My name is Jim Huppenthal. I live in Valley Village, California, a small neighborhood just north of downtown Los Angeles and only a couple miles from Warner Bros. and Universal Studios.
My love for art started at a very young age, growing up in Michigan City, Indiana. I was captivated watching my Grandfather doodle on scraps of paper as we played board games with the family. My mother was also a very talented artist, but never had the opportunity to cultivate her talents beyond the occasional night art class in between raising four kids and working full-time. Clearly, they were the genes of my artistic talent.
I feel lucky to have grown up in a time when the arts programs were thriving and still a part of the U.S. school system. They provided an outlet for me to explore my love of art at an early age. It was during those years and through the encouragement from my art teachers, that I realized I had a talent I excelled at. Most kids were either academically or athletically gifted, but my talents laid elsewhere…in the arts.
After graduating high school, I knew my only path was art-focused, so I enrolled at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, not really knowing where it would lead. While attending the Academy, I was extremely fortunate to receive watercolor instruction from the late Irving Shapiro. His classes ignited my passion for watercolor and the love of this medium. But I also knew I needed to balance my love of fine art with the financial security of a job, so my focus shifted to graphic arts and advertising.
After graduating from the Academy, I secured a job as an Art Director for an ad agency in Chicago. A few years later, I relocated with an agency to Los Angeles, where I have been working for the past 31 years as their head of Creative Services.
It was in Los Angeles where I met Sean, my life-partner of 29 years (and now husband). Together we raised his two children. During those years my fine art pursuits took a back seat to a full-time job, raising the kids and seeing them through school, college and living out on their own. My only artistic outlet was the occasional school art project when the kids needed a little help or creating posters and graphics for their school events.
It wasn’t until recent years as “empty-nesters” that my rediscovery of watercolor came about. Ironically, it was when I discovered my porcelain palette, brushes, and art box filled with watercolors tucked away in the garage. These hadn’t been touched since art school. It was in that moment when my passion was reignited. I dusted them off and jumped back into rediscovering the world of watercolor…almost 40 years later.
A Time To Rediscover
My rediscovery of watercolor began in 2015. Although I had my old materials, I knew I had much to brush up on. Thanks to the internet, I read everything I could on the medium and watched many of the free instructional videos on YouTube. There is an infinite wealth of resources and classes available online as well as so many good artists sharing their expertise and years of training.
Several of the online courses I took were: SketchingNow Foundations with Liz Steel, Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor, with Shari Blaukopf, Travel Sketching in Mixed Media with Marc Taro Holmes, “Figure Sketching Made Simple” with Suhita Shirodkar to name a few.
I also attended several watercolor workshops by local artists and above all, I tried to paint whenever I could. I found that I couldn’t wait to get home from work, so I could paint, sketch, practice color mixing… anything having to do with watercolor.
That was when I created my watercolor Instagram page and started sharing my paintings. At first, I was constantly critiquing my work, but found a group of supportive and like-minded artists whose encouragement and positive feedback gave me confidence to post more, and to continue my watercolor journey. As I’ve stated in some of my posts… “Regardless of whether you feel your painting is good or bad, you always learn something from the process, so just go with it and explore.”
The Journey Continues
I continue to take classes, both in-person and online and look forward to attending more workshops in the future. There is still so much to learn. Regarding my inspirations, those come from just about anything. Anything that moves me or has special meaning; locations from my childhood hometown on Lake Michigan to destinations from our world travels. I especially love Italy and am looking forward to heading back there in September with travel palette and sketchbook in hand. I also draw inspiration from nature and scenic spots all around Southern California. You just need to look around. There’s inspiration everywhere.
One struggle I still encounter is balancing the time between a full-time job and allotting time to paint. But one thing I’ve learned is to give yourself permission to paint when the urge hits and not to add self-imposed pressures or schedules. Paint for the sheer joy of it… not for a grade, not for a post… just for you!
PALETTE: My palette consists of all Daniel Smith watercolors (I love this brand). I have 20 core colors in my John Pike palette and pare those down for my two travel palettes. It took me a while to settle in on my final color selections, but my decision was heavily influenced by the online resources of Jane Blundell. The depth of her swatching explorations and color assessments was an invaluable resource in helping my selection process.
