Reportage Sketching

Out sketching again!

The smoke from the fires cleared out mid week, blown cross country and out to sea. Time to get out with a small group of friends and enjoy some on location sketching.

Four of us met up at Presidio Pond in San Francisco, a gorgeous landscaped garden which draws ducks, pigeons, geese and more as well as lots of tiny human ducklings with their nannies and moms. We moved over to the small bubbling brook/falls/stream and I plunged recklessly in, immediately realizing I was in over my head!

When in doubt draw a figure and when you’re with sketchers, there’s always at least one. Later I saw that Laurie had put me in her masterful sketch of the same water feature.

We adjourned over at the Warming Hut on the Marina for lunch and found it closed. No problem since we had bag lunches, and there were any number of views to sketch, from a sunlit city skyline and Presidio buildings, to the fishing dock and the bay with massive container ships and the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded as it usually is in fog.

Back at Pat’s Garden on Friday my friends and I spread out in the various gardens filled with antique farm implements and tools, sculptures and blooms.

I’d been wanting to sketch the rusty windmill, and when I saw the chairs, I decided to define the objects with negative painting and do it quickly since I always seem to overwork my sketches. It got quite complicated and messy, but at least I stopped in time!

With just a few minutes left I found this cement toad on the porch and he was just too cute to pass up. And yes, I know now that I misspelled cozy. It goes with the territory of trying to draw your letters. The right hemisphere (of the brain) rears up and invents new spellings.

Under the Freeway

When the smoke from the fires gets bad, I stay inside with the windows closed. But what can one do when the inside is your car or a tent or nothing? And a concrete overpass doesn’t even really count as a roof.

Since The Living Room closed its day shelter portion in March, due to pandemic risks, the staff has been going out to the homeless encampments to bring necessities and to offer case services. 

There are several organizations visiting the homeless encampments in Santa Rosa with supplies and services. This sketch tells the story of Silvia, the outreach manager from The Living Room, out on the trail with her wagon of supplies, a listening ear and a lot of experience with helping people find housing. 

I can hardly believe how quickly The Living Room is adapting to the needs of the homeless community since the Covid crisis began. They have doubled or tripled the number of people served. They are helping more people find shelter while opening new transitional living houses with casework services to help women and children secure permanent housing. In addition to Monday through Friday hot meals served through the window, they will be opening a food pantry as a satellite to Redwood Empire Food Bank.

Tiny Desk Musicians

Earlier this month I attended a Dance Party. Now before you freak out. . .it was another virtual event, meaning you get to dance by yourself pretending that you’re not. Although I actually enjoy knowing that no one is watching!

But it wasn’t even a Dance Party, but rather a sketch meet up organized by my friend Laurie Wigham of the SF Urban Sketchers group. The rest of the event title was Tiny Desk Musicians, which conjured up miniature people standing on a desk making music. I had to try this!

And it was better than I imagined. The Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR’s All Songs Considered have featured fabulous musicians performing live at Bob Boilen’s desk in the NPR Music office.  In our Zoom meet up, after introducing ourselves we broke out for an hour to sketch from the video footage, picking the groups we liked and sketching.

I did indeed have to dance for a bit with Cima Funk. I LOVE Funk and these guys had it going on, and they were so much fun to watch.

The Dirty Dozen https://www.npr.org/2020/05/06/849018901/5-tiny-desks-concerts-to-help-you-break-a-sweat took me right back to my pre-pandemic trip to that New Orleans!

Another favorite for listening and sketching was the Tedeschi Trucks Band, with a female vocalist and blues, jazz and more.

Bomba Estereo was not my choice of music but the singer with the orange hair and oversized white glasses was irresistible, visually speaking.

And as I was getting tired, I attempted one more, and was so mesmerized by the music, that I just kept painting and painting, trying to deepen the dark skin tones until I think I overdid it. What to do? Splatter paint, of course.

China Camp

ChinaCamp1

Playing a bit of catch up here. Mid month, before all the lightning and fire business, I spent a sunny morning sketching with friends at the historic China Camp Fishing Village right on the bay waters in San Rafael.

The weathered buildings in this Chinese shrimping outpost, whose heyday was in the 19th century, were so appealing to the eye, with their textured woods and sloping lines. This house belonged to the last Chinese resident there, who ran a little cafe long after the shrimping business had died out.

Now the village is well populated by day with families who are drawn by the uncrowded beach and picnic areas.

The history of discrimination against the Chinese immigrants was a dark chapter in our nation’s history. Regrettably our treatment of immigrants is still appalling in this country. I found myself wishing I could have met Frank Quan before he died in 2016 and heard some of his stories of life on the bay.

Fire Evacuations: Donkeys, Goats and Us

Before the fire season got off to a roaring start with lightning strikes and wildland fires all over California, I had been occasionally enjoying the company of the donkeys and goats that live at the bottom of our road. After my dinner I would take a bucket of apples down in the cool of the early evening. They would see me approaching and come running. Did me a world of good to suddenly be so popular.

I’ve tried many times before to sketch them at the fence where they are so adorable and engaging, but it’s impossible with all the movement. So one time I kept them waiting for their apples, while I took pictures.

The donkeys are not that much bigger than the biggest goats and I had to distract the goats who are more aggressive at the fence.

Then last week, as we were packing for a fire evacuation I noticed that the field was empty and the donkeys and goats had beat us to evacuation.

