Travel Sketchbooks

Watercolor Tips for the Urban Sketcher

The Watercolor Tips for the Urban Sketcher workshop was on Saturday, held at beautiful Sunset Gardens at Cornerstone in Sonoma. It was one of those exquisite sunny (but not hot) days and the gardens were showing off their spring blooms.

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I’d started the planning of this “new” workshop with a list of watercolor tips. It got very long and boring, because watercolor can be a challenge and there is so much to learn. So I broke it down into the elements that work best when you’re out “on the streets” sketching and need to get the color down quickly! We had spring flower gardens to entice and serve as subject matter, so that’s where the focus was.

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The demos were about getting juicy color down quickly, using analogous colors and complements to make interesting color shapes and create color drama.

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For the novices the workshop was about learning how to get rich color from the palette. More advanced students were encouraged to mix color on the paper, painting wet against wet, charging color into wet shapes, and painting lively shadows.

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The three hours went by in a heartbeat, with the fragrance of sweet peas and roses to intoxicate, and the good company of fellows sketchers to enjoy.

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L.A. Trip

A week trip to L.A. and now I’m back again, and happy about it. Some of my garden has grown several feet in that time and the pipevine caterpillars are plump and juicy from all that green munching.

The purpose of our trip was to do a bit of art sightseeing, since neither Bob nor I had been to LA in decades.

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I managed to get a bit of sketching in, though that was not the point of this trip (granted, a bit unusual for me.) It was so lovely to fly direct from Santa Rosa’s airport (one hour in the air) and not have to deal with cars the entire time!

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I brought my small and larger handmade sketchbooks which are lighter to carry and have good Fluid watercolor paper.

We were staying Downtown to make it easy to get around on public transport (more on that below) and the first day visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which looks like a regatta of sailboats madly reflecting light off its curved stainless steel walls. Designed by Frank Gehry. I sat briefly in the garden to capture some smaller perspectives.

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I would have loved to sketch this scene in the MOCA Grand art museum live, but that was not possible, so I took a picture. The design was so perfect so I sketched it later. I loved seeing classes of students of many ages in the museums we visited.

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This was the view from our AirBnB apartment downtown. Seemed like a good idea to be centrally located. But oh my, I think this sketch tells the story. Suffice it to say we were situated between the Bang Bang Room and the Cabinet of Curiosities with its 5 bars on different levels.

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I had to get one of the electric Lime scooters in this. You can pick them up anywhere and drop them anywhere when you’re done, or at least that’s what people do, after careening helter skelter down the crowded sidewalk.

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A bookstore with big comfy chairs to lounge in while reading! (or to lounge in while sketching the loungers.) The Last Bookstore. I bought a book too – on writing poetry by Mary Oliver.

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Two of my Urban Sketch friends invited me for a meet up in the historic part of Downtown, el Pueblo de los Angeles. There was such a friendly Mexican community vibe to the place, and within minutes we were enjoying the company of families interested in checking out our sketches.

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A quick capture of City Hall and Grand Park.  As often happens with urban sketching, the sketch, however simple, reminds you later of the people you met while sketching. In this case the friendly Latino family of 7 or 8 siblings, cousins and parents, who stopped to marvel at what I was doing with my colorful paints and water brush. The six year old told me that if I mixed all my  colors together I would get brown. And the teenage boy said they were learning about color mixing and value scales in school. I think the kids would have stayed with me a long while, but the parents (wrongly) thought they might be intruding and ushered them off.

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There’s more to the trip of course, but you’re getting the sketch version here. I’ll end with the airport where I had lots of time to capture travelers looking at their screens.!

#oneweek100people2019

There’s still two days left in the 100 people in One Week sketch challenge! The social media air waves have been filled with speedy people-sketches. Maybe it’s getting a little much? Nevertheless, since I’ve been busy in my own way, here’s some samples. Whether or not I get to 100, who cares? Certainly not me.foolsvol2_3

The lovely lady in the Fool’s Parade towering over us and waving her flag. (done from a photo of course!)

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If you live around Sebastopol you may recognize this guy – a fixture in the community, always dancing around with the manic look in his eye.

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And one last Hubbub Club musician in the signature colors (and hiking shoes).

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Bob (my husband) was learning a new book binding method and let me use this tiny one for my 100 people. The newspaper was a good source of faces that day. I did two of Attorney General Barr because the top one didn’t reveal the tilt of the head and other signs of stress. I almost got Netanyahu’s smirk, but need to learn to exaggerate more!

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Lurking in the Whole Foods dining area here. The paper is smooth so the paint sits on the surface – actually pretty fun to work with as the colors creep into each other.

