Travel Sketchbooks

Olympia Harbor Days Cont.

two page spread in w/c Hahnemuhl Zig Zag Book

Day 3 was a busy scene at the harbor with every manner of water conveyance from the grand Lady Washington tall ship and Virginia V steam ship to the tiniest remote operated sailboats. This city does love their boats!! Ostensibly we scheduled the meet up for the time listed on the program for the tugboat races, but we learned that you have to book passage on a tour boat to go out in the bay where the races take place since they cannot be viewed from the harbor plaza.

No problem, we occupied benches on the end of the promenade and started drawing the easier ones as they blew, floated, motored and paddled by, with no concern for relative size or distance. The whole scene got anchored by the folks temporarily watching from the rocks closest to the water.

 

last spread in the Zig Zag book

To finish off the sketchbook I went through my pictures of the weekend, picking my favorite poses of the people who entertained and shared talents, history and tribal blessings for the event. Maybe next year I’ll book passage on the Virginia V and watch the tugboat races from the sound!

Olympia Harbor Days

Labor Day Weekend in Olympia was dominated by a colorful harbor scene at the 49th Annual Harbor Days Festival  presented by the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, boasting 250 things to do and see! The sketcher in me translated that to – 250 things to sketch!  Starting with the tugboats, which are a thing here with lots of history in the Puget Sound.

The historic roots of tugboat racing stemmed from the last half of the 1800s, when sailing ships arrived in the Sound from ports throughout the world.  Because of the lack of wind on the inland waters, steam-powered tugboats were required to tow them to the docks for cargo unloading.   By tradition, the first of the tugs that raced out to meet the arriving ships got the towing work.

 

fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhle ZigZag book

Some of the tugboats I saw on the dock last weekend were hardly the working kind however. Like Tugzilla here, with its owners chillin’ on deck and answering questions from the appreciative crowd of onlookers. On Sunday there were tug boat races in the harbor and you could book passage on an historic boat to be able to view them out in the Sound.

The festival was crowded enough that finding a place to sit and sketch was problematic. I found this little bit of dock alongside the colorful Tugzilla and got set up to sketch, only to discover that the crowds of enthusiasts were finding their way down the boardwalk in my direction and creating a wave motion on the floating boardwalk, disrupting pen and my sense of equilibrium! 

So I adjourned and met up with Ineke, and we both decided to tackle the busy scene above while standing at a railing (color and details added later at home!) The big crane in the background is an ever visible reminder of the Port of Olympia activity and the lumber yard. The historical underpinnings of this city on the Puget Sound, its roots in native tribal life, white settlement, and  the role of commerce in expansion and development are abundantly visible to this day. 

Stay tuned for more sketches from Harbor Days!

Nature Journal meeting #2

the beach at Tolmie State Park on the South Puget Sound

10:00am on Monday, the time we’d chosen for the tides which rule the beach access in the Puget Sound. We met at Tolmie State Park as the tide was slowly ebbing and revealing the creature life, seaweed, driftwoods and muck, in patterns of movement and stillness. A windless sunny morning with a smattering of tidal bounty seekers and some nature loving sketchers. We were ready to focus on some aspect of the vast tableau, sit in wonder, and honor the memory with a journal entry filled with observations, questions and contemplations.  

brown fountain pen, w/c pencils and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook.

I love a good nature still life! Just pull up a stool somewhere on the sandy/pebbly beach at the tide’s edge where the seaweed, shells and barnacles collect, and the sea is stretched out to touch the land and blue mountains beyond. Inhale the salty sour sea air, and let the mind go blank as it fills with gratitude. What happier spot can there be for pulling out the sketchbook?

And then the “dessert”. Joining friends on the beach to braid together our discoveries, questions, and the wonders of the day!

If you missed our first meeting’s post, you can see it here. And if you live in the south Puget Sound area and want to join us for some nature journaling leave a comment here!

Summer in Oly

I must say I’m beginning to feel like the school teachers among us who must return to work now after a lovely summer vacation. . .only I’m not. But still, all good things eventually must come to an end. Like the steady stream of interesting events springing up each week in a summertime Olympia, when the weather makes it actually possible most days to be outside all day long in the sun!!! 

