Sketching Fail? Yes and No!

If you saw the video in this post, my remarks beg a simple question – “Did I fail?” Well, for me the answer is yes and no. Many who commented on YouTube were gracious and said they thought the building sketch turned out great. And while I appreciate that, there is a deeper teaching moment here. If you’ve watched my other videos, you’ve heard me say it before. “Embrace failure as a teacher.”

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The MoWC Goes Patreon

Hi Minders,

Its always been my goal (and dream) to eventually become a full-time YouTube creator for The Mind of Watercolor. Patreon is just one more avenue by which this may become a reality. I love how supportive all my viewers have been through their avid viewing and encouraging comments and its been even more humbling to see how many of you have asked how you can contribute further to my efforts. Patreon is a way in which I can now give my viewers that option but also a way I can be more interactive in the process.

Depending on the level of support there are many benefits that allow me to connect and share with you my viewers in new ways:

  • Get all the MoWC news first before anyone else
  • Higher priority comment/reply activity between me and my patrons on every post
  • Early preview posts of upcoming MoWC episodes
  • Exclusive tip and techniques posts
  • Exclusive video content
  • Photo reference and line art for practice

The Minder Patron community, I hope, will become a special community of participants who not only share my passion for watercolor painting but also want to grow with me and share a special place in their heart for this channel.

Thanks for considering your participation and no matter how you support The Mind of Watercolor, you are appreciated.


The Mind of Watercolor Launches

The Mind of Watercolor YouTube Channel has launched! Go check it out. I hope to create a community of watercolor enthusiasts where we learn more about this exciting and easy to use medium which also has a mind of its own and reputation for being unforgiving. I plan to share tips and techniques, review products, engage in challenges and perhaps have some contests and giveaways. It’ll be a blast.


June 6th Photo Shoot, “Don’t Shoot!”

I’m a bit of a photo bug and I’ve also directed quite a few professional photo shoots in my design career, so I can’t help thinking about what it would be like to be a combat photographer. Imagine being given this assignment: “Hey bud, wanna stroll along with the guys going to Omaha beach and snap a few pics for posterity’s sake? Americans would love it, whadya say?” Ok, maybe the D-Day assignment wasn’t given exactly that way, but even so, after clearing the lump in my throat, I would probably ask if I could just hang around the ship and get some shots of the guys coming and going. Not Frank Capa. He was not only up for the assignment, he requested going with the first wave to hit the beach. I can hear the other GIs joking, “hey Frank, don’t ya know that camera shoots film not bullets.” He knew! He took 106 photos but due to a lab snafu only 11 survived; the only photographic record we have of that treacherous assault. Amazing! 10 of the 11 appeared in Life magazine. This ethereal shot has always been one of my favorites.

D-Day landing shot by Frank Capahttp://$domain/ll.php?kk=11

Lightfastness – New Mediums, Old Problem


The explosion in new, and sometimes awesomely cool, paper-crafting supplies got me to thinking recently.

Manufacturers have apparently responded to a huge rise in interest with a steady stream of “cool stuff” for the paper-crafting big three – card making, scrapbooking and journaling; including new markers, inks, dyes, powders, mists, etc., etc. Any self respecting fine art painter (an area, I might add, where new things don’t come a long nearly as often) would be crazy not to occasionally cast a sideways glance at the craft market and say, “hmm, wonder what I could do with that in my painting?” Multimedia artists (some of which are also journalers) especially would seem to benefit. But wait, not so fast… or maybe I should say, not so LIGHT fast.

Chasing the Fugitive


Scrapbook and journaling suppliers in particular seem to have responded well to the archival needs involved. Acid free papers, adhesives and mediums abound but there is still a big gulf where fugitive colors are concerned. Paper crafters have the luxury of not needing to worry about this much. Exhibiting art and prolonged light exposure is likely low on their “caution” priority list. But with so many new alluring dye-based mediums surfacing, any artist hoping to hang or exhibit work needs to be very careful of the mediums they incorporate. Dye-base mediums are the absolute worst in terms of fugitive colors. Pigmented mediums in the craft market exist but there aren’t nearly so many as you might think. Many illustrators fluent in using Copic or Prismacolor markers are not new to the concern over dye-based mediums, even experienced studio and gallery artists may tell you first hand, its no fun to see your precious artwork vanish before your very eyes after hanging on a well-lit wall for a few years.

