Watercolor Sketch, Kyoto Treat



Watercolor Sketch, Kyoto Japan, Green Tea Soft Serve Ice Cream

My daughter and I had walked the Path of Philosophy, from the Ginkaku-Ji Temple to the Eikan-do and Nanzen-ji Temples, and stopped at an outdoor cafe for a green tea soft serve ice cream.  I adore green tea and anything made with matcha, (the powdered form of green tea).  Where I have had green tea ice cream at Japanese restaurants in the States, it is rare to find it soft serve.  I’m embarrassed to say, or maybe not, that I had one of these cones every single day I was in Kyoto.  As I was sketching at the table, the owner of the cafe came out and presented me with one of her name cards, which I attached in my book.  This one had to be quick before it melted all over my daughter’s hand!


Path of Philosophy during cherry blossom viewing season, Kyoto Japan

Watercolor Sketching Equipment



www.kimminichiello.comYou can do watercolor sketches just about anywhere.   I highly encourage you to try it in your home or studio and consider it “play!”  This is where you can just play with the materials, discover what pigments you like best, what paper you prefer, what brush do you gravitate to the most.  Force yourself to use a bigger brush than you are used to, maybe a natural hair brush, versus a synthetic hair brush.  Which feels best for you?  If you are an experienced painter in watercolor, force yourself to use a different paper than you are used to, or different brushes.  Keep this in mind, don’t labor over it… it’s a sketch!

Most watercolor sketching I do is on location or plein air.  If you would like to work on the figure, try sketching in a cafe or coffee shop.  If you enjoy florals, go to a favorite park or your garden.  If you would like to paint plein air, you can do landscapes or urban scenes.

My favorite time to watercolor sketch is when I’m traveling.  My watercolor travel journals are a treasure to me.  I look at them often just to remember the places I’ve been, recalling smells, sounds or interesting things that happen while I’m sketching or people I meet and talk to.  It all comes back.   I also use them to develop larger paintings.

Today I thought I would share with you my equipment.  When I go out on location I want to keep it as light as possible and I’ve have narrowed it down to these essentials:

  • Watercolor sketch book- I use one with hand made paper from Nepal or India.  I love the deckled edge, texture of the paper, and it doesn’t take to being too wet or being overworked, so I stay in that “sketch mode.”
  • 2 brushes-  a #18 round, and a #16 flat
  •  My Windsor & Newton, compact paint palette- Here is a handy tip.  When I run out of paint in the little pans.  I just squeeze more in from my tubes and leave it out to air dry and get hard.
  • A collapsable water container
  • A bottle of water- I recycle a water bottle.  I always take water with me because I can never count on water being at the location I want to paint.
  • A travel pack of tissues or a few paper towels.
  • Mechanical pencil and a pack of leads.
  • 2 permanent ink pens
  • A kneadable eraser
  • A binder clip to hold my page down, if it’s windy
  • My black canvas pouch to keep all the above in.  I also use a bamboo brush holder for my brushes.
  • A stool- I have 2 a simple triangular one that folds up and fits in a case and nifty one that combines a stool and backpack.  I found this in a sporting goods store in Paris in the fishing section!  I love it for sketching in museums, too.  I sit on it with the backpack section in the front and have easy access to all my materials.

Kim Minichiello


All the sketches I have posted and will continue to share were all done with just these items!  I feel the brushes are key.  As long as you have one good big round brush that comes to a nice point, that is all you need.  It will also hold more water and allow you to be more gestural and spontaneous with your painting.  Have fun!  🙂

A funny story… Like I suggested try and keep your kit as light as possible.  I have been known to carry my stuff around with me all day while we are touring around, and never get around to doing a sketch.  My daughter teases me and asks me if I did, “performance art,” or  “real art”   that day!  She happens to be an actor and performing artist and sometimes a smarty pants.



Watercolor Sketch From Kyoto Japan

www.kimminichiello.comWatercolor Sketch, Kyoto Japan, Gio Ji Temple

The summer we lived in Hong Kong, my daughter and I took a girls trip together to Kyoto Japan. We had been the previous April during Cherry Blossom season and fell in love with Kyoto.  We went back to explore other areas we didn’t get a chance to visit.  Gio Ji Temple in the Arashiyama area is such a charming, peaceful place.  Almost the entire grounds are carpeted with the most beautiful green moss.  I did this sketch sitting along one of the tiny paths, while my daughter played with the temple cat.




Copyrights: What Every Artist Needs to Know

Watercolor artist Carrie Waller posted part two in a series of my trademark and copyright articles. She invited me to do guest blog posts on these topics.   From the feedback so far everyone has found the information to be very helpful and has answered many questions.  I’m so happy to hear it!  If anyone has any more questions, please feel free to comment here or contact me.

Here is the link to the copyright portion of the article on Carrie’s blog:


Watercolor Sketching



Watercolor Sketch, in sketch book on hand made paper, Yonghe Gong Lama Temple, Beijing, China

I dabbled with watercolor sketching, but really fell in love with it when I lived in Hong Kong.  I had so much wonderful subject matter around me and  I wanted to try plein air painting, so I started going out on location and painting in my watercolor sketch book.  The major thing I learned after I started doing it  was, it took away the intimidation of doing a painting in watercolor.  Sometimes I would sit in the studio and look at a big piece of white paper and wonder if I was going to pull  off something I was going to be happy with.  Even though artists shouldn’t get caught up in that way of thinking, that everything we do has to be a winner because it always isn’t!  After all it’s just paper and paint, but I think deep down we always want to be happy with what we create at the end of the day.

