Washington State Capital Building

While California has been floating in their, did I hear ninth atmospheric river, this winter (or getting buried under tons of snow!) here in Washington we have had our usual cold drizzles mixed with sunny days and not much blossoming going on yet. Each day is a constantly changing smorsgasbord of sky drama. If you turn around 360 degrees you will see every kind of sky, as in this picture taken on a sunny day!

The legislature was in session at the Capital building. After lunch in town Jane and I walked over to the Capital building to check out the action. She knows the scene well, having worked there in various capacities years ago, so I just tagged along.

fountain pen and watercolor in hand.book w/c journal 8X11″ spread

We were able to sit in the gallery above the grand room and look down on the proceedings which were just beginning. All the rules of the House were being followed. but it was a mock session with the student interns doing a very convincing job of discussing and passing laws!

Meanwhile I was struggling (in a fun way!) to capture bits and pieces of the action to tell a visual story. (The recent cataract operation helped a bit with my sight, but it will be another couple months before I can get my glasses updated!)

You’ll be able to check out Jane Wingfield’s sketches soon on her Instagram account.

crocuses under the trees at the Capital grounds

I’m headed to California tomorrow for a week visiting friends in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. They said to bring a raincoat and rubber boots!! And their temps are only a tad warmer than ours. Topsy turvy weather this year. Can’t wait to see those familiar landscapes and old friends. I’ll be back in a week with some stories!


#OneWeek100People: Costco and Browsers

 It was a week of sketching people. Not that I don’t already sketch people a lot. But it was fun to put in some dedicated time and fill up some larger pages with figures and trying different materials. 

Here we were back at our large Starbucks where people tend to come and sit a while, talk to friends or study/work/surf the internet.

I started out drawing with continuous line, which is not so much a way to be accurate, but it feels so good to move the pen on the paper. It’s also good for drawing “characters” that don’t necessarily have to resemble the subjects.

kakimori dip pen and ink in 9X12″ Canson mixed media sketch book

Another day, sitting at a table in the Costco food court with a good view of people wolfing down hotdogs/pizza as well as lining up with their carts. I thought it might be a stressful environment, but it’s amazing how the act of concentration required for drawing from life actually stills the mind and smoothes the sensory input! This time I tried a combination of watercolor graphite wetted and applied with a brush and a Derwent Inktense watercolor pencil.


I think I prefer the ones where I didn’t use the pencil, but just direct watercolor graphite. The “first time model” was a guy sitting directly in front of me watching while I brazenly sketched him. He noticed and smiled so I raised my brush to him questioningly and he nodded consent. When he’d finished his hotdog, he politely kept position until I finished and thanked him, showing the sketch. He was pleased and said “my first time as a model!”

On Saturday I was at the Farmer’s Market with Bob and no sketchbook. But this merry woman was standing in the frigid air in front of the garden there, playing merrily on her accordian. All I had time for was to snap a quick picture and sketch it at home. I still haven’t gotten over how people here in Olympia perform outside in the winter, let alone without layers of down and long johns! At least she had a knit hat!

Our Saturday downtown led us to our favorite bookstore Browsers Bookshop, where there was music and the sound of children laughing upstairs. Once again I wished I had my sketchbook with me to capture this delightful scene of parents and small children enjoying the entertainment together. I perched on the top of the stairs behind them and took a picture, then sketched from the picture quickly at home, imagining I had only minutes to capture the scene with my kakimori pen and watercolor. I think I’ll check Browser’s schedule for their next story time and come back with my sketchbook to enjoy it live!

So that wraps up this week. I haven’t counted the people I sketched. Probably not 100, but certainly a decent number. I’m happy with some of the results and understand that the others are there to teach me how to improve.  And the main thing I learned, or at least remembered, this week is how happy it makes me, how quickly it relieves my life worries, to sit and focus on line and shape and the movement of my hand and imagination. It’s really quite stupendous, regardless of the result!

