From The Sketch Book

March 14, 2018

Are you going to Art School?

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 8:55 pm

College Days 2

When I was young I wasn’t overly athletic. The only thing I could do well sports related was ride long wheelies on my bmx bike and jump it over things. When people noticed that I  could draw better than I could catch a fly ball or sink free throws I became known as the “drawing kid”. And from that point on folks assumed I was headed to art school. And I assumed it as well.

Yet just like the football player who doesn’t think grades are overly important and is heartbroken when there is no scholarship I admittedly didn’t focus on my academics as much as I should have.  I spent more time doodling than worrying about some random social studies exam.  Not that I did horrible in school mind you.  I was basically a B- or a C+ student and I was perfectly ok with it.  Why?   I was going to ART SCHOOL!!! Who needs straight A’s?

I attended art school in the mid 80’s so I’m unsure how the public school system treats kids interested in attending art school these days.  For my own students (I teach various drawing classes at a  local museum) I stress how important their english, writing, math (specifically accounting), business and even marketing classes are.  In some ways they’re more important than drawing classes! WHAT???  Not to say that an artist shouldn’t be creating art 24/7 but what they also need to realize is the days of working at a business as a staff artist is pretty much over. Perhaps there are selected jobs in certain industries but for the most part if you want to earn an income with your art you need to know the business side of it because you’ll most likely be a FREELANCER.  This means you will be your own boss and you will have to create your own customer base.    You’ll also need to understand contract law and how royalties work.  Learn how to invoice and track your profit and loss.  And so many more “not art” boring subjects.

You might say that these things take the “fun out of creating art and I would agree.  Doodling is much funner than algebra but if you want to become successful in art you still need to be smart. 🙂

February 25, 2016

My children’s book illustration process

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 7:06 pm

Follow along as I illustrate some art for a book.

March 23, 2015

Freelance Rip Off. It happens

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 8:47 pm

Although it does not happen often, occasionally a customer will short you.  Sadly it’s part of the freelance world. I can still recall the first time it happened back in 1987.  It still stings.   Outside of demanding deposits every step of the way though there isn’t much you can do to prevent it. Or is there?

Two years ago I was approached by an advertising firm who spotted my artwork on line (see color image) and wanted me to render a bear character on top of a rocket instead of a surf board.  The rocket would be inside a crashing ocean wave and the entire image would then be used as part of the signage at a new water park ride.  How fun!  Who doesn’t like water parks? The character would then be used on shirts and various advertising. So the character  and the eventual branding would eventually pay very well.

Surfing Bear Wave medium

The customer simply asked me to pencil up some quick sketches (over night if possible) and he’d have and he’d let me know the next day at a meeting what changes would need to be made and so forth.  Pretty easy and straight forward.

I drew the attached bears sent it out a few hours later but as fate would have the next morning my email service crashed when I turned on the computer due to storm that night.  The back up on my P.C. address book didn’t cover the time frame I had sent the art but I knew the message had gone through. It was only lost addresses not lost emails. Although the contact email was gone I figured it wasn’t a big deal.  I simply waited to be called or emailed back that day as promised. That was two years ago.

Aqua Rocket 2   Aqua Rocket 3    Aqua Rocket 1

During the following days and weeks I hunted the internet and looked for the original contact name. When I couldn’t find said client I then sent emails to the firm he said represented.  I then called the firm. Nobody responded and nobody called me back. No kill fee.  No explanation. No nothing.

So the story should end here right?  Well with the help the internet I’m hoping to find out what happened?  Has anyone been to a water park and seen the Aqua Rocket ride featuring a bear character? Once I find out what park is using that name I can then hunt for the people who eventually did the branding that is used.  Even if it’s not my art is the one they used like mine?

Now this isn’t sour grapes so much as every now and then you’re approached by someone whose soul intent is to rip you off.   It’s my hope that said customer will have long forgot about me but suddenly I’ll be back in his life.  Remember me???   To put a stop to my illustration efforts is fine but to totally disregard me and how I provide for my family is mean spirited and ridiculous.

