Playing with Gouache

My friend the artist Nina Khaschina gave me a lovely little gift a couple of weeks ago. A box of gouache paints set up just like her travel gouache kit. Of course, I had to put them to use immediately. As you can see from these next few pieces, it’ll take some learning to even start wrapping my head around ways to work with this new medium. But it is fun to switch it up every once in a while and do something totally different.

Piece #1, painted at Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto as soon as I got my new gift. Flummoxed is how it felt to try and paint with it. It shows in the work!gouache1.jpg

Piece #2 and 3, and I’m reverting to working watercolor-ish for my first layers and then going opaque on top.

I really started enjoying the medium when I pulled out some tinted paper. I guess working on tinted paper means I’m less likely to think ‘watercolor’ , which helps. These three pieces are from my regular Thursday figure drawing sessions.



Do you work in gouache? Or in gouache and watercolor? Any tips on going back and forth between the two media?


Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, Figure Drawing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

More sketching near home

We’ve had so much rain in Northern California this winter and spring (and it’s still raining, which is so unusual for us) that it is super-green everywhere, and the lakes and waterfalls are pretty spectacular.
This waterfall was at the end of a trail at Big Basin State Park. I mostly painted around the gushing water, leaving it the white of the paper, but I added little bits of white gouache at the very end. You can see them pretty clearly in the photograph I took while the piece was still wet.

This classic view of Mission San Juan Bautista is one I’ve sketched a few times before, and I really love it. There’s something about how the light hits those whitewashed adobe walls, the bells and the always-blue sky that gets me every time.

A slightly dilapidated sign in deserted parking lot? Enough to make me stop for a sketch. Neil’s Supermarket in the town of San Juan Bautista. Plus, an old abandoned pay phone.

Two sketches from another regular sketching spot in downtown Los Gatos at the intersection of Santa Cruz and Main streets.

In this last loose sketch, I created much of the layered effect by painting in negative shapes.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley, Sketch Journal, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Close to home

Travel drawing and painting is exciting for sure. But most of what I make and do happens at home or very close by. Here is some recent stuff.

The poppies are gone now, but only a couple of weeks ago, they were in bloom on Fortini Trail, very close to home. They got painted, as did the view.



My go-to sketching location when I can hardly find the time to sketch in a day? Boulevard Coffee of Almaden, a couple of minutes away from me. Breaking from working at my computer and getting out there is the best half hour of my day, sometimes. Brushpen, pencil and watercolors on this spread with random notes and thoughts about my day, the weather and disposable drink cups. That’s the best bit about working in a sketchbook: what you note in there doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone other than you.

When you switch in the same location over and over, changing the medium up once i a while keeps it fresh. This spread uses little sample vials of ink from Goulet Pens.

On other days, all the sketching that might get done is a little demo in a weekly class I teach. This session dealt with value studies but also with drawing ellipses. And then we meandered into discussing perspective and patterns and messy journals….

Do you have go-to subjects and locations? Is your sketching practice built around a schedule or does it fit into bits of your day, as mine does? I’d love to know.

Posted in california, Close to home, Drink, Everyday Sketches, Food, people, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Big Island, Hawaii: Beach time

After a couple of days at Volcano National Park, it was time to head down to the town of Kona on the west coast for some beach time.

When you’re the only adult on a trip, you do all the driving and planning, and the only time to sketch might be while you wait for your food.


Or, you could let the kids get into the water and spend a bit of time sketching before joining them. People sketching on the beach is fun, there’s so much to draw. And so many shades of skin to paint from “This is the first day of my vacation” pale to “should’ve sunblocked more often” and everything in between.





I had to sketch at least one farmers market on my trip. A thunderstorm hit minutes after I started this sketch. The flower stall was under a tarp, so I was fine except that a little river formed on the floor of the market and I stood ankle-deep in it while I painted these bird-of-paradise and lobster-claw plants.

Here’s a quick sketch of the skies getting darker as the rains come in.

And one last sketch of downtown Kona at sunset on our last evening there.

What do I miss the most about Hawaii? The warm weather, the tropical vegetation, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, and the amazing seafood, especially the poke.

Posted in Food, How to, people, Sketch Journal, Travel, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Travel Sketching Workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico

Here’s a workshop I am SUPER excited about. It’s in one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited, a sketcher’s paradise: Oaxaca, Mexico.


Join me for this 6-Day, 5-Night Sketching Workshop from October 8 – 13, 2019

We’ll sketch on food tours and in markets, at street parades and on walks down beautiful cobbled lanes. We’ll visit and sketch at historic archaeological sites and in potter’s studios while they create Oaxaca’s famous black pottery. It will be an adventure! And we’re in the hands of Meagan Burns of Art Leap Adventures, so it promises to be an exciting experience.

12 spots only, so sign up soon.

More details and registration here:

Posted in mexico, people, Sketch Journal, Travel, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Last few spaces: Maison du Lac Workshop

I thought I’d share this since the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists just opened up the last few spaces left in this workshop to non-members. The workshop is in two weeks and space is limited. Details below.

Tuesday May 21, 2019

A Day at Maison du Lac Estate and Gardens


Maison du Lac is a 30-acre private estate set in a redwood grove just off Highway 17 and Summit Rd. in Los Gatos. It’s hard to describe how beautiful this property is. The main garden on the property has been designated as an Audubon sanctuary. A lake, a pond, meandering paths and redwood groves dot the property.

In this short workshop set in the gardens, we will work with ideas often used in quick sketching and use them in our journals. We’ll explore gesture drawing, starting in abstract washes, building focus and page layouts. Short demos and discussions and sketchbook examples will punctuate a day spent exploring and recording these beautiful gardens in the spring.

The Northern California Society of Botanical Artists just opened up the last few spaces left in this workshop to non-members, so space is limited.

REGISTRATION OPEN (last few spaces opened up today):
Click here to register

Location: Maison du Lac, 23107 Summit Road, Los Gatos, CA

Date: May 21st, 2019

Time: 10am-3:00pm

More details here


This and more workshops in 2019 are on the Workshops page of this blog.

And I’m announcing a few more exciting sketching adventures soon, so stay tuned!

Posted in Close to home, How to, Sketch Journal, watercolor, Workshop | 1 Comment

Big Island, Hawaii: The Volcano

Journal pages from the Big Island, Hawaii including a few process shots. The kids and I spent 4 days there in early April.

When you’re jetlagged, an early breakfast is a lovely idea. And a kid that wakes up early and helps plan the day is a big bonus.


Volcanoes National Park is my favorite part of the island. After a huge lava flow last year, there’s no more visible lava anywhere on the island. And, so many parts of the park have changed. There are brand new landscapes, lava flows across roads and even the crater is bigger than before.

The scene above was sketched from a large glass window at Volcano Inn. The Inn has a sitting room with very tall windows to sketch from and even if you don’t stay there, you can wander in and sketch this incredible view.

Since I travelled the week of #OneWeekOneHundredPeople2019, I drew lots of people everywhere I went. Quick drawings over lunch here…

Rain is never far away in Hawaii, and when a thunder storm suddenly hit my sketch, (left) I had to run to the car, wait for a break in the clouds and then step out and call the sketch done before the next downpour. I have more than one half-finished, rain-washed sketch, and those hold so many memories.

Here’s another time I remembered to photograph my sketch as I did it. It’s hard to know when to stop, there were so many layers of vegetation!

Posted in Food, How to, people, Sketch Journal, Travel, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments