Travel Sketchbooks

Geese at the old brewery

I’d come to sketch the historic brewery across the water at Tumwater Historical Park, but first the Canadian geese were putting on such a show of preening, with feathers and beaks going in all directions while also holding stiller than usual. . . so how could I resist?

fountain pen and watercolor on 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media paper

Of course that meant putting my stool down in, well you know what happens around flocks of geese. The two standing characters in the show actually held their posture for a good 20-30 minutes, leading me to think they must be the sentries, watching over the preeners.

I sort of remembered getting waylayed by the geese (or ducks) last summer when I was intending to focus on the brewery. See that sketch here. So, determined to have another go, I got a drawing and photo done and worked on that at home.

fountain pen, black brush pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

And I’ll happily give it another go another time. Maybe it will be an annual thing, a way to show my fealty to my new home town.

Jazz at the Market

ink pens and watercolor in 5X7″ spiral bound mixed media sketchbook

I made a quick stop at the Farmer’s Market in Oly last weekend and got pulled in by the Jazz. Luckily I’d brought my pens and sketchbook so I pulled out the rough and ready Sailor Fude pen and a couple others and started in. Meanwhile excited shoppers were lining up for the strawberries and peonies which are this week’s freshest delights!

The drummer Malo caught me in the act and afterward asked to see the drawing. The name of the group is Clave Con Jazz, a trio of guys who really know their jazz! And is there any better music to punctuate a sketch than Jazz?! Later at home I added the watercolor hot pepper spice for the latin tunes. 

Taco Truck

fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Across from the wonderful Childhood’s End Art Gallery in downtown Olympia is a parking lot with food trucks. When Jan and I met to sketch somewhere between the harbor and Capitol Lake, this colorful truck caught my eye and shouted Sketch Me! The other choices were the usual boats and water and overcast skies. So we set up our stools on the pavement for a chance to pretend we were in Mexico for an hour! When it started to drizzle and the ink lines burst in tiny water explosions, we aborted and moved under an awning for lunch.

Direct Watercolor

watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Day One of the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge. No other theme here. But I gave myself time limitations of 30-40 min. Pulled up a picture of last week’s cabin on Goss Lake I’d been meaning to sketch. Drew in the big shapes with a light value Quin Gold. A good way to warm up is always to paint fast and not think too hard. It shows, but this challenge is not about results. We’re going for the kind of transformation that happens over time when you do a lot of it!

The main frustration was that i wanted to go in with a pen to delineate, correct, enhance. And the big quandry was how dark to go, a tricky thing with watercolor because it’s so easy to end up being wishy washy, muddy wuddy.

And then today my sketch friends were not available and the weather was finally warm and balmy, so off I went to scout out some nearby scenes. This one is 5 minutes from my house and I liked the train as a counterpoint to the trees, which we have in such abundance here in Olympia. While I was sitting close to the track an Amtrak train barreled by on the nearest track, rattling me a bit. So we’ll blame that on the fact that my train sketch looks more like a hungry caterpillar.

Two days down and 28 to go. We’ll see. . .Are any of you going for it?

Bunny Town

brown fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Langley on Whidbey Island is a pretty little North Puget Sound town with colorful buildings, views of the snow covered Cascades and the art/restaurant/shopping scene tourists like. But my favorite was the omnipresence of bunnies cavorting everywhere like they own the place! And not just the little brown bunnies that populate our lawns now in Olympia, but a smattering of other breeds of different sizes and colors and fur types. Like these above. And the story goes that the 4H’ers had a show in town and somehow the bunnies got loose and did what bunnies to so well to populate the town with their offspring. Reminded me of the bunnies we raised when my boys were little. I’ve forgotten their names but remember the soft twitchy trembly-ness of holding them on your lap.

From Whidbey we took the half hour ferry back to Port Townsend and then the two hour ride home. Port Townsend, another colorful sea town with its own character, preserving its 19th century history of glorious and sometimes ornate downtown buildings. I got greedy trying to fit as much as possible into the one sketch I had time for.

Now I’m back in Olympia and staying local for a while. People here are complaining about the record breaking cold wet spring this year. I gotta say though, when the sun shines like it did all day yesterday, and with the exuberant blooming and birdsong, it seems worth the wait!

I’m even considering joining the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge this month. It’s become a yearly tradition now among Urban Sketchers and other folks and I have not participated for a while. But I think I’ll give it a try. Marc Taro Holmes and Uma Kelkar are both inspired artists and teachers and the founders , offering lots of coaching and ideas for exploring your own artistic goals. Check it out!

https://citizensketcher.com/30x30directwatercolor/

Whidbey

brown fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue sketchbook

A tiny lake on an island in the northwest, the kind of place we all dream about for summer sunshine, boating, hiking, fishing and sitting on the dock for hours listening to birdsong! I was on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington for a few days last week, staying in this rustic but magical setting which had all the above delights minus the sun and warmth.

Our cold and drizzly spring continues so far here in the northwest. So this sketch was twice aborted by sprinkles. And of course the light changed so many times that I gave up trying to get it “right”, and now I realize i forgot to put in the osprey who was circling overhead for the best part of an hour and the four bald eagles at play later in the day. But this is why we sit and sketch and don’t just rely on photos, because forever after those elements will dwell in our sketches and be released even years after when we open our books!

