Reportage Sketching

Lakewold Gardens

pen and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

I finally got to join the Tacoma Urban Sketchers for a meet up at the lovely Lakewold Gardens on Gravelly Lake in Lakewood, a suburb of Tacoma, WA , actually only 35 minutes drive from my home. The grounds are spectacular with giant trees like the Copper Beech that you’d like to live in, formal gardens and meandering trails through the woods with views of the lake below. And more! 

Since I had already begun the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, I was inspired to find a place to look closely and learn. This “pollinator house” drew me in with its shaded slots for nature materials, like a Home Depot for building supplies for bees and birds and mice and such. One stop shopping! As I sketched the contents I tried to imagine which creature would make a shelter here. 

It was situated under a leafy canopy whose branches partially blocked my view, so my interest was drawn to them. My Leaf Snap app identified the tree from the pink flowers: a Harlequin Glorybower! No wonder I was so attracted to the spot. I was in a Glorybower, entertained by a Harlequin. When I stood up I saw that I’d sat on a white star and then found the last of them, the ones that had not yet blown off, on the same tree. 

By the way, the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference is blowing my mind, and if you haven’t joined in, it’s not too late. The classes you missed were recorded and you can catch up at your own rate. Gotta go now. A challenge for today was to listen to the song [nature sounds] of the place where you are, and get that down in your journal. Sign the bird’s song back to it in order to learn it?

Squaxin Park

Normally when I take walks in parks I leave my “gear” behind, preferring to swing my arms freely and not carry unnecessary weight. But the weather on Friday was lovely, and there would be few people on the trail that afternoon, so I headed off to Priest Point Park with my nature journaling gear.

Entering the park I noticed a new sign showing that the name of the park had been changed to that of the original inhabitants, namely the Squaxin tribe. Hooray! Better late than never. 

The park is just outside of downtown Olympia and along the shores of Budd inlet, with one of those mystical northwest forests of towering trees and ferny, mossy, living understory. A feast for a nature journaler creature. I walked out to the beach and wandered there a while until I my shoes alerted me with that sucking sound of the tidal muck, and I turned around. The tide was looooow, and the mud/muck was giving off that rich briny fragrance as the sea creatures breathed out through the doors of their under-muck homes.

Fountain pens and w/c in Etchr sketchbook

I’m always drawn to the holes and textures in tree bark and thought I would focus on that. What creatures live in those holes? The tree is of a generous nature, like a hotel or apartment owner, who invites such habitation, but never charges rent. Or perhaps its more accurate to say, like the host who invites those who not only need a home, but who begin the recycling of the host’s body while it is still alive!

But I was also struck by the exquisite patterning of the tidal  waters, and wondered how it would change over the hours and days with the steady ebb and flow.

It was a peaceful spot to sit and sketch, undisturbed, at least if you don’t count the bugs and the crow that perched himself directly above me and kept up a banter of heckling as I sketched. Was it derision or approval? Maybe he was calling to other crows to fly over and see what the lady was doing?

Here’s some of the nature delights that I would have painted . . .

So many creature homes in this view. . .and what manner of things are inside the web-hammock I could never imagine disturbing?

Down on the beach, (recently at high tide, the sea bottom), the remains of an old dock. But a sculpture park? cemetery? the ruins of an ancient civilization? The imagination goes to work on it.

Not hard to imagine what happened here, but was it gull or heron or ? that ate the crabmeat?

You probably guessed that I’m warming up for the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference that starts this Wednesday, September 14-18, with 30 teachers and speakers, online classes and talks, curiosity and community, wonder and fun! It’s not too late to register for the conference at the unbelievable price of $85 and stream it all online live and in recordings for a few months afterward. I’m hoping to pick up lots of tips for this kind of journaling and appreciation of nature, and it would be great for anyone just wanting to start a nature journal. If you live in the Olympia area, let me know and I hope to invite you to some upcoming nature meet ups.

Olympia Harbor Days Cont.

two page spread in w/c Hahnemuhl Zig Zag Book

Day 3 was a busy scene at the harbor with every manner of water conveyance from the grand Lady Washington tall ship and Virginia V steam ship to the tiniest remote operated sailboats. This city does love their boats!! Ostensibly we scheduled the meet up for the time listed on the program for the tugboat races, but we learned that you have to book passage on a tour boat to go out in the bay where the races take place since they cannot be viewed from the harbor plaza.

