Expressive Faces

Oh I do love to draw and paint people. Here’s the latest. The Sktchy app is so great for finding really expressive faces.


watercolor, black pen and white gel pen on gray toned paper


There’s a new month of Sktchy’s 30faces30days challenge. This gentleman totally charmed me with his picture. I mean can’t you imagine all the years he spent out in the sun? And I do hope that now he’s a jefe, a boss man with his own ranch.


And Mr. Nakashidze, what a face you have! I can’t guess what country you’re from.

Meet Victoria

Victoria is one of the first ladies I met a year and a half ago at The Living Room. She was in the knitting group and later I would see her in the art groups. One day she told me about her connection with Homeless Action, a group of grassroots activists in Sonoma County working towards ending the suffering of people who do not have a home. She was particularly involved in the legal struggles to protect homeless people on the streets from being arrested when they had nowhere else to go.

Her story is one of the most remarkable I learned when doing this portrait project.


Victoria would come to the art group that Ruth and I led on Fridays. Sometimes she would burst into song and others would join in. After doing some art play sometimes we would do a free write, like I do in Muse Groups. Hers always revealed a quirky sense of humor that would keep us laughing.

One day she brought some aged wooden shingles she’s picked up in a construction trash pile, and we gave her the paints she wanted so that she could paint the madonna on one. When the others saw what she’d done, they wanted to try it too. The madonna is still in my car and she asks about it. I’m happy to hold onto it and the blessings that flow from it until she has a more permanent living situation.


I have lost touch with my friends who, before the pandemic I would see on my weekly visits. So you can imagine that I was relieved to see her on one of my trips to the The Living Room after the pandemic started.

I sat with her on the roadside while she ate her lunch. She’s still in the shared living situation and involved with yet another group serving homeless people: SAVE Sonoma Applied Village Services and, due to being in the high risk (virus)category, does what she can by phone. But her current housing is time limited and she fears what will happen next, when there is so little permanent housing available, a problem she knows well.


Sorrow poured on sorrow and anger overflowing it all. What dark and challenging times! So I want to share the recent death of a homeless friend of mine, striking the note of what value her life was to those of us who knew her.

Jodi was one of those people for whom the term “salt of the earth” seemed to apply. She smiled and laughed a lot and was always very animated. She would have made a fabulous campground host, which is what she and her husband had planned, until he died suddenly.


For a while Jodi came to The Living Room almost every day to eat, sometimes to do laundry, shower, and rest her body after sleeping in her car. She was a loyal friend to many and one in particular, who was like a sister to her. And she had a connection with dogs, knew the homeless dog population well, and cared for them in every way she could.


Jodi was one of the women of whom I did a portrait story for a project I have been developing for The Living Room. I dropped off her framed portrait this morning to display with her memorial in the parking lot of TLR, where people in need come between 10am and 1pm each weekday to receive hot food and other necessities. Chairs are placed six feet apart in from of the memorial so that people may stop and take a minute to write in the book any memories they have of Jodi.

As I was leaving today two of her friends saw the memorial and were dismayed to hear she had passed. In that moment they had me and each other to share memories with. Hopefully many more will see and share their memories of her and feel uplifted by her example.


Pirates! and Fashion!

Pirates to draw! or at least one. I tuned into the Draw Breath group on Facebook, and accidentally discovered they were live streaming a drawing session with model Alida doing pirate action poses. So I grabbed my sketchbook and jumped in. And what was particularly cool was that my fellow urban sketcher (and illustrator/teacher extraordinaire) Mark Simmons  and Sara, another illustrator/teacher were sketching live on either side of the model so that you could watch them sketch. What a great offering!


The poses were going quickly and at some point I grabbed some watercolor pencils to see what I could do with them. My friend Laurie Wigham inspired me with this method of pencils and watercolor. She was sketching pirates too!


Woah! I love this one because it shows what happens when you rush and the pencil is too wet and the watercolor is splashed on in an approximation. Need to do more of that, I think.


A pirate with her bootie!


Pirates like that ale, you know.

Another day on Draw Breath was called Frisky Friday and a voluptuous model was posing in the most remarkable red creation.


. . .which changed into different creations. . .and then I realized I was hanging out with young (compared to me anyway) fashion designer/illustrators!


And here I was, still in my studio where I’ve been sheltering for the past two months, and not in the least thinking about fashion, except in the most abstract way.


And here she is, in one of those big puffy faux fur coats!

