The Passenger

A Passenger: Sketchbook Page – Pencil, watercolor, collage – 8.5 x 11 inches.

A flight between Sacramento and Seattle normally takes about two hours, so there was enough time to draw a fairly accurate likeness of the man in the window seat. Watercolors are too messy for me to use on an airplane, so I added colors later in the studio.

Colors: Students sometimes ask me what colors to use when painting non-white people. From the point of view of artists, “white” and “black;” are just words; humans are all lighter or darker mishmashes of different shades of “beige.” My answer is: use variations of the same pigments you would use to paint anybody, that is, two warm colors and a cool one: a red, a yellow and a blue. Or a vermillion, ochre and green. In this case, I used Quinacridone Red, Raw Sienna, and Viridian, both for the man’s hair and skin. I used black only on his eyeglasses.

Studio: Visitors are often surprised to find my studio “orderly,” by which they mean “not messy.” Then they look at my sketchbooks. “Messy!” Usually the pages are invariably messy because they reflect whatever happens to interest me at the moment, like the wine label, color swatches, Spanish stamp and repro of the Fool card from the Tarot. Plus, sketches are messy like rehearsals for concerts are messy; the artists are trying to figure things out so that the finished product appears smooth and natural.

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