#30X30directwatercolor2018

Color Comes Back to Coffey Park

I was anxious to get back to do another sketch of Coffey Park this week, and managed to make two more trips with my sketch buddies.

coffeyback2

direct watercolor in my new handmade sketchbook, 9X15″ Fluid 100 paper

I’m still working with the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge. I wanted to capture the effect of homes going up here and there without much detail and that seems to work well with the direct w/c approach.

While we were sitting there we met 1) the owner of the house I’d sketched last week and got to hear some of his story and 2) a reporter and photographer from our (Pulitizer prize winning!) Press Democrat paper. Exciting stuff, this sitting in the dirt by the side of the road with bulldozers driving by!

So today we were back again for another eventful morning, which started with greeting the carpenters who were having a nutritious breakfast together before working on framing in a house.

colorCoffey1

I was immediately struck by how colorful the construction scene was. The bright orange ladders and outhouse, the yellow cords and blue helmets and neon striped vests. Moving up closer to be in the tiny bit of shade available, I also got close enough to hear a lesson in construction and the easy banter of the workmen, punctuated by drills and hammers.

colorCoffey2

Meanwhile I was sketching like mad, because the press had arrived to hear our story. How did we get the idea to sketch the fire stories and to keep doing it for months?

colorCoffeyCarole

Carole told her story, here with Robert Digitale. . .

colorCoffeybettina

And Bettina told hers, and of course I told mine. And as always happens when we’re sitting out in the dirt on our little stools, we met more people who had their own stories. A man holding his granddaughter walked up to take a peek. He was the owner of the home I was sketching. He recognized my name and I recognized him as my son’s 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Borbe. And there it was, the fresh pathos of a respected and loved man who had lost his home in the fire. Sigh. Even so, he was all smiles. This is what is meant by Coffey Strong!

And then speaking with the photographer Beth, I got a peek at what it was like to drive into Coffey Park on the night of the inferno, to drive past the road blocks, showing their press badges, to have their own fire fighter suit to wear as they encountered that red-hot story.

The last bit of pathos came as I showed the sketches to the carpenters and heard what it is like for them to see what they’ve seen and live daily with it. The up side is getting to actually contribute something so tangible as a new home to people who lost theirs. But coming so close to the stories of loss takes its toll. One of the guys had to stop mid-sentence to staunch the flow of feeling coming on so strong.

And as I remember this day I feel the lump in my throat and the burning in the eyes returning. . .and I can’t wait to get back to more sketching. Funny thing, that.

 

Advertisements

Smart Train to Novato Hamilton

After sketching the Smart Train and even teaching a workshop at the Depot at Railroad Square I finally got around to actually riding the train on Saturday! The train runs from the Sonoma County airport to San Rafael. During the week it is used by commuters and on the weekend for pleasure seekers like my friends and I. And last Saturday the train was full of people like us, and whole families taking their first ride. We took it just as far as Novato Hamilton which is where the beautiful Marin MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) with its gallery and artist studios is located.

On the train we met a young woman who commutes to her weekend job in San Francisco using train, bus, ferry, and another bus to arrive at her destination. Seems like a lot, but she has it worked out and enjoys the 2 hour commute which covers some gorgeous scenery and affords her time to relax and read her book as well. We kept her busy answering our questions til we got off.

novato1

Direct watercolor on 140 lb CP Arches paper, 9 X 7.5″

The early California white stucco buildings at Hamilton Field’s former air force base are eminently sketchable. I started with a direct watercolor since I’m still working on the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge of this month. Some day I’ll master palm trees, but for now, I just really love trying.

novato2

We had lunch at Beso, which is right next to the museum and has incredible food, then visited the museum and the Make Your Mark show, which had just opened. Then we wandered through the halls where the studio artists hang their work.

