Saturday Art Studies -aka: artist’s jam sessions

Saturday Art Studies will get underway for 2016 on Saturday, April 23, and continue once a month through October. What happens from 9am until 1pm on these continuing art study sessions is different each month, yet they build on our skill development.

As an example, last year we began with a drawing and sketch session and then moved into watercolor basics and watercolor painting. Every student has four weeks to go back to their own studio area and practice, learn and practice again and again. Every artist is self taught, so with that in mind, I can only guide your development by your observance on my practice and development. That is the concept in the briefest of words.

During one of the Saturday Art Study sessions last year, I took a sketch from a October 2015 visit to Disneyland as a study for designing and developing a painting. I’m not trying to create a masterpiece, I’m going on a journey of discovering the “what ifs” when I paint. “What if” I rework the scene without obvious items in the scene, to simplify the idea and feel of the moment. We were sitting on a bench prior to a fireworks display over the castle. The weather was unseasonably warm, topping 100 degrees each of the three days we were there. Yet, a coolness began to try to sneak in, or were we longing for it more than was obvious?

The first “what if” happened as I began to sketch. I realized I was wearing my spectacles for better distant vision, this was a blurry quandry when I glanced down to my sketch book… so, “what if” I can’t see the pen lines so clear, keep sketching. The brain has a keen sense of memory when sketching, better than any photograph can give… its a hand eye thing I believe.


Here you see the original sketch with a fine sharpie marker, notes added in the margin for memory and locating special interests.

Back home in the studio,¬† I will draw several thumbnail values studies, deciding on one I like, and drawing the value plan again a bit larger. This is the plan I make prior to painting, where I want my darkest dark, mid values and lightest light, the main actors in the play to keep the viewer interested. The value plan is visible here…


If you notice, there is a grid that I added after completing the value plan. Next I draw a gird on the larger watercolor paper and transfer the drawing respectively to each rectangle. With the lines transferred to the paper and the value plan in hand, now I only have to think about color. All of my “what ifs” have been questioned… except, “what if” I were to choose predominately a blue and violet color scheme? And add a bit of orange for the warm summer evening? So, after wetting the paper thoroughly, I banged in the colors, wet into wet. I left this painting as is for several weeks , so each student can view the process at the next Saturday Art Study.


At the next Saturday Art Study session, we reviewed the process, and we reviewed what each artist discovered with their own paintings, and then I proceeded to add a bit of gradated color to the castle, line work in the trees a bit more depth in the darks.



The hardest part for me is knowing when to stop. “What if” I add more color here, a darker value there? The mood of the evening, waiting for the fireworks show, “what if” I don’t add a single Disneyland logo, would the piece still be recognizable, or invite the viewer to add their imagination while looking at the painting? These questions became decisive in my decision to finish the piece with darker values in the trees and hazy silhouettes in the crowd. When I ask where should I stop, I recall one instructor’s comment – a master knows how to begin.


This watercolor is a far cry from the photographed image I chronicled only as a reference after I finish painting. I like to look back, to see “what if” I was stuck to painting from the photograph¬† – would I have had the same experience? Probably not, but if you enjoy the journey, paint on! You are welcome to join us at the Saturday Art Studies, at my Double Dip Gallery. 209-365-3344, or send me an email to