Without doing a ton of research (for which I have no time), I thought maybe it better to just point you to some good reads where the work has already been done, by people who know where of they speak. Yeah, I’m just lazy that way. So, if your art will ever be displayed, read on and think carefully (think pigmented and archival) before you go including that cool new set of watercolor markers, powders or sprays in your next painting.

Indepth Article on Lightfastness in Art Mediums

Good Basic Overview of the “Marker” Problem

Copic Q&A

Doing a Simple Lightfastness Test

Six-Part series by James Gurney

Lightfastness: Part 1 of 6

Lightfastness: Markers

Lightfastness and Dyes

Lightfastness in Pencils, Watercolors, and Oils

Lightfastness and Alizaring Crimson

Lightfastness: Final Thoughts

The Muster

Inspiration from Walnut Grove Plantation

One of my favorite re-enactment events in the Upstate, SC area is Festifall at Walnut Grove Plantation. To see more of this event I have a post with pictures here.

Many of the photos I take at these events eventually become reference for paintings. Here is one of my latest watercolor paintings entitled “The Muster” using reference from the Walnut Grove event. Enjoy.

The Muster

Roosevelt and Churchill watercolor

A Portrait of Two Leaders

Roosevelt and Churchill watercolor

A recent watercolor I did. This reflects several elements I wanted to play around with. First of all, I love to illustrate historical subjects and historical figures. My reference was a black and white photo taken of Roosevelt and Churchill at a summit meeting near the end of World War II. In this case I wasn’t fussy about likenesses. I focused more on technique and style. I wanted to reinterpret the scene in color but with a very limited pallet. I really love this approach and will definitely do more work from a limited pallet.

Watercolor Board

This was also my first time using Arches watercolor board. I’ve always been a fan of their watercolor paper but I absolutely loved this board. It’s essentially board-mounted Arches hot press watercolor paper. Some watercolor boards I’ve used have been worthless in that workability was a problem after a bit of scrubbing, lifting or heavy washing rendered parts of the surface practically useless. I haven’t fully tested the limits of the board yet and it will probably not have the working durability of say 300lb. paper but nevertheless I am duly impressed. It will most likely be a staple for me in the future.

Light Your Way to a Better Studio

Full Spectrum LightingAsk any studio artist who works with physical media on a daily basis (such as painters and sculptors) and they will tell you the ideal art studio will have skylights or large, north-facing windows or both. Why? Light of course, and its by far the best quality light – clean, white, illuminating objects so they reflect their true, natural colors. Studio artists are not alone. Visual design industries such as interior design, printing and photography for example have long known the benefits of natural light for judging, proofing and illuminating color.

Good news! Great light for everyone!

Assuming big, north-facing windows aren’t a possibility, studios obviously have to employ artificial light to illuminate their desk or work space. Full spectrum or natural daylight bulbs have been around for some time but they were often expensive, specialized bulbs and fixtures not readily available at the average local home store. Such is not the case anymore. With the advent of compact fluorescent bulbs, lighting manufacturers have given us an interesting array of choices, not the least of which are full-spectrum light bulbs that can be put in just about any lamp or fixture, and the best part?… the cost is now about the same as any standard bulb of the same design. Coolness!

These days full-spectrum lighting is easier to find and cheaper to buy than ever before!

Full spectrum light example and comparison
The picture speaks for itself. Full spectrum lighting yields a clean, bright, light that lets you see color and visuals accurately. A must for any studio artist.

The science of full-spectrum light and why you need it.

Without getting too overly nerdy about this, remember those elementary school experiments where sunlight from a window directed through a prism would project that little bar-like rainbow? Very simply put, all those color wavelengths are the components of full spectrum lighting. Full spectrum lighting is called such exactly because it includes such a wide array of light from the visible spectrum all combining to make it almost neutral in color. Light is characterized mainly by its color temperature  (expressed in Kelvin or the symbol K). This neutral, full-spectrum light falls around 5000-5500k on the Kelvin scale. Light below this level will be warm, like that trusty old soft-white incandescent bulb producing the yellowish light in your night stand lamp. It falls at about 2700k on the scale. The light of a daylight fluorescent bulb such as in a typical workshop or overhead garage fixture is above that neutral level falling at about 6500k on the scale and emits a colder light. If you’ve ever shot with a digital SLR camera and had to manually set the white balance you already know how different light temperature can be. The camera’s white balance must adjust to various light temperatures to render a pleasing, natural image. All that to say this. Studio lighting is at its best when its at a white-balanced light temperature of 5000-5500k, utilizing all of the visual spectrum to illuminate colors accurately… i.e. full-spectrum lighting. The benefits are clear, and these days its easier to find and cheaper to buy than ever before!

