Travel Sketchbooks

Palace of Fine Arts

I was hankering for some sketching of “grand” architecture, like what one finds in Europe or other places in the world where a historic building is older than 100 years (ah, Italy!) A visit to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last week was a great way to satisfy that longing and only 1 1/4 hour drive from my house.

As I recall, when I started taking watercolor painting lessons after my second son was born, I started with a day-long workshop where we camped out on the lawn opposite the Palace and I struggled with drawing, perspective, design, color, and watercolor technique all at once. What was I thinking?! Twenty three years later it’s still a formidable task, but oh what fun my sketch buddy and I had!

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The Palace was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition but has been rebuilt and retrofited and landscaped in more recent years, so it can hardly claim antiquity. But who cares, since it is hard to imagine a lovelier place to spend a summer day (and get away from the heat of north county!) especially if you like tourists.

We knew better than to launch in on a sketch of the whole palace with infinite colonnades, the lake with swans and reflections, etc. Even a small portion of a colonnade has a fair amount of detail. I mainly wanted to get the graceful forms of the Greco-Roman Amazons that seems to be holding things up. Since I’m so much more accustomed to sketching people, if helps me to put a human form in a sketch before I tackle the more knotty angles of the architecture. (many people would say the opposite)

We soon learned that we were considered one of the tourist attractions. Especially the Asian tourists, of whom there were many, became the audience and photographers of our event. But then there were the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were set up nearby. They were so interested in our sketches and in getting our cards that they forgot to offer us their literature.

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I’m going to skip over my second sketch which was enough of a disaster that it will not be allowed on this blog! We watched many romantic bride-and-groom pairs posing for pictures before the Palace backdrop. It is June after all and the solstice at that!

The wind picked up quite a bit in the afternoon, but we found a bit of respite from it in the sun and next to the water where the ducks and gulls were bathing and wildly flapping their wings. And here at least (I suppose I shouldn’t be on this side of this cord) I couldn’t see the tourists watching and photographing my artistic efforts.

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The question of the day seemed to be, “how did you learn to do that?” referring to sketching, and with the conviction that I know how to do it. The way I heard the question was, “gee it looks like fun, how might I do that?” And the answer to that is . . .still learning (even though I’ve been teaching for many years now).

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Carole still sketching, at the end of our day, with the fog rolling into the Bay. . .

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At home later I analyzed the scene I’d screwed up. Still feeling a bit flummoxed but at least the scale and perspective is a bit closer. I’ll keep at it. It’s a learning chore I enjoy, always have. Carole said, “Let’s go back and do it again.” I guess that’s how it works, over and over until it’s a bit more second nature.

Beating the Heat

In an effort to beat the heat on Father’s Day Bob and I left early for the beach and were rewarded with sparkling sunshine, no wind, and temps in the 70’s. I think we got one of the last five parking spaces at Doran Beach.

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When we arrived at 9:30am many families were setting up camp on the beach with tents, coolers, chairs, sporting equipment  and more. Our north coast ocean water does not beckon most of us to want to swim.  We’re content to soak up sunshine without the blistering summer heat of inland.

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By the time we left around noon, all the parking at the beaches was taken and the coastal road was jammed for miles and miles with folks from inland trying to make it out to Bodega Bay to escape the record breaking temps!

More Summer Concerts

I’m always a bit behind on sharing sketches. The first ones here are from the Railroad Square Music Festival June 11. This fine musician Andy Graham was set up on 5th St. in Santa Rosa with his didgeridoos and electronic whatsits mesmerizing the crowd with what sounded like a whole lot more than the music of one person!

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Wandering around we found the biggest crowd one street over on 4th street  and did  standing quick sketches of the musicians before escaping the too loud and not our style of music making!

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And then it started to pour. From warm sunshiny day to cloudburst. Definitely not California style weather! We ducked into another venue to escape the rain.

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And happily seated ourselves in the Cast Away yarn store to listen to Kevin Russell and his friends and wait out the storm with some mellow folk tunes

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(I sketched this later at home) Heading back to my car, trying to beat the next downpour I caught a few moments of a band and snapped a picture of this dude dancing to the Earls of Newtown. Maybe he thought the extra hat would protect him better from the rain? I made it back to my car just as the hailstorm started. Maybe the hat guy knew what was coming?

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Later last week Bob and I made it over to the Windsor Green for their summer concert series. It was hot enough that we chose the shady grass over a view of the band. I believe that most of Windsor and the surrounding townsfolk were camped out there for the evening.

