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Category: Sketches

Stroll around Lucca, Italy

A Stroll In Lucca, Italyby David R. Darrow
5" x 7" (12.7cm x 17.8cm)
Oil on Panel
Collection of Leta Terrell,
Lake Providence, LA – USA

About This Painting

I sometimes live vicariously through the lives of strangers, which is why I have on my Beautiful Strangers™ business card “Oil portraits of friends I have never met.”

Getting to know the people who model for me is always a step into a new world.

And so it goes with clients who hire me to paint for them, as was the case with one client, recently, who wanted to gift his wife with a painting to remind her of the wonderful time they had together in a trip to Italy. I got to see his collection of snapshots and hear him talk about what memories he had of these various locations, the beauty, the moments that touched them both.

One in particular was a stroll around the section of Lucca (I believe he referred to it as Lucca Park). This walkway at the south-east of the walled city was strewn with Fall leaves and dappled sunlight, walled out on the right, and protected by a small berm on the left, seemingly endless in its forward distance.

I did this color sketch before the final, much larger painting to present to my client. He was pleased, and gave me the go-ahead for the final. ◙

Playing with Paint

I’m starting a new painting, 5″ x 7″ on Panel.

I’m planning to do some experimenting with materials, and starting with this pencil on gessoed masonite.

The drawing is of my wife at the time. It’s from a photo that was taken by Morgan Weistling in 2002 when we visited him and his family. The shot was taken with the natural light that comes into his studio during the day.


I completed this a week later… no, it did not take a week, it just took a week to get to it. I did the finish live on my Dave The Painting Guy broadcast.

I tried to keep the shadows thin and very warm, and then heavier on the opaque lights. This is to help the illusion of cool light in a warm environment.

Michelle in Conté

Michelle in Conteby David R. Darrow
12" x 14" (30.5cm x 35.6cm)
Conte on Smooth Newsprint
This painting is not framed
Click here to bid on eBay
Opening Bid: $19.95 / Buy It Now™ $29.95

About This Drawing

I’ve decided to post some of my Life Drawings on eBay for sale.

Each of them that I sell is a one-of-a-kind original from the hand, eyes and experience of David R. Darrow. That’s me.

These were usually done as demonstrations when I was teaching Life Drawing at a local college. They are all done on 18″ x 24″ smooth newsprint — the favorite of students and teachers, but not inherently archival. Newsprint is known to yellow and get brittle over time, which I think adds to the character of it. If mounted properly, matted with acid-free mat board, and protected with glass, these drawings can last for decades and look quite elegant.

I recommend taking your drawing to a Poster and Framing shop at a local mall and have them dry-mount it on foam-core. They can also trim it to your frame size, help you with matting, and frame it too, if you want. The mounting and foam-core is about $10, last I checked.

Some of these will be listed as auctions and others in my eBay store.

You may want to take a moment to bookmark my store by name: Everyday Paintings (just like my art website, only different)

The shipping cost covers double mailing tubes, insurance and the shipping weight. If you purchase more than one of these drawings you may have each additional drawing for $19.95 with free shipping if all are shipped together. I will provide the discount on the invoice, or if that is not possible, I will refund the portion that is overpaid, immediately, through Paypal. (It’s complicated at my end, but it works).

Please ignore the picture and description of the shipping carton at the bottom of this page… that is for my paintings and has nothing to do with this auction

Turkey Chick (Ancient Drawing)

Turkey Chickby David R. Darrow
14" x 11" (35.56cm x 27.94cm)
Pen and Ink on Illustration Board
Click here to bid on eBay

I realize this is a little Thanksgiving-oriented, but I doubt anyone will be able to receive it by Thanksgiving… just so you know.

This is a piece I did — get this — almost 30 years ago! Yep. I did it in college, in a pen and ink drawing class. Age 19. Art Center College of Design.

On the back is a Happy Birthday message to my mom. (What else could I give her — I was broke!)

The image has yellowed, as you can see… The “white border” is the original illustration board color, which was protected by a matte. You could re-matte it to hide that fact.

Drawn with Rapid-o-graph pens and India ink.

Own a piece of history! Low starting price. ◘

Part of the Art

In the sketchbook, mentioned below [circa 1977, Art Center College of Design], I was to do many, many drawings of everyday things. I was essentially to draw anything that was before me, anywhere I had the time to draw.

In my first term at Art Center, College of Design in February 1977, I had an instructor named Mr. Souza for a class called Head Drawing. I can’t remember his first name, but John Philip comes to mind as an entirely incorrect answer. If memory serves me, he was the first of my instructors that first week to assign a sketchbook for the semester. The first pages of that book are festooned with drawings for him.

