(or: My Demo for the Santa Clara Watercolor Society: A Step-by-Step Description)

I was invited by the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society a few weeks ago to do an hour’s watercolor demonstration at their annual show and reception. The general directive they gave me was to show “wet-into-wet” technique—something aspiring watercolor painters are likely to learn on their first day in art class. I vacillated and dilly-dallied for weeks about what to do for this demo, and while most of the things that came to mind would have been okay—that is, they could have given people information of some reasonable value—I really couldn’t get into them. Then I visited the astonishing—No! Not astonishing. STUPEFYING!—show of French Impressionist Claude Monet’s late work that recently ran at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. All the work in the show was done at his home and garden at Giverny. I eventually wandered into the large gallery that held those huge wall-sized water lily paintings, and (after I recovered from that first supreme “wow” moment) I thought…YESSSSS!! I KNOW NOW WHAT I HAVE TO DO. EVEN IF IT IS TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS,… Read More

A Sound Track for the Grand Canyon

As I hike and paint at Grand Canyon, I often have tunes in my head.  I don’t mind having tunes in my head because, though they may range from Mozart to Lady Gaga, they have some way of connecting with what I am seeing and painting out there. At the same time, I sometimes think, I haven’t yet heard the real music of Grand Canyon.  That is, if God were to send down THE exact right music for this place, what would it be?  There is good music explicitly meant to depict the canyon—the signature, of course, would have to be (duh!) The Grand Canyon Suite.  I like this music well enough—it’s competently crafted by an accomplished American composer, Ferde Grofé—but somehow it doesn’t connect with me emotionally.  (I am afraid that’s because of the long association of the movement called On the Trail with cigarette advertising.  Yes, I know. My age is showing). That changed for me last fall.  God sent the music. The National Park Service offers all kinds of educational and cultural… Read More

Lost and Found in Yosemite

Everyone knows Half Dome and El Capitan. These spectacular stand alone in the eyes of the world as icons of Yosemite, made world-famous by the brilliant photography of Ansel Adams. But there are others—stony needles, razors, sawteeth, and cliffs with precisely vertical smooth-as-glass faces reaching 1,000 feet, 2,000 feet, 3,000 feet from earth to summit. These are not so well known. Sentinel Peak is one of these. It’s not an icon, but that isn’t necessary to be altogether as spectacular as Half Dome and El Cap. There is kind of a ridiculous story behind this painting of Sentinel Peak. I painted it from a photo I made on one of those quickie turn-off-the-road latish-afternoon trips I sometimes make into the park on my way home from skiing. This particular day was just a few days after a big snowstorm, and the waterfalls were FLOWING and wonderful to see! The road that follows the Merced River revealed a marvel around every corner. The right side of the river was deep enough in shadow that I had… Read More