Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips (plus great new studio lights)

Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips, oil on linen panel, 10x10 inches

Montessori Pink Tower and Turnips, oil on linen panel, 10×10 inches

This painting was inspired by my neighbor’s childhood Montessori Pink Tower blocks arranged like a little cityscape on his coffee table. I found the blocks irresistible and had to paint them. The turnips I’d bought to cook for dinner seemed like a perfect addition (I know, I’m weird, right?) The painting is available on my Daily Paintworks gallery here.

If you’d like to see my full notes with goals and outcomes for each painting session, you can open this small PDF file.  Life intervened between sessions which made painting from life difficult as you can see in the photos below taken at the beginning and end of the painting process: the turnips had started to sprout and wrinkle. Read More

Found or Free: Apples and Candlestick

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8x8" (<a href="">$110 at my DPW Gallery: click here</a>) (Click image to enlarge)

Found on the Street #1, Candlestick and Apples, oil painting on panel, 8×8″ (Click image to enlarge)

This is one in a series of paintings of free stuff and things found on the street during my walks in the Berkeley, California area. The little apples had fallen from a neighbor’s tree and the candlestick was in a free box on the curb. Below are photos of some steps in the work in progress of this painting (which is available to purchase from my Daily Paintworks gallery here) and a couple of cool studio tips too. Read More

Off to New York: New Sea Monkey Journal and New Stuff

New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5" x 11" spread

New Makeup for New York, ink and watercolor, 7.5″ x 11″ spread

I’m off to New York City for a fun week of art adventures. I’ll be sketching and visiting art museums with New York art bloggers Shirley, Pat and Carol and the New York City Urban Sketchers. Berkeley artist friend Micaela will be joining me in NY on Friday for a 3-day slumber party and sketching marathon before she takes off to Europe.

As I was preparing for the trip I had fun doing a little shopping when I realized my clothes and makeup were long overdue for a refresh. Above is a sketch of my pretty new cosmetics. If I have time in the morning before I leave (unlikely) I’ll sketch my clothes before I pack them.

I finally bound my own journal again and am thrilled to have exactly the paper, size and format I like. What a treat to paint on real watercolor paper! As always happens as I’m binding a journal, it named itself: “Sea Monkey.”

Sea Monkey Journal Cover, 8x6"

Sea Monkey Journal Cover, 8×6″

I Googled what sea monkeys really look like but they were too creepy so I drew a sort of monkey face on a sea-horse body. Then I decorated it with gold and pink pens and drips from a white paint pen (accidental, but liked it so kept going).

As you can see, I don’t take my journals too seriously. It helps to mess them up (journal abuse I call it) right away so they don’t feel precious. An imperfect journal gives me the freedom to sketch playfully (and imperfectly). This one has a major flaw: the text block slipped when I was casing it in and there’s a big wrinkle in the lavender end papers. Oh goodie!

Loads ‘o Lillies and Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor review

"Lily White on White," oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"

“Lily White on White,” oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″
(AVAILABLE on DailyPaintworks Auction: CLICK IMAGE to visit auction)

I spent some time sketching and painting a calla lily that sprouted in my garden and while I was at it, tested a palette of Winsor Newton Cotman paints. Several of my friends have this clever, inexpensive Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Palette and I thought it was worth a try so I ordered one.

I started by testing the colors, listing the pigments to match them to artists’ quality pigments I normally use (click to see larger with pigment numbers) and making notes about which ones to swap out (at that point assuming I’d continue using the others).

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

I was very frustrated with the results I was getting when painting and in the end, took ALL the Cotman pans out of the palette and replaced them with pans filled with artist quality paints from tubes. I put the Cotman pans in a large jar of water to soak so that I could empty and reuse the empty pans. After dumping and refilling the jar many times I ended up with a jar of tinted water with a lot of white sandy junk at the bottom: the nasty fillers and binders added to the pigments to make it cheap.

I know that for the same $17 that this palette AND crappy paint costs, you can only buy one or two tubes of full strength, high quality paint. But I’d rather have only a few colors than use junk. Most of the following sketches lack vibrancy, richness in color, and paint application was difficult and unattractive. Here they are in reverse order of completion:

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the drawing above, but not the grayed colors.

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the shape of the leaf above.

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8x10"

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8×10″

I painted over an awful sketch with gouache (above), just loosely trying to get the shape of the flower.

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8×10″

Two previous attempts at the leaf, on 2 other kinds of paper I taped into the 8×10″ Moleskine.

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8×10″

The first sketch. I like the composition but the colors and application were yuck.

