Travel Sketchbooks

Boca de Tomatlan II

The next morning I headed down to the riverside just below our house, anxious to sketch the boat life. Bob, our instructor/host had warned us about this. With all the activity on the river in the morning, a peacefully anchored boat will be boarded and motor out to the ocean in moments, aborting your best sketch yet. However, I would be quick with this one, I thought.

 

A parade of hikers crossed in front of me on the narrow trail which was the only place to roost on my stool. A quick pencil sketch was done, and the boat still lingered. But I discovered I’d forgotten to bring my water brush. I raced upstairs to fetch it and when I returned the boat had disappeared! I borrowed a boatman from another craft and proceeded to paint from memory and the rest of the scene which had luckily not moved.

Then around 11am we piled into a van and were driven along the mountain road above the  river.  We were having lunch and spending the afternoon at the spectacular Vallarta Botanical Garden.

I could happily have spent days in that tropical paradise with my nature journal in hand. I guess it was a good thing that I’d left my iPhone/camera drying out from its quick dunk in the ocean the day before. Because at every turn of the head a new plant or butterfly or bird was screaming Look at me! Take my picture to prove there is really a lily pad that gigantic and a bird with every color of the rainbow! Good thing not to have the camera between me and all that beauty. 

I sat by the fruit feeder and was rewarded after a while by first one, then a flock of Yellow Winged Caciques having a raucus bird party under the cacao tree.  I sat as still as I could as they frolicked mere inches away.

To be continued tomorrow. . . with another trip to the mountains and beach life.

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Boca de Tomatlan I

Vacation? Adventure? Painting workshop? Urban Sketcher “assignment”? As I was bumping down the coastal highway south of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico in a taxi from the airport heading to a small fishing village on the ocean, the sun was setting over the Pacific. I was traveling alone to a place I’d never been and where I would know no one. But with a magical sunset like that, I felt ready for whatever happened.

And with my arrival at Boca de Tomatlan I found myself. within moments, with bare feet in the warm sand, friendly artists to meet, margarita in hand and a dinner of freshly caught red snapper. . . a few feet from the ocean, in candlelight and Mariachis playing by our side. OK I thought. I can deal with this.

The next morning on my bedroom veranda I was greeted with this view, where the ocean meets the shallow Horcones River. I was spending the week at the Casa de los Artistas where room and board, art mentoring with master artist Robert Masla as well as local excursions were provided and friendships developed.  

My first sketch here after breakfast in the morning, looking through the palms to the river harbor below and the village opposite. My eyes focused on the palm thatched beach restaurant. I was greedy for a big picture, and didn’t care about getting it right! My eyes were able to focus only slightly better than the picture above, the cataract having traveled with me to Mexico. Certainly not a reason to stop sketching and enjoying the daily sunshine and exuberant jungle leaning up against river, beach and ocean! 

fineliner, Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal 10 X 7″

And such an abundance of activity there was, day and night. With no road on our side of the river, we walked or climbed a narrow dirt path through outdoor courtyards with the dogs, roosters, hens, baby chicks, a friendly parrot, laundry drying, babies nursing, children playing, workers carrying heavy loads, and each morning a parade of tourist hikers headed to the ocean cliff trail. To cross the river we walked a three wooden plank-wide bridge propped on rocks just above the rushing water. When tide was low, we could wade across.

The next day was Sunday and a beach day for families. Hungry to get the joyful activity packed into a sketch, I kept adding people to the sketch. This middle aged couple stood contentedly nn the shallow riverbank holding hands, unaware that they were a prized foreground for this sketch. 

I stood uncertainly on the river’s edge, wondering about the current and depth and presence of rocks, but wanting to cross. These children with the ancient boat saw me pondering and offered a lift. English not needed. Pointing to the boat and smiling at me was enough. They helped me onto a wet seat and ferried me to the other side, two on either side outside the boat. The girl was intent on my safe journey and gestured for me to wait til they got close enough before signaling me to rise and de-boat. After that sweet initiation, I was able to ford the river, at low tide, on my own.

On Monday we were taken on a boat trip down the coast to another beach and the village of Quimixto for a picnic. We pounded the waves in our water taxi and surfed it onto another beach down the coast, with a turbulent and rather wet disembarking amongst flocks of pelicans and snowy egrets. 

,The one sketch I managed. While eating our lunch on the beach, this fellow appeared with his iguana.

Of course I whipped out my iPhone camera, greasy fingers and all. You may see this in a sketch at some point. Who could resist?! Then I watched all the crazy activity of the egrets and pelicans and a few frigate birds, and picked through the colorful rocks on the beach. The surf was too wild and rocky for swimming. And accidentally, because I was so intent on taking pictures, dropped my phone in the ocean. It survived but needed a day to dry out. 

Therefor the next day at the spectacular Botanical Museum I was camera-less. Sigh. But how fortunate to not have that distraction. I guess. 

To be continued. . .

