Workshops

New Mixed Media Group starts Oct 29!

A new 6-week session of Muse Group fun starts at the end of the month and you’re invited to join!  We’ll be doing more lessons like this one, applying acrylic inks and gesso in abstract designs, adding textures and collage, and words. For more information and to register visit my website.

Two weeks ago we started out with a familiar Zen concept, that of enso, a Japanese word meaning circle and symbolizing the absolute, enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, the void. . .the expression of the moment when the mind is free to let the body/spirit create! enso1

If I were to step into this ENSO, there might be repercussions. Well, I hope so. There’s got to be a something in the white nothing. I can stand here forever on the outside, weaving my wreath of inks and collage, but the inside is where the ad-venture starts. . .the journey to the center of a swirling mass of colors and shapes, the bottom of the well. . .the ____ ?

The circle shape does raise the question of “what’s inside?” It points to what often cannot be seen or even if seen, words may fail to describe it adequately.  Of course that’s the business of the image, to suggest without spelling it out. In Muse Group we write for five minutes after the image making, not to describe or define the image, but perhaps to go deeper into the mystery of it.

In another enso piece, exploring the radiating form of the circle shape, the appearance of crickets led to more disturbing thoughts.  . .

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What attracts them to the maelstrom which may be their oblivion? Is it the march of their species rising out of a wrong turn by some of its members, with the inexorable pull of primitive tribalism?  (Are we only talking crickets here?)

Who do we follow in life’s march, the one who we recognize as most familiar, or the wise one(s) who takes off down a new road that we cannot yet see the end of. Either way oblivion is terrifying, but also inevitable.

 

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Sketching Fire Stories

If you’ve been following along here then you know that, along with a small group of urban sketcher friends, I’ve been doing reportage sketching of our firestorm aftermath since last October, telling the visual stories of the scarred landscape, the first responders and the people who lost so much.

In the process I’ve experienced an increased feeling of connection with my community. Ironically, even though we are told that firestorms are now “the new normal” of weather patterns, I have a greater sense of security as a result of hearing stories of such bravery and the loving responses of communities of friends and even strangers. Even though I didn’t lose my home, the “fire news” has become a personal thing for me.

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On Saturday I attended a round table discussion of artists whose art in response to the fires was in the From Fire Love Rises exhibition now showing at the Sonoma Valley Museum. Listening and sketching I felt intimately connected to their pain and loss, but also to their experience of the healing and redemptive aspects of art making. You may have noticed that almost every art venue is showing fire related art right now!

For all these reasons I decided I wanted to share this experience with others like yourself and see if our group can’t grow into a larger reportage effort called “Sketching Fire Stories”. If you think you might be interested, please read further.

If you’ve taken any of my workshops, you may be ready for one form or another of this reportage sketching! You can learn about it “on the job” so to speak. And here’s the invitation.

If you are an artist, illustrator, sketcher, writer, and/or friendly good-listener, please join us for Sketching Fire Stories at the Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together on Sat., Oct. 6, 11am-2pm at Shiloh Regional Park in Windsor, CA We will have a table set up with information about how you can participate. The “stories” we collect will be posted on social media and wider, including pop-up art shows in the coming months.

You may wish to sketch the many activities at the event, the people, or the nature areas recovering from the fire. We will also be pairing up into interviewer/sketcher teams to do portraits of people who wish to share how the fires affected them, and what has given them hope in the last year. (see examples of this from Sketching Climate Stories) You might prefer to interview and take notes to be added to the sketches.

If you’re interested, please contact me and I’ll give you more information! Or visit the Meet Up posting about the event and sign up there. This is such a satisfying way to connect with the community, to help with the healing, and to participate in socially conscious art making!

Light-footed

A new Muse Group session started up last week. I’ve taken the summer off from teaching and it’s great to be back doing this intuitive painting/collaging work. I like to always start the class back up with acrylic inks because they can be squirted onto the page with droppers! Meaning that we can throw caution to the wind, at least initially, and then develop a piece with the part of the brain that embraces serendipity.

lightfootedclass demo: acrylic inks and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

She is light-footed, buzzing with the bees and nesting with the birds, throwing herself out in a string of tags – one day a mother, another a star on a stage, and yet another a winged creature.

