Doug Condon

art blog and portfolio

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Packing for summer painting

As a teacher summer is my time to paint.  I will be traveling and painting which means I have to decide what to bring.  That means I have spent countless hours debating what medium to paint in, what supplies to pack, what do I want to accomplish on my trip.  Here is what made the cut his year:

Pictured above

  1. Two watercolor blocks, one cold press, one hot press.
  2. Paper towels.
  3. Sketchbook journals.  The top one is my always carry sketchbook.  The one below it is a travel sketchbook of location watercolors.  The little red book is a smaller sketchbook for quick paintings.
  4. A bottle of homemade brandy. (It’s a gift and also a good way to get over paintings that don’t come out)
  5. My large tin.  The top two rows are watercolors, the bottom two are gouache.
  6. Water sprayer.
  7. My small tin.  12 small gouache pans, I usually carry a tube of white gouache with it.
  8. Bottle for water.
  9. Jar for cleaning water.
  10. Small travel brush set, with a few extra small rounds.
  11. Gouache tubes.
  12. Sunscreen
  13. Brush pen, micron, mechanical pencil, fountain pen
  14. Fountain pen cartridges, kneaded eraser, black eraser and above a brush with internal water holder.
  15. An old fashioned folding ruler

What is not shown is the shoulder bag it all fits in, a emergency poncho, a hat, a knife for sharpening and a bottle of drinking water.

So compared to last time I was in Europe I went with gouache/watercolor over oils.  Why?  I don’t know, it just seemed right for this trip.  So wish me luck, I will be sharing my paintings as I do them here and on instagram!

Its called gouache.

I recently spent the day at a local art fair in Sunnyside showing my work.  A lot of people came by and looked at my paintings and asked what medium I used.  I had some oils, a few watercolors, some pen and ink drawings and a few gouache paintings.  Without fail people got confused when I said the word “gouache”.  I tried my best to explain that gouache is opaque watercolor.  I said that I have found gouache to be a more accessible medium to paint with as you can cover mistakes and work a painting far longer than watercolors.  I said how I hate using liquid friskets and how white gouache allows me to add highlights back into a painting, something watercolor doesn’t.  I was met with a lot of blank stares.  Eventually I gave up and just said they were all watercolors, it was easier than trying to explain the differences.

Being the art nerd that I am I went home and looked up the real definition of gouache:

gouache (ɡwäSH,ɡo͞oˈäSH)
noun, noun: gouache
  1. a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a gluelike substance.
    • opaque watercolor of the type used in gouache painting.
    • a picture painted using the gouache method.
      plural noun: gouaches
These days I have really moved away from watercolors and use gouache instead.  I prefer gouache so much so that I have replaced most of the pans in my sets with gouache.
The picture above is my beloved large set.  I took half the pans out and simplified the palette (that is a discussion for another day).  I then replaced the watercolor half pans with full pans of gouache.  I knew I wanted to use gouache in a way that I could rewet and use the dry paint, this was the best way I knew of.  It took some experimentation to find a good brand of gouache that would still be rich and workable when rewet, in the end I found the paints from  M. Graham to be both rich when used from the tube and when they were rewet.
I must admit I didn’t find out about gouache on my own.  Like most artists I learn from the work of others, in this case by the work of James Gurney.  If you have never seen his work or have never visited his site then you are doing yourself a disservice.  I think he is one of the greatest living artists of our time and he is just as good of a teacher.  His website is an endless vault of information about art, materials, techniques and so on.  I would urge any art lover to check it out.
For me, gouache is the ultimate medium since due to several factors:
1.  It is very transportable so there is never an excuse to not be able to paint.  I carry a small set of gouache everywhere I go and have done all sorts of quick plein airs and studies using them.
2.  Gouache more forgiving that watercolor.  You can always cover old mistakes with new paint.  This gives me a great deal of confidence in any painting, even something experimental, since I know I will be able to figure it out eventually.  I can’t say the same with watercolor where I have too often worked a painting beyond salvation while trying to make it better.
3.  Gouache dries matte and is very easy to photo.  This sounds like its not a big deal but as someone who loves gloss varnish but hates how hard it makes it to get a good photo of the painting it is a VERY big deal.
4.  Gouache is an old medium.  It has been used for hundreds of years even if it isn’t as widely known today.  Many many artists have used gouache including some of my favorites like Winslow Homer or Ernest Meissonier.
So I would urge any painter to give gouache a try.  If you are like me you might just find your newest favorite way to paint.

