Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Introducing: Electric Candle

It's my pleasure to introduce to you, for the first time ever, my band Electric Candle!  As our first public debut, we invite you to take a listen to our rendition of the traditional Christmas hymn, "We Three Kings."  And, as our Christmas gift to you, enjoy a free download of the song to your computer, tablet, smartphone, or music player.  Finally, stay tuned--there will be new original music coming from Electric Candle in 2015!

Hear "We Three Kings" on

Electric Candle is:
Steve Penberthy - music, production
Brett Key - vocals

Sunday, July 20, 2014

South Lawn, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

South Lawn, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
©2014 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore 140-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm)
I met up with Kate Johnson and the Urban Sketchers-Midwest group in Kansas City at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  We met at the entrance near the museum shop, then we all spread out to a sketching location of our choosing.  Some chose to sketch inside (pencils-only allowed inside) and I headed outside to the south lawn.  Since this was my first visit to the Nelson-Atkins, I wanted to sketch the iconic view of the museum, and headed down the hill to find just the right vantage point.  Sitting on the grass, I laid out some basic lines with a B pencil, then laid in some ink lines using a Sanford Uni-Ball Micro rollerball pen (see note below).  As I painted, I was lost in time and space with sounds of people on the grounds providing a nice soundtrack as I focused.  Many curious onlookers walked by, and some even said "hello."  After a little more than an hour, I made the long uphill climb back to the museum, carrying my sketchbook in an open configuration so it could finish drying.  I caught up with the sketchcrawl group in the Rozzelle Court Restaurant, where I had a cool salad, some water, and very inspiriting and stimulating conversations with my fellow artists as we passed around each others' sketchbooks.
(Note regarding the Uni-Ball pen: I'm quickly losing interest in the current incarnation of Uni-Ball pens and will likely cease using them for art; when I originally started using these pens years ago, the ink was somewhat water-soluble and a slight wash could be pulled from it.  I liked the way I could lay down ink lines and the water from my washes would almost make the ink disappear.  However, the newer pens tout their "Super Ink" which is fade- and water-resistant ink.  And, while I love the water-resistiveness of permanent pens such as Pigma Microns, I feel the Uni-Ball ink is just too one-dimensional in terms of line and expressiveness.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Forest and Water Study

Forest and Water Study
©2014 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Arches 300-lb CP paper
5" x 7" (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

CJ at Tavern of Fine Arts

CJ at Tavern of Fine Arts
©2014 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor in Aquabee Super Deluxe 808 sketchbook
6" x 9" (15.2 cm x 22.9 cm)

I met with the St. Louis Drawing & Painting meetup group for a life drawing session with CJ as our model at the Tavern of Fine Arts.  I did several pencil drawings as warmups, then decided to try one in watercolor.  In this sketch, I lightly sketched in the form with pencil, then used a sepia Pigma Micron to lock in the lines.  Painted using my watercolor sketch box and a large Niji waterbrush.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chance of Showers

Chance of Showers
©2014 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Arches 300-lb CP paper
5" x 7" (12.7 cm x 17.8 cm)
Quick sketch to play with various techniques.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lagoon Drive Bridge

Lagoon Drive Bridge
©2012 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore 140-lb CP paper
Strathmore Visual Journal
9" x 12" (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm)

I painted this morning in Forest Park with the St. Louis Drawing & Painting Meetup Group.  This view is of a bridge on Lagoon Drive in Forest Park, near the Grand Basin.  We've had triple-digit temperatures for the last several days here in St. Louis, so it was key to get out early.  A few of us found this shady spot and there was a nice breeze blowing to keep us cool.  There was a surprising amount of activity in the park on this sweltering day:  joggers, walkers, cyclists, golfers (and, of course, artists!).  A female mallard duck, with a baby duckling close behind, strolled around my painting setup, probably looking for a handout.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Been a While

Hi everyone!  It's been a while since I've posted, but wanted to let you know that I have been hard at work on growing as an artist.  Since August, I have been (believe it or not) working on an idea for a comic book!  I've been doing lots of research, reading books about making comics, reading comic books, writing a script, and working hard on my figure drawing (through life drawing sessions and sketchbook practice).  I'm not quite ready to reveal anything publicly, but I may at some point post sketches on my Flickr site.  I've also been formulating new goals for my watercolor painting, and will return to painting very soon.  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and I'm wishing everyone a very creative Holiday season!  :^)  -- Steve

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm Showing at the 33August Art Exhibit, August 19-20, 2011!

