Reportage Sketching

Bird Rescue Center Open House

On a rather cold and rainy Saturday earlier this month we headed over to the Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County. They have a first Saturday of the month open house for visitors to come and meet the birds and learn about them. The Center is supported by donations from the public and a devoted crew of trained volunteers. Did you read about how they evacuated their entire bird population during the notorious Tubbs fire that was raging down the mountain toward them last October? Luckily the Center did not burn and the bird inhabitants were returned to their home unscathed. Many of them cannot be returned to the wild and this has become their permanent home.

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fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ spiral Field Watercolor Journal by Hand Book

When it got drizzly outside, the taxidermy display inside came in handy with the lovely barn owl spreading its wings. Barn Owls are particularly difficult to draw because of their unusual disc shaped face, but oh so lovely!

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Then out to the yard where the docents/handlers were holding the birds and answering questions.

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Pisces is an Osprey with a broken wing.

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The volunteers were dressed for the weather and the birds were of course unconcerned when it started to rain again. Even I would have been unconcerned because a few drops of water dissolve the watercolor paint in the most appealing way. At some point it did however make for a bit of an aborted sketch!

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Each time I go to the Open House I learn something new, like the meaning of “bracelets” and “gape”.

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This raptor’s name is Star and judging by the color of the tail, must be a Red Tailed hawk. I have dreamed of being a volunteer here but wondered how one can stand for a half hour-hour with the weight of these large birds on the wrist?  Star however was light weight at a bit over three pounds.

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Every once in a while one is treated to an outspreading of wings that lasts only seconds. I caught this one on video and was so struck by the pose of bird and handler here that I had to sketch it later. One might be tempted to romanticize this relationship. When you are treated to this up-close-and-personal display, it is abundantly clear that the humans care very much for the birds, whose habits and idiosyncracies they have learned over the years. Even if the birds don’t have the instinctual equipment to reciprocate with tenderness, they are clearly well cared for and honored for their wild natures.

I have made the acquaintance of many of these same birds on previous sketch visits. See more of the sketches here and here.

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Put People in Your Sketches

These on-location (urban sketch) workshops I’ve been teaching can be a challenge. Not only do I need to be prepared with the content, but there’s all the logistics, like parking and food and bathrooms and the big unknown, WEATHER. This time the weather picture changed each day this week from sun to rain to sun and then, finally to just plain damp and cold. I know this sounds whiny to those of you who live where it snows. I see the posts on Instagram of icy, snowy scenes that are sketched on site, and I’m impressed.

So I fretted right up to the minute when my workshop started on Saturday, but then this group of ready-for-just-about-anything sketchers showed up from all over the Bay Area ready to go.

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We started out with drawing warm ups in the back room of Aroma Roasters, enjoying their coffee and warmth and practicing the 30 second pencil gesture followed by pen drawing, using each other as models and later infiltrating the coffee shop proper.

The idea is to go from drawing big shapes to smaller details like clothing and facial features, but to get the gesture down first in case the person moves. We were about to move out to the train station where people stand still for only moments!

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Then things got really interesting as passengers arrived.

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Passengers getting their tickets. . . I realized that I’ve never even ridden this SMART train yet. I bet it’s fun!

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Well, I may have exaggerated the colors here a bit, but this gentleman did in fact have yellow pants and shirt. The assignment here was to give the figure some context in your sketch. We were telling people stories after all!

peoplesketch3We huddled around the bed of an antique wagon on site to share our morning’s sketches. Some of this group had completed the OneWeek100People sketch challenge and had many wonderful sketches to share from the morning alone.

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The afternoon was about adding color to the sketches. Here I’m doing a minimal treatment of skin, clothing and context, which is often all one has time for.

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On the right I mixed the yellows with the reds in my palette to get light skin tones. It’s something you just have to play around with. The basic “recipe” is to use lots more red than yellow and dilute with water. I add Cerulean Blue for the shadow shapes. For dark skin I use dark versions of the red and yellow and blue. Then if there’s bright clothing or other bright reflected light (the skin reflects everything around it!) I glaze a bit of that color over the skin when it’s dry.

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The finished demo. I wanted to show how you could draw one figure over another without worrying too much about the lines showing through (her arm)! And notice the green on his face.

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We were all a bit chilled at the end, but there were a lot of smiles and enthusiasm about doing more people sketching!

