Thursday, January 29, 2009


From the rarified air of East/West zodiac constellations back down to earth.

Once a year, I teach a course called Plain-air Painting in the Golden Hour through the Athenaeum. I usually begin with three demos; one in Oil, one in Pastel and if there are takers, one in Watercolor.

Cormorant Rock in Point Loma is my usual starting point. This oil is a one hour Demo done on a 9x12" Museum Mat board, double primed roughly with Dick Blick Master Gesso.
I use an absorbent gesso ground because it takes initial thin oil shapes nicely and dries so quickly that I can then add thicker impasto strokes in a pastel-like brushy fashion over a very dry surface. Low clouds rolled in after I shot the photo... a common occurrence in coastal San Diego.


Sunset Cliffs Trail  Oil on Canvas panel  11x14

Sunset Cliffs Dusk  Oil on Canvas Panel  11x14

My pastels are drawn on either mid-tone Canson Paper or mid-tone Sennillier La Carte Pastel Card. I begin with a vine charcoal lay-in sketch and then build up layers of flat shapes with a combination of flat and edgy strokes (see Portraits in Pastels).


"Cactus Boulder"  Pastel on paper  16x12

Towards Soledad Mt.  Pastel on P. Card    24x18

The Pastels were done in a single session (2-3 hrs); the Oils sometimes require two or three re-visits for final touches.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


A couple of days ago I was exchanging emails with some friends about the twelve western signs of the zodiac and the twelve astrological animals of the eastern calendar. Our conversation led me to mention a watercolor project I was involved in ten years ago which took me three years to complete. It was called EAST MEETS WEST. It was the brainchild of our famous local patron/collector of the arts Ruth Hoffman. The website, books, posters and notecards were beautifully designed by her sister Joanne Mell (available in the San Diego Art Institute store

Along with five other artists (including my wife Stephanie), I illustrated 31 out of 144 imaginative depictions of the various Eastern and Western signs combined.

Each watercolor is full of various symbols represented by minerals, plants, flowers, planets, constellations, symbols, colors etc. Other than being asked to include these symbols, we were all given free reign to let our imaginations fly. FUN!!!!

Most people know a lot about the twelve western astrological signs but very little about the eastern animals. Here is the story of the birth of the twelve eastern astrological years. If you want to know more, please go to

The Story of the Eastern Astrological Years

One day the jade emperor, ruler of the heavens and the cosmos, realized he knew little of the earth and the wondrous creatures who lived there. He summoned his chief advisor and asked to meet the animals of this rich kingdom. “Too many to pass through heaven’s gate,” he was told. The emperor decided to meet twelve of the most interesting. Those who served humanity and were beautiful or clever were determined to be of most interest, so the advisor set out to make the selection.

After pondering his choices, the advisor issued twelve summons. At the appointed hour all but the Cat made their appearance; as it happened the Rat, one of the first chosen, liked the Cat but was jealous of its beauty and so gave the wrong appointed time. The Cat overslept and the jade emperor was furious at its lack of manners. He sent his advisor to earth to find the first animal he saw. That’s how the Pig, in a basket on the way to market, was chosen to substitute for the Cat.

Once assembled at heaven’s gate, the animals clustered and jockeyed to be first in line. The Rat, both wily and charming but small, began to fret at his chances of being first. Just as the gates were to open, it jumped on the Ox’s nose and began to play the fiddle. The ploy worked, the emperor was delighted and the rat was admitted first. The Ox, who had born the affront with good humor and patience, was admitted second. And one by one the rest of the animals were put in order according to their appearance, their attributes, and their beauty. The lucky dozen and their positions: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

If none of these images represent your combined Eastern and Western sign,
please go to and find your own. Please scroll down as fast or slow as you like and enjoy three unique years of my painting career.





Monday, January 5, 2009


This Portrait of Pauolo Cristobol, 40x30, oil on canvas, was accepted into the upcoming California Art Club's 98th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition, April 26 - May 17, 2009. Im always happy to be in this event because it takes place in the spacious Pasadena Museum of California Art. 

My intention in this portrait was to convey a sense of Paulo's singularity, thoughtfulness, strength and virility. To achieve this aim, I used a limited range of toned down complimentary colors, a strong focal point and straightforward heroic composition. 

I met Pauolo at an art opening, hired him for a modeling session, lost contact and now all I know is he lives somewhere in mainland Mexico.

Oil on Canvas Panel          40x30"

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Christmas season is a slow time for sketch groups so, rather than growing rusty, Stephanie and I took the opportunity to set up a nude model in our studio. This particular model is also a student of mine who likes to trade drawing lessons for modeling time, so this six hour sketch session was like a Christmas gift. 

I worked on a large sheet of stonehenge paper (50x36") in medium sized soft vine charcoal, while Stephanie worked smaller, but more experimentally, on a half sheet of stonehenge (25x36") in a technique she developed that very day using conte sanguin, black and white powdered pigments applied with alcohol and a stiff brush. I really like the way her drawing turned out and look forward to seeing more attempts.

Ken Goldman        Stonehenge        36x50"

Stephanie Goldman    Stonehenge    25x36"

Friday, January 2, 2009


As a way to sharpen my hand/eye coordination and to practice new ways of "seeing," I try to attend at least two figure sketch groups per week. My techniques range anywhere from pen, pencil and charcoal to watercolors and oils.

Lately I've been using a special water soluble calligraphy pen that I discovered by accident. This "calligraphy pen" by Itoya may have been developed for calligraphy, but turns out to be an excellent fine art drawing tool as well. It makes thick bold dark lines when used flatly or thin delicate lines when turned on edge. It does not lose its shape and its ink lasts a long time. But what makes this pen really special is the way its water soluble acid free ink creates rich shadow tones quickly, simply by stroking the lines with a wet brush and making them "run."
I do not work for Itoya but sure turned out to be an unpaid mouthpiece for them. I now buy these pens by the box and when I pass on my semi used-up pens to other artists, they end up loving them too.

The examples I've chosen to show here are done on either white Canson paper or toned pastel paper using varying degrees of pastel accents. This pen also works well on watercolor paper combined with transparent watercolor washes.

Here is a sample of one of my Canson sketchbooks with two quickly sketched portraits showing the box, pen, water container and brush.


This detail shows two gestured figures with a thinner line.

Each of these three pages represent 2 1/2 hours of various poses ranging in time from 2 to 20 minutes per sketch. The surfaces are different tones of Strathmore Artagain Pastel paper ; the color accents are made with pastel.




Here is the pen in use again, but this time as 2 minute gestures on watercolor paper with washes of warm and cool transparent color.

These are 1 minute gesture poses - using warm/cool washes only, to show how different the figures look without using the water soluble pen.

These last two figures are both done in 20 minutes - using the same technique as the 2 minute gestures - only there is more time to finish, hopefully without losing freshness.

Detail of washes

Detail of washes