Vermont Lake

We’ve gone up to Vermont to close up our cottage, which has no insulation  or central heat, and (at 35 miles from Canada) gets a bit nippy at this time of year. I’ve painted this view of the Caspian Lake from our porch a dozen times, but I really like this one I did in August.

Fast or Slow?

Last Saturday a dozen painters, members of the Newton Watercolor Society, sat on the banks of the Charles River trying to capture the scene. For over an hour I labored over a painting which turned out less than mediocre. Finally, in frustration, I dropped the painting on the ground and picked up my sketchbook. This took only ten minutes, and it’s not great, but I like it a lot better. Sometimes we try too hard.


The center of interest in a painting — in this case, the watering can — is often painted with crisp edges, and the background (flowers) have a soft focus. This simulates the way human eye sees. In watercolor, hard edges are painted on dry paper and soft edges on wet paper.

Lake Winnipesaukee

For 30 years, we’ve spent the week before Labor Day at Sandy Island Family Camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Everyone has their own little simple cabin — no heat, a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, a short walk to the bathroom. There are two big buildings, the Lodge, and this Dining Hall. We love Sandy Island!

Mountains and Lakes

Bostonians are roughly divided between those who, on vacation, head for the ocean (often Cape Cod) and those who head for the mountains and lakes (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, the Berkshires). We are among the latter category. To me there is nothing more peaceful than staring across a lake at the distant hills.

I’m taking the rest of August “off” from posting new paintings, and am posting some of my favorites from my archives. All were painted of Vermont and New Hampshire.


Many people spend a lot of time waiting at airports. It’s more interesting if you have a pencil and paper in your hand. You can make a variety of darks and lights with a simple office pencil, rubbed with a kleenex for shading.

The Mile High City

I’ve often wondered what people mean by “the big sky”. When we flew out of the Denver airport returning from our trip to Colorado, I took this photo out the huge windows at the airport, then did the sketch on the plane. It’s the kind of landscape that, as a resident of the East Coast most of my life, I feel unfamiliar with. No hills, no trees, flat and visible as far as the eye can see. A very different perspective.

Colorado Rockies

As we drove back from Crested Butte to Denver to fly home, the views were spectacular. Here is my final attempt to catch the beauty of the receding ranges of mountains. (Watercolor, Moleskine watercolor notebook, Carbon Ink Pen, white UniBall pen.)


Charley was one of the world’s great family dogs. He was a best pal to our kids, particularly our two sons, when they were growing up. Even though he’s gone to the great doghouse in the sky, we often talk about him. He’s a quick sketch I did of him when he was with us. His tail illustrates the problem with working in spiral sketchbooks!



We are in Colorado for ten days, visiting family and enjoying the beautiful Rocky Mountains. What a gorgeous state! It’s tricky conveying the receding layers of mountains, with snow on the highest and farthest peaks. Here’s my fourth try.

Chicago Skyline

When I went with our daughter Kate two weeks ago to Chicago so she could promote her new book Following the Red Bird at the ALA Book Convention, we had an afternoon to sightsee. Everyone advised us to take the Architecture Boat Cruise down the Chicago River. The city is rightly proud of its incredibly architected skyscrapers, in a vast variety of colors and designs.

Telephone Lines

Telephone poles are fascinating. All those cables and loops and little boxes that somehow make our phones, electricity, internet and TV work — amazing! Drawing is a sort of meditation because you are really paying attention to something you usually only glance at.

The Red Bird

Our daughter Kate’s debut memoir about her faith journey, “Following the Red Bird” officially launched last week! Foreword Reviews wrote a beautiful review here:  The book is for sale on Amazon and from other online sellers or you can order from your local bookstore. You can also read more on her website: Kate and I are in Chicago at the ALA book convention, where she is signing her new book!


Saturday is the last day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Muslims (3 million in the US, 1.6 billion worldwide) fast from food and drink (even water) from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. In all three Abrahamic monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), believers fast to strengthen their faith and connect better to God. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with making a declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving generously to the poor, and once in one’s lifetime making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This sketch is of Muslims bowing in prayer in Mecca.

