Author: Susan Cornelis

Smart Train to Novato Hamilton

After sketching the Smart Train and even teaching a workshop at the Depot at Railroad Square I finally got around to actually riding the train on Saturday! The train runs from the Sonoma County airport to San Rafael. During the week it is used by commuters and on the weekend for pleasure seekers like my friends and I. And last Saturday the train was full of people like us, and whole families taking their first ride. We took it just as far as Novato Hamilton which is where the beautiful Marin MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) with its gallery and artist studios is located.

On the train we met a young woman who commutes to her weekend job in San Francisco using train, bus, ferry, and another bus to arrive at her destination. Seems like a lot, but she has it worked out and enjoys the 2 hour commute which covers some gorgeous scenery and affords her time to relax and read her book as well. We kept her busy answering our questions til we got off.

novato1

Direct watercolor on 140 lb CP Arches paper, 9 X 7.5″

The early California white stucco buildings at Hamilton Field’s former air force base are eminently sketchable. I started with a direct watercolor since I’m still working on the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge of this month. Some day I’ll master palm trees, but for now, I just really love trying.

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We had lunch at Beso, which is right next to the museum and has incredible food, then visited the museum and the Make Your Mark show, which had just opened. Then we wandered through the halls where the studio artists hang their work.

It was getting really windy and time to take the train back. We’re anxious to ride the train again. It’s especially nice to whiz in comfort by the cars clumped up and crawling along at the Novato and Petaluma “narrows”.

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Later I thought I’d give the same scene a try in a more whimsical style. If I’d tried once more I would have exaggerated even more. This version has more of the wind-blown feel.

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And then next day I had a few minutes for another direct watercolor quickie.

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Coffey Park is Coming Back!

It’s been a while since I’ve been out sketching the firestorm and aftermath story. But the timing was right on Tuesday and we headed out to see what we would find.  Not what I expected surely. Lots of building going on! Lots of homes going up. The debris removers were gone. All of the twisted up vehicles and singed barbeques were gone. And in their place, lumber, and pipes, and carpenters with tool belts. I found a small patch of shade and jumped in!

coffeyback

watercolor and pen on 9 X 15″140lb CP Arches paper

I’ve gotten tired of the paper one finds in  ready-made sketchbooks, so I’m trying out a system of working on signatures of paper cut to size and later to be bound in books. Bob has signed on to do the binding (after the fact) since he has all the equipment and know-how. Lucky me! I actually do not like this Arches paper for sketching. It’s too hard and too textured, so you have to work too hard to get the paint down. So I ordered the paper I love, which is Fluid 100 paper made by Hand book Co. (Global arts). And that’s what I’ll be using, not this hard stuff. However I really like this size which can either be 9X7.5″ portrait or opened up to full spread at 9X 15″, which is about the size I can manage if I have 30-60 minutes to sketch. I’ll share the whole set up once I get it figured out and more importantly, tried out!

I must say the mid day visit to Coffey Park was good for my spirits. The carpenter reading the blueprints in the right hand corner helps to tell the story of a community which has a chance for a brand new life. I’m anxious to go back and even breathe in all the exhaust from trucks and construction to enjoy the spirit of renewal. It’s been a rough few months since the fire for these folks who lost their homes.

 

Plea to the Wise One

Sometimes I think we all need a shaman to set us straight. Here’s the one who appeared to me this week.shamanladyMuse Group demo: acrylic inks on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

What are your dreams catching today? besides me, that is, in an awkward sprawl with one foot in your world and the other mired in this one. Would that potion in your bag help? Can I catch your secret in in my own dream catcher mitt?  Can we sway together to the rhythm of your chants, and go hunting together in moonlight?

 

Practice, practice

Like most of us I like to think that one day I’ll just “get it” and then painting will be effortless self expression. This is very short sighted thinking of course, because it’s the drive to evolve as a painter which motivates me to practice, practice, practice, even when things are not going particularly well. Practice, as in effort. My friends who participate in challenges, like the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge which is going on this month, understand this. Paint something every day and you can’t help but evolve, even though on any particular day it may feel like you’re sliding backward.

Suhita suggested doing more than one of the same subject. So after two tries at the pagoda on Stowe Lake, I tried a third, this time from a tiny picture on my phone, direct watercolor. Taking the advise of Marc, to get farther away or work from a less detailed pictures.

pagodanew

A quick and dirty direct watercolor with fewer specifics yet more fresh and appealing. Here’s the first two:

In the first I got mesmerized by the up close detail. In the second I was far enough away that I had to make up details, when I should have left them out!