So here is the moral of this story. . .stay home, tune in, play with others on line and do your part to stop this virus thing. At least there’s some good news here. While you’re drawing you might be able to stop thinking about the future of our world, whatever piece of it you’ve been most worried about lately.




I can’t stop drawing!

One might feel sort of lonely these days, not getting to see your friends or family in person. But one thing is sure. As long as you have wifi and a device to watch, you don’t have to draw alone. I tuned into Sktchy school recently and got to draw Dylan with France Van Stone, a favorite drawing teacher I remember from one of the early Sketchbook Skool courses.


Well I don’t really draw like France, but I enjoyed listening to her commentary and drawing along with her. It made the time go so fast! This is pen, watercolor and pastel pencil on toned paper.


The subject of these studies will remain unnamed (so that I don’t get in trouble!) I did these studies from pictures I took on Face Time using a cool filter which maps the value shapes in interesting ways, making it actually easier to get a likeness and so much fun to paint. The conversation went through various changes from relaxed to animated. What a great tool to learn portrait drawing!


Same person in these two portraits here. Quite an emotional range! Unfortunately I didn’t have access to the filter I used in the previous ones but I’m still practicing mapping warm and cool shapes that show volume.

One could say that these are examples of the emotional roller coaster we all find ourselves on these days. At least it makes for good portrait subjects!


Like this one! from the comic strip filter on Face Time, and captured during a conversation when my subject discovered how much fun it was to mug in selfie mode!


Probably better if I end this post with the pensive face of a young man, perhaps trying to figure out, like the rest of us, where this crazy planet is headed.

Beatles Zoomalong Every Saturday

Need a SIP something to do tomorrow night? My friend David Klotz (alias Moon Puppy) has been leading Beatles singalongs for a long time here in Sebastopol and now is offering them in a zoom room every Saturday night. I tuned in last Saturday and found two of my other friends there, so it did feel like a party. The singing (and lo and behold the sketching) were great.


David did the lead singing and guitar and keyboard accompaniment while the participants sang with gusto (though muted so that the music maintained its integrity) and used the chat room to request their favorite songs. David knows them all!

I think there were folks participating from out of the area. If you’re a Beatles lover who lives far away from Sebastopol, California you can still join in, proving yet another way this pandemic has made us into the one world we always were. Ask David if you can join.


My pen was scribbling madly as I sang along. Because the visibility on a zoom session with lots of people in the gallery is sketchy, I enjoyed just getting whatever I could down. So if you see your face here, please forgive the artist for taking liberties. Artists are always doing that, and it’s usually fine (as long as it’s with someone else’s image)!

Last of the 30 Faces

Every day of last month, on the 30faces30days Sktchy app was a new challenge for the portrait artist.  I learned so much in the struggle. The month (of April) is over, but I haven’t stopped drawing faces.  Here are the last of the month.day22

The prompt here was to play with color and value, and the subject was posed with strong, colorful lighting. So this was a good opportunity to practice juxtaposing warm and cool colors. I thought my application was pretty clunky, but was surprised by the level of believability achieved even so.


Oh this one was so much fun. His eyes were fabulous. And I got out my Chinese Orange gouache for the red. I should play with gouache more often. It’s opacity is a great counterpoint for watercolor as long as it’s allowed it own forceful presence. The paper in all of these portraits is Stillman + Birn’s gray toned paper, in a 9 X 12″ spiral bound sketchbook.


I’m still stumped by this one. Even taking great care with measuring to try to get the drawing “right”, I managed to lose the subject’s Asian-ness. Maybe I should start over and try again?


I stopped and photographed this one before I finished, knowing that there was no way I could pull it off.  I mean look at that face! classical gorgeous. And in the picture it dissolved into black. Very difficult to pull off, even with oil paint. And probably a bit impossible with watercolor unless you have artist quality w/c paper. But I kind of like the not-quite-finished version. After all it’s the eyes one is drawn to, and they are enough. . .and the mouth.


You guessed it. This one was about foreshortening. I’m not sure what this guy was doing up in a tree, but it made for a fun sketching exercise!


If you’re counting, which I’m sure you’re not, you’ll realize that I skipped a day or two. Not because I didn’t do the portrait, but because the result was so awful that I couldn’t bring myself to post it here (although I learned something from every one!)