I’m still using the Cotman Palette. I think it’s a great for sketching because it’s light,  compact and holds enough colors (12). And at $17 I don’t mind the price, even after throwing away the colors it cane with. It’s handy to have the now-empty, extra half-pans which usually cost about 50 cents each. So really, I got the palette for $11, and 12 empty pans for $6. Not too bad.

EDiM 5-6: Draw A Scented Product (one to counteract another) and a Pine Tree

Draw a Pine Tree  and a Scented Product (perfume and cat litter)

Draw a Pine Tree and a Scented Product (perfume and cat litter), ink & watercolor 8×11″

I had fun with May 6: “Draw a Scented Product.” I sketched two scented “products” — one man-made and one cat-made. The man-made is a lovely (and expensive) room perfume (Vanilla, Bourbon and Mandarin) that I fell in love with at my dentist’s office and unlike most scented products doesn’t give me a headache. It nicely counteracts the scented product my cats produce on a  regular basis.

“Draw a pine tree” was the cue for May 5. Easy…found one in my neighborhood bigger than a house and sketched it and painted it sitting in my car on a cold, foggy, windy day.

I’m experimenting with an inexpensive ($13.00) Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor palette. I like the format, size and light weight very much and the way the paint easily re-wets. Although the colors aren’t as intense as their artist’s grade paints they’re all permanent/lightfast. But that might be fine for sketching since it might help me keep the sketches simpler and save fancy washes for real watercolor paper.

Flowering Crab Apple Blossoms on First Day of Spring

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, left page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x11"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, left page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×11″

Happy spring (or autumn if you’re on the other side of the world)! Despite it being a rainy, grey day here, perfect for spending indoors in jammies (which I did since I was a bit under the weather) spring has definitely arrived in the Bay Area with blossoming trees and green things sprouting everywhere.

Out walking in Berkeley on a Sunday morning in a nice neighborhood, I spotted a beautiful flowering tree between two homes. I was debating with my walking buddy  whether to knock on the door and ask if I could take a cutting to sketch and paint from. He thought not, since people might still be sleeping, and suggested I take a photo. But I wanted to draw from the real thing. I was trying to figure out which house actually owned the tree and he was trying to figure out how to get me to keep walking.

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, right page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x11"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, right page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×11″

Just then I heard people chatting, coming towards us on the sidewalk from around the corner. It was the homeowners who’d also been out for a walk. I asked if I could take a branch to paint and they said yes. This is the first of several pieces (two oil paintings and another sketch) I created from their branch.

I wish I’d thought to take their address so I could send a thank you card with the image on it. Maybe my friend will remember what street we were on since he chose our route.

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, 2-page spread, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x22"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, 2-page spread, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×22″

This is the full 2-page spread in the giant Moleskine Watercolor A4 sketchbook I’m using now. It’s 8.5 x 23 inches when opened so rather unwieldy when sketching outside the studio but I’m enjoying it anyway. I drew directly with a sepia Sakura Micron Pigma Pen and then painted with watercolor and a bit of gouache.

I used gouache for the background on this sketch because I wanted a fairly smooth/flat background which I couldn’t get with watercolor because of the way the paper buckles and doesn’t lie flat because of the seam. My favorite part is the enlarged pure watercolor blossoms in the white circle on the left hand side, visible if you click and then click again on the top image. I’m craving some “real” watercolor painting on good paper.

Reflections on Art/Life in 2012 and 2013

I  hated doing performance reviews at work but was always glad when I’d finished mine and could see all I’d accomplished. This year I had to do my last review at work because I am leaving to paint full time next month!!! I think that’s my biggest news of the year and something I’ve been working towards, finishing up projects since September.

Since I know how valuable performance reviews are, I assign myself to do a review of my art/life too. So here are my reflections on the past year and looking forward into 2013.


  • In early 2012 I movMaking A Mark Awarded into my new studio which I’m thoroughly enjoying and have continued to modify to suit my needs, including building Carole Marine’s still life “stage,” and adding a hula hoop for fun warm ups.
Book cover with my painting Tea and Butter

Tea and Butter


  • My painting Pile of Persimmons was licensed for the cover of Mills College literary journal Persimmon Tree.
  • I was interviewed for this article about Urban Sketching that was published in the local paper.


  • The biggest life change: I’ve reduced my day job hours to one day a week and in another month will leave to paint full time!!!!
  • UPS Delivers at Night, Oil on Canvas, 20x16

    UPS Delivers at Night, Oil on Canvas, 20×16

    I continued work on a series of 16×20″ portraits of people at work in my community. One of these, UPS Delivers at Night was the runner-up in best Portrait of the Year on Making a Mark. It is being purchased by the “model” and UPS corporate wants to do a story about it.

