Thursday, December 26, 2013


This will most likely be my last studio piece of 2013, and for the first time in a long time, I feel I am making progress and showing growth.  The sky turned out how I wanted.  The mountains, for the most part, as well.  I was able to layer colors down (successfully), one on top of the other, to give this painting a more complex  look and feel.

                        Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor block 9x12

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Sleigh Ride Together with You

It is a bit muddy in parts, but I finally achieved that "atmospheric" look I have been attempting to do.  Still need to work on a consistent and cohesive composition, but I like this quite a bit.

                            Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor block 9x12

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Long View

Another day, another quick sketch.  These sketches are good exercise for my brain; they help overcome the inertia of the blank page.  I can envision a day in the future that I carry this little book with me and do sketches as I wait for a lunch meeting to arrive, just needed 5 minutes to capture the world around me.

In this picture, I particularly like the how the water spots creating tiny points of interest.  I still need to use more paint but I am getting better.

                                   Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x5.5

It is good to see the Pocket Palette getting so much use.  This picture shows to me that I do not organizing my mixing palette by warm/cool like most real artist do but randomly where ever there is available space.  I will need to add paint to the pans before I head out on vacation.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Does your cat play guitar?

End of year is always crazy and leaves very little time for painting or sketching.  But I have decided not to let that stop me.  I am trying to do a small sketch a day in my little moleskin travel watercolor book (look back tonight or tomorrow for the next one).  

This is a quick, rough sketch done without a pencil under drawing, so directly with my Faber-Castell XS pitt pen.  The goal was to work fast and I like the energy of this piece. I used a photo reference from an Entertainment Weekly article on the new movie Inside Llewyn Davis.  Either Llewyn or the cat plays folk guitar, not sure which.

                                  Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x5.5

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Final Hike of the Year -- Washington Valley Park

December is not going to be a very productive between end of year work, Christmas and (hopefully) vacation.  Even if I do get to paint on vacation, chances are I will not post them until January.  So, here is me beginning the month in earnest to keep the goal of four paintings per month.  

This tiny postcard was done on my final hike of the year in the various NJ parks I have recently rediscovered.  I had the overly ambitious idea of doing a series of postcards in the Fall but was only able to get this one done.  I am not completely satisfied with it, but it is a unique reminder of a great day.  As I continue on this journey of painting, I feel these little watercolors provide more vivid memories than digital photos ever could.

                             Pastel over Watercolor on 140lbs postcard paper 6x4

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yet Another Autumn Tree -- In Pastel and Watercolor

It might not seem it from this blog recently, but pastels are my favorite medium.  Sometime ago they surpassed even simple pencil or pen and ink as the medium I love most.  The portability of watercolors have allowed me to paint where ever I go, and as such, I have become much more prolific this year.  That said, I am still stumbling my way thru the medium, with as many wrong turns as successes.  And as I stated in last weeks painting, I want to do more pastels and watercolors.  I just need to continue to be bold.

                              Watercolor and Pastels on 140lbs watercolor block 12x16

Here is the same painting with just the watercolor underpainting. As you can see, it is substantially different from the final painting.  It is not a bad effort, but I felt it was missing something. So I added a robust foliage in bright red and orange pastels. It is debatable whether I improved it, but I did enjoy the process.

                                 Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor block 12x16

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


One of my biggest goals regarding my art is to be able to incorporate both watercolor and pastels into a single unified look.  Previous attempts have been equivocal, mostly because I would not completely commit to the process or I would decide, "Hey, that watercolor is fine the way it is" and not add pastels.  But this time, I decided to be bold and, as the corporate jingle goes, just do it.   I like these results much better.

                            Watercolor and Pastels on 140lbs watercolor paper 9x12

Below is the watercolor without pastels laid over the top.  Like many of my watercolors, it lacked any compelling contrast; everything is a mid tone.  The addition of the pastels added more interest; darker clouds and bolder mountains. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Never Ending Flight Back from Berlin

Anyone who travels for business knows, if you travel often enough, you will eventually have that flight.  We have all experienced it, the one where everything goes wrong and there is this sort of harmonic divergence.  Well, yesterday, flying back from Berlin, it happened.  What should have been a direct flight of 6-7 hour flight took 14 hrs, with a layover in Gander, Newfoundland.

Fourteen hours is a lot of time to be sitting in one place and there are only so many movies that I can watch at a given time. And since my new travel pack is so compact, I decided to do a painting.  I have seen similar paintings on Urban Sketchers and have always wanted to do one.  This trip provided the perfect opportunity.

