figure 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! 


Pirates! and Fashion!

Pirates to draw! or at least one. I tuned into the Draw Breath group on Facebook, and accidentally discovered they were live streaming a drawing session with model Alida doing pirate action poses. So I grabbed my sketchbook and jumped in. And what was particularly cool was that my fellow urban sketcher (and illustrator/teacher extraordinaire) Mark Simmons  and Sara, another illustrator/teacher were sketching live on either side of the model so that you could watch them sketch. What a great offering!


The poses were going quickly and at some point I grabbed some watercolor pencils to see what I could do with them. My friend Laurie Wigham inspired me with this method of pencils and watercolor. She was sketching pirates too!


Woah! I love this one because it shows what happens when you rush and the pencil is too wet and the watercolor is splashed on in an approximation. Need to do more of that, I think.


A pirate with her bootie!


Pirates like that ale, you know.

Another day on Draw Breath was called Frisky Friday and a voluptuous model was posing in the most remarkable red creation.


. . .which changed into different creations. . .and then I realized I was hanging out with young (compared to me anyway) fashion designer/illustrators!


And here I was, still in my studio where I’ve been sheltering for the past two months, and not in the least thinking about fashion, except in the most abstract way.


And here she is, in one of those big puffy faux fur coats!

So here is the moral of this story. . .stay home, tune in, play with others on line and do your part to stop this virus thing. At least there’s some good news here. While you’re drawing you might be able to stop thinking about the future of our world, whatever piece of it you’ve been most worried about lately.




Between Riverside and Crazy

When I was in elementary school I loved to stage little plays with neighborhood kids. In junior high I played one of the red headed twins in Elmer and the Lovebug. Never heard of it? Oh well. And that was the end of my career as a thespian. But the wonder and delight of the stage never left. And now I may have found a way to get closer to that backstage experience, by going to some rehearsals. . .

This is our second year now of having seasons tickets to Left Edge Theatre, featuring left leaning, edgy theatrical productions. So I asked if I could come and draw at their rehearsals. The director said sure! I knew it would also be a great way to sharpen up my reportage sketching skills.


fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mix Media spiral book

My first try was in the second week of rehearsals for Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which by the way opened last night.

I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to approach drawing a theatrical production. As the actors started drifting in, I introduced myself and started to learn their names and parts played. Meanwhile I had time to sketch the set before they started rehearsing.

I guess I thought there would be long pauses where the actors got more direction and I could do a quick freeze-frame captures. But this cast was already so far along that there were almost no pauses, and to my delight and dismay, the action kept moving! How to jump in with the pen and brush? It was like trying to catch a train as it’s leaving the station by running alongside until you get enough speed to grab a door handle and hop! So forgive me if I omit the rest of my scribbles from that evening.


Before I went back a couple weeks later I thought I’d practice a bit using their PR photos from the website. In their glamor PR shots here they bear only a slight resemblance to the characters they play , but it was a good warmup with no pressure.


Two night ago I was back to watch the dress rehearsal. [Let me interject here that I do not recommend sketching at performances like this unless you have already seen them or will be seeing them without sketching.]

This play gets off to a rip-roaring start and never lets go of your attention until the very end. So as soon as it started, I had an overwhelming urge to put down my sketchbook and say “this is impossible!”

But I had a sort of strategy, to start with the main character Pops, who hopefully would stay put in his wheelchair for a few minutes, and then just add other characters willy nilly as they appeared. I put a bit of watercolor on during the intermission and the rest the next day.

Leftedge8 I’m no theatre critic, but this is my blog, so I get to give my opinion. This play is outrageous, hilarious, touching, and full of surprises, with a cast of seasoned professional actors. It runs through Nov 10. I’ve already got my tickets for November 3, but you may want to hurry and get yours.

And there’s a whole season of plays coming up. Hopefully by season’s end I will have figured out how to sketch-a-play!


