Announcing “Wet-in-Wet Blooms” — a new online course

The first time I saw a demonstration of wet-in-wet watercolour was at an Ed Whitney workshop in Kennebunkport, Maine. After doing a quick pencil drawing on watercolour paper, the great master dipped a natural sponge in water, soaked both sides of his paper, and then rolled a squeezed sponge over the surface to remove the excess water. I was in awe that anyone could paint on paper that was that wet. But of course he painted something wonderful that day, and every other day, for that week. And I was hooked!

Over the years, I’ve painted many watercolours using Mr. Whitney’s technique, and happily, I’ve finally created a new online course “Wet-in-Wet Blooms” where I demonstrate how it’s done. It does take a bit of practice to get control of this damp paper but once you do, you’ll understand why I love it. In Ed’s words, “The wet method is the most forthright subscription to the nature of watercolor. It gives the medium a greater chance to obey its own laws, achieving lovelier effects than you can paint“.

If you’re curious, have a look at the trailer. The course is available at a special rate of $30 US or $42 CDN for this week only, and after Sunday, it goes up to $35 and $47.

Tom’s Burned Down Cafe

I’m posting Madeline Island sketches in reverse order. This is actually the last one I did, but I haven’t had any time at all to scan this week, and I had a photo of this one. On the last morning before saying our goodbyes, the whole group of us (students and instructors) spent a final few hours together in the town of La Pointe. People sketched all sorts of things (boats, motorcycles, storefronts) but I had to get in one last one of Tom’s Burned Down Cafe. It was my location when I taught last year, so it was a reunion of sorts with the big white tarps, the jumble of crazy signs, and the assorted flags. It’s my favourite subject on the island. Sketched on a block of Hahnemuhle The Collection Watercolour paper.

Eagle’s Nest Rock and travelling light

I’m just back from a spectacular week of teaching on Madeline Island with Uma, Jim and Paul, but before I post any of my sketches, I thought I’d report back on travelling light.

I was pretty determined to travel for the week with carry-on luggage only. So many people wrote to me with suggestions and ideas. Thanks for that! I know a week is not a long time but when I teach I like to carry a lot of art supplies with me, and I appreciated the advice.

I’m happy to report that I was successful in reducing my load, and even happier to report that at the end of the week I sauntered out of the airport in Montreal with all my belongings, and breezed past hundreds and hundreds of lost bags that have been accumulating there over the past few weeks.

Full disclosure: I did have one extra bag for the week. My friend drove to Madeline Island from Montreal, and she offered to bring some of my completed sketchbooks so that I could participate in an evening exhibition with the other instructors. Merci Nathalie!!! I would not have been able to bring those with me in my small suitcase.

Travelling with tubes of paint

People often ask me if you can bring tubes of paint in your carry-on luggage. I tested this out and yes, in North America you can, as long as you follow the 3-1-1 rule. All your liquids and gels need to be in a clear bag that is not bigger than one quart, you can only have one of those quart bags, and no single tube of liquid or gel can contain more than 3.4 oz or 100 ml of liquids. I brought along a tube of Titanium White watercolour and am happy to report that it did not trigger any alarms at security. After all, what’s the difference between that and a travel-sized tube of toothpaste?

Art Supplies

I carried one A4 sketchbook, and two pads of paper with me. That was plenty for the week. In fact, it was too much. I also filled two travel palettes, and that turned out to be sufficient, although we did have some paint from our sponsors Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton, so I might have refilled a few wells of blue after two days of painting. All of my brushes, pens, pencils and erasers were in my Maxpedition bag, and the only other item was my lap easel from Stablo.France.

The lap easel is wonderfully light for travel, but after this workshop, I realize that I will have to bring along a tripod easel for teaching. I think students get a better view of the demo when it’s on an easel. Plus, the next time a deer fly bites me right through my socks, my sketch and my art supplies won’t end up in the dirt.

