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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cloudy Irish Day

The images and stories of my visits to Ireland in March and May will continue to find their way into my sketchbook and my blog. This time around, I decided to practice by doing a sketch of a street in Inistioge, a beautiful, scenic village where I stopped for lunch on my way to Kilkenny. I was sitting outdoors at a cafe, and this was the view uphill from us. Only occasionally would the sun break free of the clouds in that afternoon in March. My goal here was to capture the atmosphere and the light conditions, using some muted yet interesting colors. It was a fun sketch and brings back good memories.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Boulder Creek Sketch

My latest outdoor work was this sketch of Boulder Creek, with the morning sun shining through the canopy of trees and warm up the water and some of the rocks. With the colder weather and shorter days and a busy schedule the opportunities to paint outdoors have not been that many.

This was done with watercolor sticks and watercolor pencils, and a size 10 synthetic travel brush.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Article on Daniel Smiths Watercolor Sticks

I wrote a short article for the November issue of the Collage, the Colorado Watercolor Society newsletter, describing my recent experiences painting with Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor Sticks (available from www.DanielSmith.com).

My last post already featured one of the sketches I made solely with sticks. They are an interesting new tool, I have only begun to incorporate them in my work. I really enjoyed the quality of the pigment and how well it dilutes for painting.

The sticks are also very versatile for use. The image above is a detail of a study done on hot press watercolor paper using a variety of techniques: Drawing with the sticks onto dry paper, diluting the stick marks in other areas, painting with diluted stick pigment, drawing with wet watercolor sticks, applying the sticks to wet paper, and shaving dust of the sticks onto wet paper.

In a future post, I will include more information and images of work with watercolor sticks. The link to the Colorado Watercolor Society and to the article are available on the side bar.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have a Game Plan...

Performances, events and games are a really good opportunity for sketching people, as subjects are engrossed in the activity and retain their "poses" for a long time. This is another page of my Aquabee sketchbook where I tried to quickly capture this man's serious and attentive expression, and the quality of the reflected light. This was painted with pigment picked up with the brush from watercolor sticks.

I also included below the pencil sketch I started with, it's pretty indicative of how much drawing I do in a sketch before moving to color. The goal is to quickly map main shapes and mark the essential highlights and deep shadows. Once that pencil outline is in place, even if the subject moves somewhat or the light changes, it is still possible to achieve the initial goal in the study--that's what I call following the game plan.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Miguel Lucas Turns One!

Just a year ago I was telling you my son was born, and now he is already running around the house... Miguel Lucas had his first birthday last weekend. He's a healthy, happy boy, we could not be prouder parents... Here's to many happy returns!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Trying a New Sketchbook

A page from my sketchbook, showing a sunset view of a back alley in Boulder, captured with a quick sketch in watercolor.

I have experimented with a lot of different papers and surfaces for my paintings, but had stuck with the same sketchbooks for quite a while. I have been using Moleskine sketchbooks, for their great format and sturdy cover, even though it is a bit of work to overcome the paper's resistance to watercolor. There is a watercolor version of it, but I don't really like the landscape format. I also use Arches 6x10 spiral pads, but it has the opposite problem, it is great for watercolor studies and small paintings, but does not work well for simply sketching.

This time around I am giving the Aquabee Super Deluxe 6x9 sketchbook a try. It contains 60 sheets of 93 lb neutral white paper, very slightly textured. It is a little bulkier to carry than what I've grown used to, but the spiral allows for more freedom during use--I don't have to hold it or clip it open. I included a photo above, and you can see it took watercolor well and ended up only a little buckled, even when I used wet washes--as opposed to my old Canson sketchbook pages that buckled severely and acquired a crackly sound when they dried. I have only filled out a couple of pages in this new book, but am enjoying it so far.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Demonstration This Saturday!

This Saturday, October 2nd, I and other artists represented in the Rocky Mountain National Exhibit will be doing demonstrations of our techniques, from 11am to 2pm, at the Foothills Art Center in Golden.

I plan to do a complete painting on Yupo, of another urban scene, in a style similar to the piece in the exhibit, to give people a good sense of the methods and materials used, the thinking process, etc.

This will be an informal event, the public is encouraged to ask questions and participate. The artists will be in front of their exhibit paintings, doing the demos at the same time, giving the public the opportunity to choose whom to watch. It will be a fun experience, and it is totally free. By the way, admission is free all day to the exhibition as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Longmont Studio Tour

This is a photo of my exhibit space at Longmont Studio Tour this weekend, taken during one of the few quiet moments when I was not involved in conversations with visitors. My display was hosted by Creative Framing on Main Street Longmont. I brought in my paintings, unfinished pieces, some of my equipment and samples of materials.

It was a great opportunity to interact directly with customers, visitors and other artists, in an environment which, unlike a solo exhibit, was not meant to be simply a consistent selection of pieces on show, but a broad display of work, materials and methods. People of all ages viewed the pieces, asked questions, were happy at the opportunity to handle some of the materials and were frank with their opinions. Painting is often solitary work, so it is great to be able to connect to the public in such collaborative way and learn what is working and what is not. I had very interesting discussions and obtained valuable feedback. I am definitely encouraged to paint more, share more information and plan future exhibits.

A big thank you to all who visited. I hope to see you again in future events!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Reception

Here we are again, Miguel Lucas and I, posing by my painting "Parallel Lives" and photographed by my wife Christina at the RMNW 2010 Reception in Golden, CO, on Friday evening.

Congratulations to the Foothills Art Center: The exhibit is beautiful and the reception was a very nice event, well organized and attended by many. Artists and visitors were entertained with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, live music and the award ceremony, and of course the art-- beautiful, intriguing, varied, inventive, colorful or moody, abstract or representative, in acrylic, watercolor, gouache, casein, collage, and mixed media.

Carole Pickle of Emmaus, PA won First Place and 11 other artists received awards.

The show is not to be missed! There are 80 paintings, selected by jury Judy Morris out of 602 entries, including works by Cheng-Khee Chee, Ratindra Das, Mel Stabin, Z. L. Feng, Jonathan Frank, Frank La Lumia and James Toogood.

Right after the award ceremony, we left and headed to Longmont to catch the second half of the Longmont Studio Tour opening reception. We got to the Muse Gallery quite late, and were surprised to still find lots of people there. We hear the event was successful with lots of attendance and some sales.

This is just the first of the events, the gallery is offering a preview of the open studios weekend later this month, with a sample piece of each of the 60 participating artists, but more activities are scheduled.

These were too great opportunities to chat with fellow artists and art lovers, appreciate great art and spend an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Invitations: RMNW 2010 and Longmont Studio Tour

The Rocky Mountain National Watermedia 2010 Exhibit will open this Friday, September 10th, at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado. The show was juried by Judy Morris and her selection of 80 pieces includes works by well-known artists such as Z.L. Feng and Mel Stabin. The opening reception and awards ceremony starts at 6pm. More information at: http://www.foothillsartcenter.org/

Also at 6pm on Fridayis the opening reception and Preview Exhibition for the Longmont Studio Tour, at The Muse Gallery, on Main Street Longmont, Colorado. 60 artists will be showing at the preview exhibition that runs through the end of Longmont Studio Tour on September 26. More information at:

I plan to attend the RMNW opening and stop by the Preview Exhibition opening on my way back from Golden.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Silos in Blue, a Landscape in Three Acts

Silos in Blue, watercolor on Yupo synthetic paper, 13x20 (detail)

[Note: I've edited my post on 8/20 to include the detail above, in order to allow viewers to see some of the texture and brushwork.]

First Act: "Silos in Blue" is my third attempt at painting this scene. I had often seen this farm with two large silos, in the distance, as I drove home from work in Boulder. I liked the color of the silos against the pale yellow grasses that surrounded it in the fall. So when winter was over, I hiked to a point from which I could view and sketch the scene.
Only now the scene was quite different, the grass was greener, I could no longer see the hills in the background from that position, and instead of long shadows, I had the sun high in the sky. So I did a small study on site, but added a lot of the elements I was missing, such as the color and shadows, from imagination. The result was "Blue Silos," watercolor on Arches CP paper, 6x10 inches (left).

Second Act: Some months later, I decided to do a larger studio version on a half sheet of yupo synthetic paper. I moved the slightly silos off center, and tried to create a cruciform composition by introducing two fence posts in the foreground. This second version is shown here on the left, "Silos in Blue," watercolor on Yupo, 13x20 inches.