Souza was an different kind of guy. He was in his 40s at the time, thick glasses, stout of stature. And he taught with authority. He had a bit of a sarcastic edge, too. It was intimidating to ask him questions because his responses were laced with an air of but of course.

He also had an eye for the ladies. The kind of eye that might qualify him for Congressional Service.

He really liked Paula.

Paula was a gal from the south who was not only genetically gifted with a shapely and voluminous foreground, but who also didn’t think it at all odd or improper to talk about her gifting. To 19-year-old young men such as myself.

“Thirty-six-dee,” she said to me once when I alerted her that one of her top buttons may have come undone. [No she just wore it that way on purpose, I learned]. “And they pass the pencil test.”

I had no idea what that meant, and told her so.

She explained.

I squirmed.

Anyway, one day Paula comes to Mr. Souza’s Head Drawing class in a boat-neck, mid-forearm-sleeved knit top with one-inch, black-and-white horizontal stripes stacked from hem to shoulder.

Not that this made any lasting impression on me.

One glance and I could hear my mother saying women shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes. On this day, I finally understood what that vague rule actually meant. Only I found myself at once understanding yet disagreeing, but really, probably understanding mostly. I was 19 and trying to live virtuously.

But Mr. Souza was sent over the edge when she came in. In the middle of his morning lecture, he had her stand up as an object lesson showing how lines describe form, and how the placement of them, size, and angle conveyed visual cues to the observer as to underlying shape, volume and texture. By this time, he was standing beside her, pointing down with his pencil tip, following her lines like a helicopter following a cliffside mountain road.

I was blushing.

She was smiling.

He wasn’t fired.

I regularly made mistakes in the pages of my sketchbook, and being a kid, for all practical purposes, I was self conscious about leaving mistakes in a hardbound book of drawings that did not allow for tearing pages out and starting fresh. The result was that I commented in writing on nearly every mistake or oddity in my own book.

When trying to draw what was probably a tangerine, but which I labeled “mandarine” (hey, they have the same last 4 letters), I dripped juice or maybe coffee on my drawing. And thus it bacame part of the art. Be sure to click the little picture above to see the whole page.

My First Sketchbook, Part 1

When I began attending Art Center College of Design (ACCD) in 1977, I was 19 years old. I was one of the youngest students in the school. Younger than me, as I recall, were Frank Ordaz, Emmanuel Amit, Tia [Wallace] Kratter and one or two others.

I was scared. Seemed everyone was 23 or older. They had been to college already.

There were requirements that were daunting. Only a few years earlier the administration had stopped requiring male students to wear white shirts and ties to class. It was still a strict environment—many of the teachers were at the new facility in Pasadena, but had come from tenure at the “old school on Third Avenue.” They brought with them the old ways.

I, for one, thought that was a good idea. I wanted to learn Illustration the old way. I wanted to learn to draw and paint from teachers who were working and succeeding during the Illustration Heydays; the 1930s–1950s.

We were required to keep a sketchbook with us at all times. At least one teacher would make this a demand, pretty much covering for the rest of the teachers who would make the same requirement.

The sketchbook, above left, is a 29-year old sketchbook. (Click it to see a large scan of it). The very one I carried with me everywhere. I decorated it with an ancient religious symbol signifying my membership in the Fraternal Order of Norman Rockwell. Actually I just lied. It was a totally random shape cut from the remains of the holographic mylar sticker-tape my buddy Brock and I used to make a SUNBUG logo for his beige VW Beetle in 1978. Having narrowly escaped participating in the 60s due to our youth, yet still influenced by the psychedelic artwork of that era, we chose Arnold Boecklin for the font.

No one told me that All Caps in a display face is just bad typography.

In that sketchbook I would keep my class notes, my required “daily drawings” (I never did them daily) and my ideas. Along with all that were my “A.D.D. Compensations.” These little artworks were — as crazy as this may sound to someone who does not sport ADD — my way of focusing on the lectures.

There is nothing more painful to a 19-year-old art student influenced by ADD and nearly entirely visually driven, than having to listen to a lecture about visual things.

So I drew.

I usually sketched cartoons or caricatures of my teachers while they talked.

One course I had was Color Theory, taught by a chain-smoking, salty and weathered, mid-fourties, old-schooler named Judy Crook.

She droned on and on about color theory in the most absolute terms, finishing each paragraphical statement with “It’s all relative…”

Now when you’re ADD enhanced—as I like to call it—your mind picks up on repetitive sounds and patterns. They are just rhythms and sounds. Not words. And so, like a catchy beat in a song, like the piano and drums intro in Rikki Don’t Lose That Number the pattern gets absorbed and memorized, only later to be studied and analyzed for content.

I thought it was odd that I was being taught a basics course that was all theory, reduced further by its mere relativity.