Watercolor Landscape - Looking Up If you're in or near the St. Louis area, think about stopping by the opening reception of the "33August" art exhibit on Friday, August 19, from 5:30pm to 10pm.

I will have 3 of my paintings on display and for sale (one of which is shown here), so stop by for a look.

The 33August exhibit opening features new work by 33 artists, live music, and food and drink. Admission is free and open to the public at 37 South Old Orchard in Webster Groves, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis).

The exhibit is also open for viewing (and purchase) on Saturday, August 20, from 10am to 5pm.

For a list of all participating artists and more information about the exhibit, visit

Thanks in advance for helping spread the word and for supporting art! :)
Here's a map to the gallery:
View Larger Map

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Watercolor Sketch - Deer Lake Stream

Deer Lake Stream
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore 140-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm)

I sketched this plein air in a cool shady location in Forest Park, St. Louis. I've driven by this particular area of the park many times, but I never realized this little spot existed before today. There are a thousand paintings to be painted here--there is jaw-dropping scenery everywhere one looks.

I enjoy painting plein air, but I haven't done much of it for a while, which added to the already inherant challenges with this scene. The scene was a "wall of green"--green everywhere I looked. So I abstracted the colors to break things up chromatically. Also, the scene was very complex, so I had to simplify things extensively. I'd like to practice more with this type of painting and hopefully I'll have more opportunities to do so this summer.

I saw lots of herons, egrets, and ducks while painting at this watery area of the park. In fact, one of the ducks walked up to me and stood about three feet away from me, patiently waiting for a handout. However, he slowly moved on once he figured out I was too busy painting to give him any bread crumbs...

Friday, July 08, 2011

Watercolor Painting - View from Chaumette Winery

View from Chaumette Winery
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore 140-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm)

I had lunch at Chaumette Winery and Vineyards a few weeks ago, and this was the beautiful view that we enjoyed as we looked out on the property from the veranda of the restaurant. I was really impressed with the sweeping vistas and rolling hills.

The Chaumette Winery is located near Saint Genevieve, Missouri, in the southeastern part of the state. When I think of Missouri Wine Country, I typically think of the wineries near Augusta and Herman, Missouri, but Ste. Genevieve County has a growing number of wineries and is producing some interesting wines.

This painting is really a planning sketch, as I want to paint this on some larger paper. I used this sketch/painting to work out some problems and just get a feel for the scene. More to come on this one!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Florida Beach Vacation

Florida Beach Vacation
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor in Strathmore Visual Journal,
Strathmore 140-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 cm x 30.5 cm)

This sketch is the first one I've tried out in the Strathmore Visual Journal that I purchased recently. I've typically used the Canson Montval All-Media sketchbook as my watercolor sketchbook, but I was interested in trying the Strathmore since it contained 140-lb cold-press paper.

I thought the paper performed extremely well. There was little-to-no buckling of the paper even when I applied wet washes for the skies and sea. I have read in some online forums that people had a little trouble sketching using ink (for example using a Pigma Micron or similar), because the paper has a significant tooth (that is, some significant peaks and valleys in the texture of the paper); I used a 2B pencil for my sketch to avoid this potential issue. However, trying ink in this book will be my next experiment.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Balancing Act

Balancing Act
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and ink on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb CP paper,
6.75" x 10.25" (16.8 x 26.0 cm)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Watercolor Painting - Near Telluride

Near Telluride
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb CP paper
15" x 11" (38.1 x 27.9 cm)

I've travelled to Telluride, Colorado many times, and it is one of the most scenic areas I've ever visited.  This view is of a valley meadow just west of town, looking to the east towards the San Juan Mountains and the end of the box canyon in which Telluride is located. (view a photo of this scene from Google Maps)

I painted this scene from a photo I took a few years ago; I was drawn to the scene by the intense blue of the summer sky contrasted against the billowy clouds.  I'd love to say that I just sat down at the paper and, with photo reference at my side, splashed some paint and out came a finished work.  Far from the truth.  It was a long road to get this painting to a composition with which I was satisfied.