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I’m using fountain pen with brown ink here, and discovering the fact that I can no longer see clearly across a room without my distance glasses and can’t focus on my sketchbook and brush without my prescription readers. Time for graduated lenses, but until then. . .messy sketches.

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The black thread is a bit distracting, but I love this little book because I can feel free in it!

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Another day at the restaurant at Cornerstone Gardens. More sketches (not people) from there later.

Fool-ishness

It was actually raining on our way over to Occidental for the annual Fool’s Day parade. Great weather for fools to go parading around town in costume for no other reason than – well actually – tradition, for more than a decade. (And really, only a fool would try to walk in a parade and sketch people in constant movement.)

But oh, how fun to try. And I thought today would be a good time to share the sketches since it is also the first day of the #oneweek100people2019 sketch challenge (and I was teaching today and had no time to sketch people!)

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The Hubbub Club is the marching band that shows up at so many such events in Sonoma County. They are self-described as “twenty volunteer musicians and second-line dancers who make music together in a funky, fun fashion to promote, uplift, and support local communities. . .at local rallies, benefits, farmers markets, town parades, music venues, and just jamming in the street. . . a cross between a New Orleans marching band and a Fellini movie.” They were out in the parking lot here warming up for the parade.

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Hubbub attire favors black and white and red, with a little pink thrown in.

fools3‘And in this parade pink is particularly favored by the men.

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The top side of this pink instrument is a keyboard! and she’s blowing into it ?? Anyone know what you call this?

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As you can see, anything and everything goes. Hiking foots are often paired with evening attire.

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And even the canine characters make a fashion statement.

People are very friendly. These teenaged girls started talking to me and agreed to pose to a two minute sketch.

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See what I mean about the pink fluffy stuff? Guys finally get a chance to wear it!

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There’s always next year if you couldn’t make it this time!

On Becoming a Nature Nerd

I spent that gorgeous day yesterday out on the Las Galinas Wildlife Ponds with John Muir Laws and a bunch of nature nerds. It’s OK to say that because Jack (John) told us to approach our nature explorations and journaling like a nature nerd and he should know. In case you don’t know him, he’s the author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and other nature journaling guides, and the founder of the Nature Journal Club here in the Bay Area.

So what does it mean to be a nature nerd?  Well, it’s things like data collection: location/date/weather. It’s walking along a trail and looking for something weird, something that tweeks your curiosity. It’s not just making pretty colored pictures, but writing down your thinking about what you’re observing.

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What I love about this approach is that you don’t have to know the names of the plants and animals or be able to identify the bird calls. You draw and describe what you see and hear and your questions and guesses, and it’s all in the service of being there in your experience of “the wild”. Like those red patches on the red winged blackbirds that look like military medals or epulets. Or the ole coot dunking his head up and down while fishing, and that sound like an “ow, ow”. Was that the ole coot complaining?

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If I had been there alone i would have drawn the familiar outline of the sleek black cormorants lined up on the pipe. But Jack and the other bird watchers were there with their fancy tripods and telescopes and I got to see what a truly exotic bird this common bird of California wildlands is, with its hooked beak and orange face, electric blue mouth and lavishly patterned back! And then they were doing the orange gular pouch flutter and double crested fluff-up of the mating dance. All that can’t be seen without binoculars of course, and you can’t draw what you can’t see!

The young night heron however was quite visible from the path and not inclined to move. While sketching him/her I couldn’t help imagining that the mother had given strict instructions for him to stay put until she came back.

lasgalinas3 Here’s the setting where Jack is showing us an example of how to draw a quick map of the area and use symbols to illustrate different types of wildlife. Along with the usual Marsh wrens, egrets, geese, ducks and cormorants there were spottings of otters and maybe even an orange tailed weasel?

If you want to be on the email list to find out about these outings and courses, go to the Nature Journal Club, and maybe I’ll see you there some time.

 

Occidental Fools Parade

Tomorrow is Fool’s Day of course. But you’ll have to wait til next Saturday to celebrate Occidental-style with the annual Fools Parade. This is some of the best sketching of the year with many of the townspeople dressing up as the fools (I am sure they are not) and parading down the main street of town, accompanied by the Hubbub Club marching band and lots more foolery.

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Whether or not you want to dress up as some kind of fool and march in the parade, or just come and gawk and sketch, you are invited to join me and others for a sketch meet up. Here’s the details:

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Join in the fun of this whimsical tradition where families in this picturesque town in the redwoods dress up as “fools” and parade their silly way down the main street in town, ending at Occidental Center for the Arts.  Experience extreme frivolity, bands, music, crowning of the King and Queen of Fools, Lunapillar rides and more!

