Posted in Painting

Mostly misty and cool in Hawaii last week

Pool deck @ The Prince Hotel, Waikiki
Pool deck @ The Prince Hotel, Waikiki; 5″x7″ Winsor & Newton (R) transparent watercolor
Who woulda thought I’d be wishing for warmer clothes?

Got back yesterday (at about 6 a.m.) from eight days in Honolulu. Even though the weather wasn’t the greatest (I ought to create an illustration called, The Wardrobe I Should Have Taken), it was nice to go beyond simply thawing-out, all the way to sleeping with the windows open!

Ala Moana Beach Park from balcony of Ala Moana Hotel; 6"x8" opaque watercolor on primed artist canvas.
Ala Moana Beach Park from balcony of Ala Moana Hotel; 6″x8″ opaque watercolor on primed artist canvas.
Tree along Ala Wai Canal, from Ala Moana Hotel balcony; 6"x8" opaque watercolor on artist canvas.
Tree along Ala Wai Canal, from Ala Moana Hotel balcony; 6″x8″ opaque watercolor on artist canvas.
Ala Wai Yacht Club from Ala Moana Hotel balcony; 5"x7" Winsor & Newton transparent watercolor
Ala Wai Yacht Club from Ala Moana Hotel balcony; 5″x7″ Winsor & Newton transparent watercolor
Prince Hotel interior still life; 8"x10" opaque watercolor on artist canvas
Room 2815 still life, Prince Hotel; 8″x10″ opaque watercolor on artist canvas
Even the swimming pool was chilly!
Even the salt water swimming pool @ The Prince was chilly!
Posted in Painting

(More) Joy of Opaque Watercolor!

Stop what you are doing and visit NOW!
Stop what you are doing and visit NOW!

I am enjoying the Open Studio that the senior center in my hometown (Keller, TX) is letting me host. We have been meeting Wednesday afternoons. January’s session is over, but February we’ll be back at it. This is the picture I started this past Wednesday and finished at home.

6″ x 8″ opaque watercolor (Dick Blick premium tempera) on 140 lb. Strathmore 400 watercolor paper. If you are wondering what the “stucco effect” is from: I’ve been experimenting with acrylic mediums on paper (and just a few days ago, on artist’s canvas). This is Liquitex (R) modeling paste, applied with a palette knife then textured by pressing & lifting a scrap of very heavy/coarse artist’s canvas (#8 or #6 I think).

Have also been experimenting with final acrylic glazes on my most recent watercolors. This one has one coat of Liquitex matte varnish. I believe that has solved the scanner-reflection problem I had with the gloss finish (which I do prefer, but not if I can’t scan things).

6" x 8" tempera on acrylic varnished artist's canvas
6″ x 8″ tempera on acrylic varnished artist’s canvas

Three Pears experiment

I did this quote-unquote very quickly…just so I could see how cutting my own squares of canvas and backing them with a FLEXIBLE cardstock would work out “in the field.” The wrinkles you see here, there, and running across the picture will never come out: I was so smart back when I bought the stuff that I decided to pre-shrink the enitre role of lightweight unprimed canvas. In a swimming pool. On a length of PVC pipe “to KEEP it from wrinkling.” Famous last words.

Please, DON’T you DO THAT. Repeat: the wrinkles will never come out.

When I found this particular photo of pears on PaintMyPhoto with the wrinkled white tablecloth, I thought, “pe(a)rfect.” After sufficiently thick-ish color layers were dry I varnished it (and got smearing of the near-black background) and then did some touch-up with more tempera. Before a second matte varnish I used a spray “workable fixative” to prevent any more smearing. It seems to have worked.

Moderate flexing of the fully-dry painting does not seem to leave/make any cracks, etc. I feel very comfortable about cutting PRIMED canvas to 8.25″ x 10.25″ and stapling each one (within that extra 1/4″) to, say, 8.25+” x 10.25+” single-thickness corrugated cardboard for working on-the-go. Keeping them small means they might fit in document sleeves for further “travel protection.”