Another day I was sketching in Sebastopol with a view of Gravenstein Station. My first try, in direct watercolor was highly frustrating! Not having the pen line to rely on, my watercolor application got too tight and descriptive, choking out the light.

gravstation It certainly represents the scene relatively accurately, but I think I pretty much killed it dead. With 10 minutes left til I had to go, I did this less ambitious sketch and liked it much better.

gravstation2

Direct watercolor with white pen line added at the end

Another day I decided to practice figures with no preplanning, just drawing/painting directly, from another phone photo.

trio

I was testing my ability to paint shapes with no drawn or painted line. Great practice but clumsy outcome. And definitely missing the spirit of the music.

selfie

Determined to do a first-thing-in-the-morning direct watercolor I did this selfie in my pajamas while sipping chai (from my computer monitor). It bears little resemblance to me (which haunts me! how to fix it!) but again, great practice.

 

Travel on the Brain

I guess I have travel on the brain these days. Meaning that I’m thinking a lot about my trip to Portugal next month for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto. I’m determined to be prepared for everything, which is of course impossible, but I’ll try anyway.

We started a new month-long session of the Muse Group this week, painting with water shapes and inks. And here’s what came of it for me.

travelspecsinks and collage on w/c paper, 11X10″

So you want to sell me a postcard? Thanks anyway. Sunglasses? you say. No, thanks anyway. Got my sketchbooks and paints, got my shades and backpack and travel umbrella and comfortable shoes. .  . but hey, will you pose for me? or better yet, tell me about yourself. Tell me something I will never get from a guidebook. Look into my eyes and let me see your lifetime of struggles and triumphs. Let me sit for a few moments and be with you. Soon enough I’ll fly off, but I won’t ever forget. Promise. (It will all be found in my sketch.)

It is hard to explain how this works, how the complete sensory experience of some moments in time gets stored in a sketch made at that time. Frankly it doesn’t even matter if the sketch is simple or poorly executed. Any travel sketcher will tell you that. It makes you realize that most of the time we’re living in our heads, not particularly noticing what is happening around us in the moment. And that translates into not having memories of those moments!

And we think we have such important things going on in our minds. Ha! (Sorry for the rant)

Back to the 30X30Direct Watercolor challenge next. Are you doing your watercolor-a-day? Need inspiration? check out these folks, Marc and Suhita.

 

 

Let the Summer Begin!

. . .with free concerts on the plaza! And the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

jazz

Lamy fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhl Watercolor Book

The Plaza in Healdsburg was jam packed on Tuesday night. We were sitting far enough back where you don’t even see the musicians but can still enjoy the music just fine. People are set up in their groupings with friends and wine and food and dancing  by the stage and on the sidelines. Everybody happy to be there on a warm almost summer night. And the music. . .ahhh, Latin Jazz!

Santos

Here’s my 30X30 direct watercolor for the day. Not the fluid watercolor paper I prefer, but I kind of like all the texture that happens with the wet application. When the musicians returned after the break, I set my little stool up on the side of the stage to get deep into the latin groove and let the percussion rule the sketch. Honestly I’d had some wine too, which might be evident in the “looseness” of the sketch. And all the while I’m thinking, oh yeah, it’s summer-groovin-time now!

Vignette Workshop Postscript

This is a belated postscript about the 10 X10 Urban Sketchers workshop I taught May 26 titled “Sketch the Vignette”. I was drawn to this topic because I have a habit of getting carried away and taking on too much in my sketches. Designing the vignette keeps me disciplined by isolating the main subject and focusing attention on it.

I like Edgar Whitney’s definition: “A vignette is a piece of subject matter in a well designed piece of white space.”

vignette1

We started by warming up in my favorite way with continuous line drawing. Keeping the pen on the paper is the best way I know to track your subject without losing your place!

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For the workshop exercises we spread out in a one block area in Petaluma where there’s lots to sketch, both inside the Old Petaluma Mill and outside. Some sketchers picked the river and old railroad ties and bridge, to the right of this picture. The first exercise was to find at least five subjects to focus on, doing a quick capture sketch of each and naming them. This helps to commit to a focus so that you’re more likely to stick to the point.

Then students were encouraged to place the subject matter in context and design the white spaces around the subject by identifying interesting edges.

vignette4

Lastly we accented the sketch with color. I did a demo of this spot which I love for the colorful umbrellas (also the food!) while students observed, so we could also discuss watercolor application. Also we discussed rationale for what was left out of the sketch. This is often as important as what is put in. The name of the restaurant on the window was important, but I didn’t do any other detail on the window to not upstage the patio eating scene. The street lamp made for a more interesting white shape.

And then there was the final splatter! which everyone loves to do because it gets the eye moving and makes the scene more active. There was some interest in learning how to do it with control, but to me, control is antithetical to quick capture sketching! And I’m also not very good at it.