Carlos Medrano, Sabor de mi Cuba

Another Tuesday evening at Healdsburg Plaza, with Carlos Medrano and his band celebrating the 19th Annual Jazz Festival.


So how do you put the tones and color and flavors of the hot and steamy Cuban jazz down on paper? Always fun to try!

Found a new spot to sit where visibility was good! It was early in the show and I plunked my mini-stool down right at the feet of the performers with my back to the dancers.  I don’t think I would have had the nerve if there hadn’t been a couple photographers with their tripods set up there.


Later there was a fair amount of dancing on stage as the singer collected people from the audience and coached them in the sinuous movements of the hips. I gave it a try for a while too, then sat again to draw the audience, mostly in movement. It certainly puts a smile on your face with so many different ages dropping their inhibitions together!


Next day I did another quick sketch from my iPhone pics, trying to keep the same freshness as the on-location sketches. I wanted another crack at capturing her movement. Trying to sketch faster and drop my tidiness in the service of energy. I sketched this same group six months ago if you want to check it out here.

Travel Sketching Workshop

I just scheduled a new on-location sketching workshop for this summer. Hope you can come!


Leave your cell phone in your pocket and record memories in a pen and watercolor sketch that tells your own story. In this on-location workshop you will have a day of instruction and practice with drawing exercises, strategies for designing your sketches and adding watercolor, all in a charming town nestled in the redwoods in Sonoma County.

For more info and to register, visit my website.

Our Town

I haven’t been to the Summer of Love exhibition at the De Young Museum in S.F. yet, but one cannot live in the greater Bay Area without being exposed to Summer of Love festivities or ads which co-opt the term.

In case you don’t know where this is coming from, here’s the explanation:

In 1967, nearly 100,000 free-spirited adventurers congregated in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood near Golden Gate Park to join a cultural revolution that created some of the era’s most memorable music, art, fashion and literature. Wearing flowers in their hair, people danced through the streets, promoting peace in a war-ravaged world. Their legacy remains, and five decades later San Francisco will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

On Sunday afternoon I was at one of my favorite sketching spots, our town Sebastopol ‘s Farmer’s Market, which celebrates the Summer of Love all year round and has been for years! Flowers in hair, children and dogs running loose, flowing hair and retro hippy attire (which is now in vogue again), drum circles and every version of healing/organic/slow/local/gluten free/nonGMO food, clothing, massage, herbal this and that.


When the market venders are winding down the musicians are warming up for an afternoon of hanging out in the shade with friends (everyone included here).


A drum circle plus hurdy gurdy like I saw in Ireland last summer! Banjo and barefoot dancers in the grass. OK, so they aren’t wearing flowers, but there were others who were! And everyone with smiles on their faces.

With a little bit of harmless anarchy thrown in.



Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings

My favorite time of the year, bar none, is summer when free concerts are happening almost every day of the week in one of the many towns in Sonoma County. The Healdsburg Plaza was packed with families this Tuesday celebrating the beginning of this season and raising wine glasses to the amazing Roy Rogers on his slide guitar and the Delta Rhythm Kings of blues. Charlie Musselwhite was even on hand to join in with his harmonica at times.


I actually had to start dancing right away. You know, to kind of get it out of my system so that the pen wouldn’t go bananas when it hit the paper. But then I noticed an artist on stage sketching away and wondered if I might try that as well. In the break I asked Roy Rogers if he would mind my sitting behind them in the back of the gazebo/stage.  So I got a new vantage point, and even met some of the folks traveling with the band. Doesn’t exactly make me a groupie, but I can pretend.


Charlie Musselwhite is there in the red plaid shirt.


This guy Jase Casabella sketches performance style (he’s also a musician) with charcoal in one hand and a video palm recorder in the other. By the end of the performance he had pages and pages of sketches of the band to sell to enthusiastic viewers and a youtube video for Facebook.

Got me thinking. . .maybe I should try a bit of recording with my free hand? There is something so intoxicating about the mix of music and sketching, and my sketches can only show part of the scene.




