Travel Sketchbooks

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.

Tiny Desk Musicians

Earlier this month I attended a Dance Party. Now before you freak out. . .it was another virtual event, meaning you get to dance by yourself pretending that you’re not. Although I actually enjoy knowing that no one is watching!

But it wasn’t even a Dance Party, but rather a sketch meet up organized by my friend Laurie Wigham of the SF Urban Sketchers group. The rest of the event title was Tiny Desk Musicians, which conjured up miniature people standing on a desk making music. I had to try this!

And it was better than I imagined. The Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR’s All Songs Considered have featured fabulous musicians performing live at Bob Boilen’s desk in the NPR Music office.  In our Zoom meet up, after introducing ourselves we broke out for an hour to sketch from the video footage, picking the groups we liked and sketching.

I did indeed have to dance for a bit with Cima Funk. I LOVE Funk and these guys had it going on, and they were so much fun to watch.

The Dirty Dozen https://www.npr.org/2020/05/06/849018901/5-tiny-desks-concerts-to-help-you-break-a-sweat took me right back to my pre-pandemic trip to that New Orleans!

Another favorite for listening and sketching was the Tedeschi Trucks Band, with a female vocalist and blues, jazz and more.

Bomba Estereo was not my choice of music but the singer with the orange hair and oversized white glasses was irresistible, visually speaking.

And as I was getting tired, I attempted one more, and was so mesmerized by the music, that I just kept painting and painting, trying to deepen the dark skin tones until I think I overdid it. What to do? Splatter paint, of course.

China Camp

ChinaCamp1

Playing a bit of catch up here. Mid month, before all the lightning and fire business, I spent a sunny morning sketching with friends at the historic China Camp Fishing Village right on the bay waters in San Rafael.

The weathered buildings in this Chinese shrimping outpost, whose heyday was in the 19th century, were so appealing to the eye, with their textured woods and sloping lines. This house belonged to the last Chinese resident there, who ran a little cafe long after the shrimping business had died out.

Now the village is well populated by day with families who are drawn by the uncrowded beach and picnic areas.

The history of discrimination against the Chinese immigrants was a dark chapter in our nation’s history. Regrettably our treatment of immigrants is still appalling in this country. I found myself wishing I could have met Frank Quan before he died in 2016 and heard some of his stories of life on the bay.

Garden Gargoyles

There are many rare finds in Pat’s garden. A collection of antique garden tools, a windmill, vintage gas pump, and rusty relics from the yards of her friends who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire. And then of course the flowers so bold and outsized that you feel like Alice when she took the “eat me!” pill and shrank down. But the stone gargoyles were too wonderful not to sketch. Mine copped an attitude which I had not intended. Supercilious? gargoyle

And the rudbeckia, in another garden where I found a few inches of shade to sit. . .Giant!

Patswisteria

The following week I got wooed by the wisteria, no longer in bloom of course, but providing lovely shade. I totally lost myself for a while in the winds and twists and when I woke up, I added the ladies to bring me out of my reverie.

 

A Simple Cure for What Ails you

About 15 years ago I renamed my art business IMAGINE WITH ART when I wanted to change my emphasis to be more about creative process than about product. I wrote the word Imagine in the wet concrete outside my studio door and added the name to this antique brush which has hung outside my door since then.

I recently got around to sketching the brush, when I saw the flowers in the planter below, showing off in the late afternoon sun.

ImagineWithArt

And then, joy of joys, my current Muse group “sisters” were all invited to Pat and Lee Davis’ stunning home gardens (definitely plural gardens!) for a morning of sketching, which turned into a (kind of urban sketchers’ type) on location event with space for social distancing.

DavisSt.

Oh, to have that kind of sitting-separately-but-together-serenity-in-a-garden-with-friends experience again (after all the Covid-shut-down-fear-and-alienation, and even while it’s still going on everywhere)!

It’s a simple cure for what ails us. Pick up a pen or pencil: draw what you see: put some paint on: notice how you feel now.

Trees and tombstones

Some sketches from last week. Late afternoon is a magical time in the garden, and one day I enjoyed some time before dinner, sketching the entrance to our home which is on a private road.mailboxwelcome

Mr. Frog used to spout fountain water, but later was retired to the garden. I found him under some plants which were towering over him, and invited him to pose for the sketch, which needed an accent at the bottom.

tombstones

Another day I met Cathy and Bettina at the rural cemetery in Santa Rosa. My first sketch was a study of the various shapes of the old tombstones from the 1800’s. I put them close together to make a single shape, since none of the them were particularly interesting in themselves.

cemeterytree

Then I became mesmerized trying to sketch this tree. Nothing like a beautiful tree to lose oneself while painting!