Bob and I were taking our favorite walk around Capitol lake and came upon the All Triumph Drive In! in Heritage Park. About 30 – 40 spit-polished luxury sport cars, parked on the lawn with the owners comfortably lounging in their folding chairs, ready to talk to admirers. The brew pub tour, Poker Run, and celebratory banquet may have also lured them to the capitol. I wanted to admire the intricacies of their shiny engines,  which were clearly displayed for this purpose, but I hadn’t the words to match the task. So I smiled and ooo’d and aaaah’d and commented on the nice weather instead. Oh, and then later sketched the colorful scene from a picture I took.

On Sunday we made it to the last day of the Love Oly Summerfest, a weekly (in August) street fair/block party put on by the Olympia Downtown Alliance with live music, street performers, games and activities for kids, a beer garden and more. I sketched one of the circus troupe in movement! and. . .

caught the next performers for the music stage, hanging out under the marquee in the back of their stretch limo/hearse with the red hub caps. A real class act I must say, though I didn’t stay to hear the music to see if it matched the quality.

Stadium High School

Some people actually wish they could go back to high school days. I’m not one of them. But after visiting Stadium High School in Tacoma, I think I would have liked going there! It resembles a European style castle more than anything.

blue fountain pen ink, watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

The stadium is next door and overlooks the sound. Can you picture lugging your books and backpack through the halls of this magnificent building?

Tacoma, which is the city about 40 minutes drive from my home in Olympia, is home to so much historic and otherwise just plain unique architecture, glorious parks, art museums, shops and restaurants. My friends Loretta and Signe showed me around and whet my appetite for seeing more.

Loretta, Signe and my sketches

We picked one of the last days of summer before school commenced and had the grounds almost to ourselves, then walked around the neighborhood with its unique shops and restaurants.

Rock, Stone and a Time Machine

pen and watercolor in Etchr w/c sketchbook

As you may guess from the sketch, the Time Machine is a vintage/antique shop in a historic building on the main street in this small town of Tenino. While I sketched, Janet, a non-sketcher, took her time enjoying the Shiplap Quilt and Coffee Shop across the street.

I can’t help wondering if the Time Machine will change the sign in 10 years when the future is no longer future and the Time Machine brings us back to the present, which we have been trying to escape for many years. Food for thought.

But to back up. . .we were heading out to Tenino on a Sunday and discovered that the Stone Carver studio, a main attraction in this town known for its stone quarry, would be closed. I called the number and reached Keith, who was eating his breakfast at the cafe across the street. “I’ll meet you there!” he said. And there he was waiting to greet us, still munching his hurried breakfast.

Turns out that Keith Phillips is the Master Carver in town and has been a journeyman stone carver for many years, working on large projects on government buildings like the capitol in Olympia but also creative sculptures like a stack of books for Powell’s in Portland. After showing off The Shed (the barn above) he took us on a tour of sculptures he made for the town and invited us another time to see the action at the workshop where the big tools are used.

Keith, beaming ambassador for Tenino, and a delighted artist/tourist. Gravestones? Birdbaths? Garden sculptures anyone? His team is ready to serve.

I sketched The Shed last year, and will definitely be returning for some more. Maybe sketching the stone carvers at work in the workshop next time?!

Tahoma

Tahoma is what the local indigenous people named the  mountain with the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. Now known as Mount Rainier, it rises solitary and imposing to 14,410 feet. Here where I live, it remains cloaked in cloud cover during the dark rainy months, then inspires spontaneous awe and wonder when it suddenly appears sunlit and shimmering on the horizon, looking close enough to touch! 

The opportunity to explore the mountain arose last week when my friend Janet came to visit. We picked a weekday and thought we’d leave early (for us) at 8am to make the two hour drive to Paradise where gentle trails lead to views of glaciers and the cloud bonneted summit. Or rather that would be the timing at other times of the year. But we hit peak wildflower season, a sunny day in the 70’s, and summer vacation. So when we’d finally trudged up the mountain from the overflow of the overflow parking, we began our hike at noon, joining the throngs.

No rocky trails for us. We took the well tended ones with expansive views of alpine meadows undulating with magenta Indian Paint brush, Lupin, Mountain Arnica, Arrow-leaved Groundsel in clusters, arranged by Nature’s curator. There was no way to capture it in pictures, though we tried!

