Watercolor: Study for Wine at Mandola Rosa (& Gift Ideas for Artists)

Study for Wine at Mandola Rosa 5x7 watercolor on paper (sold)

Reminder: Everything in my Etsy Shop is 20% off till Christmas eve! 

Type this code: DECEMBERSALE during check-out for the #discount.

Do you have an artist friend or family member you'd like to encourage this Christmas? I spoke with a non-artsy friend who wanted to get a gift for a sibling who dabbles in painting, and he felt too far removed from the world of art-making to choose something appropriate. If you've got an artsy friend or family member on your gift list, here are a few ideas to inspire: (if you subscribe via email or rss, visit the blog to see the links below)

Carol Marine's book Daily Painting was published a month ago, and the glowing reviews are well-founded. If anyone you know is looking to get better at painting, or they're stuck and not making art at all, this book could be a 5-course meal of Get Back in the Saddle. Inspiring imagery, simple directions, and encouraging words make these chapters a cup of tea on a cold day. Really, this is a great book. (Note: I've known Carol for a few years but our friendship hasn't cultured my bias; I read a lot of art books, and I believe this one will be dog-eared with post it notes and curled pages from repeated referencing in many artists' libraries.)
Watercolor pencils are a great gift for people who like to draw, but find watercolor a little too loosey-juicey to control. With this set, and a pad of watercolor paper, little colored drawings can be coaxed [slowly] into watercolor paintings with water and some brushes. (I used watercolor pencils to start a portrait in this post.)

The 2015 Artists & Graphic Designer's Market book is perfect for an artist who'd like to expand their reach, and explore freelance and licensing avenues to turn their images into greeting cards and posters, or maybe explore gallery representation, or illustration for advertising, magazine art or book covers, or perhaps they're considering showing work in art festivals... this fat publication (over 600 pages) of contacts, tips, articles and resources is the best place to start. The publishers update it every year, and this handy reference tome features almost 2000 articles. 
I just bought this brush set, and I love it. If someone on your gift list paints watercolors or pen and ink out doors, or while traveling, this set is wonderful. The brushes are varied in shape and size, the bristles are soft and hold a lot of pigment, and when assembled, they feel nicely balanced in-hand. The leather case is sturdy, and fits easily in a side pocket of a back pack or suitcase. I plan to do a blog post about these brushes, because I'd never heard of them before, but I think they're fabulous.
If you know someone who's just starting to paint watercolor outdoors, or they'd like to have a compact palette to take to and from college, this Winsor Newton Cotman set is a good choice. The watercolors are good quality, without being as pricey as professional grade, and the set is very compact for tucking into a back pack pocket, while still offering 12 colors. It's also easy to buy half pans of your favorite colors to replace the stock colors in this set, so you can create your own palette. I've used this palette while sitting on long flights cross-country without any trouble from TSA screenings too, so they're an excellent gift (with a block of post card watercolor paper) for someone who travels a lot for business, with little time to paint.
I love this Printmaking Bible because it covers everything from intaglio plate etching to silkscreening, and each flavor of printmaking includes history, tools, thumbnail process photos, descriptive text, variations, and icons to indicate best safety practices. A variety of printmaking artists are featured, so you get a nice cross section of styles, and methods, as well as presses and supplies. Every form of printmaking has hundreds of alternate methods, enhanced by inventive and resourceful printmakers for various effects or working conditions, and this thick book covers basics as well as some innovative approaches. One of my favorite printmaking books in my studio library.
This Speedball Block Printing kit is a basic but complete set for anyone on your list who'd like to sit down, sketch, carve, ink and print a linocut on the fly. The box has everything you need, except paper, and most of the tools will be used again and again, as part of your artist's usual repertoire of printmaking supplies. The knife has interchangeable gouge tips stored in the handle (I still use mine, 25 years after buying it), the brayer is a good size to start, and will remain the perfect size for any blocks under 8x10, etc. (I still use mine - two decades later) The bench hook makes both carving and inking (it can be used to roll out ink) so much easier - it falls in that category of The Right Tool for the Job
James Gurney's Color and Light is a treasure trove of tips, instruction, inspiration and common sense - some of it very advanced, but absorbable, and there are whole chapters full of concepts that are intuitive to a visual person, but often remain submerged till they're spelled out in words. It's chock full of little Ahh-hah's.  James Gurney is a fantastic illustrator with a rock solid work ethic. He takes his art-making seriously, but divulges his methods with humor, and a palpable sense of wonder for the basic tenants of color, light and value; one of (I think) the most challenging buckets of skill for artists to master. In this book, each element is presented in clear and concise ways, and the chapters are organized in such a way, that you can flip to a section if you're struggling, and inject fresh inspiration and guidance into your art-making day. Read the reviews on amazon. It was the #1 selling painting book for 100 weeks when it came out, and I add my voice to that chorus of praises.

