Wakar's Art Blog

Way too long since last posting. Not sure why I fell off the wagon. Could let the “holidays” take the blame, but since I really didn’t do much to celebrate them that wouldn’t be fair.

Still taking classes with Wendy Brayton and I’m seeing improvement. A couple of the paintings below were done in her class (truck & beach scene).

Also started taking portrait and figure painting from Al Tofanelli. It’s a four hour weekly class. I didn’t think I’d be ableto  do a class that long but it goes very fast. We begin with a couple quick poses and go to progressively longer ones. I’ve switched from portrait to doing the figure. I think from what I learned at the beginning I can work on my own to get as proficient as is needed for what I want to do. So I’ve started doing figure painting. Some of his teachings are beginning to get through. 🙂 Still have lot of practice to do though.

I’ve also started studying with Carole Watanabe two classes a month. I’ve loved her work and her style since I first saw it a few years ago so I’m happy to get the chance to study with her. That class is acrylics and a more expressive style which I love. I try to do an alla prima piece each time. Didn’t quit get finished last time but I’m posting the work anyway. Will finish up next weekend I hope.

Taking three classes on the weekends is sometimes a bit draining. But it gets/keeps me painting. I’m enjoying all of them very much. And they are most certainly improving my skills. At least I think so. What do you think?

This first one was inspired by a pic in Vogue or one of those mags. They are great for poses. The pic looked nothing like this. It just inspired the way the figure sits. Some of it works, some things don’t. I like the background best. This is oil on 11×15 gessoed watercolor paper.

By the Window

This is another practice piece on paper. This one is acrylic 11×15.

Red Stockings

As you see, faces are not an important part.

The next one I did in Wendy’s class. Oil on stretched canvas 16×20 (I think).

Red Truck

Next is another figure painting. This one I did in Wendy’s class. Got about half way through it the first week. As I thought about it between classes I grew to dislike it and decided to go on to something else instead. But we’ve started doing 20-30 minute warm up paintings to begin class (which I love doing). After that I just decided to treat the painting as a one hour painting exercise instead of trying to make it a finished painting. Naturally, when I finished I’d changed my opinion and was quite fond of the results. It still needed a bit of tweaking which I did here at home. It’s still a fairly loose painting though this pic may not convey that. Most of the edges are pretty soft. But I love the play of light and shadow – the more dramatic the better! – so I like how that part of the painting turned out. Oil on canvas panel 12×16.

Positive Ions

Last is the piece I began in Carloe’s class. It’s not finished yet but thought Id’ toss it in anyway. There’s still work to be done on the boats and a bit of cleaning up the main reflection. But as you can see this is a much more expressive style. Acrylic on stretched canvas 16×20.

Two Boats

OK, that’s it for now. Hopefully it won’t be another four months before I can get back here!


A few weeks ago I decided to get myself an early birthday present. I had decided to use the half box French easel as a studio set up (see previous post) because for me they are too cumbersome and too heavy to carry on one shoulder because of my back problems.

Pochade boxes keep the support and the palette too close together so I either have to look down at the support or hunch my shoulder up to reach the palette. Ugh!

I thought seriously about the Soltek and even started saving money towards it. But then I decided that the front to back reach would also cause my back to hurt (lord I sound like such a wuss!).

Anyway, I saw a video on YouTube of a system made by an artist in Arizona. I really liked the design idea and last spring I got to see someone who was actually using it. So that’s what I got. Yesterday I took it for a spin and I loved it! I got the mini size which the video shows. It will hold up to a 12×16 panel and the main palette section is 9×12.

I got it a couple of weeks ago and yesterday after breakfast at JavAmore in Penngrove, Wendy and I went over to the main street and did some painting. She very kindly let me use her camera to take some pics.

The tripod is included with the set up and has it’s own carrying case. The rest I put into a backpack with the rest of the equipment and it worked fine.

I’ve never used wood as a palette before and it’s certainly different, but I’ve decided to give it a try rather than add glass or even plastic.

As for the painting, it wasn’t quite finished when this was taken. I’ve tweaked a couple of things but mostly it’s the same. It’s an 8×10 panel taped to an 11×14 mdf board. I decided to do this so the painting can be carried and handled easier without mucking up the paint or getting even more paint on me from the edges. It worked great! And this or maybe 9×12 is about as big as I’m going to do for plein air for the foreseeable future.

Well, it was only one outing but so far this is the system I like best. It’s simple, convenient and light weight. (The heaviest thing in the backpack was the case of paints so today I’ve pared that down too.) I think this is going to make plein air painting even more fun!

