Watercolor is the Best David Rankin's life as a Watercolor Painter • Workshop Schedule 2017

Transparent Watercolor on rough paper offers painters the best surface for creating the maximum variety of magical watercolor effects. © 2017 David Rankin


A few years ago a collector asked me...Why don't you paint in oils or acrylics?
I answered... because I can paint in Watercolor!


John Singer Sargent was the highest paid oil painter in the world in the 1800's... but his greatest love... and the Art World's greatest appreciation... ended up being his watercolors... which now go for tens of millions of dollars and hang in every major museum in the world.

Sargent Watercolors

There are more great Watercolor Painters today... than at any time in history.


David Rankin's artistic interest in Watercolor began on his 16th birthday when his mother bought him his first watercolor book... "Ways with Watercolor" by Ted Kautzky.

Working with Kautzky's classic watercolor book gave David a unique working method that he soon excelled at. It helped him win most of the regional competitions in Ohio, achieve 3 scholarships to Art School ( The Cleveland Institute of Art ), and a National Art competition in Kansas City.


In 1967 David graduated with honors from the Cleveland Institute of Art. However, it was his first trip to India a few years later, in 1970, that had a most profound effect upon his entire life and Art Career. David's initial trip to India was inspired to advance his practice of Yoga. He lived & trained in a small classic yoga ashram situated right on the banks of the Ganges River. The ashram was in the outer foothills of North India's Himalayas... right across the Ganges from what is now a famous Elephant & Tiger Sanctuary - Rajaji National Park.

David with his great Yoga guru, Shri Swami Rama - Haridwar, India 1970
It was during this initial experience of India... living in a small classic ashram, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where I was not only initiated into several of India's ancient traditions of Yoga/Meditation... but also into her amazing natural beauty... especially her enormous diversity of birds & wildlife that were part of everyday life in North India.
"Wild elephants used to come out of the jungle and across the Ganges in the dead of night to steal ripe squash from the vines in the ashram."
The initial impact of India's amazing natural beauty inspired me to try and draw & paint what I was seeing. But even though I had excelled in Art School... I soon realized the difference between working in a normal art studio environment... versus drawing & painting directly from Nature where nothing is posed.
My skills working directly from Nature were simply not good.
Beginning in 1974, David spent 16 summers living in India's northern state – Kashmir. And that's where he began to work on trying to improve his artistic skills for working directly from Nature.
... spending my summers living and traveling throughout Kashmir from early June till fall, I slowly began to work on my ability to draw and paint directly from Nature... what they now call... Plein Air. I wanted to sketch and paint what I was experiencing. Although those initial years in Kashmir were not very good in terms of my artistic efforts... those wonderful sights and experiences in Kashmir helped fuel my inspirations and artistic efforts up to this very day.
Some of David's paintings of Kashmir over the past 30 years.


In 1985, after a series of profound spiritual experiences, I was inspired to refocus my entire artistic career into a very comprehensive and complex professional artistic effort to... Paint India.
A Map of India showing some of the regions David has painted over the past 30 years.

David's decision to focus a concentrated creative effort on India began with India's tremendous diversity of birds... especially her numerous species of large storks & cranes.

And it was David's comprehensive effort to create a focused artistic study of India's rich diversity of birds that then forced him to dramatically change the way he drew live subjects. Over a 10 year period beginning in the early 1980's David completely upgraded his entire skill set, what he now calls his "working method"... both in the field... traveling all over India, as well as back in his home studio.

David realized that if he was to do justice to this effort... he needed to not just draw better... he needed to be able to actually "Sketch" live subjects and Paint... directly from Nature... not just from photographs. He now refers to this practice as "Live Sketching".

A goose sketched in a market in the old section of Srinagar, Kashmir
David sketching the guards in the Jaipur City Palace - India..
It was during my efforts to sketch live birds in the New Delhi Zoo, that I actually stumbled into a profound breakthrough in my whole drawing process. I wasn't drawing "faster"... I was drawing in a different "way". I had begun to eliminate most of the details in my subjects, drawing only the most essential visual elements. And that was the key...
David's very first... of what he now refers to as... "Sketches"... done in less than 60 seconds each... using a 6B Kohinoor pencil in sketchbook.
My initial efforts... sketching live birds in the New Delhi Zoo, was the single most revolutionary advancement of my drawing skills... in my whole life, up to that point. I developed my skills very rapidly from that day onwards. And that alteration in my sketching skills...has continued to yield changes and additional skills up to this very day.
"Live Sketches" from the Delhi Zoo... Egrets catching grasshoppers
Quick field sketches done in India's famous bird sanctuary... Bharatpur - Keoladeo National Park using a 9B woodless graphite pencil in sketchbook.
Small quick live sketches of birds done in the Delhi Zoo using a Pentel Razorpoint Pen... shown actual size.
In 1990, David's ongoing professional efforts to create an entire body of work focused on India's amazing diversity of birds catapulted his career into the very top competitive range of artists worldwide.
Morning in Bharatpur - 40" x 60" - Transparent Watercolor


