Everyday Sketches

Announcing: New Workshops and Newsletter!

The Imagine With Art Newsletter is now in its 65th issue and I’m happy to offer it to you here. This issue features new workshops for the fall, some Urban Sketcher Symposium news and an Art Play lesson: Powdered Graphite. Hope you’ll take a look!

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And join me for the latest in a series of on location sketching workshops!

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For more information and to register, please email me.

Gravenstein Apple Fair

Things got a bit away from me while I was away on recent trips. The Gravenstein apples were ready to harvest and couldn’t wait any longer to be picked! Here they are under my studio tree where I finally got around to collecting and painting some while swooning over that late afternoon fresh apple smell.


We get all proud of our Gravenstein apples here in Sebastopol around this time of year and celebrate with a festival, real country style, where the star is not wine but the humble apple! The Ready Set Sketchers had a meet up on Saturday to sketch the scene. I joined in and ended up spending the whole day there.


A few paces from the entrance was Charlie Kennard, bee keeper, basket weaver and teacher of California Indian and European techniques.  After listening and sketching for a bit I was ready to get started weaving my own. . . but the fair beckoned. . .


I’ve sketched Kevin Russell’s band a number of times and always enjoy their music. Their Western Swing Caravan did my favorites with all their star musicians and the “Cheerful Little Earful” Cory Wood’s velvet country vocals delighting! Never get tired of hearing them, even though technically I guess I’m not a country music fan per se, or maybe I am?


The Slow Food booth where the crew was making fresh pressed apple juice and handing it out to the crowd for free was a big hit, especially with the children who were invited to climb up and feed the apples into the pressing monster! My sketch might be a bit confusing, mixing two steps in one as it does! so please use your imagination. I’ve been playing with this technique of gluing construction paper down randomly and then doing the sketch over it with pen and pencil. (More on this in a future post.)


I caught the tail end of a cooking demo by Mateo, chef and owner of Mateo’s restaurant in Healdsburg. A delectable Petrale sole on a bed of cucumber and fragrant herb salad which the audience was each given a taste of!


The next band I enjoyed was the Royal Jelly Jive. There were so many dancers blocking the view of the stage that I moved to below the stage on the right for a very different perspective, good for band and dancers who were getting zasty (zesty plus nasty) according to the band. My pen had to do its own form of zasty to get the scene in motion!


What would a country fair be without animals, and a Sebastopol fair without llamas? Unthinkable! These were beauties, brushed and groomed. You’ll probably have no problem guessing which of these was standing still for more than 30 seconds.


Thanks for joining me at the Fair! Time to make apple sauce.

Chicago: Part III

The next morning I skipped the sketchwalk meet up and just went right to one of the locations on the walk in the financial district. Settled myself on my little stool on the busy sidewalk. Towered over by imposing buildings waving their American flags of commerce, I shrank into a little pool insignificance. To put it simply I was intimidated. So I picked one small section of the overwhelming scene above me and soon had calmed myself down a bit and regained a modicum of that lost confidence.


Something made me pause and decide to not to paint the colorful red and blue of the flag, even though it would liven up the sketch, and leave the colors off the next one as well.


This one, sketched while sitting in front of Brooks Brothers and the Rookery Building , was a counter-phobic plunge into the most complicated street scene I’ve attempted so far. While inhaling the smoke from an employee taking his cigarette break in our shared alcove (twice in that hour)and feeling the press of people and cars rushing by, I seriously questioned whether I was up for this particular sort of urban sketch scene.


The top of one of the grand buildings on the Chicago riverfront, the London House, viewed from way below on the other side of the river, was an attempt to recover through simplification. Drawn with paint first and then pen.

But then I plunged into the river again, figuratively speaking. . .

chicago14The Chicago city planners let the developers build skyscrapers on both sides of the not-very-wide river running through the city but required that there be a public walkway under the buildings along the river. And the river, at least on that lovely July day, was positively teeming with people in river crafts, from kayaks to pleasure boats blaring dance music, from architectural boat tours to water taxis. I finally found a narrow, but relatively unpopulated spot on the river walk to set about sketching some of the story.


