Days on the Coast

It’s cozy inside today as the rain falls steadily outside, embraced by our dry season’s parched land.  A lot of rain for us this October. For that reason Bob and I felt particularly blessed that our getaway to the coast last week came at a break in the storms. Bob and I spent three nights in Fort Bragg (California) at a divine AirBnB cottage, walked the beaches, ate good food and saw lots of art galleries. He encouraged me to go ahead and ignore him now and then to do some sketching.


water soluble ink and watercolor in Toned Tan paper 5.5 X 8″ Strathmore sketchbook

The picturesque town of Mendocino, with its ocean views, water towers and “quaint”historic buildings has been sketched and painted sooo many times, but I had to remind myself “yes, but not by me”. Well, not in a while anyway.


8 X 8″ watercolor sketchbook


8 X 8″ watercolor sketchbook

Our lovely B n B called The Garden at Road’s End was down a country road five minutes outside of Fort Bragg. Eight acres at the end and a garden that rivaled any I’ve seen. Redwood forest opening onto lawns, fountains nestled in colorful bushes, a heather garden which was erupting in fall colors and more.  This sketch was done from the table in the cottage/room where we stayed – a perfect spot to nest and enjoy the garden view.


Bob catches me sketching in the garden!


We found our dinner with the locals at a tiny pub where the workmen were enjoying their after work pints (I could have been back in Ireland!) And the pizza was unbelievably good!


This was a first for me. . .being offered flowers while sketching!


I’ve learned that these quick capture landscapes need to be done small, and I would need to do many to get the hang of those ocean waves and rocky coast. Another time.


As I sat in a windy spot, this light and the colors changed so many times that I could have done many different sketches in a row, if I were faster. I think that’s the next territory to explore – greater speed.

A delightful vacation, and now it’s time to enjoy the rain (and deal with a leak in our roof!)

Jimtown, Sonoma, Healdsburg sketching

Last weekend I joined up with the Ready Set Sketch group at Jimtown Store  in Healdsburg. I have sketched the iconic front of the store/cafe in the past with its historic building and red truck out front. So this time I joined some others in the shade behind the the store. What was intended as a quick sketch turned into a painting as I relaxed on my tiny Coleman stool, enjoying the lovely setting, good company, and welcoming presence of the owner, Carrie Brown. A delicious lunch in the cafe followed.jimtown

Lamy Joy fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ w/c sketchbook


On a trip to Sonoma on Sunday I grabbed a half hour to do my last lesson for Liz Steele’s Sketch Now Buildings course. I was appalled at the messy result of my rushed sketch, but had to admit that the cast shadows at least offered a bit of realism and I believe the proportions were more or less right. The colors? not so much. I’d like to say it was fun to sketch, but I still find myself resisting straight lines and studied measurements. Nevertheless on Thursday I was trying it all out with another structure.


But first, a warm up in Flying Goat Coffee in Healdsburg with my sketch buddies. Worth a visit for not just the best cup of coffee but the paintings of Mary Linnea Vaugham!


Then out on the sidewalk for some more measuring and analyzing building structure.

And now the sky again is white as we wait for another storm to roll in. No sketching outdoors this weekend!



tissue prints, stencil prints, acrylic paint and inks on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Windows overgrown with branches rising up from deepest roots.

Is there an opening for the nightengale to sing his love songs?

A shade is pulled down, yet he continues

Even in the dark of the moon, joining the chorus of crickets and night creepings.

There’s a shimmer of movement in the house, and the shutters are thrown wide.

There’s something so heart rending about a nightengale who sings the night long to attract his love. Here we call them mockingbirds because they have such a spectacular range of bird calls, covering most of the bird kingdom with their repertoire.

The romance of the nightly song dies, of course, when one is trying to sleep through it. This has only happened to me once for a period of over a week.

What brought forth this loose train of thought was not a recent experience, but a blob of ink on the paper which looked bird-like, which they often do! And then there was the black brambles and the square grid-like, window-like shapes. The mind quite easily shapes itself to what is seen on the paper, especially in the company of fellow explorers, like the students in my Muse group. We shared many such mind expansions on Monday as we let black inks and acrylic paints have their way on our paper.

October 22 I’ll be teaching a similar day long workshop in Ukiah for the Mendocino Arts Association. There may still be a couple spaces left in that one. Visit their website for more information.

Coming Soon, Reunification


Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ w/c sketchbook

A lovely day for another sketch of the tractors and earth-moving at Old Courthouse Square where they are busy with a Santa Rosa city “reunification” project. Unfortunately there was little visibility of the work since the entire area is encompassed by green covered fencing and busy traffic.

