I'm in the Peninsula Art League show!

I'm super happy to say two of my paintings are in the Peninsula Art League show! It's the first time I've been actively entering my art into shows and the first time I've been in one since 2015. Too bad that like many art shows this year, this show is online only. Would have enjoyed looking at all the wonderful art in person.

Mackey Creek 11x14 Acrylic

Both of these paintings are studio paintings, developed from plein air studies, done on location. It was actually a fairly productive summer of painting. Because of COVID, I did most of my plein air work from locations closer to home than usual. That allowed me to quite a few nice parks and short hikes around the area. I feel blessed to live in such a picturesque part of the world.

Larsen Lake 11x14 Acrylic

Check out the full collection of artworks at the Peninsula art League show!

Head Studies with the Zorn Palette

In the last week or so, I've been trying out a couple of new things -- using water mixable oils, and using the Zorn palette for portrait painting. I've always wanted to try out water mixable oils after hearing about them from other artists, and when it came time to order more titanium white oil paints, I decided to get a water soluble oil version, plus a limited palette for trying it out.

The paints I got were from the Cobra brand by Royal Talens, but other manufacturers make them also, like Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith.

I decided to get the colors in the Zorn palette, since it's a classic limited palette for painting portraits. The Zorn palette. Named after the Swedish artist Anders Zorn, the colors are traditionally lead white, vermillion, yellow ochre, and ivory black. I used Titanium White, Pyrrole Red, Yellow Ochre, and Ivory Black. Lead white and vermillion (a mercury based pigment) are toxic, and aren't readily available, so I replaced them with safer, modern pigments.

Limited palettes are really useful to force a certain color harmony by limiting your color gamut -- that is, the range of colors that you can make. Since the Zorn palette has no blue, you can't really make greens; the best you can do is a greenish gray by mixing the black and yellow ochre. You can also only get some muted purples. So essentially you can only get colors with intense chroma in the red family. Here's a sense of the range of colors you can mix:

It turns out that limiting the colors was quite helpful to me, because I didn't have to think too much about color mixing, and instead got to focus more on values and drawing accuracy for my head studies. I used reference images from New Master's Academy, where I am taking a drawing course. Here's the results:

The water mixable oils feel just like oil paints when straight out of the tube, but they do feel less and less like oils as you add water to them. You can get mediums specifically made for water mixable oils as well, to keep the experience more consistent. Also, I believe you can mix regular oil paints and mediums with water soluble oils, except you will lose the water soluble properties of the paint. 

Since I can use water for thinning the paint, I don't have to use solvents, even to do those washy under paintings that a lot of artists like to do. Cleanup is a breeze, I can quickly clean the brushes with just soap and water. I really like this medium, I think I'm basically going to replace my oil paints with water mixable oils over time, as the old tubes run out.


Larsen Lake

Last week I set up my easel at Larsen Lake. It's by a blueberry farm, near a Walmart. It's really a blessing to be able to visit a nice park, or nature area just a few minutes drive from where I live. 

Larsen Lake 11x14 acrylic

This is actually a painting done in the studio, based on my plein air study. Here's what it looks like when I was painting on site:

While I was painting, I met an old colleague jogging past! It turns out he lives close by the lake. We had a socially distanced chat, and he took a picture of me.

What a weird time to be alive. Staying at least 6 feet apart while chatting with a friend, and wearing a mask wherever I go. Glad I'm still able to paint outdoors tho!

Eric Falls, and gets up again

I am attending Plein Air Live, a virtual painting conference. At the end of each day of the conference, we are invited to paint something from a video. In this case, it is a waterfall in the Adirondacks. I was inspired to use a limited palette for this painting, which was just red oxide, yellow oxide, ultramarine blue, and white. The nice thing about this color scheme is that these pigments are cheap! I don't hesitate to put globs of it on the palette.

Eric Rhoads, the publisher of Plein Air Magazine was telling this story of how he was painting on location by these falls, and he slipped and fell, and was knocked unconscious for a few hours! Thankfully he regained consciousness and was able to get home.

Plein Air Painting in Acrylics: My Equipment and Materials

I love painting outdoors. I love seeing the actual landscape I'm trying to paint in front of me, I love feeling like I'm immersed in the same reality as the things I'm painting.

When I paint en plein air, I typically use acrylics as my painting medium. There are many advantages to painting outdoors with acrylics:
  • It dries quicky, so I don't typically have to bring a separate wet painting carrier. 
  • Acrylic painting is free of toxic solvents. Acrylics are water based, so I just carry an extra water bottle.
  • I don't have to worry about oily rag disposal, acrylic painting rags go in the trash, and that's it.
  • Wide variety of support materials, you can paint on paper, or canvas, or pretty much every kind of panel.
One thing about plein air painters, we love to talk about our materials and equipment, there is a ton of stuff out there that you can use for painting outdoors. I've been doing plein air paintings for several years now, and I have mostly settled on my materials. Here they are in case you are curious:


I have quite the collection of outdoor painting easels! When I was starting out, I used a cheap aluminun tripod easel. It works ok, but I don't really like holding my palette in my hand while painting. So I looked into a lot of different pochade boxes. A pochade box is basically a painting box, the lid acts as an easel, and the container can be used as a palette. The two I use most often are a strada mini easel. And a 6x8 Guerilla Box.  I really like the Strada mini, but it is a bit pricey, and somewhat heavier than I expected (tho still pretty light). The guerilla box is cheaper, lighter and more compact, but has less space for your palette, and also the size of your paintings is going to be limited to the size of the box.

