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Chocolate & Chalk festival, Berkeley

Fun sketching in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, around Shattuck and Vine Streets. Always cool to sketch musicians, such as this little band, the Queue. The vocalist, Eve, really appreciated my drawings, which I scanned and emailed to her.  She wrote back, “You are so talented and managed to capture us really well in such a fast amount of time. We would love to show our fans and of course have your name plastered all over the place .”

Thanks, Eve!Queue-1-optQueue-2-opt

Gesture drawing

Aroma-gesturesThis week our quick sketch workshop in San Rafael was devoted to gesture drawing, capturing the essence of a person’s pose in a few strokes. We warmed up with some images of people I photographed in India, then went to the Aroma Cafe next door to work “live.” There were plenty of people around—drinking coffee, eating a late lunch, reading and working at computers. We even drew each other.

Sketching class in Tuscany, Italy

The Watermill at Posara, Tuscany, Italy

A week-long art course in Tuscany, Italy,
‘sketching fast and loose’™ with Rhoda Draws: 4-11 July 2015

Sketching class in the garden, Tuscany, Italy Sketching class in Tuscany, Italy - villa

Sketching class in Tuscany, Italy - villa inside Plein air sketching class in Tuscany, Italy

A wonderfully relaxing painting holiday in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, spectacular scenery, wonderful food and wine. For centuries artists have drawn their inspiration from the Tuscan landscape and you could find few better places to enjoy your art and improve your skills than our beautiful historic watermill, set beside the banks of a river in a gentle, wooded valley.

You’ll also visit castles, convents, ancient walled towns, hilltop villages slumbering in the sun and the stunning World Heritage Mediterranean villages of the Cinque Terre.

“An enchanting place – I really loved it, endless delightful subjects to paint” “From the moment I stepped into my apartment and saw and heard the river, I realised it was going to be very special”

“We’ve been on many painting holidays, but this was the best ever.” 

Your tutor: Rhoda Draws

Rhoda Draws sketching class in Tuscany Brugge sketch - market square

Rhoda Draws (that’s her legal name, since 2009) lives near San Francisco, California, where she draws, paints and teaches workshops in sketching ‘fast and loose.’

Rhoda likes to combine her love of travel with techniques for rapid drawing ‘on the go’. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings created in Europe, North America and the Indian subcontinent. She works with waterproof pens and aquarelle (water-soluble) coloured pencils to create a variety of styles with a minimum of fuss.

According to Rhoda, quick sketching on location is ideal for making an illustrated travel journal, for improving your observational skills and for exploring ideas for more detailed projects. She says: “If you capture the essence of a scene or monument or person in a few minutes, the result can be a finished work of art.”

We should emphasise that everything is included in the cost of your holiday at the watermill: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre- dinner aperitifs, all meals (including meals with wine at charming local restaurants) and all local transportation (to castles, convents, hilltop villages and including transfers to Pisa airport and an excursion by train to Lucca or the Cinque Terre).

You get to Pisa, we do the rest!

Prices are in English pounds [£(GBP)]. If you book before September 2014 you can enjoy next year’s course at this year’s prices: they start at £(GBP) 1,310 (about $2,150) per person per week (based on two people sharing), with a generous discount of £(GBP) 200 (about $330) for a non-painting partner. Single rooms are £(GBP) 1,399 (about $2,300), or £(GBP) 1,499 (about $2,470) with en suite bathroom.

If you would like to enquire about availability and/or reserve your place, please contact Rhoda or email the Watermill: [email protected], or call them on (UK number) +44 207 293 6246.

Download all the info (PDF)


Rhoda Draws India!

street-DelhiI will be making a presentation of the sketches (and photos) I made on my recent trip to India:

Location: Gallery 111 at the ICB (Industrial Center Building), 480 Gate Five Road, Sausalito, CA

Date/time: Thursday, April 24th  from 4:30 to 6:00 pmAbhaneri-3

Catching up

AAM-birdmanFinally back, posting after a long hiatus. I was working on two major projects, the 4th edition of my book on using Corel Painter, and a 6-hour set of video tutorials on Painter.

This sketch was done at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The figure is a mythological character, “Thai birdman.”AAM-birdman-photo

India Sketch: Delhi street corner

The controlled chaos of a Delhi street is conveyed with bold ink lines and colorful aquarelle pencils.

The foreground has bicycle rickshaws crowded together with a 3-wheeled Tuk-Tuk or auto rickshaw. A jumble of buildings and commercial signage (in English and Hindi) is typical of a Delhi street.

Recent sketches

Here is my quick sketch of the ornate facade of Classic Billiards on 4th street in San Rafael, CA. Basic ink sketch done on location, color added later with water-soluble colored pencils. Finishing touches are the opaque white scribbles on the windows, made with a Sakura Souffle pen.


October 2013 Sketching retreat at Asilomar

My first SketchXpress art retreat will be held at Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA. You will learn my quick sketching and art journaling methods in an idyllic setting. Beginners welcome!


The buildings and furnishings of this historic “Refuge by the Sea” were designed by Architects of the Arts and Crafts movement, notably Julia Morgan. We will have the opportunity to sketch in a variety of breathtaking natural settings. You’ll also want to sit and sketch people relaxing in the rustic charm of the social hall, which boasts an antique billiard table and elegant light fixtures. See for details and images.


Saturday, October 5 through Monday Oct 7, 2013.


Based on double-occupancy at Asilomar Conference Grounds, cost is around $400 per participant. This includes location sketching demos and workshops, excursions to Monterey Bay Aquarium, a guided nature walk in Point Lobos and more.  Not included are art supplies, meals and transport to and from Asilomar. I will help organize car pools to minimize travel expense. Shared meals at local cafes and restaurants will provide additional opportunities for sketching as well as socializing.

I need to have 5 or 6 confirmed signups by August 1st for this event to happen.
Right now, just let me know if you are interested, and if the dates work for you.
List of basic sketching supplies provided on request.

Quick Sketch notes: creating dark areas

Sevino-TiburonA student sent me the following message: “I have ended up, in one image, having a lot of space that could go dark with a brush pen. Is it a good idea to blacken all the space, or is there a way to develop dark space without actually heavily blackening it?”

Without seeing the image in question, I can say a few things. First, maybe some empty space is OK. As for creating dark areas, a solid fill is not as interesting to the viewer as something with a bit of texture and variety. In my sketch of Servino’s restaurant, I used a black Pentel Brush-tip pen to create dark areas that allow some of the white paper to show through here and there, as well as a variety of strokes and dabs.


The black stripes in the awning were each made with a single stroke, using the side of the brush. This “dry brush” effect relies on the texture of my paper: Stillman & Birn Beta series (Extra heavy weight, Rough Surface.)

If you want to slightly darken a large area, such as the doors and windows under the awning, scribble some water-soluble pencils in one or more colors and create a wash with your water brush. This is a quick way to create depth, moving the darker areas to the back, and allowing the “unwashed(?)” areas to have more focus.




Stillman & Birn sketchbooks

La-BoulangeI had the opportunity to work with several sketchbooks provided by Stillman & Birn company, to prepare for demonstrations at Riley Street Art Supply stores in both San Rafael and Santa Rosa yesterday. The paper in these premium sketchbooks is either heavy or extra-heavy, white or ivory, and with a range of surface textures. Several handy sizes are available, either book-bound or wire-bound. I will do another demo tomorrow, Saturday March 2nd at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz.


See the for more info on this excellent line of sketchbooks.

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