Paint Sites - Special Activities


Dick Zunkel Plein Aire Demo at Los Gatos Plaza Park

zunkel view
The view Dick painted

In April SCVWS member Dick Zunkel gave a plein air demo at Los Gatos Plaza Park. Dick uses pen and ink, and juicy watercolor to create loose, dynamic paintings. His fast, and lively approach is perfect for plein air painting where time is of the essence to capture the scene in front of you.

Dick likes to paint on Arches or Kilimanjaro 300 lb paper. Dick's advice is to use lots of water and let it, and the paint, do most of the work for you. He likes to use a vignette style having plenty of white paper in and around his painting.

About the inks Dick comments: I prefer Speedball Ultra-black waterproof ink for most work. On the wild side, "Dux" brand water soluble ink yields interesting but unpredictable results when mixed with a watercolor wash. The cost is reasonable, less than $2.00 for 50 ml at Soyodo, 1245 Old Mountain View Alviso Rd., Sunnyvale.  

Plein air painters might want to transfer ink to "Testor" bottles as the ink tends to leak from original containers making a mess in your backpack.  Testor bottles are available at D & J Hobby on Prospect Road near Saratoga in San Jose.  The five pack includes small syringes and blank labels.

Check out Dick's paintings at
To see how much fun our artists had using Dicks technique visit the paintsites blog at

paintsites activity - Dick Zunkel pen sketch
He begins with a very quick sketch in pencil to establish the composition and perspective. Using a speedball dip pen and waterproof ink (Using non-waterproof ink will give a different look as it bleeds into the watercolor paint) Dick draws in the main lines of the scene - again fairly quickly. The speedball nibs create a variety of thick and thin lines adding to the character of the drawing. 
zunkel demo
Once the ink is dry Dick wets the paper over the entire sky area and brushes on some Raw Sienna for warmth. He then washes in some Cobalt Blue, and adds a little Alizarin Crimson on the horizon, where mountains might be. He uses a flat 1" brush for most of the painting and loosely suggests all the elements, not being too careful about staying within his drawn lines.

zunkel demo final
The final painting.

zunkel demo crowd
Demo participants met at lunch to view the days results.

A plein air demo by Kay Duffy

The paintsite at the Redwood Grove in Los Altos Hills, on Thursday October 20th, included a very instructive plein air painting demo by SCVWS member Kay Duffy.

The group at the demo
The group at the demo

The weather started out overcast, as Kay set up a full sheet of watercolor paper in front of a group of beautiful redwood trees. She showed us how to start with a good composition, but without working too long on a drawing. Then she used miskit to preserve the whites of some branches. Once that dried, she used a big wash brush and juicy wet paint to place her initial colors all over the paper working in large, simple shapes.

Owing to the damp conditions we got a chance to go off and start our own paintings as we waited for Kay's to dry before she could show us the next steps. This was a useful way of learning and allowed us to put her words of wisdom to immediate use.

Kay's setup
Kay's setup

As the painting developed she instructed us to change colors often and vary our brushstrokes. She also told us to step away from our painting every so often to see it from a distance.
The painting demo took place over about 2 hours and of course the weather changed completely during that time, going from initially overcast, to gloriously sunny. Kay was a great teacher and had encouraging and helpful words to say about all our paintings. Our thanks to her for generously donating her time to the group and to Karen Druker for hosting a wonderful pot luck lunch and critique afterwards.

Duffy Demo 1
1. Starting the under-painting
Duffy Demo 2
2.  Lots of juicy wet paint
Duffy Demo 3
3.  Starting with some definition
Duffy Demo 4
4.  The trees go in

Here's a comment from one of the participants, Brad Santos - "I've come to think that our Paintsite Co-ordinators can control the weather as we always seem to have perfect conditions for the Thursday paint-outs, so I was surprised that it was quite cool and foggy for the Kay Duffy demo in the Los Altos Redwood Preserve.   But on further reflection, I wonder if they didn't dial up the fog so we could see how Kay deftly handles wildly changing light, color, and shadow conditions.  I learned a lot from watching and talking to Kay in the Preserve and even more in the post-luncheon critique at Karen Druker's."

Kay's finished painting
5. Kay's finished painting

Anyone interested in taking classes with Kay Duffy please contact her at 408-867-0508 or visit her website

Mixing Greens & Painting Trees

We added in an impromptu session on June 16, 2011 on Mixing Greens and Making Trees at Vasona Park, which was also well attended. Instead of painting the scenery we sat at picnic tables and experimented mixing every shade of green imaginable. After sharing these results we experimented with ways of rendering foliage and trees, with ample inspiration around us. Sylvia and Jenny also provided some tips and suggestions and had some books as resources. We all found it to be a great learning experience, both from our own efforts and from each other.

mixing greens
The group reviews their work.
mixing greens review
The group reviews their work.

We will add in sessions on other landscape elements like this in the future; shadows, skies, rocks, water. If you would like to be added to our email list for information on occasional events such as this (this last one was not planned ahead in the newsletter), email us at paintsites email

Introduction to Plein Air Painting

Thursday 28th April 2011 saw the first Introduction to Plein Air Painting conducted by Sylvia Waddell and Jenny Tero. Eighteen SCVWS members took part in a fun day at Villa Montalvo learning about equipment for plein air painting, dealing with changing light and weather conditions, good techniques for sketching, choosing a viewpoint, and getting started on a painting. The group was a good mix of regular members of the plein air group, new SCVWS members, and many people completely new to plein air painting. New friends were made, information and experiences exchanged and everyone enjoyed the challenge of outdoor painting in a wonderful setting. We will be repeating this Introductory class in the future so watch out for information in upcoming newsletters.

The "class" given by Sylvia and Jenny
plein air intro
An activity -- a 360 degree view of the park