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
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. 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 Doodlewash.com, contact me!