Uncategorized

A Taste of Cuba at the Farmers Market

fountain pen, watercolor, felt tip pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Ninety percent of our Farmer’s Market here in Olympia is under permanent open air structures year round. Not so vital during our dry summers, but in the other seasons it’s essential for staying out of the rain. And that includes eating. Market days are Thursday through Sunday from April to October, and most of that time, there’s live music under a roof where the picnic tables are! A perfect invitation for a sketch lunch.

A Taste of Cuba is a group I hadn’t heard before, with a lovely young professional Cuban born flautist/singer bringing her musical heritage to life on our northwest stage. 

It’s always a treat to share the sketch with the musicians afterwards. I was happy to wait my turn after someone consulted her about booking the group for another event.

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.

Salal

w/c pencils,ink, and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

My friends at Jubilee retirement community invited me back to lead a nature journaling workshop last week. We met at their shaded pavilion next to the woodland trail that leads to the beach on Puget Sound. It was a welcome opportunity to meet up with other artists who are nature lovers and share the desire to make more art IN nature.

There’s always a barrier to sitting out alone sketching on a trail or anywhere else where you may feel exposed. So no matter how appealing this kind of nature/art making is, it tends to not happen without a group of friends. 

To prepare for this workshop I went back to “the source” of nature journal practice, John Muir Laws, otherwise known as Jack and his website and books for inspiration 

No one speaks more eloquently than Jack about taking a sketchbook out with you in Nature.

“The process of attention is what makes you fall in love with the world. It’s through attention that we create memories. A sketchbook helps you to preserve the integrity of those memories.”

We practiced his three very simple tools in the form of verbal questions:

  1. I notice. . . .(where you observe what interests you, focusing here on sense perception, not label or concept)
  2. I wonder. . .(asking questions out of curiosity with no need to have the answers)
  3. This reminds me of. . .(making connections as memories surface).

And then we took our sketchbooks out on the trail with the instruction to observe and record our interests including at least one of each: a sketch, a word, and number (date, time, measurement, etc). The Salal was abundant on the trail and eye catching in all its variations. In preparation I had brought a small ruler with me, wanting to be a tad more scientific than my usual approach. We were so absorbed that I regrettably forgot to take pictures. The resulting nature journal entries from this group of artists were inspiring! And I definitely felt the wonder factor of our nature-filled afternoon reach a high point.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you, or perhaps serves as a reminder, you might be interested in the upcoming Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference coming up September 14-18. It will be live streamed so it doesn’t matter where you live. I’ll be attending and posting my favorite moments!

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.

Flowers and their insect partners

watercolor on CP Fluid w/c paper

The garden is keeping me busy these days. I have no particular skill at flower arranging but the sheer diversity and quantity of blooms in this season is prompting me to try filling and refreshing our vases frequently. Since I have not planted any of the flowers, but rather “inherited” this garden and the not insignificant responsibility of maintaining it, there is much to learn. Of course sketching them improves my understanding of the different growth phases as well as how long they last when I bring them indoors.

But I’m also coming face to face with the insect partners, the beneficials as well as predators, the good and the bad bugs. In my sketchbook (only) they are all welcome.

watercolor and white gel pen in beige toned sketchbook

. . .like the Asian Lady Beetle larva I found on a barberry leaf (in the flower arrangement at the top here). It was so small I almost missed it. I zoomed in with my phone to see the intricate arrangement of parts with eye-like front and “arms” like canoe paddles. I was enchanted, and observed that it was in the same position a day later. My research revealed that it was in fact a larva form of the Asian Lady Beetle. A day later it had still not moved and even shrank slightly, but had almost become the adult lady who would fly away! (see lower right picture). Low and behold it then appeared that I had read the body parts backwards? You see what I mean? Cool stuff.

Another day I met this tiny spider, so exquisite with its dashing red streak!

A lot of people have the skin crawly experience in the presence of bugs/insects. I certainly don’t appreciate getting stung or bitten or threateningly buzzed any more than anyone else. But I think if we all sat down and took a good look, we would find such admiration for the colors and shapes and movements and transformational qualities, that we could get cured of the heebee jeebees when we get “visited”.

The European Ground Beetle looks just like a big shiny black bug you would not want to have in bed with you. But in the flower bed they are quite welcome, eating the bad bugs that eat our vegetables. I caught this one on the grass trying to burrow in and moved him where I could take a close up picture and discover the iridescent pink edges to the shell. Mother Nature is so extravagant in her tastes! Imagine dressing this beetle in a formal tuxedo, when he spends most of his time in the ground! 

