Everyday Sketches

Symphony Rehearsal

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s Discovery Concert Series is a great and affordable way to hear a concert at the Green Center. As a side bonus, the open seating makes it possible to move around and get different vantage points for some sketching!

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Pen drawing on site and watercolor added later.

The soprano, Jennifer Thuman waits here for her part in Vivaldi’s Gloria. She rises then, and singing like an angel with delicate and subtle tones, guides Vivaldi’s music into heavenly realms!

Sitting in the second row one looks up at the stage and can see the violinists, the conductor and the soloists. The rest of the orchestra is heard but not seen from down below.

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How to sketch a conductor swinging a baton? Imagine many hands at once?

Listening to Christopher Fritzche sing next, once again in a voice of more heavenly realms, high and ephemeral, I had to look in the program for what a voice in that range is called. . .countertenor!

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Sketching in the second row one notices certain details. . .like the casual attire of the musicians in this practice session. The black gowns are saved for the actual concert later in the evening.

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After the intermission we moved up to the balcony for another view.  Bassoons, clarinets, French horns and cellos. A challenging angle for a nice drawing challenge.

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And then the viola soloist with the impossible name and riveting stage presense.

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Thanksgiving at Home

Rain outside -thank God- and fresh air after two weeks of toxin laden air from the Butte Co fire.  And cozy inside the kitchen with lots of cooking and so much catching up to do. Ben has been home this week, which means lots of interest in eating and talking and lounging in the window seat in our kitchen/dining area. He is always amenable to Mom’s sketching. The usual pose has a computer on the lap and foot in the air.

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In this one I tried painting direct with watercolor, then added the line into wet paint – not very accurate but fun. Only problem was that he sat that way (mostly) for so long that I got obsessed with getting his face right and ended up making it look like someone else.

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But then he changed position and I gave it another try:  drawing first, then painting, and because of the earlier warm up (and having sketched him a hundred times before at every age) it actually looks like him, though perhaps a bit wider.

turkey

Knowing that I can never sketch the cooked turkey before it gets carved, I went for the uncooked bird this time, though I was being urged to be quick since it was supposed to be in the fridge.

Turkey anatomy  is something I have never actually studied as a subject to draw. But I found myself quite transfixed and challenged by it. The result looked a bit dopey to me, so I added the words for humor’s sake, and then was satisfied.

The cooking of this turkey was also a challenge, which led to various expletives and a promise to never again. . .so I’m glad I captured this much, because we may be considering other fowl or even vegetarian Thanksgiving entres next year!

Hope you had a heart and stomach warming Thanksgiving day!

Portlandia

It was a good week to get a bit of a getaway and breathe some fresher air, for a couple of days at least. The unhealthy air from the Camp Fire actually reached Portland for two out of the four days I was there visiting a friend. But then there was also some of that fresh moist north coast air you can take a lungful of without a gasp or cough.

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Our little Santa Rosa airport just minutes from my home makes the trip so easy. The terminal air was gritty with smoke, so I’m trying not to breathe too deep during the wait.

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In Portland it was too cold and damp to sketch outside, so Janet had already planned some indoor alternatives. She is not a sketcher, but one of those rare people who is happy to amuse herself while I sketch. The main library is elegant and architecturally interesting.

I had planned to practice the geometry of columns and windows and lighting, but no sooner had we sat down in one of the open areas than this old lady came up to us with big grin and said “Are you girls having fun?”

The thing about Portland(ia) is that, even though it’s a big city, you are likely to be approached by a stranger who acts like you’re an old friend and launches into a conversation with little preamble. So this dear lady cheerfully engaged us for a good 15 minutes about her dismay at the changes that had been made to the original Fantasia movie that would make dear Walt turn in his grave! Janet pretended to listen raptly, while I sketched.

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I found a spot on the stairway where I could look down into the periodicals room, a daunting view which I tackled with great trepidation, getting confused about the windows and bored by all the books! What I call a useful practice exercise for my weak points.

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Bob had told me to look out for “man buns” in Portland, hipster fashion as he knows it. However we were spotting very few man buns and many other manifestations of hipster-dom, like this couple at one of the many coffee bars, Case Study Coffee Roasters. Her raspberry hair and his cock’s comb were all we could see from where we were sitting but one can imagine more decorative fashion on the skin shrouded by coats.

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It’s slow going walking around town. The trees are shamelessly flaunting their finest apparel of the year and begging for pictures to be taken. And then there’s the shops, like the Peculiarium with products like bottles Hipster Powder flanked by wierd skeletons. And of course there’s a coffee shop on each block, like this one serving Stumptown coffee, where one can watch the procession of colorful humans. This coffeeshop, Vivace, had a piece of paper money from about every country in the world tacked to its walls inside, and nice porch seating as well.

The sun had emerged after our walk in the forest. The wind was blowing leaves on the table, and that became the subject of the sketch.

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Well, that’s about it for sketches. It was really a visit to see Janet, my friend who goes way back to, gulp, 1963 when two New England girls landed in Palo Alto, California mid-year in eighth grade and survived the culture shock together.

JanetandBalthazarHer housewarming gift was happily received, a mixed media (fabric/acrylic) portrait of her beloved cat Balthasar.

 

Crab Season!

This time of year we get kind of excited about crab season. The Dungeness crabs rival lobster for their delectable flavor and texture, especially when dipped in lemon butter. And then there’s the ritual of cracking the shell and getting crab juice dripping down to your elbows and smearing crab butter onto the wine glass as you reach to wash down the food.

And now there’s a new ritual, second year in the making, with my sketch friends. We head out to Bodega Bay and try to sketch the fishing boats with their colorful crab traps.

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We picked a weekday after the frenzied opening to the crab sports fishing season over the weekend. It was very windy and cold and there was little or no action at the docks. We walked around for a while trying to find spots with some shelter from the wind. I settled on this spot which was at least partially protected and in the sun. By the time I was finished I was shivering and happy to head across the street to the restaurant for yummy fish tacos.

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We’d had enough of freezing, and headed back to the town of Bodega, known perhaps best for the house in Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. I started out wanting to sketch individual architectural features of interest, but then reverted to my habit of connecting elements. The tombstone was of particular interest in that it is the only grave in the churchyard next door. Ellen Orr, bless her heart, died in childbirth (I found this later on the internet). To this day 250 years later she lies alone in her very own church cemetary.

Bodega

Waiting for my friends to finish up I had time for one more, the back of a home facing Bodega Hwy and a chance to get in some of the fall color.

Halloween on the Plaza

At first glance it didn’t seem like there was much Halloween “stuff” going on at Healdsburg Plaza on a Tuesday afternoon, so my friends and I were left to find some and apply our sketches to it. After enjoying the world’s best coffee at Flying Goat we picked the north block and gave ourselves 30 minutes to put the Halloween story together.

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Walking down the block we each picked elements, found on signs and in store windows from clothing stores to bars and restaurants. The exercise ended up looking like what you would do in designing a store window at holiday season, only it’s your own assemblage story. Each element is from a different location, so fitting them together is like constructing a puzzle on the go.

I was tired after standing to sketch all this and spent my next 30 minutes seated and adding color while resting.

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Next was the south side block of the Plaza, dominated by Copperfields book store which was a gold mine of Halloween books and chotskas (sp?) Lots of Harry Potter books and games, which took me back on a nostalgic tour of those days when my boys and I enjoyed the young wizards’ adventures!

Fort Baker/Cavallo Point

The gorgeous fall weather drew me back to the Golden Gate Bridge mid-week, this time on the north side of the S.F. Bay at Fort Baker, an old army post that is now a luxury lodge called Cavallo Point. The combo of the white buildings, golden hills, S.F. Bay adorned with white sails and magnificent city skyline make it a most appealing sketch spot. Cathy McAuliff met me there for the day. We shared a couple of the same views, so you will enjoy seeing her sketches as well!

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Knowing we had the leisure of several hours I brought along my gouache paints and pencils and started out with them. When I work with gouache and colored pencils I tend to just keep working, which is very fun, but it all feels very experimental and I’m very weak on strategy. At some point I just said STOP! to all the corrections and decided just to enjoy the lovely rich colors.

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. . .but then switched to watercolor and a different sort of loose interpretation. Living out in the country, I rarely get the chance to paint interesting buildings like these, so I left out the visitors who were leaving their cars with the valets as well as the cars. Cathy loves to sketch the buildings, so it’s a good opportunity for me to practice when I’m with her.

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Next we headed down to the bay side.

travismarina

What caught my eye at the marina was the iconic cityscape in the background as well as the trees clinging to the side of the hill like a group of bare-legged crew members carrying their boat down to the launch. (The crazy line work in the upper corner was a drawing I started weeks before, while on a bus that was jerking mercilessly!)

ggbridgenorthside

The GG Bridge has become so trite as an art subject that I almost thought I’d skip it, and just sat for a while taking in the real majesty of it, which never, ever grows old. But then the sky did this miraculous thing (no, I didn’t make up that shape!) and I dove in without pen. But not without measuring! A bit of colored pencil and it was done.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.