Street View World Tour: Hawaii

You know Google Street View. It’s great for sketchers even if it breaks the cardinal rule of Urban Sketchers which is to sketch on location. Since Covid, travel sketching has sprouted an auxiliary wing with the discovery of Street View, where you can pick an exotic location, move your cursor around til you find the view/place where you would like to stand/sit to sketch, and then do so in the comfort of your home studio, and better yet, on Zoom with sketch friends!

On Thursday last week I joined my friends for a 90 minute Gage Arts Academy Zoom session led by Seattle based Eleanor Doughty and German based Jenny Adam.  And the guest artist of the day was San Jose based Uma Kelkar. Fun people, lots of new ideas and things to try. Fast paced with engaging commentary. Highly recommend it. And it’s free! 

Times: First Thursday of every month. 10am-11:30am PST.

To not miss out on the fun next month visit the link here.

felt tip pen and watercolor 4 X 7″

Here’s the first 20 min street view, somewhere in Hawaii, along a river with lots of rocks in it.

somewhere else on the coast of an Hawaiian island

That was fun! and lot cheaper and easier on the body than an actual trip to Hawaii. I have a friend who’s just been on the big island for a week or so and every day was so windy/stormy that only one of the days could she even walk on the beach! So while I know there’s a big difference between sitting at your computer and feeling warm sand in your toes. . .the Street View and with fellow sketchers, goes a ways toward feeling good about staying home.

Lacey Cultural Celebration

Last Saturday I attended the Lacy Cultural Celebration, a free event at St. Martin’s University featuring music and dance presentations by local and regional performing arts groups and more!  This year there were five members of our local urban sketch group, but I’m sure word will spread and that will double by next year. The performances by local people of all ages, with colorful ethnic costumes and musical accompaniment were engaging and occasionally spectacular. 

I put my nose in the little sketchbook I’d brought and hardly moved from my seat for 2 and a half hours while a new group took the stage every half hour.

Olympia Highlander
Haley Prendergast School of Irish Dancing
PNW Ryuel Ryohou Kan Dojo
India South Sound Association

The last one was drawn later from a picture I took. There were several others that are not worth sharing and never received color! 

But now that the  #Oneweek100people annual challenge has started! they can all be counted as part of this week, which is all about practising and repetition as a great way to increase people-drawing skills.  I know some of you are already well into papering your walls with people sketches for this challenge! If not and you’re interested in giving it a try, go to my friend Marc Taro Holmes’ blog to get super inspired. And I’ll be posting more this week. My buddies and I are even planning on hanging out at our local Costco food court to get some interesting subjects. You know, the ones shoveling pizza and hot dogs into their mouths and then racing to line up with their bulging carts, to have their receipts checked as they leave with all that loot! Crazy what one will be willing to do in the service of art!


Spring Session of The Playful Muse Workshop!

The Playful Muse workshop series returns for a Spring Session starting April 10! If you’re an Olympia, Washington local, I hope you can join us. If not, I’ll be posting about the lessons here as I’ve been doing for the past, gulp, sixteen years.

Put the PLAY Factor back into your artmaking. Learn to recognize your intuitive voice as it takes you in new directions. Each session adds a new mixed media painting technique to your repertoire, pushing the boundaries of inks and acrylics, adding textures, collage, and more. Meditation and writing are added to the mix to evoke that powerful Muse energy!
All experience levels, beginners to advanced, are welcome.
Six weekly classes and each week an all new lesson. This season will feature new textures, image transfers, Wabi Sabi effects and acrylic skins. Here’s a sampling from previous years!
Coffee texture!
acrylic skins!
Image transfer
Wabi Sabi!
Monday Morning Muses (meets weekly for 6 weeks)
Dates: April 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 15, 2023
Time: 10am-1pm
Cost: $210
Location: 1230 8th Ave SE, Olympia, WA
For more information visit my website.
To enquire about the workshop or to register contact me by phone or email.