BRUSHES: Although I have a good selection of brushes, I usually gravitate to my favorite which is a Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable #8. I splurged for this brush, but felt it was well worth it. I still even have a Winsor & Newton Series 133 Red Sable #12 from art school that I use regularly. One of my favorite new brushes for sketching is my Rosemary & Co. Series 772 Sable Blend Dagger 1/2” and the 1/4” pocket size (Thanks to Liz Steele’s posts about this brush). Rosemary & Co. makes some awesome brushes and their shipping to the U.S. is really fast. And lastly the old standbys are my Escoda Reserva Charles Reid travel set. In the end, a few “good” brushes are all you need.
PAPER: I started out using Arches 140lb. cold press in a variety of sizes (mainly blocks), but have gravitated towards Fabriano Artistico, extra white 140lb. cold press. For me, the watercolor seems to flow better on the Fabriano and I like the extra white surface. For sketchbooks, I’m currently using the Stillman & Birn Beta Series 7×10, wire bound (I like that it lays flat) and one softcover 6×8. I am also trying the Alpha Series in a soft cover. Still haven’t settled in on which I prefer most.
I’d like to leave you with a few words, not my words, but those of Andy Warhol. I find them motivating and inspiring… especially when I’m overly-critical of my own work. These are words I try to live by.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” ~ Andy Warhol
Thank you for sharing. An interesting journey. I love your Farmhouse/Cornfield painting. The colours are wonderful.
Thank you so much!
Jim, do you sell any of your work anywhere…??!
A wonderful read! Such beautiful paintings and inspiration!
I love your work Jim! And with any luck, you may be able to help me. I followed a tutorial to make that birch tree painting with the path of light. Now I can’t remember the artist and can’t find the tutorial again. Do you know? Yours is a lovely painting. Much nicer than the mud I made😁!
Thanks for the positive feedback. There were a couple artist tutorials I followed, one was Ken Hobson and the other I’ll need to look up…can’t remember off hand. I’ll get back to you once I locate who that was. Thanks again!
I found the other artist…it was Joe Cibere.
Thank you so much! Joe Cibere is the one! I have been looking for him for ages!
Joe is awesome!! If you missed it, he’s also been a Doodlewash featured artist: https://doodlewash.com/guest-artist-why-watercolor-by-joe-cibere/
These are some really wonderful & mesmerising paintings…highly inspired!!!
Thank you very much!
Your art is marvelous, Jim! I love that quote from Andy Warhol. It hits that nail right on the head. Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us.
Thanks…appreciate it. The journey continues!
Love your work, Jim, and I really enjoyed this post, especially since your influences are mostly the same as mine! I found this very amusing. I’m also a big fan of DS paints.
Thanks! Yes, I think many of us share similar paths and influences…I guess great minds think alike…ha.
Thanks for this Jim – great paintings! I’ve followed you for a long time on instagram and it’s great to learn more about you, your background and inspirations! Thanks for sharing (and of course to Charlie too!)
Thanks John. I’ve been a fan of your work too…following you on IG. I really love the use of light and shadow in your paintings. I find the dramatic cast shadows in many of your pieces so visually captivating. Really nice work!
Hi Jim and thanks so very much for your kind words – I really appreciate it! I look forward to seeing much more from you and really hope that your Doodlewash feature introduces you to an even wider audience!
I really like your paintings. Your skies are wonderful. Thank you for sharing your talent.
Thanks…and thanks for taking the time to check out my story and work. Appreciate the positive feedback.
I really enjoy how loose and free your painting is, also your use of color.
Your paintings are lovely! Thanks for sharing your story.
Jim, thank you so much for sharing your inspirational, motivational, and reassuring story! Your art is absolutely stunning!!!
Thank you! I appreciate the feedback and positive response.
I also love Daniel Smith’s paint! That’s a wonderful quote from Andy Warhol as well! Thanks again!
Thanks…yes, D.S. are my favorite!
Hi Jim! You paint exactly how I see myself in my head painting. I’ve only been painting for a year, getting better, but LOVE your style! You’re free, brave, and clearly love rich, bold, wet color, as do I. I also have a couple of the brushes you mentioned (I have 8 large vessels containing over 100 plus brushes–gifts).
