Everyday Sketches

Cold weather? Who cares?

fountain pen and watercolor in hand.book Travelogue sketchbook 8X8″

Last week I went out to the point of Budd Inlet just beyond Swantown Marina, hoping to see the Olympic range in its full snowy glory. The cloudy atmosphere was too heavy for the spectacular view that day, so I took a brisk chilly walk and brought home a photo to sketch. The figure bundled and braced for a walk in the damp cold of a Pacific Northwest winter helps tell the story of the day. 

Another day I met up with my sketch friends who are always up for something. At the South Puget Sound Community College we found shelter in the Center for Student Success building, hoping to sketch busy students. It was all but deserted by student life, due no doubt to the tide of Omicron. I sat on the second floor balcony to attempt an architectural interior sketch with one actual student in the lower reaches. This involved numerous angle intersections which taxed my three dimensional perceptual capabilities to the limit.

Meanwhile I contemplated the building name and the cruel irony that with all the comfortable chairs and quiet study spaces, there were so few students taking advantage, I assume out of caution. A challenging formula to achieve success in studies.

Another day, having had enough of serious art making for a while, I found myself pulled into a project to help create an auto wonderland for a two year old car and truck aficionado. My own portion involved traffic sign and people painting. So since it fits in with the art-life theme of this blog, I decided to share the results.

popcycle sticks, wooden “knob heads”, styrofoam, mat board and Posca Pens

I know this probably sounds weird, but one day when the sun came out, at first I was thrilled. but then I realized that sun necessarily led to going outside and away from all these fun indoor art projects. Oh my, what’s come over me!?

A recent memory. . .

fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ hand.book w/c journal

At this writing the rain has melted all our lovely snow, and luckily the ice that made the grocery store parking lots dangerous and walk-taking impossible.

But oh the snow! There’s something so cozy about being in a neighborhood and imagining the nice neighbors across the street snuggling in with the winter white wrapped around so peacefully. I wanted to try a night scene so I chose this one from the living room window after the birds had gone to bed [where do the birds go at night??} 

So I made a diluted mixture of thalo blue and sepia and painted the entire scene with it, except for where the light shone. Then came back in with darker shadows of the same mixture and bright yellow for the lights. Just that, and then lifted a bit of color off the trees to show patches of snow. Ten minutes and I was done! Memory fertilized and archived for years to come. And without the reliance on cell phone picture captures which are handy, but capture only part of the story.

I apologize for the quality of my pictures of the art lately. For now I am left with going to a window (where there is not that much light coming in these winter days), holding the sketchbook up to the light coming in, and snapping a picture of it with my other hand. I hope it will improve when I move into the studio in a month.

Being more housebound lately I’ve had time to indulge in taking online workshops. I’ll be sharing my student work along with resources you may not know about. Stay tuned! 

Snowed In

And the snow keeps coming! draping us in a pristine white silence. We walk around the neighborhood in the fresh snow, taking care to avoid the layer of ice underneath. Today our neighbor Margo and I brought our two year old friend Ellis along for a sled ride, then helped older kids build a snowperson family of four on a front lawn. Memories of my childhood in Canada and Connecticut came rushing back. Hours spent absorbed in play and unconcerned as the fingers and toes grew numb with cold.

There’s the backyard discoveries of tracks in the snow – deer and rabbits – and Quon Yin sporting new winter garments. On a walk around the block the discovery of a street-side Christmas tree, labeled “free”, adorned with white and unclaimed. We live in Christmas tree heaven here where all the cut trees in the lot are full and perfectly shaped, with 6 or 7 species to choose from. Bob and I bought the first one we saw when we arrived in the big barn at the Hunter Family Farm.   

With temps in the 20’s the sketching is happening in the upstairs room where my watercolors and sketchbooks live.

It’s a cozy spot with a carpeted floor, a temporary art roosting spot until the garage studio is completed. Yesterday we had the electrical inspection, so things are moving along in spite of the fact that no roads around us are plowed. 

The windows on the left are being enlarged and there’s a door on that wall which looks out on the back garden.

And here’s the opposite view, with a sink going in where the black pipe comes down. And while the work is happening, the majority of my studio supplies have been stashed and unavailable in the rest of the garage. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Being “snowed in” is highly conducive to art play!

Wishing you a joyful new year with an abundance of creative inspiration, tantalizing art materials, and fellow art lovers to share it all with.

