portraits

Radical Radishes

When we first started exploring a move to the Pacific Northwest I contacted Jane Wingfield, a friend I’d made years before at an Urban Sketcher symposium in Chicago. I remembered her Instagram name as Olysketcher and realized that meant Olympia! When I planned my first exploratory trip north, Jane invited me to meet her at the Farmer’s Market, which is by the harbor in Olympia. As it turned out Jane was the one person I knew in Olympia when we moved here in June.

Fast forward to Saturday when I met Jane and another urban sketcher Eleanor Doughty at the Market for sketching, and afterward for that favorite activity of sketchers – sharing our sketchbooks, materials, workshops we’ve taken/taught, travel sketch itineraries and more. That usually involves trying out each other’s pens and paints too, much like siblings trying on each other’s clothes.

Higgens Black India ink applied with a bamboo pen and watercolor

It was morning and I was uncharacteristically willing to stand and sketch while balancing the open ink bottle – the only way to capture these radical radishes as seen from the back. They were radically red, radically fresh, radically regal on their throne of green. And they were screaming out “We are the queens (kings?) of the harvest fair!” which is saying alot, because oh my the apples and pears and corn and. . .

The owners of Skipping Stone Garden, Sarah and Gabriel Baisan, parents of the rad radishes, caught me in the act, and posed with their bounteous beauties. Not only is their produce artistic inspiration, but they grow a variety of produce as well as soil-grown microgreens on less than one-quarter acre!

There was time for more, so I headed over to the picnic tables and grabbed one right in front of the jazz band that was playing. I regret to say I got distracted and forgot to ask their name! A shame since I really liked their music.

variety of pen work and watercolor

. .. or actually, probably a good thing, since I confess I made a mess of the drawing when I got home, trying something “interesting” with color

Faces

gouache on gray toned paper

A fellow from the Sktchy picture archives – someone I’d like to meet !

What to say about this – dividing the face into fractals of color – why not stripes and dashes and thick and thin – adding and subtracting but mostly adding! That’s the beauty of gouache. You can just keep going. Come in at the end with pure color accents. That red on the tip of the nose and ear, blue in the shadow and pure white to pop. 

gouache on beige toned paper

I had to paint this redhead. Red goes with turquoise, green. Red like my hair was, and sort of still is with the help of hair coloring over the gray. Haha!

Pathos

The Bumblehummer in a recent post turned out to be a female Rufous hummingbird, for those of you who wondered. Positive identification occurred when I emailed the local Audubon society and in the process made a new friend! Kim is a wealth of information and answered a slew of bird questions I hardly knew I had. And now I have an invitation to go birding with the Gals Go Birding group. And Kim even teaches a workshop for people like me whose vision is fading, called Birding By Ear

Undoubtedly there will be more birds arriving on the blog, but today I’ll slip in a recent portrait . ..

gouache on gray toned paper (Inspiration from the app, now called Museum

.. .which I have named Pathos, because the beauty of this woman rests in the utter depth of feeling her face conveys. Her heart breaks for the suffering of humanity, which knows no bounds. Her own suffering is etched on her skin, even while she glows with the light of compassion. One’s eyes brim over just by gazing on her image and the heart muscle jolts awake.

Hardcore

The Muses back in Sebastopol met this week to work on self portraits together. Not wanting to miss out I braved the chaos of my garage studio and decided to take the easy way out, using an old lesson I taught many times.

Take a picture of yourself using the Comic Strip filter on the Photo Booth app (if you have it on your computer) and print it out in Black and White. Then carve it up, glue it onto the paper and have your paint/gesso/collage way with it. Add words.

paint, fabric, comic strip collage

 

Just give me a space to paint and

I’ll find a way

SOMEWHERE

      Between ceiling hooks and oil stained floor

There’s a place to thrive

      In a maze of U-haul boxes

      Partly opened and fully unorganized

SOMEWHERE there’s a place to paint

To cut and paste and draw and write

Because I’m hardcore. . .

Just help me find those scissors I left. . .

SOMEWHERE. . .

 

 Confusion is often the name of the game these days, but one thing is certain. It will be many more months before life settles again into some predictable rhythm, (and the ability to find the good scissors when you need them!) So I just bought myself a new pair. The girl in the picture is OK, even though the snakes on the head sometimes get a bit out of hand!

This is why it’s good to do a self portrait at regular intervals in order to check in on yourself, or to look back at earlier ones to see if things might have changed. Here’s one from May this year when the Sh”!t was really hitting the fan prior to moving!

The look on her face before leaping the chasm. . .

Different angles on painting faces

One of the reasons i love to paint people is that it doesn’t take much (skill? accuracy?) to communicate feeling. A little exaggeration of one aspect goes a long way. So at some point I always think “oh what the heck. It doesn’t really look like so and so, but it’s an interesting expression, so let it be!”

We were out in the back yard putting a shade cloth over our gazebo, which was letting too much light and therefore heat onto our heads! Andrew took his shirt off, since it was hot up there where he was stationed to pull the fabric across, and his head was burning so he made a sort of turban of it. And then he crouched as low as he could to get into the shade a bit. I had my hands full and no sketchbook at hand anyway, so I snapped a pic and later sketched this out.