We missed the lovely warm spring weather by a couple days! But there’s more opportunities coming up to attend on-location sketch workshops here in the Bay Area if you’re interested.

My next day workshop is Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher on May 5 in Sonoma Visit my website for more details. But that’s not all! On May 26 I’m teaching Sketch the Vignette in Petaluma. It’s one of the 10X10 Urban Sketch workshops, all listed below!

URBAN SKETCHERS BAY AREA 10X10 CLASSES, SPRING 2018

The International Urban Sketchers organization and San Francisco Bay Area Urban Sketchers are bringing back the popular series of on-location sketching workshops, running from April to June 2018. (We are hoping to repeat the series in the Fall.) Workshops are designed for all levels of participants, but check class details to see if it’s a good fit for you. Class size is limited to 15 participants. Workshop cost $45 (some have an additional materials fee.) 

Info about individual classes is listed below. Click here to see a flyer with more information plus links for all the classes.

10×10 – Nina Khashchina: Gouache Your World

April 7, 10-1 

Location: Palo Alto

This workshop will give participants basic tools needed to use gouache successfully. It is geared toward people who struggled with gouache before but also to those trying this medium for the first time. We will use small-scale exercises to cover transparent and opaque methods available with the gouache and learn techniques for working with shape and color, creating interesting textures, and details of urban landscape, on location, using gouache as the main tool. There is a materials cost of $15, paid to the instructor on the day. 

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Mark Simmons: Your Storytelling Kit

April 14, 1-4

Location: San Francisco

We’ll look at a variety of comics and cartooning techniques that can be applied to urban sketching, event reportage, and storytelling. The workshop will be held at San Francisco’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, where we can practice our comic art tricks; we’ll start with a presentation and demo of comic devices like word balloons, captions, and sound effects to capture dialog and incorporate text, pen and ink rendering, with emphasis on monochrome art, use of line weight and spot blacks and organizing a visual narrative into sequential panels. We’ll apply them at the event, and then regroup to compare notes in a brief show-and-tell.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Bill Russell: Procreate Digital Sketching

Location: Larkspur

April 21, 10-1

Finally, with the Procreate drawing app and the Apple iPad Pro, artists have the best quality technology for urban sketching. Join Bill at Marin County Mart in Larkspur Landing for a fast-paced primer, starting with a one-hour tutorial, where he will share his own digital sketching knowledge and skillset. He will teach you how to simplify the process, so you can make beautiful pictures fast and easy. You will create some of your own digital sketches of their farmers market, cool stores and live entertainment. Each person must have a basic understanding of Procreate and have it installed on their iPad Pro. An Apple Pencil is also required.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Diane Olivier: Chinatown Drawing & Eating Adventure

May 6, 11-2 

Location: San Francisco

An outdoor/indoor workshop with a bit of walking. We will meet up at Portsmouth Square Playground for a demo of a few concepts to capture and organize information from our adventure. From there a 2 minute walk through the heart of Chinatown on Grant Avenue to eat lunch and sketch our meal. Diane will detail what to look for: the space, the wait staff, the customers, and the food! After lunch we’ll take a 2 minute walk for dessert at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Here we’ll see the tiny shop, the product and how they are made. We’ll end with a show-and-tell in the alley to share our stories and our drawings. 

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Uma Kelkar: Landscapes, Quickly!

May 13, 12-3 

Location: Millbrae

This workshop will teach you how to look. That’s right, learn how to see a landscape. Learn how to reduce a scene into no more than 3 shapes and 3 values. Experience agile sketching by using limited tools, single pigment, and letting go of some details. At end of the 3 hours, you should be able to do a direct brush sketch (with a single color) and yet capture a landscape. The lesson plan of the workshop is active, thus settling down to draw in balmy weather will not happen. Participants will move, sketch, move, make mistakes, make more sketches. Sketches will be be spontaneous, lively and the sketcher will be mentally energized.

Workshop full. Click here to be added to waitlist.

