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.

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- Latest sketches

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!