Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California

From a different trip to visit family in southern California, we stopped by Laguna Beach — an area where one of them had lived for a time. Laguna Beach is — or was (they’ve lost a number of shops and artists over the years) — very much an artist’s colony, in which there are a huge variety of shops dedicated to the sale of all things art related. This is where the famous “Festival of Arts’ Pageant of the Masters“ has been held annually since 1933, so they definitely take their art seriously here.

For me, a visit to Laguna Beach isn’t complete without some quality time spent in Heisler Park, the section of coast devoted to the preservation of tide pools and water quality protection. Here one can find all sorts of potential painting opportunities — for both plein air and as photos for future reference to be used in studio art, like this painting.

As much as I love painting plein air, it’s difficult to do when visiting with family members because it can be such a time sink. On such occasions, I take as many photos as I can get away with, trying to do so without irritating the rest of the group.


Image info:
Heisler Park
Laguna Beach, California
August 2018
Schmincke Horadam watercolors
Hahnemühle 150 lb rough press paper — 4” x 6”

Having Fun Playing with Paints

Painting exercise

After having been away from watercoloring on a regular basis for most of the past 30-years, I’m slowly getting back into the rhythm of painting again, though it’s not without some fits and starts. The biggest issue for me is setting aside a regular block of time to do so, and sticking with it — as I have many other things to do during the course of the day.

One way to ease back into painting is to find course books — or how-to volumes — on watercoloring and to follow along with them. The above painting is one of those, an exercise that I’m doing along with the text that I’ve been reading — “The Ultimate Watercolor Course: Simple Techniques to Paint Like the Pros” published by Reader’s Digest. I discovered this impressive hardbound course book at the local library by pure accident, and was so impressed with the contents that I bought a used copy for myself from off of Amazon for less than $20US, which you can find here.

What did I find so useful about this book? Well, it’s one of the very few that I’ve ever found that takes the aspiring watercolorist from the absolute beginner-level to advanced techniques within just one volume, as if the reader were attending an actual class on watercoloring. Also, it doesn’t contain a lot of fluff; each two-page spread is a concise new lesson, with printed examples and exercises. The book is large, lavishly illustrated on slick paper, and contains roughly 140 lessons.

Having never had any formal training in watercolor, I’ve found this book to be invaluable for helping me further my skills, so I highly recommend it to others.


Image info:
Painting exercise
February 2021
Schmincke Horadam watercolors
Indian 100% cotton rag 300 lb paper — 4” x 6”

Winter Watercolor Greeting Card

Christmas card

This is one of literally thousands of watercolor greeting cards that I’ve created over the past four decades, and this specific one went to my spouse as part of her gift from me this past Christmas. Did she enjoy it? You bet!

I began watercolor painting on-and-off back in grade school, painted more frequently in high school, then got more serious about it after college. During some tough, trying times for me back in the late-1980’s, watercolor painting was one of my go-to relief valves for all of the mental strain that I was going through during that period. It was also the time when I began to paint plein air, and create watercolor greeting cards for friends and family — for holidays, birthdays, and other important events.

Watercolor for me is all about the portability of the medium, as I try to keep my field kit small enough to fit in a shoulder sling bag or smaller (I kept it for many years in a small waist pack). I’ve painted while wilderness camping, hiking, car camping, trailer camping, in the mountains, at the beach, in the car, while on bicycle jaunts, and during extended road trips.

When starting out, I began with the cheapest colors I could find, then slowly graduated from junk colors to student-grade, then from student-grade colors to professional-grade, and from cheap brands to top-tier brands. At this point I’ve tried nearly all of the major brands from the top watercolor manufacturers, as well as most of the major watercolor papers.

Even though I’ve been doing them for a very long time, I still immensely enjoy watercolor painting — whether the painting that I’m doing is very loose and free, or very detailed and controlled — and I’m still continuing to learn new things that I missed earlier.


Image info:
Christmas watercolor greeting card
December 2020
Schmincke Horadam watercolors
Indian 100% cotton rag 300 lb paper — 4” x 6”