Are you getting your pencils sharpened and pens filled for next week’s challenge to sketch 100 people in one week, beginning Monday April 8, and share your sketches on social media? If you want to know the “rules” and the intention behind this fun challenge (now in its third year), go to the Facebook group page, join up and read a fun description with lots of ideas about how to participate. When you put your mind to it and form a plan, it is remarkably easy to do 100 quick people sketches in a week. And once you get going, sometimes it’s hard to stop!

And then, what good timing! You’ll be warmed up for the next Portrait Party at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on April 18, 5-8pm. It’s getting to be a monthly thing, and I’m so glad because I’m meeting lots of new people, getting to sketch with beginners and professional artists both. See the details below and more about last month’s party here.

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Family Models


Dip pen with Diamine Terracotta and Noodlers black ink in 8 x 8 ” HAndbook w/c sketchbook

This is my first post using apps on my iPhone! I’m practicing the new “mobile me” in preparation for the trip to Italy in 1 1/2 weeks.  You may have noticed that the appearance of the blog has changed recently.  That is also so it will be smart phone mobile friendly (with “fluid layout”).  I have a little gorilla pod to set the iPhone on and a fold-up wireless keyboard as new toys to make this possible.  Here’s what it looks like.


Meanwhile, in an effort to keep sketching even while at home, I hunt down my son(s) who, bless their dear hearts, are willing to let me sit and stare at them.  With Ben I always get the finger picking guitar music as an accompaniment, a sort of icing on the cake, both visually and auditorily.


Pentel Pocket brush pen in Canson Mix media sketchbook

Andrew, who is no longer home, likes to do crosswords at breakfast, like his mother.  Here I’m practicing quick gesture drawing, which I like a whole lot better than my labored drawings, but only one out many turn out this good.  Believe me, you don’t see the others!

Pocket sketching



Tombow pen and watercolor in Pentalic Nature Sketch journal 7 X 5″

These days sketching the figure in public almost always involves an electronic device.  Good thing actually, because it renders the figure (the human being) into at least a temporarily frozen state.  While waiting for my car to be serviced I discovered that this was true even for a very squirmy child.. . at least for a minute or two!


The woman next to me, of a different generation was frozen in position by the archaic form of entertainment, the printed page, making her an excellent subject for a slow pen drawing.


Pitt Artist pen and watercolor in Moleskin pocket sketchbook

Another day recently I was at a photography opening for the work of my husband and other photographers. I sat down with my glass of wine to wait for him. Four preteen boys blew in with their skateboards and iPhones and plopped down right opposite me.  Of course I am somewhat invisible to people that age, so I brazenly whipped out my pen and book.  I did eventually “get caught” by the youngest one, but he was friendly and appreciative and thoroughly charming.


I have been listening to the news of course and feel a little sheepish showing this sketch when my east coast friends are in the deep freeze!  I am very empathetic and wish I could send a bit of sunshine your way.

Model on a Rotisserie


Tombow brush pen on hot press paper

Lulu had excellent posture which never sagged, only I couldn’t deal with the idea of a straight vertical line.  I thought it unwise to tell the model to slouch, since this might not have been a problem for anyone else.  So I rotated my paper to do the sketch, then added in some other sketchers when I still had time.  The Tombow pen bleeds when you wet it, for quick and messy form shading.


Tombow brush  pen and watercolor

The model turns as on a rotisserie to face different artists each time.  Once again a ramrod straight pose.  I could almost hear a parent saying “now don’t slouch dear”. So this time I turned the paper more than once and exaggerated the form (really hard for me to do for some reason).  I loved mixing the Chinese white in with the watercolors to make them more chalky.  Nowhere near a likeness, but that was not my goal.

Greco Roman Beauty


pen and graphite on hot press paper

There’s nothing more appealing to sketch than a model who is comfortable in her body.  A pair was modeling at the Thursday Nite drawing group and together they conjured the illusion of Greco Roman statuary – chiseled, timeless, monumental.


Maybe it’s the graphite, but there’s a stone sculptural feel to this one.  I’m using a little cake of graphite which activates with a wet brush so you can paint it on.

Sketch With Pants On Fire!

