Reportage Sketching

Christmas at The Living Room

It’s a sunny morning, the day after Christmas, and my sons and I are headed to the beach for a hike! Both of them now live in land-locked places and appreciate the ocean air when they’re home.

So I’ll take a few moments while they’re eating breakfast (it’s been busy here lately!) to share my day of celebrating Christmas at The Living Room with participants, staff and Santa Tim and Jingles last week.


The week before I’d wrapped presents with the moms in the MAC (Mothers and Children) program. On this cold and rainy morning there were no children outside in the play area, so I headed into the MAC house which was packed with moms and their youngest children and a grandma or two. This little one was enjoying her new doll. . .


. . .while other children were being entertained and entertaining the moms. I came too late for the young man who comes with his guitar to sing Christmas songs with the families. I caught what I could with my pen, took some pictures and added paint later.

The holiday feast was next, with roast beef, twice baked potatoes and all the other trimmings, and with an infinite supply of Christmas cookies, all served at white clothed, festively decorated tables by a large crew of volunteers.


(above sketch from Christmas 2018)

Then Santa and Jingles showed up to pose with Moms and kids and staff and even some lucky volunteers.

santa andme

You may have seen this very same Santa on the front page of the PD paper this week!

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Grandma Buddy’s Trees

My son Andrew is arriving tomorrow and Ben the next day, and I was rushing to get a tree before the next rainstorm which is due today. Grandma Buddy’s Tree Farm is five minutes from our home, so I popped in to get a tree yesterday, and scored the most gorgeous freshly cut 6 foot tree for a bargain price. There was no time to sit and sketch the fairyland barn draped with “snowy” wreaths, electric trains, candy canes and hot chocolate. . .

But remembering a lovely afternoon spent by the pot bellied stove there December 2016, I will turn the clock back and re-blog those sketches.


Thank you Grandma Buddy!



Now I better get back to decorating that tree! If you haven’t gotten yours yet, you’d do well to get over to Graton’s Grandma Buddy’s

Portrait Project

The conversations about homelessness are everywhere in our county. So many kind hearted people, who have secure housing, are struggling to understand: how could it be that there are 200 people living in all manner of tents in the pouring down rain and mud of a popular public trail!? We wonder, who are these homeless folks and how did they come to be on the streets?

I have been slowly finding my way into conversations with women to try to understand how this can happen in a county where there is considerable concentration of wealth. Most of the women who come to The Living Room have at some point suffered “on the streets” without shelter. Some have been living in their cars or minivans by the roadside or in parking lots. Others have been staying in emergency shelters and, after long waits, secured transitional or more long term housing. Aside from those similarities, each of their stories are as unique as their personalities.

For the past couple months I’ve been doing watercolor portraits of some of these brave women who have shared their stories with me. I’ve been struggling to condense their complex histories, experiences with homelessness, as well as their strengths and hopes for the future, into a few sentences to put on their portrait.

They want to be seen, not for their homelessness but for their humanity and individual gifts, and this is the pact I make with them. Their stories have been a gift to me, but as I begin to share the portraits I realize that this gift elevates the whole discussion of homelessness to one of our shared humanity. As we listen to each other’s stories we realize that our personal sphere of caring and responsibility has grown and our hearts have grown with it.

And so the Portrait Project at The Living Room was born. The intention of the project is to raise public awareness, raise money for The Living Room’s extensive services for women and children at risk, while also raising the self-esteem of the women.  We will be exploring local venues to exhibit the portraits, events like panel discussions with experts, and publishing a book of the portraits and essays on homelessness.

Meanwhile you’re probably wanting to read the stories too! Over time I will be sharing them here. And I hope you will participate by sharing any ideas about a possible name for the project or venues for an exhibition. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to participate in some way.

Petaluma Marina

Just about the time we’d had enough of this rain (that we’d been praying for) the sun returned today. . .in time for the monthly Ready, Set, Sketchers meet up at the Petaluma Marina.

There’s always some “elements” to challenge us. Today it was a cold wind and scintillating glare from the water, but oh how lovely to get out in it and with other sketchers.


There was a lot to choose from at this spot. I was attracted to the shape of the the 101 freeway bridge as much as the boats on the water. And then there was the SMART train which whooshed past every so often, bypassing the poor drivers who were hung up on the “narrows”. How many times haven’t I been one of them!


With a half hour time left, I opted for a simpler subject to study the strange and wonderful curved lines and shadow shapes of some smaller craft.

If you want to get out and join us on the second Saturday of each month in Sonoma County go to the FB link above. Hope to see you there.

Escanaba cont.

Escanaba in Da Moonlight is still running at the Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa through December 15. Hopefully there’s still tickets, because you just don’t want to miss this hilarity in an all female cast.


After struggling to sketch live during the rehearsal, I thought I’d enjoy some rainy day indoor sketching from pictures, arranging the characters in my own way. What’s the red liquid in the jar? Is that the potion with the moose testicle in it?

Escanaba in Da Moonlight

When you recover from turkey day and listing all the things you’re grateful for, you might want to get tickets for the latest show at Left Edge Theatre, Escanaba in Da Moonlight. The cast let me sneak in last week during one of the dress rehearsals to do some sketching.

This was a challenge on two accounts. First, there was no light on my sketchbook so I was sort of feeling my way onto the page. And second, the all-woman cast playing deer hunters is so hilarious – and I mean belly laugh hilarious- and the action so fast moving, that I was constantly having to stop and to retrieve up my pen, or just wait til I could catch my breath!


I even found myself ducking as the character in the center here poked a hole in a beer can after shaking it up, to administer it as “medicine” in a stressful dramatic moment!


Yes, you read it right. Not only did they drink moose testicle juice but had spiritual experiences involving God and bucks.

The show runs through December 15 at the Left Edge Theatre next to the Luther Burbank Center. I’m going to see it again without the distraction of a sketchbook on December 8. See you there?

And now for Thanksgiving dinner. . .have a happy one!

Life on the Move. . .Homelessness

Imagine if your whole life rolled along with you on two small wheels, exposed to the world. You bring it with you because you have no home, and you cannot afford to have your few remaining belongings stolen.

Having spent a year now volunteering at The Living Room, listening to the stories of women who come there for warm meals, rest, companionship, and services, I can now imagine it better than before.


One of many suitcases, backpacks and bundled belongings to be found any day at The Living Room.

I recently read that HUD had released a new report on the State of Homelessness in America. The five US cities with the highest rates of combined sheltered and unsheltered homeless have numbers more than six times the national rate and Santa Rosa is number 5, running behind only Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Add that to our notoriety for firestorms!

So who are all these homeless people? One of my friends at The Living Room (TLR) writes:

When most people think of the “the homeless” they call to mind unkempt and dirty-clothed panhandlers they encounter in their travels. In fact, in Santa Rosa most of the people sitting in the libraries reading; many of the folks typing at laptops in cafes, and lots of browsers in shops and bookstores are homeless too. We are everywhere. We’re dirty, we’re clean, we’re young, old, strung out, sober, well dressed and rumpled, crazy and sane, just like people in houses, only we can’t conceal ourselves from view.  – Maureen

Her words gave me pause. Those of us who have a home do not have other people traipsing through our personal lives throughout the day. We have homes that are off limits to strangers, not to mention doors to close, closets and drawers that remain untouched by any but ourselves. And we can sleep knowing we won’t be disturbed by someone we do not know or trust. 

Every day I’m at TLR I meet another fascinating woman like Maureen who has something to teach me about coping with life when you’re homeless. As the women are willing to share their personal stories more publicly, I will be sharing some of them here, along with more sketches and portraits of them..