Near Telluride, CO
First, I drew a pencil drawing of the scene, and I really liked the dark sky contrasting with the clouds; I knew that the focal point of the painting had to be a spot in the sky with the most contrast between dark and light.  In fact, the drawing really didn't come together until I added very strong darks in the sky.

So, using my pencil sketch as a roadmap, I made an initial quarter-sheet painting.  And I hated it.  I mounted another quarter sheet to my board and painted it again.  A little better this time, but I hated this second one also.  I decided to let it sit for a day or so, so I could "walk around it" so to speak.  In the past, I've had some success in getting a painting to a finished state by letting it lay dormant for a short time, allowing me time to gain some needed objectivity for the things I couldn't see (or think of) during the heat of the painting battle.

So, after a day or so, I looked at the painting again, and made a list of what I thought was wrong or needed correction:
1.  I had failed to get my focal point across; I didn't have enough contrast between dark and light in the sky.
2.  There wasn't much value contrast in the painting as a whole; it was largely middle values.
3.  There was no light; no life.  It looked flat.
4.  The colors were muddy.
5.  I had imprecise edges on the mountains from errant brush strokes and bleeding of the paint.

I started drawing value sketches--a lot of value sketches.  I explored compositional changes, alternatives in value dominance, and even played with the idea of adding some close trees in the foreground as a new center of interest:

Thumbnail exploring compositional
and value alternatives

Should I add a tree in the
foreground as a focal point?

Third set of thumbnails exploring
compositional and value alternatives.
Finally--I like the one in the lower
right-hand corner!
Prototype on
iPhone Brushes app
I finally decided that, instead of making the mountains a middle value (as they were in the photo), I would represent them as a dark, thin shape.  The skies would remain a middle value, the foreground a light value (the yellow I used in the final painting reads as a light value), and the clouds my lightest.  To test whether this made sense using color, I quickly prototyped the painting using the Brushes app on my iPhone, as shown at left.

Finally satisfied with the values and composition, the painting came together.  And I addressed the muddy colors by giving my palette and brushes a much-needed cleaning.

It was a fun day in the studio, but it was the work of the initial attempts, objective analysis, and thumbnail sketches that brought it all together.

I don't go through this process with all of my paintings; in fact, I probably did a better job than I ever have at trying to critically analyze what wasn't working.  I learned a lot!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sketch - City Skyline

©2011 Steve Penberthy, City Skyline
Graphite on paper
3.5" x 5.5" (8.9 x 13.9 cm)

A pencil sketch of the view from my window during lunch today. I took a photo reference too, so this might serve me well as a value sketch for an upcoming painting...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five Great Art Quotes

I've long been a collector of quotes, but only those that speak to me in one particular way or another.  I plan to share five or so quotes every so often so that you might benefit from them as well.  Enjoy! -- Steve

"In many things, but more particularly in drawing, I think that delving deeply into something is better than letting it go."
- Vincent Van Gogh, Oct. 1881

"The great-at-anything do not set to work because they are inspired, but rather become inspired because they are working. They don't waste time waiting for inspiration."
- Ernest Newman

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
- Herald Whitman

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision with a finer spirit of hope and achievement."
- Woodrow Wilson

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
- Pablo Picasso

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birds at the Feeder

I always enjoy watching the wild birds who visit our feeder.  We get a wide variety of visitors, but there are always the regulars, such as juncoes, chickadees, sparrows, purple finches, and, of course the our favorite--the colorful red cardinals.  I occasionally see various woodpeckers (such as Northern Flickers), but it's rare.  I had a short amount of time this afternoon to sit down and attempt to capture some very quick sketches of these little guys; the sketches are really just gesture drawings since the birds are in such constant movement.  They don't seem to like to strike a pose for very long...  I used a 6B Derwent pencil for the drawings and added a little watercolor here and there (mosly for color notes) using my homemade sketcher's box pictured here: Homemade Sketch Box

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Watercolor Sketching Book (and blog)!

"Dallas Farmer's Market" by Steve Penberthy

I’m thrilled to share with you that some of my watercolor artwork will be included in Cathy (Kate) Johnson’s upcoming new book, “Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures.” North Light Books will release the book in late June 2011.