That evening the Symposium folks reserved an area on the grass in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a picnic dinner and a world class choral and orchestral performance. About the Frank Gehry design I wrote , “the performance stage opening is like a colossal beetle mouth with two tiny eyes, random pincers, ruby red mouth and white teeth. A hungry creature like ourselves.”

Stay tuned for Chicago: Part IV and the end of the Chicago visit.

And don’t miss Suhita Shirodhar’s post and free download about teaching at The Bean!

Chicago: Part II

I guess you haven’t really seen Chicago until you’ve visited The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) in Millenium Park on the Lake. At least I don’t think there were any UsK Symposium people who didn’t sketch it. My first sight of it was on our first night in the city. A woman who claimed to be an official greeter offered to take a picture of Bettina and I and did an expert job.


So the Bean/Cloud Gate is an enormous, reflective kidney bean. But here’s another picture to get a better idea.


And by the way, the whole city is reflected here, and the sky, and you can’t take your eyes off it!

The next evening I got there a bit late, and by the time I’d sat down next to a charming sketcher from Paris and opened up my sketchbook next to hers, it was dark. Knowing we might not get a second chance Sandrine and I loaded up our brushes and went for it while she smoked her Parisiene cigarettes.


The caption seemed appropriate for this one.


The Calder sculpture titled “Flamingo” in a plaza among skyscrapers was another popular sketch sight. I was tempted to sketch the Falun Dafa (like Tai Chi for older people in the park) group who were using the plaza for their morning routine. People are more my comfort zone, but I was in Chicago, a capital of the architecture-universe, to sketch city architecture! But in this spot, the sculpture actually got top billing.


That afternoon the Urban Sketcher Symposium was launched with a “sketchwalk” in the Art Institute Garden, a magical place of lacy foliage!

chicago34The next morning the workshops began and those of us with Basic Passes participated in sketchwalks around the city. I was grateful to go along at my own speed, thinking I would get more sketching done.


I had watched Paul Wang, one of my instructors from last year, sketch this very scene the day before and thought I’d try my hand at it. It’s a typical one point perspective scene in Chicago with the train (the El) crossing over the street between tall buildings, many of them with reflective surfaces.


Let me explain. Not far from The Bean is Crown fountain, consisting of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. The images are slowing morphing all the time and periodically a spout in the mouth opens and sprays a stream of water out, delighting all the children who engage in delirious water play in the summer.


That evening a bunch of SF Bay Area sketchers met for dinner, drinks, and the proverbial “drink and draw” at Exchecquer, a nearby restaurant. Luckily the food took a while in coming. Otherwise, hungry as I was at 9pm I would have immediately abandoned the sketch!

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part III!

Visitors and more summer music

My son Andrew and his partner Maura have been visiting this week. They both live in “the city” and seemed happy to just hang around with us, making good food and eating it. Fun summer things like opening a watermelon and eating it sloppily over the sink. We threw in a handful of activities, like a trip to Doran Beach where the north coast wind was so cold that we hunkered down in the protection of the dunes and they practiced headstands and stalked the creatures.


Yesterday we attended the Rivertown Revival Festival in Petaluma, which combines music with boat races and steam punk style and interactive art and $5 weddings. . . I watched a very large snake wound around the body of a guy drink water from his dixie cup. Things like that happen everywhere. I shared my sketches of this festival three years ago here.  Only thing is that this year it was so hot there, that even with my parasol, two water bottles and loose fitting clothes I felt like passing out!


Even the sketching didn’t quite revive me. But here she is Miss Moonshine, the opening act with Andrew and Maura on the hay bale seats.


Next we caught the Cahoots on the Barn Stage with their sassy cute violinist, before checking out the porcupine who came out of his cage to get petted and misted with the spray to cool down, (while we also stood in the spray to get cooled down enough for the trek back to our car.)


Back at home under the fan I sketched from my pics. It was definitely a parasol day!


Catching up on some music sketches here. . .on another very hot day the Rosetown Soul Band was playing some serious hip swayin R + B music in a narrow courtyard packed with people at Montgomery Village Shopping Center. There was standing room only, not the best for a steady drawing line, but great for getting the vibe. This was a kind of sketch/dance combo.


