Reportage Sketching

Master Quilters

With the colder weather I’ve been enjoying more studio time and practicing my quick capture people drawing skills. When I watched a video about The Master Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama I couldn’t wait to try sketching the faces of these women, who embody for me a serene wisdom and powerful heritage that I think most of us in this frenetic modern life have missed.

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I hope you can slow down enough to watch the 14 minute video, and breathe deep and then you’ll know what I mean. But I lead a distractible life, and so I got this far and was called away. When I got back I was glad I had stopped! The imagination is always grateful to be left to fill in the rest.

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I really wished I could set a spell on the porch with these ladies, happy to swat flies and keep stitchin.

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If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll watch the video and get to see them talking and making their lovely quilts, a tradition passed down from mother to daughter.

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Symphony Rehearsal

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s Discovery Concert Series is a great and affordable way to hear a concert at the Green Center. As a side bonus, the open seating makes it possible to move around and get different vantage points for some sketching!

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Pen drawing on site and watercolor added later.

The soprano, Jennifer Thuman waits here for her part in Vivaldi’s Gloria. She rises then, and singing like an angel with delicate and subtle tones, guides Vivaldi’s music into heavenly realms!

Sitting in the second row one looks up at the stage and can see the violinists, the conductor and the soloists. The rest of the orchestra is heard but not seen from down below.

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How to sketch a conductor swinging a baton? Imagine many hands at once?

Listening to Christopher Fritzche sing next, once again in a voice of more heavenly realms, high and ephemeral, I had to look in the program for what a voice in that range is called. . .countertenor!

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Sketching in the second row one notices certain details. . .like the casual attire of the musicians in this practice session. The black gowns are saved for the actual concert later in the evening.

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After the intermission we moved up to the balcony for another view.  Bassoons, clarinets, French horns and cellos. A challenging angle for a nice drawing challenge.

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And then the viola soloist with the impossible name and riveting stage presense.

Muslim Fashion

Have you seen the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco? If you haven’t, then you might only be picturing scarf-clad middle eastern women, rather than the complex and diverse assortment of contemporary Muslim dress styles around the world. The women’s apparel in the show is designed by seasoned and emerging fashion designers from Malaysia to Iran, Indonesia to Pakistan. We’re also talking Muslim Rapper and motorcycle fashion and the bikini a la “Burkini”!

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And modest sportswear, in this case ultra-chic with that red hijab.

Realizing my utter illiteracy in Muslim clothing vocabulary I looked up the word hijab when I got home found innumerable meanings from “veil” to “curtain” to “modesty” and dozens of translations and hundreds of different applications to dress worldwide.

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I do wish that the museum had invested in some mannequins whose hands had more than two positions and more than the non-descript high-fashion model faces. Nothing exotic or interesting about those. But watch the online videos to see real women moving in these creations.

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After an hour and a half of standing and sketching I finally plunked myself clumsily on the floor to give the feet a rest. There were Art Institute students camped out in this fashion. Not my choice, but better than nothing! I added paint to the drawings at home.

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I’m not sure why Red Rose, the most gaudy-glittery evening dress was so distinctly unadorned (immodest) on top, but the black box top on the other model makes up for it.

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Now the Saudi model on the right would certainly have at least had a rich head of black hair, don’t you think? And some less “comfortable” looking shoes? But hey, no one asked me, and I still recommend the show.

I’m wondering how to work some head scarves into my wardrobe without looking like a copy cat. It would certainly solve the problem of hair that frizzes when it rains!

Thanksgiving at Home

Rain outside -thank God- and fresh air after two weeks of toxin laden air from the Butte Co fire.  And cozy inside the kitchen with lots of cooking and so much catching up to do. Ben has been home this week, which means lots of interest in eating and talking and lounging in the window seat in our kitchen/dining area. He is always amenable to Mom’s sketching. The usual pose has a computer on the lap and foot in the air.

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In this one I tried painting direct with watercolor, then added the line into wet paint – not very accurate but fun. Only problem was that he sat that way (mostly) for so long that I got obsessed with getting his face right and ended up making it look like someone else.

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But then he changed position and I gave it another try:  drawing first, then painting, and because of the earlier warm up (and having sketched him a hundred times before at every age) it actually looks like him, though perhaps a bit wider.

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Knowing that I can never sketch the cooked turkey before it gets carved, I went for the uncooked bird this time, though I was being urged to be quick since it was supposed to be in the fridge.

Turkey anatomy  is something I have never actually studied as a subject to draw. But I found myself quite transfixed and challenged by it. The result looked a bit dopey to me, so I added the words for humor’s sake, and then was satisfied.

The cooking of this turkey was also a challenge, which led to various expletives and a promise to never again. . .so I’m glad I captured this much, because we may be considering other fowl or even vegetarian Thanksgiving entres next year!

Hope you had a heart and stomach warming Thanksgiving day!