No problem, we occupied benches on the end of the promenade and started drawing the easier ones as they blew, floated, motored and paddled by, with no concern for relative size or distance. The whole scene got anchored by the folks temporarily watching from the rocks closest to the water.

 

last spread in the Zig Zag book

To finish off the sketchbook I went through my pictures of the weekend, picking my favorite poses of the people who entertained and shared talents, history and tribal blessings for the event. Maybe next year I’ll book passage on the Virginia V and watch the tugboat races from the sound!

Olympia Harbor Days

Labor Day Weekend in Olympia was dominated by a colorful harbor scene at the 49th Annual Harbor Days Festival  presented by the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, boasting 250 things to do and see! The sketcher in me translated that to – 250 things to sketch!  Starting with the tugboats, which are a thing here with lots of history in the Puget Sound.

The historic roots of tugboat racing stemmed from the last half of the 1800s, when sailing ships arrived in the Sound from ports throughout the world.  Because of the lack of wind on the inland waters, steam-powered tugboats were required to tow them to the docks for cargo unloading.   By tradition, the first of the tugs that raced out to meet the arriving ships got the towing work.

 

fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhle ZigZag book

Some of the tugboats I saw on the dock last weekend were hardly the working kind however. Like Tugzilla here, with its owners chillin’ on deck and answering questions from the appreciative crowd of onlookers. On Sunday there were tug boat races in the harbor and you could book passage on an historic boat to be able to view them out in the Sound.

The festival was crowded enough that finding a place to sit and sketch was problematic. I found this little bit of dock alongside the colorful Tugzilla and got set up to sketch, only to discover that the crowds of enthusiasts were finding their way down the boardwalk in my direction and creating a wave motion on the floating boardwalk, disrupting pen and my sense of equilibrium! 

So I adjourned and met up with Ineke, and we both decided to tackle the busy scene above while standing at a railing (color and details added later at home!) The big crane in the background is an ever visible reminder of the Port of Olympia activity and the lumber yard. The historical underpinnings of this city on the Puget Sound, its roots in native tribal life, white settlement, and  the role of commerce in expansion and development are abundantly visible to this day. 

Stay tuned for more sketches from Harbor Days!

A Taste of Cuba at the Farmers Market

fountain pen, watercolor, felt tip pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Ninety percent of our Farmer’s Market here in Olympia is under permanent open air structures year round. Not so vital during our dry summers, but in the other seasons it’s essential for staying out of the rain. And that includes eating. Market days are Thursday through Sunday from April to October, and most of that time, there’s live music under a roof where the picnic tables are! A perfect invitation for a sketch lunch.

A Taste of Cuba is a group I hadn’t heard before, with a lovely young professional Cuban born flautist/singer bringing her musical heritage to life on our northwest stage. 

It’s always a treat to share the sketch with the musicians afterwards. I was happy to wait my turn after someone consulted her about booking the group for another event.

Summer in Oly

I must say I’m beginning to feel like the school teachers among us who must return to work now after a lovely summer vacation. . .only I’m not. But still, all good things eventually must come to an end. Like the steady stream of interesting events springing up each week in a summertime Olympia, when the weather makes it actually possible most days to be outside all day long in the sun!!! 

Bob and I were taking our favorite walk around Capitol lake and came upon the All Triumph Drive In! in Heritage Park. About 30 – 40 spit-polished luxury sport cars, parked on the lawn with the owners comfortably lounging in their folding chairs, ready to talk to admirers. The brew pub tour, Poker Run, and celebratory banquet may have also lured them to the capitol. I wanted to admire the intricacies of their shiny engines,  which were clearly displayed for this purpose, but I hadn’t the words to match the task. So I smiled and ooo’d and aaaah’d and commented on the nice weather instead. Oh, and then later sketched the colorful scene from a picture I took.

On Sunday we made it to the last day of the Love Oly Summerfest, a weekly (in August) street fair/block party put on by the Olympia Downtown Alliance with live music, street performers, games and activities for kids, a beer garden and more. I sketched one of the circus troupe in movement! and. . .

caught the next performers for the music stage, hanging out under the marquee in the back of their stretch limo/hearse with the red hub caps. A real class act I must say, though I didn’t stay to hear the music to see if it matched the quality.

Stadium High School

Some people actually wish they could go back to high school days. I’m not one of them. But after visiting Stadium High School in Tacoma, I think I would have liked going there! It resembles a European style castle more than anything.

blue fountain pen ink, watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

The stadium is next door and overlooks the sound. Can you picture lugging your books and backpack through the halls of this magnificent building?