So we situated ourselves at the corner across 4th Street, where the view was generous with urban “entourage” (as the urban sketchers call it). Meaning lights and signs and umbrellas and bikes and more. As usual I did not plan to be so detailed, but the day was lovely and there was time, so why not put it all in? Do you see Becky on her stool at the end of the columns? I thought I’d try out some more designed text as well.


It wasn’t quite lunchtime yet so I had time for a more abbreviated sketch of the “green wall” obscuring the construction. The restaurants and stores in the area really need people to know that they remain open in spite of the construction. We got hungrier and hungrier smelling the mouth watering aromas emanating from Flavors’ open door.

#OldCourthouseSquareReunification, #FlavorsRestaurant

New Monday Muse Group!

If you’ve been following along here and gotten a taste for the Muse-filled mixed media paintings, I hope you’ll think about joining us for the Monday Afternoon group in my studio in Sebastopol, CA.

Frankly, although I’m the teacher of the lessons, I derive much of my inspiration from this spirited group of artists who are constantly forging new territories and together creating an exciting creative space.

For more information visit my website and let me know if I should save a space for you!



Before I started hanging out with Urban Sketchers I avoided sketching buildings. All that linear stuff was too boring, I thought. Then I started wanting to be one of those cool urban sketch artists who can capture a busy city scene quickly and expressively. I should be able to pull that off, I thought.  After all, I’ve been an artist for 23 years, or longer if you count excursions into drawing since I was a child.

But it wasn’t that easy. I realized that I never really looked at buildings in the way one must to convincingly tell their stories. So it has been humbling, but also exciting, to forge new territory. It also helps with my motivation that one of my sons has chosen a career in architecture and opened my eyes to the beauty and mystery of structural design.


Garber St. in Berkeley, fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ sketchbook

You have to really be interested in building design to be willing to sit on a sidewalk and waggle your head up and down  and try to make sense of what you see. Since I got back from Manchester, England where the Urban Sketchers annual symposium took place, I have been looking at buildings in a new way. I live in the countryside, so it takes a bit of planning to find structures complex enough to offer some interest. This street of beautiful homes in the Berkeley hills was a good find.

I also signed up for Liz Steel’s online course, “SketchNow Buildings”. Liz approaches her sketches with the benefit of having practiced architecture for 20 years, and she has learned how to communicate the essentials of architectural sketching to non-architects for quick sketching in public spaces. She has a new book that just came out: Architecture: Super Quick Techniques for Amazing Drawings


This is one of my class exercises, sketched from the parking lot of Sts. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church in Santa Rosa. To follow the lesson I focused first on following edges with a continuous line, thinking in terms of shapes (sky shape, shadow shape, etc.), and 3-D volumes, moving back and forth through these as I proceeded with the sketch.


Here’s a little house in town where I stopped to do my assignment, which started with analysing the volumes. I made the mistake of not taking time to measure properly, but I found it useful to critique the sketch and spell out the steps I could take to improve. Here’s some of my self critique:

-focus on volumes and thicknesses

-made the house too narrow

-needed to measure first

-steps are difficult

-need to go back with crucial lines left out

-difficulty of not seeing the ground line to get perspective cues

–sketching behind steering wheel in car is too restricting!

-color confusion: test to use more consistent shadow colors


A Methodist church I pass every time I go to town.  More practice understanding the volumes and working out the watercolor mixtures for shadow shapes and more. Doing little side sketches to work out the details of areas like window insets and doors and porticos is so helpful. Also paying attention to leading edges on buildings and drawing all the thicknesses improves a drawing dramatically.


Working from a photo to understand some issues with the structural components of some classical architecture.


And then, how fun! I found this house in Santa Rosa which took lots of measuring and redrawing to even begin to understand how the columns related to the entablature (some things I’ve learned in past 4 weeks!)

Well I’m not ready to give up drawing people, but I must say that buildings hold a new kind of interest. Thanks to Liz Steel and Urban Sketchers, at least I won’t be so intimidated when I visit the city again and try to get all those lines to make sense!

Inside Out

We did the Mixed Media People lesson today in Muse Group. I took an acrylic painting done in layers with paint scraped back to other layers and added some collage and word.


acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

It doesn’t matter where you start. There will be someone there with you, waiting for the next bus, or chapter, or age.  There will be company even when your eyes close. They will be there on the inner screen.  Your parents or friends, even the strangers are not really strange but just disconnected, transparent. You try to read the signs, but they’re in another language, so you hang out and wait with them.

Sometimes it gets confused for just a moment. The inside and the outside. The dream and the reality. That’s the border where the creative impulse plays. There’s always a bit of strange to it, else you just get more of the ho hum.