Art Quote
In watercolor, it's fun to experiment with different kinds of black: bone black, lamp black, Mars black. The pigment called "ivory black" used to be made from elephant ivory. Since that is now unavailable, some paint makers create ivory black by burning and grinding up fragments of mammoth ivory from Russia, which is legal to use. Each kind of black has different qualities of texture and chroma. If you get a couple of different blacks, you can play with them and compare them by painting them in a thin glaze, tinting them with white, and mixing them with other colors.
~James Gurney


Mixed Media (watercolor & colored pencil): Cabin Getaway

Cabin Getaway
8x3.5 Watercolor
&  Colored Pencil
There's a small, barely map-worthy lake in the Connecticut town I grew up in.  I didn't spend time there as a kid, but later, after moving to California and exploring my family's history & genealogy,  I discovered photos of sailing and family gatherings from the late 1930's on the lake. With a little research, I found that my grandfather and one of his brothers purchased/built side-by-side cabins on the lake, and most of the nine siblings enjoyed summers boating, swimming and barbecuing on the water with their families, until all the men left to serve in the military during WWII.

The watercolor & colored pencil piece above is a study from a snapshot taken a few months ago, on that same Connecticut lake, in a modest, pitched-floor, 60 year old cabin I stayed in while attending a family memorial service. It seemed fitting for the occasion to sit by the water, just across from the same shore my great Aunts & Uncles used to swim and sail in, before the War, when everyone still lived in town, and family get-togethers were likely festive, loud and rambunctious.  I felt very inspired there, in a quiet and reflective way, so making art from the photos was a sweet little respite from the chaos of December to-do's.

Have you made art from photos of the places, rooms and landscapes your family has history in?

Early morning on the lake

Reminder: Everything in my Etsy Shop is 20% off till Christmas eve! 

Type this code: DECEMBERSALE during check-out for the #discount.

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Art Quote
You don't become an 'artist' unless you've got something missing somewhere. Blaise Pascal called it a God-shaped hole. Everyone's got one but some are blacker and wider than others. It's a feeling of being abandoned, cut adrift in space and time - sometimes following the loss of a loved one. You can never completely fill that hole - you can try with songs, family, faith and by living a full life...but when things are silent, you can still hear the hissing of what's missing. Bono


Watercolor: What're We Doing Today?

What're We Doing Today? 8x10 Watercolor on paper (sold)
From my archives - a watercolor of a brightly lit room in an apartment in Rome, with DCC flipping through a travel guide, plotting our path through the ancient cobblestones. It was a family trip, which was remarkable on so many levels, including a memory we joke about seven years later: all five of us paused in our exploring to indulge in a large gelato every day for 10 days (the weather was hot), and all five of us lost weight on the trip. So the moral of our story was:  Heat + Heaping plates of delicious Italian Food + Gelato + Walking = Weight Loss.  :)

When we came home, I painted images of Italy for weeks, using hundreds of photos I took on the trip, and that helped etch the beauty, the history and my sense of wonder with steadfast permanence in my mind. Painting our vacation let me stay in that beautiful country for longer than our trip, and that's just one more reason to love the gift of painting. Have you painted photos from a family vacation?  When you look at them, does it take you back to that day, in that place?

Reminder: Everything in my Etsy Shop is 20% off till Christmas eve! 

Type this code: DECEMBERSALE during check-out for the #discount.

Art Quote
I see no particular merit in the fact that I was an artist at the age of eleven. I was born with an ability, with music in me, that is all. No special credit was due me. The only credit we can claim is for the use we make of the talent we are given. That is why I urge young musicians: “Don’t be vain because you happen to have talent. You are not responsible for that; it was not of your doing. What you do with your talent is what matters. You must cherish this gift. Do not demean or waste what you have been given. Work — work constantly and nourish it. "

Of course the gift to be cherished most of all is that of life itself. One’s work should be a salute to life.
~Pablo Casals


Pen & Ink: Over-due Library Books (and making plans for 2015)

Over-due Library Books 3.5x4.5 Pen & Ink
Available in my Etsy Shop
In between December's packed little calendar squares, swollen round with shopping, menu plans, decorating, greeting card distribution, holiday parties and travel, I toss a pillow into the corner of the month somewhere, to sit and think about my art plans for 2015.  It gets me excited with possibilities for the wide-open tundra of the year ahead.
Little art 
I started scribbling a list in my studio, and with each line item, my heart beat a little faster with ideas and plans and potential. Do you make an end-of-year list too? What's on yours?

Make a cup of tea, and a fresh, new list
What? You're having trouble making a list for next year?  Well, here are some ideas, with links to more details:
          *Create an awesome and personalized packing system for shipping your art.
          *Build an inexpensive but flexible camera mount to record art making.
          *Assemble a shadow box to stage still life arrangements for drawing & painting.
          * Build a blog & post your art.
          *Create a system to organize your art reference photos
          *Put a plan together for showing your work at Art Festivals
          *Re-arrange your art studio/work space

If you're already marinating on art plans for 2015, share them in the comments so we can inspire each other to take a deep breath, pour a beverage, and spend 30 minutes pondering with a pen about this important part of our artsy-lives.

Reminder: Everything in my Etsy Shop is 20% off till Christmas eve! 

Type this code: DECEMBERSALE during check-out for the #discount.

Art Quote
Take now the clockworks... The clockworks, being genuine and not much to look at, don't generate the drama of an Earth-tilt or a flying saucer, nor do they seem to offer any immediate panacea for humanity's fifty-seven varieties of heartburn. But suppose that you're one of those persons who feels trapped, to some degree, trapped matrimonially, occupationally, educationally or geographically, or trapped in something larger than all those; trapped in a system, or what you might describe as an "increasingly deadening technocracy" or a "theater of paranoia and desperation" or something like that.  Now, if you are one of those persons... wouldn't the very knowledge that there are clockworks ticking away behind the wallpaper of civilization, unbeknownst to leaders, organizers and managers (the President included), wouldn't that knowledge, suggesting as it does the possibility of unimaginable alternatives, wouldn't that knowledge be a bubble bath for your heart?
Tom Robbins - Even Cowgirls Get the Blues


Drypoint Mixed Media: Bird on her shoulder (& a drypoint technique video from Crown Press)

Bird on her shoulder 5 x 7 inch drypoint engraving with colored pencil (2nd AP) Sold
I've fixed a little glitch in my rss feed, so you may have missed the last two posts, and news of a sale in my Etsy shop There are over 200 pieces of art to peruse, so click on over and have a look.   Use the code DECEMBERSALE during check-out in my shop for 20% off everything in the store till Christmas eve! 

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments here, or email me directly. 
And don't forget to Subscribe via Email to this blog for fresh art delivered to your inbox every week!
Thanks for visiting!
The plexiglass plate - in process - there's a lot more engraving still to come.
This video has a nice 3 minute overview of mark-making techniques for drypoint engraving on copper from the folks at Crown Point Press. The same tools will work well on plexiglass, though with varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on the hardness and flexibility of the plate material you choose. (EX: Lexan is harder than Optix, etc.) (If you don't see the video window below, you can watch it here.)

Art Quote
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. 
You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something. 
So ,that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever. 
Neil Gaimen


Watercolor: Good Day for Kites (& watching James Gurney paint a tortoise)

Good Day for Kites 5x8 Watercolor on paper (sold)
The reference for this painting was a cell phone snap shot on a windy day in San Diego, California, during a splendid weekend on Coronado Island. The great blue bridge that connects the coast to the island is visible along the midline, dotted by park-revelers and kites in the forground. I love the way the scene takes me back to that weekend every time I look at it. Painting is such a visual diary of chapters in time. I remember the details of my life and the people in it with each piece of art in my archives. Does your art document time and people and places for you too?

And speaking of archives and places, here's an inspiring mixed media painting demo by James Gurney. Watch as he draws a taxidermy Gal├ípagos tortoise at the Royal Ontario Museum, using watercolor and water-soluble colored pencils. This is just a 5 minute snippet of a full demo available via DVD on his web site. 
(If you don't see the video window below, you can watch it here.)

Art Quote
My biggest joy as an artist is when the painting surface seems to disappear and I feel I'm living inside the scene I'm painting. There's a Latin quote that I have carved onto my mahlstick. It says: "Ars est celare artem," which means "true art is the concealment of artifice." In other words, it's easy to make a painting look like paint, but it's much harder to make a painting that involves a viewer so completely that he feels the heat of sun on his neck and the sand in his shoes.

I wish this effect happened more often in my own work. It never happens without a lot of sweat and struggle. I don't take all the necessary steps often enough, because I've got a lazy streak like everybody. But when I do, I'm glad, and it's well worth the trouble.
~James Gurney


Woodcut with mixed media; Sleep (& an art sale on Etsy)

Sleep 12x9 inch Woodcut with Watercolor & Colored Pencil
Available in my Etsy Shop
Happy December, everyone! Process photos for this woodcut with mixed media start at the bottom of this post.

As we approach the end of the year, I'm having a little sale in my freshly stocked Etsy Shop. There are over 200 pieces of art to peruse, so click on over and have a look.   

If you'd like to add some watercolors or printmaking to your friends & family (or self) gift-giving list - use the code DECEMBERSALE during check-out in my shop for 20% off everything in the store till Christmas eve! 

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments here, or email me directly. And don't forget to Subscribe via Email to this blog for fresh art delivered to your inbox every week!

Adding colored pencil to the watercolor
Adding watercolors to the print

Finally getting back to it last week - Pulling the print after carving more from the block

Carving the block several years ago.. I left it unfinished.
Art Quote
We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. 

Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day, he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.
A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.

~Ray Bradbury


Linocut: Pie Inspectors (& a new printmaking video)

Pie Inspectors 9.25x7.25 two color linocut
Available in my Etsy Shop
Happy Thanksgiving from the studio! While I'm rolling out dough for apple pie on this festive holiday, I'll be expressing gratitude for the people and the technology that make it possible to participate in this online community of artists and art lovers via blogging, social media and youtube. The required solitude of making now has a lovely balance of communion through the net, and for that, I'm truly grateful. Thank you, kind people, for reading, for subscribing, for sharing, for commenting and encouraging me on this creative journey. Thank you for the immense support I feel from each and every one of you. It keeps me posting, and I'm excited to share a line up of experiments from the studio in the coming months. Happy art-making to all of you!

Pulling the black ink over the gray ink.

after printing the gray, I took notes on a print before carving more for the layer of black ink.

Adding black marker & graphite to mark areas for gray ink (the first print) and black ink
(printed on top of the gray after more of the plate is removed).

Transferring the layout from the sketch (above) to the linoleum
I posted a new video to demonstrate the process for this linocut, and you can see it below. (If you don't see a video window, you can watch the demonstration here.)

Art Quote
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
Sophia Loren


Mixed Media Gelli Print Monotype: Blending into the Circus

Blending into the Circus 6x6 Gelli Print Monotype with watercolor & colored pencil
The last time I posted about using gelli monotypes as a background for mixed media, I had an idea in mind when I started the portrait. This time, I let the patterns and shapes in the print suggest the subject, and the monotype turned into a cautious girl, at a circus near a pot of red flowers. Random, I know, but it was fun. The process shots begin below, and the art is listed in my Etsy shop here. If you're unfamiliar with gelli printing (no press!), see the video by the makers of the little plate I used below too. Happy art-making!

Adding the last layers of colored pencil
Finished with the figure, and penciling in the shape of circus tents
Looking for suggestions in the monotype, I found a little face
The gelli print I started with
If you've never heard of/played with gelli plates, here is a 2 minute video on youtube, showing some of the textures and layering you can get without a press:  (If you can't see the video window below, you can watch it here.)

Art Quote
Seriously, I think it is a grave fault in life that so much time is wasted in social matters, because it not only takes up time when you might be doing individual private things, but it prevents you storing up the psychic energy that can then be released to create art or whatever it is. It's terrible the way we scotch silence & solitude at every turn, quite suicidal. I can't see how to avoid it, without being very rich or very unpopular, & it does worry me, for time is slipping by , and nothing is done. It isn't as if anything was gained by this social frivolity, it isn't: it's just a waste.
~Philip Larkin


Drypoint: Bowman (new video: printing drypoint without a press)

Bowman  10.75 x 8 Drypoint with watercolor
Available in my Etsy Shop
I took my first printmaking class in 1983. I bought my first press in 2012. For the three decades in between, I borrowed time on friends' presses, audited printmaking classes to get to presses, scoured ads for used presses, and tried every method suggested to make prints without a press. It's no surprise then, that so many subscribers to this blog and my youtube channel have asked for tutorials on printmaking without a press.

I used this drypoint engraving (above) to demonstrate how to print an intaglio style plate without a press. If you'd like to see a video of that process, click here.  But here's the thing: there's no secret sauce, no dragon-guarded, confidential method to printing without a press; it just takes time & pressure.

With an etching press, after inking and wiping the plate, I can print this engraving in about 45 seconds... as much time as it takes to run the press bed through the rollers. With my hands, some newsprint and a cereal spoon, I can print the same drypoint, but it might take 45 minutes, and the line work might not be quite as sharp, but it *can* be done. What do you think? Have you printed without a press?

Painting the drypoint with watercolor

Pulling the print in my studio

Engraving the plate on a long flight over the Pacific,
inspired by a late 1940's photograph taken by my great-uncle Antonio
You can watch a video demonstrating inking and printing this drypoint without a press on my YouTube Channel. (If you don't see the video window below, you can watch it here.)

Art Quote
If we have plain old ordinary fear, then we are within reach of a solution. Fear has been with humankind for millennia and we do know what to do about it -- pray about it, talk about it, feel the fear, and do it anyway. "Artistic" fear, on the other hand, sounds somehow nastier and more virulent, like it just might not yield to ordinary solutions -- and yet it does, the moment we become humble enough to try ordinary solutions.
Julia Cameron