Uncategorized

Between Riverside and Crazy

When I was in elementary school I loved to stage little plays with neighborhood kids. In junior high I played one of the red headed twins in Elmer and the Lovebug. Never heard of it? Oh well. And that was the end of my career as a thespian. But the wonder and delight of the stage never left. And now I may have found a way to get closer to that backstage experience, by going to some rehearsals. . .

This is our second year now of having seasons tickets to Left Edge Theatre, featuring left leaning, edgy theatrical productions. So I asked if I could come and draw at their rehearsals. The director said sure! I knew it would also be a great way to sharpen up my reportage sketching skills.

Leftedge2

fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mix Media spiral book

My first try was in the second week of rehearsals for Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which by the way opened last night.

I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to approach drawing a theatrical production. As the actors started drifting in, I introduced myself and started to learn their names and parts played. Meanwhile I had time to sketch the set before they started rehearsing.

I guess I thought there would be long pauses where the actors got more direction and I could do a quick freeze-frame captures. But this cast was already so far along that there were almost no pauses, and to my delight and dismay, the action kept moving! How to jump in with the pen and brush? It was like trying to catch a train as it’s leaving the station by running alongside until you get enough speed to grab a door handle and hop! So forgive me if I omit the rest of my scribbles from that evening.

Leftedge1

Before I went back a couple weeks later I thought I’d practice a bit using their PR photos from the website. In their glamor PR shots here they bear only a slight resemblance to the characters they play , but it was a good warmup with no pressure.

Leftedge3

Two night ago I was back to watch the dress rehearsal. [Let me interject here that I do not recommend sketching at performances like this unless you have already seen them or will be seeing them without sketching.]

This play gets off to a rip-roaring start and never lets go of your attention until the very end. So as soon as it started, I had an overwhelming urge to put down my sketchbook and say “this is impossible!”

But I had a sort of strategy, to start with the main character Pops, who hopefully would stay put in his wheelchair for a few minutes, and then just add other characters willy nilly as they appeared. I put a bit of watercolor on during the intermission and the rest the next day.

Leftedge8 I’m no theatre critic, but this is my blog, so I get to give my opinion. This play is outrageous, hilarious, touching, and full of surprises, with a cast of seasoned professional actors. It runs through Nov 10. I’ve already got my tickets for November 3, but you may want to hurry and get yours.

And there’s a whole season of plays coming up. Hopefully by season’s end I will have figured out how to sketch-a-play!

Advertisements

Preston Farm and Winery

The Ready, Set, Sketchers had a meet up at Preston Farm and Winery on Saturday. It was a perfect day to drive out in to (wine) country in Sonoma County. Some of the sketchers situated themselves in the garden by the house and others outside the chicken coop. Some managed to fit in time for some wine tasting. (I was tempted but knew it would be hard to go back to sketching afterward!) And I found a rather peaceful spot by the country “store”. I can never resist the colorful pumpkins and gourds!

It also turned out to be precisely the place where people come for the photo ops. Bring your 2 year-old grandchild named Andrew. Plunk him down in front of the display, and put a bright orange pumpkin between his legs, and then make all kinds of ridiculous sounds to get his attention as you take the picture that will immediately go out on social media to the rest of the adoring clan.

prestonfarms1_1

There were lots of Andrews and Annas getting their pictures taken, calling back my memories of taking our little Andy and Ben to the country to experience the delights of pumpkins and autumn bounty!

And there was the friendly gray cat who refused to pose for me, but occasionally tried to jump up in my lap.

The Ready, Set Sketchers meet up on the second Saturday of every month at a different location in Sonoma County. If that sound good to you, you will find the announcements on their/our Facebook page. Or contact me and I’ll get you on the email notification list!

 

War of the Splatters!

There are days when it feels like the wars “out in the world” are being waged internally as well. Those are the days to make splatter art with friends!

That’s what happened in my Muse Group on Monday as we took the lead from the irresistible Ralph Steadman, a Welsh illustrator who uses splatters and other ink irregularities to create irreverent mythical creatures. We started the class by watching this video. I recommend this as a great way to loosen up, lighten up and have a chuckle to avoid taking yourself too seriously and ruining all the fun.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.00.02 PM

So we loaded up our brushes and mouth atomizers and splattered and sprayed, trying not to lob one on each other. . .

war!

And there was the war of the critters!

By the end of class the room had filled up with colorful, zany critters. Who knew all those creatures were just lying in wait to be liberated by a bunch of mixed media painters!

See some earlier Steadman inspired work here and here.

Ferry Building with Oliver

My friend and fellow urban sketcher and teacher extraordinaire Oliver Hoeller is moving from SF to Austria, so I took the opportunity to join him in yet another urban sketcher workshop last weekend, in the area around the Ferry Building in S.F.

The morning was “Sketching 101”. I was interested in learning how he builds his playful and entertaining urban scenes with pen and then pimps them out with various media. (The afternoon was titled “Pimp Your Watercolors”!)

 

FerryBldg1

We were coached through the steps of growing a sketch out from the center, using added line weight to add form, textural lines and gray value pens for contrast. A musician was crooning Frank Sinatra and similar era songs with amplification all morning.

FerryBldg2

Four days later I’m still trying to get those songs out of my head! But they did find a place in the sketch. The idea with building out the sketch like this is not that you put in what you see, like a camera that you hold still. There were hundreds of people passing across this picture plane as I sat there. I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to draw them and all the palm trees!

