ink and watercolor sketch

Smoke

We’ve been warned about the toxic smoke in the air from the north bay area fires. After getting the phone text alert from Sebastopol PD, I got to the Senior Center just as they ran out of face masks. Next stop was Ace Hardware where they were handing out 3 per  (anxious) person from big boxes. I got the kind with the vent and the rating of 95. Only problem is it’s still the most uncomfortable, suffocating experience to wear it, and doesn’t protect the eyes at all. Today I tried walking up to my neighbor’s house up the hill and was fed up with it before I got there. I recommend staying inside. . .if you can. . .when the smoke chokes the air. Tomorrow hopefully clearer skies?

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(Sketched from phone selfie)

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This Week’s Sketch Lures

The exotic lure of passion vine. I have one growing on the outside wall of my studio. When I was doing Open Studios in the fall this vine would frequently upstage my paintings. Visitors would be snared by its seductive blooms peeking out demurely from dense foliage. They would arrive in my studio not with interest in the paintings, but anxious to know the name of the exotic bloom. Eagerly they would thrust their iPhone picture, just taken, at me for an answer.

Recently one of my students remarked on the heady fragrance from the vine, noticed even before the blooms. On a perfect early fall day this week I myself succumbed to the mystery and brought out a folding chair and my sketch gear to hang out with one particularly well situated bloom.

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I got a respectable enough but rather ho-hum sketch and was bested yet again by this showy flower. You can see my problem. Look at the palette of color and shapely forms of one of nature’s own prima ballerinas!

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Even after I tried all my cool tricks like splatter and framing and such, I had lost heart to try again. Today maybe I’ll just sit for a few minutes, allow the vine’s spell to enfold me, and celebrate its beauty without trying to copy it.

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Every other Sunday I attend a meditation session and discourse by my Tibetan Buddhist teacher in Point Richmond, then drive home to Sebastopol. This Sunday I’d brought my sketch gear and took some time to eat lunch and sketch in the tiny town square. Point Richmond, even with its proximity to San Francisco and Oakland, has maintained a delightful small town ambiance with much of the cultural diversity and artistic interest found in other areas of the Bay Area. My plan is to work my way around the couple blocks of the town, enjoying some Sunday sketching as long as the weather holds.

 

Nob Hill with the Urban Sketchers

Last Saturday the SF Urban Sketchers met at Nob Hill to sketch Grace Cathedral and top-o-the-city scenes. The icing on the cake was a visit from our Australian friends Liz Steele and Jane Blundell who perched alongside us on the streets sketching and enjoying a near perfect sunny day in San Francisco. The group swelled to 83 sketchers and there was plenty of socializing with old and new sketch friends.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Hand book w/c sketchbook, 8 X 8″

While we perched on our stools across the street from the Cathedral we enjoyed the photo shoots of several brides dressed in the romance of white and bouquets.

nobhill06I might have to sketch this one from the picture! I was too lost in the arches and hangings and intricate architecture of the cathedral to catch on in time for a live sketch of this.

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Sitting next to my friend Cathy McAuliffe, who always finds an elegant way to simplify a scene I thought I’d try her approach for a quick one. Maybe I should have slowed down a bit? But sometimes on the street sketching with friends that accuracy ceases to matter. It’s about the story of the moment I will definitely not forget.

At 3:30 we met in the park across from the Cathedral to share sketches and welcome our guests. I took a bit of video on my phone to capture a sense of the day. (click image to play)

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At this point some of us were a bit fried! Many sketchers would think this rather strange, but my default relax-a-sketch mode is people, especially when it’s people relaxing in parks on a lovely sunny day with their dogs.

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This is what some city folks do when the day is not the usual blustery cold SF summer weather;  hang out on park benches with their newspapers and kids and dogs. Sketching a scene like this ways feels like a fascinating expedition into other peoples’ lifestyles, and with the advantage of no electronic screen in between!

nobhill08We ended the day with a picnic on the hill at Lafayette Park overlooking the bay, with the city spread all around us below and the trees above. At the picnic table I sat next to a sketcher from Russia who’s a scientist living in the city now and doing cancer research. . .and sketching! If I ever get to Russia I’m going to contact their UsK group and sketch with them! Sometimes it feels like we’re a little United Nations of sketchers. Do you think maybe if the Sunnis and Shiites sketched together there would be more peace in the Middle East? What about democrats and republicans here?

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While the urban sketchers (and family members) tackled the landscape of trees and bay and distant hills (they never seem to tire!) I sketched the sketchers and then it got dark and we headed home.

Apple Press and Petaluma Sketching

If you live in Sebastopol there’s still time to bring your apples over to the free apple press and enjoy the nectarian pleasure of your own fresh apple juice. The volunteer crew will help you out and even clean the press after you and all with enthusiastic smiles. I guess I was too busy with art and such this season to bring my own apple harvest in, so instead I harvested some sketches last Saturday morning.

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The sponsor of this is the Slow Food Russian River group. For those of you who don’t know, the term Slow Food refers to “an alternative to fast food and strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” Slow however is not how I would refer to the folks doing the apple press procedure. So my pen was moving pretty fast!

And then I got totally distracted by a little girl who was washing apples and then feeding them into the press. When she came over to check out my paints I couldn’t resist loading up a brushload and handing it to her. She knew what to do with it of course. Here’s Adeline’s version of the activity.