Its been too long

Its been over a year since I have posted anything.  That is embarrassing.

It would be a lot more embarrassing if I hadn’t been working on anything, luckily that hasn’t been the case.  I have plenty of new drawings and paintings to share and I hope to get everything updated within the next few days.

I also plan on doing a bit more frequent writing about art.  I love to talk about techniques, materials, composition, inspiration artists/artworks in real life, it could be fun to express some of that here.  Some of my students have also convinced me to create some tutorial videos, that could be a fun project to add here too.

So in short, thank you for stopping by, I hope to have more things coming in the near future to make you want to come back.

Very exciting stuff

I get quite a few emails art related emails a month based on people visiting this site. To be honest the majority are spam, I never knew that Nigerian Princes like my art so much.  (They say that if I send them my bank account they will send me money for paintings = EXCITING!)  Needless to say I don’t respond to the spam and it’s just a part of having my artwork online.

A few weeks ago I received an email that didn’t seem like the regular spam.  Someone from a group called Snow Sugar Video somehow found my work online and wanted to see if I was interested in participating in their ongoing project, short 1 minute videos to help promote local artists.  I decided to take a chance and respond and see if this was for real.  I am pleased to say it was for real and I am even more pleased to say that these are the three videos they created about me and my painting!

A very special thanks to Rumi and Linh from SnowSugar for taking the time to film and then edit me, my work and my crazy kids.

You can see these videos and the videos of other local artists either on the SnowSugar blog or on their YouTube Page.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

Busy out of view

I only just realized that my last post was at the beginning of the summer.  That is some pretty poor blog updating although I have been posting plenty of work on my twitter and instagram feeds.  So I haven’t been doing nothing since the summer, quite the opposite in fact!

I will be adding the plein air paintings from England I did this summer in the Landscape section soon.  I will also throw up a bunch of new study paintings in the Sketchbook section as well.

For now allow me to share the painting below which was completed this past Sunday:

GCA Portrait Class Week 1

I am very happy to be taking an Alla Prima Portrait Sketch class at the Grand Central Atelier for the next few weeks.  I can honestly say that I was terrified at the thought of working from a live model again since the last time I had done so was in college and I was terrible at it.  The first twenty minute pose was filled with self doubt and frustration but eventually I calmed down and got into the painting.  I spent most of the time working only in umber and really focusing on the drawing and getting a good likeness.  That cost me working in color until only the last twenty minutes but in the end I was pleased with the result.  Next week I need to jump into color faster and not hide out working only monochromatically for so long.  Already the class has taught me a lot and has really challenged some of the lessons drilled into me so many years ago.  I am very excited for the next session!

Schools out for Summer!

I am very happy to day that the school year has ended and I am now on vacation!  For all the frustrations of being a NYC public school teacher I have to say that having a summer off with my family makes up for it.  So the first order of business for a teacher who is thrilled to be off from school is a no brain-er, I took a class!

I have always wanted to take a class or workshop at the Grand Central Atelier so when I saw that awesome landscape painter Emilie Lee was offering a weekend workshop in Central Park I jumped at the chance to take it.  Although the weather was spotty with rain the workshop was excellent.  The opportunity to watch Emilie’s demo paintings was worth the price of admission alone but her helpful eye made the experience even better as she pointed out some problem areas in my painting to focus on.  The biggest point I have taken from the weekend is to slow down my painting.  I know that I have a bad habit of trying to work fast to maximize the limited time I have to paint and for this weekend I really tried to put on the brakes.  Honestly I started painting so slowly that I struggled to finish an entire painting so my first day’s effort will need some at home work to complete it.