This is day 30 and I am happy with the result, even though I really messed up. You know how important it is to counteract the mind’s tendency to get the proportions wrong, by measuring EVERYTHING in your drawing? That’s the main thing I’ve learned from this second month of every day portrait sketching (the first was January). You have to measure distances, like the distance from the bottom of the eye to the top of the head, but also draw vertical and horizontal lines to know how the features really line up!

So this drawing is basically wrong. And it’s at least the second time the same thing happened this month with a 3/4 pose. Her left eye is in the wrong place. But I didn’t catch it til it was too late.

So this happens a lot. If it’s not the left eye in the wrong place, it’s the mouth or the ear or the slant of the nose. You have to literally check everything before you declare it finished. Or you learn to appreciate your own creative wonkiness, which can be enjoyed by all without the need for perfection, because. . .

Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull. -William Somerset Maugham 

And that was the end of the month-long Faces adventure! If you’ve been working on portraits, I’d love to know what you’ve learned.

Portrait Party a la Zoom

I’m really getting into the Zoom sphere! On Saturday after streaming UsK Talks on Instagram, I attended a Virtual Portrait Party Meet up on Zoom and ended the day with a Beatles Zoomalong. A bit much for one day I will admit.

The Portrait Party was with  my SF Bay Area sketcher friends and we sketched each other. One person would be spotlighted and we had 30 seconds to 10 minutes to sketch them.


I made use of my neutral gray Copic markers N2 and N4 to get some line and value down quickly.


When I started with the light value marker and it wasn’t going well I switched to a Fude (bent nib) fountain pen to get back on track.


It can be pretty nerve wracking to have so little time! I found myself holding a bunch of pens at the ready and forgetting which was which! What to do? Just take a breath and plunge in.


If I don’t put names on the sketch I don’t have to apologize to the person for the result! But you may recognize some of them anyway.


I think this was the final 10 minute pose. Enough time to get out the watercolor.


More Faces

Still sketching a face every day on the #30faces30days challenge on the Sktchy app, but I’m way behind posting them.  That’s because it’s always a choice between doing the sketch or posting. So here’s a bit of catch up.


pen and watercolor and pastel pencil on gray toned Stillman and Birn paper


Loved the drama of the pose and found the black ink part to be scary, but loved the result. There’s just no way to be timid with black!


This Muse is someone I’d like to meet! The complementary color scheme was suggested in the photo and I just amped it a bit.


Dig the attitude! Lots of confusing perspective here, and the hands!


And snow! Something we never see close up where I live in California, just a dusting on the hills. I really gave the white pastel pencil a work out with this one. Can’t imagine how I would have managed with just watercolor.


Now THIS is the kind of face I love to sketch! She’s probably a very nice person, but it looks like she’s scolding someone here. Maybe it’s one of those idiots who aren’t following the Shelter in Place protocol and putting us all in danger!

Today’s the last day of the challenge. I’ll get the rest of the sketches posted soon. It’s getting so that when I close my eyes I see faces. . .really interesting ones flashing on the inner screen! But I’ll have to give it a rest and switch gears for a while. . .maybe. . .if I can.

Faces 6-11

Pretty faces are OK, but faces with attitude. . .those are the best to try to draw. And the #30faces30days Sktchy challenge has lots of those. Here’s some more of my efforts. Rather than following the prompts and lessons offered, I’ve been trying to stay a bit consistent in my efforts, working on Stillman and Birn Nova series gray toned paper, drawing first with pencil, then inking in, adding light watercolor applications in warm and cool colors, and ending with pastel pencil and white gel pen.

Day 6 Bella

Oh yeah, and trying to stop before I get bored.

Day 6: Bella Lambert   I find hair particularly difficult to stay interested in, especially when there’s a focal interest, like these great pouty lips!


Day 5: Delphine Lily  The lesson on Day 5 was about hair, so I forced myself to paint it, and I think you can tell.

Day 8 Marcus

Day 8: Marcus J. Bright  Another great attitude pose! And all the features in the “wrong” place, which really helped, because you couldn’t assume anything but just had to trust in what you actually saw. Like top of ear down below the lip, and what a lip!


Day 10: Stuart Goss I didn’t rush this one and went back in after the painting with some more line definition.


Day 11: Shannon Dada   I was really rushed with this one and came in really fast with the paint. I’m learning that it is hard to get the eyes focused right. Seemingly infinitesimal changes make a big difference. These were particularly challenging. My favorite part is coming in with the bright white at the end.

OK, back to sewing masks now.