Third Act: Early viewers kept giving me the feedback that the poles were too distracting, that the complexity of the middle ground called for a simpler foreground treatment.
I finally took the advice and changed the foreground, taking advantage of the ease of lifting or wiping off entire sections on yupo.

This is the third version of this painting, but is it THE END? ...or is this play open to a sequel? Only time will tell.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Silverton, a Portrait...

Silverton, watercolor on paper, 11x15

Still inspired by the colors, scenes and interesting characters I saw on the 4th of July parade, I decided to do another portrait.

As in my last post, of "Star-Spangled," I was trying to portray the patterns of light cast over the figure by a straw hat. This gentleman's hat had a courser mesh and let more light through, so I was also bolder in my style. I used a very direct approach, with a basic drawing and no masking fluid or any other aids. I created the highlights negatively, that is, I painted directional lines in a grid to create the highlights. I used rough paper and less softening of color transitions, in order to accentuate the ruggedness of the man and his environment.

I had intended to capture a series of photos of the different stages of the painting process, but got so intent on the painting itself that I only remembered to pause to take photos twice. I have included the resulting photos below.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Fourth of July in Colorado

Star-spangled, watercolor on panel, 12x16 inches

I spent last weekend visiting friends and camping on the southwestern corner of Colorado, and on the Fourth of July we were in the mountain town of Silverton to watch the parade and festivities. What a fascinating event--full of all sorts of colorful characters both in the parade and in the crowd of spectators! One of the images that caught my eye was this lady wearing the flag colors, and the way her straw hat made a pattern of little "starts" on her blue collar in the right place to match her striped sleeve. She walked with some difficulty, but was happy and proud to express her patriotism with such exuberance. I captured her pose in a reference photo, along with images of many other interesting people. Back in the studio, I decided to give this vision a first try. Both the painting and the photo of it came out a little on the cool side, it doesn't speak of the heat of a July afternoon... In my next attempt, I will turn up the temperature a notch...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Watermedia!

I have just received the great news that my painting Parallel Lives is among 80 pieces selected by juror Judy Morris for this year's edition of the prestigious Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibit. This is a high quality show and attracts some of the best names in the field--in previous years I have spent hours in the exhibit admiring the work of John Salminen, Sandra O’Connor, Ratindra Das, Thomas J. Owen, Mel Stabin, among others. I really look forward to the show, from September 11 to October 31, at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado.

Here's another look at a detail of Parallel Lives, watercolor on Yupo, 26x20 inches.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

...But if you try sometimes...

This is a quick sketch I made of a road-side coastal view on the Ring of Kerry, in Ireland. I had intended for it to be a soft, atmospheric transparent watercolor sketch, like the one from my last post, but it got away from me. I almost tossed it in the waste basket, but then decided to bring out the old permanent calligraphy pen--which is almost dry by now--punctuate the composition with a few darks and turn this into a pen and wash exercise. I think the rescue worked; much more interesting this way...

I like vignette sketches, they always look so fresh and immediate to me as a viewer, as if you were watching them take shape before your eyes. So I guess the lesson is when things don't go your way, maybe it's time to let them take you their own way... Experiment. Dare. Be open to possibility. Work in abandon. You can't always get what you want, Mick would say, but sometimes you might get what you need, if you try...

Van Gogh watercolors on Arches cold press paper, 6 x10 inches.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paint-out at Longs Garden, Boulder

Paint-out at Longs Garden, watercolor on paper, 10x7 in.

Today I rejoined the Boulder plein air group, after many months of absence. Actually I hadn't been in a paint-out with the group since my son was born seven months ago. We met early morning at Longs Garden in Boulder, where the irises are in full bloom. I was drawn to the shape of the tree and the rows of flowers pointing to it, but ended up giving in to the temptation on including one of the artists in the scene as well. It was a refreshing one-hour session... made me glad to be back!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stretching versus Flattening the Paper

This post addresses two questions I hear often--whether it is necessary to pre-stretch the paper for a watercolor painting, and how to flatten a painting that is buckled or warped.

I don't stretch the paper before painting. One reason is that I have very limited time for painting, and this preparatory step would consume some of that time. Secondly, I often paint outdoors, and it would be impractical to carry several boards with stretched paper. Finally, I don't really find it necessary.

