Paintings

On the Slopes (of San Francisco)

No, it hasn’t been snowing in S.F., but I was on the slopes there last week for a few days. My husband Bob had portfolio reviews over the weekend at Photo Alliance , which is held at San Francisco Art Institute up on a hill in North Beach. It’s hard to go anywhere in S.F. without encountering some steep elevation changes.

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We started out with some shopping in Union Square. From a sunny spot the world flowed by at big-city speed.

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Next morning we were at Fort Mason on the Bay front, checking out the SF MOMA gallery and just filling our lungs with that fresh sea air.

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After lunch we headed downtown to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see the “Show Me as I Want to be Seen” exhibition, which I highly recommend. The description of the show is, “How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis, and visibility itself is problematic?” (For those of you who know me, I guess it’s pretty obvious why I would want to see it.) It will be there til July 7 if you want to see it.

Sitting on the grass at Yerba Buena Gardens, enjoying the warmest sunshiny day in months, I got a bit greedy with trying to put everything in, until I got numb-butt and gave up!

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It’s such a treat to ride the bus all over S.F. It’s inexpensive for seniors:  with my Clipper card it’s only $1.35/ride, and there are no parking woes or dealing with crazy drivers and one-way streets, and more.  And if you stay  on the bus for longer than three or four stops, you move through a variety of cultural ecosystems. Friday morning on Bus 19 down Polk St. there was a sudden onslaught of wheel chairs and the necessity to quickly rearrange seating patterns to accommodate.

One gets a new appreciation of what it takes to get around the city in a wheelchair with items like. . . musical instruments, and then to board crowded buses. This keyboard, held together with masking tape and protected by a strip of cardboard, had found a spot behind its owner where it would be safe.

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Bob wanted to check out the SF Center for the Book on Portrero Hill, and next I showed him Mission Bay, and made him sit and rest while I sketched a house boat. Then down to Dogpatch to see the art shows at Minnesota Street Project.

There was lots more bus drama on the ride back, with invasions by teens, just out of school, who never looked up from their smart phones, even to talk to each other. Then more wheelchairs, and finally, the last stop at Fisherman’s Wharf where we were staying.

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If you’re still with me here, this is the part about the real slopes of SF. On Saturday the SF Urban Sketcher Meet up was at Macondray Lane, which is itself flat – a narrow and verdant alleyway off a particularly vertiginous street with knockout views of the city and bay.

For whatever reason I woke up that morning feeling particularly shaky and unsteady, but slowly made my way up the hill, still hopeful that I could capture the city in its undulating glory. When my inner undulating wouldn’t stop, I found a shady spot in the Lane with an obstructed view, and very slowly and with great patience constructed a calmer scene until my brain cleared.

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It sort of worked, because minutes later I was back to my usual rough and ready style,  much relieved and enjoying the company of my beloved SF sketchers. The afternoon ended with a mini “salon” to share our sketches at STUDIO Gallery and see the current show of “Tales of the City by the Bay”.

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And I got to meet the handsome sketcher named Jeff who had been a subject in the sketch!

On my last day in the city, once again I hit the slopes and I trudged up the steps of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower up close, the murals inside and the views. It’s actually a more impressive sight from the distance as a recognizable icon of the cityscape.

telegraphhill Five days in the city, along with all the steps I’d climbed, had exhausted me, so I found a relatively quiet street to do this study. I call it that because I’m more used to sketching people and animals and country scenes and such, and city architecture requires “study” before I can attempt it. (Actually I may have studiously ignored it here!) There were few people on the street, and they were moving quickly, but the lone figure in the doorway sufficed to give scale. She came by to see my sketch, and when I showed her that she was in the sketch, she clutched her chest and shrieked with delight!

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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

 

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!

Solo-Musing

Well, I’ve been sketching a lot lately, and now it’s winter and the rain is keeping me indoors, (along with the holiday bustle which I’m trying to avoid). So what do I do when there’s no one to Muse with?

I believe that abundance is tinder for the creative fire. So today I got out a pile of paintings/experiments I’ve done over the past year in my mixed media Muse group to take a look and get inspired again. It’s a rather big pile.  And here’s a tiny bit.

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There’s everything from sgraffito to tar gel texture to powdered graphite texture and faux (foil) metallics. . .

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And yesterday I visited the new location for Art and Soul of Sebastopol, our art supply store that has moved to a fabulous new location in town with lots of space. Among other treats I picked up a jar of pearlescent magenta Lumiere paint, just because it called out to me. (I certainly don’t need any more paint!)

MuseMix2Sometimes if you’re lucky in your rummaging, you run across something accidental that’s so perfect together.

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Like this paper scrap with the smoke “people”. . .

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And then I look at the works I’ve done in the last Muse Groups, which get clipped in succession on my wall, and remind myself that they all came together from this process of stepping fearlessly into an abundance of visually exciting materials and emotionally charged ideas from life.

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There are some that I want to keep just so, like this combination powdered graphite and colored pigment with gingko stencil piece. It seems like enough just to enjoy the texture as is.

I’ll go into the pile now and see what comes next. . .and share it here. I hope you’ll do the same if you have your own pile?