Her blessings are cast everywhere, yet she remains at the center of it all, animated and relaxed, energetic and focused. Sometimes she wraps the strings around her for protection, like shields, pulling the birds and the bees with her into a cocoon.

It can be daunting to tackle a painting like this which begins with “ink play”, so I got out my rubber stamp collection, which is considerable at this point. Some of them were purchased and many were carved into soft linoleum blocks.

The class exercise was to wet portions of the watercolor paper with water, squirt on some inks (3 colors max!) and let them mix a bit, and then add some gesso “worms” and run the roller or other tool through them to mix. I like to put some gesso of the lighter weight variety into an applicator (like a mustard container) and squeeze it onto the paper.

Then, while the paint was wet, press the rubber stamp into it and then stamp that on the paper as well. Voila! You’re already halfway to a finished painting that is harmonious and has interest!

Sketching Climate Stories

Next weekend I’ll be participating in “Sketching Climate Stories” at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The Bay Area urban sketching groups are joining together to document the  Climate Summit and the people who are coming to it. We’ll be doing portraits in pictures and words, telling the stories of how individuals and their communities have been affected by climate change—and how they’re working on solutions.

2 Interview/sketch pieces, 8.5X11″, pen, water soluble pencil, w/c on w/c paper

So I got together with my sketch buddies this week to practice interviewing and sketching in pairs. The three of us had lots to relate about how Global Warming is affecting our community here in the post-Tubbs fire era.

Bettina’s comment: “The threat of fire was always more theoretical before . .now the danger can’t be ignored. It’s right on our doorstep!” could have been made by just about anyone here in the Santa Rosa and other areas. And when asked what she is working on, Carole responded that she is using her art to “bring awareness to social issues like Climate Change”.

And if you’re looking for ways to do the same, read on here.

We’ll be starting at the Rise for Climate march on Sunday and dropping in on different events and actions during the week. We have applied for press credentials to do sketch reportage of the GCAS events in the Moscone Center.

The main groups involved are the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers, a chapter of the international Urban Sketchers organization, with 220 chapters around the world, and SF Sketchers, a San Francisco-based meetup group with nearly 3,000 members.

We will be posting our sketches online in the blog SketchingClimateStories.org (currently under construction), a Facebook group, Sketching Climate Stories and on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #sketchingclimatestories.

The sketches themselves will be shown at several locations during the week, including a popup show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on their Green Thursday evening. We are planning a larger show of all the sketches after the Summit and are considering ways that the climate stories could evolve into a long-term project, documenting the effects of climate change on frontline communities. (I would add here, that one of the frontline communities will be here in Sonoma County where we’ll be commemorating the first anniversary of the Oct 2018 firestorms this year with events by many local groups.)

Here are Inks to currently scheduled events (this will change as more events are added)

Practice session at Arch Art Supplies, September 1

Reportage sketching at the march on September 8

Popup show of the sketches at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Green Thursday, September 13

It’s all pretty exciting and constantly evolving. Feel free to contact me if you wonder how you can get involved, either in the S.F. event or in October for our Sonoma Co. events.

 

A Gouache Day with Maru!

Gouache is the strangest word. It always sends me to spellcheck because it couldn’t possibly be an English word. Yesterday at least, it had a Spanish feel, or maybe Catalan. Maru Godas was here (in San Francisco) from her home in Barcelona, teaching her popular Urban Sketcher workshop titled Gouache Like a Child

Being more of a transparent watercolorist myself, I’ve always had a mixed reaction to gouache, which is a creamy, opaque watercolor, because it is so often used by watercolorists to correct their painting errors. In the “wrong” hands it can have a deadening quality. But in Maru’s hands it is so appealing!

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She started us out with some exercises to get used to the consistency, mixing black with white to get a five step gray scale. To paint with the creamy consistency of opaque gouache, you have to have just enough water on your brush, but not dilute it. It takes practice for an old watercolorist like myself. We also did a black to almost white scale with black gouache only, adding water to show that you can actually use gouache in a watercolor-y way too. And with dry paint on the brush you get great textures which you need to enliven the surface of your paintings.

