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It’s Just So Darn Much Fun!

April 19, 2015

whimsy.I probably should apologize to my gouache friends.  You haven’t seen much gouache work here in quite a while. But the blog is about art in general and my art in particular, so hopefully you understand that I do experiment with artwork that isn’t always done with gouache. Certainly, I’ll pull out some gouache tubes again at some point. After all, there is a drawer full of it in the studio area. But for now, we have been headed in a new direction.You’ve seen in the last few posts that we’ve spent a lot of time developing our whimsical art. We’ve even given it a name: Whimsitecture. We’ve also been experimenting with ink, watercolor, pencil and acrylics, even Sharpies. There is a storybook feel to the work. At 71, I’m still having fun with my art.


We’ve put most of our booth focus on the whimsical art. At the April First Saturday Arts Market, we did sell several 5×7 gouache landscape paintings, but the real bulk of our sales was whimsy, in a variety of sizes. I’d call this focus on sales a cop out if we weren’t having so much fun doing the work. It’s something Nell and I can do together., and it isn’t really a huge change of direction for me. I’ve played with storybook art before.

. old work 1b3

I just didn’t realize back then, in my pre-Photoshop days, just how hard it was to write a story and then illustrate it.

old work 2b3

But what I remember most is that it was a heck of a lot of fun. The two illustrations above were done with Prismacolor pencils, some 25 years ago.

old work 4b

.And the drawings above, while not storybook art, are representative of the media I worked with over the years: graphite pencil, colored pencil, pen and ink, and yes, even gouache (lower right corner).

So, there really is a precedent for me to work in a variety of media, and to do storybook art, with or without an actual story.


I spent a number of years during architectural renderings for architects, developers, ad agencies and graphic design studios. Most of that work was pen and ink like the illustration above. Altered perspective and a looser, more fun technique suddenly takes us into a storybook environment. The original of this one sold recently. Never underestimate the power of people seeing your work on social media.


A large part of this new work is simply grounded in drawing. By now, if you’ve followed along for a while, you know that drawing is my first art love. Without a doubt, the whimsical work we’re doing now is mostly about the drawing.

whimsy for affaire d'art

And color.  Nell has brought me kicking and screaming into the world of wacky, quirky color. While the drawings are mine, the color on many of the pieces above is Nell’s work. We recently sold one of these at Affaire d/Art, our gallery in Galveston, Texas.


….and, of course, a bit of imagination. Consider that this work, in some form, has been part of my life since I was a teenager, drawing hotrod cartoons and World War II aerial dogfights influenced by comic books. While I love painting landscapes, I haven’t been doing it nearly as long as I’ve been drawing things. For me, painting landscapes is a form of translation, putting what I see, either in person or in a photograph I’ve taken, down on board, and wondering if anyone will be able to understand what I’ve painted, or why I painted it.


 But when I draw from my imagination… well, that’s when I’m in my element. I can spend time in a pretend world, one that I don’t have to explain. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be real.


But it does have to be fun. I don’t have the greatest imagination in the world. In fact, a lot of my storybook work is pretty simple and tame compared to the work that’s  being done in videos and gaming, and especially in the fantasy movie industry. But when I forget about all that, and just do the work for myself, something magical happens.


I don’t discount the value of painting. It has taught me to see better. It has given me an improved foundation for every piece of art. And it has also provided excellent reference material for storybook environments. Consider the following painting of a wonderful location we hiked through in Ohio:


And then see the storybook sketch inspired by the painting:


But the best part is the fact that I can dig into my imagination…


And turn something as simple as a walk in the woods… into a wonderful adventure.

Grab a pencil, or a camera, or a brush, and go find your adventure.



10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2015 10:42 pm

    What a wonderful, inspirational post! I’m so glad you’re having fun with your art. Loving this whimsical creativity you’ve got going on here!

  2. April 19, 2015 10:52 pm

    My pleasure!

  3. Catherine Hensiek permalink
    April 19, 2015 11:26 pm

    Ralph, this was a great post. I love that you have such a creative imagination. That is one thing I struggle with…freeing my spirit to just go with an idea wherever it takes me. Thank you very much for the inspiration.

  4. permalink
    April 20, 2015 7:42 am

    Thank you. The overview and the evolution of your paintings was fun and interesting. I am new to gouache and loving it.

  5. April 22, 2015 5:37 pm

    Fantastic post. Really inspiring. Great work!

  6. Margaret Quin permalink
    April 26, 2015 7:49 am

    That’s great that you and Nell are living your dream! Love your artwork!
    Especially like the true to life scene in the woods by the cliff!
    What size is it & if for sale, how much?
    Thank you for sharing, Ralph!
    Margaret Quin
    From the Villas (1005)

  7. August 8, 2015 8:48 am

    A fine body of work Ralph.


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