Month: November 2020


We had only a 2-week session of out pencil portrait class. We met in a park behind the local library for a couple of hours for the past two Wednesdays, and I will miss them so much! Perhaps next year? I hope so.

Our teacher, Steve, is a lovely man, encouraging with a sharp eye and pithy, simple suggestions. I know I have improved a great deal in the few sessions we have had.

So, for today’s portrait, I chose to use the photo below, found on Pixabay. I love the expression in this photo, as well as the challenges it posed – the tilt of the head, the odd angles, the contrast. My own drawing failed to catch this beautiful face, but it did work as far as placement of eyes, nose, mouth, ear. It was really a tough study!

The pencil portrait class has gotten me interested in drawing faces. I’ve done three so far. Maybe something to schedule every Wednesday morning to keep my hand in it, and hope Steve will honor us with another series next year.

Monet & Etretat, iii

No matter what I did, I could not like this effort, nor did I much like Monet’s painting, either. All painters have those days – I wonder if Monet was as displeased with his version as I am?! I decided to do a detail of Monet’s composition, the part showing how small the people are in comparison to the chalk cliffs of Etretat.

One thing that I have really noticed is the vast differences found among the same images on the net – some are lighter, bluer, duller, ickier, prettier.

I think I am done with Monet for a bit . . .

Monet & Etretat, ii

Here I think Monet and Van Gogh sort of collaborated! My visions are definitely more colorful than the 1886 Manneporte of Etretat by Monet!

However much I would like to be as good as Monet or Van Gogh, the point of this exercise was not to copy but to look closely. I wanted to look closely at how parts of the painting were rendered, such as the water and the stone and the sky. Here, there was less blending by Monet and more of an expression of texture and light by brush strokes, both horizontal and vertical, as well as a blending in the sky of horizon lines.

I could do this one again and perhaps try for a touch lighter color as well as more analytic approach to the rendering. One thing, though, is Monet used oils, and I am using gouache, and while similar, they are also very different in what one can do. Or, at least what I seem to be able to do at this point.

Monet & Etretat, I

For some reason the works of Claude Monet have been rolling around my head, in particular his studies of the cliffs at Etretat. I found that he has done many studies of this place – it must have been a favorite of his. The above gouache was inspired by his version from 1885, Study from Etretat, the Manneporte, Reflections on Water.

By Claude Monet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

It was really interesting to use Monet’s study as a study of my own. His painting is in oil, mine in gouache. The beauty of gouache is that it can respond in ways similar to oils, such as brushwork and color mushing. Initially, I just blobbed the colors in, but as I came closer to completion, I saw the little things which make this study more than just a simple study. Little things such as the dry brush on the cliffs, the dabs of color making up reflections and waves, the scumbling to create a sense of a sunny fog, became more apparent as I moved closer to completion of my own painting.

I’ve always loved the way Monet handled light; perhaps my studies of his works will help me with my own depth issues and contrast problems. I think this painting worked out fairly well. Even better, it was a lot of fun!

A Beautiful Face

During the spring, before the coronavirus stopped in-person classes, I started a pencil portrait class. Then the virus hit, and some of the best classroom instruction came to a screeching halt after 2 classes. Come summer, an email came around – the teacher was offering in-person classes outside of the school, with the drawing group to meet in a park behind the local library, one equipped with tables, bathrooms, shade, sidewalks, ponds and ducks. Perfect! We met for 5 sessions. Yesterday and next Wednesday we will meet again. In-person teaching is so much better for a lot of things, and with our talented teacher, a lot is learned. The company of those with similar interests adds to a bit of quality of life. We sit 6 feet apart, wear our masks, and enjoy a wonderful few hours together outdoors.

Above is my drawing from yesterday. I focused on the eyes and nose of the photograph below. My drawing is not perfect, but definitely one which works fairly well, I think. The man below caught my eye on Pixabay (searced for “portrait man”). He has such a wonderful face, filled with what I see as character and kindness. The teacher agreed and said he looks like he could be a great friend.

For me, a portrait of a person needs to convey something of their personality. I don’t tend to photograph people or draw them. Drawing people is detail-oriented and rather in opposition to my splashy, messy style, but it is good discipline and actually very relaxing. In a congenial environment, with like-minded people, a lot can be learned and accomplished.


Sea Stacks

Along the coasts of many countries, the upper northwest of the US, there are sea stacks. Some are barren rock, some are topped by trees. Wide beaches at low tide make these places a bit of wonder, and those further out to sea make you want to sail out, climb, explore. I always have a fantasy of a house built into one, hidden away from the rest of the world. I could make a trip to just find sea stacks.

Water Study

Another study with another excellent watercolorist, Eric Yi Lin, whose YouTube channel is called Cafe Watercolor, a very low-key but very informative channel about – what else?? – watercolors. His demonstrations are clear, and especially compelling, is his narrative. How, why, how come – so many answers to questions not answered in a lot of demonstrations. Truthfully, I think he has some of the best “explanations” or reasons why this, or how to consider that. An example is in the video below, from which the above painting is derived, is his statement that “water is a surface.” Have you ever considered that when painting? Suddenly it becomes more comprehensible.

The major point of this study is to look at water and observe how to paint it. In his video, Eric describes how water “works” in different settings. In fact, he demonstrates and explains different ways to look at water – smooth and glassy, foggy and still, and the ways in which the ocean is not at all like a lake or river. This is all in the first half of the video. Then, from a photo he took, he spends the last half showing how he painted the photo. Takeaways include that the first wash is the color of the light, simplicity in the distance, more complexity in the forefront. Order of working is light to dark, soft to detailed.

I’ll let you look at the video to see what I mean.

I expect I will be visiting his site a lot for now!