Park Side Cafe and Mud Bay

Cloudy day? Sunny day? Rain? Yes, we got it all in the hour or so out in the tiny but lovely West Central Park, NW Olympia across from the Park Side Cafe. The light was so changeable and unhelpful in defining the architectural planes, so I went wonky and kept the clever palette of the building’s painters. West Central Park promises to be a good venue for summer music concerts and people sketching! Jane and I ate on the roof afterwards with a view of the city along with wind and rain sprinkles. But hey! Such a delight to be out in slightly warmer temps.

blue fountain, black liner and white gel pen and w/c

Another day with similar wether this week, Ineke and I met at Randall Preserve on Mud Bay Rd, well named for the mud that covers large areas of the tideline estuary at the southern-most end of Puget Sound on Eld Inlet. The mud/muck is surprisingly lovely and patterned, though very much like quick sand if you’re stuck in it!  I learned last summer to beware of the tides turning when you’re out in a boat! Across Mud Bay Rd. from Randall Preserve is Buzz’s Bar and Grill, a great locals place for lunch.

 

North Carolina cont.

Fine liner pen, watercolor and gouache “spray”

As I said in my last post, I think another time I’d like to try white water rafting, with a solid guide and good crew of strong paddlers at least! The White Water Center in Charlotte would be my first choice. You could tell who the beginners were. Their rafts went wild in the rapids, tossing them shrieking into the air and occasionally, and very inconveniently into the swirling waters. Gulp. No one got hurt that I could see, making for a great show.

One morning Ben had to work, and I had time on my hands to venture into the city to explore. Asheville is well endowed with colorful, quirky cafes, so I ordered breakfast at one called All Day Darling, and got out my sketchbook.

pencil and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Opposite from me was the perfect subject, an old guy (I later discovered exactly my age!) with a computer and lots of food and refills of coffee to work his way through. . . with a long wispy white beard and character-filled face. He chatted with everyone who walked by, none of whom were previous acquaintances, sometimes reading their palms and giving rather interesting, friendly advise.They all seemed to enjoy it. So when there was a break in the activity I joined him to show him my drawing and engage in conversation.

He was delighted, and with very little preamble, asked to read my palm, rather insightfully I must say. I introduced myself with the usual, and he introduced himself as a psychosocial cultural forensic anthropologist named Owl Bob or Sensei Owl Bob or Shaman and spent the next two hours adding onto that designation, at times detailing a roller coaster ride of a life that would make a riveting novel with science fiction overtones.

fountain pen and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Turns out his history with Asheville and the Arts District goes back to the 1970’s. I took him up on his offer to give me a tour of downtown, wondering how that would be, since he is partially blind (note the magnifying devise he uses to read his computer!) and walks with a cane. But off we went exploring block after block, where he interacted with storekeepers and foreign tourists, cathedral hosts, chocolate shop staff and hotel concierges, reading palms and relating the historical underpinnings of this cultural magnet of a city, once known as the Paris of the South.

The highlight of this short but eventful N.C. trip was spending time with Ben, getting to see some of the places I’ve only heard about from him, and discovering new ones together with him. An unanticipated delight was the experience of deja vous I had repeatedly as we drove around the countryside. I spent the first years of my life, up to 13 years old on the east coast, living in Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut, and again in my 20s and 30s for 11 years before returning to California. So there was a kind of “I’m home!” experience that was a constant echo.

And now back to Olympia! Coming next. . .

North Carolina

Just back from a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina visiting my son Ben. He lives in a little town outside of Asheville. To my utter delight his apartment overlooks a marsh which is teaming with birds and other life. Behind that is a green strip of woods and an open green meadow where a white horse grazes and behind that, a red barn and behind that, many layers of blue mountains dissolving into a tapestry of billowy clouds and blue sky. I have to describe it here, because I had very little chance to paint, sketch, or journal, though I have been playing a bit of catch up today. 

w/c in 5″ X 7″ mix media spiral sketchbook

Due to travel delays I had a whole day to myself before Ben joined me. He recommended I head over to the U.S. National Whitewater Center not far from the Charlotte airport. So I spent a sunny warm day watching white water rafters, kayakers, rock climbers, zip liners, and other sports I have no name for. . . listening to shrieks of delight. . . chatting with other observers, eating delicious food and occasionally trying to sketch the action. Finally Ben arrived to join me.

Another day we drove to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, this time with me watching him doing his elegant white water maneuvers, holding my breath at times when he rolled under, before popping back up again. Whew! The water was so cold that my bare feet could handle only half a minute before the chill became an ache.

It takes skill to kayak safely in rivers like these, so I wasn’t about to try it. But watching the zip liners flying across the water, and feeling the spray of the rubber rafts bouncing along the rapids, I thought, another time. . .yes, I’d try that!

w/c and white gouache in beige toned Nova sketchbook

From Ben’s balcony we watched Barn Swallows, brilliant Cardinals, noisy Red winged Blackbirds, melodious Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, and one night listened to (what the Merlin app identified as) a Yellow-breasted Chat, that carried on for hours in what must have been courting behavior!

The river otters were another day. Stay tuned for more about the week.

Tumwater Falls Salmon Research

Watercolor and brown and black fountain pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Tumwater Falls never fails to impress! I took the walk down to the lower falls recently hoping to see the enormous dogwood in bloom where it presided over a trickle of smaller falls anointing a fern and rock covered grotto.

But the real surprise was this research vessel anchored at the bottom with its stern message , which actually read “Wild Salmon Research. . .Extreme Danger. . .No trespassing”! and blocked half of the river. The spray from the falls made it impossible to sketch on site (and I didn’t have my sketch bag along anyway), so i captured the photo and sketched later.

I would like to be able to explain to you what the danger was that had to do with wild salmon. I mean I always thought we humans, and the bears up river of course, were far more dangerous to the fish than the other way around. Of course, looking at the large funnel in the picture I imagined that it would not be fun to be caught in it. I would like to think of this vessel as a friendly lift for salmon making their way up river to lay their eggs. If you know the meaning of the sign, please let me know!