Morning Practice – 10 Minutes Writing

Every morning I write for ten minutes before getting out of bed.

It’s a ritual.

It’s a routine.

It’s a creative habit.

It starts the creative juices flowing, it documents my mind’s daily wandering, and it allows me to move on to the day ahead feeling that I’ve accomplished something.

it is one of my seven strategies for a successful day.

Another one is working in a series.

Making not one but two, three, even a hundred, of the same idea.

Today I am painting still life’s, specifically Morning Glories.

But before I began to paint, I wrote my ten minutes.

I believe the one (the timed free write) informs the other.

I believe the writing without destination, following wherever the story takes me, allows me to paint better, to think better. And to write better.

Here’s my writing today.

10 minutes, timed, before getting out of bed.

6:53 am

Woke up in a motel in SF drank coffee got some rows knitting in before a phone call with our daughter, then six miles walking to the Golden Gate Bridge and back.

It always looks so much closer.

So big and red and looming, and yesterday the sky so clear you could practically see the individual wire strands of the suspension cables.

A young girl met us on the street corner with a big blue sign asking us to vote for her candidate.

A man lay in a doorway huddled in on himself, no blanket.

The joggers were out in force, maintaining their bodies beautiful, one tall thin woman with a high pony more prancing than running, like a prima ballerina set loose on the track.

The tide was low but water looked between us and the beach, reflecting the Golden Gate upside down.

We had brought nothing but a bottle of water with us so kept walking, but we were both thinking, “how would I paint that?”

Sailing boats are tied up at the yacht club here, their reflections dancing with them in the gentle wake.

As we walk and talk it seems the water and the boats and the islands are moving, not us. The bridge seems always at the same distance from us, close, so close, but yet we are still not there.

At one stop along the path there is a sign that tells us we still have half a mile to go, which seems incredible, because we can practically reach out and touch it. And yet.

White steam erupts from a large building across the road, and the smell of hops.

From the last pier a few men wrapped in many layers cast lines into the water.

The Warming Hut is closed, it’s still too early, even though it seems half the City is out walking their dogs.

That’s it!

If this process interests you, maybe you’d like to join my online Writing Group, Tell Me More!

Tell Me More! supports writers in writing daily.

We start off with a commitment to write ten minutes a day, for 30 days.

We share our work in a Secret Facebook group.

We don’t critique.

We don’t share each other’s stories outside of the group.

That’s it!

Make Art! Be Kind!

Send me a message on Facebook if you’d like to participate!

The Art of Now at Allied Arts in Cambria

“Why Paint? Why live?”

Gregory Kondos

Allied Arts Cambria presents The Art of Now, a painting demo, Slideshow & Talk, with award winning artists Erin Gafill and Tom Birmingham this coming Sunday November 4 m, 2pm-3:30 pm.

Erin will kick the event off with a 20 minute painting demo, followed by a slideshow of inspirational images, thoughts, and quotes from her favorite teachers. Tom will wrap things up with a few creativity exercises that will send everyone away smiling. Time for a Q&A at the end.

Click The Art of Now in Cambria for all the details!

Peninsula Sketch Crawl November 10 10-2 2018

Sketching is an immediate response to what you observe.

We sketch to learn.

We sketch to record.

We sketch to study and we sketch to play.

There are as many approaches as there are people.

There’s continuous line sketch.

And sketch with wash.

When I look back at my sketchbooks – London, Siena, Florence, Big Sur – I am struck with how much emotion and memory these little drawings and paintings contain.

And it’s a nice thing to do together.

For all these reasons and more, we’ve organized this first Peninsula Sketch Crawl.

It’s free!

And you don’t need much.

A journal or sketchbook. A pen. Watercolors if you want to get into color.

That’s it!

Pack a picnic lunch and your supplies and join us on the Monterey Rec Trail between Fishermen’s Wharf and Heritage Harbor, 10 am – 2pm, November 10 (2018)

We’re all beginners.

We’re all creative.

We all have something to contribute!


PS Are you coming to the Sketch Crawl? Here are the supplies I suggest. Let me know if you have any questions –

What to Bring

The whole idea of sketching is to travel light, and to be ready at a moment’s notice to capture an image or tableau that piques your interest. Sketch is to painting as snapshots are to photography. See it, capture it, move on. For this reason less truly is more.