Our First White Christmas

fountain pen, watercolor, Posca Pens in hand.book watercolor journal

No this is not a vacation cabin in the mountains. It’s the view out our dining room window the day after Christmas. . .a white one! And yes, it’s the first white Christmas I can remember since childhood. And the first snow this coastal California girl has seen in over a decade. At this writing there are about 6 inches and more on the way with this Arctic blast of weather lingering for a few days. 

Yes there’s been a certain amount of anxiety about what to expect, but we’re just staying home and so far I find it enchanting. The teens have skied down our street and you can hear the little kids shrieking with delight as they go down the hill across the street on their saucers. And yes, this is unusual for here in the Puget Sound area, about 20 degrees colder than usually this time of year. But my ski jacket from (ahem!) 30+ years ago does the trick to keep me comfortable. I’m so tired of hearing “there’s no bad weather, just bad dressing. . .” from everyone here, but it’s true.

So Andrew was folding paper and making sketchbooks across the dining room table from me and I was gazing out at the birds and playing with my new Posca pens, while Bob and Ben were working on a programming project.

I figured the Posca pens would be opaque enough to draw in the snow over the watercolor-painted foliage. But every watercolor artist knows the truth that the whitest white is the white of the paper. Lesson learned. But it worked for the snow in the shadows! More on the fun of Posca pens and painting snow next. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown Oly: Spar Cafe

Another cold and damp day, but this time with sun, dazzling sun. That day there was nothing for it but to bundle up and brave the icy wind to sit on the sidewalk, with fingerless gloves and an intrepid spirit! And the blue sky lasted all the way until sunset, which arrived with a ferocious downpour as if to say “don’t get used to it!”

While sketching I couldn’t help but envy the fellow inside, imagining a warm bowl of soup and shelter from the wind. . .as the trucks and cars rumbled and screeched by. I made it through the ink sketch and did the rest of the paint and detail later in the comfort of my warm home. I guess that counts as only partial intrepid spirit.

Here I am, huddled and counting the minutes until I can have lunch with my friend in warmth! But oh how good it felt to have showed up.

“Falling in Love with the World” by Jane Wingfield

recentlyHave you ever noticed that when you’re totally concentrated on drawing something/someone, you start to fall in love with it/them? My friend Jane Wingfield wrote an inspired post about her own experience of that. In this post she shares the historical events that led to her passion for sketching on location, the role of Urban Sketchers in providing the incentive, and her own personal discoveries. I would reblog it here, except I can’t figure out how to do that!  If you know me and have taken my workshops, you will recognize the sentiments I have so often shared about the positive “side effects” of sketching!

To see Jane’s inspiring blog post click here.

sketch and post courtesy of Jane Wingfield olysketcher.com

Downtown Olympia

We tried another “alternative” coffee shop downtown for our sketch meet up last weekend – a retail clothing/gift boutique called Ember Goods

fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ hand.book journal

Ember Goods is indeed as advertised “a sanctuary for everything we love about the Pacific Northwest”. Firstly, a place to get out of the rain and cold, have an extraordinary cup of coffee, the kind that makes the thick coffee colored foam on the cup, to sit in the hyggelig decor (remember that Norwegian word that sounds like “hug” and means something similar – soothing, cozy, etc.) The clothing is the sort you might put on your Christmas wish list. And the patrons seemed to know the owners who were busy at the espresso counter. My own family “discovered” this place our first week in Olympia when we were hoping that our move had landed us in the right place.

After our small sketch group had arrived, drunk our coffees and checked in with each other, I settled in to do a continuous line drawing of things that caught my eye – quilting them together somewhat out of order to fill the page.

I had planned to sit outside on the street where shoppers were passing, Christmas lights were hung, volunteers were sweeping up leaves and tending the plants in merry seasonal clean up efforts. The Center for Performing Arts was offering free concerts of student groups, and a tent offering rapid Covid testing and vaccines was set up outside. But I ended up in the quiet skylit vestibule of the New Caledonia Building for another sketch behind the chocolate and tea shops and more hyggelig!

Sketch meet up in the rain

Rising River Farm

These days the weather forecast is almost always rain. But often we have a good 5 or 6 bouts of sunshine in a single rainy day. And they are magnificent and one hopes that to be free enough to rush outside and take advantage of the spectacle of a colorful newly rinsed autumn landscape. I grab my pruning sheers, snip some of that wet roses to bring inside, collect new mushrooms for examination and sketching, and get to the business of pruning the perennials. Lucky for me the rain soon returns (before the back starts to ache!) and I seek the warmth of the house again.