Here is a picture of day one by the Untermyer Fountain, Central Park:

IMG_2882Here is a picture from day twos painting of Bethesda Fountain, Central Park:


This has been an awesome start to summer and I am really excited to focus on my oils while in England.  More new work to come!

The highs and lows of a painter.

One of my favorite things to do it to take my watercolors outside and do some plein air painting.  It can be extremely frustrating, rewarding, educational and depressing all at the same time.  Trying to capture life in the moment is really hard but, when successful, there is really nothing that can compare to the experience.  Painting the outdoors in watercolor has really taught me so much.   My understanding of the medium improved which in turn improved my studio work.  As much as I love watercolor I have also found myself drawn to a lot of the plein air oil paintings that I have come across.  I am a big fan of Plein Air Magazine and of the caliber of artist represented in it.  Being an ambitious kind of guy I decided that I would focus this summer on my plein air oil painting and less on my watercolors.

When it comes to outdoor oils, my trusty French Easel is very strong and sturdy but I wanted to get a smaller setup so that I can paint while on vacation this summer.  I have been drooling over the pochade boxes at Alla Prima Pochade for years and after years of talking about them, my wonderful wife got me a new pochade box.  It almost goes without saying that the pochade box itself is like a small work of art.  After acquiring a few bits to make the tripod and the box fit together I was all set to get out and paint.

Last time I went out and painted in oil it was a slow process but I felt like the final results were ok.  You can see the two paintings I finished here although I should say that the second painting underwent some revisions a few months later.  (I will post it up later to show the differences)   This weekends oil painting did not come along the way I hoped.  See for yourself


Its hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong here.  It was a bright morning but I feel like the painting is just too washed out.  In hind site I wish I would have darkened the shadow side of the tree to help make it feel more dimensional.  It just seems too flat for me.  I also struggled with the paint itself as I think I went too heavy too fast and then got into more and more trouble with the thickness of the paint.  All in all I went home feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.

I titled this post the highs and lows of a painter and I certainly feel that it doesn’t take a lot to knock an artists confidence.  I went from being excited with new gear and new opportunity to paint and ended with discouragement and frustration.  If I had to paint the same spot today I would handle everything differently which I guess is all a part of the learning process.  It just sucks to have to go through it some times.

So this morning I was able to complete a study for a commissioned watercolor in my sketchbook.  The final painting has been drawn out and it awaiting the actual paint on the surface.  I thought the study would be a good confidence booster as well as practice to make the final work that much better.  Here it is




Painting a Koi on Periscope

I don’t spend a lot of time looking into the newest Apps to hit the market.  In fact, I don’t spend any time looking into Apps at all.  By the time I hear about something new its generally no longer cool.  ( I only learned about Pandora last summer.)

I don’t know how exactly, but somewhere, I heard about a new App called Periscope.  Periscope allows the user to broadcast video live through their phone and for anyone using the app, or on their computers through a browser, to view the stream.  The idea of this got me excited especially when I heard that a few artists that I follow were streaming their painting process.  In no time I downloaded that free app and started checking it out.

Personally I think most of what is being broadcast is just stupid crap, mostly stupid social chat type streams.  I was blown away with being able to see artists I admire and how they were working live in real time.  I was so blown away that I decided to stream myself working on a painting.  Here is the final painting that I worked on live over Periscope.


And here is a detail of the face


You may notice that this painting is similar to a earlier one I did before and you are correct.  Not only are they similar, this painting is a reworking of the earlier one with only the head being preserved.  Once again I couldn’t stand the sight of an older painting and I felt the bug to make it into something better.  If only I could get it right the first time and stop the need to have to go back later on….

So anyway, I definitely think Periscope has some real potential.  If you want to see my Periscope streams then you can download the app or follow me on Twitter  where notifications will pop up when I start a stream.