For a sketch excursion you’ll need something to make a line. I prefer a pen to a pencil so that I am not tempted to erase. Something to suggest volume. Sometimes I use walnut ink or indigo ink in a water pen to create single tone wash. Sometimes I use watercolor to add a bit of color. Now you need a brush (or so). I use a #12 traveling brush I got from most of the time. I also carry a #6 traveling brush to add detail. Sometimes I like a flat brush to make easier oblongs for buildings and fences, but, it makes the process a bit to easy and mechanical looking….that’s up to you.

What colors to I bring. For watercolor sketching I just use three colors. A yellow, a blue, and a red. “Can you make every color out of those three paints?” you may ask. No, of course I can’t, but, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I could have every color Windsor Newton makes, and I still couldn’t make every color. I’m just not that skilled. So, I use three colors. I can make my reds cooler or warmer adding yellow or blue, my blue more green or purple by adding my yellow or red, etc. If I want a neutral grey, I mix all three until it turns almost pure black. This is all good practice I think.

Don’t forget paper. You really want two kinds of paper. For line drawing you’ll want a light-weight sketch paper book. Note whether your chosen pen bleeds through your chosen sketch paper. If o, I bring along a single sheet of wax paper, the size of my sketchbook to put behind the page I’m drawing on.For the water media, You’ll want good quality watercolor paper, I use 300 gram Fabriano cold press.

What’s left? A water bottle, a cup to dip your brush into the water, and a hand full of paper towels or tissue to dry your brush. Anything more than this is just because it is always easier to buy art supplies than it is to use them, and, maybe you just want to have a workout and carry more.

Some people like to carry a folding stool to perch. Not a bad idea, but, I just find a bench or sit on the ground. Some people like to carry a pochade box with a tripod. It’s OK with me, but, I like the “quick draw” aspect of my sketchbook in a shoulder bag.

Keep in mind, we are not making masterpieces to hang in a museum. We are practicing looking, seeing, and rendering. You may find that the limitations of your tools actually inspire innovation.

OK here it is in list form –

Pen – Fine Roller Ball or Felt Tip, your choice

Water Pen – Fill it with water or 50-50 water and walnut oil

Brushes – #12 Round and #6 Round

Paper – Sketchbook (5” x 9” approximatley) and a stack of 300 gram watercolor paper that fits in your note book

Watercolor Tube Paints – Rose Madder, Indian Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue is what I use.

Water bottle


Paper Towels

See you there – Tom Birmingham

Kelly Medford, an American painter in Rome

I love Kelly Medford!

I love her paintings. 

I love what she writes about painting them.
I love that every painting has a story, and every story usually has a painting too.
I first met Kelly through Facebook.  I saw her work, saw that she posted daily paintings and wrote about her process.
I admired her work ethic and her bravery, venturing into the vast ancient city of Rome every day on her bicycle and always coming home with a painting in her basket.
I envied her skill, her training, and her talent.
So I bought a painting. Then another.
Tom commissioned a painting from Kelly depicting my great great grandmother’s courtyard on Via Margutta, near the Spanish Steps, as a gift for my 50th birthday. I cried when I saw it.
And finally, that Christmas, Kelly came to California and we met each other for real.
I cried again. I felt like I was meeting a long lost sister.
Kelly inspired me to return to teaching on Italy.  She inspired me to take my own easel out on a walkabout of New York City a few years back, one of the greatest painting experiences I ever had.
And she continues to say “yes!” when Tom and me I ask her to teach with us during our annual Awaken The Artist Within painting and sketching tours.
It is my pleasure and honor to introduce you to Kelly and her beautiful paintings.
Invite a little Italian sunshine into your life!
PS Expats often stumble on some of the best a new city has to offer. Tom and I always pick up a picnic lunch here when we are heading to Villa Pamphilj to sketch, and a snack for the flight home. Le Levain. My favorite bakery in Rome has been discovered! Read on

Tell Me More! A free writer’s resource

Ten minutes.

Every day.

For 30 days.

We write and post and share feedback and develop the habit. The writing habit.

It’s not rocket science. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Carving out a piece of your day – even ten minutes – for your writing life can seem almost impossible sometimes.

Its hard to find the time when you’re running a business, or raising young children, or traveling for work.

It’s even hard when you have plenty of time on your hands but feel you just can’t start or don’t know where to start.

And yet we know that without the daily practice, we go nowhere.

We tell ourselves that there’s not much we can do in ten minutes a day.

That it won’t matter.

Sometimes we give it a try and quickly dismiss our efforts as worthless. Sometimes we begin and start well, then founder, and hesitate to start again because we fear we’ll fail again. And feel even worse about ourselves.