                                    watercolor on paper 5.5 x 16.50

And here are close ups of each page (click to embiggin'):


Monday, November 04, 2013

St Patrick's San Francisco

Work travel does not, as a rule, allow for much time for sketching.  So this time I had to improvise and make a quick sketch from my hotel room.  I had a nice view of St Patrick's on Mission St, which is currently undergoing renovations.

                                  Watercolor on paper 5.5x8.25 plus a bit more

Here is the actual view with the painting for comparison.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Hike

I tried something different with this picture and used my new studio set up to paint (see below).  First, I was used Canson Montvale watercolor block on a table top easel instead of painting on a flat surface. Second, I finally used fresh paint from the tube, instead of dried paint in a travel set.

The point of the painting was to work fast and rough (still need to get better flicking paint and water onto the paper) and not worry about details.  The final result was quite satisfying.

                                     Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor block 9x12

Here is my new set up, with the watercolor block (it is bound on all four sides which prevents curling of the paper and the need to tape it down), table top easel and the porcelain butcher tray.   I had to adjust the lighting but I am quite happy with how my studio is starting to take shape.

                                                          The Set Up

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Waterfall at Duke's Brook -- Duke Farms

We took a day's hike at Duke Farms, learning about butterflies and moths and flora or all kind, especially native caterpillar food plants.  On the walk back to the orientation center I stopped at the little waterfall at Duke's Brook to paint.  I have been wanting to find local places to paint, and this 2,700 acre estate and park is right in my backyard.  This little waterfall is one of the signature locations in the Farm.  Normally, there is water generally cascading down the darker rocks, but now in the mid-Fall there was no water.  I think this is a place I need to go back and paint when there is snow on the ground and then again in the Spring.

                                          Watercolor on paper 5.5x8.25

I am starting to become comfortable with new paints and the Pocket Palette (and its smaller size).  I love smooth washes and the ability to layer color.  What I like most about this travel catch, it is a much different color palette than my other previous works.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Equine in the Fall -- Redux

Well, this one. . .I am excited about. Using the Daniel Smith paints has certainly been eye opening. I was able to do a light under wash and then layer color on top once the first wash dried (much like I do with pastels).  The result is so much closer to what I have been attemping to achieve.  The horse was masked using liquid latex and painted with a rigger brush.

I still used the Pocket Palette (ie dried paints) and even though it is fun to use, I will try using fresh out of the tube paint on subsequent paintings now that I just bought a porcelain butcher's tray (ie, palette).

                                       Watercolor on 200lbs paper 10x14

So, I have been accused of painting three legged horses. And well. . .

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Somewhere, Rocky Mountains

I really did not have a plan for the sky, or more specifically the pink clouds with their touches of darkness within, they just kind of happened.  Not sure how I feel about that.  The foreground with touched up with a hint of Unison pastels to bring out the highlights in the grass. 

                                              Watercolor on paper 10x7

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lone Tree in the Valley -- Natirar County Park

I do not normally use the back of paper (I am just weird that way) but I have seen so many sketch crawlers do these amazing double page spreads. It has been something I have been considering for awhile.  Plus, what drew me to the tree was the fact that it was the only tree in the well manicured valley in the park.  As I started to draw it on the single page, it just looked too crowded on the page (defeating the purpose for painting it in the first place), so I kept drawing on the other page.  I am quite pleased with the final result.

                                       watercolor on paper 5.5 x 16.50

The Daniel Smith paints continue to be enjoyable.  The colors seem brighter than the cotman and the washes are easier to manage.

                    My kit: Pocket Pallette, niji water brush, 1/2 inch brush, spray bottle

The entrance to the walking path at Natirar County Park, you can see the tree I painted off to the right.  It was just a perfect day for sitting outside and painting.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Sun Also Sets

The end of an era. . .the times they are a changin'. . .and sun also sets. . .

                                        Watercolor on 140lbs paper 10x7

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Purple Mountain Majesty

Holy Shnikes!! I finally broke down and bought "artist grade" watercolor paints. . .and what a difference they make.  I had been unable to create the type of washes I have seen in other paintings since my cotman paints always seemed to dry up too fast (they are not pure pigment and have too many binders).  These new paints were amazing.

Sunday I went outside and did a quick painting based on a photo references and I was really impressed with the results.  Sorry cotman, I think you have just been retired.

                                           Watercolor on 140lbs paper 9x12

After much research (hey, it is what I do), I decided to buy Daniel Smith paints (M Graham was my second choice).  I also bought another travel kit for the new paints.  It is called the Pocket Palette and it is about the same size as a business card holder. 