But it’s tricky to plan meet ups for a group of sketchers who rely on some cover to escape the sudden downpour which no weather forecast seems to predict properly. Our little Olympia group decided on the old standby of the Farmers Market with its open at the sides building where year round local produce, meat fish, breads, artisan goods, seasonal wreaths are sold. The trick is to bundle up like you’re going to a ski resort, since the wet cold quickly seeps in where you’re still and sketching.

Luckily I was able to post myself standing next to a one of those gas heaters and a few feet away from the this farm display. Another time I’ll get more people in. That’s the big challenge, and I keep thinking I’ll just draw them in with ink on top of the veggies, like market ghosts. Maybe next time. Or draw them first. I really prefer being behind the produce if possible, wearing my invisability cloak! Haha!

Autumn Foliage

When we moved to “wine country” in California 21 years ago I became obsessed with painting the vineyard landscapes. My paintings always fell short of capturing the awe I felt gazing at the tapestry of winter’s yellow mustard accented with bare black vines with a backdrop of lavender hills. Now I’m repeating the experience here, once again failing in attempts at finding the right pigment and techniques for these outrageous autumn foliage displays. But the enjoyment of observation grows ever stronger with each attempt!

Starting here with some of the trees in the backyard that I can see from my upstairs window, where I can paint in warm comfort on cold days. I thought I’d just start with trying to mix the colors. The yellow leafed tree is now bare and the ground beneath, a thick carpet of gold. Weeks later red and orange now prevail in the garden.

pen and w/c in beige toned sketchbook

When we first moved in I thought this short tree was rather hideous and Troll-like, with a thick mop of foliage all the way down to the ground. We gave it a haircut and discovered in intriguing patterned trunk, but the color was muddy. Now it’s red hair can only be approximated with a mixture of opera and vermillion and quin rose paint!

One day I went out on an exploratory mission to find autumn trees to paint and pulled over to the side of the road when these beauties caught the sunlight and made my hair stand on end! I did a quick sketch on my lap in the car, not wanting to expose myself to the damp cold of the air outside.

More drama needed, I thought. So I painted another one at home and liked it a bit better, though a third try might have been the best.

And that got me ready for this last one from a walk on the Chehalis Trail during the Bomb-Cyclone! The big leaf maples were getting undressed by the cyclonic winds and the air was electric with the golden rain of leaves 8-12 inches across. The gray path was carpeted with leaves. As we walked along suddenly a leaf wrapped itself around my face, held there for a moment by the force of the wind as if to say, “Look at me! Pay attention!” And I still am.

Lattin’s Cider Mill

I live right on the edge of country, so if I drive a mile down Rich Rd from my house, the landscape starts to look like my Sonoma County home (after several good rains anyway) with barns and woods and old weathered buildings and open fields and the occasional farm stand, and then Lattin’s Cider Mill! Last Thursday they were in full swing getting ready for their apple festival and lots of families were getting a head start, enjoying the hot apple fritters and making the tour of the farm animal pens and cages.

bamboo pen and ink, red felt pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

As soon as I sat down to draw, a drunken yellow jacket joined me and wouldn’t go away. And I hadn’t even treated myself to an apple fritter yet, so I’m not sure why he chose me to bother. Soon a whole family decided to join me  – I guess, figuring I was part of the show and would be fun to watch while they devoured their donuts and fritters, dropping powdered sugar around me in a semi circle and not once being visited by that yellow jacket. Go figure. I held my ground though and eventually it got bored with me. 

fude point fountain pen, watercolor and watercolor pencil

At this point after sitting in the damp and cold for an hour, I was about done, so I bought an apple fritter to boost my energy for more sketching! And then stood at a couple of fences to sketch my old favorite. . .goats! Later when I got home I added a larger drawing from a picture I took, just to feel more finished. Those goat eyes are so very alien that it takes concentration to get even close to capturing goat-ness.  

And the sheep are so very different!

So back home I slowed down and studied a picture of an old goat I’d taken, playing with my Inktense pencils and white gel pen and, I swear I started to feel warmer and like I was knitting a muffler, enjoying the hyggelig (coziness) of winter wool and charm.

And the apple fritters? Where were the apples? They were warm deep fried dough with a sugar glaze. Give me a hot piece of apple pie over that any day. I’ll be back when they go into full production of pies next month!