Everyday Sketches

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.

How (not) to Draw a Car

I’m not much of a car person and normally try to avoid drawing them, but when my Meet up sketch group suggested cars as a subject that would not get us in trouble with the Shelter in Place guidelines, I figured it might be a time to build some mechanical skill of the auto sort.

Sitting out in my driveway I got closer than 6 feet to my car to challenge myself with the extreme foreshortening of the angle. . .

cartalk1

I figured at least I would be able to see the details. I even did some measuring comparison, though it sure doesn’t show!

So I took a picture and determined to try “getting it right” by drawing from the picture in pencil.

cartalk2

The tire looked pretty flat, though the sketch was more convincing, automotively speaking. But was this the same car??

cartalk3

Still determined to “get it right” I tried again the next day, sitting in the same spot and taking a bit more time. If you don’t look at it for more than a couple seconds, it looks almost right. . .until you start to get the feeling it’s waiting to get fixed at an auto body shop after getting side bashed.

If I were really serious about drawing cars I would try again. Only honestly. . .I like the first one best, because it looks like it’s just about to say something interesting. All it needs is a bubble above it with “toot! toot!”

Are you finding things to do that you wouldn’t normally attempt, either because there’s no time or you feel it is too frivolous when the hospitals are filling up with people suffering from the pandemic? I hope so. We all need the frivolity as an antidote to terror.

Bud Book

Apparently the flip side of Corvids, those noisy crows and such, is Buds. At least that’s the case in my little Pentallic Accordian sketchbook which helped me to weather the first two weeks of sheltering in place.

Whenever the sun was out I took my pens, mini-watercolor palette and sketchbook out to the garden to watch what news was happening there. While I sketched buds I noticed other things, like the bumblebees hiving up in the birdhouse next to my studio door, and the pipevine swallowtail butterfly newly emerged from it’s chrysalis and drying its wings on the passionvine trellis. . .

brandnewbutterfly

I stood and watched it with its stuck-together wings blowing back and forth in the wind until they were dry enough for it to fly away, leaving me standing, hair on end in awe.

grapevine

The vintners here in wine country call it bud break when this particular spring marvel occurs, as it did along my house this month. So I started there in my little book.

succulent

I must admit that spring fever got to me while sketching these. I kept looking up to see the honey- and bumble-bees and loosing my place in the complexity of the succulents, but that was precisely the point, to catch the spring fever rather than the viral fever, right?!

 

rhodyapple

The apple tree behind my studio is one of those ancient hollowed out ones that still produces large quantities of apples. In February it attracts the bluebirds and in March, when the apple blossoms bud out, the butterflies seek them out for nectar.

euphorbia

Euphorbias of all kinds love my otherwise rather wild and untended garden. The flowers are blooming now in a riot of miniature bow ties of different sorts.

pipevine

But my favorite spot in the garden is the pipevine, which is blooming and fruiting and attracting the butterflies in ever greater number each year. Here is what is found at this stage. The little orange eggs are “deposited” in the pipevine bank by the butterflies, like the one in the picture above, and next month the hungry munchers with the orange polka dots will be hatched and systematically eat the entire hillside of pipevine to the ground!

chrysalis

And what is this magnificent sculpture? Another chrysalis on my studio wall which I noticed at the same time as the emerging butterfly. But this one is another species – the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, also known as Passion butterfly here on the wall where my passion vine grows. Last time I looked it was a yellow green color, but now is daily turning orange, the color of the butterfly, slow enough that there’s no point in watching it, but I do check in regularly.

budbook

So I can’t help thinking that all this spring metamorphosis provides yet another silver lining to those of us who, while ruminating on the dreadful pandemic news, have time to notice the small things like insects and buds.

Westside Farm

We’re all concerned about a February month without a drop of rain in our rainy season. But that hasn’t stopped us from glorying in the gorgeous “spring” weather we’ve been having. It’s such a treat to be able to sit out in the direct sun to sketch without becoming overheated or burning.

