The path in front of the Casa de los Artistas, where I was staying in Boca de Tomatlan, ran through the “courtyards” of the homes above the riverfront, into “the jungle” on the way to the plank and suspension bridges across the river. I never quite got over the feeling I was trespassing on the lives of the people who lived there. In that tropical climate people live most of their lives outside. The residents didn’t seem particularly bothered by the intrusion and would respond warmly to an Hola!
And the roosters were always there to crow their greetings, the hens and baby chicks would go about their business, and the ducks were the friendliest of all, waddling up close, perhaps hoping for a treat? I snapped my pictures for later sketches to include them in the story.
The tourists. They would arrive in town geared out for the hike along the cliff or the boat ride to an island or other beaches, maybe some snorkeling or even zip lining. Tourists are often very intent on checking off those experiences. I was content to be the observer with phone camera, pen and paint, watching all nationalities and species, imagining the stories my sketches might tell.
Another busy day in San Francisco started out with meeting my urban sketch friends for a ride across the Bay on BART to the Ferry Building, where I have sketched several times before. (see previous sketches here) It was a Saturday and it felt like a good portion of city was out to enjoy the culinary delights and bayside views. It reminded me a lot of Pike Place market in Seattle with its crush of humanity! Multiple live music, horns, screeching brakes, every type of public and private transportation converging in this one block area of one of the most fascinating cities in the world. And all under beautiful sunny skies.
I planted myself in the traffic island, listening to the crooner nearby with his medley of S.F. love songs, enjoying conversation with my sketch friends whom I’ve missed, and then tried to settle down for some sketching. The Jesus Saves guy was just one of the many colorful characters in view!
And there she was again! The young violinist from the deYoung parking lot again (in the center with the yellow hat), and this time with her fellow musicians. I quickly set up my sketch stool and got ready to sketch, just as they played their last notes and packed up to leave. Aargh! This may be another one to do from a picture, though it’s always more engaging to absorb the live music experience in the sketch.
The Chinese New Year parade was next on the day’s schedule. I’ve attended other urban sketcher meet ups for this event over the years, and it’s one of my favorite with unbeatable color and human vitality. (see past year sketches here and here The groups of adults and children of all ages assemble colorfully on Market Street in preparation for the parade.
By the time I got there my energy reserves had depleted, so this was done later from a picture I took!
The next four days I was on my old familiar turf in Sebastopol and the Russian River, which is always a bit of heaven in the early spring. A long lunch in the garden of Kay’s home on the River, watching her flock of “designer” chickens that produce a rainbow of different colored eggs.
marveling all over again at the bountiful lemons and the pottery studio overflowing with treasures. There was too much to catch up on with kay and Liz and lots of eating, so no sketching happened that day!
The temperatures were plunging, but not so much that a walk on the beach wasn’t possible, with a little bundling up against the wind. Bodega Bay is often windy and a bit chilly. Not your southern California year round beach, though there was a surfer out that day enjoying the waves. But a long clean stretch of beach with abundant birdlife and radiant sun. Ahhh!
It sometimes feels redundant to sketch on the beach, like I’m copying the art that is already so abundant there in the form of seaweed and shells and undulating sands. So I just gathered up some dried seaweed in an expression of how I felt about this part of our planet and about my week of revisiting.
Next, one last thing to share from my week in California – a Muse Group reunion with inspired artmaking which I will post soon!
The weather has been irresistible lately, issuing an invitation to get out “in it”. And everyone here promises a lot of non stop rainy weather come fall and winter. So the indoor stuff can wait!
The real colorful performers here were in the audience in the middle of the road in front of the band stand, but I was already attracting too much attention up front where I could see, so I figured I better stay with the performers who I knew wanted to be seen. The downtown public in Olympia are a colorful lot, and maybe by next summer I’ll be comfortable enough to sketch more of them. Like the person dancing in hot pink fuzzy pants and wig and sporting a Big Bird sized tail of hot pink boas and waving pom poms. Now that I think of it, they probably would have loved for me to sketch them!