And since I can’t resist adding one image to my post, here’s a sketch I did of Eagle’s Nest Rock (reproduction quality is poor), at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island.

Boat Launch

It’s still testing week for me. I packed the new and improved version of my travel sketch kit, and unpacked it at the Beaconsfield Yacht Club. I worked from my folding chair, with my Stablo Easel on my lap.

The lap easel is great. I clipped a pad of watercolour paper to it, and the only issue I had is that when I angle it too much, or over-fill the cup, the water spills out a bit onto my feet. But that is a minor issue than I can overcome if I pay attention to it. A while ago I put out a video about my plein air sketching tools. Recently I added a new demo about working while seated. In the video, I show the Stablo easel, as well as using a piece of Coroplast to attach your gear to. If you’re interested, have a look.

What’s in the bag

Thank you to everyone who responded in the comments from yesterday’s post. So many great suggestions!! I feel encouraged by all of you who are successful at travelling with carry-on bags, and it’s making me feel hopeful than I can travel light too!

I started the process last night by filling my travel palettes. I could probably bring some tubes of paint but this will last at least a week, if not more. On the left is my regular FOME palette, on the right is the Folio palette from Art Toolkit.

My very favourite recent addition to my kit is this bag from Maxpedition. It’s the Beefy Pocket Organizer. One of the students in my class in Santa Fe had one, and since it seemed to fit so much stuff in it, I bought one last month. This one bag replaces a bunch of pencil cases and pouches that I used to use. It’s a little over 6″ x 8″, and you can jam it FULL of stuff. I’ve been using it for the last month and it’s super practical.

Here it is, open, with all my pens, pencils, brushes and other assorted stuff. Those elastics are amazing. You can just keep adding things to the bag. I have a tiny spray bottle in there, my kneaded rubber eraser, a viewfinder, a ruler and there’s still room for more. And it feels very satisfying when I open it up because I can see all my tools of the trade at a glance.

And since it’s quite deep, I can add my two palettes in there before I close it.

One thing I have trouble with is reducing the number of travel brushes I carry. Good thing they don’t take up much space. I have an assortment of Da Vinci and Rosemary ones, in all shapes and sizes. Once a brush addict, always a brush addict, but I do acknowledge that I have a problem.

I will also bring along my mechanical pencil, extra leads, a few Pitt pens and my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen.

Also in my bag will be a lap easel from Stablo, a few pads of watercolour paper, my Etchr Perfect Sketchbook, a water container and a cup. Oh, and a few bulldog clips which I forgot to photograph. You can’t manage without those!

This trip will be a test to see if I can paint and teach without a bulky easel. I will report back when I return! Wish me luck!!

Just in case

This week I’m testing out a new way of painting and sketching on location. The reason? Out of necessity, I need to reduce the gear I carry when I travel. If you’ve been reading the news, you’ve probably seen all the reports about cancelled flights, lost bags and irate travellers. It’s happening everywhere. I don’t want to be part of that statistic, at least the part I can avoid, which is the lost bag part.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to experiment with carry-on luggage only. Yikes. That’s not easy for me to do. I am a poor packer. I take twice as much as I need, always. Just in case.

But these days, checking bags is risky. I can’t take the chance of arriving at a workshop with no art supplies, or no change of clothing. So I’m trying to eliminate my bulky easel, a bunch of paint tubes, and the six types of sketchbooks that I bring along, just in case.

This is not an easy process for me. I am fairly certain that when I arrive at my destination I will need that one thing that I left at home. But I am going to persevere.

My first test this week was to see if I could paint a quarter sheet watercolour with no easel.

I brought along my super lite chair from REI. It weighs only one pound and I can set it up in under a minute. I painted the water scene at Parc des Rapides in Lasalle, while seated, with my paper taped to a Coroplast board, and my palette on my side, à la Brenda Swenson. It worked just fine, and I never fell off my chair into the water, not even once. It was a promising start.

In tomorrow’s post: the rest of the equipment I will bring in my carry-on.


