Reportage Sketching

Announcing: New Workshops and Newsletter!

The Imagine With Art Newsletter is now in its 65th issue and I’m happy to offer it to you here. This issue features new workshops for the fall, some Urban Sketcher Symposium news and an Art Play lesson: Powdered Graphite. Hope you’ll take a look!

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And join me for the latest in a series of on location sketching workshops!

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For more information and to register, please email me.

A Weekend at S.F. Bay

Catching up a bit here! Two weekends ago I was footloose in SF while Bob was taking a workshop at the Center for the Book. One morning I planted myself on the cement bleachers below Ghirardelli Square to watch and listen to the endless parade of tourists, bay swimmers, summer camp groups (the list is so long!) I was trying out my natural hair ( floppy) paintbrush. For many years I’ve used a springy one, so my accuracy with this one, a Rosemary Co. round travel brush, is not great. . .yet.

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But as I painted there were innumerable distractions. The lady resting quietly in the foreground suddenly woke up and started screaming accusations at the group beyond, and their fear was visible on their faces. Later she left and another similar group came to stand close enough to me that I heard their leader giving instructions or something. It was puzzling. They were dressed in ordinary pedestrian clothing with small backpacks and seemed like tourists, except they were being invited to search for armed terrorists or something and were consulting their maps and phone apps. OK, so it must have been some kind of game, like a terror scavenger hunt?!

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My fellow urban sketcher Cathy McAuliffe met up with me bringing colored paper which we tore up and glued onto some pages before we went off exploring Fort Mason. This was a fun technique she learned in the Urban Sketch Symposium from Lynne Chapman. I abandoned paints for the afternoon and just used pen and colored pencils. There’s a white Uniball Signo pen in there too (for those of you who notice everything). It was an extremely complicated scene with the GG Bridge, Fort Mason buildings, SF Bay with boats of all kinds including a wind surfing regatta, Marin headlands across the bay, etc. But somehow the construction paper made it more necessary to pick and choose and get a better design going.

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To get out of the wind we went to the other side of a building on the Bay and this view is looking across to the East Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf. There was no point getting everything in perspective, with those bright colored papers, so I had more fun just putting in what I wanted for the story.

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We ended our day at the Interval at the Long Now coffee shop/bar/museum where I’ve always wanted to sketch but never gotten the right seat. This time the couch in the corner was available and once again, I’m not exactly sure why, the colored paper helped! Thanks to my friend Cathy and Lynne Chapman for sharing this fun approach.

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All my sketches are done from real life, but something possessed me to do one from memory of real life. I mean there are moments when you see something so impossibly wonderful and you can’t get your phone camera out quick enough and you have to rely on memory, which fades too quickly. There was this bright blue city bus and a string of schoolbus yellow Go Cars right behind it on North Point St. So when I was home I got it down in my book. More inspiration from the colored paper do you think?

Gravenstein Apple Fair

Things got a bit away from me while I was away on recent trips. The Gravenstein apples were ready to harvest and couldn’t wait any longer to be picked! Here they are under my studio tree where I finally got around to collecting and painting some while swooning over that late afternoon fresh apple smell.

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We get all proud of our Gravenstein apples here in Sebastopol around this time of year and celebrate with a festival, real country style, where the star is not wine but the humble apple! The Ready Set Sketchers had a meet up on Saturday to sketch the scene. I joined in and ended up spending the whole day there.

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A few paces from the entrance was Charlie Kennard, bee keeper, basket weaver and teacher of California Indian and European techniques.  After listening and sketching for a bit I was ready to get started weaving my own. . . but the fair beckoned. . .

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I’ve sketched Kevin Russell’s band a number of times and always enjoy their music. Their Western Swing Caravan did my favorites with all their star musicians and the “Cheerful Little Earful” Cory Wood’s velvet country vocals delighting! Never get tired of hearing them, even though technically I guess I’m not a country music fan per se, or maybe I am?

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The Slow Food booth where the crew was making fresh pressed apple juice and handing it out to the crowd for free was a big hit, especially with the children who were invited to climb up and feed the apples into the pressing monster! My sketch might be a bit confusing, mixing two steps in one as it does! so please use your imagination. I’ve been playing with this technique of gluing construction paper down randomly and then doing the sketch over it with pen and pencil. (More on this in a future post.)