“Based on her own 40 years' experience in keeping an artist's journal, Cathy Johnson knows that an artist's creative life can benefit from written and visual explanations and experiments. Over the course of this book, you will benefit from the tips, techniques and exercises that will make your artist's journals your own. You will also discover how to use your journal to celebrate any occasion or milestone, work through a problem or creative block, plan future works, sketch from life and experiment with new materials or techniques. With 24 contributors from around the world there is a variety of styles and perspectives throughout the book, and with 15+ exercises you will learn to personalize your journal in a variety of ways.”
I am thrilled to have been asked to contribute artwork to this amazing project.  From the beginning, I’ve thought that Kate’s idea for this book was right on target, and that a lot of people would benefit from her treatment of this varied subject.  I’ve long held that a sketchbook can be a work on art in-and-of itself, so a new book expressly about that process scratches me where I itch.

Again, the book won’t be available until late June 2011, but you can get more info and pre-order the book from here -

Also, please visit Kate's new blog titled, "Artist’s Journal Workshop – The Book and Beyond" at
Kate focuses this blog expressly on the new book and its various artist-contributors, where the artists, their sketches, and other great information will be explored in more detail. All of the contributors will be interviewed, and there’s several posted already. Be sure to check it out. I’ll be sure to let you know when my interview comes around.  :)

Kate gives some background on how the idea for the book came about here.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

What Lurks Down an Alley?

Alley at Belleview and Wise
©2011 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and ink in Canson Montval All-Media sketchbook, 90-lb CP paper
9" x 12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm)

If you're looking for ideas for landscape subjects to sketch and paint, don't rule out your nearby alley--it's a great way to practice your perspective drawing.  A perspective view really draws the viewer's eye into a painting or sketch. I guess this is why I'm drawn (no pun intended) to alleyways; they usually stretch out for a long distance, lending themselves to a single vanishing point. Plus, alleys always seem to contain such interesting, odd stuff: boxes, dumpsters, trash cans, strange lighting and fencing, what appear to be abandoned cars, etc.

Alleys in older European cities are usually the leftovers of an ancient street system.  Today,  they seem to serve as places to put out the trash or to perhaps park your car between buildings.

I wanted to do this quick sketch because alleys have been on my brain lately; I don't know why.  Since the scene has a only single vanishing point, I just kind of guessed at the perspective lines. I spent about 15 minutes creating the little thumbnail sketches, mostly to see what I wanted to do with my values. I spent about 30 minutes on the watercolor sketch, again paying the most attention to getting some really dark values into it.  You'll see that I did three thumbnails:  two of the same scene with differing value choices and one of a alleyway of telephone poles.  I didn't choose the telephone pole scene to paint since it didn't look as interesting to me as the other alley scene.  Always good to have a choice!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Watercolor Painting - Belleview In & Out Market

Belleview In and Out Market
©2010 Steve Penberthy
Watercolor and ink on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb CP paper in handmade sketchbook
6" x 9" (15.2 x 22.9 x cm)

This little grocery market is tucked away in a neighborhood not far from Forest Park in St. Louis. I thought the facade of this building was very interesting, and I see this type of architecture in various parts of town. I'm sure the architectural style has a name, but I don't know what it is (please comment if you do).

This small painting is sort of an experiment in a new style for me, using pen-and-ink in an illustrative style then adding watercolor washes for color. I plan to do a larger painting in this style very soon.

Before adding watercolor, I did a value sketch using my PITT artist brush pens. I made a photocopy of my sketch, and added value:
Belleview In & Out Market - Value Sketch

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Alessandra at the Artist's Guild

Alessandra at the Artist's Guild
©2010 Steve Penberthy
Charcoal and NuPastel on newsprint
14" x 17" (36 x 43 cm)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Watercolor Sketch - Main Street, Old St. Charles

Main Street, Old St. Charles
©2010 Steve Penberthy
Pigma Micron 03 pen and watercolor wash in Aquabee Super Deluxe 808 sketchbook
6" x 9" (15 x 23 cm)

I sketched this while having coffee at Picasso's Coffeehouse in St. Charles, MO.

The streets were mostly blocked off, and I saw a blur of activity around me as vendors were setting up tents and receiving deliveries of supplies in preparation for Festival of the Little Hills this weekend.

Shortly after lunchtime, I got caught in a huge thunderstorm, and got completely soaked trying to get to my car; thankfully my sketchbooks remained dry in my backpack...