It would be decades before I would come to understand the enormous value of everything I was taught by Judy Crook in my second term at ACCD. She had a way of burning-in the meaning and correct naming in the terminology of color: hue, saturation, value, tint, shade, intensity… but what would baffle me for years was the concept of the relativity of it all. All the rules were only good so far as the way they were described, but would fall apart in varying degrees based largely on the colors surrounding—and thereby visually influencing—a given hue.

It’s still a difficult thing to pay attention to even as a painter, some 29-odd years later.

Judy Crook was brilliant.


I just got through reading a great article by an animator I have never met, Ward Jenkins—I stumbled on his blog through some art connection, and through his blog also found a blog of his wife Andrea’s doing. They are both on my regular-reads list. The title of his piece today is Meeting Giants where he relates well a touching story of getting to meet a couple of old animators—two of the Disney’s famed Nine Old Men—who were doing a signing at a place near him.

It was my turn. I walked up to Frank and shook his hand. That hand. The hand that gave birth to many inspiring characters, many incredible scenes. The hand that has drawn perhaps millions of drawings, each one a small birth of personality and life. The hand that has moved millions, perhaps even billions, on this planet to tears, to laughter, to sorrow, to pain, to wonderment, to exhilaration, to joy, to love. I shook that hand and time stood still for me. In this frozen moment, I wanted to be some kind of conduit where all his experiences and knowledge of the craft somehow channeled into me. Oh, if only. If only I could gather all his thoughts and feelings about animation, even the anguish and hardships that seems to be so evident of the art-form, and suddenly become this new creation myself, the Tenth Old Man, or something.

It reminded me of how I always look at hands.

Some hands do not capture my attention for long. Others draw me in. Few and far between are pretty hands, in my opinion, but many hands are interesting. I, too, place great importance on the hands of talented people. Whenever I am in the presence of great artists, I always look at their hands. If they are particularly famous, and “made it” a long time ago, and have been living in fabulous wealth for several decades, however, I look at my feet. But that’s another story.

My three-best-friends-ever all make their living with their hands… well I suppose most do. I mean, my good friend Celine Dion makes her living with her voice, but she still does that chest-pounding thing with her hands. Anyway…

Morgan Weistling is great painter. His hands look no different than anyone else’s, but the control they have is amazing to me.

Brock Meeks is an amazing fellow. He decided he wanted to be a writer about 15 years ago, and with no formal education or great grades in English or writing, went to the library and got books on writing, and made himself a writer. He’s now one of the top writers at Same thing with photography. He wanted to become a better photographer, so he got books (and some good camera equipment) and dang if he didn’t turn into a world class photographer.

Then there’s my high school best friend, Rick Gerber, who’s a magician. Was in high school, and still is, 30 years later. Full-time! You can’t help but watch his hands. The things he does with coins, cards, scarves, sticks, napkins and lovely assistants will make you sure that his hands are truly magic.

We always look at the hands.

But the hands are just a tool. An extention of the mind. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the hands are the vehicle of experience. You don’t look at a Frank Lloyd Wright home and then stare at his saw. There’s just too much more inside the man.

Ward Jenkins reflects that the old animator gave him a distilled solution to being successful as an animator


You can substitue your own fundamental skill for Draw, but that’s really the heart of excellence isn’t it? Observe everything. Communicate Well. Draw, Draw, Draw.

See, it’s drawing—the most fundamental element of art—that is the most critical element of all great art. New art students do not appreciate how critical to their future works is the fundamental regimen of drawing.

Drawing makes you observe, and observing makes you see better, and seeing is what makes the artist. Not the hands.

Seeing makes the great writer, not the hands.

Seeing makes the great magician, not— well, maybe that doesn’t work. But you get my point.

My father was Salesman of the Year in various companies he worked for, a pattern that started in the early 1950s. He was not your typical salesman. He was your friend. My dad was the living example of applying the Old Animator’s Advice to his profession as a salesman. The drawing my father did was in studying the client, finding out their technical needs and communicating with his own companies production teams and engineers what the client wanted and building detailed proposals for the other company’s engineers to peruse.

At my father’s Memorial Service, a gentleman named Don Baumann came walking up the aisle to an open mic and told the audience about the day Bob Darrow came to work for him. Don was my dad’s new boss. Don found out that day that my father was the replacement for someone they fired. The company hired my dad to work under Don without telling Don. And the man they fired? He was a very close friend of Don’s.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here,” Don told his new hire that day.

My dad heard similar slams over the next few months as his boss wondered why my dad never turned in Expense Reports—the expected evidence of wining and dining clients, taking them to clubs and dinners and golfing.

My dad was busy drawing.