Sketching the Vignette

Last weekend I taught an Urban Sketcher workshop in Graton, CA, country style! It was the last of a series of  ten Urban Sketch workshops in the greater Bay Area celebrating the tenth anniversary of the worldwide organization.

The Graton Gallery generously let us meet in the shaded sculpture garden.  We also occupied the whole town, all one block of it, as we sketched lots of vignettes on the sidewalk, in the antique shop, the field, the garden at a restaurant and more. We took lots of pictures to share the day with you.

A vignette generally gets to the point of the story you want to tell without bringing in a lot of distracting (and possibly boring) details. It’s a way to express your enthusiasm about your subject so it’s clear why you picked it. It’s a well designed shape that is as important as the white of the paper around it. And it’s an extremely useful concept for the busy sketcher who wants to capture multiple stories in a day!

The students were busy with one assignment after another, doing thumbnails to identify and name the stories they wanted most to tell, connecting their subject to the environment it was in, “designing” the white space around it, and adding color to draw interest to it.

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For my 5 minute color demo I chose the subject of the green foliage peeking through the eye holes of Peter Crompton’s collosal sculpture in the garden.

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Many of the students stayed after to have lunch at Zosia’s, where some had sketched this Airstream trailer. (This sketch of mine was done on a different day).

Travel Sketching Workshop

I just scheduled a new on-location sketching workshop for this summer. Hope you can come!

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Leave your cell phone in your pocket and record memories in a pen and watercolor sketch that tells your own story. In this on-location workshop you will have a day of instruction and practice with drawing exercises, strategies for designing your sketches and adding watercolor, all in a charming town nestled in the redwoods in Sonoma County.

For more info and to register, visit my website.

Our Town

I haven’t been to the Summer of Love exhibition at the De Young Museum in S.F. yet, but one cannot live in the greater Bay Area without being exposed to Summer of Love festivities or ads which co-opt the term.

In case you don’t know where this is coming from, here’s the explanation:

In 1967, nearly 100,000 free-spirited adventurers congregated in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood near Golden Gate Park to join a cultural revolution that created some of the era’s most memorable music, art, fashion and literature. Wearing flowers in their hair, people danced through the streets, promoting peace in a war-ravaged world. Their legacy remains, and five decades later San Francisco will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

On Sunday afternoon I was at one of my favorite sketching spots, our town Sebastopol ‘s Farmer’s Market, which celebrates the Summer of Love all year round and has been for years! Flowers in hair, children and dogs running loose, flowing hair and retro hippy attire (which is now in vogue again), drum circles and every version of healing/organic/slow/local/gluten free/nonGMO food, clothing, massage, herbal this and that.

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When the market venders are winding down the musicians are warming up for an afternoon of hanging out in the shade with friends (everyone included here).

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A drum circle plus hurdy gurdy like I saw in Ireland last summer! Banjo and barefoot dancers in the grass. OK, so they aren’t wearing flowers, but there were others who were! And everyone with smiles on their faces.

With a little bit of harmless anarchy thrown in.

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Honoring WWII and Korean War Vets

I live about 15 minutes from the Pacific Coast Air Museum at Charles Schultz (Sonoma So.) airport but had never been there before Saturday. The event honoring WWII and Korean War Vets was a great opportunity to enjoy a sunny day sketching vintage planes and servicemen from an earlier era, while also remembering my parents (both now deceased) who served in WWII.

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Volunteers were giving tours of the aircraft, but we were there to tell the visual story of planes and people. When I was almost finished with this one, the blond lady came over to look and told us that her father had flown over 30 missions in a plane like this in the Korean War. He died in March of this year at 93 and she was there to honor him.

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I think I’d have to spend longer than a couple hours sketching planes to understand the dimensions of them. This one with the shark face painted on presented a challenge, possibly because it wanted to be more of a marine species than an avian one.

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Do you think that face would scare away the enemy, or would then fly closer to get a peak at the pin up girl by the cockpit?

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In the open hanger beyond were veterans seated at tables where you could sit down and hear their stories. Lovely calendar girls walked around, posing with happy airmen, while a WWII vet sang songs from the 40’s and yodelled for an enthusiastic crowd.

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Families could put their children in the cockpit to give them that pilot experience. I started this sketch of a one-legged veteran, then turned around to sketch the plane, not realizing the irony of his placement, mirroring the single wheel in the front of the plane and two on the sides. Or does he look like he’s holding up the front of the plane? I’m learning it’s all OK in the pursuit of the story and an afternoon of fun!