GUEST DOODLEWASH: Life in San Francisco

A Corner on Haight by Brian Bailey

These fantastic doodlewashes come to us from Brian Bailey in San Francisco, California (follow him on WordPress, Facebook and Instagram!). Brian grew up in Laurel, Montana a small town on the eastern part of the state. He lived there until he met his wife and moved to Buffalo, New York before his wife’s work brought them to the west coast.

“I feel like I’ve always enjoyed making things,” says Brian. “As a kid, my family was always supportive of art and creativity. I found myself with lots of paper, pencils, crayons, and even watercolors to experiment with. I also have an uncle, Jim Poulson, who is a successful landscape painter and he would show me things about drawing in perspective, how to create values, and how to work with color.”

Crossing Market by Brain BaileyBrian believes this early support from his family made a big impact on his decision to pursue art in college. He majored in art at Montana State University in Billings and found a strong mentor in one of his professors, Neil Jussila.

“Neil is known for his large abstract canvases,” he says,  “and helped me to see that paintings can be a powerful expression of experience and feeling. He taught me to let go of stereotypes and to work instinctively. An interesting statement that he made that has always stuck with me was that ‘style’ is like the rind of an orange that must be thrown away to get at the fruit. I believe he was right and I’ve always moved pretty freely between abstract and realistic representations.”

“I believe that if someone has something to say, they find a way to say it. It might take a hundred paintings to get it out and understand it themselves, but if it’s important, they find a way.”

Grant Street by Brian BaileyBrian lives in San Francisco now and his paintings are a reflection of his experiences in the city. He spends a lot of time walking the streets looking for the things that could become paintings. Sometimes it’s a quiet corner or side street and sometimes it’s a crowded sidewalk surrounded by enormous buildings.

“It can even be the simple entrance to an apartment building,” he says “that says something about what the city means to me. My experiences here oscillate between locations of activity and quiet. I probably notice the quiet spots more because they’re unexpected and have a feeling of gravity.”

Brian says he feels lucky to have the chance to live in such a diverse and interesting city and he hopes that his paintings reflect some of its character. “I work with watercolor because I feel like it captures some of the city’s energy with the loose and reticulating lines and shapes that can develop from quick washes.”

He loves the effects of layering as well. Brian enjoys letting watercolor dry completely, building layer upon layer of transparent color, which produces such interesting surfaces. For materials, he’s experimented with a variety of different brands of paint and finds that Sennelier watercolors are his favorite. “I like the richness of color in both the tubes and half-pans.”

Morning Walk by Brian BaileyHe also uses Winsor & Newton and Holbein colors at times. His brushes are “a mixed bag” of mostly synthetic and a few natural fibers. He tries to use the largest size brushes he can, especially early in a painting’s development, to keep things loose.

For paper, he’s done some experimenting with different brands, even Yupo, but feels like anything made by Arches has certainly always been best. “Their surfaces are just so durable and have great textures.”

“No matter how long I paint with watercolor,” he says, “I always feel like I’m just about to figure it out. I’m forever noticing little differences in how it behaves and I think that’s the thing that makes watercolor so addictive.”

Also be sure to check out his online store on Etsy for more of his work.  And follow him on WordPress, Facebook and Instagram! Thanks so much for sharing your story and your fantastic doodlewashes with us Brian! We’ll be following you to see what wonderful scenes you’ll show us next!

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on, contact me!

  1. Jessica 3 years ago

    I love this philosophy of your teacher’s and that you embrace it- ‘style’ is like the rind of an orange that must be thrown away to get at the fruit. I believe he was right and I’ve always moved pretty freely between abstract and realistic representations.” Lovely pieces

  2. Jessica 3 years ago

    Oops- I got cut off up there… I do a lot of wet on wet and am interested in your let it dry and layer technique. Great post Charlie!

    • Author

      Hehe…that happens to me all the time! Yeah…I love layering, but it takes a lot of patience!! 😊 Glad you liked this feature!!

  3. amaryllislog 3 years ago

    Wow what a great artist with such a good understanding of the drive to create. I’m enthralled by his layers, the transparency works perfectly and creates such a mood. Really a beautiful body of work!

  4. Rachel Murphree 3 years ago

    Lovely city paintings. Evocative of a mood. So nice!

  5. Kari 3 years ago

    I’m always curious about how an artist picks his/her location to paint, especially in urban sketching. Is it the structure? Shadows? Colors? Probably a combo of all. Beautifully created depth in all the pieces.

    • Author

      I know! The depth is fantastic! Thanks Kari! ❤️😃And yeah…I think location selection is personal to the artist and what moves them. But that’s a pretty sure combo you mentioned as to inspiration! 😉

  6. Damita M-S 3 years ago

    I enjoyed Brian’s pieces. I have been to San Francisco on numerous occasions so the art hit me in a special place and bought back great memories. Glad I get to follow his work.

  7. Lemon 3 years ago

    Wonderful work!

  8. davisbrotherlylove 3 years ago


  9. Sharon Mann 3 years ago

    Thank you Brian for sharing your art and story. Your paintings are very inviting and each tells a story. Thank you Charlie.

  10. memadtwo 3 years ago

    He really captures slices of life and the city. (K)

  11. Teresa Robeson 3 years ago

    In case I’ve not mentioned it yet, I love architectural art! And I love West Coast/San Fran. Following him on Instagram!

  12. artandmoondreams 3 years ago

    Lovely and breathtaking artwork. Beautiful layering, wonderful energy about them. Great feature, thank you for sharing.

  13. Jodi 3 years ago

    I love the art of brian 🙂

  14. kirkistan 3 years ago

    Wow! More great stuff. The work is remarkable and so much great copy to take with me! In particular, this “I believe that if someone has something to say, they find a way to say it. It might take a hundred paintings to get it out and understand it themselves, but if it’s important, they find a way.”

    This is wonderful. I also like his talk of laying the watercolor.

  15. Jennifer McLean 1 year ago

    stunning work, I obviously missed this on a previous pass through the artists interviews!

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