The Thursday morning sketchers met at Tumwater Historical Park and I sat right down near the lake’s edge among a flock of juvenile ducks and one Canadian goose. They were so marvelous to watch, and the light and colors were constantly changing, and I was so distracted by the beauty of it all that I just kept painting and trying to get it in without any plan, while listening to the quacks and honks and meeting the bold ones that circled my feet in hopes of some food dribbling their way.
Meanwhile the Tumwater brewery with it’s broken windows and rosey glow eluded my efforts to capture an atmosphere that was beyond my painting ability, but thoroughly in my enjoyment!
I’ve been perplexed ever since hanging the hummingbird feeder outside the dining room window. There’s a fair amount of activity of the frenetic Hummer sort literally all day long. The part I don’t understand is the absense of male activity. I thought it was my poor eyesight, that with the backdrop of greenery I was unable to catch the flashier colors of irridescent red or purple under the chin.
Then I recently solved that problem by placing my small binoculars permanently on the table, ready to grab mid-bite. But persistently the little birds at the feeder have been green with white undersides and not a trace of other color which I can see. No guys. How can that be? I’ve read about female hummingbirds disguising themselves as males, but the other way around?
But a couple days ago a pair of tiny, roundish, golden colored birds appeared and sent me running for my phone to try to ID them. Could it be? Bumblebee Hummingbirds, native to, gulp, Mexico? Rufous Hummingbirds, (more likely in Washington)? The pictures matched but in any case it’s still only the female I’ve seen!
I’ve started to get in trouble with Bob, interrupting him mid-sentence to grab the binoculars to get a better look, and I don’t think I’m chewing my food properly. There’s simply no time when you have to keep a look out for the movement of creatures whose hearts beat 1,260 beats per minute!
It requires a sturdy imagination to soldier through these days of shelter-in-place, for those of us who have the good fortune to be able to, that is. I started out at my art table, painting water shapes of birds and adding colors to the water as I worked my way around the paper. The source material was an article in National Geographic about “Why Birds Matter” with pictures of some of the most flamboyant birdlife. By the end it seemed they was celebrating something.
Ah! Imagine . . .
The post pandemic revelry
Of pent up desires
To shake tail feathers
To sing and dance together
. . .TOGETHER! again!
To share unfiltered air
Kiss the warm cheek
Hug the big belly softness
Drink the unmasked radiance
. . .of a SMILE!
I like to imagine the freedom of being a bird right now, especially when I’m eating my lunch, sitting in their flight path next to the fountain/bird bath. (Of course they have their own avian viruses at times), but I’ll enjoy their unmasked flights, their social songs and raucous bathing.
It helps, until such time as I can hug my human friends again!
The archetype of the phoenix is particularly appealing to those of us in what is officially now known as “fire country”. So it’s no wonder that when I was clearing out old paintings and moving pieces of them to my collage piles, I looked deeply into one and found the suggestion of a baby phoenix.
Have you felt the whisper soft breath of the baby phoenix as it rises from the smoke and ashes?
They say its tears can heal wounds and cure infections. (Viruses too.)
Peer into the smoke, and you may see it rising from its own ashes.
Can you see it? Can you hear its muted cry?
Are you ready to feed and protect it and help it grow strong enough to redeem us all?
The purple irises have just started blooming and they reminded me of a video demo my son Andrew shot and edited ten years ago while he was taking a high school filmmaking course. Wish he were around now to help me record.
I had such a surge of sentimentality watching this again! We no longer have chickens, and the trees have grown, blocking some of the view in the distance. Oh, and of course I’ve aged. . .just a bit. But the natural environment in this month of April is still extraordinarily active and abundant! So before I show you the video, here’s what’s happening now.
Lots of sex. Butterflies, birds and bees of course, and yesterday I noticed this two-headed insect on a succulent plant. And of course my mind went a bit crazy trying to imagine how that joining was happening underneath. These two, I assume, moths were so intoxicated that nothing I could do would disturb their joining. I assume he’s the one on top, and more colorful.
