Words & Blues

A history of astronomy

Posted by in Poetry

The night sky was once naked every night, but now we must go to the secret parties, to see her in a little black dress.

I have sailed on many seas.

Posted by in Poetry

I have sailed on many seas, had my boat lifted on words, endless waves of them, weaving and firming up beneath me. Early on the world was made of seas, a new one each day: the feel of dirt, the visions of a ballgame on the radio, storms of jelly beans and winds of candy cotton. But dark seas, too, lashing and punching, and me, lurching through it, the sea was master, and grace, and the sort of loneliness that sets your mind free. I remember harbor towns in my…read more


Value study for watercolor painting

Posted by in Artwork, Sketch a day

Working toward doing a watercolor portrait of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who passed away earlier this year. I’ve been reading up a bit on portrait painting in watercolor, but before I dive into the details of that, I am trying to get a feel for the challenges that lie ahead. There are many similar but different ideas on what pigments to use for skin colors. Yesterday, I did a web search on the topic and came up with a few that I could try with the paints I have…read more

Study for watercolor painting

Posted by in Artwork, Sketch a day

I’m visiting my brother Bryan and his wife Debbie in Cumberland Maryland, and yesterday Bryan and I went to New Germany State Park to do some sketching and watercolor. I took a ton of photos, including one of my brother that I liked, and I plan to do a watercolor painting based on it. I did a study of the figure portion this morning; I’ll need to do one of the head and face as well, but I want to do that at a larger scale. Here’s the pencil sketch that…read more

A simple traveling kit for watercolor

Posted by in Artwork, News, Sketch a day

I like to take my watercolor tools with me nearly everywhere I go. Some restaurants have butcher paper on the table; a perfect situation for an after-dinner line and wash. I’m also just beginning to try painting ‘en plein air’, which is French for (roughly) ‘painting outside’. Here’s a photo of my basic kit, which I can carry around in a very small computer bag (and I can even bring the computer if I wish). It’s not completely minimal, but close. I could leave the pens behind if I really…read more


More about watercolor brushes

Posted by in Artwork, News

This is a follow-up to my post on the new Rosemary round watercolor brushes. I pulled out a number of other round brushes and compared them to the Rosemary brushes. The primary conclusion I came to was this: no one brand of round watercolor brush is “the best.” There are different things one does with round brushes, and some brands tend to be better at one thing, and other brands are good at other things. Some specifics will show what I mean. The brands I compared were Rosemary series 22…read more

Color/Tone Exercise

Posted by in Artwork, Sketch a day

I tried a watercolor exercise that someone posted online – it uses (mostly) random colors to achieve tone. It’s extremely interesting to cross those two things while painting. It’s impossible to completely ignore the effects of color (e.g., yellow highlights seem to really work well, and blue works for shadows even when it’s not really hugely dark). And it’s also impossible to cheat on tone to achieve interesting effects. But, ah, that’s art, right? I did a pencil sketch of a photo of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but it was such…read more

Trying out new watercolor brushes

Posted by in Artwork, News

Did some testing on four smaller brushes from Rosemary & Co. in the UK. (I have to buy my Kolinsky Sable brushes in Europe; they are pretty much unavailable now in the US due to import restrictions on…furs. Note to US Customs: you cannot wear brushes.) I’ve previously gotten a few of the Rosemary series 33 Pointed brushes; these are series 22 Designer brushes. The Designer series are a bit more tapered than the Pointed — and, oddly, therefore slightly more pointed! The series 33 have a heavier body and come to…read more

Photography is both a mirror and a lens

Posted by in Words

Here’s an odd thesis that formed in my mind today: every photograph we take is a selfie. But not really odd. We actually do stamp ourselves onto every photograph. How we see things, what we choose to focus on, what emotions we elicit in the person photographed, how silent we are in our art to allow the other person to speak through us. Thilde Jensen is a remarkable photographer who looks in the corners most of us would avoid. She’s lived in those corners, has a comfort and a compassion…read more


Art Tools

Posted by in Sketch a day

Parka Blogs has a great series on the tools artists use. Urban sketching is hot these days, and one of my favorites is Shari Blaukopf. Here is a link to a detailed breakdown of the tools she uses. I notice that, like a lot of other sketchers, she has some favorite pens but hasn’t yet found some of the wonderful stuff that’s out there. One can’t specialize in all the tools available, but I really love both good pens and good brushes. To some extent, those involve personal preferences, but…read more