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Never Give Up on your Favorite Techniques

ink and watercolor watercolor Apr 26, 2020

The ink and watercolor technique that brings me the most joy and satisfaction is one that I never expected to be acceptable, respected or commissioned.  I was totally wrong.  

In 2004, life was difficult, more so than normal.  What kept me going was sketching musicians playing live at blues jams in local pubs in Easton, Pennsylvania and New York City.  I sketched in the dark using a dip pen in black ink and strokes of watercolor.  The inspiration was the energy of the room, the musicians, the audience and the rhythms and patterns of the music.  My little sketches were tacked to the wall to dry or resting atop classes of wine, beer and whiskey.  They were quick, barely more than a minute or two.  I wasn't thinking, I was responding.  For months, hardly anyone questioned what I was doing or why I was doing it.  Had anyone asked, I would have told them I did it for my sanity.  Eventually, the musicians noticed.  When they asked, I granted permission for them to use the portraits as their gravatars on Facebook.  The smiles on their faces were a greater reward than the sale of a "well-executed studio painting ... created with gallery exhibition in mind".  My whole heart and soul were expressed in these late night sketches.

Popa Chubby & Arthur Neilson at the Grisly Pear in NYC

Marvin Smitty Smith - jazz musician

Ladd, who's passion is filming musicians at jams. 

Walter Trout & the Radicals playing at Steelstacks in Bethlehem, PA

These small sketches, created on scraps of watercolor paper, most of them less than  8" x 10", ultimately have led to exhibitions, sales as well as major commissioned work!  

When the new Bone and Joint Unit of St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem was built, I was commissioned to create all of the art to hang in that unit.  Someone had seen my little sketches and wanted the work to be in a similar style.  By then, I had also been sketching during yoga classes and dance performances, again ... in the dark.  The challenge was that I had to make most of them two feet by four feet in size!  That was far too big to do during any live performance.  My solution was to play gypsy music in my studio, surround myself with images of dancers, turn the lights down and drink a glass of single malt scotch.  Much to my surprise, it worked!

 Many more years have passed.  Yet the little sketches of musicians still make their way throughout the world via the internet.  some have been licensed as covers for sheet music, one has been used for cocktail napkins in Dubai, several have been licensed as logos for websites and business cards.  The latest commission was completed a couple of weeks ago.  I illustrated a new website in the UK for breastfeeding mothers.

View the other three illustrations visit the website:

Life has a mysterious way of weaving experiences together into a marvelous tapestry that reveals the purpose of the journey we each choose as our own.


Thinking about taking an online art courses?  I offer bite-sized classes on Skillshare as well as more comprehensive classes here on

If you aren't already a premium member on Skillshare, please check it out.  You receive a two month trial period totally free when you click on my link:

Most popular skillshare classes are the Pulling the Puddle watercolor technique (Series of four classes) and the Color Wheel Mandala class. (Part I and II are now available, Part III and Part IV will be available later this month.)

I'm creating most of the classes on Skillshare as bite-size classes within a series.  Each series, as I complete it will be bundled together with additional lessons added to it to create a more comprehensive course here on for artists who truly want to learn new skills and master their current skills.

Most popular classes on Explore are The Color Scheme Game and the Creating Dala and the Drawing Alternative I courses.

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