It was getting really windy and time to take the train back. We’re anxious to ride the train again. It’s especially nice to whiz in comfort by the cars clumped up and crawling along at the Novato and Petaluma “narrows”.

novato3

Later I thought I’d give the same scene a try in a more whimsical style. If I’d tried once more I would have exaggerated even more. This version has more of the wind-blown feel.

novato4

And then next day I had a few minutes for another direct watercolor quickie.

Practice, practice

Like most of us I like to think that one day I’ll just “get it” and then painting will be effortless self expression. This is very short sighted thinking of course, because it’s the drive to evolve as a painter which motivates me to practice, practice, practice, even when things are not going particularly well. Practice, as in effort. My friends who participate in challenges, like the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge which is going on this month, understand this. Paint something every day and you can’t help but evolve, even though on any particular day it may feel like you’re sliding backward.

Suhita suggested doing more than one of the same subject. So after two tries at the pagoda on Stowe Lake, I tried a third, this time from a tiny picture on my phone, direct watercolor. Taking the advise of Marc, to get farther away or work from a less detailed pictures.

pagodanew

A quick and dirty direct watercolor with fewer specifics yet more fresh and appealing. Here’s the first two:

In the first I got mesmerized by the up close detail. In the second I was far enough away that I had to make up details, when I should have left them out!

Another day I was sketching in Sebastopol with a view of Gravenstein Station. My first try, in direct watercolor was highly frustrating! Not having the pen line to rely on, my watercolor application got too tight and descriptive, choking out the light.

gravstation It certainly represents the scene relatively accurately, but I think I pretty much killed it dead. With 10 minutes left til I had to go, I did this less ambitious sketch and liked it much better.

gravstation2

Direct watercolor with white pen line added at the end

Another day I decided to practice figures with no preplanning, just drawing/painting directly, from another phone photo.

trio

I was testing my ability to paint shapes with no drawn or painted line. Great practice but clumsy outcome. And definitely missing the spirit of the music.

selfie

Determined to do a first-thing-in-the-morning direct watercolor I did this selfie in my pajamas while sipping chai (from my computer monitor). It bears little resemblance to me (which haunts me! how to fix it!) but again, great practice.

 

Let the Summer Begin!

. . .with free concerts on the plaza! And the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

jazz

Lamy fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhl Watercolor Book

The Plaza in Healdsburg was jam packed on Tuesday night. We were sitting far enough back where you don’t even see the musicians but can still enjoy the music just fine. People are set up in their groupings with friends and wine and food and dancing  by the stage and on the sidelines. Everybody happy to be there on a warm almost summer night. And the music. . .ahhh, Latin Jazz!

Santos

Here’s my 30X30 direct watercolor for the day. Not the fluid watercolor paper I prefer, but I kind of like all the texture that happens with the wet application. When the musicians returned after the break, I set my little stool up on the side of the stage to get deep into the latin groove and let the percussion rule the sketch. Honestly I’d had some wine too, which might be evident in the “looseness” of the sketch. And all the while I’m thinking, oh yeah, it’s summer-groovin-time now!

Stowe Lake, G.G. Park Meet up

Temperatures soared in Sebastopol yesterday, and I headed for S.F. to enjoy the perfect weather there with other SF urban sketchers at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. There were nesting great blue herons and red tailed hawks to view, turtles sunbathing on every floating log, ducks and ducklings of many varieties, paddle boaters, cyclists, hikers and more. I went for subjects I rarely see in Sonoma County and in my fevered state immediately jumped in for more than I could manage. When will I learn?!

bothouse3

Direct watercolor, day 2.

 I should have aborted early on, but hey, I learned a lot and later added more detail and killed it dead (learning even more!) Meanwhile, since my back was to the path where people were walking, and they were drawn to the color, I kept hearing all the compliments behind me. People just love it when you do art in public, like you’re a hero or something. So I guess this little sketch served some purpose aside from teaching me a lesson, and satisfying my direct watercolor challenge.