My latest experiments in the art laboratory explore the territory of “patina”. They are usually a response to the query “I wonder what would happen if. . .” and in this case. . .if I wet the watercolor paper and paint into it with iridescent paints. The metallic particles drop out of solution on the wet surface causing spontaneous “events”.


Lumiere’s Halo Blue Gold and Metallic Bronze and Golden’s Iridescent Bright Gold acrylics and Higgen’s Black India ink on w/c paper (with plaster of paris medallion)

The frustrating thing about these patina paintings is the difficulty in photographing the reflective paints, so you’ll have to use your imagination because they’ve gone flat in this image. The lovely blue is actually the blue portion of the Blue Gold as the gold is left behind by the water.

Imagine the treasures that surface on the trails we walk. Then again imagine the ones packed within the earth’s core. The restless imagination becomes a geologist digging deeper into that landscape, more wondrous and bizarre, that cannot be seen with mere eyes.

And then it surfaces again, to the just-enough-loveliness of everyday to sweeten this perplexing gift of life.

I’ll be teaching a new version of Experimental Mixed Media Painting: “Patina” at Sebastopol Center for the Arts on June 24 and 25. There’s still a couple spaces if you’re interested! For more information visit my website.


Honoring WWII and Korean War Vets

I live about 15 minutes from the Pacific Coast Air Museum at Charles Schultz (Sonoma So.) airport but had never been there before Saturday. The event honoring WWII and Korean War Vets was a great opportunity to enjoy a sunny day sketching vintage planes and servicemen from an earlier era, while also remembering my parents (both now deceased) who served in WWII.


Volunteers were giving tours of the aircraft, but we were there to tell the visual story of planes and people. When I was almost finished with this one, the blond lady came over to look and told us that her father had flown over 30 missions in a plane like this in the Korean War. He died in March of this year at 93 and she was there to honor him.


I think I’d have to spend longer than a couple hours sketching planes to understand the dimensions of them. This one with the shark face painted on presented a challenge, possibly because it wanted to be more of a marine species than an avian one.


Do you think that face would scare away the enemy, or would then fly closer to get a peak at the pin up girl by the cockpit?


In the open hanger beyond were veterans seated at tables where you could sit down and hear their stories. Lovely calendar girls walked around, posing with happy airmen, while a WWII vet sang songs from the 40’s and yodelled for an enthusiastic crowd.


Families could put their children in the cockpit to give them that pilot experience. I started this sketch of a one-legged veteran, then turned around to sketch the plane, not realizing the irony of his placement, mirroring the single wheel in the front of the plane and two on the sides. Or does he look like he’s holding up the front of the plane? I’m learning it’s all OK in the pursuit of the story and an afternoon of fun!

An afternoon in Graton

With the thought of sitting out in the lovely warm weather to sketch, my friends and I scheduled lunch at Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton, followed by sketching in the town. It was Wednesday this week, and yet another day that never really warmed up.


fountain pen with brown ink and w/c in Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook, (full spread)

But I think I’ve been complaining too much about the weather lately! One can always put the hood of the sweatshirt up over ones head, after all. This spot, a boarded up abandoned house across the street turned out to be a wonderful subject. Just as I finished the sketch, (where I obviously got mesmerized by the old brick fireplace), the owner of the property showed up and gave us the history of the place! She grew up there, next to what was one of no less than three gas stations in this little one block town. For many years now they have been going through the environmental clean up, since it has not been a gas station for a long time. How fun to get the history from an old timer!

I woke up in the middle of the night after and knew I had to put this woman in the sketch, because I’d dreamed it! So I added her from memory the next day.


I was also scouting out sketch spots for the workshop I’m teaching June 10, which is a 10 X 10 Urban Sketch workshop and the topic is Sketching Vignettes. I changed the location to Graton because I think it’s quite perfect for this workshop and very “user friendly” with all the restaurants, art gallery, historic buildings and the like.


I started to sketch this gorgeous truck, but it was parked only briefly and drove off before I got too far. So I finished it later from a picture I’d taken.