Everyday Sketches

SF Sketchers 7th Anniversary Party

Did you see the skies yesterday?! It was a spectacular jaw-dropping show yesterday morning as I drove into San Francisco through mist and fog and rain and sparkling sunshine and every kind of cloud drama.

I was there for an urban sketcher teacher meeting, sketch meet up and party at Arch Art Supply Store. A pretty significant downpour was perfectly timed for our sketch meet up. But these SF Urban Sketchers, many of whom have been meeting to sketch outdoors for years now, were well prepared and unphased by the cold and rain. I headed over with some of the group to Big Daddy’s Antique store, an open emporium  of fabulous furnishings grouped in living area scenes. No heat, but at least shelter from the rain!

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After an hour we headed back to Arch Art Supply for a celebration of 7 years of SF Urban Sketcher meet ups. In the capable hands of Laurie Wigham the group has grown to about 3200 members and hosts one or two meet ups in the city every week, as well as the 10X10 Urban Sketcher Workshop series which I will be a part of again this year. You can download the entire workshop flyer here. And if you want to join some SF Sketchers events you can sign in on Meetup.com

Arch Art Supply is our generous sponsor and was the host of the party. It is always fun to shop there for sketch supplies. I can hardly believe this, but I actually brought home a sketch palette set up that I had never seen before! (I mean I think I have a collection of every other one ever invented.) I’ll share it here at some point after I have tried it out.

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The Laguna de Santa Rosa

When I first moved here to Sebastopol, California 19 years ago and saw the flat lands below my house fill up with water and birds after winter rains; saw the mustard bloom stretch out like a neon yellow carpet, I knew I would have to find a way onto the land and water to explore. This area, known as The Laguna de Santa Rosa, encompasses the ecologically rich watershed lands that span from Forestville and the Russian River south to Cotati.

Eventually I managed to get out on the water and paddle, and I joined the plein aire painters who sometimes had access to the private Laguna lands. Later I learned of the vernal pools and explored them on the magical Lynmar Winery lands on the Laguna. I became convinced that I’d moved to one of the more exotic places on Earth!

Fast forward to this week when the winter rainstorms abated, the sun came out, and I parked by the side of Sanford Road to do some mini Laguna captures.

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The traffic was roaring by so I wasn’t particularly comfortable and needed to find a place a bit more relaxed.

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This time I visited the Laguna Foundation which is open during weekdays and not only has views of the mustard bloom and Mayacama mountains behind but also the Heron Art gallery that features nature oriented art by a different artist every four months and Stone Farm with its weathered barns and farm equipment.

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And my sketch buddies joined me for a day of sketching and picnicking on site. I remembered sketching this barn 18 years ago when there were also cows, and not yet the offices of a Foundation with nature workshops, land stewardship programs, native plant gardeners, community education programs and so much more.

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Sitting here with my back to the “pond” and listening to a chorus of marsh birds.

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At this point my eyes were weary from the bright sunlight, so I sat in the shade of the maintenance man’s truck and enjoyed a closer subject matter. It’s so much easier to see what you’re doing when the sun isn’t shining either directly in your eyes or on your white paper!

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I’ll have to save a watery Laguna sketch for another day! This is the view from Lynmar Estates.

The mustard bounty will last a while longer. It’s a great excuse to get out with your sketchbook, listen to bird song, and experience that gratitude that we feel for living in the midst of such abundant natural beauty.

For more of my Laguna art see Herons on the Laguna, A Tale of Wings, Vernal Pools and A Harvest Gala

 

Deer Island with John Muir Laws

When the boys were little we were always going out to find pollywogs or caterpillars, shiny stones or interesting seed pods. So spending the day at yesterday’s meet up at Deer Island in Novato with naturalist John Muir Laws and the Nature Journaling Club was a great reminder of how much I enjoy getting out to some wilder areas and feeling that freedom of fresh air, birdsong, wind in the hair, and a million discoveries large and small.

deerisland1b pen, pencil and w/c in 8.25 X 5.5″ hand.book travelogue w/c sketchbook

Jack (nickname for John) started out by letting us all know that our goal was not to make lovely little paintings but to take visual notes of our observations, questions, sensory experiences, etc. Along the trail he invited us to explore, occasionally leading us in discovery and a method of delving deeper into the experience of the natural world. We sketched small and mostly standing so as not to interrupt the flow of discovery.