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I caught the tail end of a cooking demo by Mateo, chef and owner of Mateo’s restaurant in Healdsburg. A delectable Petrale sole on a bed of cucumber and fragrant herb salad which the audience was each given a taste of!

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The next band I enjoyed was the Royal Jelly Jive. There were so many dancers blocking the view of the stage that I moved to below the stage on the right for a very different perspective, good for band and dancers who were getting zasty (zesty plus nasty) according to the band. My pen had to do its own form of zasty to get the scene in motion!

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What would a country fair be without animals, and a Sebastopol fair without llamas? Unthinkable! These were beauties, brushed and groomed. You’ll probably have no problem guessing which of these was standing still for more than 30 seconds.

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Thanks for joining me at the Fair! Time to make apple sauce.

Epilogue to Chicago

The Urban Sketch Symposium was officially over July 30. But of course I’ve left so much out of my story. . .like KK’s (Kiah Kiean Chng) demonstration of his “stick” and ink drawings and Rita Sabler‘s inspiring lecture titled “Urban Sketch as a form of Protest”. And then there were the demonstration tables with all the vendors who filled our “goody bag” with materials to try!

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Bettina and I were staying at Roosevelt University housing on the 21st floor where there is a study lounge with floor to ceiling windows and a 180 degree view of Lake Michigan, Millennial Park, and well, many of the coveted architectural wonders and city views. So we invited a couple teacher friends up to enjoy sketching. And the next morning the room filled up with many of the Symposium teachers, each approaching the scene in his/her trademark way while we watched and did our own.

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Rob Sketcherman here on his iPad. Gail Wong finishing a several foot long accordian fold sketchbook, Virginia Hein doing her color magic, Shari Blaukopf getting it all in with freshness and detail, Uma Kelkar painting those beautiful soft edges.

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My sketchbook was not wide enough for the other side of the room where Marc Taro Holmes was painting the entire scene with brush only, Suhita Shirodhar appeared at some point (check out her blog posts about the Symposium), Laurel Holmes and Joel our treasurer, Bettina and Cathy McAuliff. And to add to the excitement of the morning a helicopter was delivering an air conditioner to the roof of the Art Institute next door! A handy bit of orange accent to include in the sketches!

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After that we took the time to eat an actual full midday meal, which we hadn’t had time for previously in the week! And then headed to one of the other iconic sketch spots, the Chicago Theatre.

And then the for last sketch of the week, one of the lions in front of the Art Institute Chicago, where we indulged in a full day of art viewing. My favorites, Gauguin, Saul Steinberg, and The Paintings of M. F. Husain.

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(The tail was a necessary after thought!)

But I’d missed sketching a scene I saw daily, mostly because it involved sitting under the train with its deafening roar and smelly eructations. So I did the next one from a photo at home.

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And so I’ll end it there, with the very same train that took us to the airport the next morning for only $3. What a bargain!

Chicago: Part IV

On the last official day of the Symposium, there was time for a few more sketches while things were winding up for the big picture taking (of all 570 people from 34 countries and then the evening festivities.

But I thought also to share some of the small sketches/thumbnails I did to get my bearings while in the city, using water soluble graphite in a cake form with my water brush and pen.

 

I often liked these small ones better than the finished pieces. When the visual scene is most complex is the best time to go super small to simplify it.

The soaring green “gargoyles” on the library had been calling out all week to be drawn!

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And then in the afternoon the final sketchwalk with all participants while the city was busy closing down the public areas by the lake in preparation for the big Lollapaloosa music festival.

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The city workers were hanging the sign, piece by piece as many of us dashed off a sketch of the brave native on horseback. My friend Cathy read my mind as she commented, “Is this the Indian they stole Chicago from?”

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Once again here I am trying to prove myself as an authentic urban sketcher (even if a country girl at heart), seeing how many buildings and traffic I can pack into a quick sketch while on the corner of a busy intersection!

Then we were all getting ourselves arranged on a grassy hilltop for the grand Symposium picture, made more fun by a drone that circled around filming us from all angles.

Followed that evening by the closing party and announcement of the location for next year’s Symposium, in Porto, Portugal. Maybe you’ll be there?!

But there’s more! An epilogue, as we stayed a couple more days in Chicago. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to join me and the Ready, Set, Sketchers! in Sebastopol this Saturday, we’ll be meeting up at 10am and sketching the Gravenstein Apple Fair. All are welcome!

Join us at the 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair for the next “Ready, Set, Sketch” meet-up!