I haven’t driven out Westside Road in ages, even though it’s so close to my home. Many of the wineries were closed, or appointment only, on Saturday. I guess because it’s off season? Westside Farm is not a winery, but an magnificently picturesque collection of aging barns backed by vineyards. 

westsidefarm

This shack/shed hung off the back of one of the mammoth old barns whose roofs had become sieves. It tilted in wonderful ways that gave it personality. I sat on my three legged stool while a big orange barn cat wrapped himself around my legs and the chickens in a nearby coop kept up a symphony of whines and clucks. It was heaven for a while, far away from other folks and the din of my home responsibilities!

westsidefarm2

A perfect setting for a sketch with a backdrop of the Mayacama mountains, a curving path, fence, a stately tree, and a bit of red barn.

The Sweetest Cat no longer in this world

We’ve known for the past month that our beloved Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, was preparing for his final passage. It almost seemed he was waiting to spend his last days with the boys who grew up with him. Who can know such things? They lavished him with attention in the two weeks they were here for the holidays and he responded with steady purrs and the kitty conversation Phil was known for. He passed away on the evening the full moon rose.

philcollage

All my students and many folks who came to open studios over the years will remember Phil, because he was the official greeter, happy to receive a neck or belly scratch from all visitors.

I’ve gone back in history to find sketches and paintings of Phil I have posted here on the blog. The above collage is his “official” portrait, hanging in our home along with other beloved pets.

philhelps

I was never able to sketch or garden in our yard without the company of Phil. He would nudge me to let me know I must give him attention before I could get on with my business.

phil

When I was trimming plants in the garden I would have to take special care not to snip his whiskers or tail, because he couldn’t seem to get close enough and was always talking.

phil

Phil would eventually find a spot on the bench to nap after a long spell of purring.

phil

Phil was a teenager when he adopted us about 17 years ago, just showing up and insisting in no uncertain terms that we belonged to him!

sunrisePhil

He acquired the habit of throwing himself down suddenly in front of people on our walkway, exposing his belly, with a clear message that he was to receive love before one could proceed.

sylvester

And then Sylvester showed up, and his devotion to Phil was so complete that even though Phil gave him the message, in no uncertain terms, that this property was  his territory, Sylvester persisted. . .and eventually they came to terms with the arrangement and became Phil and Syl, eating, sleeping, and lounging together. When I finally got around to doing Sylvester’s portrait, I knew it would be incomplete without his best friend.

Recently on the cold winter nights when Phil was so weak, Sylvester warmed him with his body and checked on him throughout the day.

This may not be the end of my portrait-making of Phil, though it is the end of Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, who we will never forget! The boys want to plant a tree in the yard for him above where he is buried.

We would love to hear any of your memories of this lovable feline family member!

Catching moments

This is the part of winter here where I start to think, maybe this is my favorite time of year! There’s all kinds of hidden glories in the garden. Mushrooms popping up. Mosses and buds and those gorgeous bright green grasses replacing all the sunburnt ones, bare bones of trees, morning fog burning off in mauve mists.

But this is an art blog, and with family here I haven’t yet had much time to get my brush out. . .except

Osprey2

on a walk at the beach with the boys I plopped down in the sand for a few minutes to hang out with an osprey. Somehow these sketches always look better photographed in the nature where they belong. My raptor companion was long gone before I finished, but the drift wood remained. The little Whiskey Painter palette is so cool. I taped a magnet to the clip which holds the sketchbook open. I can open up the palette, which sticks onto the clip magnet, and use my water brush.

osprey

Messy but I caught that moment!

 

Drew 2

Another moment caught (messily) in the living room. . .hanging out with my son, who was sitting in our new yellow chair, which looks like something that Alice (in Wonderland) might like. I got the body all backwards – his shoulders are broad and his belly is not. He just caught me at the computer posting this, so I had to clarify! I guess that’s just the price one pays for having a mom who is a sketch artist!