! But I enjoyed the experience immensely and the feedback I got was positive. Here is an image of the demo study:

This was painted on a half sheet of Waterford 300g cold press paper, using Yellow ochre light, Ultramarine finest, Cadmium red light, Permanent Carmine, Cadmium yellow medium, from Schmincke; Cerulean blue, Cobalt turquoise, from Winsor & Newton; Quinacridone Burnt Orange, from Da Vinci. The brushes I used were Rekab 320s Kazan squirrel mops, sizes 6 and 8, and Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin synthetic round, size 24.

Some participants were curious about the Rekab 320s brushes: They are not usually available from the major suppliers in the US, I had to order them directly from the US importer Armadillo Art (see the website on my list of Links of Interest to Artists). They are excellent quality and much more affordable than other major brands.

I hope the presentation and discussion were interesting and useful to all participants! I plan to post a step-by-step demo here very soon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Color Your Memories: A Little Nostalgia...

The other day, I wrote about my "minimal" sketching kit; and today I just happened upon this (poor) photo of a page from my old sketchbook, from three years ago. It is incredible how intense a memory your sketches can retrieve, much more than a photograph, as the memory is infused in your making of the image...

I remember this one as if it were yesterday: My wife and I are now expecting our first baby for next month, but at the time of the sketch we were not even engaged yet. I had driven her to Denver for a dance rehearsal. While she practiced inside the club, I meant to go for a coffee shop and wait there, but once outside I became fascinated by the two towers of the Fillmore Theater and the fall colors... it was early fall, a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I pulled out my sketch kit from my glove compartment, sat on the curb, and painted this scene. I wasn't all that comfortable with sketching figures and automobiles in my scenes yet, so I omitted them... I remember the yellow trees and the leaves on the sidewalk around me, I remember the passer-by who stopped to peek at the sketch.

If you haven't yet made a habit of sketching, I strongly recommend it, not only as artistic practice, but as a time capsule for your future enjoyment. I often find old photos that I don't quite remember shooting, but I haven't found a sketch that doesn't claim ownership of my memories...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bring it Forward: Adjustments to a Study of Trees

Every painting session teach you something, even the failed attempts teach you what to avoid, and how to make the bad better... In this practice study I did this week, things didn't go according to plan.

My reference photo is on the left. I liked the lost and found quality of the branches, so I didn't try to define them in a very structured fashion, I was just following the shapes, and introducing touches of color. I wanted my focus to on the trunk of the tree on the right.

When I stopped, I assessed the situation:
Good: The tree trunks looked quite nice, there was an interesting variety of color in them. I liked the pinkish hue in the background.
Bad: I overworked the sketch, as usual. The Indian yellow in the far tree was too distracting. The shadows on the ground were too fuzzy and muddled. And worse, the two main trees were side by side, it was unclear which took precedence, and that dragged the center of interest to the center of the painting, and made the composition flat and static.

This was just meant to be a study anyway, but I decided to make some further adjustments as a learning tool: To give the tree on the right precedence, I lengthened its trunk down to bring it forward. Next, I defined its branches better so they overlapped the tree on the left. And I added some directional lines with dry brush and some darker shadows, to give the tree more contrast.

A study of trees, watercolor on Arches paper, 6x9

Now the focus is clearer. While the improvement was only minor, it did teach me some do's and don'ts for my repertoire. That's what practice is all about!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Color is in the Eye of the B(rush)-holder

Farm on Nelson Road, watercolor on Arches paper, 10x14

Sometimes your subject offers you all the color you could need, and your challenge becomes to represent those in a unified manner, by modifying some colors, omitting others... And sometimes, the colors in the subject are only your departing point, that's when most of the fun begins!

"Farm on Nelson Road" was done on-site not far from my house. I'd often driven by this scene at sunset and marveled at the gold of the field. This one weekend, I got on my bike and rode to the place, sat on the lawn across the street to paint it, but the colors were not as intense that day (see the photo on the left)... No problem, I visualized them all the same. I intensified the colors I could see, and added some colors of my own, often complementaries, as the orange in the roof, the touches of red among the grasses, the blues in the shadows (see detail below). My thinking process at that point was not "what colors are or are not there" but "what new colors would make the existing colors sing." This was a fun study to make, and my wife has a special affection for it.

