Travel Sketchbooks

RR Square

It was a glorious Saturday at RR Square in Santa Rosa and everyone seemed to be “out”. I was there with so many of my sketch friends for the first meet up since before the pandemic. Local friends, friends from the Bay Area, former students, brand new sketchers . . . and then all those folks who are always drawn to people putting brush to paper out on the street. 

water soluble pencil and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal

Windy was one of the people who stopped by, and then stayed to pose and tell us about her travels.

I followed friends over to the old graffiti covered brick facade west of the RR track and got that sudden immersion in street traffic noise and pedestrian walk-bys of the kind that one takes for granted as an on-location urban sketcher. A bit of a shock for this pandemic-stay-at-home-and-sketch-from-the computer artist of the past year. Fast and dirty, and it felt wonderful!

I got busy talking to friends though and got behind on sketching. For one, Richard Sheppard, friend of many years who is also moving away, and will be greatly missed by this community! And dear people with whom I share memories. . . Anyway I was too late to try to make out those building structures across the street from the Furniture Depot, so I populated my visual space with friends and got some paint on it. A supremely satisfying day!

If you are interested in joining a sketch group in Sonoma County you can ask to join the Facebook group Ready, Set Sketchers

RR Square’s Charlie Brown, painted by me in 2006

My memories of making art in RR Square go back years. The RR Square Charlie Brown statue I painted back in 2006 still stands at 4th and Davis St. You’ll find more about its creation here on my blog

Mission Accomplished!

We have a new home in the Pacific Northwest! Last week, about ten days into my Washington state odyssey, just when I was feeling a touch of despair at soon being “homeless”, we found an Olympia property that we fell in love with. When I say “we” I mean me, and my husband Bob (at home here in Sebastopol and with me on Facetime), and my dear friend Janet who was with me every step of the way, driving me around, helping me with sanity checks, while we explored the area with walks in the woods and on the beaches. And then there was our tireless realtor Connie, whose energy in this thoroughly nerve wracking endeavor never flagged. Our offer was accepted and we move in June!

My best estimate is that moving takes up 95% of ones mental real estate for weeks/months, and possibly a larger percentage of physical energy! For three days after our offer was accepted I took an average of two naps a day. So in between naps and phone calls to arrange details, I would pick up my brush and paint a bit. One day I even walked to a park across the street to sketch a “living table” for a half hour!

watercolor and pen in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook

And then a couple more portraits. . .

watercolor on beige toned paper

My weariness shows here! I couldn’t bring myself to finish the clothing!

watercolor and white gouache on beige paper

(Both portraits from pictures posted on the Sktchy app)

And now I’m home in Sebastopol again, enjoying the spring garden explosion, looking forward to seeing friends, and little by little packing and clearing. Will it never end? Ah, but yes!  Now I can see the end and am breathing deep again.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! The blog isn’t going anywhere and I hope you’ll stay with me.

Kortum Trail

From my house, heading east, this week you’ll need sunglasses, not just because of the sunny days but because nature is yelling  Yellow! at the top of its lungs. Yellow against the black vines; yellow against the violet mountain backdrop, yellow yellow yellow! Mustard, oxalis, acacia, daffodils. . .like it’s been saving up for this season’s festival of yellows.

And if you travel instead west from here you run into the beach. That’s where Andrew and I were last week for a rare break from. . .well, I’ll get to that in a minute. We walked along the bluff above Shell beach and found this lovely spot which we had to ourselves for an hour of sketching and picnicking. There was less yellow and more blue!

Andrew on his perch above the ocean!

We were taking a break from the gardening and house painting and clearing out of things for the important project of getting our house ready to put on the market this spring. The plan is to move north to the Puget Sound area in Washington. Leaving our beautiful home and art studios and nature refuge after 21 years is a big deal, as you can imagine.

Through this pandemic I have realized that distance is not an insurmountable obstacle to friendship. It is no obstacle to reading a blog, and I plan to continue art-ing and blogging indefinitely. There may be longer gaps in my posting frequency at times when I’m actually “on the move”, but not for long. So I plan to take you with me, through the excitement and uncertainty, and the impossible goodbyes to a place I have come to love passionately for its people, nature and (for the most part!) climate.   I hope you’ll hang in there with me!