Portlandia

It was a good week to get a bit of a getaway and breathe some fresher air, for a couple of days at least. The unhealthy air from the Camp Fire actually reached Portland for two out of the four days I was there visiting a friend. But then there was also some of that fresh moist north coast air you can take a lungful of without a gasp or cough.

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Our little Santa Rosa airport just minutes from my home makes the trip so easy. The terminal air was gritty with smoke, so I’m trying not to breathe too deep during the wait.

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In Portland it was too cold and damp to sketch outside, so Janet had already planned some indoor alternatives. She is not a sketcher, but one of those rare people who is happy to amuse herself while I sketch. The main library is elegant and architecturally interesting.

I had planned to practice the geometry of columns and windows and lighting, but no sooner had we sat down in one of the open areas than this old lady came up to us with big grin and said “Are you girls having fun?”

The thing about Portland(ia) is that, even though it’s a big city, you are likely to be approached by a stranger who acts like you’re an old friend and launches into a conversation with little preamble. So this dear lady cheerfully engaged us for a good 15 minutes about her dismay at the changes that had been made to the original Fantasia movie that would make dear Walt turn in his grave! Janet pretended to listen raptly, while I sketched.

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I found a spot on the stairway where I could look down into the periodicals room, a daunting view which I tackled with great trepidation, getting confused about the windows and bored by all the books! What I call a useful practice exercise for my weak points.

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Bob had told me to look out for “man buns” in Portland, hipster fashion as he knows it. However we were spotting very few man buns and many other manifestations of hipster-dom, like this couple at one of the many coffee bars, Case Study Coffee Roasters. Her raspberry hair and his cock’s comb were all we could see from where we were sitting but one can imagine more decorative fashion on the skin shrouded by coats.

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It’s slow going walking around town. The trees are shamelessly flaunting their finest apparel of the year and begging for pictures to be taken. And then there’s the shops, like the Peculiarium with products like bottles Hipster Powder flanked by wierd skeletons. And of course there’s a coffee shop on each block, like this one serving Stumptown coffee, where one can watch the procession of colorful humans. This coffeeshop, Vivace, had a piece of paper money from about every country in the world tacked to its walls inside, and nice porch seating as well.

The sun had emerged after our walk in the forest. The wind was blowing leaves on the table, and that became the subject of the sketch.

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Well, that’s about it for sketches. It was really a visit to see Janet, my friend who goes way back to, gulp, 1963 when two New England girls landed in Palo Alto, California mid-year in eighth grade and survived the culture shock together.

JanetandBalthazarHer housewarming gift was happily received, a mixed media (fabric/acrylic) portrait of her beloved cat Balthasar.

 

Crab Season!

This time of year we get kind of excited about crab season. The Dungeness crabs rival lobster for their delectable flavor and texture, especially when dipped in lemon butter. And then there’s the ritual of cracking the shell and getting crab juice dripping down to your elbows and smearing crab butter onto the wine glass as you reach to wash down the food.

And now there’s a new ritual, second year in the making, with my sketch friends. We head out to Bodega Bay and try to sketch the fishing boats with their colorful crab traps.

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We picked a weekday after the frenzied opening to the crab sports fishing season over the weekend. It was very windy and cold and there was little or no action at the docks. We walked around for a while trying to find spots with some shelter from the wind. I settled on this spot which was at least partially protected and in the sun. By the time I was finished I was shivering and happy to head across the street to the restaurant for yummy fish tacos.

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We’d had enough of freezing, and headed back to the town of Bodega, known perhaps best for the house in Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. I started out wanting to sketch individual architectural features of interest, but then reverted to my habit of connecting elements. The tombstone was of particular interest in that it is the only grave in the churchyard next door. Ellen Orr, bless her heart, died in childbirth (I found this later on the internet). To this day 250 years later she lies alone in her very own church cemetary.

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Waiting for my friends to finish up I had time for one more, the back of a home facing Bodega Hwy and a chance to get in some of the fall color.

Symphony to Farmer’s Market

Two great ways to spend a weekend, at the symphony and a farmer’s market.

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I’m sitting in the second row, looking up to the stage at the Green Center at the Santa Rosa Symphony conducted by the marvelous Francesco Lecce-Chong. It’s an open rehearsal with various starts and stops and instructions to the orchestra, which I can hear, though the music already sounds perfect to my ears.

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The program is Dancing Across Time and I’m having trouble sitting still enough to sketch when the music demands that I MOVE! From my seat I can see only the conductor and stringed instruments, so at the intermission I move up to the balcony to get a different view.

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I am in awe of the conductor who expresses the emotion of the music with every pore of his body, and the musicians who come in on time and play the complex music and seem so relaxed!

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This morning I’m at the farmer’s market in Sebastopol, on a bench in the shade. I wonder what the Joy Pop is and marvel at the business model of this guy who cycles with his product right up to his spot by the stage.

It’s lunchtime and everyone seems to have a plate of food with something green on top. I recognize the poet (top left) who showed up at my open studio over ten years ago and wanted me to read his little books. “No charge, but you can donate.” And then the bunny shows up. . . That’s Sebastopol for you, every Sunday of the year.

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