He’s a very patient fellow with his parents, but I don’t imagine he was having fun. He had a good laugh when he saw this sketch!

gouache on gray toned paper

Another Sktchy app portrait. I loved the blue hair and the dark reflection on the one side of the glasses and was having fun playing with opaques on toned paper, doing my own thing with the color. She looks pretty heavy duty, I mean strong personality you wouldn’t want to mess with!

Woodard Bay

My favorite thing about living in Olympia is that I can be on the Puget Sound, in a dense ferny, mossy forest, on miles of trails or a lake within 15 minutes of my suburban home. Last week we “discovered” Woodard Bay Conservation Area which provides habitat for shorebirds and songbirds, harbor seals, river otters, bald eagles, a large maternity colony of bats, and one of the most significant heron rookeries in the state. 

And boy could we hear the birds! The trail to the rookery is temporarily closed but it was unmistakable what was going on across the bay with all the ruckus. This week we hope to take the kayak back and explore the shorelines.

replica of indigenous tribe’s canoe

Yes, it was tempting to hop in the canoe and get out on the water, but it wasn’t going anywhere!

fountain pen and watercolor

So we sat a while, listening to the birds and the harbor seals and sketching!

And Andrew caught this picture of me, unposed, relaxed and in my Northwest element which suits me so well. I kept feeling my father was with us and remembering my early experiences of fishing with him in the Canadian wilds. He would have so loved this place. 

Lake Cushman

So many people I’ve met in California have vacationed in the Pacific Northwest. Aside from a trip to Seattle with Ben to look at UW when he was applying for college, I was not one of them. So when my friend Brigitte heard I was moving to Olympia she said, “oh, Hood Canal!” like I should know. But since then I have tried to learn some local geography and Hood Canal is not far, and it’s supposed to be a kayaker’s paradise.

So Andrew and I set off this week, with the tandem inflatable kayak, to explore Hood Canal, an easy 45 min. drive. And ended up, after a lunch of local fried oyster sandwich, at Lake Cushman. We were not disappointed. 

Lake Cushman at the foot of the Olympics

The water was crystal clear and the breeze significant enough to be cooling but also to create some wave motion to keep the paddlers busy! We were right at the foot of the Olympic mountain range, Mount Ellinor straight ahead! We ventured up a narrow inlet, through a narrow tunnel and into an enchanted grotto. Hood Canal another time! There’s always another body of water to explore in this neck of the woods.

Still playing around with gouache portraits on toned paper. 

There’s still so little time for art-ing these days, which seem taken up with chores related to getting our new home organized and outfitted. Yes, there’s time for exploring, for meeting some really nice neighbors, but there’s so many things to fix or figure out. Like that loud hiss that comes from the direction of the water heater, or the door that locked me into the room and I didn’t have my cell phone and my pleas for help went unheard (for 20 minutes)!

Crazy stuff. It’s fixed now, but there’s always the next thing. I guess houses have to get used to us as much as we have to get used to them. 

And I think I need some new clothes. Andrew says my boat hat is not very cool and somehow the color seems all wrong here. I mean lavender? Really? Gray maybe, or khaki, or dull green, but not lavender.

On the trail and at home

Our new home is beautiful. No doubt about it. Which is not to say that it is without, shall we say, unexpected occurences which must be dealt with or accepted as is.

On the beauty end is the climate and the way the garden view enters our home (now that the recent heat dome is a point of history that is). Andrew has found the perfect perch to absorb the warming rays for a cat nap after lunch. 

And then there are the surprises. Interesting sounds. Like the crickets in the toilet downstairs, sounds that is. After watching a few Youtube videos Bob was able to discover the problem and after several tries, silence the crickets, at least for now.

Then there were a few days when we would suddenly out of nowhere hear the first few bars of Beethovan’s Fur Elise. No it wasn’t the doorbell, or the dryer telling us the clothes were dry. No one at the door. . . Finally Bob discovered that it was the old security system which was being activated by something at the street, and he shut it off.

Then there was the discovery that pretty much every wall in the house is painted a color called Spiced Vinegar and it was beginning to feel like a bit much.

But walking the trails around here seems to put things to right again. A couple days ago I was walking on the Chehalis Trail just three miles from home. It reminds me a bit of the Redota Trail in Sebastopol, though the forest is denser and taller. I stopped to look at a lake that was almost covered with some kind of water lily, and a tiny old woman saw me puzzling and stopped. I knew immediately I wanted to talk to her.

Chehalis Western Trail, Lacey

And so I met one of my first new friends here in Olympia, Bronka Sundstrom, a 96 year old woman who walks 5-6 hours each day. 

Bronka Sundstrom

We walked for a while together as she told me some of her story. She was a Polish Jew who was interned in a concentration camp during WWII at the age of 12, lost her 7 siblings and both parents while there, barely survived herself. She was so debilitated when finally rescued, that she had to learn how to walk all over again. But she went on to marry a Swedish man with whom she led a long life of skiing and mountaineering, and here in Washington acquired fame for breaking records for climbing Mt. Ranier as an old woman. 