On the weekend we took a drive to Pointe des Cascades so I could sketch the falling water in the abandoned locks at the Soulanges Canal. The only problem is, there’s hardly any falling water anymore. It’s barely a trickle. Here’s how it looked in 2020, and here’s how it was in 2015. What a disappointment. But it was still beautiful to sit at this very special spot by the water. The combination of decaying beams, rusted metal and still water is still a very compelling scene, and one of my all-time favourite places to sketch.

I did a second sketch looking across the canal at some sunlight hitting a concrete ledge. I’ll be painting scenes like this one next week when I teach at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island, so this was good practice.

I also spent a few hours yesterday at the Beaconsfield Yacht Club. There’s a shady spot that I like, with a high viewpoint on the boats. I wish I could provide a sound clip to go with the sketch because the clanking of the masts in the wind was like a symphony of chimes.

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!! I haven’t been out to do any location sketching in many moons and boy do I feel rusty! It took ages to get my drawing hand moving today. On this grey and humid day, I went to Pointe Claire, to my favourite spot by the water, and as always when I haven’t been out in a while, I started with something I know well. The idea was to draw a scene with a little bit of history on the 153rd birthday of this country.

It was pretty sad to see that the windmill looks so neglected. Two blades were damaged in a storm in 2019, and they still have not been rebuilt. It also doesn’t help that the ash tree behind the mill is dead, giving the whole scene a bit of a sad feel (my colours reflect that!). But I was still glad I got out there and it was nice to see lots of people stopping to watch the sailboats on the lake.

Also on Canada Day: my new print shop is live!

I’m happy to announce that my new print shop has just gone live! To make it all happen, and to satisfy my admittedly finicky standards, I partnered with one of the most respected fine art printers in the UK.

I ordered a few test prints and I’m happy to report that the quality that’s arrived at my front door was beyond expectation.

The prints are on archival-quality, 100% cotton Hahnemühle German Etching Paper — a heavy stock with a warm cast and strong texture that’s ideal for watercolour. The colour, line and detail more than rival the original.

Two sizes, limited editions, plus free shipping

Working with my production partner, I’ve made each image available in two sizes, which you can preview online. You can choose from an initial run of twelve images, and I’ll be introducing new editions from my archive as time goes by.

Note that each print is a limited edition and is individually numbered, signed and accompanied with a certificate of authenticity. Best of all, worldwide shipping is free from my partner’s UK or Germany studios. And each shipment is sustainably packaged and carbon neutral, end-to-end. Have a look at the initial run of 12 images. And have a great weekend wherever you are, whether you are celebrating Canada Day, Fourth of July, or simply the start of summer.

Sunday at the pond

After all the rain in Montreal, there’s a heat wave to keep us complaining. Walking outside is like entering a steamy sauna. I found a bit of shade and a cool breeze near the lake, and set up at the pond outside the Baie d’Urfe Town Hall. The pond is actually covered in some sort of tree pollen but I took a little artistic license and left it out. As prep for teaching at Madeline Island in a few weeks, I’m practicing water and reflections. My workshop is called Red Rocks and Emerald Waves: Capturing the Rugged Shores of Madeline Island. There were no red rocks at the pond, and the water wasn’t really emerald, but it was close enough. And there was a big fat frog under one of the lily pads. Painted in direct watercolour (no pencil or pen) in an Etchr Perfect Sketchbook.

Stuff on my desk

During my Zoom call with Suhita this week, I did a sort of mindless drawing with my Kakimori brass nib dip pen while we chatted. Turns out Suhita was drawing with the same pen. I hadn’t really planned what I was going to draw during our call, but that pen, a sketchbook, and a bottle of ink, are always on my desk. They’re there in case I catch Alice in a good pose after a walk, or if I am on endless hold with tech support for something or other (usually the phone company!), or if I just need to take a break from doing stuff on my computer for a bit.

Here’s another one from a day when Alice had come in from a walk and I needed a work break too.