Watercolor sketching is a wonderful thing to do for so many reasons:

  • Sketching forces you to be quick and not over think things.
  • It forces you to simplify what you are seeing in the environment and not get caught up in the details.
  • It gave me a chance to feel more comfortable with the medium and took away the intimidation when I did do larger works in the studio.
  • If you do it plein air, it’s great to be out in nature or really soak in the sights and sounds of a place, much better than a quick photo.
  • Gives you a lasting memory of a moment in time when you were enjoying the act of painting.
  • Sketches can be used to develop bigger paintings.
  • Great way to meet people or connect with other artists if you go out together.
  • My watercolor sketch books go with me when ever I travel.  Your sketch books becomes  a treasure of meaningful memories.

In future posts I will talk about my materials and share some of my sketches.  I hope it inspires you to try it!

This sketch was done at the Lama Temple in Beijing.  I had a nice older chinese gentlemen sit down next to me on the bench while I worked on this sketch.  We talked about a variety of things.  I will never forget it!

Trademarks and How They Affect Artists

I have made friends with a wonderful watercolor artist, Carrie Waller, on Facebook and she recently had an issue with an art organization not accepting a painting into their exhibition because she had depicted Ball canning jars in the work and they were concerned about trademark infringement.  I posted a comment to her blog about this issue  and she invited me to do a guest  blog post on her blog, which I was happy to do!

As I stated in her article, I’m not an attorney, I’m an artist, and I don’t profess to be an expert on trademarks and copyrights, but I do have some experience and knowledge on the subject matter.  I co- founded a company a few years ago creating digital art for the art licensing market.  Some of the designs that I created were to be mass-produced, utilizing vintage images so, I wanted to be sure that by using them I wouldn’t be infringing on anyone’s trademark or copyright.  At that time, I had an Intellectual Property Attorney, and the information I passed on is from my own research that was validated by my attorney and information she gave to me.

Here is a link to my trademark article on Carrie’s blog: http://carriewaller.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-blogger-kim-minichiello.html


Lotus Nocturne

Kim MinichielloLotus Nocturne, Watercolor, 39″ x 18.5″

The lotus is part of the symbolic language of eastern religions. It is a symbol of purity, enlightenment, and rebirth.  Each part of the plant has a meaning or significance from the roots, to the stems emerging from muddy waters, the leaves, buds and flowers.  Symbolizing the souls journey through life, coming from the murky water, the stems rise above the mud, the buds an unborn soul, the beautiful flower rising above it all and opening, enlightenment, and the seeds falling from the pod, enlightened souls to help guide others.

Traveling through Asia I have marveled at lotus ponds I have seen in Bali, China and Japan.  I have wanted to do a large painting in a vertical format for a while and felt this was the perfect subject matter.  I enjoyed designing the composition for this piece and wanted to depict all the stages of the flower from bud, to bloom, to the seed pods and the strength of this majestic plant rising to the heavens.   It was  a meditation and a challenge at the same time working with a limited palette of color for a larger painting.


Lion Dance

www.kimminichiello.comLion Dance, Watercolor, 36″ x 36″

When my family and I moved to Hong Kong, it was right after Christmas and right before the Chinese New Year Celebration, the year of the pig.  We had no idea the extent of this holiday and it was a real treat to experience it while living there.  There are so many fascinating traditions, celebrations, and spectacles that last fifteen days.  One of my favorite things to experience was the Lion Dance.  These can break out anywhere.  They were performed several times in our apartment complex, and whenever we heard the loud gong, cymbals and drums we would rush down to watch.    The dance  is to provoke good luck, and is performed by two people usually trained in martial arts, one person performing the head and the other the body. They dance along the route to a gong, drums and cymbals.  Sometimes following a laughing Buddha, dressed in monks robes wearing a mask.  Above the doorways are placed heads of romaine lettuce or some type of greens.  The lion eats the lettuce and scatters the leaves on the ground for good luck.  There is mirror on the head of the lion so that evil spirits can be frightened away by their own reflections.

This painting Lion Dance depicts a lion head-piece from a performance that I saw.  I loved working on this painting, the bold color, the subject matter and the size really spoke to me.  I almost feel as if it painted itself!  I love it when that happens!   This is the largest painting I have done in watercolor it measures 36” x 36”.  I really enjoyed working big!


John Singer Sargent’s Dorothy, Portrait Study



Copy Study of John Singer Sargent’s Dorothy 16″ x 20″, Oil on Canvas

When I visited the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, I often saw artists copying some of the masters’ works. There is a program where you can sign up and request to do this on certain days in the museum.  I heard the Orsay even provided the easels, and they have the ledgers from when the artists currently hanging in the Orsay signed in to do copy studies at the Louvre.   This is one thing I regret not looking into and doing when I lived there.

When I returned home I took a portrait painting class in oils.  The assignment was to do a study of a  painting by John Singer Sargent.  I was very excited to do this study of his painting Dorothy because I rarely paint portraits, this one would be a good exercise in painting whites, and an opportunity to really study Sargent’s brushwork.  If you have never done a “copy” study, I would highly recommend it.  Here is the link to Sargent’s Dorothy.  http://www.johnsingersargent.org/Dorothy.html which is at the Dallas Museum of Art.