The home set up is coming together for oil painting. For one thing I’ve settled on a palette that I’m going to try out for a while. The one below has 12 colors and white. I’ll probably end up adding burnt sienna also. That’s one of the colors Wendy uses a lot in out class so I’m getting used to working with it. It will make a warmer “black” than ultramarine blue and ultramarine violet. And since some of these are out of small tubes I’ll have room on the palette for it.

This is the set up.

The drawer in the easel comes out far enough for the large palette to be stable on, or so it seems. It’s about an inch and a half shorter than the box. But this gives me enough room to put the brush washer jar and the small tin of medium in the back of the drawer.

I painted the bottom of the box gray and got a piece of glass from Perkins Glass in Santa Rosa (thanks to Joanie for telling me about them). I used acrylics and they took all day to even get a film and a full 24 hours to dry! The colors are Cad Yellow Light, Indian Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cad Red Light, Cad Red Medium, PV19 (the name depends on the maker) Ultramarine Violet (this is a “hue” instead of Cobalt Violet), Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Viridian, Permanent Green Light and Titanium White.

I though of organizing my colors in a light / dark  way but I’m just too used to the chromatic system. And since I’m not doing that I’m putting the white on the right hand side since I’m right handed. This is the Mike Rooney method of squeezing out a long line. That way one will always be able to pick up a bit of pure white.

Last, and I guess least, is the little paint scraper. I don’t know how long it will last as it’s plastic but the next size was about 5 inches long! And the small space between the class and the side of the box is just right for the blade to slide down into. Sweet eh?

Well, time to feed the cats and then get back to that painting that I started.

Saturday morning I went to hang out in the vacant lot I’d chosen to do my paint out picture. It was chilly but better that than hot. I spent about 2 hours doing the drawing, first in pencil, then ink. Decided to not do the painting part there as it was getting warmer. So today at home I tackled the 10×20 300lb w/c paper that I’d done the drawing on.

The first thing I did was the sky. Imagine my surprise when the paper buckled! I thought 300lb wasn’t supposed to do that. I had not taped down he edges because I hadn’t wanted a white border around it. So I’ll have to rethink that. Otherwise it did take me at least two hours to paint. So I’m either going to have to loosen up a lot more and really just do a BIG sketch, or rethink doing this scene. It’s one I do want to do again, but perhaps not with a 4 hour time limit. 🙂

Anyway, here’s how it came out. Too many wonky parts but as a test run I’d say it did its job. Ink & watercolor on paper. 10×20

Washington Street View

Here are another couple of pieces I did in the last few days. I’ve been focusing on intuitive paintings recently. For this one I just started painting and this is what showed up. Acrylic on panel. 12×16

Sisters Above the Clouds

This was an idea I got just before falling asleep one night. It needs a bit of finishing which I may or may not ever do. Acrylic on paper. 14×17.

Moonlight Serenade


There is a fine line between homage and pastiche and, quite frankly, I think I’ve crossed it. Oh well. 🙂

The original of this is called Le Soupe. It was painted by Picasso in his blue period. In all honesty I’ve never been a fan of his work but I fell in love with this painting. I loved his use of blue, the richness of the background, the minimal composition. You can see it here: http://www.ago.net/pablo-picasso And here is my version. After all, what is life without a sense of humor?

Le Kibble

This next is a quick sketch done at Apple Box before my friend Anne Marie arrived for our visit. I used the Pen & Ink fountain pen and one of the universal cartridges that fit many of the calligraphy pens. The ink is not waterproof and I like that. I have other pens I use for that but it’s nice to have both. I like the monochromatic sketches too.

Sepia Ink Sketch

My oil painting instructor loaned me a copy of Craig Nelson’s book “60 Minutes to a Better Painting.” It’s about the value of doing quick studies, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, and lots of them. Haven’t finished the book yet but have started doing some 8×10 studies. That extra room (from the 5x7s) is helping me to paint looser. And not having time to fiddle with details will certainly speed up the old brush work! Here are a few I’ve done recently. They are all oil on 8×10 panels and too about 60 minutes.

Last Call?