Saturday August 12 from 10:00AM-1:00PM

We’ll meet at the entrance to the park at 10am.

Ragle Ranch Regional Park

500 Ragle Road

Sebastopol, CA 95472

 

 

Chicago: Part III

The next morning I skipped the sketchwalk meet up and just went right to one of the locations on the walk in the financial district. Settled myself on my little stool on the busy sidewalk. Towered over by imposing buildings waving their American flags of commerce, I shrank into a little pool insignificance. To put it simply I was intimidated. So I picked one small section of the overwhelming scene above me and soon had calmed myself down a bit and regained a modicum of that lost confidence.

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Something made me pause and decide to not to paint the colorful red and blue of the flag, even though it would liven up the sketch, and leave the colors off the next one as well.

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This one, sketched while sitting in front of Brooks Brothers and the Rookery Building , was a counter-phobic plunge into the most complicated street scene I’ve attempted so far. While inhaling the smoke from an employee taking his cigarette break in our shared alcove (twice in that hour)and feeling the press of people and cars rushing by, I seriously questioned whether I was up for this particular sort of urban sketch scene.

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The top of one of the grand buildings on the Chicago riverfront, the London House, viewed from way below on the other side of the river, was an attempt to recover through simplification. Drawn with paint first and then pen.

But then I plunged into the river again, figuratively speaking. . .

chicago14The Chicago city planners let the developers build skyscrapers on both sides of the not-very-wide river running through the city but required that there be a public walkway under the buildings along the river. And the river, at least on that lovely July day, was positively teeming with people in river crafts, from kayaks to pleasure boats blaring dance music, from architectural boat tours to water taxis. I finally found a narrow, but relatively unpopulated spot on the river walk to set about sketching some of the story.

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That evening the Symposium folks reserved an area on the grass in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a picnic dinner and a world class choral and orchestral performance. About the Frank Gehry design I wrote , “the performance stage opening is like a colossal beetle mouth with two tiny eyes, random pincers, ruby red mouth and white teeth. A hungry creature like ourselves.”

Stay tuned for Chicago: Part IV and the end of the Chicago visit.

And don’t miss Suhita Shirodhar’s post and free download about teaching at The Bean!

Chicago: Part II

I guess you haven’t really seen Chicago until you’ve visited The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) in Millenium Park on the Lake. At least I don’t think there were any UsK Symposium people who didn’t sketch it. My first sight of it was on our first night in the city. A woman who claimed to be an official greeter offered to take a picture of Bettina and I and did an expert job.

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So the Bean/Cloud Gate is an enormous, reflective kidney bean. But here’s another picture to get a better idea.

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And by the way, the whole city is reflected here, and the sky, and you can’t take your eyes off it!

The next evening I got there a bit late, and by the time I’d sat down next to a charming sketcher from Paris and opened up my sketchbook next to hers, it was dark. Knowing we might not get a second chance Sandrine and I loaded up our brushes and went for it while she smoked her Parisiene cigarettes.

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The caption seemed appropriate for this one.

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The Calder sculpture titled “Flamingo” in a plaza among skyscrapers was another popular sketch sight. I was tempted to sketch the Falun Dafa (like Tai Chi for older people in the park) group who were using the plaza for their morning routine. People are more my comfort zone, but I was in Chicago, a capital of the architecture-universe, to sketch city architecture! But in this spot, the sculpture actually got top billing.

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That afternoon the Urban Sketcher Symposium was launched with a “sketchwalk” in the Art Institute Garden, a magical place of lacy foliage!

chicago34The next morning the workshops began and those of us with Basic Passes participated in sketchwalks around the city. I was grateful to go along at my own speed, thinking I would get more sketching done.

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I had watched Paul Wang, one of my instructors from last year, sketch this very scene the day before and thought I’d try my hand at it. It’s a typical one point perspective scene in Chicago with the train (the El) crossing over the street between tall buildings, many of them with reflective surfaces.

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Let me explain. Not far from The Bean is Crown fountain, consisting of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. The images are slowing morphing all the time and periodically a spout in the mouth opens and sprays a stream of water out, delighting all the children who engage in delirious water play in the summer.

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That evening a bunch of SF Bay Area sketchers met for dinner, drinks, and the proverbial “drink and draw” at Exchecquer, a nearby restaurant. Luckily the food took a while in coming. Otherwise, hungry as I was at 9pm I would have immediately abandoned the sketch!

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part III!