fort mason

On the Slopes (of San Francisco)

No, it hasn’t been snowing in S.F., but I was on the slopes there last week for a few days. My husband Bob had portfolio reviews over the weekend at Photo Alliance , which is held at San Francisco Art Institute up on a hill in North Beach. It’s hard to go anywhere in S.F. without encountering some steep elevation changes.

unionsquare

We started out with some shopping in Union Square. From a sunny spot the world flowed by at big-city speed.

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Next morning we were at Fort Mason on the Bay front, checking out the SF MOMA gallery and just filling our lungs with that fresh sea air.

YerbaBuenalarge

After lunch we headed downtown to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see the “Show Me as I Want to be Seen” exhibition, which I highly recommend. The description of the show is, “How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis, and visibility itself is problematic?” (For those of you who know me, I guess it’s pretty obvious why I would want to see it.) It will be there til July 7 if you want to see it.

Sitting on the grass at Yerba Buena Gardens, enjoying the warmest sunshiny day in months, I got a bit greedy with trying to put everything in, until I got numb-butt and gave up!

Bus19

It’s such a treat to ride the bus all over S.F. It’s inexpensive for seniors:  with my Clipper card it’s only $1.35/ride, and there are no parking woes or dealing with crazy drivers and one-way streets, and more.  And if you stay  on the bus for longer than three or four stops, you move through a variety of cultural ecosystems. Friday morning on Bus 19 down Polk St. there was a sudden onslaught of wheel chairs and the necessity to quickly rearrange seating patterns to accommodate.

One gets a new appreciation of what it takes to get around the city in a wheelchair with items like. . . musical instruments, and then to board crowded buses. This keyboard, held together with masking tape and protected by a strip of cardboard, had found a spot behind its owner where it would be safe.

missionbay

Bob wanted to check out the SF Center for the Book on Portrero Hill, and next I showed him Mission Bay, and made him sit and rest while I sketched a house boat. Then down to Dogpatch to see the art shows at Minnesota Street Project.

There was lots more bus drama on the ride back, with invasions by teens, just out of school, who never looked up from their smart phones, even to talk to each other. Then more wheelchairs, and finally, the last stop at Fisherman’s Wharf where we were staying.

macondraylane

If you’re still with me here, this is the part about the real slopes of SF. On Saturday the SF Urban Sketcher Meet up was at Macondray Lane, which is itself flat – a narrow and verdant alleyway off a particularly vertiginous street with knockout views of the city and bay.

For whatever reason I woke up that morning feeling particularly shaky and unsteady, but slowly made my way up the hill, still hopeful that I could capture the city in its undulating glory. When my inner undulating wouldn’t stop, I found a shady spot in the Lane with an obstructed view, and very slowly and with great patience constructed a calmer scene until my brain cleared.

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It sort of worked, because minutes later I was back to my usual rough and ready style,  much relieved and enjoying the company of my beloved SF sketchers. The afternoon ended with a mini “salon” to share our sketches at STUDIO Gallery and see the current show of “Tales of the City by the Bay”.

jeffingallery

And I got to meet the handsome sketcher named Jeff who had been a subject in the sketch!

On my last day in the city, once again I hit the slopes and I trudged up the steps of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower up close, the murals inside and the views. It’s actually a more impressive sight from the distance as a recognizable icon of the cityscape.

telegraphhill Five days in the city, along with all the steps I’d climbed, had exhausted me, so I found a relatively quiet street to do this study. I call it that because I’m more used to sketching people and animals and country scenes and such, and city architecture requires “study” before I can attempt it. (Actually I may have studiously ignored it here!) There were few people on the street, and they were moving quickly, but the lone figure in the doorway sufficed to give scale. She came by to see my sketch, and when I showed her that she was in the sketch, she clutched her chest and shrieked with delight!