So you pick what you like – the muscle man on his taxi bike (who disappeared after 5 min) – a couple of palm trees – a bit of obelisk and bike rentals. Enough. Next exercise.

FerryBldg5_1

After lunch we moved down the pier toward the Bay Bridge and started pimping. Here I’m trying out all kinds of stuff, sampler style: gray pen shading, splatter, textural marks, watercolors gone overboard!

FerryBldg3

2″X4″ two-color quick-y looking out at the bay.

FerryBldg5

And finally this view looking out at a (wonky) Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, and trying to incorporate as many of the tools as possible.

The workshop ended at 6pm, and most of the workshop students continued for another day. Now comes the digestion phase! Practicing, integrating, making it my own.

Although Oliver is moving, he’s promising to return to do more workshops in the Bay Area and in other locations where he’ll be traveling. If you’re interested contact him and get on his email list.

 

S.F. Botanical Garden

On Sunday I spent the day at Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Garden with over 40 nature journalers and John Muir Laws.  If you don’t already know, Jack is a Bay Area treasure; a naturalist, artist, author-illustrator of numerous nature guides, and entertaining guy who helps people to wake up and interact with the natural world by journaling about it.

 

sfbotan1

You can’t help but fall in love with the massive tree that greets you inside the gate. While Jack was talking, my eyes were tracing the curves, like a warm up doodle. I must admit, the tree got compacted to fit on my paper, but it didn’t seem to mind, and neither did I.

 

Next there were docent-led tours of the park to get us started thinking about what we might want to sketch.

sfbotan3

With such a multitude of exotic species to choose from, it was particularly hard to pick a subject to examine and sketch. I decided to try some of the more exotic varieties that would never be found growing in Sebastopol.

And started with a close up of this Snakebark Maple, which was labeled RARE. When you take the time to look closely, not only do you start to see so many different patterns and green mixes, but bright pinks and reds as well.

sfbotan2_1

The Ancient Plant Garden gives the opportunity to go waaay back in time and trace the evolution of plant life. Admittedly I used a bit of artistic license in the coloring here, but this giant fern was mostly in the shade.

sfbotan5

The leaves on this Gunnera plant from the Jurassic era were about four feet across, but I was drawn in by the reddish “fruit” cones, and the fact that there was a bench with a good view of this. There was also a lady from the sketch group who was drawing there. We engaged in lively conversation, which made it difficult for my eyes to follow the lacy folds . . .and I got quite lost and had to make stuff up. Once again lots of red in all that green.

sfbotan4

With just a few minutes to spare and no time to draw, I took a different approach, sketching a familiar plant, Anemones, from a distance and with watercolor. As my eyes began to focus better I caught sight of the familiar figure of St. Francis in the background.

Dia de los Muertos

How do you draw swirls of skirts in motion? I have no idea except to attend a Folklorico Ballet and drink in the excitement of the mariachi music and families and color, color, color!

I arrived late at the Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa for the Dia de la Muertos celebration in the courtyard. Plunked myself down on a wall in back and started in.

diamuertos

Next came the couples, and the children, and I was getting a bit dizzy trying to watch and sketch. Noticed some caballeros waiting to go on and gave that a try.

diamuertos2

They were a bit easier. not so much swirly skirt stuff, but kind of stiff looking.

Afterwards I entered the Art Museum, past the dancers changing into street clothes, and viewed the (not to be missed) Tierra de Rosas exhibit and then into the history museum for the Dia de los Muertos exhibit where I got at least two ideas for Muse Group lessons! Both exhibits will be up til November if you haven’t already seen them.

Strung out and the antidote

Do you ever find yourself in the mood to scribble? What about drip and splatter? Well it doesn’t always end up making for a unified, let alone pleasing piece of art. But it always leads somewhere.

strungout1

I thought I’d look at this recent mixed media Muse painting in pieces. This view turned out to be my favorite, because it illustrated the theme, which I didn’t realize until I wrote this:

Are you a bit strung out? Well yeah, aren’t we all. All bunched up together with our hair electrified, bleeding anxiety about climate and politics (impeachment?). Even  while we’re eating, we’re dreaming starvation And while comfortable in our homes, firestorms and earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes are breaking out in our brains. And we know there’s nothing much we can do now, too little too late…and the strings are knotting up and pulling on us and sometimes we can sort of ignore the discomfort and get on with lives of moving around in cars and on airplanes and discarding plastic and wasting food, and the knots keep getting tighter.. .

(More pieces of the painting here. . .)

Well, that’s one way of looking at what’s going on in our world. All quite true. But the artist has to be more agile, break it down, and look for other solutions.

Like the creature that appeared in Muse Group with an acrylic pour . I walked past it/him/her/them for weeks, until one day some words landed somewhere between my ears, and I was able to finish it, with great satisfaction.

grrblop

So allow me to introduce the excessively silly and somewhat shy Grrrblop! antidote to despair.

A new six-week Muse Group starts Oct 7, and there is one opening left at this writing. I’m thinking we’ll do a “greatest hit” series of mixed media lessons. That’s the best antidote I can think of! If you’ve been thinking you’d like to come, don’t wait, cause we’d love to have you and the window is closing up fast. For more info and to contact me and register visit my website.