“Bob, I don’t think you’re going to make it here…”

At the end of the year, my dad outsold everyone in the company and remained the top salesman for his many years there. In short order the company restructured their sales procedures to model my dad’s methods. Everyone was required to get to know the clients’ needs, build solid proposals, observe and communicate.

My dad was fond of a phrase

Listen to Understand, Not to Respond

Still… I miss his hands.


Several years ago, I was stuck in a City Building in downtown San Diego. I was there without an appointment to take care of an immediate need; to clear up a serious error in the City’s records.

Calling for an appointment got me nowhere. They were weeks out in the scheduling and I needed help now.

When I went to the appropriate desk for assistance, I was told to make an appointment, at which time I explained that that would not do, and I asked the woman to please let the appropriate people know that mine was a pressing need, and that I would be waiting right over here, all day and into the night, if necessary, to speak with the person who has the authority to do something about my situation this very day.

I went and sat down and looked around me, wondering—as I always do at public “services”—what all these people were waiting for. How many of them were having to deal with an emergency, as I was? How many of them would much rather be anywhere else than here? It was clear that the people behind the counter were no more enthusastic at being at their ninetofive than were the people waiting for their number to be called.

I noticed after awhile that this guy across from me, wearing oversized pants and jacket, had been sitting in this position for pretty much the entire time that I had been sitting. And he remained in this position, looking to his left, staring into space—perhaps replaying some personal movie over and over in his head; the one with the plot that, in this act, cast him in this particular scene. [Enlarged View]

A perfect model. So I drew him.

Oh, and my waiting paid off. After four hours of waiting, I was directed to a man downstairs who listened attentively—after I asked him several times to please hear me out before making decisions—and who reviewed all the paperwork I brought with me. We sat in his office for over two hours, and as I left he promised me he would check my records against the City’s. After two weeks he called me to tell me that he had found a clerical error from two years prior, and informed me that their records now matched mine to the penny.

No apology was ever offered.

Sketchy Past

Elena LonardiDuring the summer of ’96, the mid-days in the part of San Diego I used to live in, Rancho Peñasquitos, would get uncomfortably hot, so I would split my sometimes long workdays in half, opting to use this split time to go to the beach and relax in the sun.

My favorite beach, at that time, is called Wind and Sea [Satellite Picture], in La Jolla, CA. It has natural rock formations gracefully birthing from both sand and sea. The water is generally a blue-crystal clear, and a variety of salt-water fish swim around the rocks there, making for great snorkling. A famous surf-spot is there, with large peak-shaped waves breaking constantly in shallow water over a vast reef, surfers taking both left and right rides off the same wave.

In that summer of 1996, my now-ex-wife and I were not doing much together anymore, so I started taking my sketchbook with me when I went out. I’d ususally sketch people—my main interest. At the beach, one can presume, there will be lots of models posing for long periods. In reality, people at the beach move around a lot, even when sunning, I soon learned.

Man SittingMost of my “models” didn’t know I was drawing them. Some would look at me every now and again and then go back to whatever they were reading, or thinking about. None objected. And occassionally a subject would get up, walk over to me and ask what I was drawing.

“You.” I would say, pointing to a rough “quick-sketch” of them.

Generally the likeness was way off because of the quick nature of the sketch (usually five minutes or so—and from a distance), so they usually just smiled politely and went back to their chair or towel.

Elena LonardiOne young, blonde woman intrigued me. She was sitting in a beach chair, wearing a straw sun hat. I had done an earlier quick sketch of her—shown at top of this blog entry—while she chatted with her friends.

She was visiting from “Verona, Italia” (Verona, Italy)—as I soon learned—so when she came to see what I was doing and inquire about it, she brought an interpreter. After a bit of conversation, I asked through her interpreter if she would kindly sit for a longer pose while I sketched her. She seemed honored to have been asked, and gladly did so.

She sat patiently for perhaps an hour or more, staring just over my head to the south. When I was done, she came and looked at it, and her friends gathered around to see it. They said it looked just like her. She smiled broadly and said, “Thank you very much.”

Her name was Elena Lonardi.

This post is actually a slighly re-worked piece I wrote and posted sometime in 1997, when there wasn’t much of an internet, much less blogs. It would have to qualify as one of my first blog posts ever. Back in the mid-1990s when I was just learning to code in HTML (the old fashioned way), I thought it would be fun to journal with sketches. I was taking my drawing book with me to a lot of places over the next few years, especially as my divorce began and I found myself alone at coffee shops, or at the beach during off hours and weekends without the kids.

Back then, blogging wasn’t a verb—or even a word—but that is the essence of what I wanted to do. It was just way too complicated to hand-code layouts like the one you see above, which, using css now, made this happen in minutes vs the two hours first time around.

With this blog entry, I am also introducing a new category: Sketches since they were such a part of my life before, and are likely be for a long time.