Friday, March 30, 2012


The other day I was invited to submit a 6" x 6" painting for a fundraising art show. I thought of many things I could do: a small watercolor sketch of a local scene; an impressionistic landscape; an abstract; or some sort of a graphic composition. Having the opportunity to do anything I wanted was both interesting and challenging, as there were no parameters other than size. The exciting part was in the fact that I could do something completely different than what I am used to doing, and that it would be on display for public viewing.

The pieces were to be signed only on the back. Someone buys it only if they like it, not because of the signature. After six failed attempts at doing an abstract watercolor, I decided to try some hearts. I drew a pair of six inch squares on my paper, and masked off the boundaries and drew two hearts with a soft pencil. I painted them boldly, varying the intensity and color, and letting the paint mix right on the paper. I made three glazes, adjusting the color slightly and letting the luminosity of the transparent paint show through.

As soon as I was satisfied with the paint, I accented everything with pastels and colored pencil, scribbling over everything and ignoring the underlying shapes. Finally, I splashed some white and red paint, and labeled them: "Passion".

When I was done I didn't want to give them away, so I painted a few more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Philippe's at Night

Here is another version of Philippe's French Dip restaurant, this time at night. I used a historic photo taken by Mr. Tom LaBonge as reference. You can see some additional windows and other architectural details that were originally there.

I started with a quick color study in my sketchbook to familiarize myself with the subject and to practice my night scene technique. I then sketched it onto 140# Fabriano cold press watercolor paper. The window were masked off with liquid mask.

I started the first wash with Gamboge Nova and Raw Sienna surrounding the windows, adding Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Deep the further away I got from them. I did quite a few washes, or glazes over the entire sheet, trying to build up the darks while leaving the brights intact.

After I was satisfied with the lighting, I added some reflections in the street and began adding details to clarify the awning, the windows and signage. I painted in the people in bright accent colors, and the cars in a dark grey. I finished it with white paint: graphics on the signage and loose splatters over the whole piece. I signed it with Titanium white using a tiny sable brush.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Philippe's French Dip Sequence

I was commissioned to do another painting of Philippe's Famous French Dip restaurant, and this time, I documented the process. The first image is a digital photo of the restaurant, located on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. From the photo, I developed a small composition and value study identifying the big shapes and assigning values to each area. I did this sketch right on the watercolor paper.

I then did a full size pen and ink sketch, using both the photo and my composition/value study
as a reference. I worked on hot press paper because I wanted the final painting to be loose sketchy and messy. In fact, I made little notes all over the paper, unreservedly being casual and carefree with the work.

Using pure color and letting it mix on the paper, I began painting and splashing paint, first in the sky, and on the building, blocking in the dark shadow shapes. The next step consisted of darkening the values as needed, and suggesting small architectural details here and there. The final step included painting the large sign, adding small touches of white paint and splashing red and blue over the entire piece. Notice the original value study is part of the painting and completes the composition.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Painting the Historic Rialto Theatre

The Rialto Theatre is a beloved landmark in South Pasadena. I began my painting of it with a loose pen and ink sketch done on Fabriano cold press paper. I wanted there to be an attitude of casual inexactness to this work, so I drew with pen from the start, not doing a pencil block-out of the big shapes like I occasionally do. I used a light touch as the ink bleeds when used heavily.

I painted the sky first, using Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, Mineral Violet and Raw Sienna, mixed and blended on the paper. I then established the shadow shapes on the building with Cobalt Blue and Mineral Violet; blocked in the sign with Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Red Light; and painted the sunlit wall with Raw Sienna. I used Gamboge Nova and Greenish Yellow for the trees, letting some white of the paper show through to help create a glow.

Using Marine Blue and Burnt Sienna, I deepened the shadows in the trees, and used bold, primary colors for the patrons as I wanted them to stand out from the purple shadow at the entry. I made the far awning a bright red to create a complementary vibration with the green trees.

The next step was to deepen and enhance the shadows and clarify the architecture with fine brush work and a mixture of Ultramarine Deep, Mineral Violet and Burnt Umber. I painted the marquis movie title with a rigger brush and smeared it with water, and added more color to the sky.

The final touches included painting the window mullions and frames with Titanium White, finishing up the people, and adding a few more architectural accents with dark paint, and of course signing it.