Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Trumpet Season

Trumpet season 8
9" x 9" Arches 100% hot press paper

The trumpets are sounding again, all over Alameda. The vines get so large here. With no frost to kill back the bushes as in the Midwest, NorCal trumpets take over fences and sides of houses. 

I wanted to see if I could paint last year's composition any better this year. I see improvement here, but it's still not as splashy and spontaneous as I would like. And yet the study I did beforehand (see below), directly painting without drawing first and using wet-on-wet paint, doesn't quite do it, either. Though maybe it's closer. Maybe.

Or maybe next year, eh? 

Trumpet season 7
in 7.5" x 7.5" Stillman & Birns Zeta Sketchbook

Friday, May 26, 2023

Matilija Season Again
9" x 9" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

It's matilija poppy season again. I sure love these large white flowers with the "fried egg" centers that grow so bountifully on large bushes here in NorCal. 

And maybe I've learned some things since the last time I painted this scene. This painting is a little more nuanced in terms of shadows and lines, and I think I hit the right value for the sky with a combination of cobalt and cerulean blue with tinges of quin rose and lavender. The hot press paper allowed the background paint to puddle in interesting ways.

Kinda sorta pleased. These moments of resting on the "yeah" are what keep me hooked. 


Monday, May 22, 2023


9" x 9" watercolor
Arches 100% hot press w/c paper

It's still not there, but I think I like this one better than the last. I used Clear Violet and Permanent Magenta (Mission), which are more transparent, to lay down a unifying wash on the petals. I also used Cerulean Blue (Mission) for the sky and to mix the greens. Also a bit of Cadmium Yellow (Winsor Newton), which I rarely use because of its opacity but it seemed called for here. I simplified and abstracted the background. I think there's more transparency and color harmony.  

Put on your sunglasses! It's bright. But I like bright. There's enough darkness in the world. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

This Doesn't Work, But

9" x 9" watercolor
Arches 100% hot press w/c paper

This doesn't work, but I sure had fun doing it. And I'm pleased that I know at least a few reasons that it went south.

I'm not sure I have the right color selection. I used phthalo blue, hansa yellow medium and light, quin rose, a little bit of scarlet lake, and opera rose. The purples/pinks especially do not sing and show light in the way I hoped. I need to experiment with a different color combination and try for more transparency in those purples and pinks.

The background competes too much with the flowers, and the background colors are too dark. A white or very warm, light yellow/green background might be best. Yellow is a complementary color to purple and it provides a nice but non-competitive contrast. 

Mostly, I needed a couple of underlying, unifying washes on those petals. It looks like I painted them one at a time, not giving a lot of thought to the whole. And that's exactly what happened.

Worth another try.  


Thursday, May 18, 2023

And Another


"Poppin' Poppies #2
9" x 9" on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper 

And I had to try another version of the poppies, too. First one may be more spontaneous. But I kind of like the foreground and upper right corner of this one.

This is just so much fun. I'll bet ChatGPT doesn't have fun like this.  

Had to Try Another One

"How Pretty the Colors Were Outside a Gilroy Garlic Shop Last Thursday #2 "
9" x 9" on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

I had  to try another one, sort of like the other one. Not sure which I like better, but they both bring that moment of being absolutely arrested by the red geraniums against the greens of their foliage, the tree leaves, and the hillside. Don't you love it when nature just stops you in your tracks? 

ChatGPT Comes to Me


Digital Image
by ChatGPT and Me

So my son gave me a tutorial recently re: using ChatGPT to expand upon one of my paintings, and what you see above is the result.

He took the image of a painting of mine (see below) and we asked the image generator to add to it so that there would be an expanded painting rendered in the same style as my original painting. We progressed in quadrants; the image generator gave us four options per quadrant to choose from. 

We both agreed that the final result was an improvement upon my original painting. The three other people I asked thought so too. 

I especially like the way ChatGPT laced the center-right yellow coneflower with pink streaks. I wouldn't have thought of that.

It's exciting...and weird.

This helped me see how artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives can use AI tools for idea generation. In this case, I was looking for ways to improve upon the original painting, and in just ten minutes, I had a good plan.

On the other hand, it does beg the question, Why even bother creating art/writing/music if AI can do it better?

Of course, makers/creators know the answer to that: because we have to. We don’t choose our art; it choose us.

Still…collaborating and competing with machines—it’s all rather mind-bending.

8" x 8" watercolor
on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Poppin' Poppies

"Poppin' Poppies"
8" x 8" on hot press paper, Stillman & Birns Sketchbook, Zeta Series

And wow, aren't the poppies poppin' right now in northern California? 

Kinda likin' this more abstract approach for now. Why did I think I needed ink?  Oh yes, that Muse is indeed fickle

Monday, May 1, 2023

Back to No Ink

"How Pretty the Colors Were Outside a Gilroy Garlic Shop Last Thursday"
8" x 8" on hot press paper, Stillman & Birns Sketchbook, Zeta Series

Sometimes it just takes your breath away--a scene, a combination of colors, a little slice of life. That is how I felt after I left a garlic store in Gilroy last Thursday: breathless, after seeing those red geraniums, the spring green hills in the distance, the textures of those leaves on the tree. I snapped several reference photos. 

Last post, I wrote about the relief of getting back my old habit of using ink with watercolors while vacationing in Santa Barbara. But the Muse is fickle. I tried this scene first with ink and made a mess out of it. Then decided to go more abstract with this second try.

I have to say, this one makes my heart sing.  

Back to Ink in Santa Barbara


Hotel Courtyard Around the Corner, Santa Barbara
8" x 8" on hot press paper, Stillman & Birns Sketchbook, Zeta Series

So my mate and I took a trip to Santa Barbara last week. I tried painting the beautiful county courthouse and the Old Mission with pencil and watercolor in my Hand Book watercolor journal, but I just wasn't feeling it. 

Then I switched to pen drawings in my Stillman & Birns Sketchbook. It seemed like my hands had been just waiting to use ink again. I sketched on site in ink, took reference photos, and then added watercolors back at the apartment where we stayed. I kept thinking, "This is what I want to do more of! Travel, sketch, and paint! And I'll never not use ink again!" 

Of course, that phase ended, as it always does. See next post. But it was sure a rush while it lasted. 

The 'Hood Across the Street from the Old Mission, Santa Barbara
8" x 8" on hot press paper, Stillman & Birns Sketchbook, Zeta Series

The Old Jail in the County Courthouse Complex, Santa Barbara
8" x 8" on hot press paper, Stillman & Birns Sketchbook, Zeta Series

More About the Sally Project

I met Sally forty years ago when I was twenty and she was the one in her sixties. I was a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on...