Reportage Sketching

Trees and tombstones

Some sketches from last week. Late afternoon is a magical time in the garden, and one day I enjoyed some time before dinner, sketching the entrance to our home which is on a private road.mailboxwelcome

Mr. Frog used to spout fountain water, but later was retired to the garden. I found him under some plants which were towering over him, and invited him to pose for the sketch, which needed an accent at the bottom.

tombstones

Another day I met Cathy and Bettina at the rural cemetery in Santa Rosa. My first sketch was a study of the various shapes of the old tombstones from the 1800’s. I put them close together to make a single shape, since none of the them were particularly interesting in themselves.

cemeterytree

Then I became mesmerized trying to sketch this tree. Nothing like a beautiful tree to lose oneself while painting!

More on location sketching, yay!

The agapanthas, those tall lacy clusters along our walkway, are just starting to bloom. They’ve been here for longer than our 20 years in this home. And this afternoon I sat down to try and figure out how to sketch them, and the rest of the scene. . .agapanthas1

As I was sketching the birds and the bees were checking me out, or so I thought. I like to think I’m accepted by the plant and animal kingdoms even though I spend the majority of my time in my house/studio with frequent and all too brief forays into the outdoors. The hummingbirds, whose feeder is to my right, did that suspension in mid air thing as if to say, what are you doing here? And Sylvester the cat, who has never let me pet him, talked to me in that soft kitty way that I wish I understood.

agapanthas2

It ended up being more about the red geranium because, of course, it’s a scene stealer.

farmersmarket

Yesterday I made another trip to the farmer’s market and had a different vantage point than last week. Turning my head in a 180 degree arc I found enough subjects of interest and just piled them up to make a single scene. The conversation I overheard was yet another typically local one which included the remark “I can’t believe my brother is a Trump supporter!”

Venturing out a bit

I donned my mask last Sunday and ventured out to the Sebastopol Farmers Market, not necessarily to shop, but to enjoy some on location sketching. This setting never has disappointed me!

SebastopolFarmersMkt1

I’ve been sketching from pictures alot lately, but this one was done on location, growing out from the center as things happened.

SebastopolFarmersMkt2

Not only did I have my mask on, but my invisibility cloak as well, which I draw around myself when sketching people in public without their permission (you never want them to pose for you and ruin it). At some point the old woman on the right showed up and started talking to the guy on the grass playing guitar. Not only was she colorfully dressed, but I caught snatches of conversation about vibrations and karma and the third dimension, all of which are probably common discussion topics on this strip of lawn in the shade in the Sebastopol plaza.

I had to look up third dimension and here’s what I learned. . .I mean if you’re interested:

“The third dimension is a theoretical realm of space and time in which the particles and dark matter of this parallel, alternate reality bends light to collide with the electrical charges of the subconscious mind. What is light becomes dark. What is dark becomes light. Some look into the third dimension and see nothingness; others believe they see the very face of God.”

I wish I’d heard the whole conversation to learn which one she saw!

Another day I attended a Sketching Play Lab with urban sketchers Suhita Shirodkar and Paul Wang on Zoom. These guys are so fun to hang out with, and FUN was the operative word. Playing with watercolor. Making colorful wet “caterpillars”, while learning powerful watercolor techniques.

playlab1

And then we tried it out, playfully still! on whatever we’d put on the table in front of us. You’ll have no trouble guessing what I had brought out, from my refrigerator.

playlab2

I think my eggplant was trying to gobble up the lime.! If you want to learn something new while playing, try registering for a Sketching Play Lab.

Police Riot Fashion

I’ve been quite impressed with police riot fashion. It seems to be a cross between Darth Vader and giant murder hornets, don’t you think? When I got done with the drawing I realized that I left off a lot of things – walkie talkie, tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, a rifle that shoots the rubber bullets, and those plastic ties they use when they arrest people. Did I leave out anything? riotfashion2

 

Black Lives Matter

I’ve been pouring over images of demonstrations around the country and world, sharing in the grief, anger, and solidarity of this grass roots movement demanding the end of police brutality. As a visual artist I have been looking for new ways to draw the winds of change. Blacklivesmatter

I simply don’t know how to do a sketch of a scene like the one above, a demonstration in Santa Rosa, California, live.  So I decided to practice, to be ready to sketch again live when I might have figured it out. So I put the pen to paper and kept it moving, not concerning myself with accuracy. I was ready to toss the results, or hide them, but then I liked the energy of it. I liked the squiggly lines and getting to use my various marking pens, and not worrying about perspective and shadow shapes and such. I could feel the energy of the crowd and it was liberating (art-wise at least)!

Blacklivesmatter2

This picture evolved after spending almost an hour scrolling through pictures and articles from around the country which were posted in the New York Times on line issue. I started with the speaker in the middle and kept adding on until I filled enough of the picture space. And all the time imagining what it was like to be a young demonstrator face down in a park full of hundreds of others, enacting the experience of George Floyd under the knee of a cop, unable to breathe for over eight minutes.

The Living Room: Pandemic Times

When the doors of The Living Room were ordered closed over two months ago to protect an already endangered population of homeless and at risk women and children from the viral spread, the staff got busy reinventing the program to meet the needs of the pandemic. Outside the gates. In other words, in the parking lot.

Last week I found my spot again under the redwood trees on the outskirts of the parking lot. I was sketching and hoping to see some of my friends, participants of the program I have come to know for the past year and a half of volunteering in the programs.

Redwood Gospel Mission had parked their mobile shower truck in the parking lot and people were lining up for the free hot meals – a breakfast and a lunch of healthy and appetizing food which they could carry off to eat somewhere off the property. Some headed for the side street and curbs, others for the bus stop or their cars.