As the photo above illustrates, I simply clip the sheet corners to the board and that works well for my purposes.

While clipping the sheet to the board keeps the paper flat while I'm painting, sometimes the sheet warps after I take the clips off, and I need to flatten it. I'll use my latest painting to illustrate the process, as in the photo below.

1. First, I wet the back of the painting thoroughly with a flat brush and clean water. I spread the water evenly on the entire surface.

2. As show in the photo, I allow the paper to absorb the water evenly until saturated, and add more water in some spots if I notice they are drying too rapidly (I live in Colorado and the air is very dry).

3. I wait until dampness is down to a sheen, and turn the paper over, to be face up, onto a clean, dry board. I place another board over the painting and press it down to make sure it's flat.

4.I move the board to expose one edge of the sheet at a time, and tape that edge down with masking tape. I press and flatten the tape well to avoid any gaps or bubles. I repeat until all edges are taped.

5.I remove the board from the top and let the painting dry, laying horizontally, face up, uncovered, until it's completely dry and stretched. This could take many hours, so I often leave it to dry overnight.

6.Finally, I remove the tape carefully to avoid tearing or damage to the paper, and the painting is now completely flat.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Grattan Bridge, mistake corrected!

Before: Grattan Bridge, Dublin, watercolor, 11x15 (detail)

After: Grattan Bridge, Dublin (detail)

In my post of April 10th, I wrote that my painting "Grattan Bridge, Dublin" had a factual mistake. Commentators were very perceptive and got it mostly right: It had to do with the direction of traffic, but I need to clarify. After having started the painting, I decided to ignore some of the figures I had originally planned in the center of the painting and replace them with a third car--I even thought the red tail lights would add to the interest of the scene. When I was done, I looked at the painting and realized to my surprise I had just placed the brown car going the wrong way, on the wrong lane, on a one-way street! So the problem was not that the cars were all wrong as suspected, it was only one car that was facing the wrong direction.

I could have left it as was, as a curiosity, or changed the location to make it all acceptable, but I opted instead to correct the problem. I lifted the color carefully and then painted the car again. You will notice that in the detail image above, the car now faces the viewer, as it should be.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Miguel Lucas turns 6 (months)!

Baby Miguel Lucas is six months today! I can't believe how fast this half year has gone by... He is a big boy, he has grown from 19 1/2 inches to 27 3/4; and he went from 6 lb 7 oz to current 17 lb and 3 oz. He can sit now, but not quite crawl yet; he has a fun, calm disposition and is a joy to be around. Christina and I could not be happier!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Painting Ireland 4, What's wrong with this picture?

Grattan Bridge, Dublin, watercolor, 11x15 inches

This is another image of Ireland, but unlike previous posts, this was painted back at home, not during my trip. This was the evening of St Patrick's Day, and I was strolling around Dublin with friends. I took a reference photo of Grattan Bridge just before we headed to the Porterhouse Pub for live music and a pint. It was cold at the time and the sky was still bright with a soft glow, but back at home I decided it would be more interesting to make it a rainy day. This was painted on Fabriano Artistico Cold Press paper, with Schmincke and Winsor & Newton colors.

After I had finished the painting, I noticed a serious factual error (my apologies to Dubliners for it). Of course I took artistic license and modified a lot of things, simplified details, added elements from imagination--actually the entire effect of the rain was imagined--but there is one thing that is completely wrong and not intentional at all... Let's make it fun: I'll give people a week to view this and maybe leave a comment with the solution, before I post a detail picture with the explanation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Painting Ireland, 3

Detail, Graiguenamanagh, Sunday morning

When I was leafing through a travel guide during my planning of my trip to Ireland, I ran into the photo of the village of Graiguenamanagh, on the Barrow River valley, and I knew immediately that was a place I had to visit and paint.

I arrived there at sunset on Saturday, March 13, and got a room at an inn overlooking the river. I woke very early and opened my window to the cool morning air, the stillness of the morning prior to sunrise. The scene was so inviting that I almost caught a cold from leaning out of the window for such a long time in a t-shirt--it took some seriously hot tea to warm me up again. As soon as it was warm enough, I walked around taking photos in every direction. Then I got back to the inn, ate breakfast, picked up my painting gear and walked across the bridge to paint a view of the town in the sunlight.

