I was going to be on my own for an hour while waiting for an event. I didn’t know what I’d find in this recently opened park but I was prepared to paint plein air, even though the weather seemed iffy. The park itself is essentially a series of city-block-sized, flat-topped artificial “hills” on whose cambered sides is planted what they’re calling a “sea of flowers.” On top are a few bits of sports-themed topiary and some cartoon characters. The current blooms were muted, and the square hills looked more like bunkers to me. I walked the perimeter. I climbed up top again and looked around. Really? Was my imagination so dull that I could find nothing to paint?
Ten kilometers away, however, winds from the northeast were driving heavy clouds across the Tatun Group, a cluster of volcanic peaks that tops out at 1,120 meters (3,675 feet). Glad to be in the rain shadow, I sat on the grass and watched great curls of mist roll down from the summits. After awhile, I pulled out my DIY Inktense Plein Air kit for a couple of small studies. The Arches rough watercolor paper doesn’t like to be scrubbed, so I worked it as little as possible. Quick though they were, these are among my more successful attempts at painting this kind of weather with the Derwent Inktense ink blocks.
A friend has graciously invited us to stay in her house in California’s famed Napa Valley. Every morning, we awaken to a beautiful dawn. On any given day, we might see low clouds, patchy fog, or a bright blue sky. The clouds are usually long gone by noon, and the midday heat is a bit easier to take when one can sit inside where it’s cooler, and look out the large windows. Evenings can be brisk and breezy. A couple of times, we even built a fire in the fire pit so we could sit outside and watch the stars appear.
The backyard here is actually a small vineyard surrounded by classic Napa trees: pines, redwoods, oaks, maples and eucalyptus. I’m nursing a bad case of poison oak just now, but I can still paint, and I’m grateful for this marvelous view! This painting was a very quick study, focusing on shadows and capturing the various greens.
Derwent Inktense on Arches rough 100% rag paper
5.9×8.75”/15x22cm – plein air
Four of us went for a walk on Poplar Beach, south of Half Moon Bay. All told, we had 10 legs. I saw this gully and went over there to do some painting. That left 8 legs to keep going. Sometime later, Ping turned around, leaving 6 legs to continue onward. Shya has 2 legs and Ellie has 4. Guess who went the farthest?
In any case, I was happy to sit on the sand and paint the crumbling cliffs. The coastal pines rimmed the skyline. A little breeze shifted the sand. I got lost in the painting, and suddenly it was time to get back before the parking meter expired.
As is so often the case, I had to run back to where everyone else would be waiting for me. This time, I was barefoot, though, holding my sandals.
When I caught up with my wife, we realized we were still 6 legs short. Plus, two of those legs had the key to the four wheels. Okay, yes: technically it’s five, if you include the steering wheel.
But who’s counting?
Anyway, here’s the informal picture of the finished painting. I did some details after we got home.
The others had gone for a walk while I had to wrap up some other business, but I still had an hour and a half before lunch. I left the apartment where we’re staying in San Francisco, and headed out to the waterfront again. I wanted to see the Coit Tower again. When my wife Ping and I first visited San Francisco several years ago, we hiked up to the tower, and, just a couple of days ago, our friend Shya took us up there for a view of the city.
You can see the tower from several places on the waterfront, but it’s not particularly close. I found a decent spot by the Exploratorium where I had a clear view of it. The wind blew strongly enough that I wondered if I would lose one of the water brush covers! The ink dried very fast, but I was able to get a pretty good likeness of the tower in about half an hour.
Then I had to run back, so I wouldn’t be late for lunch!
The final image.
We’re spending some time in San Francisco with a good friend. The first day, we walked along the waterfront. I noticed a nice spot with a particular view of the Bay Bridge. When I had a chance, I went back down there with the newest iteration of my Inktense plein-air kit and found a seat on a big block of concrete, just to one side of Pier 24.
I was just starting to sketch in the basic layout on my Taiwanese “Fuang” watercolor paper when an Indian gentleman took an interest and sat down beside me to watch. I said hello, and we chatted while I was sketching.
“They just took your picture,” he told me, indicating a couple that had just passed by. “You’re world famous now!”
He was still with me when the sketch was done. As I brought out the Inktense kit and started painting with it, he told me proudly that his son does design work on computers. I enjoyed our chat.
“Okay, sir,” he said, as he stood up. “You have a good day.”
I definitely did. I hope he did, too.
From the old “Mickey Mouse” Inktense Plein-Air Kit to the new TOBOT!
I’ve been working with Derwent’s Inktense ink blocks for years now. They’ve become my go-to medium for painting plein-air and they’ve gone all around the world with me. Since I’m often traveling with a group, I have to paint quickly (when I have time at all), so I need gear that is light and compact, and that takes 60 seconds to set up or pack away again.
I designed the first kit to allow me to use the ink blocks like pan watercolors. The drawback to my first design (encasing each block in clay) was that I found it difficult to get at every last bit of the ink. The little corners were hard to reach with the brush.
Replacing the fully-embedded blocks proved risky, too. I had some trouble surgically removing the nearly-empty section and replacing it with a new one.
The main difference in Version 2.0 is that I am setting the blocks on EDGE, with half of the block exposed. This way, I don’t have to try to clean so many corners in order to use all the ink.
I’ve also eliminated a couple of colors I didn’t use (including White). I’ll keep you posted on how it works for me. Check out the video to watch me put this kit together from scratch.