Landscapes of near and far

. . .just to get the sketchbook and watercolors outside in nature,

to set up the three legged stool and have it sink into the soft forest bed,

to use the lap as a table and the eyes as a sponge to soak up the shapes and colors of the trees and plants,

to forget that it’s just a bit too cold in the shade,

to remember to include what is of greatest interest before you,

to know that you will not forget it when it goes into the sketchbook

where it will always be there to fire off distinct sensory memories of those moments along a trail on a winter afternoon. . .

The sketchbook rarely comes along on nature walks these days. The walks are more about exercise and contemplation. But for a change, last week, a stop along a trail. . .at a complex forest scene, as seen looking down into a ravine from a distance . . .

watercolor, Gray Fox ink, white gel pen in field watercolor journal 8 x 8″

While on an earlier page of the sketchbook, a precious memory from a trip to Ireland four years ago:

Painted from one of my photos taken on the trip. It made me remember how much I loved being there, in a way that will never leave me, and surely bring me back one day.

 

Riverfront

I do so love a spot in the sun on a winter day, and with a sketchbook and a view. Riverfront Park was not the busy spot it’s been lately, with scores of families and their dogs. Not midday on a weekday. So after a walk through post-rainy day mud, as well as drier places on the trail, it was time for a sit-down in the sun with a smashing view of the water.

and time to get some details of vegetation and water reflection and finish a sketch on location. Just the kind of activity to serve as an antidote to pandemic and insurrection pandemonium!

Bay and Garden Sketches

There seems to be no end to our sunny days this fall. I keep getting out to hike and sketch, thinking the seasonal rains will start any day now. But not only the rain is late this year. The commercial crab season opening has been delayed by the whale activity. And that meant that not only was it a good time to head out to Bodega Bay for those delicious fish tacos at Fishetarian at Lucas Wharf, but also to try once again to sketch crab boats at the dock.

My eyes were blinded by the bright light shimmering off the water and bouncing off my white paper, so I called this a warm up, both to the body and the hand!  And then with bellies full of fish we headed across the bay to where the commercial crabbers are docked.

3″ X 4.5″

Confronted with a marina filled with fishing boats almost as far as the eye (mine anyway) could see, I jokingly said, “I think I’ll sketch the whole scene!” to which Cathy replied, “Shall we say 15 minutes?” So that’s what we did. 

I wish I’d let myself try it again, but I did want to practice on a particular boat.

I picked the Sea Farmer for its orange buoys and crab traps and mostly left out the other boats.

Later in the week I was sketching at Pat’s garden again, enjoying the warm weather. Started with a rusty wheelbarrow, not knowing where it would lead next. . .

. . .then added a sketcher to fill in the space and tell the story. The shrooms are garden art.

Smoke Bush “fire”

Enough of that monochromatic business with Sumi Alone! Yesterday I indulged whole heartedly in fall color in Pat’s garden. Who can resist a smoke bush with the light shining through the foliage? The “smoke” happens in the spring with the sprays of lace-like flowers that explode in delicate halos around the leaves, but autumn is when the real firy colors are revealed.

I had no intention of putting yet more pumpkins in the sketch. I’d done enough of those already this year! But I needed something warm for balance, and they were there after all. The heat lamp is a great reminder that we must do our congregating outside now, if at all, and Pat’s family is ready to follow protocols and stay safe!

Autumn in the garden

watercolor in 8X8″ Field Watercolor Journal, hand.book paper co.

I’ve had my eye on this corner of Pat’s garden for weeks now. The lichen covered swinging bench and the backdrop of colorful trees and bird sculptures. There was almost an hour to spend gazing at it and developing a strategy, so I moved things around a bit in a rough pencil sketch and then went for it with direct watercolor.

And here’s a glimpse of the scene. . .

With more time I would have put lots more detail, but my friends were there, and you know how desperate we all are to be with each other in the 3D, or “real life” as we call it, masked and all, but in flesh and blood, talking about life with Covid and with Art. 

A teaspoon of beauty

I turned over my calendar today to see a sketch I did at Preston Farms and Winery last year. Pumpkins and other harvest goodies on a country porch. And I wondered if I will have the opportunity this month to enjoy the countryside with my sketchbook in hand.

This October finds us staying home with the air purifiers going. But one can always find a teaspoon of beauty elixir to treat the doldrums, and sunflowers are particularly effective.

The flowers themselves, on the dining room table, have long since died, but I saved the sketch for this smokey day when it could provide balm.

If you’d like to see the pumpkins from last October, check out this post

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.