Everyday Sketches

More on location sketching, yay!

The agapanthas, those tall lacy clusters along our walkway, are just starting to bloom. They’ve been here for longer than our 20 years in this home. And this afternoon I sat down to try and figure out how to sketch them, and the rest of the scene. . .agapanthas1

As I was sketching the birds and the bees were checking me out, or so I thought. I like to think I’m accepted by the plant and animal kingdoms even though I spend the majority of my time in my house/studio with frequent and all too brief forays into the outdoors. The hummingbirds, whose feeder is to my right, did that suspension in mid air thing as if to say, what are you doing here? And Sylvester the cat, who has never let me pet him, talked to me in that soft kitty way that I wish I understood.

agapanthas2

It ended up being more about the red geranium because, of course, it’s a scene stealer.

farmersmarket

Yesterday I made another trip to the farmer’s market and had a different vantage point than last week. Turning my head in a 180 degree arc I found enough subjects of interest and just piled them up to make a single scene. The conversation I overheard was yet another typically local one which included the remark “I can’t believe my brother is a Trump supporter!”

Pigs and Clouds

My friend Ruth happened to mention that her neighbor next door has pigs, so I invited myself over to visit them . . .oh, to visit her too.

Since there will be no county fair this year, no 4H kids with their pigs ready to show, I took the opportunity to meet Goldie and Zoomzoom. They were quite busy sticking their snouts in the wet mud, snorting and carrying on as pigs are wont to do. I’m not sure where the syllables “oink oink” originated because I heard none of that. I quickly gave up trying to sketch them from the perimeter and did this later from pictures.

GoldieandZoomzoom

Can you imagine the good fortune of the small children of this household who get to ride around on the backs of these remarkable creatures? Of course I wonder how they will feel when their porcine friends become bacon.

viewofsouthyard

The time to paint the sky in California is mainly in the winter and early spring when there is more than just endless blue skies. But one day last week I realized that we didn’t have many days left with those heavenly cloud formations. So I grabbed my sketchbook to try to capture the scene outside my studio door.

But then the light kept changing every five minutes and the smoke bush was glowing and changes colors and I got all excited and frenetic and lost it all!  So I turned it into a kind of map of one portion of my one acre home. Some day, who knows, I’ll look back on this sketch and it will fire off the sound of rushing waters in winter and the smell of mint and the excitement of my young boys who found the mint there and transplanted it closer to the house, where we now regularly pick it for recipes and tea.

Sketch Stories in Pandemic Times

Have you been wondering how to get your hair cut in these perplexing times? Well I took things into my own hands and at least got some of it out of my eyes. The scissors I grabbed were not so sharp and I had to get my glasses to see well enough, but it more or less worked.

haircuts

So how did I sketch this when both hands were occupied with the hair? The iPhone is good for so many things, like the timed selfie picture. So I leaned it up against the wall below the mirror.  etc etc.

plantshopping

Another day I ventured out to buy some plants for my spring garden. My local nursery, Harmony Farms was mobbed with people anxious to plant their vegetable gardens, so I stopped by Ace hardware and found some plants. They were all set up with the plexi window and masks to protect the cashiers, but it became a comedy act as I was asked to shove my plant under the window and lost a bit of soil and flowers in the process. (The sketch is from memory.)

cemetery

My friend Bettina lives next to the old, historic part of the Santa Rosa cemetery. The back gate of her garden leads directly into this wonderland of historic oaks and vines and every shade of green. Nature has aggressively moved to reclaim this final resting place. A dense sprinkling of rain started just as I set up my stool to sketch this story, so I collected some pictures and later put it together in this.

kindness

Yesterday I went to town and sat in the plaza to see what action I could capture. Sebastopol is a small town where as far as I can tell people are taking the Shelter in Place and social distancing order pretty seriously. The main event that Friday morning was a helicopter circling noisily overhead. I wonder why? After sitting for a while in an empty plaza finally at noon there were a handful of folks in family groups eating lunch.

The sign on the road made my day though.

Kindness is also contagious

Spread it around!

