My plants are never pleased when they are brought indoors after living happily on the front porch from May until late autumn.  All of the pots were brought inside before Hurricane Sandy hit land.

Unhappy Oxalis Plant

Three days after the hurricane hit, I caught a plane for California to teach two Color Scheme Game Workshops in Santa Rosa.  Tom, without power for almost two weeks, pampered my plants in my absence.  They have all survived, though a couple are still struggling.  This little pot of Oxalis has a giant corm standing out of the dirt in the middle of the pot.  Survival is such a strong, driving force among all living things.

Sketchbook Drawing: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Whaleman’s Sepia followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Modified Triad (Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green and Blue Green)  Pot and dirt are neutralized hues of the triad.

While walking around Chapman Lake, I found a discarded chewing tobacco tin.  The tin functions as mid-size, pocket palette, perfect for painting when traveling and for daily walks.

Chewing Tobacco tin

Now I have three different sizes of tins to choose from.

Small, smaller and smallest watercolor travel tins

I find the regular size Altoid tin to be too large for my pockets.  It is great for transporting a larger selection of half-pan watercolors to choose from when traveling.  Depending on the day, I select from the larger tin, exchanging colors depending on the time of day and the weather.

Plenty of choices

The smallest Altoid tin holds five half-pans of watercolor (or gouache).  The tobacco tin holds eight, the regular size Altoid tin holds fifteen!  If you pack all three in your suitcase you have a total of twenty-eight to switch back and forth, far more than I ever need.  The lids act as mixing trays or water reservoirs.  A thin sponge cut to size, placed on top of the paints before closing the lid and slipping back into your pocket keeps the paint from dripping out into your clothing.  Full-size watercolor pans fit, too.  You can mix and match any way you choose.  Perfect for spontaneous en plein air sketches.

It’s time to register for The Color Scheme Game Workshop at The Center for Contemporary Art!

Date: September 12, 2012, 10 am til 2 pm.  All you need to bring is three tubes of any yellow, any blue and any red watercolor paint.  I will provide everything else!  A pencil and sketchbook is always recommended, of course, but not an essential this time around.

Color Scheme Game Workshop Materials

Here is a link to the course description and registration: The Color Scheme Game Workshop

My magic bag is filled with paper, palettes, brushes, vintage dip pen nib holders, nibs, vintage fountain pens, mechanical pencils, a variety of colored inks, ink vial holders, handmade sketchbooks, color chart templates, Color Scheme Game Rules and cards as well as plenty of dice.

An eight page coptic bound sketchbook made from Rives BFK paper, a twelve-sided die, a set of Color Scheme Game Cards, along with print outs of all rules to The Color Scheme Game as well as The Extended Color Scheme Game will be sent home with each of the students.  In addition, a package of templates to use at home to make and use your own color wheels will also be part of the take home loot!

Join us for the fun on September 12th.  If you can’t make it then, you might want to schedule your own Color Scheme Game Party Night or arrange for a workshop in your area.

I am beginning to send out notices to garden clubs, arts stores,art associations, libraries and environmental centers to schedule demonstrations and/or workshops.  If you have any locations in mind, please let me know.


Finally another female gets up to play at the Blues Jam and she was incredible!

Justine Gardner playing Bass

The winter has been far too long this year.  As much as I needed to get out to hear live music and paint, I struggled to keep from heading home after work yesterday.  Watching and listening to Justine play last night was the reward for driving into the night to Easton.  Thank you, Justine!

Of course, all the other musicians made it worthwhile, too.  I am never disappointed.  They replenish my energy.  Thanks to all of you.

Drawn first with black ink (dip pen) followed by watercolor washes on D’Arches watercolor paper

To prepare for my upcoming solo show in April/May at Connexions Gallery in Easton, PA, I sorted through piles of older paintings to make room for matting and framing the new work.

"Rhapsody", watercolor

My other task was to choose several paintings to drop off this afternoon for the Connexions Spring Group Show.

When paintings have been out of sight for months or even years, it is quite simple to sort them into two piles, those to save and those to discard.  I filled two huge bags with those to discard.  I still have thirty more to take out of frames before discarding, leaving me the frames to use for the next round of new paintings.

What a joy it is to discover gems that still delight me, those paintings that keep me looking into them and discovering new beauty, exciting lines and interesting shapes.  Those are the paintings I keep, the ones that make me smile and I don’t care whether I understand or not.  From that much smaller pile I chose five paintings to bring to the gallery today.  “Rhapsody” is one of them.