Lummi Totem Blessing

On a chilly winter afternoon this week Ineke and Jane and I met at the Port Plaza downtown to attend a Lummi Totem Blessing event, and to sketch. The Lummi tribe is centered in the Bellingham area of northern Washington. Representatives from the House of Tears Carvers came to Olympia, welcomed by our local Squaxin Island tribe and Interfaith council and others. They came to gather support for their tour which is headed to Oak Flat Arizona in support of the Apache tribe who is protesting the proposed copper mining which endangers the future of the land and its people.

For us the event was an opportunity to experience our home through the eyes of the indigenous people whose fundamental mission is to be guardians of the health of ancestral lands, not just here but in the wider world.

As I approached the Port from the parking lot I was suddenly overwhelmed by a noisy flock of seagulls circling over the spot where the ceremony was about to start. There was no doubt that the ancestors had been summoned and announced themselves through this avian presence!

fineliner pen and watercolor in a hand.book w/c journal

As the ceremony and program began, reluctantly I took my hands out of warm pockets to open the sketchbook and start drawing.  As I heard bits of the story and introductions of the speakers, I took notes and picked the two Lummi elders who had traveled to Olympia on this mission, bringing a totem.

After I’d dropped my pen a couple times, I gave up and the hands returned to the warm pockets, and full attention to the speakers and message. I never fail to be brought to tears by the indigenous speakers who so naturally communicate their understanding of the oneness of man with the natural elements. Salmon are their relatives, as are the eagles. The earth is the living embodiment of their ancestral identity and cannot be separated from it. As I listen, everything in me responds with a yes, that’s it! I look around and see the same response on the faces of the crowd.

panoramic shot of the folks assembled for the laying on of hands ceremony of offering our prayers

I watched as the totem slowly made its way around the circle of attendees who reverently laid hands on the pole in silent prayer, joining with the hands of the local and Lummi tribal members. Meanwhile the symphony of gulls and the stories and blessings of Freddy and his auntie Mary filled the air and gave me goosebumps.


One more sketch here of this diminutive Lummi elder and great grandmother of 25, her braid almost down to her ankles. Embellished a bit by my experience of her larger than life presence. 

It was one of those times when I didn’t wonder about how/why I am so far from my Sebastopol home of many years.  I believe the move is bringing some kind of new lessons about ways to live in harmony with the natural world. My sincere gratitude goes to the indigenous peoples who have this lesson to teach us.

After the event was over it was dinnertime, and we were all invited to warm ourselves by enjoying delicious salmon chowder prepared, I assume, by the local Squaxin Island folks.

What’s the Angle?

Ostrich Flower Series Inks and brewed tea applied with dip pens and brush in Field Watercolor Journal

The lady in question here is Rachael Le Blanc, a Sktchy Museum app follower who posted her image to be sketched and shared. What was she thinking about when the picture was taken? That’s what I was going for in the sketch. A struggle of some sort. So when the red ink bled outside the lips it seemed just the right touch to indicate. . .well, you know as a woman, those days when the make up just doesn’t stay put. . .there’s often something else going on. 

And I love the off-centeredness of the pose, like shrinking back from whatever the feeling was. When I’d almost finished the sketch I had the thought. How would she look from another angle? So I grabbed my camera to see what would happen if I tilted it from the chin up.


How did that change the expression? Scarier, huh?


But I couldn’t stop there, and tilted the phone camera the other way. . .she seemed more distressed than angry.

What a discovery! for me at least. That you can use your camera to distort a pose into more of a characature and change the feeling, at least as a way to play around with learning to draw facial expressions. 

A friend had brought a bouquet of flowers which volunteered themselves for some practice with the Kakimori pen. After drawing some of the flowers I splattered some ink from the pen and spritzed it with water as an experiment. It made a mess.  When you’ve already made a mess, that’s the best time to try out something else, since you’ve got nothing to lose! So I started flooding the paper with my new Flower Series inks. Here we go!

I mean after all, flower inks and flower drawing. A reasonable pairing!