Help me out internet?   Aqua Rocket.   Heard of it?  J

November 7, 2014

Making a new friend

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 4:08 pm

 Sutton Barn 3 SMALL

You never know where artistic inspiration will come from and if it hits, how long will it last.

Yet when it does —-HANG ON.  You’re in for one wild ride!

Scott Nelson
The origins of this post start back in 1986. While in art school my professor Alexander Gazonas was recognized as one of the top watercolor painters in central MA. I’ve posted about his influence on me artistically, as a man and as a teacher in the past so I won’t bore you with the details. Just understand that he is truly the reason I’m an artist today.
Alex was an active member in the prestigious Rockport Art Association for many years. Since his passing in 2007 I’ve toyed with the idea of applying to the same association in an effort to honor Alex’s legacy. In 2013 I finally felt ready and submitted the required five paintings (I chose the watercolor division) to be judged during their November new member selection process. A few days later I was called and told I had not been selected BUT I should apply again because I only missed becoming a member by one vote. GREAT! In 2014 I applied once again thinking that membership might be a done deal. This time I was rejected and told there was no feedback at all. Simply a voice on the phone saying, “Sorry, you didn’t make the cut. I got nothing else for ya. Bye.” CLICK.  Ouch! So either I’ve gotten worse over time or the 2013 positive comments were nothing more than an awkward encouragement by someone who didn’t want to tell me I stunk.
My studio is roughly a two and half hour ride from Rockport MA. A post rejection five hour plus plus drive in order to retrieve my rejected paintings was not a journey I was looking forward to. To top it off I planned on doing a little plein air painting in the scenic Rockport coastal community to lift my spirits but it started raining heavily during the drive there and all but spoiled the opportunity to sit outside. Nothing was going right and I was pretty bummed out. Upon arriving at the association I was about ahalf hour early so I prepared to sit in my car and sulk.  And that’s when inspiration walked past in the form of artist Herb Randle. Herb is a well known landscape and portrait artist from Waltham, MA and had applied to the association like I had. He walked up, shook the handle to the Gallery and when he found it was still locked walked back towards his car. Now I like to talk so I stuck my head out the window and asked if he had applied like I had. He said he had but was rejected. Third time in fact. He wasn’t happy either but I could tell from the look in his eye that this artist still had some fight in his belly. That he’d keep at it until he either made it in or the association was no longer. So a new friendship was quickly made on the sidewalk in front of Rockport Art Association based upon the fact that we had both applied and with little fanfare told me weren’t good enough. Amazing how a simple conversation can lift your spirits and put you back on track mentally. I’ve since spoken to Herb a few times by email and watched his awesome studio visit here.   . Please check out his great work and easy going personality. I hope we can stay friends for a long time.
What did I learn from all this? In the end I can take the rejection as motivation to improve and reapply knowing that there is little chance that I’ll get in 2015, 2016 and beyond. Is that what Alex would want me to do? OR do I take this experience as a nice introduction to a new artist friend and mentor in the form of Herb Randle? Simply be happy with the inspiration he has already given me during a gloomy day when nothing was going right. And if that leads to reapplying next year, so be it. No worrying about the application process. Just make art because I love it! Not because it had to be to a certain association standard. I believe Alex is still looking down and teaching me lessons on how to better myself artistically and be a good person. Thanks Alex and thank you Herb.

June 6, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 2:42 pm


Not everyone likes contraptions.  🙂

Angry MTB Beaver 2 small

April 11, 2014

Studio Watercolor

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 3:54 pm

As I’ve mentioned in my blog before, I really love to paint outside.  But sometimes you don’t have time to sit outside and dedicate a few hours to a scenic spot. That or the weather is bit much and the bugs are biting. The list of excuses could go on and on. So I try to justify to myself that there is nothing wrong with taking a quick inspirational picture and coming back to it at a later date.  Today I’m going to show how a quick stop by Wells Harbor in Maine late last fall allowed me to paint inside my studio earlier this spring.