Have you become a master at multi-tasking in this wired world?  You have five minutes and you can get five things done with time to spare?  I know I’m at least always trying.  Seems to be the only way to manage this life without getting desperately behind.

So of course at the Bay Area Model’s Guild figure marathon on Sunday my choice was to sketch one and two minute poses, even though there were models who were sitting still for 3 hours. Look how much MORE I was accomplishing! (now there’s an embarrassing revelation about my nature! and me a meditator.  . .)

One minute, two minute, five minute, ten minute and twenty minute poses happening simultaneously and three models to each of four stages. And the best, most active/athletic/expressive poses only last a minute, because who can balance on one foot for longer than that? So I had no choice but to hold my breath and draw. . .whatever part of the body I could get down in a minute.

bamg6I used the uni-ball VISION Elite pen, which bleeds when you run a wet brush over it, which I would do after every pose while the models changed position.

bamg5This young man was so cute!  Must be a mime in his “other” life.  He wore a conductor’s cap and workman’s overalls and had big black expressive eyebrows.

bamg7This one is probably about 25 minutes worth of these quick poses  Just put the pen on paper and draw from one point.

bamg1And then some five or even ten minute poses, which began to seem like such a long time after the one minute ones!

bamg2You may have noticed I was particularly interested in drawing the young men.  There were lots of women as well, but I just loved these “costumes”.

bamg3Now this is a good model, who can make the back of him as interesting as the front.

bamg4No time to sketch hands and somehow I don’t even miss them.

The 1000th Blog Post!

I’ve been blogging here since July 2006.  It all started when we were on family vacation and my husband Bob was reading a book about the latest trend in blogging and told me I should start putting my art on a blog.  Sounded preposterous to me.

I mean I’m not the type of person who likes drawing much attention to herself, and I’m not particularly tech savvy.  My husband has dragged me kicking and screaming for the most part into using all the latest electronic gismos for the last 20 some years.

I remember arguing with him that we didn’t need a stupid cordless phone (this was 22 years ago I think), then loving the convenience of it when we had our first baby.  Mind you, I still haven’t exactly bought into cell phones, preferring to be left alone when I am away from the house, but blogging. . . well, I took to that like a fish to water.

And here I am, 1000 posts later, still sharing almost every piece of art I make, here on the Conversations With the Muse blog. I’ve gone through many phases in my relationship to the blogosphere.

Originally I was afraid to let something personal slip out for fear that I would be exposed, like walking out of the restroom with a piece of toilet paper attached to your pants or something. But after a few months when nothing awful happened and people seemed to enjoy any personal revelations about my life, I realized that my only blog operating rules were to share what is most real to me, to do no harm to others, to try to get my “facts” as accurate as possible, but not obsess about that (it’s not a dissertation after all!). . .and most important to visualize the people who might care to look at my blog musings.  This group started out very small and grew over time as I connected with other inspiring bloggers and students.

It’s still a mysterious process each time I send a post OUT, really to the world of my imagination, of which you have become a part. My conversation with the Muse is in fact, my conversation with you.  And so I want to take the opportunity on the auspicious moment of the 1000th blog post to thank you for keeping the conversation going on your side.

And since I almost never have a words-only post, I want to share some of the sketches from last Sunday at the Bay Area Models Guild Marathon in Oakland, CA.  I sketched from 10am-4pm in a frenzied state, so delighted to be there after a break of about a year when I was unable to gt to the quarterly marathons they run.  The marathon is in an enormous room in the Merritt Collage art building with stages where the models pose for varying length of time, 3 to a stage.  I sat by the 10 and 20 minute pose stages but was so drawn to the 1 and 2 minute poses for their whimsy and athleticism that I did mostly quick sketches.

Uni-ball fine pen on wet w/c paper

This pen was a great discovery because it bleeds just a bit on wetted paper for soft lines, but is waterproof and fade proof.

Notice the wolf mask on the model on the left and the jazzy high heals on the model in the middle, fun touches that these models use to spice up the poses.

Pentel Brush pen in Canson Mix Media sketchbook

To be continued. . .