10×10 – Susan Cornelis: Sketch the Vignette

May 26, 10-1

Location: Petaluma

In this workshop we will explore tools for simplifying and designing your sketches on location to quickly get to the visual story you most want to tell. We will build the sketch out from the point of greatest interest, connecting it to its context and leaving out all that isn’t necessary to make a more powerful impact. Principles of vignette design and using the white of the paper will be practiced along with simple drawing and watercolor applications.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Oliver Hoeller: How to Build a Strong Sketch out of Weak Elements

June 2, 12-3

Location: San Francisco

Often we see things that appeal to us—a lamp, a button, a watch—but we don’t sketch them because they may be a weak motif by themselves. In this workshop we will learn strategies to combine many weak elements into an interesting hodgepodge that tells the story of a place. We will practice this skill at the Asian Art Museum, where we assemble personal spreads out of the individual pieces on display. We will start outside to practice contour drawing and discuss 10 strategies to form a rich picture out of individual elements. Participants will then select from the tools presented and draw their own 2 spreads in the museum. Half way through, one-on one feedback will help to solidify the approaches. In the end we will add (water) color to the work and discuss our results. 

Workshop almost full. Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Carlos Almeida: The Sense of Urban Spaces

June 9, 9-12 

Location: Palo Alto

The workshop is about process and the understanding of the urban space as a first approach through quick observation of massing, scale, proportionality of elements, textures, light, shade and shadow and how all these aspects can be incorporated in the frame to achieve a good sketch composition in order to clearly and effectively convey what is seen in a specific period of time.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Suma CM: From Line to Design

June 10, 1-4

Location: Redwood City

This will be an energizing class! We’ll explore the downtown with a minimal kit, stopping for demos and exercises. We’ll start by learning how to frame compact, pleasing vignettes on the fly, with an emphasis on shapes and balanced design. Then we’ll review techniques for adding vibrant color to bring the compositions to life. Beginners will be able to focus on objects and simple structures, while experienced sketchers can use the concepts to work on more complex streetscapes. Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Richard Sheppard: Unraveling the Complexity of Travel Sketching 

June 23, 10-1 

Location: San Francisco

The best souvenirs are not the things you buy or the photos you take while on vacation, but drawings you create in a sketchbook. Sketching allows the artist to slow down enough to get acquainted with surroundings that are so often overlooked while framing the world through a lens. Yet sketching in public can be a daunting experience for the self-conscious sketcher, or for those that are just unprepared. The first part of this class will cover tips on getting beyond the emotional roadblocks that keep us from sketching. Then we’ll discuss materials, styles, and techniques that are best suited for travel sketching. We will learn how to get the most out of our sketchbooks while on the road.

Workshop full. Click here to be added to waitlist.

Botanical Garden and Bouquets to Art!

The day after the skyscrapers the weather turned sunny and we headed over to the S.F. Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park to see the last week of the “Magnificent Magnolias” and other spring bloomings.

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watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Watercolor Book

Who could resist the red of these flowers, which I assumed were poppies, but my friends declared were ranunculus? To get the red in watercolor requires a great deal of red pigment, all the reds and some of the blue!

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Along came two year old Axel with his mom. He unleashed a steady stream of unintelligible commentary on the flowers, no doubt pointing out attributes which I had missed. His fingers were making little squeezing movements while his mother warned “we don’t touch the flowers”. She then handed him a soft ball which he squeezed happily while continuing his monologue, and the flowers were saved! That’s Bob in the background enjoying the show.

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The daffodils blooming under pink budding trees provoked my own kind of frenzy, one of splattering. The result looked best lain on the daisy studded lawn where I was sitting.

Next day was my birthday and our last day in San Francisco. What a treat to celebrate my birthday with a trip to the de Young Art Museum for the annual Bouquets to Art! For one week only, 120 floral designers have displayed arrangements that are inspired by the artworks in the museum. Here are some that I sketched in the museum, and later painted. (Some were sketched with the painting which inspired them.)

 

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta spiral sketchbook, 6 X 8″

Arrangement by IM Chan Designs/ painting by Gottardo Piazzioni

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Water Lily Pond Floral Design/ painting by Salvador Dali not shown here

bouquetstoart3‘Arrangement by Orinda Garden Club/ painting by Joe Light

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Arrangement by Donnel Vicente Designs/ painting by Louisiana Bendolph

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Arrangement by Poppie’s Petalworks/ painting by Kara Walker

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Arrangement by Katherine Stuart Floral Art/ painting by John Koch

There are lots of differing opinions about how to enjoy art like this. Some would complain about all the picture taking. And I had to be careful to stay out of the way of the iPhone cameras when I was sketching. I totally understood the need to take the images home and enjoy them for a long time afterward! I probably took 50 pictures and would love to sketch every one of them! When I close my eyes I still see flowers and can imagine their sweetness.