Question: when you found your supplies in the garage after 40 years, did they still work? Were you able to reignite the paint, use the brushes? I have a John Pike palette that I use for my very large paintings with Birgit O’Connor (full sheets, half sheets, lots of w/w and huge brushes) Having taken many classes from Birgit removed all fear of “big” everything, so an 1/8 sheet feels more like a cheat sheet/sample color swatches, than painting an actual one. I have received 2 post cards for appointments in the mail recently, and immediately painted the pictures on the front of the post cards. Not too bad! My husband bought me a new phone yesterday, and the receipt had a picture of my phone on it, and on the phone’s front, was a beautiful, colorful w/w scene. Painted 2 tonight!
I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your story, your journey, with watercolor. I can’t imagine being so close and yet so far with your life, jobs, schools, and not being able to paint. I fall asleep mixing colors in my head as I suffer from insomnia, and when my feet hit the floor in the morning until I retire for the evening, the entire day is devoted to painting whether it’s books, youtube (amazing free tutorials–such generous gifts), my purchased used art books, or tearing down sheets of Arches paper and painting each day. Your story made me feel the angst of being unable to paint. Yikes! But your style is loose, free, lovely, such imagination and color.
Another question, for you (and everyone): I have 3 “visual journals,” and I’m not quite sure what I am to do with them. Do I “pre-paint,” doodle, practice, write? I don’t know what and why everyone uses one. Also do you, (or everyone), paint from your hand, shoulder, arm, body? I’ve read a few stories that pertain to this, but I guess this comes with time and confidence. I learn so much from every facet of the watercolor lifestyle and the good people that share their insight.
I loved your story and I’m so glad you’re now able to delve into the watercolor mindset once more. How lovely to have had the life experience from your mom, school, work, and now home. I am very happy for you, and appreciated your candor. I look forward to seeing more of your pieces!
Thanks for the response to my work and story. I appreciate the outpouring of positive feedback. To answer your questions. When I discovered my box of school art supplies, the paints were un-usable. Most had dried up beyond salvaging and they were also student grade. I decided to move up to artist grade watercolor….which have less binder and therefore are more vibrant color. In terms of the journals (how you use them is really up to the individual), I have several and use them for just about everything: sketching and painting when I travel, doing preliminary value sketches before I do a painting, working out painting compositions, testing color mixes…and just everyday doodling and sketching. Consider a safe place to try whatever you want. Regarding how I paint…depends on what I’m painting and the size….typically I stand and pretty much us my entire arm, but guide details with my hand. This really comes down to each individual’s approach…no right or wrong way.
Thanks again for your interest and taking the time to read my story and view my work.
Your works and words are awesome, to say the least! I especially like the painting of the door left ajar and the ceramic tiles on the floor.
Thanks. The door was from a picture I took while we were on vacation in Positano. It was the front door of Villa Incanto, which was part of the hotel where we were staying. The views were so inspiring. Here’s a link to the Villa. http://www.marincanto.it/en/the-villa/
Thanks again for checking out my story and work!
your subject matter and artwork is incredibly beautiful. Enjoyed your story !
Like your work Jim! I say work, but it’s just plain fun isn’t it. For me, at 60 years old it’s been therapy as well. I like your barn painting a lot. One of my paintings has a barn too. There are so many different kinds of barns. Anyway, keep up the good “work” 🙂
This brought so many things to the surface of my little brain. Isn’t it wonderful to know where one gets their artistic talents from? Knowing that I am not the only one, who stopped sketching/painting because of life’s responsibilities, only to find it again, later in life. Now with an even more desire to learn everything possible about it. Your work is wonderful. You are an inspiration.
Thank you. Yes, it’s great to rediscover our talents (and passion for this medium)…no matter when in life that happens. I appreciate you taking the time to check out my work and read my story.
I love your art and your story! Thanks for sharing them 🙂
Thanks for checking out my story and paintings!
Hi, Jim. You had me at the ‘Michigan City’ part. I live in northern Indiana and see so much of this area in your work….barns, Lake Michigan sand dunes, cottages, deciduous forests, flowers. While you ‘rediscovered’ your watercolors, I discovered mine for the first time after retiring from teaching 10 year olds. I found a buried ability and creative passion that has given this time of life much joy (and amazement, if I’m being honest!). I also love the character and beauty of doorways and the amazing places in Italy. Many of your supplies are mine too, and I have taken Shari and Marc’s excellent classes, too.
Thank you for sharing your watercolor journey. Your work speaks to my soul.
I am just now seeing this and am so glad you took up watercolor after so many years. Your work is lovely and very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.