  • Last year I said I wanted to learn to relish and appreciate imperfection and that has helped me to begin to learn to stop before a painting has been perfected (otherwise known as overworked).
  • I’ve made it a priority in 2013 year to find that magical point of balance between painting, blogging, and everything else like healthy eating, exercise and sleep. I’m already making progress.


  • Stillman & Birn Delta 180 lb Ivory paper, ink & watercolor, 6x4"

    Stillman & Birn Delta 180 lb Ivory paper, ink & watercolor, 6×4″

    Feeling more confident with my oil painting technique, I’m often able to paint with conscious competence now (see this post for explanation of the 4 steps from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence) which is way better than the conscious incompetence I was coming from.

  • Last year I decided to do watercolor sketching instead of oil painting at plein air paint-outs. This year I will start oil painting plein air again to see if what I’ve learned in the studio with oils in 2012 will allow me to enjoy and succeed at taking them outdoors.
  • I experimented with Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks but found I prefer the paper of Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks  to S&B when I’m not binding my own.
  • I began using a limited palette in oils, working with just 4 to 6 colors. It’s a great way to learn more about color and helps create harmonious paintings. In watercolor it seems more difficult since I usually want to control not just color but transparency/opacity /sedimentary and other characteristics of watercolor paint.
  • I fell in love with oil painting on oil-primed linen panels for smaller sized work (I use regular stretched canvas for anything bigger than 11″x14″). I’ve been using relatively inexpensive Centurion panels and they’re wonderful!


  • I took a week-long Alla Prima Portraiture class with Rose Frantzen at Scottsdale Artists School in February 2012. It was intense. She takes her teaching very seriously and we worked hard from 9 to 5. After class hours she entertained us with wonderful stories from her life and the art world. I learned a lot but would have benefited more if I’d come to the class more skilled at portrait drawing and alla prima painting. I spent too much time just trying to get my darn drawing (with paint) right.
  • I did a lot of work and study to improve my drawing skills in 2012 and it will continue to be a major focus in 2013.
  • Although I expected to start up my watercolor classes again in 2012 I didn’t. I plan to start teaching again in the spring, once I’ve completed my last day job assignments.
Marmot Mountain Works, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Marmot Mountain Works, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 8×5″


  • Continued to sketch every Tuesday night with my Urban Sketchers group as well as on our “field trips” and independently. Our group is having a show this month and has started hosting a monthly sketching event for the public the first Tuesday evening of each month.
  • Stopped bookbinding to make more time for studio painting but will return to it again in 2013.


  • Last year I decided to concentrate on painting and wait until I left my day job to put effort into art biz/marketing. Despite that plan I did sell a number of paintings, sketches, prints and commissioned works including a large watercolor of a corporate building commissioned as a gift to a retiring CEO, as well as portraits of people, cats and dogs, and landscape paintings.
  • Whole Foods Oakland bought my sketch (below) to use in their employee lunchroom.

    Whole Foods Oakland, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

    Whole Foods Oakland, ink & watercolor, 5×7″

  • Licensed work, in addition to those listed under Publications above, included a sketch of carrots for Canadian Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse’s Facebook and a police car sketch used by Fayette County, Georgia’s Public Safety Department for a brochure. It’s amazing the way the web gets our work seen by people in such diverse places such as….
  • The French advertising agency for Hermes (yes that Hermes!) contacted me to do a series of illustrations for them for a new website
    1950 Royal Typewriter, Pitt Brush Pen, 5x6"

    1950 Royal Typewriter

    campaign. They wanted the drawings to be in the funky brush-pen style I used for some antique industrial equipment sketches like this old typewriter. They sent me story and concept sketches my drawings were to follow, which they were going to animate. In the end I turned it down for a variety of reasons but it was an amazing opportunity.

  • A local gallery invited me to have a show in 2013 of my still life paintings. I am honored by the invitation but not sure I want to spend the money on framing everything. Am I being silly? It seems easier to sell online but I know it’s important to “get the work out there” locally too.


  • WordPress sends its members an annual blog report. Mine began: “About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 220,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe.” Cute.
  • I celebrated my six-year blogging anniversary in 2012 with 220,309 views from 188 countries. I wrote 102 new posts (total 1,118) and uploaded 430 pictures in 2012. My highest views on a day in 2012 was 1,763 on October 29, 2012 and total views on my blog from inception May 2006 through 2012 is 1,213,061.
  • Posted regularly and administered the Urban Sketchers S.F. Bay Area blog as well as starting a Facebook and Flickr page for Urban Sketchers. Some of our group below.uskflag-sfbayarea
  • I neglected my Flickr and my Daily Paintworks site in 2012 as well as posting less often on my blog than in previous years. My intention for 2013 is to revamp and re-energize my website and Flickr pages and post more regularly on my blog. But painting must always come first.
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