Cloudy day? Sunny day? Rain? Yes, we got it all in the hour or so out in the tiny but lovely West Central Park, NW Olympia across from the Park Side Cafe. The light was so changeable and unhelpful in defining the architectural planes, so I went wonky and kept the clever palette of the building’s painters. West Central Park promises to be a good venue for summer music concerts and people sketching! Jane and I ate on the roof afterwards with a view of the city along with wind and rain sprinkles. But hey! Such a delight to be out in slightly warmer temps.
Another day with similar wether this week, Ineke and I met at Randall Preserve on Mud Bay Rd, well named for the mud that covers large areas of the tideline estuary at the southern-most end of Puget Sound on Eld Inlet. The mud/muck is surprisingly lovely and patterned, though very much like quick sand if you’re stuck in it! I learned last summer to beware of the tides turning when you’re out in a boat! Across Mud Bay Rd. from Randall Preserve is Buzz’s Bar and Grill, a great locals place for lunch.
Out at the West Bay Marina last week with Jan, warming ourselves in comfortable spring temperatures with mostly sun and those show-off-y clouds. We were almost at water level on the dock, and with Tugboat Annies and the kayaks behind us. I loved the shape of these mostly white buildings, the reflections and the sky and forest backdrop. There was so much more of both sky and water I wanted to get in, but ran out of space after getting the building geometry in. Always better to leave more space for these exciting skies! Next time.
This is the kind of weather one might encounter suddenly on a gloriously sunny day lately, or at least a week ago. I’ve now accumulated a closet full of different weight coats and hats and shoes to try to meet the changeable weather with a modicum of equanimity. It means changing clothes frequently throughout the day at times to stay comfortable.
This scene occurred on a lovely walk at the point where the South Puget Sound waters enter the town of Olympia. While we were strolling and talking, the sky behind us darkened suddenly, and we knew our walk was over, unless we were ready for a drenching. Such sky drama, though inconvenient, is never boring and sometimes downright thrilling!
When I start to get tired of this rainy weather, which shows little sign of ending, I refocus on the friendlier aspects of this climate: like a white blanket of snow for Christmas morning! and bunnies cavorting in the garden at Easter!
I’m sure you’ve wondered, as have I, how bunnies keep their tails so white when they sit on them in the mud. Now that I have two customers dining at the same time on the miniature picnic table I have been able to view and compare their table manners. Not only does Ms Bunny keep her cotton puff white, but she doesn’t put her feet on the table, like her counterpart, the highly athletic, but poorly mannered Ms Squirrel.
Right next to the picnic table is a pink rhododendron in many stages of bloom. So I took my stool out in a brief patch of sun to contemplate rhodi- and bunny-ness.
The past week has given us everything from rain to sleet and snow flurries and one sunny day in the 70’s. That was the day last week that we sketchers hit the Farmer’s Market, which is now open Thursday through Sunday through the spring, summer, fall season! Unaccustomed as I was to bright sunlight, I sought the shade of the building and stood for a couple sketches while the sun blindness abated. The worm man was an easy subject as he hardly moved a muscle and there were no actual live worms to wriggle.
Turning 45 degrees to the left, I had the pleasure of watching an old woman leaning against her walker and talking with a young artisan behind the jewelry counter (ran out of space and time to include her). The conversation celebrated the woman’s release from two years of Covid isolation!
Back at the picnic tables under the tent I snapped a pic of this young man enjoying a kabob and later sketched him at home after I’d eaten my own lunch.
There was not a soul at the Capitol building gardens in Olympia last weekend without a phone or elaborate photographic equipment to record the much anticipated Japanese Cherry Blossom extravaganza. It’s irresistible, this feeling of urgency to capture the moment of fleeting storybook beauty, trudging through fresh piles of exquisite pink blossoms, knowing that one good rain storm and it would be gone. So I took some pictures that day – there was no time for more – so that I could practice at home, away from the heady smell of spring.
But truly all I could do later in the week when on site with sketch friends was to keep my brush in a frenzy of motion caused by the lure of blossoms in such abundance that the mind went off line! Watercolor led to gouache and more layers until finally a part of me screamed STOP already!
It was a rainy day, so we sought out the cozy comfort of the Tumwater Timberland Library.
Only a handful of library users on that day, but lots of subjects for drawing! The geometric domed skylight let in lots of light and the marvelous clock seemed to dominate, so i took the Alice in Wonderland approach to design!