Tacoma, which is the city about 40 minutes drive from my home in Olympia, is home to so much historic and otherwise just plain unique architecture, glorious parks, art museums, shops and restaurants. My friends Loretta and Signe showed me around and whet my appetite for seeing more.

Loretta, Signe and my sketches

We picked one of the last days of summer before school commenced and had the grounds almost to ourselves, then walked around the neighborhood with its unique shops and restaurants.

Rock, Stone and a Time Machine

pen and watercolor in Etchr w/c sketchbook

As you may guess from the sketch, the Time Machine is a vintage/antique shop in a historic building on the main street in this small town of Tenino. While I sketched, Janet, a non-sketcher, took her time enjoying the Shiplap Quilt and Coffee Shop across the street.

I can’t help wondering if the Time Machine will change the sign in 10 years when the future is no longer future and the Time Machine brings us back to the present, which we have been trying to escape for many years. Food for thought.

But to back up. . .we were heading out to Tenino on a Sunday and discovered that the Stone Carver studio, a main attraction in this town known for its stone quarry, would be closed. I called the number and reached Keith, who was eating his breakfast at the cafe across the street. “I’ll meet you there!” he said. And there he was waiting to greet us, still munching his hurried breakfast.

Turns out that Keith Phillips is the Master Carver in town and has been a journeyman stone carver for many years, working on large projects on government buildings like the capitol in Olympia but also creative sculptures like a stack of books for Powell’s in Portland. After showing off The Shed (the barn above) he took us on a tour of sculptures he made for the town and invited us another time to see the action at the workshop where the big tools are used.

Keith, beaming ambassador for Tenino, and a delighted artist/tourist. Gravestones? Birdbaths? Garden sculptures anyone? His team is ready to serve.

I sketched The Shed last year, and will definitely be returning for some more. Maybe sketching the stone carvers at work in the workshop next time?!

Tahoma

Tahoma is what the local indigenous people named the  mountain with the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. Now known as Mount Rainier, it rises solitary and imposing to 14,410 feet. Here where I live, it remains cloaked in cloud cover during the dark rainy months, then inspires spontaneous awe and wonder when it suddenly appears sunlit and shimmering on the horizon, looking close enough to touch! 

The opportunity to explore the mountain arose last week when my friend Janet came to visit. We picked a weekday and thought we’d leave early (for us) at 8am to make the two hour drive to Paradise where gentle trails lead to views of glaciers and the cloud bonneted summit. Or rather that would be the timing at other times of the year. But we hit peak wildflower season, a sunny day in the 70’s, and summer vacation. So when we’d finally trudged up the mountain from the overflow of the overflow parking, we began our hike at noon, joining the throngs.

No rocky trails for us. We took the well tended ones with expansive views of alpine meadows undulating with magenta Indian Paint brush, Lupin, Mountain Arnica, Arrow-leaved Groundsel in clusters, arranged by Nature’s curator. There was no way to capture it in pictures, though we tried!

But later, sitting outside the visitor center by the road I made a quick stab at telling a bit of the visual story. We were tired and hot, but so happy to have spent the day in Paradise!

We stopped along the way home for some dinner at the Base Camp Bar and Grill to enjoy some local live music and watch the suntanned mountain climbers enjoy their beer and pizza after a day on the glaciers.

Music in the Parks

It’s been a busy week, so I’ve a bit of catching up to do. Starting with music in the parks. 

Slainte, an Irish word used as a salutation or a toast, or the name of this Celtic Rock band that was playing at lunchtime in Huntamer Park in Lacey last Wednesday. We sketchers planted ourselves around on the lawn, enjoying the scene, with lots of small children dancing in front of the musicians while parents and office workers relaxed in the shade.

As often happens, a member of the band joined us to see our (unfinished) sketches and get his picture taken with the happy artists!

Three evenings later I was back on the dock, this time with friend Janet who was visiting,  for another Summer Evening at the Port concert with the Beatles cover band, Magical Mystery Tour. It’s always a toss up. Should I start by sketching the audience or the performers? I wasn’t sure I could see the band well enough, so I started with the people in front of me.

But then how to fit the musicians in? When you dive right in with sketching the scene as it unfolds, you design as you go! And some pen lines are later ignored and abandoned, like the ghostly seated girl with the great shoes on the left. Every concert requires a different strategy, and with no time to plan before diving in. I guess that’s the thrill of it.

And then the sketch was suddenly aborted when we couldn’t resist joining the dancers, baby boomers that we are, Beatles fans forever!