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A Weekend at S.F. Bay

Catching up a bit here! Two weekends ago I was footloose in SF while Bob was taking a workshop at the Center for the Book. One morning I planted myself on the cement bleachers below Ghirardelli Square to watch and listen to the endless parade of tourists, bay swimmers, summer camp groups (the list is so long!) I was trying out my natural hair ( floppy) paintbrush. For many years I’ve used a springy one, so my accuracy with this one, a Rosemary Co. round travel brush, is not great. . .yet.

maritimemuseum

But as I painted there were innumerable distractions. The lady resting quietly in the foreground suddenly woke up and started screaming accusations at the group beyond, and their fear was visible on their faces. Later she left and another similar group came to stand close enough to me that I heard their leader giving instructions or something. It was puzzling. They were dressed in ordinary pedestrian clothing with small backpacks and seemed like tourists, except they were being invited to search for armed terrorists or something and were consulting their maps and phone apps. OK, so it must have been some kind of game, like a terror scavenger hunt?!

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My fellow urban sketcher Cathy McAuliffe met up with me bringing colored paper which we tore up and glued onto some pages before we went off exploring Fort Mason. This was a fun technique she learned in the Urban Sketch Symposium from Lynne Chapman. I abandoned paints for the afternoon and just used pen and colored pencils. There’s a white Uniball Signo pen in there too (for those of you who notice everything). It was an extremely complicated scene with the GG Bridge, Fort Mason buildings, SF Bay with boats of all kinds including a wind surfing regatta, Marin headlands across the bay, etc. But somehow the construction paper made it more necessary to pick and choose and get a better design going.

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To get out of the wind we went to the other side of a building on the Bay and this view is looking across to the East Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf. There was no point getting everything in perspective, with those bright colored papers, so I had more fun just putting in what I wanted for the story.

interval

We ended our day at the Interval at the Long Now coffee shop/bar/museum where I’ve always wanted to sketch but never gotten the right seat. This time the couch in the corner was available and once again, I’m not exactly sure why, the colored paper helped! Thanks to my friend Cathy and Lynne Chapman for sharing this fun approach.

transportSF

All my sketches are done from real life, but something possessed me to do one from memory of real life. I mean there are moments when you see something so impossibly wonderful and you can’t get your phone camera out quick enough and you have to rely on memory, which fades too quickly. There was this bright blue city bus and a string of schoolbus yellow Go Cars right behind it on North Point St. So when I was home I got it down in my book. More inspiration from the colored paper do you think?

Fort Mason

flax

Sailor fountain pen, watercolor in 6 X 6″ handmade sketchbook

A lovely day at Fort Mason on the bay in San Francisco with artist friends started with shopping at the new Flax store, picking out art papers.

greens

Lunch at Greens Restaurant, where you look out on the bay while eating lovely seasonal vegetarian faire that is presented like a painting.  What do you sketch in a restaurant but the people, starting with the person across from you. The food disappears too quickly!

fortypartmotet

Next we enjoyed The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff at SF MOMA.  Forty speakers in a large circle, each the recording of a single voice in a choir. As you walk around the room, the person-height speakers, seem to take on the qualities of the voices coming from them. This is “church music” to make your spine quiver and soul take flight, as you stand as if in the midst of the choir.

longnow

Next door is the Interval Bar and Cafe, a great place to stop for coffee before heading north across the Golden Gate toward Sonoma Co.  It took a while till we could figure out this place (not sure I have yet).  Home of the Long Now Foundation supporting long term thinking and the 10,000 year clock, and the most fascinating coffee shop/bar I’ve ever been in. The girl with the antler ears was sitting in a leather cushioned booth.  I wanted to stay all afternoon looking at the steam punky/futuristic decor and sketching.

I’m loving my new fountain pen and taking advantage of reading the tutorial on all matters fountain pen-wise on Liz Steele’s blog. I had no idea there was so much to learn about using a fountain pen.  For instance, using the pen at different angles, how to hold the pen for calligraphy versus for sketching and so much more!