Perhaps they were taken to the county fairgrounds, or perhaps a friend’s pasture, but I hope to see them home soon. It would do my nerves a world of good to have my animal friends gobbling apples from my hands again.

It’s been an exhausting and stressful week of evacuation to three different places in the Bay Area, to friends’ homes and a hotel. But our area was saved, thanks to the tireless efforts of firefighters, police, prison inmate crews, pilots, local authorities, rescuers from far away, and so many more.

We came home yesterday to a yellow ribbon on our mailbox “crime scene” which we figured was placed there when the police made their rounds of mandatory evacuation areas. Otherwise there is a dusting of ash, a lot of fallen apples, neighbors with their own stories to tell, and Sylvester the cat who no longer lives here, but hangs out here all day.

We still have a friend who is waiting for news of whether her house will be saved. And of course there are all the families who have already lost their homes, and that rests heavily on my heart. I’d like to say I’ll get right out and do more fire story sketches as I did in 2017 and 2018, but I haven’t had the extra energy to sketch through this crisis. One spends so much time just making it through the day, calling and texting friends and family, moving possessions in and out of the car.

And now I just want to enjoy home again. After all, that is the greatest gift when you almost lose yours and then don’t.

Garden Gargoyles

There are many rare finds in Pat’s garden. A collection of antique garden tools, a windmill, vintage gas pump, and rusty relics from the yards of her friends who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire. And then of course the flowers so bold and outsized that you feel like Alice when she took the “eat me!” pill and shrank down. But the stone gargoyles were too wonderful not to sketch. Mine copped an attitude which I had not intended. Supercilious? gargoyle

And the rudbeckia, in another garden where I found a few inches of shade to sit. . .Giant!

Patswisteria

The following week I got wooed by the wisteria, no longer in bloom of course, but providing lovely shade. I totally lost myself for a while in the winds and twists and when I woke up, I added the ladies to bring me out of my reverie.

 

A Simple Cure for What Ails you

About 15 years ago I renamed my art business IMAGINE WITH ART when I wanted to change my emphasis to be more about creative process than about product. I wrote the word Imagine in the wet concrete outside my studio door and added the name to this antique brush which has hung outside my door since then.

I recently got around to sketching the brush, when I saw the flowers in the planter below, showing off in the late afternoon sun.

ImagineWithArt

And then, joy of joys, my current Muse group “sisters” were all invited to Pat and Lee Davis’ stunning home gardens (definitely plural gardens!) for a morning of sketching, which turned into a (kind of urban sketchers’ type) on location event with space for social distancing.

DavisSt.

Oh, to have that kind of sitting-separately-but-together-serenity-in-a-garden-with-friends experience again (after all the Covid-shut-down-fear-and-alienation, and even while it’s still going on everywhere)!

It’s a simple cure for what ails us. Pick up a pen or pencil: draw what you see: put some paint on: notice how you feel now.

Homeland “Security” in Camouflage

I guess you may have read in the news about federal troups (deployed by Trump) invading Portland, Oregon to “restore order” after there were 50 nights of demonstrations against police brutality. The word invading is mine, since they were not invited to “help” by the local police or mayor or governor AND they caused an escalation in the violence they were supposedly there to quell. Picture this. . .camouflaged officers jumping out of vans to grab protesters without explanation.

Many of us are asking, is this really my country or a fascist state?!

Got me to thinking. . .how to tell the story in the way I know. . .with paint. . .because words just failed me.

camouflage

For some breaking news check out this NYTimes article, but only if you can handle a spike in blood pressure!

Trees and tombstones

Some sketches from last week. Late afternoon is a magical time in the garden, and one day I enjoyed some time before dinner, sketching the entrance to our home which is on a private road.mailboxwelcome

Mr. Frog used to spout fountain water, but later was retired to the garden. I found him under some plants which were towering over him, and invited him to pose for the sketch, which needed an accent at the bottom.

tombstones

Another day I met Cathy and Bettina at the rural cemetery in Santa Rosa. My first sketch was a study of the various shapes of the old tombstones from the 1800’s. I put them close together to make a single shape, since none of the them were particularly interesting in themselves.

cemeterytree

Then I became mesmerized trying to sketch this tree. Nothing like a beautiful tree to lose oneself while painting!

More on location sketching, yay!

The agapanthas, those tall lacy clusters along our walkway, are just starting to bloom. They’ve been here for longer than our 20 years in this home. And this afternoon I sat down to try and figure out how to sketch them, and the rest of the scene. . .agapanthas1

As I was sketching the birds and the bees were checking me out, or so I thought. I like to think I’m accepted by the plant and animal kingdoms even though I spend the majority of my time in my house/studio with frequent and all too brief forays into the outdoors. The hummingbirds, whose feeder is to my right, did that suspension in mid air thing as if to say, what are you doing here? And Sylvester the cat, who has never let me pet him, talked to me in that soft kitty way that I wish I understood.

agapanthas2

It ended up being more about the red geranium because, of course, it’s a scene stealer.

farmersmarket

Yesterday I made another trip to the farmer’s market and had a different vantage point than last week. Turning my head in a 180 degree arc I found enough subjects of interest and just piled them up to make a single scene. The conversation I overheard was yet another typically local one which included the remark “I can’t believe my brother is a Trump supporter!”