Bright Light on Cole, Watercolor by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Bright Light on Cole, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

My last few posts have been about oil painting but over the last week I’ve been back to working with watercolor.  Both offer so many possibilities and have distinctly different feelings, both in appearance and application.  Most recently, I’ve been busy working on a couple of commissioned watercolor paintings. I’ve never mentioned it here before, but if you are interested in having me do a drawing or painting for you, feel free to contact me either here or at my Etsy store, ArtFromBrian.

I also revisited one of my favorite subjects this week, the shadows and brightly colored buildings of Cole Street in San Francisco. I love the translucency of watercolor and trying to build a surface that sparks a feeling, something like a memory of the places I’ve been.  If you’re interested in this painting, you can also find it at ArtFromBrian on Etsy.



Golden Gate Bridge by Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Golden Gate Bridge, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″ © 2015

I’ve spent much of the last week thinking about composition.  Over the last year, I’ve mostly painted scenes from around San Francisco with a focus on buildings, streets, and city life.  The compositions are dominated by sharp vertical and horizontal lines.  Shadows and trees are often the only soft and organic elements.  I went back to Baker Beach and did this painting of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day.  There are still vertical and horizontal constructed elements but it feels more relaxed than my paintings of the city. The curve of the shoreline, the groups of trees, and the color shifts in the sand all create a pathway through the painting that I feel really good about.

I’ve been trying to see things in terms of major color groups along with light and shadow as I walk around the city.  In the past, I’ve spent lots of time on paintings without thinking about the structure that underlies the work and those paintings end up in a pile with others that “just don’t feel right.”  I’ve never been drawn to instructional materials that resemble a recipe or formula for creating art but reading about composition and looking at the way successful paintings are put together feels empowering and fascinating. It seems that lines and the weight of visual elements can make your eyes move in and out of a picture and create balance or unbalance in an unlimited number of ways.

City Life

Watercolor Painting, Grant Street, Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey, Grant Street, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″ © 2015

Lately, one of the most interesting aspects of painting has been trying to find a middle ground between unfinished and overworked.  I feel like I’m edging closer to being comfortable with my process.  It’s about finding the right state of mind and being able to stay in that space for longer and longer periods of time.  It’s also about identifying when the moment has passed and I need to take a break to refocus.

I’ve been including people in all my recent paintings and it feels like discovering a new language.  I was so struck by the beauty and variety of buildings in San Francisco that, for a while, I was ignoring its residents.  Now I find myself paying more attention to the relationship that people have to the places they live. It’s interesting to notice how one influences the other…

When to Stop

Watercolor Painting, Morning Walk

Brian Bailey, Morning Walk, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

I think that, for me, knowing when to stop might just be the most important factor in a drawing or painting.  I’ve overworked so many paintings, thinking that I could make them better by filling in just a little more information.  I think the truth is that my work is usually strongest when I can convince myself to make it quickly and leave it alone for at least a day or two, at which point I might add a detail that makes it more striking.  Working on a painting while it’s all still wet and letting washes bleed into each other can feel like walking on a tightrope, where one false step can lead to disaster, but it can also give the work a greater sense of unity.  I feel that one of my strongest tools is leaving a washed surface alone and letting the viewer fill in the details. It’s all about knowing when to stop.

I want to say thank you to all of the people that read and comment on these posts.  Your support and encouragement are awesome!  Just a reminder, please check out my Etsy store, ArtFromBrian, if you are interested in purchasing any of the work on this site.  Thanks again!

Water and Ink

Watercolor Painting, On the Corner

Brian Bailey, On the Corner, 6″ x 6″, © 2015

Drawing in ink and combining it with watercolor has become my favorite way to paint lately.  The freedom of letting colors and edges run together is interesting and each painting feels experimental.  I’m always trying to land the work on a point of balance between controlling the painting with learned technique and discovering passages that emerge naturally.

More Sketching

Watercolor Painting, Haight

Brian Bailey, Haight, Watercolor, 7″ x 5″, © 2015

I spent more time sketching in the Haight-Ashbury district this week.  I’m still working on getting loose and understanding how to work with watercolor.  Mindfulness and letting go seem to be the biggest parts of making images that feel authentic to me. I’m feeling good about where my work is heading and I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks.  Thank you for your comments and encouragement.


Watercolor Sketch-1

Brian Bailey © 2015

Watercolor Sketch-2

Brian Bailey © 2015

I’ve been working on some watercolor sketches lately.  I’m starting with a pen and ink drawing and adding a limited amount of watercolor.  It’s an interesting exercise to go through each drawing and decide which areas to paint and what to leave alone.  Pretty happy with the results and hope to incorporate some of the sketch qualities into more finished paintings.  Thanks for looking!

My Return

Watercolor Painting, Over North Beach

Brian Bailey, Over North Beach, Watercolor, 7″ x 5″, © 2015

It has been a couple of weeks since my last update.  In the past two weeks I have traveled to visit family and moved to a new apartment where my studio space is much bigger.  It takes a bit of time to settle in but I’m very excited to have a much bigger space in the same neighborhood.  In the mix of everything, I’ve still managed to do a bit of drawing and painting.  I’ve been experimenting with using washes more loosely and letting go of details outside of a confined space.  Always a work in progress, but I’m feeling good about how things are moving.

Also, the opening reception last Friday at the Collector Art Shop in Berkeley, CA went very well with several paintings selling prior to the reception and a great turnout.  Hopefully, there will be more shows to report on in the future and my current works will be up until June 28th.


Watercolor Painting, Traffic

Brian Bailey, Traffic, Watercolor, 7″ x 5″, © 2015

My paintings have taken me back downtown this week.  I’ve been focused on public transportation vehicles.  Buses and trains feel symbolic of city life to me and, along with many sketches, I came up with this painting of a muni bus rounding a corner on Market Street.

Market Street, San Francisco

Watercolor Painting, Crossing Market

Brian Bailey, Crossing Market, Watercolor, 10″ x 8″, © 2015

Throughout this week and the last, I’ve been trying to put some new variations into my work.  I’ve been drawing and painting more people.  Some are gesture drawings or portraits focused on the human form and some are extensions of my paintings of San Francisco.  Some streets are teeming with people and it’s interesting to see how they change the feel and meaning of a painting. This painting is about 10 inches by 8 inches but I’ve also been working on some larger paintings and should have one to post next week.