Reportage Sketching

Westside Farm

We’re all concerned about a February month without a drop of rain in our rainy season. But that hasn’t stopped us from glorying in the gorgeous “spring” weather we’ve been having. It’s such a treat to be able to sit out in the direct sun to sketch without becoming overheated or burning.

I haven’t driven out Westside Road in ages, even though it’s so close to my home. Many of the wineries were closed, or appointment only, on Saturday. I guess because it’s off season? Westside Farm is not a winery, but an magnificently picturesque collection of aging barns backed by vineyards. 

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This shack/shed hung off the back of one of the mammoth old barns whose roofs had become sieves. It tilted in wonderful ways that gave it personality. I sat on my three legged stool while a big orange barn cat wrapped himself around my legs and the chickens in a nearby coop kept up a symphony of whines and clucks. It was heaven for a while, far away from other folks and the din of my home responsibilities!

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A perfect setting for a sketch with a backdrop of the Mayacama mountains, a curving path, fence, a stately tree, and a bit of red barn.

Jacuzzi Vineyards and the Olive Odyssey

Last Saturday it had been too long since I was out sketching on location! So I seized the opportunity with the No. Bay Urban Sketchers meet up at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards . A glorious sunny day and the special event was an Olive Odyssey! meaning tasting, tasting, tasting! (even olive iced tea!) and a mammoth crowd of bay area partygoers.

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Unfortunately due to an allergy attack I lasted only a while, doing my best to get something down on paper before heading home. But what a delight to sketch some building geometry!

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And then the noisy tasting crowd! Yes, this man on the left had wine glasses on his shirt to match the wine glass in his hand. That’s what I call a die-hard wine connoisseur! The ladies on the right were probably just as avid, but not quite dressed to impress.

Carmen

The portrait project at The Living Room is keeping me joyfully busy these days, collecting the stories of these women who have become my friends. They have all been homeless and many of them still are. They have that is common, along with other things I couldn’t have known about without spending hours listening to them. They possess a kind of hard won wisdom and a desire to minister to others who are down on their luck.

. . .Like Carmen, who leaned in to tell me her secret, “Sleeping on the streets you learn to be grateful for what you do have, and it makes you strong.”

Carmen

Carmensita is almost always to be found by her side.  She is the white “Yoda” in the stroller below. Likely she is dog sitting the large hound by her side.

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Bay Area Transit Adventure

Monday was total transit adventure. Remember that hilarious movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Marten and John Candy? Well, it wasn’t that bad, but I think door to door the travel time to San Francisco and back was six hours. So much for the SMART train with its new connection with the ferry at Larkspur Landing. But hey, Bettina and I needed an adventure.

Mine started with squeezing into the very last parking place at the airport stop at 8am and then spending most of the train ride on the phone with my husband, who finally drove out to the parking lot to get my (new) license plate number so that I could pay my parking fee of $2.35 online.

The train is really comfortable, though Monday turned out to be the one day when the coffee bar is not open! And although the train now goes to Larkspur, the walk to the ferry is a good 10-15 minutes and there are no signs and several turns.

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But all that was forgotten when we arrived at the Salesforce Transit Center and took the gondola up to the garden which, like the High Line in NYC, is a lavish oasis surrounded by the city’s highest skyscrapers. We met up with Cathy and hunkered down next to the trail which, midday on a work day, is a virtual parade of office workers, many in pairs, discussing margins, capitol incentives, chips on the table, androids and other engineering and marketing team issues. Since they were walking quickly past, I got just bits of phrases. . .

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The reflections are as spectacular as on an alpine lake!transit2

After an hour or so the sketch opportunities had not diminished, but our tolerance for the corporate talk we’d been hearing had dried up, and we headed back to the other transit center, namely the Ferry Building.

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to watch the afternoon rush hour unfold at the Golden Gate Ferry we would be taking home. We watched until the next ferry arrived, and headed into the throngs just as it was loading, figuring that would be our best chance to get a spot.

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And we made it on! got a seat and everything. Had a glass of wine and enjoyed the trip across the now dark Bay. This sketch was from the morning run, and the sea motion made it a bit rocky.

And then we arrived, with 6 minutes to dash in the dark across a busy parking lot, down a path, dodging the bikes whizzing by, left along a busy throughway, up a steep ramp and across a bridge, huffing and puffing, and gasping for air we caught sight of our train, just pulling out of the station . . .without us.

