urban sketching

Geese at the old brewery

I’d come to sketch the historic brewery across the water at Tumwater Historical Park, but first the Canadian geese were putting on such a show of preening, with feathers and beaks going in all directions while also holding stiller than usual. . . so how could I resist?

fountain pen and watercolor on 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media paper

Of course that meant putting my stool down in, well you know what happens around flocks of geese. The two standing characters in the show actually held their posture for a good 20-30 minutes, leading me to think they must be the sentries, watching over the preeners.

I sort of remembered getting waylayed by the geese (or ducks) last summer when I was intending to focus on the brewery. See that sketch here. So, determined to have another go, I got a drawing and photo done and worked on that at home.

fountain pen, black brush pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

And I’ll happily give it another go another time. Maybe it will be an annual thing, a way to show my fealty to my new home town.

Spooners

This berry stand is three minutes from my house, and I’ve been watching the parking lot fill up with folks buying flats of strawberries every day lately, at least until about 11am when they sell out! These are not the California variety. They are a very deep dark red all the way through and you have to gobble them up quickly because they’re very ripe and juicy. And since red is probably my favorite color to paint, I couldn’t resist setting up the stool to sketch the action, and Ineke joined me. 

You may notice that the sky is dark in the picture. It was 11 am and the sun was doing its hide and seek game we’ve gotten used to here. That was then. Now we’re getting some real sun and heat this week, finally!

fountain pens and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Something about the bright colors compelled me to lay the paint down first and draw later. No way to get too precious and correct but the result has more energy. I also did another couple pages with figure studies, about a minute each, because that was how long it took folks to get their flat and carry it away. And then home to binge on strawberries!

Jazz at the Market

ink pens and watercolor in 5X7″ spiral bound mixed media sketchbook

I made a quick stop at the Farmer’s Market in Oly last weekend and got pulled in by the Jazz. Luckily I’d brought my pens and sketchbook so I pulled out the rough and ready Sailor Fude pen and a couple others and started in. Meanwhile excited shoppers were lining up for the strawberries and peonies which are this week’s freshest delights!

The drummer Malo caught me in the act and afterward asked to see the drawing. The name of the group is Clave Con Jazz, a trio of guys who really know their jazz! And is there any better music to punctuate a sketch than Jazz?! Later at home I added the watercolor hot pepper spice for the latin tunes. 

Birding and sketching: Scatter Creek Wildlife Rec. Area

watercolor, gouache and gel pen in beige toned sketchbook

Memorial Day didn’t look like it was going to be a good barbeque day with rain forecast as it is every day here in the northwest, but it was great for birding! The choruses of birdsong were particularly symphonic in this open prairie land carpeted with wildflowers, grasses and gorgeous invasive Scotch Broom bushes. While the experienced birders identified the birds by their unique songs and often found them with binoculars, sharing them with us all, I also stumbled along the trail with eyes on the wildflowers and ears enjoying the songs in happy ignorance.

Our leader Kathleen bore the high powered scope and tripod on her back and seemed to know when to set it up. So we got to see Cowbirds copulating in a tree some distance away! The Tanager above was so striking in color that we could follow its movements in and out of the foliage, rarely seeing the whole bird at once. But that much was surprisingly satisfying.

So yesterday I returned with sketchers Jane and Ineke to enjoy the walk, the colors, the rapidly changing skies and to plant ourselves among the grasses, now grown about 2 feet in one week’s time, to sketch.

direct watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Plunging right in with watercolor

I’ve discovered that this new sketchbook (hand.book journal co. 90# w/c paper), a lighter version of the last one I was using (also hand.book with 140# w/c paper) This lighter one handles wet watercolor very poorly, probably not the best for direct watercolor painting. So, I’ll be going back to 140# 100% cotton paper when I want to paint skies like these!

Same problem here resulting in sky, tree and puddle muddle. Blame it on the paper, haha! But while I was painting I was thinking, “I should come out here every day to paint in this place!”

So I’ll end on this note. Just get out and do it, and enjoy the process. Don’t you just love the feeling of paint coming off your brush!?

Taco Truck

fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Across from the wonderful Childhood’s End Art Gallery in downtown Olympia is a parking lot with food trucks. When Jan and I met to sketch somewhere between the harbor and Capitol Lake, this colorful truck caught my eye and shouted Sketch Me! The other choices were the usual boats and water and overcast skies. So we set up our stools on the pavement for a chance to pretend we were in Mexico for an hour! When it started to drizzle and the ink lines burst in tiny water explosions, we aborted and moved under an awning for lunch.