The face evolved from layers of thrown watercolor paint.  As soon as the figure suggested itself I switched to a brush to define the form and features of the young woman’s face.  The strength is in the bold, abstract shapes utilizing the full range of values light to dark.  The color scheme is analogous with one neutralized complement.



I find it valuable to look back at older work and analyze the color elements of the paintings that still have visual impact on me.

Portrait of Nicole, Watercolor Demo, 1985

This watercolor portrait of Nicole was done as a demo for a class I taught.  It was my first experiment with hot press watercolor paper.  My focus was more on the way the paint worked on the surface of the paper than it was the way the colors worked with one another.

When I analyze the color scheme I see that it could fall into the split complementary scheme that continues to crop up when I paint on Tuesday nights at the Todd Wolfe Blues Jam, Purple / Yellow & Red / Green.  The colors missing in this portrait of Nicole are Blue and Orange though they are suggested by the neutralized Blue Purple in the background and the Orange Red of the object Nicole is holding.  The strength of the color is in the intensity of the small color shapes in the foreground, the yellow, red and green.  The larger, neutralized shapes are the foundation and support for the bright spots of color, allowing the pure colors to come forward toward the viewer creating an illusion of depth into the painting placing Nicole’s face in space between the object she is holding and the area of the room behind her.  I am seeing this same visual phenomena working in the Blues Jam paintings.

I should have listened to Maria.  Last night’s roads were covered in slush, not ice.  Instead of driving to the Blues Jam I headed home after work. This is a good time to post the sketches I did at The Tractor Tavern last week since I have none from last night’s jam.

Orkestar Zirkonium, Balkan Marching Band

I love Balkan Marching Bands.  Orkestar Zirkonium is fantastic! They are a ten piece brass band.

Orkestar Zirkonium

And then came Five Alarm Funk!  The energy level did not drop for two hours straight.  Incredible.

Five Alarm Funk at The Tractor Tavern

We met several of the band members earlier in the night while trying to buy tickets for the show. Fortunately, since the tickets were sold out, we got on the guest list.

Five Alarm Funk

Five Alarm Funk

During my visit to Florida earlier this month (December) I filled nineteen pages of my sketchbook with drawings and watercolor sketches.  I carefully dated each one.  Unfortunately, all but one are dated “11” rather than “12” indicating November instead of December. Perhaps end-of-year-stress is expressing itself through my pencil.

Monica studying for her last final exam before the holiday vacation

I have scanned all of the sketches and paintings that I posted by phone during my trip.  I will be replacing the phone images with the scanned images as I find time this week.  I had hoped for a snow day today but the wind was so strong that it blew all of the snow down the hill to the little town of Califon.  The barns were exceptionally cold today.  The wind nearly blew off one of the huge doors on the second floor.  The crashing and banging of the door and the creaking of the entire structure as the wind challenged its footings was a bit unsettling.  This pencil portrait of Monica brings to mind a more relaxing day.

Mike reading while Monica studies, watercolor sketch

The scanned version of the sketchbook page is so much better than my phone image.


A large table and wide windowsills makes painting at the Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant far less of a challenge than the standard 30 inch square tables of the local pubs.

Painting at the Blues Jam

Thanks to Monica for taking this photo last Tuesday evening.  The table was large enough that I was able to spread out a bit and let a couple of other people try their hand at painting.

I decided to work in full color again, choosing my palette to give me a full value range from light to dark.  When painting in low light situations it is easier to paint by value rather than hue.  I look for light vs. dark and warm vs. cool.  Aside from that, I just go with the beat of the music and the energy of the environment.

The next morning I take a look at the paintings and see how the hues have interacted.  So many happy accidents occur while painting in the dark.

Jimmy Somma, Chas Cochran, Craig, Fang and Joe Mac

It was a gray day, perfect for inventing color, contrasts and shapes:

Buddleia Bush Number Two - Playful watercolor

I doubt anyone would guess this is a Buddleia (Butterfly Bush).  Buddleia Bush Number One is posted on my Creative Color blog.  The gray day provided nothing more than the positive and negative shapes of the branches and leaves crossing over one another, a perfect opportunity to stare long and hard at the painting rather than the bush.  I enjoy combining blobs of rich pigment along with careful glazing.

Color Palette: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Raw Sienna, Vermillion, Alizarin Crimson, Light Red, Cerulean Blue, Thalo Blue, Cobalt Blue, Viridian.