Now the kids have left and I’m packing my bags to head to Chicago tomorrow for the annual Urban Sketchers Symposium. There has been an insane flurry of activity on social media in preparation for this much anticipated event. In preparation I have been obsessing for weeks about what should be in my palette, what paper, pens, etc. should come in which bag. Not to mentions clothes. . . We sketchers are as bad (almost) as photograhers (I’m married to one so I know) when it comes to gear-mania.

I won’t have time for blogging while there, but have learned to use Instagram and might even try a bit of instant video there if you want to tune in. And the pics I take will also be on Facebook, so please join me there this week.

The Travel Sketching workshop is coming up August 26. It is full at this point but there’s a short wait list and space may open up, so contact me if you’re interested. Also I will be scheduling another sketch workshop for the fall.


Palace of Fine Arts

I was hankering for some sketching of “grand” architecture, like what one finds in Europe or other places in the world where a historic building is older than 100 years (ah, Italy!) A visit to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last week was a great way to satisfy that longing and only 1 1/4 hour drive from my house.

As I recall, when I started taking watercolor painting lessons after my second son was born, I started with a day-long workshop where we camped out on the lawn opposite the Palace and I struggled with drawing, perspective, design, color, and watercolor technique all at once. What was I thinking?! Twenty three years later it’s still a formidable task, but oh what fun my sketch buddy and I had!


The Palace was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition but has been rebuilt and retrofited and landscaped in more recent years, so it can hardly claim antiquity. But who cares, since it is hard to imagine a lovelier place to spend a summer day (and get away from the heat of north county!) especially if you like tourists.

We knew better than to launch in on a sketch of the whole palace with infinite colonnades, the lake with swans and reflections, etc. Even a small portion of a colonnade has a fair amount of detail. I mainly wanted to get the graceful forms of the Greco-Roman Amazons that seems to be holding things up. Since I’m so much more accustomed to sketching people, if helps me to put a human form in a sketch before I tackle the more knotty angles of the architecture. (many people would say the opposite)

We soon learned that we were considered one of the tourist attractions. Especially the Asian tourists, of whom there were many, became the audience and photographers of our event. But then there were the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were set up nearby. They were so interested in our sketches and in getting our cards that they forgot to offer us their literature.


I’m going to skip over my second sketch which was enough of a disaster that it will not be allowed on this blog! We watched many romantic bride-and-groom pairs posing for pictures before the Palace backdrop. It is June after all and the solstice at that!

The wind picked up quite a bit in the afternoon, but we found a bit of respite from it in the sun and next to the water where the ducks and gulls were bathing and wildly flapping their wings. And here at least (I suppose I shouldn’t be on this side of this cord) I couldn’t see the tourists watching and photographing my artistic efforts.


The question of the day seemed to be, “how did you learn to do that?” referring to sketching, and with the conviction that I know how to do it. The way I heard the question was, “gee it looks like fun, how might I do that?” And the answer to that is . . .still learning (even though I’ve been teaching for many years now).


Carole still sketching, at the end of our day, with the fog rolling into the Bay. . .


At home later I analyzed the scene I’d screwed up. Still feeling a bit flummoxed but at least the scale and perspective is a bit closer. I’ll keep at it. It’s a learning chore I enjoy, always have. Carole said, “Let’s go back and do it again.” I guess that’s how it works, over and over until it’s a bit more second nature.

Beating the Heat

In an effort to beat the heat on Father’s Day Bob and I left early for the beach and were rewarded with sparkling sunshine, no wind, and temps in the 70’s. I think we got one of the last five parking spaces at Doran Beach.


When we arrived at 9:30am many families were setting up camp on the beach with tents, coolers, chairs, sporting equipment  and more. Our north coast ocean water does not beckon most of us to want to swim.  We’re content to soak up sunshine without the blistering summer heat of inland.


By the time we left around noon, all the parking at the beaches was taken and the coastal road was jammed for miles and miles with folks from inland trying to make it out to Bodega Bay to escape the record breaking temps!