The grasses in our back yard (acre) are about 5 feet high now and an excellent place for a mother to lay her eggs. As I said earlier we got rid of our chickens years ago. But the wild turkeys have taken up residence and this mother scared me as much as I scared her when I came upon this cache with her on it! They are bigger than chicken eggs, but not by much. I guess we’ll be seeing the make-way-for-little-turkeys processional soon.
This is the top of a birdhouse that’s on a bench directly outside my studio door. The lizard population has soared in the past two weeks and I rarely arrive at the door without a scaly critter waiting for me on the door jamb. What do they think they would do inside anyway? Pick up a paint brush?
OK, here’s the video. Hopefully it will get us both out sketching the spring garden.
We’re all concerned about a February month without a drop of rain in our rainy season. But that hasn’t stopped us from glorying in the gorgeous “spring” weather we’ve been having. It’s such a treat to be able to sit out in the direct sun to sketch without becoming overheated or burning.
I haven’t driven out Westside Road in ages, even though it’s so close to my home. Many of the wineries were closed, or appointment only, on Saturday. I guess because it’s off season? Westside Farm is not a winery, but an magnificently picturesque collection of aging barns backed by vineyards.
This shack/shed hung off the back of one of the mammoth old barns whose roofs had become sieves. It tilted in wonderful ways that gave it personality. I sat on my three legged stool while a big orange barn cat wrapped himself around my legs and the chickens in a nearby coop kept up a symphony of whines and clucks. It was heaven for a while, far away from other folks and the din of my home responsibilities!
A perfect setting for a sketch with a backdrop of the Mayacama mountains, a curving path, fence, a stately tree, and a bit of red barn.
Have you ever stopped in at the colorful Pie Eyed Gallery at 2371 Gravenstein Hwy South in Sebastopol to see Lauri Luck’s and other local artists’ work. . .and maybe have a piece of the most amazing pie? In any case you won’t want to miss this weekend’s show, which will be the last and have more art than ever – mine included. I’ve released a flight of my Party Chicks (paintings) for the show and I’ll be there this Friday for the opening. Hope you can make it. Here’s the details:
Opening: Friday May 10th from 3-7
May 11th and 12th, open both days 12-4
2371 Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol
Look for the ART and PIE sign and turn at the Giant Yellow Duck!
Oh for the love of goats! about twenty sketchers showed up at Redwood Hill Farm in Graton on Saturday. It was the Ready, Set, Sketch (country-style) urban sketchers group which meets once a month on the second Saturday of the month at some location in Sonoma County. We had the added treat of a farm tour led by fellow sketcher and member of the Redwood Hill Farm family, Sharon Bice.
I’ve been wanting to get over there for a long time, but something always came up. The farm is about 7 minutes drive from my home and I have long been a fan of their cheeses.
But what I really hoped to do was to hold a baby goat or kid, that is. And here is the wish come true. Three days old, this one. And he/she snuggled and suckled and covered me with that velvety goat milky smell. Ever since I’ve been imagining having my own little goat to raise! After all it will be a while (or never) til I get a grandchild of my own to hold!
But there were chickens there too of course, and I felt rather rusty trying to sketch them as they scratched around and then quickly disappeared into the coop to lay their eggs!
The adult goats were hanging out in the barn, many different breeds of them. I found a spot standing next to the feeding troughs where they would come up to check me out while I was checking them out. It’s not an easy thing to draw a goat. The proportions of their heads are so very unintuitive. I mean the eyes are way farther up in the head than you would assume, and those horizontal black bands in the eyes? Like an alien. . .
And like most animals, goats are not very cooperative about standing still and posing. Add to that the fact that when they look you in the eye with those fascinating golden eyes, you lose track of what you’re doing and just want to soak up their friendly interest.
Personality and fecundity seemed to be the dominant traits of this group. It was a bit perilous to open the palette while propping the sketchbook up on the feeding trough bar. It became an instant object of interest to the feeders who stopped by to knock it around a bit. But it was the only way to study this fecund group resting together in dirt and alfalfa.
Finally, worn out by trying to balance the palette with frequent interruptions, I headed outside to sketch another view of farm life, the last of the day.