Final Announcements for the 2011 Black Hills Sketching Class


Dear Students — Well, a few short days and we will once again be
paintings in the beautiful Black Hills. We have about a dozen students
signed up for the class — some old timers, some brand new.

Most of the students are staying at the Black Hills Mile Hi Motel in
Custer, 244 Mount Rushmore Road, 605-673-4048. We are meeting there at
1:00pm on Monday to carpool to Legion Lake for our orientation session.
Joan says they have some space in their rooms for two people to a bed if
anyone wants to share (I am assuming this applies to female students,
unless you are a really cute guy, in which case send a recent photo).

We may run into some cool, rainy weather on a day or two so bring
appropriate clothes — I will explore some alternative painting sites if

There is still room in the class for a few more students, so if you have any friends who like to join us bring them along.

I am looking forward to a great week — see you soon — mark



Mark W. McGinnis*

– students will be accepted on beginning to advanced levels (advanced
students may also sketch in media other than watercolor – pastels,
charcoal, graphite, mixed media, etc.)

– Class Fee — $250.00

– contact Mark McGinnis — or 208-921-7189 for registration & fee payment

– minimal materials needed, a list will be given upon enrollment

– students will arrange their own lodging (camp, motel, friends, etc.)
some students are staying at the Mile High Motel in Custer

– all travel by private cars (car pool as much as possible)

– daily demonstrations – individual instruction throughout the day and
group discussions will take place on location at the end of each day

– optional group dinners and  evenings on your own

June 20-24, 2011  (tentative schedule)

Monday, June 20 –1:00pm orientation – gather at the Black Hills Mile Hi
Motel, Custer SD — 1:30pm carpool to Legion Lake in Custer State Park
for demonstration and sketching

Tuesday – June 21 – All day sketching at Horse Thief Lake and Black Elk Wilderness Trail

Wednesday – June 22 – All day sketching in Spearfish Canyon

Thursday – June 23 – All day sketching in French Creek Area

Friday – June 24 – 8:30am – noon – sketching at Peter Norbeck Scenic Overlook

Essays: Volume One – new eBook from Mark W. McGinnis

Mark W. McGinnis: “This is a group of twenty essays some with ‘big’ themes such as beauty, death, ego, freedom, and sex. Also included are two reflections on great men — David Bohm, a 20th century quantum physicist, and the 19th century poet Walt Whitman. A series of essays in the collection build toward my evolving philosophy that I call ‘Naturalism.’ Each essay is accompanied by a painting from my “Sentient Landscape’ series.


Available from: for Kindle (black & white)

Barnes & Noble for Nook (do title search) (color for colornook)

iBooks for iPad and iPhone (excellent color)

and for ePub or PDF  files

If you should purchase and enjoy this book, please write a review and post to Kindle, Nook, and iBooks  — thank you

Design: the parts and the whole – new eBook from Mark W. McGinnis

This foundation design book was written over the course of 10 years while teaching at Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD. My incentive for writing this book was not the lack of good design books available. On the contrary, a stimulus was the availability of so many good sources. My intent in the following pages is to bring together the thoughts of many people with my own. It is my hope that I have arranged the basics of design with some clarity and made them accessible to the beginning design student. It has also been my purpose throughout the text to relate the design fundamentals not only to the process of producing art but also to many areas of knowledge outside the visual arts, which are the source of inspiration for the artist and designer. I have written this text in a more personal, first person, manner than is traditional for a textbook approach. This reflects my belief that art and design is a subjective field of human endeavor, even in its basics. I have attempted to write more as an artist than an academic.


Available from: for Kindle (black & white)

Barnes & Noble for Nook (do title search) (color for colornook)

iBooks for iPad and iPhone (excellent color)

and for ePub or PDF  files

If you should purchase and enjoy this book, please write a review and post to Kindle, Nook, and iBooks  — thank you

Essay of the Month: Our National Parks

I was captivated by the northwest rainforest during my month last fall in North
Cascades National Park and rainforest, and after a long winter I needed to get
away from the studio and commune with nature.  After some deliberation I ended up in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. I was not disappointed with the rainforest or the Pacific beaches.

In particular the Hoh Rainforest was breathtaking–the great trees, mosses, ferns, birds, bugs–layers and layers of life, life that has taken millennium to evolve. To simply sit in it was joyful. To be able to also sketch and try to interpret a bit of that beauty with my skills was therapeutic. When I sit quietly in an environment that has been changing and building for so many centuries, I get a glimpse of what life should be, of how an organism can support not just itself but also form symbiotic relationships with so many other organisms around it. One of the great Sitka spruce in the forest might be 500 years old and all during its life host hundreds of other species, but death does not end its bounty. It continues to give nutrition and shelter for up to another 500 years as it decays. What lessons the rainforest has for us–what priceless gifts, not measured in board feet.

The problem came in getting in and out of the park. The interior section of the park is
huge with the vast majority devoted to wilderness. The coastal part of the park
is a very narrow strip intermittently running down the west coast of the peninsula.
Most of the land on the peninsula that is not in the park has been logged or is
being logged now. After the massive logging of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the
timber industry has had its boom and bust periods since and is now on an
upswing with Asian demand for lumber high. Areas of former rainforest have been
converted to tree plantations with the huge rainfall of the area stimulating
rapid growth. I expected this, but what I did not expect was the continuing
destruction of old-growth rainforest. When I first drove into a clear-cut area,
I almost drove off the road. I cannot adequately describe either the visual or
emotional experience. It was a scene of total devastation–enormous stumps,
smaller stumps torn from the ground and scattered, grotesque piles of branches
all a ghostly gray color. Other than a bit of brush, little was growing.  It was dead and the death was not a peaceful one. Rape, pillage, destruction, devastation all seem words that contain some of what I saw.  What took so many thousands of years to create was gone. It was not an uncommon sight. On my many drives to sketching sites I found area after area in this condition. I thought
that maybe the grayed color of the stumps I was seeing meant that clear-cutting
was not being practiced today. That idea was dispelled when I came upon a fresh
cut of old-growth—the same scene of devastation but the flesh of the trees
still fresh. Moving from the sublime of the preserved rainforest to the terror
of the decimated areas several times a day for a week weighed heavily on me
with sorrow for the wanton destruction humans can thoughtlessly apply to other

At the end of my final day of sketching at Ruby Beach, I began the drive back to
my motel in Forks. I had passed a sign for a turn-off to see a “big
cedar” many times during the week. I decided that it would do me good to
see a great tree before my return to the studio. It was a long drive on a small
road through state land that was being “managed” by a timber company.
Mostly I saw plantation trees but there were still some gruesome clear-cuts.
The road became smaller the further I went but finally led me to the tree. I
thought it was dead at first but then saw that it still had some live growth on
a few upper limbs. It was big. As a matter of fact, it was the largest western
red cedar in the world. It towered above the logged tree plantation around it
like a dying sentinel. Someone had scrawled on the informational sign
“this tree would not be dying if the forest around it had not been removed.”  Maybe so. How many more trees as great or nearly as great have been removed for profit, taking with them an ecosystem so deep and rich most of us cannot begin to understand it.


What I take away from this story is that we must support our National Park system.
Support in every way possible–economic, political, support for any possible
expansions, and moral support for those who dedicate their lives and
professions to maintaining these natural wonders. The parks are our best hope
to preserve bits of what this world once was, to save the wisdom, information,
beauty, and lessons they contain that are beyond all monetary value, and to
guard these remnants from the greed of humanity. This certainly goes for
Olympic National Park and equally for every other nature-oriented national park
in our country. Someone once said that the National Park system is the best
idea the United States has had. I am in complete agreement.