Binocs, Book and Candle


Before and After

Watched one of Cathy Johnson’s videos yesterday on gesture sketching. It was interesting. She was doing a cat and she would rough in until the cat moved then she would start a new sketch just there on the same page. Since one rarely sees that in sketch book examples I was thrilled as I’ve always felt bad about abandoning a sketch after a few strokes. So I’ve practiced yesterday and today with the boys and it’s interesting and much more fun now. And, perhaps most importantly, the sketches are better. It’s freeing to just work quickly knowing whatever you get down is *OK!*

But the good news is that my inner ear troubles are almost completely gone. Phew! So at least I *can* paint again. Had a bit of flare up on Friday but nothing since then. So today is going to be somewhat of a catch up day for painting, etc.

Started a new painting in class on Friday. Got the composition drawn on and some of the block in. This one is much simpler subject-wise than the first one I did. That on is still languishing on my easel here at home waiting for the final touches. Poor thing.

After class Nancy and I went to Guerneville to check out the art exhibit in the library where Chris and Mike have work. But before that we stopped for fortification at the Stump Town Brewery. That may be the best veggie burger I’ve ever had! I think it would be a great place for sketching as well. There’s a deck out back and the river is just beyone though it was mostly blocked from view with trees. Chris is going to check if it’s a public access.


OK, I blew off going to the market and painted instead. And I think I’ve finished the sheep painting. It’s an OK painting – certainly WAY better than if I hadn’t been in the class. For the most part I have enjoyed it and, most importantly, I’ve *learned!* Which IS he point. There is one more thing I may do but it’s minor. For now I need to stop looking at it because I want to get up and fix this and change that and at this point I’d just be fiddling.  20×16 oil on stretched canvas.

Grazin' In the Grass

This next is a plein air sketch done on Friday afternoon. After lunch and the art exhibit Chris, Nancy and I headed to the river access in Monte Rio. They had a huge awning set up with about 6 picnic tables. We were the only one sitting there. Everyone else (though it wasn’t crowded at all) was sitting uder umbrellas by the water or floating on faux inner tubes down the river. 5×7 oil on canvas panel.

Going With the Flow

On Friday Joanie, Milagros, Nancy and I went to the Steins Exhibit at SF MOMA. I loved it. This was my first time of seeing Matisse in person. Amazing. And not the least interesting was that some of his work is painted on cardboard. Some of it is very sparsely painted as he just didn’t have much paint. And he does things that I’ve been told in classes to never do, like leaving objects more or less floating in space.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Well if one is Matisse then one can get away with that. But these are early works so at this time he wasn’t famous and accepted no matter what he did. No, I think it was something else. I think it was a fierce dedication to his own Truth and the Truth of each individual painting. He and his friends were breaking away even more from the traditional, academic painting style. It’s good to be reminded of that. Think what the world of art would be like if no one ever thumbed their noses at the academic style. [shudder]

Anyway, the Matisse paintings I liked best were Flowers and the portrait of Andre Derain. I was very surprised by the latter. No reproduction I’ve ever seen is anything like the original. It’s smaller that I’d thought and much lighter and brighter than it’s ever shown.

Another surprise was one of the Picasso paintings. I’ve never cared for his work and I have to say that seeing it in person hasn’t changed that, at least as far as his cubist style is concerned. I did find The Architect’s Desk interesting but that was about the only one of that style. However, there was another that I fell in love with. I think someone said it was from his “blue period.” It’s called Le Soupe. There was one other there from the same period and I liked it very much also. I’m wondering if the exhibit at the de Young has any more. If so that would be enough to get me there. One of the things I love about this is how minimalist it is. And yet it is so rich. To me that’s just my favorite combination.

Well, after the exhibit we stopped in at the Dick Blick store that’s nearby then headed out to the Avenues to Layaly Mediterranean Grill for lunch. We caught a fair amount of the Friday afternoon traffic but Nancy, bless her, did a great job in the driving department.

Alas, not much to show in the way of my own art. I’ve had inner ear troubles for the last couple of weeks and lots of head turning (from palette to canvas to subject, etc) makes it worse. So I’ve just been doing things in my journal books. Here are a couple of things I did prior to this affliction. The last is a very loose version of the Matisse Flowers just for fun.

First up is one of a series I’m thinking of doing. 5×7 oil on matboard

Tai Chi by Moonlight

Next is just a quick piece mostly to use up some paint. 7×5 oil on matboard

Moonlight Visitors

Last is a sketch from my journal. Joanie suggested we each paint our version of our fav painting from the exhibit. I have something in mind for the Picasso painting but thought I’d do this quick sketch of the Matisse Flowers for now.  I lay the postcard of the painting on the opposite page. Gouache on paper.

Playing with Matisse

Flickr Photos

%d bloggers like this: