coffee shop sketch

Drink n Draw

The Drink n Draw type of meet up is something that Urban Sketchers like to do, especially at the annual Symposiums. You end a full day of sketching in a pub, cafe or restaurant for even more! Your sketch subjects are at the table with you or close by and no one is offended by your attention being in your sketchbook. 

This is also a really satisfying way to spend a cold/rainy morning with (sketch) friends. Here’s some from recent weeks.

folded pen and ink, watercolor in watercolor journal

The Starbucks on Yelm is a very large coffee house with lots of chairs and tables, separated well,  for people to enjoy meeting with each other.  I brought the folded pen Bob made and some ink and we all got a chance to try it out for figure sketching.  Our conversation continued at a lively pace while drawing. Not so good for concentrated accurate drawing, but energizing! I love the characters that emerge with this “style”.

Here I had stopped bothering with the business of trying to create depth in the figure plane and just did the quick capture characters, cutting my favorites out later and gluing them onto the page. My “good”eye was able to more or less focus on the people who were within about 15-20 feet of me and those were more convincing.

You know the trick when they’re moving – just draw another hand!

 On another day, at Tugboat Annies on the marina. . .the lady was long gone when the men showed up at the table behind her. I was having fun with pen scribbles! 


Downtown Olympia

We tried another “alternative” coffee shop downtown for our sketch meet up last weekend – a retail clothing/gift boutique called Ember Goods

fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ journal

Ember Goods is indeed as advertised “a sanctuary for everything we love about the Pacific Northwest”. Firstly, a place to get out of the rain and cold, have an extraordinary cup of coffee, the kind that makes the thick coffee colored foam on the cup, to sit in the hyggelig decor (remember that Norwegian word that sounds like “hug” and means something similar – soothing, cozy, etc.) The clothing is the sort you might put on your Christmas wish list. And the patrons seemed to know the owners who were busy at the espresso counter. My own family “discovered” this place our first week in Olympia when we were hoping that our move had landed us in the right place.

After our small sketch group had arrived, drunk our coffees and checked in with each other, I settled in to do a continuous line drawing of things that caught my eye – quilting them together somewhat out of order to fill the page.

I had planned to sit outside on the street where shoppers were passing, Christmas lights were hung, volunteers were sweeping up leaves and tending the plants in merry seasonal clean up efforts. The Center for Performing Arts was offering free concerts of student groups, and a tent offering rapid Covid testing and vaccines was set up outside. But I ended up in the quiet skylit vestibule of the New Caledonia Building for another sketch behind the chocolate and tea shops and more hyggelig!

Visitors From Denver!


I had a blast this week sketching with my friends and fellow teachers from Denver, Colorado, Judith Cassel-Mamet and Carol Ann Waugh. I met them last spring when we were all taking an urban sketch workshop in New York city. I was honored that they wanted to come and take a workshop from me to get some sketching tips to add to their already considerable repertoire. I had all kinds of plans for on-location sketching in this gorgeous California spring weather. You know, sunshine and blossoms and happy people congregating in public areas!

Instead they got to experience the Pineapple Express weather that flooded roads, drove everyone indoors and kept us in coffee shops and restaurants sketching people. But since PEOPLE sketching was what they were after, it worked out fine! And apparently wet weather and dampness is a novelty to folks from Denver!


We started in my studio with continuous line drawing to warm up, then adding color, letting the wet paint edge bleed to connect shapes. As time goes on I become more and more convinced that when you are sketching quickly from life, the continuous line improves not only accuracy but also expressiveness because it keeps your mind (and therefore your mind’s eye) from wandering off.

What’s that in the bottom right hand corner you ask? It’s my troll doll made of grasses and seed pods. I was also going with the idea that you overlap shapes to connect the images, and the Troll wanted in on the action.


We had planned to go down to the foot of my road and sketch the goats in the green grass after lunch, but the rains had started. So they talked me into sharing some of my strategies for skin tone and painting shadow shapes of figures. I’m not a portrait artist, but I had a willing model and needed a subject to demonstrate on. Yellows and reds with a touch of blue for the skin tone with the green from the background glazed over in parts to show reflections. And here you can really see the limits on this Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook paper which doesn’t do well with wet applications!


Next morning we met at one of Sebastopol’s favorite coffee shops, Taylor Maid, and invited the person who was sitting alone at the table we needed, to join us in sketching! Luckily it was Linda Kammer, who happens to be a watercolor artist friend,  who seemed happy to share her table and sketch with us.

Judith and Carol had asked for ideas to get their figure sketches to capture the uniqueness of the people as opposed to the stock figures. As the rainstorm raged outside, we worked on getting the gestures of specific coffee drinkers and practicing skin tones.  I guess the tech-y people were upstairs with their computers in the loft, because there was actually a young man reading a paperback book! And at another table a fellow engaged in deep conversation with another and no phones/tablets/laptops in sight. And then there was the fellow at the window writing. . .on paper with a pen. What is this world coming to?!!


When it got even stormier there were fewer people to sketch so we stood up to try to catch the baristas in action.

Like I said, we had a blast, and even though I was the ostensible teacher for the days, I learned as much as them. They do mixed media workshops together and separately all over the country and even in Europe. They share a passion for teaching and exploring the creative process. They began collaborating a few years ago, combining Carol’s love of contemporary fiber arts with Judith’s focus on mixed media, sketching and art journaling. They have stitched, painted, sketched and dyed together….and now give workshops together called Mixed Media Adventures! They both have Craftsy online courses you should check out.