Fort Baker/Cavallo Point

The gorgeous fall weather drew me back to the Golden Gate Bridge mid-week, this time on the north side of the S.F. Bay at Fort Baker, an old army post that is now a luxury lodge called Cavallo Point. The combo of the white buildings, golden hills, S.F. Bay adorned with white sails and magnificent city skyline make it a most appealing sketch spot. Cathy McAuliff met me there for the day. We shared a couple of the same views, so you will enjoy seeing her sketches as well!

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Knowing we had the leisure of several hours I brought along my gouache paints and pencils and started out with them. When I work with gouache and colored pencils I tend to just keep working, which is very fun, but it all feels very experimental and I’m very weak on strategy. At some point I just said STOP! to all the corrections and decided just to enjoy the lovely rich colors.

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. . .but then switched to watercolor and a different sort of loose interpretation. Living out in the country, I rarely get the chance to paint interesting buildings like these, so I left out the visitors who were leaving their cars with the valets as well as the cars. Cathy loves to sketch the buildings, so it’s a good opportunity for me to practice when I’m with her.

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Next we headed down to the bay side.

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What caught my eye at the marina was the iconic cityscape in the background as well as the trees clinging to the side of the hill like a group of bare-legged crew members carrying their boat down to the launch. (The crazy line work in the upper corner was a drawing I started weeks before, while on a bus that was jerking mercilessly!)

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The GG Bridge has become so trite as an art subject that I almost thought I’d skip it, and just sat for a while taking in the real majesty of it, which never, ever grows old. But then the sky did this miraculous thing (no, I didn’t make up that shape!) and I dove in without pen. But not without measuring! A bit of colored pencil and it was done.

The Bouquets Continued. . .

On my visit to the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum last month, my eyes became saturated with the 120 stunning floral displays exhibited with the art they were responding to. I left with a voracious hunger for the floral image. Not surprisingly the fact that it is springtime here and everything that is not in bloom is swelling up with potential, has encouraged more bouquets of art.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook 5.5X8.5″

These Calla lilies, picked from my garden and placed in a lovely little ceramic vase. Not a very skilled arrangement to say the least. But the next morning I saw that I had created a most humble but appealing Bouquet to Art! And so I sketched it to add to the collection in my sketchbook.

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In the living room with my painting “Alvus” in the background.

And then as we started a new Muse Group, we used some fun mixed media techniques to create. . .floral paintings of course!

redsbouquetLots of acrylic paint slathered and fingerpainted on and scraped back to a warm underlayer of paint.

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There should be a way to get inside spring. To walk around first, hop up and grab a stem or branch, and stand up on the rim of it. Look down, and then ??

Secrets are like that. They don’t reveal themselves easily. They wait in the dark, hide behind the flowers and let you get all woozy with the fragrance so you forget to look. Do you really, really want to know what’s there?

Hang out a bit longer, just another minute.  Oh no! There you go again, drifting off. Spring is like that. Those blossoms give no sure footing, especially after a drizzling rain.

Does this part of spring make you a bit woozy? Does it make you want to do everything all at once and then to just sit still, do nothing, breathe it in? We’ve been drenched in sunlight here, watching the apply blossoms pop and the clouds of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies drunkenly imbibing their blossom nectar brew, then swooping down to lay their almost invisible eggs on the vines.

Botanical Garden and Bouquets to Art!

The day after the skyscrapers the weather turned sunny and we headed over to the S.F. Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park to see the last week of the “Magnificent Magnolias” and other spring bloomings.

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watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Watercolor Book

Who could resist the red of these flowers, which I assumed were poppies, but my friends declared were ranunculus? To get the red in watercolor requires a great deal of red pigment, all the reds and some of the blue!

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Along came two year old Axel with his mom. He unleashed a steady stream of unintelligible commentary on the flowers, no doubt pointing out attributes which I had missed. His fingers were making little squeezing movements while his mother warned “we don’t touch the flowers”. She then handed him a soft ball which he squeezed happily while continuing his monologue, and the flowers were saved! That’s Bob in the background enjoying the show.

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The daffodils blooming under pink budding trees provoked my own kind of frenzy, one of splattering. The result looked best lain on the daisy studded lawn where I was sitting.

Next day was my birthday and our last day in San Francisco. What a treat to celebrate my birthday with a trip to the de Young Art Museum for the annual Bouquets to Art! For one week only, 120 floral designers have displayed arrangements that are inspired by the artworks in the museum. Here are some that I sketched in the museum, and later painted. (Some were sketched with the painting which inspired them.)

 

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta spiral sketchbook, 6 X 8″

Arrangement by IM Chan Designs/ painting by Gottardo Piazzioni

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Water Lily Pond Floral Design/ painting by Salvador Dali not shown here

bouquetstoart3‘Arrangement by Orinda Garden Club/ painting by Joe Light

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Arrangement by Donnel Vicente Designs/ painting by Louisiana Bendolph

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Arrangement by Poppie’s Petalworks/ painting by Kara Walker

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Arrangement by Katherine Stuart Floral Art/ painting by John Koch

There are lots of differing opinions about how to enjoy art like this. Some would complain about all the picture taking. And I had to be careful to stay out of the way of the iPhone cameras when I was sketching. I totally understood the need to take the images home and enjoy them for a long time afterward! I probably took 50 pictures and would love to sketch every one of them! When I close my eyes I still see flowers and can imagine their sweetness.

Ah, dear Spring, you are only two days away!