Recently I learned a new word. Umwelt, is the sensory bubble in which any given animal (including us) exists. Ed Yong, author of An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, invites us to imagine the sensory world of other animals in what he calls “an act of radical empathy”. I practice this a lot with birds and have begun trying it out on bees in particular. The pollinators seem so happy drunk all the time and there’s something so heart grounding in that buzzing sound, a kind of Om’ing. 

I’m also trying to practice umwelting with the deer and having more trouble with the radical empathy there. After denuding a dozen rose bushes just as they were about to bloom, the deer family moved onto eating the buds off of hundreds of our lillies in a couple days. My empathy wilted dramatically.

You might enjoy Rob Walker’s blog, The Art of Noticing, as I am. That’s where I learned about umwelt and many other creativity turn ons.

A Garden Journal Day

watercolor in 8 x 8″Travelogue sketchbook

I was banished from my studio for a day to make room for the installation of my sink cabinets by son Andrew. The buddleia bushes are in bloom next to the patio table, and while I meditated on the intricate details of this bloomer, I got my first sighting of a monarch butterfly, along with the tiger swallowtails that have been fluttering around for weeks now. (and yes I know I mispelled sighting on the sketch. always happens when I’ve been drawing!)

Been scratching my head a bit about how to nature journal plants like these without doing a whole landscape treatment. This was one of my first tries at a hybrid-type sketch. The thing I noticed immediately about this plant is that it grows simultaneously in every direction, a rebellious cultivar. Not like your sunflowers that move their heads in unison to face the sun. With the 4th of July just two days away, and my neighborhood already testing out their rockets, these flower spires reminded of what was to come.

As Andrew labored on in the studio I moved onto some more of my summer favorites that are already blooming and going to seed, which they repeat continuously throughout summer. My plant app gives me more than the one name, usually very descriptive or at least imaginative. But I’ve never heard a plant named “Ruggles” before, have you?

Andrew finished installing the cabinets (which he had designed and built in his shop in Seattle) just after dinner. Bob remarked that I now have the finest piece of furniture in our house, and I must agree. Thank you Andrew!

Are you finding time to “just”sit in a garden? I mean without the socializing, reading, eating, or weed pulling? If not, adding paper and pen and brush to the garden time could be just the thing!

Birds of the month, etc.

watercolor and white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

As I was finishing my sketch of Mr. Black Headed Grosbeak, I caught myself thinking like a bird (?) “Oh you are a handsome fellow!” Something debonair in the way you. . .oh really!

These two were my picks of the month from our monthly Gals Go Birding audubon group of sage women bird watchers at Millersylvania Park in Olympia. I tag along with them each month for the thrill of it, since I would see not a fraction of these birds along with trail without their skills and generosity.

Honestly I am happy as a clam just to explore a different PNW park each time, always with water and sky and . . .

the dense forest carpeted with wildflowers and ferns, under the towering sentinel trees. Birding gives an excuse to walk slowly, stop a lot, attuning all the senses to nature’s cues and clues.

red black ink, dip pen, watercolor, white gel pen

Meanwhile back home the pink peonies out front had started their metamorphosis, losing petals and gaining a new kind of pod-beauty resembling a jester’s floppy hat, which I almost prefer to the flower!

Lilly pond

I’ve been admiring the Dancing Goat (Batdorf and Bronson) garden since sketching inside the roastery in the winter, and waiting to sketch the spring and summer beauty. The lilly pond with its bouquet of subtle shapes and pastels attached to dark orange stems called up an image of hot air balloons rising up in celebration!

and the long grasses arching over the water, blowing in the breeze like prayer flags. . .

It takes mere moments to get the memory down in a sketchbook/nature journal, including only the details that most capture attention.

And then throw in some insect life at the end to tell a bit more of the nature story, that warm, buzzy, prickly summer feel!

Squirrel Acrobatics

watercolor, fountain pen and white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Ever since I took away the squirrel and bunny picnic table feeder (it was attracting raccoons) my squirrel friends have become even more adept at bird feeder acrobatics. So I thought I’d try to capture the action. Not easy! but lots of fun to try. Can you imagine going through all that leaping and swinging and eating while hanging upside down, just to get a few seeds? It makes me dizzy to watch.

The bunny action here is ramping up too with lots of cottontails bouncing around the garden. I caught one getting through an opening in the fence around the vegetable garden and chased him around the beds til he stopped and took a nibble while looking me boldly in the eye. I felt as foolish as the Mr McGregor character in the Beatrix Potter books.