Among his suggestions were the “landscapito”, a drawing which is tiny enough to take mere minutes rather than an hour; annotations and arrows to say that which could not be sketched; and starting with a quick sketch of the trail map (which came in handy when my little group started to feel lost)

Walking a trail behind Jack is a novel experience. When he stops to take a closer look you are invited to look for the unexpected and formulate questions, like why are the leaves (which he measured with a tape measure from his bag) smaller on the bottom than the top of the tree? One suspects he knows the answer but prefers to get one noticing more, and soon a million questions and hypotheses come to mind and you’re noticing the smallest things popping into view everywhere you look! Not to mention your ears become more animal-ian and pick up sounds that were not audible before.

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This buckeye tree in its winter nakedness invited close examination by a several of us, enamored by its unique shape and jigsaw puzzled skin (bark). I might still be there sketching it, but we were already overdue for the lunch meet-up on the hilltop.

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Sketching along with Jack here on the hilltop, scribbling down his advise along with sounds and sensations, looking upward occasionally as one of the experienced bird watchers shouted out a sighting. Kite! Harrier! Sharpee! (sharp shin hawk)

By the way, if this sounds like your idea of fun, try one of Jack’s day outings or classes in how to sketch and paint all things in nature! I’m already looking forward to the next.

Stow Lake and Speed Chess

What’s all the ruckus about?! That’s what we wondered when a flock of noisy, quarrelsome Canada Geese landed near us at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, “elbowing out” all the other, more well behaved ducks.

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So I had to put the noisy ringleader into my already under way sketch. It was a gorgeous day to be out in the park, so I can imagine what they were upset about.

Later Janet and I wandered the Richmond searching for lunch and landed at the place with the line out the door – Cinderella! a Russian bakery and cafe where every other person was speaking Russian and the menu was an enticing culinary adventure.

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Christmas day in the afternoon the house was suddenly so quiet. My sons had discovered a new way to compete. Speed chess , but not so speedy that the sketch story couldn’t be told. I need more practice with those chess men though!

Christmas Postscript

I suspect that if you want to find the happiest people around Christmastime you might head for the places where people are offering holiday cheer to folks who can use it, like at homeless shelters and such. lrrsantaandjingles_1

Places like The Living Room, a day program that service homeless and at risk women and their children. I’ve been going there for the last month as a volunteer, talking with the participants and volunteers and sketching the stories. I never leave without feeling that I have new friends and feeling a lot better about “human nature” to see the generosity of the community and the friendly welcoming-ness of the women who find solace there.

Of course the Christmas party was putting smiles on everyone’s face, with all the food and singing and treats for the kids and Santa and his elf. Not only did the kids get to sit on Santa’s knee, but the moms and other adults did too, including some luminaries who were visiting, like two young Wine Country beauty queens, tiaras and all!

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Before the hot lunch and the cookies there were Santa hats, bagels and coffee and more.

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And then Christmas carols for the adults and the children.

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The moms and kids all went home with pictures taken with Santa. (and no, I didn’t have time to sketch this one on location, but did it later from a picture!)

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Jingles and Santa Tim insisted on posing with me and surprised me with a (blush) kiss!

For our family’s Christmas card this year I sketched a Santa from about 24 years ago, with Ben on his knee.

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Hope you and your family had a very merry Christmas!

Happy Winter Solstice

I celebrated with a sunny walk on Vine Hill School Rd. this afternoon, looking for the (poisonous) neon red/orange/yellow mushrooms with white polka dots which I’d seen days before. They had begun to lose some color and get a bit soggy. Many had collapsed, but I found one lovely candidate.

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It was a bit of a trick standing in the soggy uneven ground while negotiating a palette, leaky waterbrush, sketchbook and wrist wiper. But isn’t that the fun of it?! And truly this winter wet season here in California is the absolute best for nature journaling.

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I was lured outside on another day with somewhat gloomy skies between showers. Right around the corner from my house – a country road, red barn and vineyard. Looks peaceful enough, but the traffic of trucks rumbling by my spot at the side of the road was a bit disconcerting! In my rush the trees bled into the sky, which actually softened the distance quiet effectively.

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Andrew arrived home for the holidays after an exhausting trip from N.Y., ate some lunch, stretched out on the window seat and dozed off. He spends a lot of time in that spot when he’s home, as does Ben. So if I’m not getting out for some sketching, I can always have a model.

Happy Winter Solstice!

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.