Ballet, Birds and Beautiful Failures

Blue Studebaker. Goauche on Paper

This week I branched out into some color explorations. I have been doing the pen and ink with watercolor drawings now for a couple of months and thought it was time to mess with a different medium. I have a bunch of gouache that I bought for an abandoned project a few years back. Goauche is great because it has the opacity of acrylics but spreads more like watercolor. True confession: I’m actually not a huge fan of watercolor. But for the quick, one-hour in the morning sketches it serves a purpose. Goauche is just a tiny step more involved but I have enjoyed the results. Let me know what you think.

Old Crow Medicine Show. Goauche on paper
Donnie. Goauche on paper.
Experiment. Goauche on Paper
This piece is slightly larger and took more than one session. I’m experimenting with color, blending, loose brush strokes… in other words, I wasn’t even going to post this one because it’s not “finished.” But I think it’s good for people to see that everything we paint isn’t done or ready for the public. But if you want an omelette…
Same Truck. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on paper
Ballet Class. Goache on paper.
This is my daughter Echo. She had class the other day and I took a bunch of photos (with her permission). Wow, the human form in motion is an awesome thing, isn’t it? There are a lot of things I will try differently next time but you see where I’m trying to go here. Fast and loose, lots of color.
The Dance Class. Degas copy- detail.
One of the joys of homeschooling my children is that I get to be their art teacher. Echo chose to copy this painting for her final in 7th Grade Art. So we sat down and copied a master for a couple of days. This is my version. I’ll let her post hers. The lesson for both of us: outside of just color, form and a beautiful subject matter, if you want to paint like the masters, copy the masters.
Walt Whitman. Pen & Ink on paper.
Leaves of Grass anyone?
In the studio, on the easel. Here’s what I’m working on today. I also have a commission on the big easel. Hope to finish that this week.


Whimsy, dreams and bike ride…

June 4, 2019
Sam Vance

Speed Bump Ahead. Pen & Ink, Goauche on paper. 8 x 10″
I was out on the bike yesterday when I came upon this sign. It made me laugh, thinking about recent events in my life I was like, “Thanks for the warning.” We don’t always get such an obvious sign along the way but I was grateful for this one. I also like the play of shadows on the bike trail.

I’m reading Mad Enchantment by Ross King about the life of Monet during his time in Giverny. Monet continues to be the gold standard for me (and for a lot of artists). We visited Giverny two years ago and it was simply magical. The painting above is yet another attempt to appropriate the color and the loose brush strokes that Monet is famous for. He makes it look easy. And it’s not.

Relic. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper.
We were sitting in the car, waiting for Max to get out of his cello lesson when I noticed this old phone booth. I went over to give it more close inspection and discovered that the old coin box had literally been pried open, metal hanging all over the place. But this is the kind of beautiful disaster that I love to draw and paint.

Way West. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper.
I don’t know what this started out as but most recently it was a Marijuana dispensary on Aurora Avenue, redeemed shortly afterwards by a Spanish speaking church, La Iglesia de JesusChristo. Love it.
Moving Day. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper.
Sometimes I wake up from a dream and draw what I see.
The Long Road. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper
Add Bardahl Oil. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper
Balance. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper.
I got a lot of reaction from this one. The furthest response came all the way from Spain. Also from a dream…

New Commissions

June 3, 2019
Sam Vance

First layers

This is a new piece I started on this week. Commissions are part of the lifeblood of any working artist. I have painted peoples’ homes, toys, loved ones and in this case, beloved dogs on the beach. Let me know if there is something you would like to have painted! Thanks to everyone who has commissioned new work! I love to paint for you. ~SV

Roy’s Motel Cafe

May 31, 2019
Sam Vance

Acrylic on Panel. 24″ x 36″

Roy’s is a famous stop on Route 66. I always laugh when I find these places and see that they have vacancy. I’m like, “Really? You have a room available? At this four star establishment? Book me.”

This is a composite painting of a number of photos taken by friends on road trips. I took some liberties with the colors…

Making a Mess

May 28, 2019
Sam Vance

I had a couple of serious fails this week. When I wake up to paint I have the highest hopes for what will come out onto the canvas. Sometimes I feel pretty good about it. Sometimes it’s just bad. Often, I step away from the work and come back to it a couple of hours later and it is neither as good or as bad as I thought. This is an acceptable perspective. The good stuff energizes me for the next piece. But so does the bad. If the process is to learn from failure instead of being bested by it then we’re heading in the right direction. This weeks’ lesson: mixing burnt umber with any other color just makes mud. Sigh… on to the next one…

The Cellist. Pen & Ink, Watercolor on Paper
The Cellist. Acrylic on Canvas, 8 x 10″

This is actually my son, Max. He’s had a lot of cello gigs in the last month which has given us good reason to go and hear some great live music and then, of course, for me to draw. The painting is also a quick sketch. Lots of mistakes along the way. But a learning experience.


Just the thought of someplace tropical and warm is never far from my mind…


Sometimes I wake up with a whimsical image. I drew this within about 10 minutes after getting out of bed. And making a cup of coffee of course.

Abandoned Gas Station

This old gas station reminds me of Hopper.


This is a sign that we saw in Yelm, WA. We were driving out of town and my wife said, “There’s a sign you should paint.” Listen to your wife.

Buy Quality

I’m always looking for the humor. Or if not humor, at least irony.

Studio Life

May 20, 2019
Sam Vance

I reconfigured my studio so that I have a couple of painting areas and a designated drawing area.
This is where you will find me with a cup of coffee around 5 in the morning.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has been following the daily drawings on Instagram (samvancearts). I’m encouraged by the likes, the comments and of course, the sales of both original pieces and prints. Your commissions and purchases make a big difference in the life of an artist. A friend recently asked, “How can I support you?” “Buy some art!” You bring beauty into your world and help me to pay the bills. Thank you!!!

Old Chevys. My dad found this in a box of old photos and sent it to me.
Silos on the Palouse.
The Night Airstream
Red Sails.
Ghost Horses
Carters. Dancing! Grill! Bar!

From the Palouse to Florida, Crows and Circus Tents…

May 13, 2019
Sam Vance

This weeks’ visual journey has taken me all over the map.  Sometimes I find inspiration right out of my car window as is the case with the Upstart Crow.  He was just hanging out, posing for me and I took a bunch of shots.  My sister, photographer Joana Espinoza, has been sending me shots of her town Moscow, ID.  She’s right in the heart of the Palouse so there is ample subject matter all around.  I love the old tractors, trucks, silos and signs that are just rusting poetically on the roadside.

And then there is the matter of the circus which never fails to provide a sinister mystery… so much color and promise with a dark underbelly.  There are stories within stories…

Lastly, Clean Restrooms is a sign that we saw on a road trip from Orlando to St. Augustine Florida.  We laughed out loud at the irony of “clean restrooms” at what used to be a gas station?  Rest stop?  Who knows?  But everyone in the car was yelling, “You have to draw that!” So here you go.



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