A Sol 2 Sol talk and Pop up Show

After the climate march I stayed in the city for a couple more days of city wandering/sketching, then went home (to Sebastopol).

A couple days later I returned to S.F. to do some more! The actual Global Climate Action Summit was going on at the Moscone Center, with Governor Brown and Al Gore and 4500 delegates from around the world. I couldn’t get into the actual summit, but wanted to dip my toe in the action. So I met some other sketchers in the Yerba Buena gardens across from Moscone Center. A group of marchers were congregating in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum across the street.

Loretta Bolden2

I honestly didn’t know what people and climate stories I would find as I walked into a group of people dressed in yellow t-shirts who were chanting and then breaking for lunch. The group was Sol 2 Sol, participating in the “It Takes Roots Solidarity to Solutions Week to spotlight frontline community solutions to the interlinked economic, democratic and climate crises currently threatening humanity.” They were there ” To discuss place-based solutions that serve to simultaneously decarbonize, detoxify, demilitarize and democratize our economy through critical strategies such as Indigenous land rights, food sovereignty, zero waste, public transportation, ecosystem restoration, universal healthcare, worker rights, housing rights, racial and gender justice, and economic relocalization.” That sure covers a lot of ground!

When I approached Loretta I didn’t know any of this, just that she looked like someone I would like to meet and who probably had her own interesting story to tell.


She had come all the way from Cherokee, N.C. (Geeze I hope they’re OK with Florence still on the rampage!) to support her people. I learned that it is not a reservation but part of the Qualla Boundary, a term I had not heard before which signifies that it was purchased by the tribe in the 1870s and subsequently placed under federal protection.

Loretta of course had concerns about threats to the health of their lands, but was impressed also by wider climate changes. Her group had toured Santa Rosa just the week before to see the devastation wrought by our Tubbs fire! It was moving to hear her reaction as she recounted what she had learned on that tour about the climate-wrought disaster in my own community!

Needless to say I found it difficult to sketch the portrait of this fascinating lady out in the bright sun while also interviewing her and trying to make notes of what she said! Bless her heart for hanging in there with  me!

That evening we hung a pop-up show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum of about 200 climate story portrait sketches by urban sketchers.


What started as just an interesting idea by our fearless leader Laurie Wigham turned in one month into a project of great interest not only to the sketchers in the Bay Area but to so many of the participants in the climate summit-related efforts who were anxious to have their stories heard and and recorded.


The show has been taken down now, but you can see the sketches on the SketchingClimateStories website! And if you’d like to get involved in this form of story-telling sketching, and you live in the Bay Area, please let me know and I’ll try to get you connected.

ImpactofClimateChangeCA2_SusanCornelisThe next morning I attended another event about “The Impact of Climate Change on California” at City College, which was another opportunity for people to share their experiences. I had pictured a town hall meeting type event where I would sit discreetly on the side, but it was a small classroom with several organizers and a handful of participants seated in a circle including us four sketchers.


With respect for those who do not speak English, everything was translated into Spanish. The meeting was led in by a facilitator from the group Sustaining All Life, an international grassroots organization working to end climate change within the context of ending all divisions among people.


I enjoyed participating in the personal sharing exercises, which gave me the opportunity to talk about our community’s trauma with the firestorms. It also made the reportage efforts more challenging as I crossed the line from reporter to participant.

Seated to my right was Ruying, an electrical engineer/climate scientist and Summit delegate from Beijing, China, who was hoping to gain some insight into the experience of Californians. She spoke with enthusiasm about the joint efforts of China and California in dealing with climate change. I suspect that this meeting was eye opener for her!



  1. Bowled over by this – such a knockout project, a wonderful idea and I’m so impressed with your reportage portraits – and the work of all the other sketches too (thanks for the link to the website).
    Can I ask a technical question? What’s your preferred watercolour pigment for flash tones? I’m looking for a good all-rounder without having to mix my own, for times when speed is of the essence!


    1. Thanks! And your question about flesh tones. . .well, since no two skin tones are alike, there is no one pigment to do them all! In general for light-medium toned skins I mix a yellow and a red, trying to stay away from orange! Since I have an small assortment of reds and yellows I can get variations, and add a blue for shadows. But green and violet are nice shadow makers too. Dark skin requires an deeper palette.
      Are you a reportage sketcher? or desire to be one?


      1. Thanks – really appreciate your thoughts on this. It’s what I do myself, mixing I mean, but I’ve read of some Sketchers using specific pigments as a stand-by and short-cut if you know what I mean – Marc Taro Holmes talks a lot about Buff Titanium plus a dark red that I can’t at the moment remember. I agree – all skin tones differ so much. Yes I do reportage sketching when I can, and I live it and would love to do more. If you’re interested you could have a look at my blog, deborahrehmat.wordpress.com/blog
        – the post I did on World War 1 Day at Cliffe Castle would be an example. Thanks ever so much for the advice – I really love your work!


      2. And Susan, I should have said – I’m from the UK, and belong to Yorkshire Urban Sketchers which is run by Lynne Chapman – so I’ve learnt a lot about reportage sketching from looking at her fascinating work. Although it’s something I would absolutely love to do more of myself, I’m hampered by chronic health problems. (Which I’m always finding ways round, but which prevent me from doing what I’d most like to do). Thanks again! Deborah


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