de Young museum

Botanical Garden and Bouquets to Art!

The day after the skyscrapers the weather turned sunny and we headed over to the S.F. Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park to see the last week of the “Magnificent Magnolias” and other spring bloomings.


watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Watercolor Book

Who could resist the red of these flowers, which I assumed were poppies, but my friends declared were ranunculus? To get the red in watercolor requires a great deal of red pigment, all the reds and some of the blue!


Along came two year old Axel with his mom. He unleashed a steady stream of unintelligible commentary on the flowers, no doubt pointing out attributes which I had missed. His fingers were making little squeezing movements while his mother warned “we don’t touch the flowers”. She then handed him a soft ball which he squeezed happily while continuing his monologue, and the flowers were saved! That’s Bob in the background enjoying the show.


The daffodils blooming under pink budding trees provoked my own kind of frenzy, one of splattering. The result looked best lain on the daisy studded lawn where I was sitting.

Next day was my birthday and our last day in San Francisco. What a treat to celebrate my birthday with a trip to the de Young Art Museum for the annual Bouquets to Art! For one week only, 120 floral designers have displayed arrangements that are inspired by the artworks in the museum. Here are some that I sketched in the museum, and later painted. (Some were sketched with the painting which inspired them.)



fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta spiral sketchbook, 6 X 8″

Arrangement by IM Chan Designs/ painting by Gottardo Piazzioni


Water Lily Pond Floral Design/ painting by Salvador Dali not shown here

bouquetstoart3‘Arrangement by Orinda Garden Club/ painting by Joe Light


Arrangement by Donnel Vicente Designs/ painting by Louisiana Bendolph


Arrangement by Poppie’s Petalworks/ painting by Kara Walker


Arrangement by Katherine Stuart Floral Art/ painting by John Koch

There are lots of differing opinions about how to enjoy art like this. Some would complain about all the picture taking. And I had to be careful to stay out of the way of the iPhone cameras when I was sketching. I totally understood the need to take the images home and enjoy them for a long time afterward! I probably took 50 pictures and would love to sketch every one of them! When I close my eyes I still see flowers and can imagine their sweetness.

Ah, dear Spring, you are only two days away!


Summer of Love at the de Young

I was a high school (almost but not quite college) student in Stockton, Ca that summer of love in 1967. Even though I could drive and had a car I was not allowed to join the hippies in the Haight in S.F. However the music, the fashion, the psychedelic/consciousness expanding (drugs secretly imbibed) were a kind of salvation as I felt boxed in and bored with my suburban existence, etc, etc.

Walking into this Summer of Love exhibition at the de Young museum last week, it all came back. And I was in good company with my sketch buddies of the same era and other museum goers who were ready to share their memories.


I wanted to record it all – the hippy fashion, the posters and button art/quotes, the lights and lyrics. Most of these were sketched standing with the paint added later.

“What’s scandalous about jeans is how you outrage them.”

Denim -ocracy (We’ve still got this!)

“I’m from Berkeley, but I’m not revolting.”

One little comment here about this exhibition, which I loved! They used the same mannikins from the Oscar de la Renta show and gave them no wigs! We were the hair generation! How could they not put hair on them?! So I added it in the sketches.


The fashion in the show is flea market finds – artsy, craftsy, hand sewn (we girls all knew how to sew and repurpose clothing back then) cross cultural. . .


And then there was the protest art, which we are now seeing such a resurgence of. I particularly enjoyed these two pieces. Hmmm. Does this give you an idea of someone else who could be a fine subject for art pants like these?


In the heart of the exhibit is an empty room with light shows throbbing on every plane and bean bags chairs on the periphery inviting weary museum goers to curl up, watch the show and listen to the music. Now this is my kind of exhibit! I always get tired feet in big art museums so I was one of the grateful ones. After a nice rest I sketched this young couple sharing a bean bag.


. . .while listening to, who else! Janis. . .


This is me, grooving for a few minutes. A totally natural high. By this point in the day we were all pretty giddy as years had been shorn off our ages.


And we weren’t the only ones. Like this fellow who we spoke with. I sketched this later that night from a picture I’d taken. My husband came out to my studio and the walls were pulsating with Jefferson Airplane as I painted. “Remember what the doormouse said”  Or just go see the exhibit.

Oscar de la Renta at the de Young


Pelican fountain pen and watercolor in 6X8″ Stillman and Birn sketchbook

A morning spent at the de Young art museum in San Francisco with two sketch-buddies, there to see the Oscar de la Renta Retrospective show .  The show runs til May 30, so plenty of time to see it.  And bring your sketchbook, because it’s a near ideal situation for sketching the figure.  First of all, the figures are posed in stylized postures. Second, they don’t move. And third, they have no complicated hair and facial features, because they’re bald mannequins!  So you can focus on what really turns you on: color, design, textures, and imagining what it would be like to wear such creations!


I had a moment of freak out at the entrance when I was told that I couldn’t bring my day pack in unless I held it by the handle like a purse!  Right. And where was the third hand to hold a pen?

The problem was quickly solved by putting my pens and iPhone in a pocket, carrying my sketchbook, and checking the rest in the coatroom.


The exhibition rooms were dark and dramatic.  No place to sit down, but we’d anticipated that.  Sometimes the feet of the model never made it on the page, and in this one I did “her” from two angles to try to get that Cossack-like stance.


With each figure I took a picture to use as source for adding color at home.


The viewers were mostly women there with their girlfriends, talking about the fabrics, picking their favorites.  It was a real girlfriend extravaganza.


The Eastern Influence room was heavy on the animal skins, like this bridal outfit with the minks dangling from other minks or whatever other poor animal.


We spent some time in this room, deciding which gown we would like to wear.  I tried to think of the last time I wore an evening gown. . .high school prom maybe.  But that doesn’t really count.  Camp Winnarainbow “Kick the Cannes Festival”?


We all liked this one: soft, flowy, and sooo feminine (and not scratchy on the skin)


While I was sketching these, the docent came around and I picked up some tidbits.  Sara Jessica Parker wore the white gown at an opening and asked de la Renta to put his name on it, which he did in RED! The pink one flows down three sets of steps.


About de la Renta Vogue magazine wrote: “Nobody makes a woman feel more like a woman at night”.  (Movie stars maybe.)

By the time I’d painted in the drawings at home I was thinking, how fun it would be to do fashion illustration!  in another life perhaps?