Boats have an anatomy just like humans and birds and if I would apply myself to sketching them every day. That wouldn’t be hard here in Olympia, where there’s several marinas and frequent sailing regattas and classes going on, all in the harbor downtown.
For this sketch I walked out on a pier down on water level where I could sit by myself and concentrate. It was sunny but the cold wind whipped up and the palette went flying and the water reflections and even colors changed every five minutes. Gotta love it!
Being a rank newcomer to town I didn’t realize that the Sand Man , a tugboat built in 1910, is the official City of Olympia historic vessel, offering free on-board tours of the tug in return for docking fees: which proves once again, that one of the most efficient ways to learn your way around a new home city is to get out and sketch! And even better to have the South Sound Urban Sketchers to go out with!
Another busy day in San Francisco started out with meeting my urban sketch friends for a ride across the Bay on BART to the Ferry Building, where I have sketched several times before. (see previous sketches here) It was a Saturday and it felt like a good portion of city was out to enjoy the culinary delights and bayside views. It reminded me a lot of Pike Place market in Seattle with its crush of humanity! Multiple live music, horns, screeching brakes, every type of public and private transportation converging in this one block area of one of the most fascinating cities in the world. And all under beautiful sunny skies.
I planted myself in the traffic island, listening to the crooner nearby with his medley of S.F. love songs, enjoying conversation with my sketch friends whom I’ve missed, and then tried to settle down for some sketching. The Jesus Saves guy was just one of the many colorful characters in view!
And there she was again! The young violinist from the deYoung parking lot again (in the center with the yellow hat), and this time with her fellow musicians. I quickly set up my sketch stool and got ready to sketch, just as they played their last notes and packed up to leave. Aargh! This may be another one to do from a picture, though it’s always more engaging to absorb the live music experience in the sketch.
The Chinese New Year parade was next on the day’s schedule. I’ve attended other urban sketcher meet ups for this event over the years, and it’s one of my favorite with unbeatable color and human vitality. (see past year sketches here and here The groups of adults and children of all ages assemble colorfully on Market Street in preparation for the parade.
By the time I got there my energy reserves had depleted, so this was done later from a picture I took!
The next four days I was on my old familiar turf in Sebastopol and the Russian River, which is always a bit of heaven in the early spring. A long lunch in the garden of Kay’s home on the River, watching her flock of “designer” chickens that produce a rainbow of different colored eggs.
marveling all over again at the bountiful lemons and the pottery studio overflowing with treasures. There was too much to catch up on with kay and Liz and lots of eating, so no sketching happened that day!
The temperatures were plunging, but not so much that a walk on the beach wasn’t possible, with a little bundling up against the wind. Bodega Bay is often windy and a bit chilly. Not your southern California year round beach, though there was a surfer out that day enjoying the waves. But a long clean stretch of beach with abundant birdlife and radiant sun. Ahhh!
It sometimes feels redundant to sketch on the beach, like I’m copying the art that is already so abundant there in the form of seaweed and shells and undulating sands. So I just gathered up some dried seaweed in an expression of how I felt about this part of our planet and about my week of revisiting.
Next, one last thing to share from my week in California – a Muse Group reunion with inspired artmaking which I will post soon!
Virtual travel at your computer/iPad. It’s become a real thing in the Urban Sketcher world as we are less able to gather to on location spots because of Covid, and for some of us, because of winter weather. So when Cathy McAuliff and Bettina Armstrong and I got a peek at Patti Grogan Richards Facebook posts of New Orleans we made a date.
You see we were in NOLA for a week at the very beginning of the pandemic – last chance for travel for a while! – and we were thoroughly enchanted. So what a treat to spend an evening with each other reminiscing while sketching from Patti’s pictures.
I find that when I’m chatting/listening, my left brain is quite off line with the drawing, so lines and perspective are felt rather than measured. The marlin hanging over the entrance grew large as I showed it interest! After a few minutes I believe I started to feel the texture and scents on the humid air and a flood of memories came back.
I wholeheartedly recommend this form of virtual travel, even as the news tells us we are soon in for a lifting of restrictions. Comforting to know it’s possible and even without some virtual reality headset!
To see more NOLA sketches and get ideas for your own either virtual or real travel to New Orleans, you can visit some of my on location blog posts from March 2020 here and here.