Yes, there are fish in Central Park.

Not only are there fish in Central Park but you are allowed to catch (and release) them!  The painting below is a watercolor of a Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus) which was caught at the Harlem Meer in Central Park by my wife.


And the fish below, a Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), was caught by my daughter.  It was the first fish she had ever caught!!


So it was an awesome discovery one day when I read an article online about fishing in Central Park.  I didn’t think that fishing was allowed and I was really excited with the prospect of it!  Fishing is one of those things that I miss doing since I live in the city.  After doing a bit of research I found out not only was fishing allowed but it was encouraged for kids.  The Harlem Meer has a great free program for kids where they give them a rod with a bobber and a barbless hook and some frozen corn for bait.  Needless to say I borrowed a small rod from my Dad and took the family out to do some fishing!  (Note- adults need to buy I freshwater license to fish.)

We all managed to catch a few and it was one of the highlights of the summer for me.  The watercolors above came out of the experience I had that day.  I can’t help but smile when I think about how much fun it was for us all to go fishing.

Both the paintings are framed and hanging at the wonderful Stray Vintage here in Sunnyside Queens.  If you are around you should check them out!


Working backwards to move forwards.

I am a sci-fi and fantasy nerd.  Actually I shouldn’t specify, I am a nerd in just about every way.  I think that there were two books of my Mom’s,  The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson and  Wayne Anderson and Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, that are responsible for me becoming an artist.  As a child I spent hours looking at the pictures in those books.  I spent hours tracing the figures in those books.  I spent hours trying to draw my own creations that fit into the worlds created in those books.  The images in those books inspired me to learn about art and painting and to eventually become and artist.

Now it may seem funny then that on my website there is little to reflect the origins of what inspired me when I was a kid.  It has been years since I have painted anything fantasy or sci-fi related.  That changed last year when I had my painting classes work on a movie poster project.  As the students worked on their projects I demonstrated my own process and did a pair of paintings.  (My original blog post about it is here) I was happy at how the paintings turned out and I had a lot of fun working on them.  I thought that would be it for these paintings.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when, while browsing some art websites I like, I read that Spectrum’s deadline for this years entries was coming up.  If you don’t know what Spectrum is I can simply say that it is a showcase book put out every year which highlights the best of today’s sci-fi and fantasy illustration.  I have admired the artist in Spectrum since I was in college and the idea of submitting a work of my own was one long forgotten.  Until I read about the deadline that is.  I decided that I should submit some of my work and what would be better then the two sample illustrations I did of The Crow and my Flash Gordon movie posters.  I was really excited until I opened up this


This wasn’t the painting I remembered.  I remember how much I liked how the hands and the Earth turned out but the face was a lot looser then what I recalled.  I guess I would have to do some work on it to tighten it up.  I sat down one evening thinking that it wouldn’t take too long to do.  I was very wrong.  I felt like I opened a giant can of worms once I got started.  What was a fun demo suddenly became a nightmare when I realized that the face was very off.  One ear was way larger and higher, the eyes were off, the face too fat and the light source I painted around his head was not working.  I needed to make some tough decisions and it wasn’t fun at first.

First thing was to repaint the headdress/collar costume of Ming’s.  The shadow didn’t work and it killed the eye catching design of the red gold circle with an arrow shape which lead right to the globe.  I thought a flat bold color would be much more eye catching.  Next I had to redraw the face and really pay more attention.  That of course led to repainting the face with better tones and a bit more drama in the shadowing and color choices.  It took a few late nights but the end result was


You can decide for yourself but I think the second version is much stronger.  The lessons learned was to slow down and pay more attention in the drawing stage, even for what was supposed to be a simple demo.  Now I have no idea if I will be fortunate enough to be selected for admission into this years Spectrum book but I am really glad that I submitted.  First off it made me go back into a weak painting and make it better.  I learned a lot from it.  Second it is about time I show some faith in my paintings and at least try to get them out there.  So here is to crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

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