Ah, dear Spring, you are only two days away!

Toilets and Skyscrapers

Remember when those colorful toilets were stylish? Well they’ve still got them at Building Resources in San Francisco. Not that we were in the market. But sometimes photographers (like Bob) seek more off-the-beaten-path locations to find source for their shooting. And we sketchers can do our thing anywhere. This acre of reusable building supplies is a gold mine even if you’re not in the market! They even had an art gallery!

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watercolor in 8 X 8″ Field Watercolor Journal

I must admit that I wasn’t sure this would look like anything as I worked with watercolor to build up the overlapping shapes of the toilets. But the alternating colors helped to create the illusion without pen lines!

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We had parked our car across the street from these buildings at Hunter’s Point. I loved the mural on one wall, the rusty towers and mosaic of broken windows. A parade of noisy (smelly) trucks rumbled by and it was a cold, foggy morning, so I managed a quick pen sketch on site and added color and detail later in warm comfort.

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Next morning, foggy again, I met Laurie Wigham and Cathy McAuliff, my friends who are S.F urban sketch veterans, at the temporary Transbay Terminal. I had asked them to please pick a spot where I could practice buildings of the sort we don’t have in Sonoma County. So they picked the big ones, the ones that go up into the fog and disappear. Initially I wasn’t so sure they were doing me a favor! After I’d been struggling with the perspective (and failing) Laurie tells me that these buildings have numerous different vanishing points from one perspective, adding to the complexity. I kept trying to fix lines by borrowing Laurie’s pencils and finally coming in with pen.

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fountain pens with Noodler’s red black and black inks and watercolor

Then I got a bit smarter and jetisoned all but a couple buildings like I’d seen Laurie do. (and later added the car since I needed some detail below) By this point the sun was out and the colors were amped. All the construction on this building makes for some pretty confusing parts, but it’s more an illustration of certain parts of a scene rather than a realistic capture.

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What I really need to do is spend a week showing up at that intersection every day. Well, that’s not going to happen! So I did this one from a picture when I got home. It definitely helps to use a water soluble pencil to get those fine lines in when you’re sketching so small and want to suggest floors and windows. Many thanks to Laurie and Cathy for giving me some new tools to deal with buildings towering over me!

You can find Cathy and Laurie’s sketches on Instagram and the SF Urban Sketchers Blog.

To be continued: Flowers!

100! and Julia Kay’s Portrait Party

How did it go with the 100 people in one week sketches? Did you see some of the wonderful people sketches that were out on the web last week? The #oneweek100people will get you there! I made my 100 over the weekend, but just got back yesterday from San Francisco, so here are some of them.

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(here Tania is in color because she’s the speaker but also because she was wearing this amazing peacock vest and matching jewelry she got in Uzbekistan.)

On day 4 of last week I was at my friend Tania Amochaev’s (Romanov) book reading and opening in San Francisco. Her just published book is Mother Tongue: Three Generations of Balkan Women, available now on Amazon. The story follows the lives of three generations of women: Katarina, Zora and Tania over the last 100 years when they lived in countries that were dissolved, formed and reformed. They lived in exile, in refugee camps and in new worlds (namely San Francisco!). Tania tells this remarkable story straight from the heart. Her mother tongue is literally the language she spoke only with her mother, one of so many tongues she is comfortable speaking.

When I was just 21 years old I traveled through then Yugoslavia with absolutely no knowledge of the history and struggles of this fractured land. If only I’d read this book before I went. After reading it I’m more determined than ever to make a trip back.

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I was seated on the front and side where I had a pretty good view of the faces in the audience.

 

Taniareads2_2Tania’s story is so moving that the audience was rapt and no one seemed to want her to stop reading!

Almas

On Friday we were having lunch in the colorful Mission neighborhood of San Francisco at a Peruvian restaurant, Alma Cocina enjoying their mouth watering rotisserie chicken! . . .followed by coffee at Philz across the street. My preference is always to sketch a variety of ethnicities and lifestyles, and I hit the jackpot. Hiding the book in your lap is good for staying undetected when up close, but it makes for some pretty wonky lines.