Here are the colors once they dried in the pans (pretty cool looking).  The Pocket Palette holds 14 colors but I bought 15 (8 came in a set).  It is a good set of warms and cools, plus a few mixes like sap green and moonglow because. . .well. . .because I like them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shade in the Valley

I probably should have used a bigger brush.  However, I wanted to be outside painting rather than in my studio, so I had my cotman travel set and the niji waterbrushes, not the larger flat brushes.  The cool shadows below the tree did not turn out the way I intended, but I think the final effect was quite pleasing.

                                      Watercolor on 120lbs paper 9x12

This is the first painting with my modified cotman set.  I finally, after much internal debating, swapped out some of the pan colors that came with set (that I do not use) for other student grade paints.  I say student grade because I have made the leap (finally) to more expensive artist grade watercolor paints.  They should arrive in a week.  I will use them both in the studio and as my new, customizable travel Pocket Palette.  I can hardly wait.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Sleepy Farm in the Waning Days of Summer

There is a special kind of light in the waning days of the summer that tantalizes us with whispers of longer days now past.  It can make us pause as the light captures our attention and freezes a sleepy image in our mind.  And there is something about farms and rolling hills that I associate with this summer light.  

                                          Watercolor on 140lbs paper 9x12 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Amsterdam -- Sitting on Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat

The trip was busy, as work trips often are, so I was only able to get one sketch done during my trip to Amsterdam.  Sitting just out front the little boutique-y hotel on Eerste Constantijn Hugyensstraat (say that five times fast to your favorite Dutch cab driver and just wait for the blank look. . .then show him the address on your phone), I was able to capture the shops across the street.  My intent was to also draw the little park just to the left of these buildings.  Alas, there was not time.

Architectural drawings are not my strong suit and I did some touch ups later that night after dinner to provide more contrast.  Not bad over all, and it was just fun to sit and draw in the same city as Van Gogh.

                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Biking, Picnicking and Painting

It was a perfect day; 81 degrees F with no humidity.  We packed a lunch, went for a long bike ride and picnicked in a flower garden.  There are several flower gardens in Colonial Park and we chose an often forgotten side garden.  And while my better half read (aka napped in the sun), I did two small paintings.  I bought three small travel books a while back, I took one to Colorado but decided to try a new one for today (because nothing is more fun than using new art supplies).

These paintings also mark the beginning of me customizing my half pan set.  I swapped out a little used brown for Payne's Grey.  I have been wanting to incorporate more darks into my travel paintings.

                                      Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x5.5

                                       Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x5.5

Monday, August 19, 2013

At the End of the Day

This one had to wait before I posted it since I included in a work PowerPoint presentation.  It is a cartoon of my boss' boss (who used to be my boss) and his favorite summative statement is ". . .at the end of the day."  So much so that it has become a running joke between us (not that I made him paranoid about overusing it or nothing, I would never do that).

                                              Watercolor on 140lbs paper

This also gave me an opportunity to do some good ol' fashion cartooning.  Back in the day, I used to do this all the time for class presentations and in the margins of my class notebooks.  Good stuff.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A small church in Chateau d'Oex

Sometimes you have to be prepared to ruin perfectly good paper. It allows for greater freedom.  And while I did not exactly ruin this one,  I am not sure if I hit the mark with it either.  Still, I am quite happy with some of the layered washes and will put this one in the "win" column.

                                     Watercolor on 140lbs paper 9x12

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Old Wheel Barrel

The old wheel barrel sits in our side yard next to our neighbors' arbor vitae.  In certain light, it reminds me of an old country side in Europe.  I decided that the other houses from the development did not need to be included in this sketch.  Combined with the shed and the butterfly bush, I have now painting all of the most interesting elements of our yard.

                                             Watercolor on paper 10x7

This painting also marks the 12th and final sketch/painting in the pad I bought almost one year ago.  As I have mentioned before, I have never filled every page of a sketch book, pad or journal and therefore I challenged myself to do complete one in a year time.  I think I have 3 days to spare.  It is also the 29th painting of the year, making 2013 my most product of this blog. Very cool.

What was also fun about painting today was my niece joined me and she did two drawings of her own. I think she was excited about using the same watercolor pan set as me.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Resilient as Rasputin

We have tried to kill our butterfly bush. Several times. . .but never on purpose.  We have hacked away the dead branches until it was back to a nub and thought, "yeah, this time we killed it for sure."  And it always springs back and goes all crazy like a bad perm on a humid day.  It is as resilient as Rasputin.

                                              Watercolor on paper 10x7
The butterfly bush is the center of our backyard and since we have planted a "squirrel proof" bird feeder, it is the center of all bird activity.   I enjoy watching the cardinals, chickadees, finches and morning doves as they feed throughout the day.  They are a nice respite during a hectic work day. 

