Hours passed as I waited for the fog to lift.

Fog cover .... Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Fog cover …. Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Waiting for conditions to be right for my first paragliding flight is different from most other sorts of waiting.  I can usually concentrate on drawing while the minutes tick by.  This morning my attention was seriously split between being an artist and being a bird.

Fog at Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Fog at Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Still foggy and no wind

Fog begins to clear …. but no wind

Finally the fog cleared.  The wait continued as the wind refused to grow strong enough for sufficient lift.  I didn’t want to simply drop to the earth as I did when I jumped from a plane.  I wanted to soar, riding thermals to touch the clouds.



As the sun headed toward the horizon, all hopes of flying vanished in the warm glow.

Between drawings I wandered the paths, inhaled the sea air and thought about how I want to spend the next two years. Why two years?  Because I’m following the suggestions of my fabulous Business Coach, MS.  Where do I want to find myself as an artist in two years?  Where do I want to find myself in ten years?  Where is that magical balancing point between painting as painting leads me and painting as the economy leads me?  My brain felt foggier than the air around me.  I tried to be objective about realism vs. abstraction and where en plein air and the Color Scheme Game fit into the plan.  Though I reached no conclusions, I found more options.

I didn’t get to fly today.  Instead, I had a wonderful day of contemplation.  My sleep will be sweet tonight.

Sketchbook drawings:  Pencil and watercolor, Ink and watercolor on watercolor paper in handmade, coptic bound sketchbooks.

Before heading to Santa Rosa to teach another workshop I spent a day painting at my favorite place in San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences.

Of course I headed straight for the weedy sea dragon. There are now two in the tank, not just one! My goal for the day was to attempt to capture the playful nature of the flittering tropical fish in one of the large aquarium tanks, the one that replicates a Philippine Coral Reef.

Drawn first in ink with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

How do they do it?  Every Royal Riviera pear shipped from Harry and David is perfect in every way.

Harry and David Royal Riviera Pear

Harry and David Royal Riviera Pear

They arrive at my door once a year with instructions to guide me through their final ripening stage.  I am also instructed to devour them within ten days.  Nicole and I have no problem following the directions.  They are the perfect gift.  They come in a box, they fill us with pleasure and then they are gone, never to collect dust or take up space.  What lingers is another wonderful memory of yumminess, smiles, moans and groans of culinary pleasure.

Sketchbook Drawings:  Royal Riviera Christmas Pears – Drawn first with inkbrush filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor.

The struggle to describe form on a face continues….  still working from photographs …. ugh!

linking light shapes and dark shapes

Everything I’m working on right now relates not only to human figures, but to masses of trees and landscapes, too.  Returning to plein air painting made me realize I need to sharpen my eye and brain to organize the shapes of reality into strong patterns of abstraction.  I thought, after so many years of painting movement and abstraction that I would have broken my habit of duplicating reality when it is sitting still in front of me.  I was wrong!

Slowly, very slowly, I’m making progress.  Every ten minutes I want to stop this discipline and toss or platter a bit of paint, swirl a bit of ink and simply play with color and shapes.  I can feel myself tighten when I reach the limit of my ability in realistic drawing and painting.  I want to return to something I am comfortable with.  I want to do an ink drawing of the hollyhocks in bloom and color it in with gorgeous pinks and greens.  I want to dash off to a music festival with my dip pen and watercolor box.

My mother before I was born, great hat!

It’s hard to believe, but I worked on this little 5″ x 7″ sketch for four hours!  It looked fresh and alive after about half an hour, but the forms on the face were wrong.  I went back and forth with watercolor, then gouache, to bring back lights, to correct values of shadows, to simplify, to capture light falling on the different planes of the face.  It ended up an overworked mess, but I am satisfied with the head looking like a solid form that might actually have a skull inside of it.  In spite of knowing my anatomy, there is a glitch in my hand/brain/brush when I attempt to paint realistically.

V. D. King at the Grisly Pear

This is how I love to paint.  Why do I bother struggling with painting from photos, stiff and boring?  Because I want to bring the skill and knowledge I gain from that discipline into my plein air and moving figure paintings.  They will become more consistently stronger.  And ….. I want to keep breaking through my limitations.  Until I can paint from a photograph successfully with the result being as lovely, loose and descriptive as the portrait of V.D. King, I will not be satisfied.

Grumpy Chris as a toddler

I am as grumpy this morning as I was when the photo I worked from was taken.  What is it that makes a face look old?  look young? look middle-aged? When does the balance of hard edges and soft edges work in the composition of facial planes?

Top image: ink brush or ink brush and copic markers

Middle image: watercolor and gouache

Bottom image: watercolor

In spite of the gale winds, I sat among the blossoming trees drawing and painting, struggling to capture the essence of spring.  Ah…. the joys of painting en plein air.