Waterfront Market in Ruston

My house in Olympia is a 45 minute drive from the city of Tacoma which is on another finger of the Puget Sound. The city of Ruston is glorious with its scenic waterfront views of Commencement Bay, the snowy Olympic Mountain Range on one side and the Cascades and Mount Rainier on the other! But we were headed for sketching in the indoor Waterfront Market on a cold and rainy Wednesday.

fountain pen, watercolor in hand.book journal

The meet up was hosted by the Tacoma Urban Sketchers. A spot prefered during the weekday when there were no crowds, with plenty of food and drink, colorful vendors and holiday spirit. ( It took the rest of the day to get the Christmas carols to stop looping through my mind though!)

OK, so the red wall was my homage to the holiday in this one, though the scene was entirely black and white, which was what I liked about it! Strong value patterns! The other thing was that I had a lovely quiet space to put my stool and Shalaine the eyebrow threader would not be in. Good thing, since there was not a soul there looking to get their eyebrows threaded. Certainly not me! though I would have enjoyed watching it, since it’s a mystery to me what eyebrow threading is.

This was the next quiet spot I found, next to the booth with the sign for massages and the young masseuse who didn’t seem concerned that there were no takers, but carried on having interesting conversations with passersby and other venders. I was tempted to stop drawing and join them.

So with that inspiration today, I’m finally kicking into gear with Christmas decorations – a gorgeous wreath purchased at the Farmer’s Market. It seems that everyone here in Olympia is holding with Thanksgiving as the time to get started with trees and lights, so I’m already way behind. The neighbor next door set up a colorful and well-lit tableau of snowman with head phones and cell phone and a gang of glittery snow figures in the slice of property between our houses. So we get credit for that too, without the work! Lights make even more sense here in the north country where people use their headlights every day and the sky is dark by 4.

Bark and Garden Center

various pens and watercolors in w/c hand.book journal

It was a day of “wintry mix” precipitation last week and we sketchers were not to be deterred. A wintry mix forecast on the weather apps, I’ve learned, means an unpredictable and freezing mix of rain, sleet, and snow with a similar mixture involving some ice on the ground. In all cases it means lots of layers of clothing to put on and take off throughout the day unless you just stay inside. 

Wintry mix does not mix well with sketching on location outdoors, obviously, so the always resourceful Jane Wingfield suggested the perfect solution: the enormous indoor plant nursery at the Bark and Garden Center with its endless (still life-) displays of plants and statuary. And it was a balmy 50 – 60 degree temperature!

Of course the nursery was in full-on Christmas tree, poinsettia and reindeer mode, and I probably go back there to do at least one Xmas card illustration sketch! The owner was so welcoming to us sketchers.

But there was something about this Greco-Roman mother figure that attracted me to sit with her for a while. She seemed powerful and indrawn, and so at one with the enveloping plant life, that the sketching of her became my own afternoon meditation. 

Thanksgiving Moments

My thanksgiving holiday was pretty much like many people’s with lots of cooking and eating, visiting, getting out to see some sights around town. Ben flew in from North Carolina and Andrew and Holly joined us from Seattle. I snatched some pictures and decided to do so quick sketches from them after the holiday, using the same kind of technique I would use in on-the-lap-on-location sketching/storytelling. 

dip pen and ink in hand.book journal

I rarely take an inkpot out with me because of the chance of spilling it! But this was done in my studio and I didn’t spill it! That’s me at the end of the table. Can you tell?

The day after Thanksgiving Ben wanted some Pacific Northwest nature drama, so we drove out to the ocean at Westport and lucked out by arriving at high tide, a King Tide crashing against the sea wall in 15 foot vertacles, spraying onlookers and flooding the nearby streets. We stuffed ourselves on fish n chips watching the water creep down the road out front.

Afterward we took a walk above the dunes, not wanting to be ON the beach where the tide sometimes drags people out to sea! A very dapper looking pheasant was not to be deterred from his walk on the trail so we followed him for quite a way. And later stopped for coffee at a coffee shop with unique decor. The mannikin at the window seemed to be inviting visitors to come and sit a while with her!

Back home again, Drew (Andrew) took up his favorite spot in the living room. My boys are masters of comfortable poses!

Love Oly Winter Fest

Fountain pen and w/c with gesso splatter in hand.book w/c journal

I just went grocery shopping to replenish the larder. Our two sons, home for Thanksgiving, had left after working their way through the stash from Thanksgiving. By the time I got back to the car with, once again, heavy bags of groceries, it was snowing. Real snow. First of the season? 

But the snow in this picture from yesterday was courtesy of our newly redecorated and updated Center for the Performing Arts and their snow machine effectively created a winter scene on the sidewalk and road. Once again the four blocks downtown were closed off for another Love Oly celebration, this time called Winter Fest! with all the cozy touches of lights, hot cocoa, high school orchestras and choirs leading carols, candy canes and fun kidstuff. I didn’t see the horse and buggy rides but heard they were there too. Lots of happy holiday shoppers.

pens and watercolor in hand.book journal

We sketchers lined the window seats at Ember Goods clothing store and coffee shop indoors to stay warm as the crowds ambled by and wandered in for some of the best espresso in town. Meanwhile we chatted, tried out a new pen and sketched whatever came into view for a moment or two. It made for a pretty disorganized sketch, but hopefully one that is full of the holiday season cheer! 