This is 11th drawing in the oft mentioned pad bought in Chicago.  I had considered this subject for the 12th and final drawing.  However, for what ever reason this, this image has been front and foremost in my brain for awhile, demanding my attention.  It was almost as if this painting needed to escape my psyche. 

It is also my 28th drawing of the year, tying it with 2005 as my most productive year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dall Sheep Ram

This has sat on my drawing board for a week and I thought it was time to post it.  I have been waffling back and forth about whether to lay some watercolor down on this.  I think it might be cool to add a hazy watercolor wash to the background to counterpoint the white and grey of the ram.  Still not sure.  Since I may yet painting it, I left the pencil under drawing un-erased. Leave a comment and tell me your preference.

                                    Pen and ink on 140lbs paper 9x12

The Dall sheep, Ovis dalli, is a species of sheep native to northwestern North America.  I flirted with the idea of mislabeling him "goat" because that seems to elicit comments.  

This drawing is from a photo taken in Denali national park, Alaska like this painting of Mt McKinley.  Alas, I have never been there but hope to one day. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Parade's about to Begin

Today was our town's 100th anniversary and it started it off with a big (relatively speaking) parade.  Luckily, with the early start it was only in the mid 80's (it would hit the upper 90's later in the afternoon). While waiting for the parade to begin I decided to paint the people setting up their chairs and umbrellas.

                                           Watercolor on paper 9x7

This is the 10th painting in the pad I bought last August in Chicago.  I gave myself a year to fill its 12 pages with paintings and complete a book for the first time in decades.  I have a month and a half to get it done.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Why an exclamation point?  Why not?  Besides, turtles are cool.

                                  Pen & Ink, Watercolor on 100lbs Bristol 11x14

If I am anything, I consider myself an illustrator, or in the 'Jersey vernacular. . .a drawer (pronounced draw-RER). Drawing or sketching is how I got started in all this and it is always my first love.  I may never master watercolors as fine art, but I do love the way the augment my illustrations.

                                                            Pen & Ink

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A Sketch a Day in Colorado

Whilst on vacation, I set a a personal goal to do one sketch each day. As it turns out, I successfully  carried my travel sketch kit with me on each of the 6 hikes we did on Colorado.  Here they are.

On our first day in Colorado we attended the Renaissance Fair in Larkspur.  The Fair was similar to the one in Tuxedo New York that we usually attend but the end battle/joust was much shorter.  I quickly drew this while sitting on the lawn waiting for the main even joust to start.  There was no preliminary melee and so I missed the entire joust while sketching.

                                                 Waiting for the Joust
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25

The hike to the top of Mount Herman was a little over a mile in distance (we stared toward the top) but took us from ~7700 ft in elevation to 9100 ft.  Between the elevation and the steep climb, I was hurting a bit after this one.  And this was not the toughest hike.  Literally two minutes after I finished this, and while I was still packing up, rain clouds swooped in and obscured the view of these mountains.
                                          The View from Mount Herman
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25

The Garden of the Gods was by the far the easiest of the hikes and perhaps the most inspiring.  We took tons of photos that may one day find themselves the subjects of their own paintings.  I painted this sitting on the sunbathed observation deck of the visitor's center and may be my favorite sketch of the trip.  Cathedral Rock, or Grey Rock, is one of the first rock formation you see when entering the park.
                                         Cathedral Rock, Garden of the Gods
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25

I rushed this one a bit and it shows but the biting flies were. . .well. . .biting.  I do like how the water preceding the little waterfalls came out.  That said, everything about Estes Park was just amazing and beautiful.  I think my next vacation to Colorado needs to include many more days exploring this park (and hopefully next time I will get to see an Elk in the road).

                                          The Pool at the Big Thompson River
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25

 Horsetooth Mountain was supposed to be a "moderately" difficult hike.  Yeah, right.  We called it 10k the hard way (3.1 miles to the top) and this one kicked my @$$!  This hike included rock hewn stairs, scrambling and steep grades. . .but man, was the view worth it.  I chose to paint the western view instead of the eastern view that included the city of Ft Collins.  I just did not want to paint any buildings on this trip.

                             Western View from the top of Horsetooth Mountain
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25

The final hike and sketch was from Seven Falls, a truly beautiful sight of seven cascading waterfalls.  Instead of painting the falls themselves, I instead chose to paint the view from Inspiration Point.  This sight is the final resting place of Helen Hunt Jackson and was the inspiration for her novel Ramona.

                                           Inspiration Point, Seven Falls
                                        Watercolor and ink on paper 5.5x8.25