I ordered Jacob’s Wonder blend of “chocolate, smoke and nuts” flavors. Getting coffee at Philz is like going to a wine tasting room in Sonoma County. You get to hang out a bit with a hip young person, discuss the flavors, have them add or subtract cream and sugar, and then sip and murmur approval, watching their enjoyment at having gotten it “right”.

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And not a single person there was over 30 I’m sure. Oh well, except me.

 

 

On Saturday I finished off my 100 people sketches at Arch Art Supplies at a meet up called Julia Kay’s Portrait Party. We sat in groups of 6-8 and posed for each other to sketch. We started off with 30-second poses, sketching with the non-dominant hand. The idea was to start off messing up so badly that the next ones would seem highly skilled in comparison! And so they did. My 30-second ones were a battle to even hold the pencil with the lead facing the right way in my right hand (I’m left handed), and just as I was getting used to the feel, we switched to the other hand. These (above) were the one minute poses with a brush pen.

 

Then we switched to the (now luxurious) 8 minute poses. I used fountain pens with red black (Noodler’s) ink which is water soluble and black ink.

 

These two sketches are of me, done by artists in my group. Lorna Strutt is the artist of the one on the left and Vivian Aldridge the one on the right. Don’t you just love them?! Both are so expressive in totally different ways. What they left out is as powerful as what they put in.

Well, somewhere in there I hit 100 figures, and then switched to toilets, skyscrapers and flowers. . .(to be continued)

 

100People Days 1-3

This was day three of the sketch 100 people in one week challenge. I don’t usually like to be told what kind of art to do, preferring to set my own goals. But when so many of my urban sketch friends were participating, I signed on. (you know FMO, fear of missing out?) Well, here’s what’s happening so far.

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Lamy fountain pen and ink in a 6 X 8″ Hahnemuhle Nostalgie sketchbook

I started out using the Sktchy app, and as much as possible, continuous line drawing. It helps to keep the pen on the paper so you don’t lose your place! The drawings on the right were done first, and look at the improvement already when I made it to the other side of the paper and got clearer about where to draw the lines?

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On Monday afternoon I caught the Muses (in my mixed media workshop) hard at work. Noodlers Red Black ink in the fountain pen here, and it’s slightly water soluble.

On Tuesday I was reading my friends’ blogs and feeling a bit jealous that they live in cities where there’s lots of people to draw. Here at home I have my husband or the goats at the bottom of the hill. Oh, and the cats.

 

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So I headed over to the train depot at Railroad Square in the afternoon, where there were a few men waiting together while they complained about the cost of the ride on the new SMART train. The hipster (pictured above) lingered only moments and left before I could add his girlfriend (who was a great match!)

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People don’t really stand all that still when they’re impatient for the train to come, and then it came, and that was it. So I headed over to Old Courthouse Square where I could sketch sleeping people from a distance, homeless or just down for a nice afternoon nap?

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Then headed back to the S.R. Mall to see what action was there. Not bad! On the left I was trying to capture this beafy guy while he was balancing on the outside of his feet, but he changed positions and so did my drawing. The girls on the left and the right of him were my favorite sketches of the day. No pencil first. I was discovering that when I do the quick pencil thing first, I lose the gesture, so I put it away.

From a seat on a couch in front of a furniture store in the mall I could see the old men who were resting in the chairs in the middle of the mall.The one on the left was gesturing while telling a story. . .caught it!

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Still on the sofa I’m watching the escalator traffic and getting maybe 5-10 more seconds of drawing time than with the people walking by. Then a lady comes right up to me and asks about the sofa I’m sitting on, and I realize it’s time to move on again.

And I get home and look at the sketches and see that almost everyone, even some of the people on the escalator, and the father eating dinner with his son in the food court, all are looking at their smart phones! But you already know, that’s our new world.

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Today I had to wait a long while at Toyota. I decided I was “broken in” enough to use the pocket brush pen. With that I had to slow down enough to use the tip lightly for fine lines and broadly to “paint” in the darks. But what about gray or white hair and a beard? When you have only two values, black and white, it’s challeging to show subtlety?  I realized that every line started to count more and shapes became more important.

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I haven’t counted them up yet. Since I’m headed to San Francisco for the weekend there will be lots more opportunities, and I’d like to try some color next!

How are you doing with your people sketching this week?