But later, sitting outside the visitor center by the road I made a quick stab at telling a bit of the visual story. We were tired and hot, but so happy to have spent the day in Paradise!

We stopped along the way home for some dinner at the Base Camp Bar and Grill to enjoy some local live music and watch the suntanned mountain climbers enjoy their beer and pizza after a day on the glaciers.

Spotlight on Nature: Seattle

While the national news turned its focus briefly on the record breaking heat in the Northwest, a group of intrepid urban sketchers, led by teachers Gail Wong and Virginia Hein, co authors of the book Spotlight on Nature, spent the weekend in Seattle hugging the shade, chugging water and sketching nature. Count me as one of the intrepids in the Spotlight on Nature workshop! The wonderful book is available for purchase now!

Saturday we spent the day at the Seattle Chinese Garden practicing the framing of our nature “character” with line drawings, thumbnail sketches and clarifying value shapes with color.

pen and watercolor in the 6″X8″ watercolor ZigZag Book by Hahnemuhle

Sunday the class met at the Ballard Locks and botanical garden in Seattle. Walking out on the locks I immediately fell in love with this exciting place! The theme of the day was Telling the Story of the Place in our concertina sketchbooks.

Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the Ballard Locks is one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions, especially during the sunny months. The locks link the Puget Sound with Lakes Union and Washington. And the grounds also feature a fish ladder and the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden — one of the most beautiful park settings in Seattle.

Since the the Spotlight was on nature, and the time was short, l plunged in with a botanical and woodland scene on the first spread of the book.

Staying in the shade I tried following the nature theme next while incorporating some urban accents.

and went into the Visitor Center for some colorful stamps!

By the afternoon the lawn was filling up with music lovers enjoying the Pacific Cascade Big Band and I found a shady spot behind them, abandoning for a while the spotlight on nature! Oh well. Couldn’t resist.

But I still felt I had really missed a big part of the story of the day, and went out on the locks to find signs of boat life to sketch by the canal.

Spotlight on Nature final sharing at lunchtime

Later in the afternoon the Seattle urban sketchers had joined our group, and sketching time was running out . I had made it to the last page of my book. But looking forward to a return visit to the locks, I would like to focus on the story of how boats and maybe even fish make their way through. After all, the beauty of the concertina/zigzag book is that it can be turned over for yet another story!

Burial Grounds Coffee Collective

pens and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Burial Grounds is not a grassy park where you can visit your ancestors, but a worker owned coffee shop with its roots in social action. Order a latte there and you’ll stare down into a perfect skull in the foam! 

I love their credo: “Coffee may seem simple, but it isn’t just a caffeinated cup of joy, it’s a communal meeting beverage, a coping mechanism, and sometimes a life saver. So, maybe when we say we like coffee, what we are actually saying is, we like people.” 

On this particular morning Jan and Ineke and I chose to pay homage by sitting across the intersection in the shade (it was the thick of the heat wave), sketching in comfort and with a great view. There was an occasional passer by; the slow pace of a city, which seemed to us at least, content to enjoy a vacation mentality on a sunny weekday morning! We vowed to work our way around this quirky and appealing city on upcoming days, recording whatever stories might intrigue.

Sun, Sound and Sounds!

fountain pen and watercolor in Canson mixed media sketchbook 9X12″

Midsummer, ahhh. Well, maybe not right now with our much discussed excessive heat warnings this week, but last week, yes. I’m happy to be on a stay-cation in Olympia, enjoying the sun and the Sound (as in Puget) and sounds, as in summer concerts in the port and parks. This scene was the beer garden next to where the excellent Fleetwood Mac cover band, The Little Lies was playing. I did sketch them and have to admit I couldn’t finish that sketch to my satisfaction, so I did this one in my studio for practice and with the quiet space to draw and paint more strategically.

fountain pen, watercolor, and finished with Posca pens!

And then there was the Sunday afternoon in the park where I sat with my sketch friends in the shade and enjoyed some people watching. By the time we got started there was about 35 min, so I plunged in without a plan, but later decided a radical rescue was necessary, and pulled out my opaque Posca pens!

left to right: Jane’s, Ineke’s, Jan’s and mine

None of us really “finished” on location but I love the combination of our sketches that give a dynamic sense of the summer music in the park scene!