McMenamins Spar Cafe

It was last winter when Jane Wingfield and I sat on the sidewalk across the street from Spar Cafe in toe-numbing cold, sketching the buildings. (See the post here.) This year we made a more comfortable choice and had lunch inside, enjoying a freshly made soup and sandwich. The Cafe’s decor pays homage to a rich history going back to the 1930’s. I would love to do some real time travel in this spot and be a fly on the wall to watch the longshoremen who eagerly bookended their day with drinking and gambling pursuits. Now a days it’s still a great place to imbibe, to eat, and play pool, but has a respectable family feel and is very low key on weekday lunchtimes.

pen and watercolor in hand.book journal

We were both impressed by how much detail one could get lost in sketching there, and meanwhile we had a lot of eating and talking to do. Jane got out her cool Kakimori pen and I watched her demo it. Mine would arrive in the mail later that day and I wanted to be ready. I confess I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on the detail of the back part of the restaurant, being two days away from much needed cataract surgery. But the chandelier and the chairs. . .and this pen with the unusual brass nib that looks like a bullet presented interesting subjects.

To see Jane’s sketch and read more of interest about Spar Cafe, see her Instagram post here!

practice with my new Kakimori pen and ink!

To my delight when I arrived home, my Kakimori had arrived, and I took it for a spin! Lots more practice is needed, but so far it carries lots of ink and has amazing line variability. And now, cataract surgery successfully completed, I can’t wait to get back to it with a bit more vision power.

I can’t stop brewing tea!

In the past I’ve used black tea to “age” paper, sometimes in a low heat oven for a few minutes. It effectively antiques paper in minutes by drying the stain in. If you use brewed tea for painting though, it needs to be fresh or it turns cloudy, and who wants that? So I’ve been brewing fresh tea each day for these portrait sketches. The names you’ve been seeing on the portraits are the names of the Sktchy Museum App participants who post their pictures for others to sketch. Here’s Katy.

Ostrich Flower Series inks and tea, image source from Sktchy Museum app

Inks are just made for splatter craft on paper. There was no color in this picture source, just a moody profile shape which leant itself perfectly to whatever. Turquoise, why not, and some tea and some brown. The black tea turns flesh color luminous enough on its own or mixed with any of these flower series inks with no known western names.


Once again just flowers and tea! applied with dip pens and brush in layers that melt. The magenta was surprisingly intense, but gave just the lift I wouldn’t otherwise have dared. Such a beautiful Greco Roman God-looking man, Cabot Wilson!

Master of the skEYES

Muse Group demo: inks and gesso on 10 X 11″ watercolor paper

Master of the skEYES

How do you SEE the bounties of land and sky?

My eagle eyed friend, oh master of the skies?

When my winter musings grow dead weight

May I hitch a ride 

Borrow your eyes 

See that magnificent

Place where Above meets Below

And a tiny mouse makes his way

Through the blades of grass

May I stow away in your backpack

Cozy while fresh winds nourish 

And cleanse my overheated mind

There’s more to seeing than eye balls, I know

I close my eyes and see worlds 

Of strange and wonderful folk 

So much light, even eyes closed

I will build myself an armature like yours

Not to keep others out, but to carry the weight

Of what destiny will serve up

Then leave it to my pen and brush

They will not fail me. 

The last Muse Group lesson of this series last week was the drama of Black and White. We started out making lots of lines and shapes on practice paper using all the fun paint application tools, including fingers of course. As often happens when I’m just trying to demonstrate these techniques without any content in mind, an image jumps out.

The figure. The eye. The choice was to get rid of the eye in the picture, or let it emerge. During the free write session that followed the art making in class, my own writing was aborted when my phone rang. It was a call to move my cataract surgery up a month sooner. By the next day I realized the image of the figure with the eye had something to say. Once again the saga of my failing vision continues. The surgery may or may not help much in my case. So I look to once again adapting myself to what may come. . . as the Master of the skEYES steps in to offer me my brush and paint and remind me of the xray vision. Haha!