Farm on Nelson Road (detail)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shifting Into (plein air) Gear...

People I paint with, talk to, correspond with, attend workshops with, are often curious about my plein air gear, so here is a rundown of what I carry with me into the field (you can click on the photos to enlarge them):

1. Full gear (packed): backpack, hat and paper. This is what I carry when I'm on a plein air outing, it's light and compact enough to hike with.

Full gear, unpacked:
-watercolor paper block (by Arches, but I carry loose sheets of Fabriano paper inside the block as well)
-Water bottle, spray bottle and painting kit (described below)
-In the center, my easel board and shelf (from www.enpleinairpro.com)
-Folding stool (13 inch when folded, Web Foot is the brand, from REI).
-Tripod for the easel (a 15-inch-folded Sunpack, from www.enpleinairpro.com)
-Rain jacket (by Marmot, from REI)
-Foldable hat (by Tilley), to shade my eyes so I can see colors better.

Full gear, ready: This photo shows a sturdier Samsonite tripod, which I substitute for the Sunpack before I leave if the weather is windy. Most of the time I paint standing, I only carry the folding stool if I think it's going to be a long session.

2. Painting kit: This is a small kit I can carry as part of my gear, or on its on when traveling. I keep it in my car. It consists of:
-outdoor organizer by Outdoor Research, nylon, 11x7x3
-Arches watercolor pad, 6x10 (notice I've replaced the wire binding with paper clips, making it more compact and easier to handle)
-paint box palette (24 full pan set, by Schmincke) (more details below)
-watercolor pencils (12 pencil set, by Derwent). Optional, I don't carry this in all the time.
-colapsible water pail, rag, tape, binder clips, pencil, etc.
-brushes: #6 Rekab squirrel mop, #2 W&N Sceptre Gold rigger, a folding Raphael Kaerell folding round

Details of the paint box and brushes:
The paintbox accommodates both full pans and small pans, which I fill in myself with various brands. Sometimes I carry an Altoids tin with additional pans that I can easily swap for the ones in the paint box. The paint box also has room for the brushes, you see my mop brush and the rigger in the photo, I have placed an elastic band on them, that keeps them in place so the hairs do not press against the end of the box.

3. Minimal kit: This fits into my briefcase or coat pockets:
-Sketchbook, 8x5 inch Moleskine
-travel palette, small 12 half-pan set by Van Gogh (that I've also re-filled over time with various brands). (Sometimes I carry the Derwent watercolor pencil set instead)
-small water bottle (from a toiletry kit)
-folding brush, #14 Raphael Kaerell synthetic

I vary these basic arrangements all the time: sometimes I leave some things out (like the folding stool, the pencil set, etc.) and sometimes I add things, such as larger sheets of paper in a portfolio, and a larger board to clip them on to.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Award at the New Trends Exhibit! Invitation for Opening...

You are invited to the opening reception of the New Trends Show of the Colorado Watercolor Society in Denver, this Friday, September 18th, from 5 to 8 pm, at the Co-Art Gallery, 846 Santa Fe Drive, Denver.

I just got a call telling me I was awarded 2nd place in the exhibit with my painting "Parallel Lives," so now I am REALLY looking forward to the opening! If you can't make it on Friday, the show is open until September 27th, from 10am to 5pm (12-5 Sundays).