Venturing out a bit

I donned my mask last Sunday and ventured out to the Sebastopol Farmers Market, not necessarily to shop, but to enjoy some on location sketching. This setting never has disappointed me!

SebastopolFarmersMkt1

I’ve been sketching from pictures alot lately, but this one was done on location, growing out from the center as things happened.

SebastopolFarmersMkt2

Not only did I have my mask on, but my invisibility cloak as well, which I draw around myself when sketching people in public without their permission (you never want them to pose for you and ruin it). At some point the old woman on the right showed up and started talking to the guy on the grass playing guitar. Not only was she colorfully dressed, but I caught snatches of conversation about vibrations and karma and the third dimension, all of which are probably common discussion topics on this strip of lawn in the shade in the Sebastopol plaza.

I had to look up third dimension and here’s what I learned. . .I mean if you’re interested:

“The third dimension is a theoretical realm of space and time in which the particles and dark matter of this parallel, alternate reality bends light to collide with the electrical charges of the subconscious mind. What is light becomes dark. What is dark becomes light. Some look into the third dimension and see nothingness; others believe they see the very face of God.”

I wish I’d heard the whole conversation to learn which one she saw!

Another day I attended a Sketching Play Lab with urban sketchers Suhita Shirodkar and Paul Wang on Zoom. These guys are so fun to hang out with, and FUN was the operative word. Playing with watercolor. Making colorful wet “caterpillars”, while learning powerful watercolor techniques.

playlab1

And then we tried it out, playfully still! on whatever we’d put on the table in front of us. You’ll have no trouble guessing what I had brought out, from my refrigerator.

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I think my eggplant was trying to gobble up the lime.! If you want to learn something new while playing, try registering for a Sketching Play Lab.

Sketching Home and Virtual Travel

There are so many stories going on in the spring garden and I should be out recording them with paint and brush. There’s the Australian Tea Tree whose pink blossoms have been the stage for performances of honey- and bumble-bees for over a week now. The hum and vibration of it drowns out all other sounds. And now after the rain yesterday the pink has spilled onto the ground all around like a spilled can of rose pink paint.

But this is the scene I saw from my comfortable patio chair. The yellow jackets have not arrived yet as they surely will by summer, and then it will become impossible to eat lunch out there without getting invaded. Enjoy it while you can, right?
frontstoop

On the day when my friend Cathy was supposed to leave on her trip to Japan last week, she invited some of her friends to join her on a virtual trip.

japan1

These Zoom sketch meet ups are fun. Sketching from a photo, 20-30 min each, while chatting a bit, and then sharing afterward. (see the link below if you want to try it)

marketinkyoto

I loved all the detail in this market scene and only got one basket done in the time we had, and so finished it later. My favorite was the little ceramic frog.

So does this kind of virtual sketch travel satisfy? Well, a bit anyway. If you’re a sketcher and missing travel and maybe getting tired of sketching your kitchen sink and view out the window, there are so many ways now to explore that passion.

You might join the SF Urban Sketchers online for portrait parties and other zoom sketch events. Or join UsK Talks on Instagram every Sunday to get inspired by great teachers and join the unique challenges. And Suhita is doing live sketches on Instagram that you can tune into and sketch along with her and friends. And then there’s Sketchbook SKool still rolling out workshops, live streaming fun, books, blog and enough to keep you busy making art every  minute of the day. And that’s just the beginning. . .but don’t wear yourself out!

Zoom sketching

Urban sketchers no longer need to pack up and drive to the meet up locations, then brave the weather. In fact we can’t due to the shelter-in-place rules for Covid times. Zoom sketching is fun though. That is, Zoom as in the social media meeting app, but also as in fast! 

It was my turn to be host so I picked three pictures from my New Orleans trip last month. When we were done chatting we did two 20 minute timed zoom! sketches.

jazzgumbo

This is downtown NOLA where all the big skyscraper hotels are located. I just loved this sign, which covers four of the main attractions in Louisiana: Jazz, gumbo, gators and pralines.

steamboat

One of the Mississippi steamboats, which we never got around to riding while there. Somehow I had pictured Spanish moss-covered trees reaching over the river while somewhere a banjo plays. But in New Orleans the river is wide, flat and brown. So we chose to stay in the colorful city instead of venturing onto the water. Next time though, I want to go out on the bayou and see some real gators!

bump

In the garden at home I’ve been doing more weed pulling than sketching. Guess I’d have to sit in someone else’s garden to feel like I could just loaf and sketch. I live on a private road where the houses are a bit spread out and off the road, so the neighborhood sketching has not really happened. But I noticed this little vignette while sitting on our patio under the redwoods, looking across the road.