Misty watercolored memories

It’s exciting getting to work on a new book. The excitement kicks off with the first advance check, now nestled in my bank — but that’s short-lived. The real fun is figuring out all of the bits and pieces and how they fit together. I don’t have a huge amount of time to work on this book but enough so that I can go back and rewrite and redraw things until I really like them.

When my editor read my blogpost announcing my deal with Chronicle, she wrote to me to remind me that the book is not in fact scheduled for next year but the middle of 2013. Yipes. I promised I could get things done faster if she could compress the schedule on her end and we managed to swap things around so now the book will come out six months earlier in the Fall/Winter 2012. I have until October 1 to get the first draft in which should be plenty of time (famous last words).

Much of this book is drawn from the illustrated journals I’ve kept over the past 13 months but they’re all being reworked and augmented. My journal captures the here and now so vividly but a book needs to have a more lofty perspective too, a way of winding everything together into a narrative. While the book has a clear beginning, the end is fuzzier and so I have decided to bring the story to an end after a full year, the official mourning period. Mourning, of course, takes a lot longer than a year — it seems to be  a lifelong process — but the book has to stop somewhere.

Beyond my illustrated journals, I have been writing a lot, little paragraphs, captured thoughts, revelations, and I am blending them into the pages I have already drawn and painted. That means a fair amount of editing but it’s all being created with snapshots of my moods taken as they appear.

The book will open with a section focussed on Patti’s life, trying to bring her to life on the page, to tell her story before I start to hog the stage. That section of the book is going to be done in a new way, quite different from my usual style, drawings done entirely with a brush and watercolors. There’s no ink, no solid lines. And I am working from photographs, as they are all I have of her now.

I worked with this palette of eight different shades of Dr.Ph Martin watercolors. I keep them in a dark bag because they just can’t stand the sunlight. They work fine in books that remain closed most of the time.

First I drew a light contour drawing in pencil, so I would have a vague sense of where I am going.

Then I used a couple of shades of blue to do an underpainting, getting a sense of the tones. Often, this is my favorite part of a painting and I wished I’d just left it monochromatic.

I next added two dark shades of brown to build up contrast.

Next I added warm tones and started to work on the skin.

Now I added more reds and yellows.

And here’s where I left off today, with a little bit of writing in the corner. Chances are I’ll tackle this picture again after it’s been lying around for a few days.There’s still something sort of frozen and taxidermic about this, one of the reasons I ‘m not wild about working from photos, particularly contrasty ones taken with a  flash. Hopefully it will also improve once I;ve written all around it. Look for it (or some descendant) in my next book.

23 thoughts on “Misty watercolored memories”

  1. Can’t wait for the book Danny- and it’s so good to see how you build up a page like this. Really, I feel like a 5 year old waiting for Christmas!


  2. I love the third sketch from top. It’s so lovely and subtle. Good luck with your book. I think you are the bomb diggity. That means fantastic and inspiring!


  3. Excitement reigns here! I now have a reason to push on past my 78 years to hang around long enough for your book. How precious for you to share this past year with the world. The fact that you are gleaning deep pleasure from your memories of Patti in addition to the still deep moments of loss makes us know you are progressing in a healthy and normal way. That brings all of us to a better understanding of the process.
    This book will be a best seller. Forgive the inexperienced editor who thought otherwise. Obviously he/she hasn’t “been there” yet. Those of us who have or realize that we may someday be there will purchase it and pass it on to others for encouragement in their sorrow or in preparation for it. Warren, my son, and I have traveled with you this past year as fellow sufferers. What a blessing to have gotten acquainted with your work in time to accompany you this past year. Dee Ludwig


  4. Danny, I’m looking forward to the book. I know I will be getting at least 2 copies. One for me and one for my sister who just lost her husband..he was just 49 years old. Grief is an odd thing. It seems to come in waves. Fast and furious at first. And later, just when when you think you’re getting better another wave washes over you. But I think the waves get gentler over time.


  5. I love the sound of the new book Danny, and especially how the illustrations will be done in watercolor!

    You definitely will have one book sold already!
    Thanks for keeping us up to date,



  6. Congratulations on the book deal … and can’t wait to see it. I love that you’re starting the book with paintings such as these. It’s a beautiful homage.


  7. Danny,
    It’s only recently that I discovered you have lost your wife, Patti. I send you many hugs. I have been a loyal follower of your books since the beginning, and I wish you much success with this upcoming book.
    I just found out I’ll be in a book! I’m really excited about it.
    Thanks for being such an inspiration to me.


  8. Wow, great blog post Danny – many thanks, most interesting to see the way things progress as you develop your sketch – now if you could, or your great pal Tommy Kane could, develop a similar one on architecture that would be so helpful.

    I’m one of these self taught artists and I am somewhat inhibited as to where to START, where does that first line go, what are the thought processes of doing a street scene, do you do a skeleton drawing and then detail, do you start in one corner and do everything until the page is full….really basic stuff. I think I have the hang of vanishing points and so on but when you look at that blank page where do you put your first mark? I’ve sort of figured it out for myself but I always feel that I’m missing some fundamental thing that would make my work – work better! And it is always that little something that never quite makes it into the technique books, just as they never quite tell you all the brands/colours they use! or it could be something more basic than that, i.e. I skim to much of the written word and don’t absorb it until the 3rd or 4th reading 😎



  9. Glad to see you up to your old tricks again, Danny. This gives the rest of us some inspiration and something to look forward to.


  10. Oh Danny, thanks for the post and the step by step. The page of Patti is beautiful. And the plan for the book, wonderful. So glad to ‘hear’ your voice again…..


  11. Soo beautifull. Can not wait for the new book. You have no idea how you inspire me. Thank you for that. Did a drawing every day while on holiday in France. It looks like nothing but I am proudly showing it to everybody.


  12. Danny, So So happyyour starting to get back with us. Your journy has been long and many of turns and Im so happy you RE HERE NOW. cAN NOT WAIT FOR THE BOOK BUT MOST OF ALL SO PLEASED TO BE HEARING FROMYOU,


  13. Hey, Danny. Thanks for all the info about building up the colours. I’m new to drawing and painting….as a matter of fact, I took a couple of classes from Jane LeFazio to get started and I heard about you from her. I have a couple of your books and look forward to seeing the next one.


  14. Hi Danny.

    It´s wonderful to hear you´re working on another book. I know it will come out even better than the last ones. I´m sure that all the special feelings you´re putting into this work will come out in the most amazing and beautiful words and drawings. I just can´t wait to order it!

    I hope the making of it will somehow comfort you and your son.

    With all best wishes,

    P.S. – Sorry about my english.


    1. I forgot to say something:

      I also love the monochromatic stage of a painting. Most of the time I just “have to” stop mines in that stage.

      If you are not completely satisfied with this one, why don´t you try to do it “duotone”? I feel real strange while giving YOU an advice but… i really think it is worthing a try. I think it could work.


  15. Beautiful – what a wonderful demo!! I so look forward to the book, and I agree wholeheartedly about the Dessert First philosophy!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.