Sketching Home and Virtual Travel

There are so many stories going on in the spring garden and I should be out recording them with paint and brush. There’s the Australian Tea Tree whose pink blossoms have been the stage for performances of honey- and bumble-bees for over a week now. The hum and vibration of it drowns out all other sounds. And now after the rain yesterday the pink has spilled onto the ground all around like a spilled can of rose pink paint.

But this is the scene I saw from my comfortable patio chair. The yellow jackets have not arrived yet as they surely will by summer, and then it will become impossible to eat lunch out there without getting invaded. Enjoy it while you can, right?
frontstoop

On the day when my friend Cathy was supposed to leave on her trip to Japan last week, she invited some of her friends to join her on a virtual trip.

japan1

These Zoom sketch meet ups are fun. Sketching from a photo, 20-30 min each, while chatting a bit, and then sharing afterward. (see the link below if you want to try it)

marketinkyoto

I loved all the detail in this market scene and only got one basket done in the time we had, and so finished it later. My favorite was the little ceramic frog.

So does this kind of virtual sketch travel satisfy? Well, a bit anyway. If you’re a sketcher and missing travel and maybe getting tired of sketching your kitchen sink and view out the window, there are so many ways now to explore that passion.

You might join the SF Urban Sketchers online for portrait parties and other zoom sketch events. Or join UsK Talks on Instagram every Sunday to get inspired by great teachers and join the unique challenges. And Suhita is doing live sketches on Instagram that you can tune into and sketch along with her and friends. And then there’s Sketchbook SKool still rolling out workshops, live streaming fun, books, blog and enough to keep you busy making art every  minute of the day. And that’s just the beginning. . .but don’t wear yourself out!

Hungry Caterpillars and more

My recipe for sanity during these simultaneously turbulent and boring times relies heavily on variety. You may have noticed that I go from detailed portraits to mixed media madness and writing to nature journaling to everyday sketching, and then I throw it all into the pot of the blog and hope for the best.

Today I assemble here pieces of the last few days that are all local to my shelter-in-place sphere.

Jameshouse

Like the view up a steep hill across the road from my house, where my neighbors the James live. Out here in the country you have to wait a bit to catch any humans to sketch, and then there’s trees in the way.

martinray2

Mostly I just see my friends on Zoom these days to chat and sometimes to sketch. But I realized this week that out here on the countryside two people at least can get together to walk and sketch, keeping just enough distance to follow the Covid protocol, but still share the same scene. It felt almost like a forbidden pleasure to spend a couple hours with Bettina in this way!

hungrycaterpillar

My friends know that I’m a bit overboard about my pipevine plants, the caterpillars and butterflies that do their metamorphosis thing in my studio garden every year. Well, here’s what they’re up to right now. The butterflies are laying piles of eggs on the leaves. And there’s the fruit, this one 4 inches long and clearly a favorite meal for the hungry caterpillars.

pipevine_matilija

Last year at this time I sketched them, along with the poppies that are now beginning to bloom again.

hungrycaterpillarhidden

Here’s a Where’s Waldo picture for you! How many caterpillars do you see? Look down into the leaves.

Zoom sketching

Urban sketchers no longer need to pack up and drive to the meet up locations, then brave the weather. In fact we can’t due to the shelter-in-place rules for Covid times. Zoom sketching is fun though. That is, Zoom as in the social media meeting app, but also as in fast! 

It was my turn to be host so I picked three pictures from my New Orleans trip last month. When we were done chatting we did two 20 minute timed zoom! sketches.

jazzgumbo

This is downtown NOLA where all the big skyscraper hotels are located. I just loved this sign, which covers four of the main attractions in Louisiana: Jazz, gumbo, gators and pralines.

steamboat

One of the Mississippi steamboats, which we never got around to riding while there. Somehow I had pictured Spanish moss-covered trees reaching over the river while somewhere a banjo plays. But in New Orleans the river is wide, flat and brown. So we chose to stay in the colorful city instead of venturing onto the water. Next time though, I want to go out on the bayou and see some real gators!

bump

In the garden at home I’ve been doing more weed pulling than sketching. Guess I’d have to sit in someone else’s garden to feel like I could just loaf and sketch. I live on a private road where the houses are a bit spread out and off the road, so the neighborhood sketching has not really happened. But I noticed this little vignette while sitting on our patio under the redwoods, looking across the road.