I started off by  lightly penciling the key spots in this painting with a 4H pencil on a full sheet of Cold Press 400lb Arches.  The cold press paper has small groves and a rough surface allowing your painting to showcase texture.  I very rarely paint on the smooth hot press paper but the more I think about it, this painting could have used either.  This is actually a lot of drawing detail for my watercolors as I usually like to paint in the details as much as possible. I simply didn’t want to ruin the perspective on the harbor master shack roof line.  Had I gotten that wrong the whole painting would have been for not. The Arches 400 lb paper is so thick that I often don’t need to tape it down to avoid buckling.  I lightly washed over the entire sky with clean water then worked in Raw Sienna.Image

When the Raw Sienna dried I then re-wet the entire sky again and worked in Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna as I tried to muster the dreary Maine sky.  I then carried the colors into the harbor and added in the beginnings of the reflective dock posts in the water. When painting water it’s best to work fast or wet into wet. The trick is to learn how your paper responds as you work it.  The 400lb is highly absorbent and color values really soak into the paper quicker than the other 140lb or 200lb paper I work with. I’m not afraid to dry brush the paint with the heal of my brush if needed either.  I like the effect of highlights happening randomly.  You can see that on the right side of the painting.  Remember, all of the white in a successful painting is the paper coming through.  You can’t add white paint back over this translucent medium and still call it a traditional watercolor.Image


OK, time for the harbor shack.  The overcast day didn’t allow for many shadows so as you can see, the left side of the shack is almost the same color value as the front.  This caused me to tighten up a little while painting and I’m unsure if I’m happy with the outcome. Of course had the sun been out the entire painting would have had a different feel to it but it’s these slight color changes that can make a painting pop or lay flat.  I think my efforts using Carmine Red, English Red and Violet  is somewhere in the middle here.  I did loosen back up when I painted the rock wall leading to the dock.  A few incidental paint splatter here and there gave the wall just enough character without overdoing it. I then added the land on the other side of the harbor making sure to not feature anything specific.  If you look close you can see a few roof lines of cottages but I didn’t want your eye to get busy as the dock was the focus of the painting.  Next I added the worn tar and cement that is used as a boat launch and faded it into the sand in the foreground.  I then added a bit of the scrub brush to give the painting depth.


I can’t really say what colors I used here as I always leave my painting palette dirty and work in all sorts of colors into one big gross muddy puddle.  I probably used a low of Raw Umber and I’m sure there was Olive Green and Prussian Azure tossed into the mix. I do this because when I’m at a location I see millions of colors and always want multiple colors mixing together creating happy surprises.  The dirty palette always me to immediately allow one color to be influenced by others haphazardly.  You’ll look like a genius if a color works out but more often than not it’s just luck. The maze of dock posts was very specific to the actual “structure” of the dock but as I started adding them the painting started to “lose its looseness.”  After bit of futsing  (my own word for trying to be perfect)  with them I finally just started slamming them down as fast as possible. To me this is the best part of the painting because I saw I was going down a “tight” road again and I forced myself to loosen up.  I then added more shadows in the water (wet into dry) then pulled some of the paint out with a clean wash.  The camera I used doesn’t do it justice but there are actually a lot of little green and blue tints inside the shadow.   I think this deep shadow helped anchor the painting to the paper and was what originally attracted me to this scene in the first place.


