Everyday Sketches

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!

palace

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.

palace3

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.

palace2

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).

palace4

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

palace5

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.

beattheheat

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.

beattheheat2

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!

More Summer Concerts

I’m always a bit behind on sharing sketches. The first ones here are from the Railroad Square Music Festival June 11. This fine musician Andy Graham was set up on 5th St. in Santa Rosa with his didgeridoos and electronic whatsits mesmerizing the crowd with what sounded like a whole lot more than the music of one person!

rrsquaremusic

Wandering around we found the biggest crowd one street over on 4th street  and did  standing quick sketches of the musicians before escaping the too loud and not our style of music making!

rrsquaremusic3

And then it started to pour. From warm sunshiny day to cloudburst. Definitely not California style weather! We ducked into another venue to escape the rain.

rrsquaremusic5

And happily seated ourselves in the Cast Away yarn store to listen to Kevin Russell and his friends and wait out the storm with some mellow folk tunes

rrsquaremusic4_edited-1

(I sketched this later at home) Heading back to my car, trying to beat the next downpour I caught a few moments of a band and snapped a picture of this dude dancing to the Earls of Newtown. Maybe he thought the extra hat would protect him better from the rain? I made it back to my car just as the hailstorm started. Maybe the hat guy knew what was coming?

windsorconcert

Later last week Bob and I made it over to the Windsor Green for their summer concert series. It was hot enough that we chose the shady grass over a view of the band. I believe that most of Windsor and the surrounding townsfolk were camped out there for the evening.

Sketching the Vignette

Last weekend I taught an Urban Sketcher workshop in Graton, CA, country style! It was the last of a series of  ten Urban Sketch workshops in the greater Bay Area celebrating the tenth anniversary of the worldwide organization.

The Graton Gallery generously let us meet in the shaded sculpture garden.  We also occupied the whole town, all one block of it, as we sketched lots of vignettes on the sidewalk, in the antique shop, the field, the garden at a restaurant and more. We took lots of pictures to share the day with you.

A vignette generally gets to the point of the story you want to tell without bringing in a lot of distracting (and possibly boring) details. It’s a way to express your enthusiasm about your subject so it’s clear why you picked it. It’s a well designed shape that is as important as the white of the paper around it. And it’s an extremely useful concept for the busy sketcher who wants to capture multiple stories in a day!

The students were busy with one assignment after another, doing thumbnails to identify and name the stories they wanted most to tell, connecting their subject to the environment it was in, “designing” the white space around it, and adding color to draw interest to it.

vignettedemo

For my 5 minute color demo I chose the subject of the green foliage peeking through the eye holes of Peter Crompton’s collosal sculpture in the garden.

airstream

Many of the students stayed after to have lunch at Zosia’s, where some had sketched this Airstream trailer. (This sketch of mine was done on a different day).

Rest, Retirement, Gardens

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we have gardens for more than weeding. In other words, it’s OK to simply sit outside and enjoy.

rest

inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Time for rest, on a cushion in the garden, draped with ferns and fragrant blooms, a pair of cooing doves and a lap full of purring cat. The weeds can wait another day. The plans for tomorrow, the latest world news, the emails, all of it can wait.

For now there’s those cushions. If you don’t try them out a bit each day, the cats soon will and your throne of rest will be usurped. Then how will all those lovely garden idles find their way into the art? So take a rest – it needn’t be for long.

This piece was actually a demo I did for a private art party/workshop held in my studio a couple weekends ago, something I offer from time to time with great delight! We had lunch under the trees on the patio and I didn’t pull a single weed!

retirement

Actually I was contemplating my husband who just retired June 2 and is learning to occupy a lounge chair outside while reading. At least he tried it for a couple days before getting all busy with his art again.

matilija

My own strategy for sitting still in the garden is to do a quick sketch. For me that counts as rest, even though I find it quite energizing.  But then I’m not retired, exactly. . .

Travel Sketching Workshop

I just scheduled a new on-location sketching workshop for this summer. Hope you can come!

travelsketch

Leave your cell phone in your pocket and record memories in a pen and watercolor sketch that tells your own story. In this on-location workshop you will have a day of instruction and practice with drawing exercises, strategies for designing your sketches and adding watercolor, all in a charming town nestled in the redwoods in Sonoma County.

For more info and to register, visit my website.

Expressive Figure Drawing With Oliver Hoeller

On May 13 I took one of the 10 X 10 Urban Sketch workshops taught by one of my favorite urban sketch artist/illustrators, Oliver Hoeller.  I originally ran across him through his blog, the Visual Flanuer and have loved his zany depictions of festival life in San Francisco.

We met for the three hour workshop in Dolores Park in the Mission. It was a blustery, cool day and I still had my runny nose and cold left over from the cold week in N. Y. Nevertheless I was determined to learn his secrets for lively sketching of busy city scenes in pen and watercolor.

dolorespark2 After some contour sketch warm ups we moved on to sketching heads of the people in the park, drawing the shadow shapes rather than specific features.

dolorespark3

Then we went on to draw shadow shapes on full figures of people sitting relatively still.

Next we sketched parts of people, heads, torsos and legs/feet. When sketching people who are moving you often need to complete your sketch with the parts of another person who steps into your field of vision. So we also practiced putting tops and bottoms of different people together into one!

The next step was to form an opinion of what you’re interested in and then be ready to exaggerate it.

dolorespark

This was more challenging as we switched to people who were moving. It helped me to write down what I was initially interested in so I wouldn’t lose my focus.

Lastly we were to add some detail and context to the picture. (By this point I was too cold, so I took myself off to the Dolores Cafe where I nursed a latte while adding color and waiting for my friends to finish the workshop.)

I definitely think the workshop helped me loosen up and get more playful. Drawing the shadow shape first definitely helps. The white of the paper is always more lively than when you color in shapes with blocks of color.

Thank you Oliver!