Graiguenamanagh, Sunday morning, watercolor, 11x15

The resulting study is shown above. I liked the view of the stone bridge in shadow leading into the town buildings, with their interesting roofs and chimneys. I did a careful sketch in pencil, but ended up painting very fast, as it was still pretty cold, even in the late-morning sun, and I had to continue my trip before long. The water and reflections did not come out very well, so I tried to improve on them later at home, without much success.
Unlike in the previous sketches I've shown in this series, I did not use watercolor pencils on this piece, the details were added with a rigger. I used Schmincke colors on Fabriano Artistico Cold Press paper. The work was done in a hurry, but ultimately I feel I managed to capture something of the peaceful Sunday morning scene.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Painting Ireland, 2

Houses in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, watercolor, 6x10

Ireland was a wealth of beautiful, varied scenery under changing light conditions. I didn't do as much painting as I had intended--both lack of time and the weather conditions made it difficult at times to even complete a sketch. The sketch above is an example, a scene viewed from the fourth floor of an office building, on a cold day, captured during lunch time in between business meetings.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Painting Ireland...

Enniskerry, Ireland

I'm in Ireland, on a business trip. I had to work this morning, but took a road trip in the afternoon through the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. The scenic route winds through mountains, blanket bog, valleys, wooded hills and open farmland. I stopped at a café in the picturesque village of Enniskerry, and took the opportunity to make a quick sketch, even tough it was pretty cold (I had to wear gloves to sketch). I'll do some more painting tomorrow. Cheers!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Marcio & Miguel Lucas at the CWS State Show!

The Colorado Watercolor Society Annual State Watermedia Exhibit opening last night was a success, it attracted a lot of visitors and artists. I was a great opportunity to see a great variety of high quality paintings, chat with some of my fellow artists and with the juror Ratindra Das. I participated in my double role of proud artist and prouder dad! Here's Miguel Lucas at four and a half months, as he poses with me by my painting Boston Harbor. He is not entirely happy, as his first teeth are preparing to show...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Invitation to CWS State Watermedia Exhibit!

The Colorado Watercolor Society's 19th Annual State Watermedia Exhibit opens next Friday, March 5th. Juror Ratindra Das has chosen 100 paintings for this show, and I'm honored that my "Boston Harbor" is included.

So here's the invitation to join artists and guests at the opening reception, Friday March 5th, 5-8pm, at the Colorado History Museum (1300 Broadway, Denver).


Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunshine after rain!

Here are two more of my sketches from my last trip, using watercolor pencils. It was warm and rainy in Brazil, these scenes try to capture moments of intense sunshine at noon, and a beautiful sunset after rain... These nice looking houses were just a hundred meters or so from the sea.

It was harder to make this latter sketch, given the intense sun and the wind. Another reason to rush was that it was lunch time and my family was waiting for me...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back from vacation!

We are just back from a trip to Brazil, to introduce our three month old to my family. It was another busy trip, with little time to paint, but I did add to my sketchbook. The scene above was a view from the beach in Coroados, Paraná. It was sketched with watercolor pencils, which proved very practical in the hot, windy weather.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

River Bend Ranch: Almost Plein Air...

River Bend Ranch II, detail, watercolor on paper, 22x22 (studio version)

Painting "en plein air" means painting outdoors and experiencing the sounds, the smells, the surroundings, the atmosphere of the scene. But at 4 degrees Fahrenheit on this Christmas day in North Dakota a couple of years ago, I just had to give up the direct experience and paint from the comfort and warmth of this bay window at the River Bend Ranch Bed & Breakfast, where we were staying.

The gray, cold morning reduced everything to just a few colors, and I tried to paint the snow-covered landscape quickly and simply. You can see on the photo how I improvised an easel with a chair on the ledge of the bay window. The completed study (image shown below) sold the same day.

River Bend Ranch, watercolor on paper, 10x14 (on-site study)

Later, back in the studio at home, I painted a second version (shown here at the top), based on my photo of the on-site sketch. Looking back at both images, I can see that the on-site study was more faithful to the scenery and conditions, even though I was not standing in the snow. I guess that still there is nothing like being there, even if you are being protected by double-pane glass. And if you can't be outdoors, a bay window might be the best next thing.