Wallingford Center in Seattle

Saturday was a perfect day to head to Seattle for a Seattle UsK meet up! The Wallingford Center was the setting, a shopping mall housed in a historic school with the headline act of a colorful Trophy Cupcake and espresso cafe. When Jan and I arrived, the sketchers were lined up on the benches in front of the cupcake showplace, because after all, who could resist? so we joined them.

fountain pen, watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book watercolor journal

There was time for one more so I perched outside this very festive women’s clothing store to sketch and later paint in. 

This is the “throw down” where everyone shares their sketches from the day. Many people chose to sketch out in the neighborhood. Some of the contributors to the new UsK book titled: The World of Urban Sketching: Celebrating the Evolution of Drawing and Painting on Location Around the Globe – New Inspirations to See your World One Sketch at a Time by Stephanie Bower, were in the group, inviting people to the book signing on December 5 in Seattle.

Seattle sketchers!

Holiday Bazaar

fineliner pen and watercolor in 6X8″ hand.book watercolor journal’

We were back to the Squaxin Island Museum for a holiday craft fair on Saturday. I wanted to sketch the front of the building for its unique architecture with exquisite landscaping around. But as rain threatened to resume, the warmth of the museum beckoned.

Inside the Museum the tribal artesans had spread out with their wares and in many cases were practicing their arts while the public shopped. I found a bench where I had a view of Eileen here, doing some pretty skillful turning of the heel of a patterned sock, using four needles, while she greeted friends and family and only occasionally looked down at the needles. Her legs were cozy in their bulky knit leg warmers and the museum’s leather sofa with the tribal symbols made a comfortable place to knit. Meanwhile her niece stood behind stacks of sweaters, hats, and gloves, selling to the customers. The sketch got quite cluttered as I put in the museum display cases. And the quote on the wall – A place to come together, to collect, gather, and share – seemed to so perfectly reflect the feeling of that day. The translation back to the indigenous language follows. I would love to know how to pronounce these or perhaps this word/concept which conjures such warmth. It reminds me of the Scandinavian word hyggelig.

I went home with the warmest, softest knit hat, which will come in handy this week as our temperatures in the northwest plunge to the 20’s!

Squaxin Island Museum

inside the Squaxin Island museum

To continue my education about the lives and history of the Squaxin Island people who have lived in Olympia and the surrounding areas since time immemorial I visited their museum and research center this week.

The colorful wall murals answered so many of my questions with pictures, texts, and stories. And the display cases were rich with artifacts. After perusing the displays, Jan and I sat in the well appointed library, feasting on the books and later went outside to enjoy the lovely gardens and stream for some sketching.

pens and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

It was a smoky day in western Washington, but we didn’t notice it there in the secluded area by the Sound with its rich oxygenating greenery.

Autumn is upon us now quite suddenly, at least a month late, bringing the rain and cold temps. I’d like to go back to the museum on a rainy day with the friends who weren’t able to join us, for the kind of immersion that sketching always promises. Like leaving the tea bag in longer to get a richer brew!

Indigenous Peoples Day with the Squaxin Island people

various pens and watercolor in Canson mixed media sketchbook 9 X 12″

Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly mis-named as Columbus Day) But when I arrived that morning at Squaxin Park (formerly Priest Point Park) in town, I was there to get to know more about these people whose home for thousands of years has been on this land we call Olympia. I brought my sketchbook, because that’s the way I learn things now. But after a few minutes I realized that I needed to be fully engaged with all my senses, and particularly my feelings to the unfolding of this event. My sketchbook became a jumble of notes as my iPhone occasionally took the pictures I would need to use later, and occasionally tears streamed down my face.

The tribal leaders opened the dedication ceremony and prayers while drummers and dancers filled the open meadow with chanting and waves of movement. We la ho yaa ye ye ye ye kaha ye or something like that. They were invoking the spirit of the land.

“The land is alive and it sings to us. The plants are alive. They are our teachers and medicine to the people.”

“We are the people of the water. “

“We are joyful all of you have arrived!” (This is written on the sign in the native language as you enter the park now)

“We as Squaxin wrap our arms around you.”

And then the mayor and council members each read a passage of the proclamation vowing to stand together with the Squaxin Island tribe for the mutual benefit of our shared home.

A minister of the Interfaith council asked everyone present to find ways to embrace the truth that indigenous wisdom holds the salvation our world needs for healing.

And then the tribal leader proclaimed “Thank you for welcoming us back to our home.” The flag of the Squaxin people was raised next to the American flag and the tribal members served a free feast to everyone.

What more can I say. I wish you’d been there. The Ancestors definitely were, in the magnificent towering trees around us.