Rain in Yosemite

End of May in Yosemite, and it seemed like early spring. The river was roaring, the falls were full, it rained and it even snowed. The dogwoods were in bloom on the valley floor and hiking paths had wildflowers along them.

Oh, and my paper just wouldn’t dry.

This first one was during a dry spell. About a mile up the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls. Stopping just short of Columbia Rock.

For those of you that ask how I sketch on family trips: for this sketch I let the family go up the last 10 minutes of our hike , enjoy the vista and head back down to me. It gives me a good half hour at my spot. Yup, I miss one vista but I see another one long and deep. When you travel sketch you see less but what you see is etched deeply in your memory.

And looking the other way, Half Dome. How could I not sketch it?
This is on a piece of Saunders Waterford Rough Watercolor paper, which I’m loving. ( Thanks Uma!) I carried a couple of pieces in the back of my Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook and used them.

And then it got very wet. Purple granite faces, rain, sleet and some flurries. Yesterday at As seen from the entrance of the Visitor’s Center.

When nothing dries, you just go with it. Watercolor, fountain pen and brushpen ( for the thick tree trunks). Gouache last-bits.

It’s rare for me to want to finish up a spread I started on location at home but this time Yosemite really stayed with me. This very-full page echoes how Yosemite seemed to me that weekend. Verdant, wet, full of life, bursting at the seams.

Posted in california, Everyday Sketches, Paintings, Sketch Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Quick Capture Video

I made this little video for those that have signed up for my Travel Sketching workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico, so I thought I’d share it here.

5 minutes is all it takes to capture a scene full of color and life. (Pardon the scratchy pen sounds in this quickly-thrown-together video!)

The key is to focus on movement and gesture with both line and color, and to trust that your drawing will communicate what you experience without tight details.

Interested in joining me on this adventure? Sign up here:

Posted in mexico, people, teaching, Travel, watercolor, Workshop | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Day 1 & 2: 30X30DirectWatercolorChallenge2019

Day 1 #30x30DirectWatercolor2019
Banded. 5×7 inches


The Kalij Pheasant is a bird introduced to Hawaii, originally from the Himalayan Foothills. On his foot, a cobalt teal band.


Day 2 #30x30DirectWatercolor2019
Ipad to the Rescue. 7×10 inches


My mom loves her iPad. Its her music box, her WhatsApp connection to the world, how her grandkids communicate with her…

Posted in Animals, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, Paintings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

30X30 Direct Watercolor Challenge 2019

Time to fill up those palettes! June 1st is when the #30x30DirectWatercolorChallenge2019 starts. Hosted by Marc Taro Holmes and Uma Kelkar. It’s not too late to join the facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/30x30Watercolor

new_colors.jpg(Pigment details under the Supplies tab)

I don’t have much of a plan, but I have a few thoughts on things to work on:

• I will probably work small, it’s my best chance of fitting the challenge into my day.

• I am going to try to keep (pen) line out of it. That’s a hard one for me, I love line. But it’s good to focus on no-line sometimes.

Here’s an example of what I’m gonna try and do more. This is my son and his cat in direct watercolor.  A small 5×7 inch piece.

See the two versions below: The one on the left is what I’d usually do: wet-in-wet washes and pen line to finish it up.

The one on the right is direct watercolor, no pen.

Not hugely different techniques, but it takes restraint (for me) to not pull out my pen to finish up. And it takes me longer to paint a piece in just watercolor.

Will I do 30? I don’t know, I’ll jump in and find out. What about you?


Posted in Animals, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, Paintings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In the Sierras

A little over 2 days of painting in the Sierras, a couple of weeks ago. For a change, I’m post just the paintings and very little commentary 🙂

Warming up on the street corner in Sierraville.

One landscape, two takes. View from the veranda. Why go anywhere with a view like this?sierras_window2

Two takes on an old barn.


Ponderosa Pine.


A colorful corner of the kitchen.

Three takes on a most incredible place. Old Iron Bridge, Feather River.



A gurgling stream.

Reluctantly heading back home. 


Posted in california, Paintings, Travel, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Chinatown, San Francisco

A few sketches from a day spent with Laurie Wigham and Cathy McAuliffe. We seem to meet way too often just to figure out local sketching events, so this time we decided to make some time for sketching in the day, and I wanted to draw some old signs in Chinatown, San Francisco.

My first sketch of the day never got finished. I started it while waiting for Laurie and Cathy and thought I might finish it later, not on location. It hasn’t happened yet.


Next up, Jackson Street, as fun to sketch as just about any street in Chinatown. That’s the Peninsula Seafood Restaurant sign on the right with the neat arrow.

This is the newly restored Li Po sign.

And a wonderful little alley I’ve forgotten the name to.

I should go back to sketch there soon. It takes a few sketches in a new environment before the eye (and the color palette) settles down, and I felt like I just started to scratch the surface of where I wanted to go with this last piece.

Posted in california, Close to home, san franciso, Vintage Signs, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On keeping it non-precious. And drawing people.

Two things help me draw regularly. (I want to say ‘everyday’, but that wouldn’t be true.)

  1. Keeping it non-precious. My sketchbook isn’t a gallery. There are pages that are total duds. There are pages where only one bit might be interesting. There are pages I start drawing on and then time runs out and the drawing remains unfinished.
  2. Drawing people. In answer to an often-voiced lament, “There’s nothing to draw where I am!” (I’m guilty of that one too): Draw people. Stuck on a train? Waiting for a friend to join you for coffee? Waiting to pick up your kids after school? Watching TV? Draw people. One person, many, whatever.  And, pair it up with ‘keeping it non-precious’ and you always have something to draw.

It could be something as commonplace as the people at the next table at a coffeeshop. Yes, another one of those sketches, but you drew, right?

Some sketches work, some don’t. Some fall only in the category of “I drew today“. Still a win.

Many are messy from having to close a book too soon to leave because you stole a sketch in a small window of time…


But they all add up.




Do I get bored drawing at the same places? Sometimes, and then I’ll try and switch something up. Like only carrying a water brush with grey ink and a pen with me.

Or I’ll throw a couple of ink sample vials in my bag with a pen and leave my paint kit at home.

People are my go-to subject for quick little sketches. They’re the little thread of continuity that keeps my sketching and observation practice going in the leanest of times. And like all observational drawing, each sketch done makes it easier to see, simplify and capture from life the next time I draw.

Posted in Close to home, Doodles, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments