Pears 1, 2016.

This one is called Pears 1 because I’m sure there will be lots more to follow. I love drawing pears.

They’re a wonderful recognizable shape. And yet each pear is far from perfectly shaped, which I love. Instead it’s bump-filled, wobbly, and covered in little blemishes. And while it has a simple enough shape to draw without fussing over, there is all this fun texture on the surface that you can play with once your big washes are done.
pears1Drawn directly in watercolor. The pencil texture you see on this piece was added right at the end.

Sketched again, this time in Noodlers Ink. I love how this ink granulates.
Here is my first wash/drawing, followed by the finished piece.

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One corner shop, three tries

gadophotoI have this photograph I took somewhere in India of a lady at a corner shop, a little gado. It’s hard to put my finger on what I like so much about, but I love that scene.
And I thought I’d try painting it. Sounded simple enough. Turned out to be anything but that.

There’s a few (newish to me) things I’ve been trying lately that come together in this exercise, like painting from photographs and working in just watercolor with no line. And then there’s some stuff I’d like to keep of how I usually work mostly wet-in-wet, pretty loosely and without masking.

First I did the little thumbnail below to help me figure how to simplify the photograph and break it into layers: the depths of the dark little shop, the middle space with the lady and the foreground stuff: the drinks, the bananas hanging from a jute rope.gado_study1.jpg

But my first attempt ended up here. You can tell I had fun with color, but all that was left on my page was a mess of broken up bits of colors. So I added notes on it, and moved on to my next attempt.

Very early on, I realized I was never going to be happy with the timid colors of this attempt, even though I liked that the values worked much better in creating space.gado_study3

So it was on to attempt #3.
gado_study4The trouble is, there’s things that sort of work with each of these pieces and things that don’t, it’s like two steps forward, and…

Working like this, and attempting a piece over and over is an interesting, if pretty frustrating exercise. I like the challenge, though. Still, I’m taking a break from this piece. But I’m going to have to come back for another attempt: that blank-looking wall at the back of the shop bothers me more than all the technical stuff that I didn’t get right, because that would never happen: there’s never a little gado that doesn’t fill every inch of space it has with things to sell.

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What comes first: Line or color?

It’s a question I get asked often : what comes first? Line or color? The short answer is: it depends.

Here are three sketches I did from the same spot at Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus. Posted in the order in which I sketched them.



And here are very rough shots of two of them in progress (with apologies for the super-fuzzy images.I wasn’t planning on posting them, I sometimes take in-between images as I work, just to recall what I was trying to do as I progressed through the piece.)

For this first one, I did a quick pencil drawing, then color and then back in with ink line. The pencil drawing was really light, just so I could compose my sketch. ( I bumped up the line in this image so you can see it)Berkeley_sathergate_c2l

In this next one, I had sketched the structure twice before, and didn’t care if I capture the whole arch or not, so it was straight to a few bold lines, then color, then back with more line. Those figures you see in the last sketch, posing for a photograph? Freshly minted graduates. Berkeley_sathergate_l2c

So is there a method to the randomness of my process? Not much, but generally,for a super-quick capture, I go straight to ink line, with no pencil work. Over the years, I’ve seen my process change from being all-line first to being much more varied, with a lot more back and firth between line and color.

And I’m liking it this way. Mixing it up and approaching it differently each time is a fun way to surprise myself, get different results and to keep me from getting too stuck in doing it one way.


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Trying to mix it up and do some no-line watercolor painting once in a while. Based on new and exciting stuff I learnt in the workshop I took with Tom Hoffman. I thought I’d start with an easy subject and setup, so I walked out of my front door and painted this.


It’s called ‘Home, with weeds’. I kinda like the dandelions growing in the front yard. It makes it feel more like a meadow than a manicured lawn.

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Car Wash

Taking my car to the carwash doesn’t happen very often at all. Here it is in pictures.

The process is so quick, it’s hard to keep up. I made each of these mini sketches a couple of minutes apart as my car advanced another spot closer in the long line. It’s quite a juggling act, driving a car length to advance in the line, getting back to capturing the action, then moving again.carwash1

And then when I got to one-spot-before-the-car-in-the-tunnel, they started soaping and spraying my car. And my sketches descended into confused visions seen between soap suds.

This last one is while my car got cleaned on the inside and wiped down.

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One Tall Crane

This was a huge construction crane. Every time it spun back and lowered it’s hook, these men would pick up and quickly attach yet another huge air conditioning unit for the crane to pick up.

If I had thumbnailed this and figured my composition, I might have fit the whole height of the crane in, but I think it works this way too, with the crane so tall it doesn’t fit on my paper.


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Back at Stanford Memorial Church

I’ve sketched the Stanford Memorial Church years ago. So it’s interesting to go back, sketch it again and compare my sketches. This time I had the added bonus of sketching with Laurie Wigham and Gail Wong.

It was mostly a grey, shadowless day, with lots of very busy-looking students striding across to class. I even saw one person riding their bicycle while reading notes (rushing off to an exams? Finals week??) Here are my two sketches.


And here are Laurie and Gail, and all our work, out on the grass.

It was a really short sketch session, but I’m so glad I met them. One of the nicest things about the big Urban Sketching family is meeting up with a sketcher you don’t see often and drawing together. Thanks Laurie and Gail!

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