The painting was featured on an earlier post: http://marciosart.blogspot.com/2009/07/urban-scene-on-yupo-synthetic-paper.html

Friday, September 11, 2009

Counting Blue Cars: Music as Inspiration

Counting Blue Cars, watercolor, 6x10 inches

Inspiration comes from all kinds of unexpected sources... I sometimes do a study just to practice some skill, such as painting small figures in a landscape, or or dogs, or bicycles. Late the other night, I was too tired to do a full size painting, but decided to practice drawing cars. I pulled one of my reference photos, and as I thought what color to make the cars, I was reminded of the 90's Dishwalla song "Counting Blue Cars," so I drew and painted the characters of the song into this 6x10 study, sitting on the bench and counting only blue cars, and wondering about God...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Plein air at Golden Ponds, Longmont

The Boulder Plein Air group came to paint in my town last week, and I joined them to paint at Golden Ponds. While the place offers wonderful views of the mountains, I decided to turn to a more "intimate" scene for this, my first watercolor on hot press paper. I painted directly, without a pencil sketch, with abandon, which was quite fun.

Golden Ponds, watercolor on Fabriano HP paper, 15x11 inches

Louisville National Fine Art Show Opening

The Louisville Show opening ceremony was very successful, with a full house, nice music and a great atmosphere.

Here's a photo of my wife Christina, me and our friend Marie and another of the moment when show juror Mark Silvers discussed my painting with me (photos courtesy of Marie Hanabusa).

Mark Silvers was extremely thoughtful and kind to offer to spend the evening talking to each of the participant artists about their pieces, giving them his critique and advice.
Thank you, Mark!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Louisville National Fine Art Show Opens Saturday!

On September 5th, I will be fulfilling a promise made many years ago. Upon visiting the Louisville National Fine Art Show for the first time, and impressed by the quality of the artwork I saw there, I told my girlfriend at the time (and promised myself) that one day I would be part of this exhibition. Now it feels very nice to reach such a milestone... a signpost that tells me that even though progress takes effort and time, and the road is so very long, at least I have been walking in the right direction...

The opening reception will be from 7 to 9 pm, see you there!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sketching "Plane" Air..., part 1

Okay, so you are trapped in and buckled up... but your imagination does not have to be! Sketching on the plane is a great way to pass the time and hone up your skills. Below are a couple of my favorite exercises, with examples from last Thursday:

1. Sketching people: Flight attendands make good models, as they are often in the same positions and are used to being looked at. I don't try to make a portrait, but focus instead on capturing their general figure, or some interesting aspect, such as their uniform or earrings. You can start the sketch during the safety demonstration, and resume it when they come through with the beverages cart. But more often than not I try to sketch other passengers, usually a few rows ahead and across from me, so I can sketch their profiles without bothering them--look for distinct features such as eyeglasses, unusual hairstyles, hats, etc. Sleeping passengers also make good models, for their immobility. Remember to be discreet.

2. Abstracting from in-flight magazines: These magazines always have great photos, you could always imitate the images, but try this more creative exercise instead: Look for photos or sections of photos that could make interesting abstract patterns. Make a simplified thumbnail outline of the key shapes and patterns, then close the magazine and try to finish the value study from your own imagination, adding lines and other shapes, changing the tonal values, etc.

Too challenging for you? No worries, you can always practice sketching the people and scenes from the photos in the magazines, or from photos of your own.
Not challenging enough? Try sketching with a brush, or in color. Or sketch from memory, by focusing on a photo in the magazine for a few minutes, then closing the magazine and trying to reproduce it from memory.

Interesting subject, and a lot more ideas to discuss, so I'll get back to this topic in a future posting. Bon voyage !

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reading on the Road: L'Art de L'Aquarelle

My reading for the plane? The first issue of the new French watercolor magazine L'art de l'aquarelle. I learned about it from my friend Nicholas Simmons, who is featured on the inaugural issue of the magazine. This incredibly talented, award-winning artist is in great company, the magazine has an interview with Ewa Karpinska, and articles on two of the painters I admire the most, Joseph Zbukvic and Gottfried Salzmann, not to mention a special article on Andrew Wyeth.
When I read this lineup, I simply had to get the magazine. It is not sold in the U.S., but I got the tip from my friend Felicie to order it online from the French store fnac.com. It is in French, with a summary of the articles in English. Great quality paper and illustrations, great writing about the artists and their approach; advanced level, no demos, no instruction, but great inspiration!