We also got to practice painting three minute thumbnails with black and white.

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Maru is showing her signature palette here. It’s totally brilliant. All these wonderful colors from just five pigments. We practiced mixing paints, keeping them creamy consistency with just the right amount of water, and then went outside to try it all out at Mission Bay.

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The row of houseboats along the canal seems to beg to be sketched! Here I’m trying to channel the “like a child” part of the instructions while wrestling with this much thicker and unfamiliar medium in a timed exercise. Unlike regular watercolor paint you can paint light colors on top of dark ones in gouache, though you can also leave the white paper untouched to preserve your whites. It’s very freeing (though I kept forgetting!)

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I enjoyed being able to come back in at the end with a white paint pen and pencils to spice up some areas.

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The final sketch was a panorama using line as well as the gouache. As I was painting in the colorful scene of Pac Bell stadium I could hear the roar of appreciative Giants fans.

So the verdict? If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with Maru. . .you may have to go to Europe. . .jump for it. And gouache? It’s so delectable, especially fresh from the tube, as to be practically irresistible. Paired with other media to add line to the blocks of color shapes, it can’t fail to activate the child painter within. My own child is drooling in anticipation of more chances to dive into those colors.

Only drawback. . .it’s definitely messier than watercolor and requires more water changes, more paper towels, a big sponge, brushes that are springier and a brush case to carry them in. That and another pouch for a variety of dry media like colored pencils. I don’t think I’d take it along on a protest march, for instance. But for a sunny afternoon at Mission Bay, it couldn’t be finer.

Porto: Last days

Saturday July 21st was the last day of the whirlwind Urban Sketchers Symposium 2018. After the morning workshop with Marion Rivolier (yesterday’s post) the 800 attendees were invited to the “Big Sketch” final sketchwalk and group photo in a long central promenade area up on the hill which ended in the grand city hall.

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This young woman with her sketch board and symposium pass was perfect to tell the story.

But first I started with a warm up sketch in direct watercolor to overcome my nervousness about the busy open space with so many curious onlookers and experienced artists. I was happy with the girl with no face, painted in only shadow shapes, before I got all involved with the cherub statue and decided I better move on!

It was time then for the group photo on the steps of the City Hall. Can you see me waving? Ha ha!

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Next we walked back to the river to the Alfondega or symposium Hub for the Silent Auction of the spectacular work done by Urban Sketchers in Porto. This was followed by the raffle drawing of prizes from generous sponsors. Then the buildup to the big announcement that next year’s Symposium (drum roll here) in Amsterdam!

With all the socializing activities and workshops during the event I was starved to just wander and sketch with no time limit. So the following morning I set off alone.

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The tourists don’t get up early, so it was possible for a while to wander without the crowds and sip coffee with the excellent views of the river.

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Walking to the other side of the bridge on the lower level I found a spot in the shade with my back to the bridge wall. It was midday and the day’s activity was beginning in earnest. A young man was donning a wet suit, and later returned to strip it off with an appreciative audience of girls. So I wrote this tidbit on my sketch (never write until later!) He and his friends then expressed some interest in what I was doing and I was able to ask

Q: Why the wetsuit?

A: To jump off the lower bridge span into the river! (the upper span is for suicides I learned)

When the group came over to look closer, I covered my writing with my hand and had to keep it there while one of the girls, an art student sat beside me to watch me paint!

Then a street musician/artist stopped by and chatted with me for a while and explained that the deafening roar of motorcycles which was increasing with each moment was related to another kind of symposium happening that weekend, a motorcycle rally!

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Back across the bridge again I caught sight of this edifice sheltered in the armpit of the upper bridge span.

Oh how I will miss the urban character of Porto! I heard that someone suggested we have the annual symposium in Porto every year!

On the last Porto day exhaustion finally took over. But we agreed we couldn’t go home without seeing the Atlantic ocean beach. A short cab ride got us there and exhaustion lifted as we breathed the sea air and found a lovely resort to dine and enjoy sun and cool breezes.

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I got out my Inktense pencils, pens and marker for the top sketch, though I always end up wondering why I didn’t use watercolor.

