(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 mega-monuments 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 also 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, just like El Cap and Half Dome, that are not so well known. Sentinel Peak is one of these. It’s not an icon, but that in no way minimizes its splendor. There is kind of a goofy story behind this painting of Sentinel Peak. Yosemite is not far off the road I take back and forth to the mountains for skiing. Sometimes on my way back from a ski trip, I make a quickie latish-afternoon trip into the park. This particular day was just a few days after a big snowstorm, and the waterfalls were FLOWING and wonderful to see! And the weather was chilly but beautiful. So I drove into the park, stayed just long enough to… Read More