Book Review: Marc Taro Holmes’ Direct Watercolor

Marc Taro Holmes has released a new book, Direct Watercolor, and I have to confess that I’m a biased reviewer.  I love the pedagogic skills and dedication he brings to his art instruction.  Yes, his art is fantastic but his first book, The Urban Sketcher and his Craftsy courses are each a tour de force in their subject areas.  You can’t just read/watch Marc’s lessons; you’ve got to listen closely, multiple times, or you’ll miss many of the little gems he casually drops in front of you.

Maybe more important, Marc seems driven by the notion that he’s not providing enough bang for the buck because he crams more into a book or video than anyone so you do, indeed, get a lot of bang for your buck.  Direct Watercolor is a good illustration of that.

Direct Watercolor is a bit different from his previous offerings as it has multiple goals.  While there is considerable information about how to sketch directly with watercolor, it’s also a presentation of a bunch of his art, done in this way, which serves to enforce the instruction, but also serves as a travel journal of some of the more exotic places Marc has sketched.  These goals knit together go together like a good wine and cheese. 

The end result is not only an instruction book, it’s a book stuffed full of eye candy.  The back cover says there are over “80 plein air watercolor paintings.”  When I counted them I got more than 100, along with the half a dozen step-by-step demonstrations and pages showing the basic techniques.  Only Marc can get all this into a 100 page book.

Truth is, this book is so full of beautiful art that it’s worth owning whether you do any watercolor work or not.  I do question one thing, though, and that’s the title, Direct Watercolor.  Anyone who is a sketcher would mentally put “rather than ink and wash” after that title, but I wonder how it would be interpreted by a watercolorist who isn’t a sketcher.  Is there another kind of watercolor other than putting the pigment directly on the paper?  Maybe a subtitle would have been appropriate.  In any case, we sketchers know what he’s talking about and that’s all that matters (grin).

 

Merry Christmas From Quebec City

Hi everyone.  Once again I have to apologize for not posting regularly.  Problems with my hands have prevented me from drawing much, which is my only excuse.  I did want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, though, so I’m using a past sketch to justify this short acknowledgement of the holidays.  I hope all is well with you and yours and that it’s warmer where you are than it is here (grin).

St. Charles River Sketching Exposition

I’ve mentioned La Collectif before.  They are a great group of folks who mostly draw portraits and life drawing.  But in recent years they’ve also started holding outdoor sketching events.  These events have gained momentum since Daniel Chagnon took on the job of planning these events.

This year, he scheduled a series of events along the St. Charles River with the goal of having an exposition of those works later in the year.  Sadly, several of them got rained out but persistence paid off and a bunch of sketches were done.  That exposition happened last week at the Maison Dorion-Coulomb, the headquarters for the Parc linéaire de la Rivière-Saint-Charles, the group that promotes activities in the 32km long park through which the river flows.

The exhibition runs from Sep 5th through the 17th but the vernissage, where the artists were present, was held last Saturday.  We were all supposed to come and sketch and generally enjoy the day.

I confess that I’ve been a bit antisocial lately because my knee is providing me with a steady dose of pain that puts me in a bad mood generally.  I even thought about not going, but I did and I’m glad I did.

I don’t have much in the way of sketches to show you.  I sat on the porch and drew the sign in front of the house.  By then, most of the group were circled around a willing model and they were drawing his portrait.

The closest I got to that exercise (my least favorite subject) was to draw one of the sketchers, who was slumped down in her chair, perfectly relaxed and doing her thing.

As always, when I’m around sketchers, I spent more time talking than I should have if sketching was the goal, but sometimes it isn’t.

 

Happy Canada Day

There’s supposed to be half a million spectators on hand at Parliament in Ottawa for today’s Canada Day celebration.  I’m glad I’m not there.  On the other hand, living in Quebec City means I experience hardly a peep in celebration.  It’s sad.

But I’m here, an ex-American, proud Canadian, waving the flag.  Happy Canada Day everyone.

Sketching Is Dangerous – Expensive Too!

WARNING: Graphic Results of Violence Follows

Tuesday I was the organizer of our Tuesday sketching session.  We were to meet in front of the Chateau Frontenac, on the Terrace Dufferin at 10AM.  I like to get on site before anyone arrives so I can say hi when they do.

I started setting up to sketch a large statue, but one of the tubes on my WalkStool came apart from the lower portion.  I didn’t think much of this and just pounded it back in place.  I should have thought a bit more.  This disrupted my normal cycle of ensuring that all three legs were locked in place.  One was not.

I sat down on the stool, a leg gave way and my head smacked against the granite block wall of the hotel.  The crack to my head wasn’t as extreme as if I’d fallen from a standing position but…  I put my hand to the back of my head and it came away full of blood.

I scurried to my feet.  Well, I sort of scurried.  My knees don’t allow me to pop to my feet as I once could so it was more of an old-man process of getting to my feet.  I picked up my bag and stool, grabbed a paper towel to block the wound, and I headed into the Starbucks that’s part of the hotel.

I asked a guy there where I had to go for first aid, he said “Quoi?” and I showed him my handful of blood.  He got the message and immedately called the hotel medic, telling me to go stand by the doors outside and that the medic would be there.  I did.

A guy walked up to me and asked if I was ok.  I told him the medic was coming and he offered to take me to the hospital or at least stay with me until the medic came.  A woman ran over, carrying a wad of Starbucks napkins, which were gratefully received.  Then the Starbucks guy came out to check on me and we all stood around until a guy with a great big red first aid kit came through the door.

This is what my head looked like by the time I got home. The red on my neck is not a sunburn.

I know a real urban sketcher would have been sketching all this activity but, well, my hands were somewhat tied up trying to keep blood from running down my neck.  I went with the medic into a bathroom and he did a bang up job of  cleaning me up.  He concluded that I probably didn’t need stitches and did his best to bandage the tiny wound that was the source of the blood.

By this time, it was well after 10AM so I grabbed a coffee, thanked the Starbucks guy and went looking for my buddies.  They were all sketching away when I arrived.  The wound had stopped bleeding but, it started to drip so rather than sketching I was holding kleenex over the wound, applying some pressure.  It didn’t take long to realize that going home was a better plan than hanging out with my friends.

The wound did stop bleeding by about 1PM but I sat around the rest of the day watching Netflix and trying not to move my head too much.  Oh, the title mentions how expensive sketching can be as well as dangerous.  Somehow, during this fiasco, I lost my wireless headphones.  It was not a good day.