Friday, March 13, 2020

Moleskine Sketchbook 6, Part 3

It's been a while since I've shared on this blog some of my sketchbook pages, which have become very popular on my Instagram account.  All these pages are from late 2018 and the photos of them are a little bad since back then I had an old iPhone with a horrible camera.  I hope you enjoy this mini tour of my current sketchbook which is almost on the last four pages, I can't wait to move on to a new book! 
One of the things I would like to mention is that it was in this sketchbook that I began mixing pens to get different values and atmospheric effects.  In the drawing above I used a Zebra F-301 ballpoint pen and a Uni Ball Signo gel pen.  The Zebra pen has since become one of my favorite pens to use.
For this drawing I went back to the Zebra ballpoint and brought in my other favorite pen, Uni Ball Vision Elite.  I think from this drawing on I was hooked with the effects of multiple pens. 
When you can't find a model or afford one it's always good to spend time at the museum drawing from sculptures, at least these guys can hold a pose!
This pen has been my best friend for many years, I love how rich the ink is, and how it glides.  Unfortunately this pen was discontinued about a year ago.  When  I found out I purchased 3 boxes of it.  Not sure when I'll run out but the day I do it will be sad one.
This is my first two page layout and it was harder than I thought.  There was so much to cover and also having the binding line in the middle was challenging because you have to make the composition around it and make the two pages unified.
I played with some squares to see how I can break up the space.  These shapes are tougher to deal with than I expected.  It's much harder to create a dynamic composition and stay away from the center.
Here I'm beginning to get comfortable using two pens.  For this drawing I used an e+m ballpoint pen, this baby is sharp and classy.  I love good craftsmanship, and this pen definitely has it.  For the darker areas I used Pentel Hybrid Technica, and just as the name suggests this is a hybrid between a fine liner and a gel pen.  This pen has such a nice glide, a crisp line and rich ink.
More sketchbook pages coming in the near future, make sure to keep checking back...I'm trying to be better about keeping up with this blog.

Thursday, March 05, 2020


Since I began showing my sketches on Instagram I received many comments from artists all over the world suggesting that I would be good at etching.  I took lithography in college which I loved but did not continue after I moved to NYC.  I was always intimidated by etching, it seemed like no mistakes could be made, and then there's the word "chemicals" which was always attached to the process.  It just sounded a bit too serious.  Over the years I became more comfortable with unforgiving tools such as pen.  Constantly drawing with ink developing "my touch", and working with monotype finally brought me to this point...I'm taking an etching class. 

I wanted to share a few photos of the process of my first etching.  After sanding down the edges and corners of the copper plate so that they don't tear through the paper under the press, the plate is heated.  Once hot,  a waxy compound called hard ground is melted on top and spread evenly and thinly with a brayer.  After letting the copper plate cool it is ready to be worked on.

I chose one of my looser drawings to start, I didn't want to be bothered too much with details since this is my first etching after all.  With an etching needle or stylus, you begin drawing on the surface by scratching at the hard ground.  The point is to remove the wax and not make deep scratches on the plate.

The areas with the hard ground will be protected from the acid bath, those areas exposed will be the areas the acid will bite into, creating burrows where the ink will be deposited when the plate is inked.  On the image above my plate has already gone through an acid bath of forty minutes, and then completely cleaned of the hard ground.  Now the plate is ready for ink!
After applying the ink, and then buffing it with a tarlatan cloth and newsprint the plate is ready for the press.  At first it seemed like there was not enough ink left on the plate, I was nervous my print would not turn out the way I hope it would.  I kept thinking, how did Rembrandt get those rich dark areas in his etchings?  I know I created areas that were supposed to be dark but now with the plate inked it seemed like I may not have scratched enough. 

Show time! The plate went through the press, watch as I pull my first etching.

Here it is, the first print and it actually looks good.  It printed darker than I expected which is good.  I'm still debating if I want to keep the plate as is, or if I want to keep working on it to create a wider range of tones.  Time will tell.

Untitled, 2020, hard ground etching, image 9 x 6 inches, sheet 13 1/2 x 10 inches

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Provence Watercolor Book, Part 2

Not only did I find myself painting from moving trains but also from moving cars.  Ok, I did not have my watercolors going in the car but I did make some quick sketches which I would fill in with color later, like the one above.

This one, also sketched from a moving car, I decided to go over it with pen instead of watercolor.

This is the view from the old town of Les Baux-de-Provence, considered as one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Walking through this hilltop town was like waling through a set of Game of Thrones.  Once I got to a look out point I couldn't help myself and took out the paint box and watercolor book and began to sketch.
To be honest I think most of the hill top towns and villages in Provence are beautiful, and they always offer some sort of view which begs to be immortalized through paint.

Such is the case of the town of Lauris, where my friends and I stayed for six days.  The two sketches above are painted in plein air from two different points of the town.

This was also meant to be a watercolor but I decided to keep it as an ink drawing instead.  Again this is looking out into the valley from the town of Lauris.

One of the things I miss most from my Provence getaway is being able to roll out of bed and stepping into the courtyard and having breakfast outside.  Sometimes I would sketch my breakfast or whatever was on the table, such was the case with this bowl of peaches.  That morning we were getting ready to visit Aix-en-Provence where the Cezanne studio is located.  Perhaps I was inspired by his watercolor still lives which are my favorite!

One afternoon I walked for a while and before I knew it I was leaving town.  To my luck I found this view across someone's yard, which I thought was an empty field but soon the owner came out and spoke to me in French.  I had no clue as to what he was trying to say but he left me alone when he saw what I was painting.  One thing I noticed is French people have a lot of respect for artist and admire what we do.  On another occasion, while I was painting on a wall overlooking the valley I had two cars trying to maneuver their way around me.  I had no idea the wall was a parking area.  I was in their way but they all apologized for disturbing my painting session.

The beauty about Provence is that you can village hop, they are so close to each other that you can do two visits in one day and still be back to your spot by early evening, just in time for a glass of wine and dinner.  One of the towns we visited was Bonnieux and that day was market day.  While my friends took a wine and coffee break at one of the cafes I lost myself in the little uphill winding streets, and before I knew it I found myself faced with another beautiful view.  You can guess what happened next.
Aside from the beautiful views, the wine, and the incredible food, the one thing that I took away from my first trip to Provence is experiencing the light.  Provence has a lot similarities to Tuscany, but the difference is the the light and how it allows us to perceive its surroundings.  In Provence there's a cooler light, which then makes things a little more blue and cool green.  I could finally understand why Cezanne's color palette was what it was.  It all made sense!

This June I will be going back to this part of France and this time I will be teaching an two week class with AIP (Artist Immersion Program).  Click on this link for more information and to register.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Provence Watercolor Book, Part 1

Here are the first few pages of my Provence watercolor book.  The first four were completed from a moving train as I made my way from Paris to Provence.  The rest were sketched in pencil while looking out the window of the train, color added later from memory after I arrived at my destination.  All these were painted using A. Gallo watercolors, which are beautifully handmade with a lot of love and care in Assisi, Italy.  If you have a chance to buy a set they are worth the money.  Check back soon for the second part of the Provence watercolor book. 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Watercolor in Provence

As the temperature plummets and winter settles in New York, all I can think about is the time I spent in Provence last June.  Those were some hot days filled with site seeing, eating, wine drinking, and watercolor painting.  Now that's what I call LIFE!

Provence is a beautiful place, every where you turn you can see stunning landscapes and vineyards spread throughout.  This photo is of the view of the Alpilles mountains which surround one of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux-de-Provence.

With that kind of view you can't help yourself but to paint it!  There is something magical one can experience while painting in plein air a scene such as this.  There is a connection to the energy of the day and place, and the elements feed what gets put down on the paper, or canvas.

Even if you're not looking at mountains and valleys there is always a good view in Provence.  A simple breakfast such as this one of peaches has great potential to be the subject of a watercolor.  With many open markets in almost every little town or village, you are sure to have an endless supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for painting or better yet, eating.

When there is no subject matter to paint it's good to play around with color, to familiarize yourself with the materials you're working with.  Here I'm trying some mixtures of green for landscape painting.  Nothing fussy about it, just getting myself acquainted with my new watercolor box by A. Gallo.

Friends and I rented a house in the little village of Lauris, which sits on top of a hill on one side.  If you are an explorer and like to get lost in little streets that seem to lead no where, you can always get lucky and be rewarded by something beautiful.  In may case, one afternoon I found the beautiful garden of Chateau Lauris overlooking the valley.  The Chateau is privately owned and not open for tours but the gardens are open for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

And what do you do when you have spectacular views in a beautiful place such as this?  Ya paint it!  This was the most challenging outdoor painting/drawing session I've had in years.  The biggest challenge was dealing with the wind, which is intense in Provence.  It actually has a name, Mistral, and residents of this area have learned to live with it since the beginning of Provence's history.  On that day the pages of my book kept blowing, it was hard to keep them down, there were times when I felt the whole book would fly out.  My water cups blew away a couple of times, and so did my brush and pencil.  I had to go find them three stories below from where I had set up.  I rand down the Chateau's stairs three times.  Having to dig and comb through bushes of the garden to find my brush and pencil was definitely new to me, but it's all part of the fun and charm of painting outdoor.

Walking around the town I found myself on the outskirts, I was on my way into the valley and to be honest I could have kept on going in search of inspiration.  To my luck I didn't  have to go too far, like I said, there is always a beautiful view where ever you turn.

If you would like to experience Provence, it's food, wine, and culture, and would also like to spend your days creating then you should join me this June.  I will be teaching a two week plein air sketching course from June 13-26 in Arles.  Early registration is open, sign up by January 20 to save some money.  Click here for more info and to register.