What we’re looking for in a studio lighting situation is a white-balanced light temperature of 5000-5500k, utilizing all of the visual spectrum to illuminate colors accurately… i.e. full-spectrum lighting.

The ultimate work light. Not just for artists.

Balanced, color-free lighting has more benefit than to just studio artists and other visual design disciplines. It can now be easily and affordably integrated into any area of the home, benefitting anyone wanting a well-illuminated work space where accurate color and bright, clean, white light is a plus. Consider, for example, mixing the light in living areas where main reading lights are full spectrum, but leaving the warmer glow of the soft white bulbs in peripheral accent lighting. Try switching out fluorescent cool white bulbs in overhead work shop or utility room fixtures, with full spectrum bulbs, adding a more pleasing, livelier, less cold light to the work space. Other great uses in the home might include children’s desks, hobby and crafting areas, or cooking areas. With today’s affordability and accessibility, trying full spectrum lighting just about anywhere is simple.

Buying. What you need to know.

While full-spectrum lighting is now more plentiful, accessible and affordable, finding the correct bulb is not always as easy as just finding the “Full-Spectrum” section on the light bulb aisle. Trust me, it doesn’t exist. It takes a little hunting and verifying. The descriptions and labels of various manufacturers are often misleading too, not necessarily meaning what you might think. The GE Reveal® line of bulbs is a good example. The Reveal description describes a clean, beautiful light that accurately enhances the colors in your home, so one might immediately think Reveal is a “full-spectrum” bulb. Not true by a long shot. Its still produces a very warm yellow light rated at 2500k. Woah!

Start with bulbs labeled “natural”, “daylight” or even “sunlight. Some bulbs may actually include “full spectrum” in their label or description. Then verify it by scanning the fine print. Almost every bulb maker will print the color temperature rating somewhere. Verify that your bulb is in the 5000k – 5500k range. If you can’t, don’t buy it. WARNING! – grow lights and aquarium lights are often full spectrum, but often include an extra ultraviolet component that makes the light look very bluish. Stay away from these bulbs unless you are indeed lighting an indoor garden or aquarium. Sometimes signage will help, for example, Lowe’s does a good job of including signage that aids the buyer with bulb choice. Regardless, get in the habit of double checking the light temperature rating on the package and you’ll be good to go.

The Poverty of Arrogance

child holding treasureWhy don’t people collect skills, knowledge and experience like rare artifacts? Why don’t they hunt for them like buried treasure? The smart ones do. I watched a sharpshooting competition on tv where two contestants were offered coaching by an expert before the final showdown. One contestant acted as though the instructor was an annoying child dabbling in things he didn’t understand. This particular competitor was a champion pistol shooter. Apparently he had gathered all the nuggets of wisdom and experience he wanted and was satisfied that he had found them all. This sort of arrogance amazes me!  I’ve learned things, important, valuable things, from people with half my years and experience. In the same way that one person searching a treasure site for a few minutes happens upon an incredible find where others searching for hours have found nothing. If a skill or certain knowledge is valuable, does it matter who or where it comes from?

What if, in our professional development, we acted more like collectors? What if, when we found a gem to add to our knowledge and experience, we became the wide-eyed child as we eagerly added it to our collection rather than grab at our wounded ego because we didn’t find it first. Arrogance can cost you plenty and you may not even realize what you’ve lost.

In your professional development, start collecting the skills you need like precious gems. Practice them. Add some more and practice those. Then find someone better than you and aim at their skill level, then do it all over again. Collect the knowledge needed to make that skill better, more polished, then add even more. Look for those little nuggets of skill and knowledge everywhere, like priceless treasure. Never stop collecting, even from unlikely people and places. Gain confidence from your collection but not arrogance. The difference can be costly.