Summer Concert-Going


Farmers markets used to be just about fruits and veggies, fresh farm crafted cheeses and such, but no more! Now there’s some really excellent music to tune into, dance to and of course, sketch. We caught the last 10 minutes of this engaging band so I whipped out the pen and started scribbling to the beat.

[Pentel pocket brush pen and w/c in 5.5X8″ sketchbook]


I have a strong preference for Jazz I can move to, and the Latin type knows how to make that work. The Healdsburg Plaza concerts are great for hearing the music, but the bands are in the shade on stage  with no easy visibility. There’s always somewhere to stand a get a partial glimpse though. I guess I didn’t even get the name of this group.


The Pete Escovedo Latin jazz Ensemble played a free concert at the Montgomery Plaza shopping mall and I was way too busy moving to do much sketching.  Did this one from an iPhone pic.

Up to My Eyeballs in Snakes!


Up to my eyeballs in snakes! This is nothing new.  I’ve been feeling slippery for a while now. When I open my mouth my tongue comes out rather too far and wiggles around before snapping back in. I’ve also noticed that I can see out of the top of my head and the view consists of more slithering.  Is that my hair?!

Perhaps you can relate? Difficult times, these, but good for making whacky art that brings a smile. It’s me alright, meaning a photo taken with Photo Booth on my Apple computer using the built in comic strip filter.

The little white weasel on the right? That’s the one I’m hoping will keep me sane.

[collage and black gesso, on w/c paper, 10 X 11″]

The Quest for Beauty


“Chrysalid II”, inks, gesso, pencil, collage on canvas 24″X24″

In his book Wabi Sabi: Further Thoughts, Leonard Koren shares the quest for beauty that led  him to explore more deeply the wabi-sabi way.  In his definition of beauty he writes:

By “beauty” I mean that complex of exciting, pleasurable sensations-ostensibly emanating from things – that makes us feel more alive and connected to the world.  Often these feelings are accompanied by a compelling sense of truth, goodness, and/or love.

I can’t think of a better explanation for why I paint! But it goes beyond that to an honoring of life, with all its natural processes. Wabi sabi is a celebration of the roughness and unevenness of life as it unfolds in bumps and starts, one forward and two steps back. I imagine the gnarled old apple tree in my garden that wears its age with the grace and originality as I aspire to. The rusty garden implements, the grasses draping over my walkway, and in my studio – the torn paper and textured surfaces I love to paint on.




inks, gesso, pencil, and collage on canvas 24″ X 24″

A continuation of my contemplation of the Japanese esthetic of wabi sabi that treasures the passage of time and a sense of impermanence. I was going for the patina of rustic, aged surfaces, and in the process called forth an image which honors the natural cycle of birth and death.

Where do images come from? There is an obvious answer when I am out sketching people and events, doing the pictorial storytelling or reportage which I’ve come to love so much. But when I explore the surface of the canvas, and something appears, I find that I am at a loss to answer. The painted surface has its own life then.

There is always some thread I can follow back to the circumstances of my life at the moment. I have this spring been witnessing the colorful life cycle of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in my studio garden. And in the past two weeks I have lost count of the number of people known to me who have passed. It gives one pause, and that gives one paintings I suppose.

Later this month,June 25, 26,  I’ll be teaching a weekend workshop: Mixed Media Painting: The Visual Poetry of Wabi Sabi  at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. We will be accessing this rich esthetic with mixed media painting techniques, poetry, meditation and writing.  There is still space if you want to come! For more information or to register, please visit my website.

Railroad Square Music Festival


fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn sketchbook 6X8″

If you were at the music festival at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa last weekend you may have seen two ladies plop down on their tiny collapsible stools in front of some of the bands, in the midst of surging crowds.  It’s always like plunging into an icy river (or more appropriately for last Sunday, a raging fire) , at least until you start sketching, and then there’s no awareness of the crowd or (for a few moments at least) the hot sun.

While sketching the Betty Blues and enjoying their tunes, I learned that my fountain pen ink doesn’t dry fast enough, even in the California sun and I messed up on the lovely face of the lead singer! Oh well.


brush pen, fountain pen and w/c in 9 X 12″ Mixed Media Canson sketchbook

The two figures in bold were done on site.  The moving accordion was a particular challenge!  The other figures were added later using my iPhone pics as source. This particular band, the Odd Job Ensemble was so spirited and fun! Later I caught them accompanying the circus act.


In case you can’t read the text here, it says: Too hot and sunny to stay, but the white platform “nurses” shoes and pink hat made her a must-sketch.

. . .not to mention the tattoos. But I was so anxious to get out of the hot sun that I  didn’t get my proportions right and cut off her feet! No problem!  Who said they had to be on her feet?!

Zoom In


Powdered charcoal, inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

An aerial view of the geology of life, Google cams trained on all of us, taking pictures of moments in the lives. . .we live.. .always caught in a particular focal point we call “reality”.

ZOOM out and get the LARGE perspective. You may never be the same again (hopefully).

Last Monday was the warmest day so far this year. A perfect time to play with this technique of powdered charcoal and graphite textures, best done outside.

Start by wetting shapes on the paper (sponging water through stencils is fun!)  The wet areas form a kind of resist so that the paper stays white (as in the white grid on the right side above).

Then sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the paper and pour water over it.  This causes the charcoal (or graphite, which is more of a silver than black) to move in spontaneous ways. Let it dry. (In the 90+ degree heat this was very fast!) At this point you can erase areas or spray with fixative. Then add acrylic to develop the idea and show off the texture. I like to mix my acrylic inks with gesso to get a more opaque coverage in certain areas.

Portrait Madness


Pentel brush pen and gouache in tan toned Strathmore sketchbook

I’ve been playing with this new Sktchy app, which is a great resource for us insatiable sketchers who are always on the look-out for interesting faces. I have it on my iPhone, so I can put my feet up in the evening and sketch on my lap (which is why my lines are so crooked!) People post photos to inspire and then the sketches they do of the photo sources.


Like this guy Jordan on the right, who I had to sketch because of those fabulous eyebrows.  I’m trying to get comfortable with the juicy brush pen, which is sooo expressive, but really tricky to manage the different angels to get fine and thick lines.

I’ve also been getting inspiration from old magazines.  This issue of Look in 1958 featured world leaders, like Hirohito.


I’m so used to painting shadow shapes with watercolor washes, so this requires relying more on line and has a comic strip quality.


The tan paper is best left as skin tone.  I got a bit carried away trying to get that dark handsome thing going with Valentino’s portrait


White and blue gouache and black brush pen, and it’s enough, mostly because of the tan paper.


The Press Democrat had this great photo taken at a Trump rally where there were confrontations among demonstrators.  Definitely a case of a picture being worth 1,000 words!