At the root of all our hesitation, procrastination, and perfectionism is fear.

Tell Me More! is a space in which you will find writers writing fearlessly, encouraging one another, and growing in skill, commitment, and voice.

It isn’t a critique group.

It isn’t an advice group.

It’s a writing group. To encourage writers to write.

It isn’t a class, there are no fees.

I believe that in the writing and reading and writing and reading – daily, for 30 days – in that repetition and commitment and sharing – we begin to find our voice. We begin to grow our writing muscles. We begin to know what it is we need to write about. We begin to know who we are.

This isn’t about getting published, but some of our writers have written and published articles, poems, essays and books from this practice.

Others have developed profound friendships.

Others still find the group a safe place apart from daily life where for once they can be truly themselves.

There are few rules. We don’t critique, we maintain confidentiality, and we refrain from giving advice unless it’s asked for.

A new session begins November 1.

Want to join us?

Just let me know!

Paint Out at Andrew Molera State Park October 28 2018

Join Erin Gafill for a day of painting in Big Sur!

Free for Carmel Art Association members!

There is a $10 fee to park in the lot. If you prefer park on the highway level where safety permits and walk down to the kiosk at the parking lot entrance.

We’ll meet up at the main entrance parking lot. Erin will do a 20 minute demo painting and then we’re off and running.

All media welcome!

Being a sack lunch and stay on for the 2pm critique. There will be coffee and cookies!

Rsvp to

Not a member of CAA yet? To join CAA go to Associate Membership is only $35 and offers you loads of benefits including regular paint outs with Erin and award winning artist Mark Farina.

Jumping in

Day One.

Venice, Italy.

Tom says let’s stop and paint.

I say OK.

We sit and face in different directions. As usual I choose the easier composition.

Evening sky, reflected on water, bracketed by old palazzos punctuated by shuttered windows. Essentially vertical rectangles with a few decorative details, small terraces dotted with potted plants, bracketed by cast iron railings, a few stray sheets hanging from the laundry line.

The way I see it, as a painter, is as a composition about above, below, and along side. With one of Venice’s hundreds of ancient bridges providing a strong horizontal link.

I have taken a lot of time winnowing down my supplies to just the essentials, to the point of leaving behind my sketchbook. Thankfully, we are just a short walk from an art supply store and I’ve picked up a pad of watercolor paper there, paper that is fairly resistant to water it turns out but better than nothing.

Tom paints, I paint, the evening light deepens.

An old man stops to watch us, discreetly at a distance, taking his time to roll a cigarette, stealing glances.

He sits facing us, on the mossy canal dock we’ve chosen, really just an indentation of stone steps down to the water’s edge that keeps us out of the stream of pedestrian and water traffic alike.

By the time he’s had his smoke, we’ve finished up our painting too, and re-enter the stream of evening life in Canareggio. Locals eating cicchetti (tapas) at small sidewalk bars and cafes, artists in their studios, shopkeepers sweeping down the sidewalks.

Evening in Venice, like a dream.

The Coastal Awakening at SLOMA

Light On The Path II oil on canvas 36”x36” by Erin Lee Gafill

Join us at the San Luis Obispo Art Museum for “The Coastal Awakening: An Esalen Perspective”

5pm – 7pm Friday September 21

1010 Broad Street on the west end of Mission Plaza.

This exhibition features new works from my Land, Sea, Sky series, along with work from ten other Big Sur artists including Cynthia and Daniel Bianchetta, Kyle Evans, and Adam Wolpert.

In addition, SLO Film Festival will be screening  “The Beat Series”, including “The Sandpiper” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, scenes of which were filmed at Nepenthe and Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur.

Go to or the Facebook page “The Coastal Awakening” for more details!

Dreamtime at Ventana through November, 2018


East of Nepenthe II by Erin Lee Gafill
East of Nepenthe II – 48″ x 48″

Join me Saturday September 8 at The Glass House Gallery at Ventana in Big Sur for a two hour painting demonstration.

I’ll be working in oils, from nature and direct observation, on a large canvas approximately 4’x5′.

I’ll be sharing my color palette, brushes, and general approach to landscape painting “alla prima”.

2pm-4pm Painting Demo, in the Loft at Ventana, adjacent to the Restaurant.

4pm Wine & Cheese Reception at the Glass House Gallery, at Ventana, adjacent to the Restaurant.

6pm – The Art of Now Slideshow/Talk – the connection between art-making practices and mindfulness.  In the Loft, at Ventana, adjacent to the Restaurant.