David gradually revised, expanded, and perfected his Working Method. And this has allowed him to work creatively and effectively both in the studio as well as on location anywhere in the world. His efforts in India soon expanded.

David painting on the banks of the Ganges River, at Haridwar in North India - 2007.

In 2007 David was honored to win the coveted Artists for Conservation "Flag Expedition Grant II". This grant allowed David to begin an artistic effort focused ion the Ganges River system in the Ganges Himalayas of North India. Over a 5 week period he conducted his first in-depth artistic watercolor expedition - "The Sacred Source" - working up & down all of the major tributaries of the Ganges River.

David and his small team having just arrived at the origins of the Ganges River - 13,000 feet alt.

David created an amazing Artist Journal of this expedition, featuring over 250 of his watercolors detailing features from his travels throughout the Ganges Himalayas. No other artist medium travels as well as Watercolor. And no other medium allows an artist the kind of creative versatility that Watercolor does. He has posted 80+ pages from this lovely Watercolor Journal on Facebook. If you'd like to see more... click the link right below here...

The mighty Neelakanth Mountain peak at 6am - From our hotel in Badrinath.


David adds 21st Century Digital Medium: In 2010 Apple invented the iPad, and then, a couple years later the new "Paper by 53" app allowed David to bring his traditional sketching and painting skills into a brand new 21st century imaging technology that allows artists a whole new way to create images quickly.

And over the past 5 years David has worked with over 2000 artists in various workshops and training programs all over the United States, to help them incorporate this new digital medium into their own skill set.

iPad Magic Workshop in Dallas, Texas 2015 - How to utilize an iPad like an Artist
Live Working Session where artists work in real time with David's Sketching Techniques on their own Apple iPads.

David trains artists in Fast Sketching Skills to help them try out various potential ideas for their paintings. He shows them how to use & incorporate both traditional artist mediums as well as how to use a stylus and the cool "Paper by 53" app on an Apple iPad in digital medium.

As David states... "This is not so much like actual Watercolor, Acrylics, or Oils. Rather it is a totally new & unique "Digital Medium". And David has pushed the boundaries of this new digital medium in wonderful ways.

Field iPad Sketches on My. Hood, Oregon

iPad Sketch of a Macaw in a pet shop

Ongoing studies of Snow Leopards

One of 380 Bird Sketches & Studies David did during 2013.

Male Peacock study, Apple iPad using the "Paper by 53" app


Today... David Rankin uses an amazing variety of different artistic imaging skills to develop his paintings and ideas... both in the field directly from Nature... as well as back in his home studio.

He uses traditional pencil sketches with watercolor... design & values studies drawn using the Paper by 53 app and a stylus on an Apple iPad... traditional small watercolors... and Gray Studies using only Paynes Gray watercolor... all of these methods yield David's distinctive results.

Even though David began his massive creative efforts to "Paint India"... in 1985... by focusing on India's amazing diversity of Storks & Cranes, he soon widened his focus to include all of India's Birds & Wildlife. As he began to expand his focus... he began a major effort to paint India's tigers and her elephants in their natural habitats.

"110 in the Shade" - Kanha National Park
"Arundhati at the Ganges" - Rajaji National Park


David Rankin Gray Study Training

David also trains artists in his unique Gray Study Procedures.

Using David's Gray Study procedures you can approach any possible painting subject with confidence & style.
Gray Studies - A very cool way to try out painting ideas fast.


David Rankin Watercolor Training Workshops / 2017

David at Euclid Art Association Workshop

Today, David Rankin is one of the top Watercolor Instructors in America. He actually refers to himself as a Watercolor Trainer, in that rather than hoping you learn something by merely watching him paint, David actually trains artists in very precise watercolor brushwork skills & procedures. Working closely with David he will help you rapidly upgrade and master the unique, and often magical skills, that are inherent to transparent watercolor.

Come & train with David

David Rankin Workshop Schedule - 2017

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David Rankin


David Rankin Watercolor History & Workshops 2017

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