Men were welcomed along with women and children. A man emerged from his shower and, after picking up his hot meal of pulled pork and veggies, did a little jig of happiness, exclaiming to no one in particular, “This feels so good! I want to live here!”

TLRpandemictimes

After getting their food, which was handed out the window of the kitchen, people were invited to go around to another window to pick up mail or get referrals and toiletries if needed.

My friend Ruth was getting her food bag and stopped a minute to talk with me. I asked how she was coping since the Covid crisis. She still sleeps in a tent with her partner, but no longer has the support of the programs and her friends at The Living Room, can’t do her laundry and rest comfortably there, and so much more. Also since the libraries are closed, it’s more difficult to stay connected with what’s going on, not to mention find public bathrooms to use. The encampments tend to be so dirty with trash that she doesn’t stay there, where otherwise there might be some sense of community.

Sheltering in place has a whole different meaning when your “place” is a tent or a car. I’ll be sharing more stories as I learn them and sketch stories of these folks who come to The Living Room. They’re our neighbors and we wish them well and want to be of help in any way we can.

The Living Room offers a variety of ways you can be of service. You can find out more on the their website and Facebook page.

 

Pigs and Clouds

My friend Ruth happened to mention that her neighbor next door has pigs, so I invited myself over to visit them . . .oh, to visit her too.

Since there will be no county fair this year, no 4H kids with their pigs ready to show, I took the opportunity to meet Goldie and Zoomzoom. They were quite busy sticking their snouts in the wet mud, snorting and carrying on as pigs are wont to do. I’m not sure where the syllables “oink oink” originated because I heard none of that. I quickly gave up trying to sketch them from the perimeter and did this later from pictures.

GoldieandZoomzoom

Can you imagine the good fortune of the small children of this household who get to ride around on the backs of these remarkable creatures? Of course I wonder how they will feel when their porcine friends become bacon.

viewofsouthyard

The time to paint the sky in California is mainly in the winter and early spring when there is more than just endless blue skies. But one day last week I realized that we didn’t have many days left with those heavenly cloud formations. So I grabbed my sketchbook to try to capture the scene outside my studio door.

But then the light kept changing every five minutes and the smoke bush was glowing and changes colors and I got all excited and frenetic and lost it all!  So I turned it into a kind of map of one portion of my one acre home. Some day, who knows, I’ll look back on this sketch and it will fire off the sound of rushing waters in winter and the smell of mint and the excitement of my young boys who found the mint there and transplanted it closer to the house, where we now regularly pick it for recipes and tea.

Sketch Stories in Pandemic Times

Have you been wondering how to get your hair cut in these perplexing times? Well I took things into my own hands and at least got some of it out of my eyes. The scissors I grabbed were not so sharp and I had to get my glasses to see well enough, but it more or less worked.

haircuts

So how did I sketch this when both hands were occupied with the hair? The iPhone is good for so many things, like the timed selfie picture. So I leaned it up against the wall below the mirror.  etc etc.

plantshopping

Another day I ventured out to buy some plants for my spring garden. My local nursery, Harmony Farms was mobbed with people anxious to plant their vegetable gardens, so I stopped by Ace hardware and found some plants. They were all set up with the plexi window and masks to protect the cashiers, but it became a comedy act as I was asked to shove my plant under the window and lost a bit of soil and flowers in the process. (The sketch is from memory.)

cemetery

My friend Bettina lives next to the old, historic part of the Santa Rosa cemetery. The back gate of her garden leads directly into this wonderland of historic oaks and vines and every shade of green. Nature has aggressively moved to reclaim this final resting place. A dense sprinkling of rain started just as I set up my stool to sketch this story, so I collected some pictures and later put it together in this.

kindness

Yesterday I went to town and sat in the plaza to see what action I could capture. Sebastopol is a small town where as far as I can tell people are taking the Shelter in Place and social distancing order pretty seriously. The main event that Friday morning was a helicopter circling noisily overhead. I wonder why? After sitting for a while in an empty plaza finally at noon there were a handful of folks in family groups eating lunch.

The sign on the road made my day though.

Kindness is also contagious

Spread it around!

Sketching Home and Virtual Travel

There are so many stories going on in the spring garden and I should be out recording them with paint and brush. There’s the Australian Tea Tree whose pink blossoms have been the stage for performances of honey- and bumble-bees for over a week now. The hum and vibration of it drowns out all other sounds. And now after the rain yesterday the pink has spilled onto the ground all around like a spilled can of rose pink paint.

But this is the scene I saw from my comfortable patio chair. The yellow jackets have not arrived yet as they surely will by summer, and then it will become impossible to eat lunch out there without getting invaded. Enjoy it while you can, right?
frontstoop

On the day when my friend Cathy was supposed to leave on her trip to Japan last week, she invited some of her friends to join her on a virtual trip.

japan1

These Zoom sketch meet ups are fun. Sketching from a photo, 20-30 min each, while chatting a bit, and then sharing afterward. (see the link below if you want to try it)

marketinkyoto

I loved all the detail in this market scene and only got one basket done in the time we had, and so finished it later. My favorite was the little ceramic frog.

So does this kind of virtual sketch travel satisfy? Well, a bit anyway. If you’re a sketcher and missing travel and maybe getting tired of sketching your kitchen sink and view out the window, there are so many ways now to explore that passion.

You might join the SF Urban Sketchers online for portrait parties and other zoom sketch events. Or join UsK Talks on Instagram every Sunday to get inspired by great teachers and join the unique challenges. And Suhita is doing live sketches on Instagram that you can tune into and sketch along with her and friends. And then there’s Sketchbook SKool still rolling out workshops, live streaming fun, books, blog and enough to keep you busy making art every  minute of the day. And that’s just the beginning. . .but don’t wear yourself out!