Meet at noon in the parking lot of the Occidental Community Center to sketch people getting ready for the parade, which starts at 1pm. Walk in the parade while sketching, or sit on the street and watch. To sketch people in costume, there’s no better setting. (Some sketchers will be in costume too.)

The Hubbub Club band will provide live music, and there will be food of course. It’s all totally foolish and fun. What better excuse do you need to get out of the city and go exploring in Sonoma county?

There are people to direct traffic and help with parking nearby.

I will be there in my tutu at noon and later walking in the parade. We can meet back in the same parking lot of the Community Center after the parade to see presentations by Zero the Clown and others on the Podium of Impossibility and share sketches after that, around 2:30 or 3 behind the Community Center where the bleachers are.

See sketches from an earlier year’s parade here 

Meet you there?! Contact me if you have questions.

On the Slopes (of San Francisco)

No, it hasn’t been snowing in S.F., but I was on the slopes there last week for a few days. My husband Bob had portfolio reviews over the weekend at Photo Alliance , which is held at San Francisco Art Institute up on a hill in North Beach. It’s hard to go anywhere in S.F. without encountering some steep elevation changes.

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We started out with some shopping in Union Square. From a sunny spot the world flowed by at big-city speed.

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Next morning we were at Fort Mason on the Bay front, checking out the SF MOMA gallery and just filling our lungs with that fresh sea air.

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After lunch we headed downtown to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see the “Show Me as I Want to be Seen” exhibition, which I highly recommend. The description of the show is, “How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis, and visibility itself is problematic?” (For those of you who know me, I guess it’s pretty obvious why I would want to see it.) It will be there til July 7 if you want to see it.

Sitting on the grass at Yerba Buena Gardens, enjoying the warmest sunshiny day in months, I got a bit greedy with trying to put everything in, until I got numb-butt and gave up!

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It’s such a treat to ride the bus all over S.F. It’s inexpensive for seniors:  with my Clipper card it’s only $1.35/ride, and there are no parking woes or dealing with crazy drivers and one-way streets, and more.  And if you stay  on the bus for longer than three or four stops, you move through a variety of cultural ecosystems. Friday morning on Bus 19 down Polk St. there was a sudden onslaught of wheel chairs and the necessity to quickly rearrange seating patterns to accommodate.

One gets a new appreciation of what it takes to get around the city in a wheelchair with items like. . . musical instruments, and then to board crowded buses. This keyboard, held together with masking tape and protected by a strip of cardboard, had found a spot behind its owner where it would be safe.

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Bob wanted to check out the SF Center for the Book on Portrero Hill, and next I showed him Mission Bay, and made him sit and rest while I sketched a house boat. Then down to Dogpatch to see the art shows at Minnesota Street Project.

There was lots more bus drama on the ride back, with invasions by teens, just out of school, who never looked up from their smart phones, even to talk to each other. Then more wheelchairs, and finally, the last stop at Fisherman’s Wharf where we were staying.

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If you’re still with me here, this is the part about the real slopes of SF. On Saturday the SF Urban Sketcher Meet up was at Macondray Lane, which is itself flat – a narrow and verdant alleyway off a particularly vertiginous street with knockout views of the city and bay.

For whatever reason I woke up that morning feeling particularly shaky and unsteady, but slowly made my way up the hill, still hopeful that I could capture the city in its undulating glory. When my inner undulating wouldn’t stop, I found a shady spot in the Lane with an obstructed view, and very slowly and with great patience constructed a calmer scene until my brain cleared.

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It sort of worked, because minutes later I was back to my usual rough and ready style,  much relieved and enjoying the company of my beloved SF sketchers. The afternoon ended with a mini “salon” to share our sketches at STUDIO Gallery and see the current show of “Tales of the City by the Bay”.

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And I got to meet the handsome sketcher named Jeff who had been a subject in the sketch!

On my last day in the city, once again I hit the slopes and I trudged up the steps of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower up close, the murals inside and the views. It’s actually a more impressive sight from the distance as a recognizable icon of the cityscape.

telegraphhill Five days in the city, along with all the steps I’d climbed, had exhausted me, so I found a relatively quiet street to do this study. I call it that because I’m more used to sketching people and animals and country scenes and such, and city architecture requires “study” before I can attempt it. (Actually I may have studiously ignored it here!) There were few people on the street, and they were moving quickly, but the lone figure in the doorway sufficed to give scale. She came by to see my sketch, and when I showed her that she was in the sketch, she clutched her chest and shrieked with delight!