ink and watercolor sketch

Coffey Park is Coming Back!

It’s been a while since I’ve been out sketching the firestorm and aftermath story. But the timing was right on Tuesday and we headed out to see what we would find.  Not what I expected surely. Lots of building going on! Lots of homes going up. The debris removers were gone. All of the twisted up vehicles and singed barbeques were gone. And in their place, lumber, and pipes, and carpenters with tool belts. I found a small patch of shade and jumped in!

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watercolor and pen on 9 X 15″140lb CP Arches paper

I’ve gotten tired of the paper one finds in  ready-made sketchbooks, so I’m trying out a system of working on signatures of paper cut to size and later to be bound in books. Bob has signed on to do the binding (after the fact) since he has all the equipment and know-how. Lucky me! I actually do not like this Arches paper for sketching. It’s too hard and too textured, so you have to work too hard to get the paint down. So I ordered the paper I love, which is Fluid 100 paper made by Hand book Co. (Global arts). And that’s what I’ll be using, not this hard stuff. However I really like this size which can either be 9X7.5″ portrait or opened up to full spread at 9X 15″, which is about the size I can manage if I have 30-60 minutes to sketch. I’ll share the whole set up once I get it figured out and more importantly, tried out!

I must say the mid day visit to Coffey Park was good for my spirits. The carpenter reading the blueprints in the right hand corner helps to tell the story of a community which has a chance for a brand new life. I’m anxious to go back and even breathe in all the exhaust from trucks and construction to enjoy the spirit of renewal. It’s been a rough few months since the fire for these folks who lost their homes.

 

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Exploring Hip Brooklyn

I’ll skip over the day spent at The Met and Met Breuer because otherwise this post will get too long. But it’s worth checking out (online) the exhibits I saw  – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the dance performance of Gallim: (C)arbon, and my absolute favorite Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body. There are videos to watch and so much of the exhibits shared on The Met’s website.

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This is a scene I don’t get to sketch at home in Sebastopol! I was given a tour of Williamsburg, a hip Brooklyn scene, by Andrew and his partner Maura. Here the view of Manhattan across the river with its skyscrapers and brownstones. They even joined me for some sketching here!

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There was a bit of thrift shopping to do (by Maura) and time for a quick standing sketch of Andrew while we waited.

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and then a stop in the Levi’s store for Andrew to find some shorts. I was intrigued by 1) the new “logo” on t-shirts Button Your Fly and 2) the mannikin wearing high heals with cutoff shorts. ? ? A girl was machine embroidering patches to sew on jackets, another “latest” or is it “throwback”?

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I begged off the next shopping stop, and they left me happily sketching in an empty dog park which had a bench facing this church with the onion domes. My direct watercolor was not working out very well, when along came a woman with her dog and sat directly opposite me.grover2

I instantly abandoned my unfortunate domes and tilted the sketchbook up out of her sight of vision and drew like mad. A real authentic Brooklyn hipster, sitting still before me! I tried putting Grover in the sketch, but he was so ecstatic to be running free that he was just a blur that my model kept calling to. . .”Grover!” or was it Rover?

I must say I found the style in Brooklyn to be wonderfully free and creative. Not at all a scene where everyone was trying to look alike, but the outfits came across as artistic in that idiosyncratic way.

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Looking out through the front window of And/Or Coffee here. (I forgot to ask what the and and or referred to). We needed to linger a bit, rest weary feet, and cool off.

The sketch strategy here was a fun one. Pick the things that catch your fancy and leave out the rest. Then add selective color. There were hardly any people to distract, just a colorful slice of a city corner. I never found out what the sign “You’ve Got Nail” referred to or explored the exotic “Dilruba Grocery”.

And that’s the last of the Brooklyn sketches. Next day I hugged Andrew and Maura goodbye and was off in an Uber to Newark airport. My driver was a friendly smiling young man Andrew’s age from the mountains of Ecuador with a fascinating story I would tell if this weren’t a sketch blog!

Newark

Back to airport sketching. Two characters sitting on the same row of seats, both on cell phones, of course. The older gentleman on the left took off his hat on the plane to reveal a yarmulka.