Posted in Painting

It’s so much simpler to just scan my work…

Pelikan opaques+ (15″ x 22″ Arches 140-lb hotpress). You can probably tell I used a lot of liquid white (tempera) in the sky!

Before painting I tried something different on the paper’s surface. First I “sealed” it with Liquitex “Flexible Modeling Paste” which left a slightly uneven sandpapery texture. When that was dry the whole surface was coated with a slightly dilute mix of “Ultra Matte Medium.” It made for a less perfect surface, of course, giving the paper a hint of the mysterious, a touch of the unpredictable. Dare I say perhaps also a hint-of-Danger?

That’s what I get for posting while “someone” nearby is playing a Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. 🙂

Posted in Painting

Have a beautiful summer.

Can’t get away to an exotic – or even tame – location this year? Try your hand at watercolors with some “armchair traveling.” A great place to start, being mindful of the fact that of course the photographers own all the images, is TREK EARTH.


In addition to Trek-Earth there are tons of beautiful photo-references on the internet – even groups that paint using scenery the little Google-street-guy “finds” for them!

Here’s a book your library may have to help you get started: “Complete Book of Watercolors in a Weekend,” by Frank Haliday. Or get it from Amazon re-sellers, here because you are probably going to want to own it…of course it features transparent paints but I especially like the way it illustrates the “simplification” or abstracting process painters must use to go from a view with nature’s outrageous-complexity to painted scenes reduced to little more than the necessary color/tone/shape “impressions.”


Check out these step-by-step shots I captured for a kid’s painting class a few years ago. Sorry, but the links to the video-demos are currently “broken.” fixed! Thanks, IT-guy!


My suggestion for best “beginner’s paints” are opaque watercolors. I love the Pelikan brand (used by all the kids in the “Escape Artists” class, BTW) and I like to get everything I can from Dick Blick because of their great prices and fantastic service. Stick with the 12-color set; plenty of vibrant colors and you’ll learn how to mix your own in-betweens faster that way.

O.K., so you want to jump into transparent watercolors? I have a 12-color set of these Van Gogh paints. The tiny travel brush is nice, colors are very strong, and the hinged plastic case is tough. If you can get the deal with the included watercolor paper, cool!


This is the brush I’d have if I could only own one (and I have often traveled with this one and this one only): a Loew-Cornell “Ultra” Round Series 7020. Choose the largest size, 14. It’s a synthetic that goes to a very sharp point to allow fine lines or use it on its side for bold swashes of sky or landscape. A quick look at Japanese brush-painting books or here, in just a few minutes in a video will show such a brush in action. NOTE: I’m so keen on this Loew-Cornell 7020 brush because of its resilience or spring-back. I believe it is even better than Sumi-e brushes which, as you can see in the linked video, are traditionally “limp.”

Soon you’ll find there’s not much you can’t do with it especially if you stick to small-scale travel-sized works no larger than 5″ x 7″ like I do and as I would suggest for a while. It’s not uncommon even at this scale to spend 3 or more hours on one plein-air watercolor.


For stuffing in your purse or laptop bag, stick with a 4″ x 6″ pad of decent paper, for at home I like a 9″ x 12″ with a centered 5″ x 7″ pencil-outlined, or drafting-taped-of painting zone. Then it pops into a frame and “appears” to be matted (if you can keep the “mat” paint free).

Check out these videos at Dick Blick. Typically you’ll want to start with a student-grade paper, but don’t buy more than one pad at a time. You will be working diligently and deliberately; you won’t be sloshing paint on sheet-after-sheet. Move up to 100% cotton paper as soon as you’ve painted through one or two 12-sheet “student pads.” You’ll thank me for the suggestion.

As nice as spiral-bound “travel” pads are, when you decide you want to remove something to frame or otherwise display you’ll have more of a challenge than the “taped-top” style of pad.

140-pound is a minimum, but a 300-pound “block” is a luxury that can still be affordable at these smaller sizes. All sides stay attached (except for a tiny area at one corner) until you choose to cut the sheet free. when you do use a gentle action, a clean and smooth plastic tool, otherwise you could end up cutting into your painting or the next layer on the block.

Happy learning.