The lesson? – when attempting something this complex, do a thumbnail first, simplify, plan, before jumping in. Well, that’s one of the lessons anyway.

pagoda.jpg

Next I sat down very close to the Golden Gate Pavilion and was so beguiled by the intricate designs that I totally lost myself in them. Not a bad thing. If I hadn’t come to my senses though, I might also have added the paddle boats on the lake behind, the Canadian geese, and the soaring hawk!

pagoda2

Direct watercolor

Several people in the meet up found this vantage point across the lake from the Pagoda  – a much better angle, which I found later after we’d done the sharing. And then I got to put the birds in too!

June 1 and the challenge commenses!

I decided to start out the month of doing a direct watercolor sketch each day by treating myself to garden sketching. The delights of sitting in the garden at peak season, listening to bird choruses and bumblebee rumbles seemed a good way to get the habit going. When I’ve got a bit of confidence in the line-less approach I might even try the goats at the bottom of my road.

matilija1

It’s hard when the sketch has to compete with the beauty of nature. I thought I’d made of mess of this until I threw it down on the ground and saw it from a bit of a distance.

matilija2

Same thing happened today when I attempted a view from more distance. I was ready to start over, then looked at it on the ground and decided to put a few more strokes in. You might have to step back from your screen to get the impact, but I’m actually quite pleased. Not the overexact contrivance I sometimes get.

Are you rising to the 30X30 Direct Watercolor 2018 challenge this month? Doing it along with 100’s, 1000’s(?) of people worldwide makes it so much fun, regardless of how any one sketch turns out. Like when you were a kid and all the kids on your block got together to play softball or build a fort.

30X30 Direct Watercolor Challenge

The 30X30 Direct Watercolor Challenge dreamed up by some of my Urban Sketcher buddies starts tomorrow! It’s one of these marathon commitments to paint something every day for a month, and in this case to use the direct-watercolor approach. I’m going to give it a go and maybe you’d like to as well. Put up your art sail and catch the wind of lots of folks who will be trying it and having breakthroughs this month.

I love to draw with a pen, but I’ve been playing around with drawing with my brush and not allowing myself to come in at the end to define shapes with pen line. The result is looser, messier even, and often more appealing. I won’t stop drawing with all my fun fountain pens, BUT will do at least 30 direct watercolor paintings this month. (Actually I already started, which you’ll see in some of the sketches from my Princeton/Brooklyn trip)

It’s a pretty simple concept actually. Practice anything for 30 consecutive days, and you’re guaranteed to get better at it.

You might want to check out these amazing artist/teachers’ blogs to get tips on how to approach the month:

Suhita Shirodhar, Uma Kelkar, Liz Steel, Anne-Laure Jacquart, and of course Marc Taro Holmes.

Marc laid out the ground rules for us to follow, with lots of wiggle room for fitting it into busy lives. Here they are:

What is #30x30DirectWatercolor2018?

  • PAINT 30 watercolors in 30 days, from June 1-30 2018.
  • POST your paintings in our new Facebook group: <HERE
    We’d like to centralize the discussion around this group, to spare our usual sketching clubs all the extra traffic this might create 🙂
  • HASHTAG your work on any other social media (twitter, instagram) with the hashtag: #30x30DirectWatercolor2018.
    This will help people find your work in the future. Here are some FAQs on how to use hashtags: FB | IG | Twitter.
  • Any size, format or subject is ok. I personally hope to paint on location, but it’s going to depend on weather and the situation at home.
  • I plan to paint in watercolor, working as directly as possible. But if you want to tint drawings, or add in some mixed media, we’re not going to be enforcing rules. I won’t however, have a lot of advice about techniques I’m not thinking about this month.
  • Our goal is experiencing sustained daily practice. If it’s better for you to do seven paintings on the weekend instead of one a day, that’s totally ok. Same with posting progress. One a day makes a good story – but do what works for you.
  • It’s also completely normal if you fail to make 30! Or to need a few extra days. Like any marathon, just participating is the first reward. Though I’m sure any of us can catch up with some super fast, super small sketches if we have to!