If you get this box, I recommend you also get a hook to hang your water bucket,  and the tripod mounting kit. Speaking of tripods, you need one to attach your box to. I've been using a compact tripod, that folds small enough to fit in my backpack.


Acrylics is nice in that you can use it on a lot of different materials. I've been partial to these carton painting panels, and also these Canson plein air art boards. I really like the carton panels for being brown in color, so the surface is toned from the get go. I've also used canvas panels, watercolor paper, gessobord, etc. The one thing I actually don't like for plein air painting is a traditional canvas. When outdoors, light can leak from the back of the canvas, which makes things really difficult.

Also, if you're using canvas or canvas panels, make sure to not use oil primed canvases, acrylics tend to not stick on them very well.


I'm partial to the Liquitex Heavy Body paints. I most artist-grade acrylic paints are good, but what I like about the Liquotex paints are the paint tubes! The caps are large and easy to open, and if they slip off my hands, they are easy to find in the grass! Some brands have a much smaller cap that can be easy to lose, and sometimes difficult to twist open (I've taken to using pliers to do that). 

Painting outdoors, I use a split-primary palette, composed of:
I put the pigment code because for some of these colors, they may be called something else with other brands. I find I can use these colors to mix everything else. I usually mix a green when I lay out my palette with the phthalo blue, yellow, and a little bit of red. I try to not use any paints that have heavy metals (like Cadmium), just to be extra careful.


In the past I've been using these Princeton Catalyst Polytip brushes; but I found the ends of these brushed get frayed a bit quickly. I've been trying out these Silver Bristlon brushes as the old brushes wear out, and so far they've been pretty good. I use a variety of sizes, and mostly flat brushes.

I also use a palette knife for mixing paint, and occasionally applying paint as well.

Other Items

I have a little foldable bucket for water, which has worked without problems for me for years. But after buying extra ones as backup, they would start leaking after a few of uses, so I don't know if I can recommend them. A traditional brush washer might work better.

Although you can usually use the surface of your pochade box as a palette, I use grey toned palette paper instead. I cut several sheets of paper to the size of the pochade box, and staple them together.

I also carry paper towels for wiping my brushes, and a plastic bag to stuff the dirty paper towels. I used to carry a little spritzer to periodically wet my painting and palette, to help keep the paint from drying out too quickly. But lately, I've just learned to accept the quick drying nature of acrylic paints.

I usually bring a sketchbook, and a pen for sketching thumbnails, and general sketching.

Also, a hat, some sunscreen, a packed lunch and water are always a good idea :). Happy painting!

Note: if you buy items through the Amazon links above, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Favorite Paintings 2019: Figures

I kind of think of myself as a landscape painter. But actually looking back at last year’s body of work,  I have done a lot of paintings with figures in them as well, these are my favorites. First is a painting from a hike to Gothic Basin in the North Cascades. That turned out to be a very grueling and difficult one for me, haha. But my friends and I some show powered through it.

North Cascades Hike

The next one is a painting from Plein Air Washington Artists annual paint-in; we usually start and cap the painting season with an indoor painting session and pot luck. It’s always enjoyable to reconnect with old friends and meet new members. We had a set up this time with multiple models sitting together, which is great for me since I rarely have the opportunity to paint 2 models at the same time.

Table For Two

Finally, this one is dear to me, because it was my 100th painting of the year! It is even more special because I did this back in my hometown where I haven’t visited in 10 years; of a scene that brought back so many childhood memories of celebrating the New Year traveling to that same beach. I painted this using some student-grade acrylics from my dad’s painting supply stash. 

Beach Walk

Anyway, that’s it, my favorite paintings of 2019. I think the paintings I really liked from last year not only have some technical aspects that I’m pleased with, but also are special in the context that I’ve painted them in. 

I have been painting in 2020 as well, tho not at the same rate as last year, haha. I’ll share some of this year’s paintings soon.

Favorite Paintings 2019: Republic

Going to Republic Washington Was the best painting trip of 2019. One benefit of joining a painting group is that you get to travel to places that you might not have thought to go to if painting by yourself. The small town of Republic is north and somewhat geographically center of the state of Washington. 

The hilly landscape is different from the rain soaked coniferous forests of the Puget Sound, but also different from the arid vistas of Eastern Washington.

I had such a great time painting there, I hope I could go back again. I even sold a painting! I never got to take a good picture of it, but here it is:

The people in Republic were nice and welcoming. One of the highlights was meeting this guy who was riding a mustang that he caught and then raised himself! A real life cowboy.

 When things get back to normal, a painting trip is definitely in the cards for me.