Done!  Total time…about five hours.  Most of that “futsing” time on the shack.   I usually mat watercolors but I had this old green frame in my studio and it seemed to compliment the image well.  I did trim a bit off the right side of the painting and the bottom to accommodate the frame but I don’t think it hurt the overall look.    So there you go.  A look at how I go about painting a real scene from my own reference photos inside my studio as opposed to painting outside.  Is it as good as Plein Air painting? Only you can decide.  🙂  If you’d like a print check out this link:       If you’d like the original, don’t hesitate to contact me at


October 8, 2013

Plein Air Painting “Get to it!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 1:41 pm

Plein Air Painting (the act of painting out in the environment) has become a new passion of mine that I don’t see fading anytime soon. Unrealized in art school, I would often watch my instructor Alex Gazonas and class mate Jonathan Hotz visit local scenic views before, during and after class. Always impressed by their landscape efforts but unsure of my own talent level to follow them, I stuck to the controlled studio space.  In the case of student Mr. Hotz, each time he went outside his results would skyrocket to a new level.  By the end of the school year his watercolors were on par with the instructors. He has since moved on to oil paints and his landscapes sell for thousands of dollars each.  Natural talent for sure but I know for certain had he sat inside painting he wouldn’t have improved so quickly.

As I’ve talked over the last few years, you really don’t see nature the way it is unless you get out there and sit in the dirt and “get to it.”  Wind, bugs, temperature changes, sun, etc, etc all factor how your finished piece may or may not come out.  With that in mind I’ve started my own local plein air painting and drawing club for my home town.  With the creation of a simple Face Book page I’ve been able to reach out to other artists in my community and venture out to our own scenic spots of interest.  Once the group has enough days under our belts my home will be to have a local art show showcasing the plein air beauty unnoticed by many.

So, I’ll continue pressing forward with my cards, books, caricatures, logos, T-shirt designs, humorous illustrations, product design, portraits and just about anything else I can draw to earn a living as an artist … but don’t be surprised if more and more of my posts revolve around plein art painting.

Image Image

Wells Beach Cottage 3Image

August 22, 2013

card booted

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 9:07 pm

Newlyweds 2 small

August 6, 2013

Print On Demand Sites. Worth it?

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 1:25 pm

Freelance artists always need to be on the look out for ways to promote their brand and for some POD sites (Print on Demand) might be the way to go about it.

The way a POD site works is simple. You upload your art and the site prints and then mails them out to your customer. Simple enough. The problem though is for all their work the POD site takes a substantial portion of the profits.

For many years I’ve considered spending thousands of dollars and printing up a line of my own humorous greeting cards. But I’ve since realized that once my cards are printed I’ll then need to generate sales by placing them in consignment shops or if I’m lucky, getting placing them in a well know store alongside other card lines. This can take countless hours of footwork and truthfully I’m not sure I have it in me. I just want to sit at my drawing table and be funny. 🙂 Thus I haven’t made a total commitment to starting my own line again since my 9th Floor card line was bought out by Dickens in the early 2000’s.

Rather than continue “thinking” about my next move and subsequently doing nothing, I’ve taken one step towards that goal by placing some of my concepts on the Greeting Card Universe web site. The way GCU works is you submit your cards to their review teams and in from two days to three months they will review your creation. Yup– the process can take that long. To date I have had fifteen ideas approved and nine more still in limbo. You can view my store here:

Has it been worth it? Hard to tell. To date I’ve only sold three cards. Truthfully though I haven’t done any real P.R. as I’ve been waiting for a larger inventory to showcase before I send my friends and family to it. If I was ONLY doing this as part of my on line sales effort I would be bummed by the return to date. Yet partnering this store with my efforts at Society 6, Fine Arts America, Zazzle, Etsy and Turning Art will hopefully be a collective effort that pays out in the long term.

If you’re interested in starting your own card line… give GCU a try. It won’t make you rich but it will teach you how the POD world works. Sexy and I know it

May 9, 2013

Throw Pillows

Filed under: Uncategorized — scottnelson @ 8:49 pm

I’ve always imagined that my juvenile art would look good all over kid’s comforters,  wall paper, trash and even their pajamas.  Well I’ve come one step closer to reaching that goal with my latest venture.  I’d like to introduce my line of throw pillows by Society 6.  Bright and colorful, the fun images will make room any bedroom or playroom look fun.  Check them out all 12  (and growing)  at

Throw pillow 1


Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at