My husband texted me that running and missing a train sounded romantic! Ha. Not to worry though, as we soon caught the next one and spent the next hour chatting with the conductor who was full of useful information about why things are the way they are in train- and ferry- land, while we finished our sketches.

A long day, to be sure, and I’m not sure I’ll leave the car at home next time. But all in all, a satisfying adventure, not soon forgotten. You should try it!

The Sweetest Cat no longer in this world

We’ve known for the past month that our beloved Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, was preparing for his final passage. It almost seemed he was waiting to spend his last days with the boys who grew up with him. Who can know such things? They lavished him with attention in the two weeks they were here for the holidays and he responded with steady purrs and the kitty conversation Phil was known for. He passed away on the evening the full moon rose.

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All my students and many folks who came to open studios over the years will remember Phil, because he was the official greeter, happy to receive a neck or belly scratch from all visitors.

I’ve gone back in history to find sketches and paintings of Phil I have posted here on the blog. The above collage is his “official” portrait, hanging in our home along with other beloved pets.

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I was never able to sketch or garden in our yard without the company of Phil. He would nudge me to let me know I must give him attention before I could get on with my business.

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When I was trimming plants in the garden I would have to take special care not to snip his whiskers or tail, because he couldn’t seem to get close enough and was always talking.

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Phil would eventually find a spot on the bench to nap after a long spell of purring.

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Phil was a teenager when he adopted us about 17 years ago, just showing up and insisting in no uncertain terms that we belonged to him!

sunrisePhil

He acquired the habit of throwing himself down suddenly in front of people on our walkway, exposing his belly, with a clear message that he was to receive love before one could proceed.

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And then Sylvester showed up, and his devotion to Phil was so complete that even though Phil gave him the message, in no uncertain terms, that this property was  his territory, Sylvester persisted. . .and eventually they came to terms with the arrangement and became Phil and Syl, eating, sleeping, and lounging together. When I finally got around to doing Sylvester’s portrait, I knew it would be incomplete without his best friend.

Recently on the cold winter nights when Phil was so weak, Sylvester warmed him with his body and checked on him throughout the day.

This may not be the end of my portrait-making of Phil, though it is the end of Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, who we will never forget! The boys want to plant a tree in the yard for him above where he is buried.

We would love to hear any of your memories of this lovable feline family member!

Meet Maria

When I first starting going to The Living Room to sketch the stories I felt shy about just showing up and sitting down with the women. I had been given permission by the staff, but at first it was a bit like showing up at a party where no one there has actually invited you. Or even like the first day at a new school, an experience I had many times as a child, since my family moved a lot.

But it was my good luck that one of the first people I met, as I sat down in the singing group, was Maria. It was so easy to talk to her, and she volunteered information about how things worked there, so that I felt more at ease. And the next week, when I showed up at the Knitting Group, she let the group know what who I was. Over time I learned that it came naturally for her to offer help to women who had newly shown up at The Living Room, bewildered, anxious and in need of  direction. By the time I did this portrait, I had already sketched her numerous times in activities and events there.

Maria

 

Catching moments

This is the part of winter here where I start to think, maybe this is my favorite time of year! There’s all kinds of hidden glories in the garden. Mushrooms popping up. Mosses and buds and those gorgeous bright green grasses replacing all the sunburnt ones, bare bones of trees, morning fog burning off in mauve mists.

But this is an art blog, and with family here I haven’t yet had much time to get my brush out. . .except

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on a walk at the beach with the boys I plopped down in the sand for a few minutes to hang out with an osprey. Somehow these sketches always look better photographed in the nature where they belong. My raptor companion was long gone before I finished, but the drift wood remained. The little Whiskey Painter palette is so cool. I taped a magnet to the clip which holds the sketchbook open. I can open up the palette, which sticks onto the clip magnet, and use my water brush.

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Messy but I caught that moment!

 

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Another moment caught (messily) in the living room. . .hanging out with my son, who was sitting in our new yellow chair, which looks like something that Alice (in Wonderland) might like. I got the body all backwards – his shoulders are broad and his belly is not. He just caught me at the computer posting this, so I had to clarify! I guess that’s just the price one pays for having a mom who is a sketch artist!