White and Pink Magnolia Trees, Watercolor Sketchbook Page

Each time I packed up my supplies, hands frozen and chilled to the bone, I was snagged by a magnolia blossom that screamed to be immortalized in my sketchbook.  And to think that it was 80 degrees last week!

Magnolia Blossoms cv. Betty, watercolor Kosar Hybrid Magnolia

The Betty ( Kosar Hybrid Mangolia) blossoms were outrageously beautiful.  The bottom blossoms were painted in ink with my Kuretake Ink Brush.  There’s nothing like spring blossoms to inspire improving my skills with an ink brush.

Sketchbook pages:  I’m finding that spring warrants drawing first with a pencil rather than fountain pen.  Spring wants to be open form rather than the closed form I generally create with ink pens.

Back to the old red sketchbook with crummy wood pulp paper.

Four variations of the top of Tom's Dresser

Another sketch from early morning pillow position.  I wanted to see how much ink bleed the refillable marker pen would cause on the yellowed pulp paper.  I have about fifteen more pages to go in this treasured sketchbook.  As I opened it this morning, the binding broke.  It clearly is ready for retirement.

I’ve ordered an empty Ciao Copic Marker to try filling with ink, maybe mixing Noodler’s ink with Copic Ink for fast drying when sketching while walking.  I like the brush-shaped tip of the Ciao Marker better than the wedge shape tip of the Preppy refillable marker.

Drawing: Preppy refillable marker filled with Noodler’s walnut ink.

I posted this a couple of days ago from my phone.  I didn’t realize it was password protected….. Sorry about that.  I’ll be back on a more normal schedule tomorrow…. drat!image

Friday morning. At 7 pm that night the 48 Hour Film Festival began, a pleasant break from my recent schedule.
This is another attempt at a mobile phone upload.

The shoes are black, not blue, but who cares?  You wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t told you.

Well-worn, well-loved, witchy shoes. Watercolor Sketch

Well-worn, well-loved, witchy shoes. Watercolor Sketch

If I found a pair of blue shoes like this I would buy them in an instant.

It’s easier to part with old, favorite, well-loved shoes after drawing or painting them into a sketchbook.  A flat piece of paper doesn’t collect dust and takes up far less room than a pair of old shoes.  I was so attached to a pair of black, leather shoes that I bought while living in Germany (1969), that I saved a small, round buckle from one of them for over twenty years.  That’s embarrassing to admit.  I wish I had drawn or painted them … a lost opportunity.

There is a little bit of subtle, double complementary color scheme going on in this watercolor sketch.  The most obvious is the blue shoes and the orange tint to the baseboard heating and floor.  The table has a slight pink tint to complement the green wallpaper stripes.  Once again, the pattern of light and dark values is of primary importance.  I can play around with the color when the value patterns are working to control the path my eyes follow.

I began with a quick and rather inaccurate contour drawing with my fountain pen and followed with watercolor washes.

I am so distracted by my father’s health situation that I feel a bit like a zombie when I do my morning sketch.

Tom's hat hanging on the wash stand. Watercolor

A bit of invented color in the wallpaper added a bit of life to this sketch.  What became very apparent to me as I lay in the washes was the importance of creating a pattern of lights and darks that work to move my eyes through and around the painting.  I repainted the shadow of the dresser about six times in order to find a value that worked to tie the dresser to the hat without killing the color.  I don’t really care that the shadow of the wash stand post is not at all the same as the shadow of the dresser.  I like the way the purple/blue works with the orange in the upper right corner.  Right now, when anything works, I experience a moment of calm.  That is very important during these challenging times of finding a safe and pleasant living solution for my dad who is suffering from rapid loss of memory.

I began with a quick contour drawing using a fountain pen with brown ink.  I then moved to my studio and applied watercolor washes.

The shape of the teapot is delightful.  The belly full, the spout like an elephant’s trunk and the lid like a bowler hat.

Playing with organic and linear shapes

I wanted to experiment with a totally linear background to see what the effect might be.  Sketchbooks make experimentation so easy.  The linear shapes ended up with several layers of glazes, darkening each time (hoping not to lose the quality of color) until the values were dark enough to trigger the push/pull movement between the organic shape of the teapot and the directional forces of the linear background shapes.  I wish I had scanned earlier versions of this to show how static the composition was when the background shapes were lighter in value.

New Year’s Eve I painted another little sketch of the teapot, totally organic shapes.  Quite a difference.

New Year's Eve teapot

The subject is the same, the effect is totally different.

I began with a quick fountain pen ink sketch and followed with washes of watercolor.