An afternoon in Graton

With the thought of sitting out in the lovely warm weather to sketch, my friends and I scheduled lunch at Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton, followed by sketching in the town. It was Wednesday this week, and yet another day that never really warmed up.


fountain pen with brown ink and w/c in Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook, (full spread)

But I think I’ve been complaining too much about the weather lately! One can always put the hood of the sweatshirt up over ones head, after all. This spot, a boarded up abandoned house across the street turned out to be a wonderful subject. Just as I finished the sketch, (where I obviously got mesmerized by the old brick fireplace), the owner of the property showed up and gave us the history of the place! She grew up there, next to what was one of no less than three gas stations in this little one block town. For many years now they have been going through the environmental clean up, since it has not been a gas station for a long time. How fun to get the history from an old timer!

I woke up in the middle of the night after and knew I had to put this woman in the sketch, because I’d dreamed it! So I added her from memory the next day.


I was also scouting out sketch spots for the workshop I’m teaching June 10, which is a 10 X 10 Urban Sketch workshop and the topic is Sketching Vignettes. I changed the location to Graton because I think it’s quite perfect for this workshop and very “user friendly” with all the restaurants, art gallery, historic buildings and the like.


I started to sketch this gorgeous truck, but it was parked only briefly and drove off before I got too far. So I finished it later from a picture I’d taken.

Cat Woman

There are no more Monday Muse Group sessions until September, but this Muse-ing is a habit which continues. I’m going to take this time to redo some of the lessons and explore them further.

So I pulled out a piece of Mylar I had played around with and gotten some interesting blending of colors, and found the beginnings of Cat Woman. After some cutting and pasting and painting, here’s what came of it/her.


Cat Woman stares into the mists of time. The days and hours are not relevant, nor the passage of one afternoon. She knows these are all products of a restless mind. She seeks the swirling mists of eons and cares not about presidential fumbling through this calendar year. Her heart is steady, her eyes focused on some ineffable horizon, her ears tuned to earth murmurs others cannot hear. Ancient though she is, still she holds in her fur and bones a newborn’s innocence and wonder.

It’s good to have a Cat Woman in mind. She’s got her priorities straight.

I miss doing the mixed media muse art in the group, but also know that many of you are continuing to explore these inner art realms on your own and remain in companionship with all of us.

The Monday Afternoon Muse Group will resume with a 6-week session September 18-October 23 and registration for this has already started. For more information and to reserve a spot visit my website.

Expressive Figure Drawing With Oliver Hoeller

On May 13 I took one of the 10 X 10 Urban Sketch workshops taught by one of my favorite urban sketch artist/illustrators, Oliver Hoeller.  I originally ran across him through his blog, the Visual Flanuer and have loved his zany depictions of festival life in San Francisco.

We met for the three hour workshop in Dolores Park in the Mission. It was a blustery, cool day and I still had my runny nose and cold left over from the cold week in N. Y. Nevertheless I was determined to learn his secrets for lively sketching of busy city scenes in pen and watercolor.

dolorespark2 After some contour sketch warm ups we moved on to sketching heads of the people in the park, drawing the shadow shapes rather than specific features.


Then we went on to draw shadow shapes on full figures of people sitting relatively still.

Next we sketched parts of people, heads, torsos and legs/feet. When sketching people who are moving you often need to complete your sketch with the parts of another person who steps into your field of vision. So we also practiced putting tops and bottoms of different people together into one!

The next step was to form an opinion of what you’re interested in and then be ready to exaggerate it.


This was more challenging as we switched to people who were moving. It helped me to write down what I was initially interested in so I wouldn’t lose my focus.

Lastly we were to add some detail and context to the picture. (By this point I was too cold, so I took myself off to the Dolores Cafe where I nursed a latte while adding color and waiting for my friends to finish the workshop.)

I definitely think the workshop helped me loosen up and get more playful. Drawing the shadow shape first definitely helps. The white of the paper is always more lively than when you color in shapes with blocks of color.

Thank you Oliver!

Porchfest Musicians

Yesterday was an SF Urban Sketchers meet up for the Porchfest Musicians an afternoon of music on the porches, backyards and stoops of the Mission! The day was sunny perfection and the streets filled with relaxed and appreciative audience and the feeling of open community.


I made a concertina style “sketchbook”  for the day – 30″ X 7.5″ folded in six sides. Low and behold it worked for the four groups I heard/saw (one on the front fold)


Honestly speaking us sketchers were there as much for the visuals as for the music. This group was playing in front of an open garage door and it took a couple songs, and asking the person next to me, to realize that the Wet Paint sign, which looked so natural in this setting, ( as did their grunge style ) was the group’s name.


Ziva was in a doorway singing like an angel. I plopped down in a comfortable chair below her, a terrible angle to do a portrait (sorry), but great to watch the audience on the street corner.


For a larger venue we walked to the House of Brakes where a group called Monkey, backed up against an awesome three story mural, was working on getting the crowd engaged. I couldn’t resist the guy with the fuschia colored sideburns and beard! Eventually of course that also meant our clear view filled up with pulsating bodies.


With only minutes left before our end of day meet up to share sketches we found the Kai Lyons Jazz band and got in one more. Honestly? It was about the hat and dark glasses along with the flowered crop pants.

But the day was mostly about the personal aspect, meeting a very diverse crowd of people. The performers were sometimes as grateful to us for sketching them as we were to them for the music and visuals. There was lots of picture taking, and I even (supposedly) got on a live internet feed? which I will probably never see and that’s lucky. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Porchfest! Here’s the sketches from last year.


When we were making collage papers in Muse Group by splattering National Geographics with Citrasolv concentrate, a spell binding creature appeared on a page. That was the impetus for this piece, combining ink, collage and acrylic. See if you can tell which material is which, or just take a look and let the creature weave its spell on you.


If I were a s’keeter the world might look like this, from second to second cracked open, taken apart and then put back together all new. I’d have to keep figuring it out, like a person with amnesia or short term memory loss. 

Would that really be so bad, every second a new world? or richly phantasmagoric.

NYC: Part 5

On my last day in the city I’d planned to sketch in Central Park, but the head cold was in full swing and it was another day of gusty cold winds, so I hibernated in my son’s apartment where I’d spent the week with him and his three roomates, all of whom are PhD candidates in Economics at Columbia. Stealth sketcher that I am, I slyly recorded one of their study sessions.


And when the other roomate was home, caught him at the refrigerator digging around for dinner ingredients.


They were so welcoming and seemed comfortable enough having me around, that after a while I forgot my mother-ness and advanced chronological age and was flooded with memories of the joys of communal living in my 20’s. 

NYC45I’ll end this photo/sketch journal of the week with a couple pictures of the skyline from the roof of the building where Andrew works (Diller, Scofidio and Renfro). Looking north here with a slice of view of the Hudson. . .


.   .and east across a darkening sky toward the Empire State Building, with the High Line crossing just below.

New York, I’ll be back! You’ve definitely captured my heart.