Day 5: #OneWeek100People2017

Golly, I hope you’re not too tired of seeing all these people sketches. Yesterday was the final day (of 5) to get in the 100 people sketches. For a last minute spree Bettina and I sat/stood in the loft at Taylor Maid coffee in Sebastopol, the perfect place to catch people at that interesting angle looking down. A bonus is that no one looks up to see that you are sketching them!


Platinum Carbon fountain pen in Stillman +Birn Beta sketchbook (soft cover)

This is a tricky angle because we’re so used to sketching at eye level that we don’t get the perspective right. Her legs were probably not that long when seen from above.


I kept trying to capture the hand gestures as people talked to each other and only occasionally caught something before they moved on. I think if I sat for 3 hours I would probably have a chance to jump in fast enough. The hand is such a complicated structure that it requires quite a bit of study and practice in itself. I’ll put that on my (endless) to do list!


It’s always more fun to sketch with a friend, and we had lots to discuss, but when the brain is tied up with such talk, it’s not as able to access the critical measuring and comparing part of drawing, so here I was getting sloppy. Determined though to get this woman’s hand gesture!


This beautiful young woman reminded us so much of the lasses we saw in Ireland last summer. She was animated in every part of her body as she conversed with the young man opposite.

Painting in the red hair later seemed to rescue this sketch. I mixed up a puddle of yellow, red and a tad of blue and put some skin color in so the sketches seemed a bit more “human” and left it at that.


Once again, not having to draw the face made it easier to get the gesture and foreshortening. Sometimes I find that my line gets squiggly from the excitement of the moment. The line takes over and wants to describe something quirky. O.K., I say. GO for it!

The Moments In Between

I carry an abbreviated set of sketch supplies in my purse, ready for when the opportunity presents itself. Here are some of the sketches which have accumulated in my sketchbook in the past couple weeks in those moments in between the business of everyday life.


pen and w/c in soft cover Beta Stillman +Birn sketchbook, 7 X 10″

. . . at Codex Book Fair in Richmond where artists from around the world exhibit their original creations and show and tell to the public.


It was hard to take time away from the looking to sketch! So much to see and learn, but the colorful umbrellas caught my eye.


and my friend Laurie Wigham sat down to sketch with me for a while and took this picture. Meanwhile she did a beautiful watercolor sketch of a container ship in the bay outside the window.


Another weekend we joined Andrew and Maura in the city (S.F.) to explore the Mission, its murals, shops, and fascinating street milieux. Here I’m trying to sketch at a cafe and visit with them at the same time, inside, distracted also by the long line that’s forming across the street to get into one of the trendy ice cream joints.


We visit thrift shops to try on clothes as well as some not-thrift shops like this one. I take a load off my feet to sketch the mannikins.


Life and sketching happens wherever you find yourself and last week it was in the preop department where everyone wears blue bonnets, staff and patients alike, and the electronics are beeping and showing movies of, not stock market trends, but vital signs. The patient did well and I got lost in the wires and buttons.


Next morning I had time to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks before the exhausting day ahead, hanging out with and caretaking my own dear patient. (Who now is healing quite well.)


It’s a bit of a challenge to get good color application with a waterbrush, which is what I carry in my purse, also a palette the size of a credit card.


But it gets the job done. Life gets down in little bits and pieces in sketches while the memories get reinforced, and a little bit of pleasure bubbles up. Life and art like to go hand in hand.

Stoves and coffee shops


Lamy Safari fountain pen and watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook 5 X 7″

We finally replaced our old stove, which could only be lit with a match, and installed a new exhaust fan.  It became an opportunity for a sketch of the “everyday matters” variety.  I’m having some trouble with my fountain pen lines, which are sometimes too fine. I go over them and then the drawing looks insecure.


My insecurity is showing here as well.  Sketched from up above on the balcony, it was a great angle though.  My son and husband and I were there for coffee.  They did stuff on their computers while I sketched and texted pictures to my other son who wasn’t with us.  We fit right into coffee shop/internet cafe ambiance.


Another day, this baby was on his father’s lap, one seat away from me at the coffee bar.  The father said nothing as I brazenly scribbled and flirted with his son.

Sketching away the holidays


Japanese brush pen and w/c in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, 5 X 7″

The holidays are officially over now.  Today we’ll take down our Bookworm tree and lights.  My Strathmore sketchbook, inaugurated in October, is full.  The holidays are never a time to get much larger painting done, but they are a perfect time for some quick sketches.  Here’s a sampling.

The jury is still out on which of my pens works best.  They all have pros and cons. The brush pen, which you see in these images, is the most expressive, but it puts down such a bold line (a bit scary!) and it bleeds, so you can’t paint watercolor over it. unless you want mud.


In pursuit of more colorful subjects I have found the Farmer’s Market to be the most accessible.  I went to sketch motion, but ended up sipping my chai comfortably on a bench and opting for a sedentary subject who was easier to draw.


More brush pen sketching at a local cafe hang out. The trick is to stay away from facial features and go for body attitude. All the shading here is the brush pen bleeding as I swipe it with a water brush.



The guy in the foreground was literally close enough I could touch him, but he was more interested in the people ordering their coffee, especially this young lady with the cool boots!