 

Sketching the Spring Garden

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.

mothsex

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.

turkeyeggs

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.

lizard

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.

 

 

The Living Room continues to serve

I’ve been missing my friends at The Living Room, the day shelter for women and children in Santa Rosa. The portrait project I’ve been working on for months came to an abrupt halt with the Shelter in Place order and The Living Room had to follow along and close its doors to prevent contagion spread among staff and the homeless women they serve.

But now the creative and hard working staff has reopened not the gate, but a window and Monday – Friday is serving those scrumptious and nutritious hot lunches they are known for. . .to go!

But they’ve also been coordinating with other groups to do what they can to continue to serve the homeless and at risk population, which has now grown exponentially. One day staff was making hand sanitizer in the dining room while practicing social distancing.

sanitizer

I wish I could have been there to help and of course sketch live! But I was able to add this sketch, done from a picture, to my growing book of stories from The Living Room.

 

How the Days Get Filled

Well, yesterday Bob and I spent about three hours combined doing a deep cleaning of just one of the wall areas in my studio. And then there’s the hours fixing computer glitches after my computer was upgraded. And there’s the keeping up with phone calls and checking in with friends and keeping up with the (bad) news.

But in between it all some art is happening and it’s my salvation! So yesterday I sat up on the road above my studio to listen to the birds, enjoy the view and do some “Shelter-in-Place Sketching: My Neighborhood”,  a Meet up organized in the San Francisco Urban Sketchers group.

backyard

For the sake of those of you who have never been to my home/studio, and might even live in another country, I labeled things. Clearly sheltering-in-place here is not a particularly difficult occupation, especially in springtime.

I live on an acre on a private road, so there’s not much traffic of the human sort, but still, in the half hour I sat there I got to talk to my neighbor and wave to our postman.

stilldreamingNO

Still glorying in the wonders of our trip to New Orleans in early March, I have done some thumbnail sketches from pictures, good practice for the art of urban sketching which requires that one leave out a great deal of detail and capture the essence.

In the cleaning of the studio I pulled out a portfolio of portrait paintings I’d done in the 1990’s. They were so clean and accurate. Not like these messy concoctions I enjoy so much now. My vision is not what it was then, or even ten years ago, so the painting has changed. The farther away my subject is, the more I must simply get the “feel” of it and  sacrifice accuracy in the process. The result is different, but no less satisfying. I share this in the hopes that you may also accept wherever you’re at with your art as worth the effort to express yourself. That’s why we do it anyway, isn’t that true?

And then I’ve been drawing portraits for the #30faces30days April challenge on Sktchy. But I’ll save the results for another day.

 

Zoomin with the Family

My first experience with Zoom was with the family. Our family is quite small so we could see each other well in Gallery mode (sharing equal space on the screen). Funny thing, these predictable family patterns that pop up in every interaction when you get together.

zoominwiththefamily

Just so you get the geography here. . .Andrew is in Princeton, I’m in my home studio in Sebastopol, California, Ben is in Nashville, and Bob is in the house.

It took a few minutes to school Mom in how to use Zoom, and then I didn’t get a word in edgewise, because it got pretty silly with typical male teasing behaviors. So I took a picture to document this jump into contemporary family communications, and later sketched it. Not surprisingly I captured everyone in their usual roles. I’ll leave it to you to guess what those are!

Would you like to join me in a month of sketching portraits? I signed up for Sktchy’s 30 Faces/ 30 Days – April 2020  It’s a class where you get a video demo/lesson with different teachers every day of the month and can draw from the models they’ve chosen. I did it in January and learned so much! It’s also a way to experience the social connection with others by posting your work and and seeing others’ portraits.

Also you might really enjoy this article in the New York Times called The Quarantine Diaries about creative ways, including sketching/journaling, that people are finding to give shape to their experience of this historic pandemic time.