Needless to say I had to sketch her portrait, and now I have a reason to see her again and give it to her. Maybe some more of that courage and determination will rub off on me. And maybe this walking-the-trail activity is not a bad to make new friends here, not to mention increasing longevity! 

And We’re In

Our movers showed up early on a sunny hot morning  exactly a week ago now, and they rolled out the red carpet!

A nice touch. And they were cheerful and anxious to get it right. We were anxious too, traffic directing as the boxes came rolling in 6 or 7 deep and sometimes a bit squished; and with the heavy furniture getting carried up the stairs accompanied by loud grunting and shouted commands (I had to leave for this part because it was so unnerving!)

But no one was injured, and only one piece of cheap furniture crumpled, and so far everything else made it intact. Phew!

Precious

And when they were ready to leave I got to meet the co-driver of the monster truck, Precious! She had to come along on the run, because no one was at home to care for her. But I got the sense she was well loved and cared for and even content to watch much of the drama from the bed behind the drivers seat.

art studio-to-be in the third garage bay

And here is my studio! I can certainly set up a table and do some painting here until we find a contractor to do the work. Actually right now I’m on my computer at the back of the space.

bounty from the garden

I’ve been wandering the garden every chance I get to make new discoveries. The abundance of this summer garden is mind boggling to me. After struggling to garden with clogged irrigation, gophers, deer, and hard clay soil I can scarcely believe this. The green lawn strikes my California senses as a bit scandalous, but during the rainy season here it rains so much that each neighborhood has collecting ponds to capture the overflow and send it draining down to the Sound. 

Ms. Willow

One of my favorite spots is the shade of this willow out front. It’s a green mansion, and several degrees cooler than the rest of the sunny garden. The bunnies we’ve been seeing every day must have gone to their underground homes during this extreme heat wave, but we have seen them lounging on the front lawn. It’s hard to think of them as pests, though the gardeners here say they eat everything.

white pencil and gouache on black paper

And ending with the only sketch I’ve done this week of unpacking, done inside and with the fan blowing on me! Last day of the big heat is today, and then more exploring Olympia wonders. 

Thanks for joining me!

Exploring Town

The Move to Olympia continued. . . 

We had 5 or 6 days to do a little exploring of the city before moving into our house and taking on the overwhelming task of unpacking and organizing. We picked the right place for our first meal, a restaurant which proudly proclaimed its Northwest allegiance, the Cascadia Grill. We were welcomed warmly by the owner and Tickles the Beaver (statue) and Jonathan Livingston Eagle (statue) and delicious fish dinners.

Cascadia Grill (note tattooed arm on customer to left)

At a little bookstore down the street I picked up just the book I needed, Making Sense of Olympia by David Scherer Water. I haven’t had time to read much of it yet, but the first few pages help to set the stage for what we saw on the city streets: There are 83 financially solvent bars(or were before the pandemic anyway), 41 of them downtown and 40 tattoos shops and 58 banks. The question being how a city with a population of 50,000 sustains all that. Oh, and 8% of Olympia’s 20 square miles is city owned parks. So, it’s a great place to be out in glorious nature, have a drink, get a tattoo and go to the bank?

Oh, and have an excellent cup of coffee! The coffee shops have the best espresso drinks I’ve tasted anywhere. The first morning we found one in a clothing store which opened at 7 for coffee. Then we found this one in a motorcycle shop. Great parings that surprisingly work. And always friendly people to chat with.

Later in the week we had an afternoon coffee break at Burial Grounds Coffee Collective and my latte was a work of art! (Day of the Dead style!)

Burial Grounds coffee

Somehow I think the moms in this town would be fighting a losing battle trying to keep their kids untattooed. I started to feel like I might need to get one myself. . .naw! The untattooed one in the picture is my son, but that may soon change.

Olympia Farmers Market

The Farmers Market on the harbor is open 4 days a week in high season. And it’s got a permanent roof, which makes sense since this is a rainy place for much of the year. Or that’s what they say. I haven’t seen it yet. Haha! The food is so attractively displayed that it’s hard to put down the cell phone camera long enough to buy something.

When it cools down a bit (111 is the forecast for today, gulp!) I’ll bring my sketchbook to the market.

Watershed Park

Have you heard of Forest Bathing? That’s what we were doing on our walk in Watershed Park, a 5 min. drive from the Market. It’s a rainforest with all that lush vegetation. The gold is the light bouncing off the rocks under the water I think. Breathe it in. Pure oxygen.

Tumwater Falls

And five minutes in the other direction is Tumwater Falls and the trail along the river. Can you hear the roar of the water?

Finally it was move-in day and the truck’s arrival at our new home. And the first thing out was my car, which required a tow truck with a flat bed ramp to disembark. More on move-in day coming up next! 

But one last picture, of a portrait I did in before the move (just to prove I’m still an artist!).

portrait from picture on Sktchy app, gouache on beige toned paper

“Ahhhh!” she sighs. “Don’t you just loooove Olympia?!!!”