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The young wait staff were not so busy they couldn’t visit with us and answer questions and enjoy being sketched.

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And that’s about it.Well, that’s not quite it. I’m still doing a bit of sketching from my pictures of scenes I had no time to do while there.

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The Porto sign was right around the corner from our Yellow House and perfect to stage our farewell (along with a line of tourists from other countries.

Thanks for joining me on the trip! If you came in late, you can scroll down for more sketches of two weeks in Portugal.

Part III Porto

My first Symposium workshop was one that I knew would blow my sketcher’s mind wide open, and gratefully it did! Inma Serrano‘s workshop titled Porto: Calm and Wild! She got us going right away by giving us India ink and sticks and accordian folded paper to do quick drawings which played with textures, open and dynamic lines and overlapping shapes.  You see the results here.inma serrano

Then looking out at the busy Ribeira area by the river we did a sketch making a clear pathway into the focal point and leaving out any other detail.

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Here’s my exercise. It was so liberating to get to leave out so much of the colorful scene and just focus on a particular story with large shapes leading into smaller shapes in the background. And no watercolor here, because I had to use my water container to put the ink in. So this is the India ink, drawn with a stick and brush, marker, brush pen, and colored pencil.

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Here’s Inma pointing at the scene we walked to next. We were in the labyrinthine walkways leading up from the river near the bridge.

Inma is saying, “First paint only the shadow shapes (luckily there were some!) in black, and then finish the sketch with detail in any medium you want.”

When some of us winced she said, “Trust me. Just do it.”

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Here’s mine. And I’m sure you can imagine what happened in my mind when I finished with just the back ink. . . but in the end I thought, “Hey this is so cool!”

When she looked at mine her comment was, “This is out of your comfort zone, right? (I nodded vigorously) Very good.”

Funny thing about that comfort zone. Hard to let go of it, but always a good idea if you want to move ahead. You’ll see some influence this workshop had on my later sketches!

In the afternoon, after lunch and more up and down climbing and a wee rest, I joined Jim Richards‘ workshop, Drawing as Discovery: Revealing Porto’s Rich Sense of Place. Jim invited us to first explore the area, walking around doing thumbnails or small sketches to find elements that conveyed the life and energy of the place. We were at the foot of the statue of Henry the explorer, in a garden ringed by a palace, cathedral with solid gold interior, another church with decorative tiled facade, openings with river views, hillside views of more cathedrals and battlements and on and on.

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Here’s my “discovery tour”, and I would happily have sketched any of these scenes. The final exercise was to create a large composition to express this city’s energy and life, adding in many objects to enrich the concept. I chose the scene on the lower left.

But first, knowing that this endeavor would require more energy than I had, I bought myself a gelato!

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There’s Henry the explorer reaching out to explore and conquer the world, and the angel with her foot on the planet and arm in the air holding a cross. Definitely a story right there. And always the lovebirds oblivious of all but each other. And me enjoying my gelato on a blue sky day.

The Drink and Draw followed. A time more for urban sketchers socializing than drawing. I made some interesting new friends and took a break from sketching!

My last workshop was the next day. Capturing People and Space in the Same Gesture with Marion Rivolier. Marion is a stage and set designer and fine artist living in Paris. The urban sketcher community is in awe of her ability to sketch big scenes with direct watercolor painting in vibrant color, often with figures that are moving and complex urban scenes.

She started out by getting us to practicing mixing our warm and cool dark mixes of color. porto9

To be able to emphasize light against dark and warm against cool colors, we needed to be ready to produce these quickly, because. . .the next part was to capture figures with a gestural brush mark, and then to negative paint the figure while simultaneously building the background scene in dark warm and cool brush strokes. Are you still following?

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The “models” were the folks waiting for the tram or sitting at the restaurant tables, or each other.

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The last exercise was to put it all together and do the big scene (no drawing first) and we had 40 minutes, the first 10 of which I sat freaking out and thinking this is impossible. (There it is again, no comfort zone here.) Then I plunged in and painted like crazy. And if you stand back far enough, it actually looks like a scene you might see in Porto! Warm and cool and dark and light. It’s all there, barely. Whew!

Next: Symposium finale and last days in Porto