Road Work

Scenes like this have always fascinated me. Maybe it’s the mixture of machines and men, maybe it’s a day-glo vests. This was hard to sketch on location, so I snapped a photo and did the sketch when I got home. 

Hundreds of Greens

When you look outside today, you’re probably seeing many different shades of green. How to portray those in a painting? In watercolor, you either start with a green like viridian or sap green, or with a yellow and a blue. You add different amounts of water and perhaps other pigments. You can either mix them on the palette or let them mix on the paper. Here’s a practice sheet of mine.


People ask me how I find time to paint. I try to make it a priority, but sometimes I don’t have time, or am uninspired, or (as this week) what I do paint isn’t good enough to share with you. Fortunately, I have older paintings I can use when that happens. This one was painted a year ago of the rhododendrons in our front yard.

Winston Churchill

Did you know Winston Churchill loved to paint? Prince Charles has published two books on watercolor. Painting is a common activity in Great Britain, and if you go into a bookstore, the section on watercolors is nearly as large as the section on gardening.


I am so grateful to share my sketches with you, because it keeps me painting! On Saturday I took a walk to find something to draw. Our neighbors have a wonderful stand of irises so I sat down on their grass and sketched them. The paint was added when I got home.

Tree on Yellow and Orange

Last Saturday at the Public Garden I sat near a beautiful copper beech tree. Looking through my sketchbook there was a page I had previously painted yellow and orange. Superimposing this sketch of the tree, I used the thick and thin end of the brush pen for the trunk and foliage.

Swan Boats on the Boston Garden

On Saturday I had the most heavenly afternoon on the Boston Common sketching. It was a glorious day. An Asian couple, complete with wedding party, were getting married; a Muslim family were picnicking; kids were playing frisbee. A wonderful scene.

My #1 sadness about the art I see is that so often artists are intimidated about including people, and often paintings are rich in architecture and other features but totally depopulated. Sketching people, as long as you’re not aiming for a portrait, is not hard. Note here the squiggles and dots of color which somehow say enough.

Swan on the River

Swans began populating the Charles River near our house about a dozen years ago. This one kindly posed for me as I sat on a bench next to the river last weekend.

A number of people have asked about buying my paintings. I’ve been hesitant about this, because my motivation is to share my love of art, and I don’t want anyone to think they need to buy anything. But if you would like a print of my paintings, including any from the past, let me know. Sketches, like this one and most of what I post: 8 x 10s are $35, 11 x 14s are $50,(+$5 S & H per order); all are matted and fit standard frames. Add $25 for finished paintings, like “Apple Tree” on May 10th.  Many originals are also available for $50-$150, depending on size. If you haven’t been to my website, take a look at; the homepage has all these emails in a rolling blog.

My First Love

How do you spend your evenings? For several months I’ve been seduced by Amazon Prime and Netflix. Now I’m going back to my first, and much more dependable love: reading. Like many avid readers, bookstores and libraries are some of my favorite places on earth. I did this sketch on Saturday at the Watertown Public Library, which is an wonderfully architected blend of the old and new parts of the building. There is a pink dogwood tree in full bloom outside the windows.

Crabapple, and thank you!

It’s been slow this year, but spring is finally coming to New England. Today the first hummingbirds, both a male and a female, appeared at our feeder! Here is a branch from our neighbor’s crabapple tree.

Thanks to the generous friends and neighbors who donated to my successful 37th Walk for Hunger yesterday! One lesson that is reinforced for me every year is how one person + one person + one person etc. really adds up. Each year friends and neighbors give me $25, $50, $100 each for the Walk. It doesn’t seem that much by itself, but yesterday I raised $5,000! Thanks for putting a spring in my step and food on table for many hungry families!

Filling those extra minutes ….

I hate being bored. Whenever we fly anywhere, Bruce teases me because my carry-on is filled with more than I could ever accomplish in a short flight — a book, iPad, sketchbook, and more.

So when I was in NYC last week and went to the Guggenheim, and found that I had to wait in line, I just pulled out my sketchbook and Pentel brush pens. I was happy while everyone around me was impatient. Seven minutes later when the line moved, I was left with a loose sketch and a memento.

Continue reading “Filling those extra minutes ….”