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Then last week we were checking out the scene for the upcoming Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop in Petaluma on October 14. We were delighted to find the most appealing spots for sketching, not to mention eating, easy parking etc. So I’m quite looking forward to offering this workshop. For instance there’s the Great Petaluma Mill and the backdrop of those, are they grain shoots?

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and the cutest bistros, bakeries etc to go for the lunch sketch which is always assigned.

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Check out the meal I had. And yet even so I was tortured by the men sitting across from us who ordered a spectacular gluten free chocolate cake and only ate a bite or two! They were so friendly that I know they would have given me the rest, but truly I was already full. I’m quite impressed with these urban sketchers who draw and paint their food when it comes. I’m always too ready to dig in.

There’s still one spot left in the workshop. If you’re interested, visit my website for more info and to contact me.

National Heirloom Expo

This “urban sketcher” headed to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds this week for an agricultural extravaganza, the National Heirloom Expo, otherwise known as the World’s Pure Food Fair!

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I appreciate beautiful organic produce as much at the next person, but I have to admit that the draw for me was the color! The House of Flowers was filled with such diversity of texture, color and just plain outrageous and sometimes alien forms of fruits and vegetables that it took a long time until we could sit down to sketch. Even then my eyes were bigger than my sketchbook and I overdid it! I decided just to go for it with a brush loaded with color and to keep painting for dear life! Fun!

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This is bitter melon. Its health benefits are legendary if you can survive the bitterness. But get a load of those colors and textures! If I could imagine it as a sugary treat I might actually be able to eat it!

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The dahlias next to me here were a tiny portion of the total display, some of them measuring a foot or more across and with layers of multi colored petticoats. A young mother approached me and asked to take a picture of me for her 5 year old daughter who likes to paint. Reminded me that that’s one of the reasons I like to expose myself to public sketching like this. It was a very friendly crowd, and I made some new friends and at times abandoned the sketching to talk or show off my paints or hand out cards.

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Carole and I realized at some point that people considered us part of the display and soon we had some folks camping out with us, watching the brush dip into paint. A bit distracting, but well worth the interruption!

Music, Photography, Nature

It was so hot today that the yellow jackets took cover in our breezeway, alighting in the shady wall and going comatose. Seemed like a good idea. Sleep til this heat wave has passed.

Last week the weather was kinder and one evening we headed over to Montgomery Village for one of their free concerts.

escovedo2Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Ensemble was heating up that Thursday night in the Latin groove way.  The outdoor mall was so crowded with people dancing that it took a while to work my way up to where I could see the band and do a standing sketch. I’ve decided this may be the best way to sketch musicians. . .while moving to the music! (color added later).

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I went around behind the stage where there was space for some real dancing! The guy in the middle here really had the moves. And the big guy with the pink head scarf? It really was bright pink, and he didn’t move at all but looked like he wish he knew how!

Then on the weekend Bob and I went to visit our friend Todd Pickering, photographer, musician, and naturalist, (and more!) in Point Reyes and at his gallery in Inverness Park. When Bob and Todd got all technical about the photography, I sat down and tried to capture my favorite parts of Todd’s work and the gallery.

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It’s a tiny gallery that somehow makes you feel like you just walked out into the woods, a great place to stop on the weekend when you’re out at Tomales Bay and Point Reyes Park. I was totally mesmerized by his bird photography, especially the barn owls.

Chicago: Part IV

On the last official day of the Symposium, there was time for a few more sketches while things were winding up for the big picture taking (of all 570 people from 34 countries and then the evening festivities.

But I thought also to share some of the small sketches/thumbnails I did to get my bearings while in the city, using water soluble graphite in a cake form with my water brush and pen.

 

I often liked these small ones better than the finished pieces. When the visual scene is most complex is the best time to go super small to simplify it.

The soaring green “gargoyles” on the library had been calling out all week to be drawn!

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And then in the afternoon the final sketchwalk with all participants while the city was busy closing down the public areas by the lake in preparation for the big Lollapaloosa music festival.

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The city workers were hanging the sign, piece by piece as many of us dashed off a sketch of the brave native on horseback. My friend Cathy read my mind as she commented, “Is this the Indian they stole Chicago from?”

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Once again here I am trying to prove myself as an authentic urban sketcher (even if a country girl at heart), seeing how many buildings and traffic I can pack into a quick sketch while on the corner of a busy intersection!

Then we were all getting ourselves arranged on a grassy hilltop for the grand Symposium picture, made more fun by a drone that circled around filming us from all angles.

Followed that evening by the closing party and announcement of the location for next year’s Symposium, in Porto, Portugal. Maybe you’ll be there?!

But there’s more! An epilogue, as we stayed a couple more days in Chicago. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to join me and the Ready, Set, Sketchers! in Sebastopol this Saturday, we’ll be meeting up at 10am and sketching the Gravenstein Apple Fair. All are welcome!

Join us at the 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair for the next “Ready, Set, Sketch” meet-up!

Saturday August 12 from 10:00AM-1:00PM

We’ll meet at the entrance to the park at 10am.

Ragle Ranch Regional Park

500 Ragle Road

Sebastopol, CA 95472