Direct Watercolor

watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Day One of the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge. No other theme here. But I gave myself time limitations of 30-40 min. Pulled up a picture of last week’s cabin on Goss Lake I’d been meaning to sketch. Drew in the big shapes with a light value Quin Gold. A good way to warm up is always to paint fast and not think too hard. It shows, but this challenge is not about results. We’re going for the kind of transformation that happens over time when you do a lot of it!

The main frustration was that i wanted to go in with a pen to delineate, correct, enhance. And the big quandry was how dark to go, a tricky thing with watercolor because it’s so easy to end up being wishy washy, muddy wuddy.

And then today my sketch friends were not available and the weather was finally warm and balmy, so off I went to scout out some nearby scenes. This one is 5 minutes from my house and I liked the train as a counterpoint to the trees, which we have in such abundance here in Olympia. While I was sitting close to the track an Amtrak train barreled by on the nearest track, rattling me a bit. So we’ll blame that on the fact that my train sketch looks more like a hungry caterpillar.

Two days down and 28 to go. We’ll see. . .Are any of you going for it?

Bunny Town

brown fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Langley on Whidbey Island is a pretty little North Puget Sound town with colorful buildings, views of the snow covered Cascades and the art/restaurant/shopping scene tourists like. But my favorite was the omnipresence of bunnies cavorting everywhere like they own the place! And not just the little brown bunnies that populate our lawns now in Olympia, but a smattering of other breeds of different sizes and colors and fur types. Like these above. And the story goes that the 4H’ers had a show in town and somehow the bunnies got loose and did what bunnies to so well to populate the town with their offspring. Reminded me of the bunnies we raised when my boys were little. I’ve forgotten their names but remember the soft twitchy trembly-ness of holding them on your lap.

From Whidbey we took the half hour ferry back to Port Townsend and then the two hour ride home. Port Townsend, another colorful sea town with its own character, preserving its 19th century history of glorious and sometimes ornate downtown buildings. I got greedy trying to fit as much as possible into the one sketch I had time for.

Now I’m back in Olympia and staying local for a while. People here are complaining about the record breaking cold wet spring this year. I gotta say though, when the sun shines like it did all day yesterday, and with the exuberant blooming and birdsong, it seems worth the wait!

I’m even considering joining the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge this month. It’s become a yearly tradition now among Urban Sketchers and other folks and I have not participated for a while. But I think I’ll give it a try. Marc Taro Holmes and Uma Kelkar are both inspired artists and teachers and the founders , offering lots of coaching and ideas for exploring your own artistic goals. Check it out!

https://citizensketcher.com/30x30directwatercolor/

Whidbey

brown fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue sketchbook

A tiny lake on an island in the northwest, the kind of place we all dream about for summer sunshine, boating, hiking, fishing and sitting on the dock for hours listening to birdsong! I was on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington for a few days last week, staying in this rustic but magical setting which had all the above delights minus the sun and warmth.

Our cold and drizzly spring continues so far here in the northwest. So this sketch was twice aborted by sprinkles. And of course the light changed so many times that I gave up trying to get it “right”, and now I realize i forgot to put in the osprey who was circling overhead for the best part of an hour and the four bald eagles at play later in the day. But this is why we sit and sketch and don’t just rely on photos, because forever after those elements will dwell in our sketches and be released even years after when we open our books!

Park Side Cafe and Mud Bay

Cloudy day? Sunny day? Rain? Yes, we got it all in the hour or so out in the tiny but lovely West Central Park, NW Olympia across from the Park Side Cafe. The light was so changeable and unhelpful in defining the architectural planes, so I went wonky and kept the clever palette of the building’s painters. West Central Park promises to be a good venue for summer music concerts and people sketching! Jane and I ate on the roof afterwards with a view of the city along with wind and rain sprinkles. But hey! Such a delight to be out in slightly warmer temps.

blue fountain, black liner and white gel pen and w/c

Another day with similar wether this week, Ineke and I met at Randall Preserve on Mud Bay Rd, well named for the mud that covers large areas of the tideline estuary at the southern-most end of Puget Sound on Eld Inlet. The mud/muck is surprisingly lovely and patterned, though very much like quick sand if you’re stuck in it!  I learned last summer to beware of the tides turning when you’re out in a boat! Across Mud Bay Rd. from Randall Preserve is Buzz’s Bar and Grill, a great locals place for lunch.