Well, that’s the end. Please forgive the uneven coloration on these pics. My scanner is temporarily not working. I put 95% of my sketches from the trip in this story so you might understand that travel sketching is not about making perfect little paintings but about capturing the moment in the time you have. The sketch installs the memory with all the sensory data, so you never forget. Not sure how that works, but it does! Thanks for coming along with me.

Brooklyn and Central Park NYC

From Princeton Ben, Andrew and I took the train(s) to Brooklyn where I’d rented an AirBnB in Bushwick. Both of them had lived there for a while in the past couple years. The rain we’d had every day in Princeton stopped and the sun came out in Brooklyn. Since it was my first time in Brooklyn, I deferred to them about where we should go. It was soon clear that eating in the excellent ethnic restaurants was high on the priority list!Tarosushi

Ben treated us to a steady flow of Japanese delicacies at the Taro Sushi restaurant in Clinton Hill where he had worked for a while. We even had a good view of the chefs, and since I ran out of appetite while more food arrived, I had time for this.

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Forgive me if I adopt the now popular custom of sharing photographs of food. The point here being that this was only one of the plates that arrived at our table, courtesy of Ben.

bridge

At my first view of the famous Brooklyn bridge in Dumbo I realized I had maybe 30 minutes to sit and sketch something. It was a spectacular evening with throngs of people enjoying themselves. I was trying to swallow the experience whole. Andrew hung in there with me and coached, and even did a bit of video for Instagram. With his encouragement I plunged in with direct watercolor, knowing there was no way I could figure out how to squeeze the whole bridge on my paper (even though I wanted to!) But you know, I have to say that it’s all there in the messy sketch anyway. Gotta love this urban sketching!

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Next day I met up with my beloved sketch buddy and amazing artist Chris Carter  at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Again the weather was perfect and the scene enchanting. We decided to go for direct watercolor. I started with a light pencil layout to get the proportions and then went for it. As an afterthought I put in the figure, who looks like she’s on her cell phone, but actually was sketching! There was a drawing class there that morning.

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After lunch I sat on a bench and listened to the Jazz sax of Ralph Williams. And later shared the sketch with him.

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and found out that Ralph has played with some well known Jazz musicians in San Francisco, and now plays in Central Park almost every day.

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Last sketch of the day I decided to go for it and bite off a big piece of the action at the Bethesda Terrace. What is not included in this sketch however is the performers who were singing to audiences in the fescoed and ceiling-tiled inner spaces of the terrace, while brides and grooms posed for portraits under the arches, and people leisurely rowed small boats in the pond behind us, and thousands more pictures were taken on tourists’ cameras. This is why one makes the trip to NYC, among other reasons.

I always learn so much and get energized by sketching with Chris. You might want to check out her website and follow what she’s up to. Stayed tuned next for a day in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with Andrew and Maura.

Princeton

Two weeks ago I flew east to visit my two sons. Andrew is an architecture grad student at Princeton. Ben, a software engineer in Nashville, came up to join us in Princeton and later in the week in Brooklyn. We packed a lot in and I did my best to keep up with some of it in sketches.

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There was plenty of waiting time in San Francisco airport, with a flight delay to Newark, but I was too sleepy (after getting up at 3:30am!) to do more than one.

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Andrew had thought he’d be done with classes/building projects etc and apologized that he still had work to do, but I loved it! What sketcher could resist an invitation to be a fly on the wall at the Embodied Computation Lab where his group was working on their installation? You get it, right? The embodied part is the robots. It was not exactly clear how there were getting utilized.

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They looked like they were either dueling or kissing!

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I tried to catch the positions that the students held for more than 30 seconds while building, but wasn’t so good at predicting which those would be!

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Meanwhile it rained almost non-stop and the campus grounds had become lush in that greenest-of-greens, east coast way.

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The undergrads had mostly left the campus, but there were studious souls to be found in the numerous libraries and study halls on campus. I don’t think I could have gotten any study done in this particular one on a rainy afternoon.  Too comfortable with it’s stuffed leather chairs and soft light filtering in from 19th century  Victorian Gothic windows that reminded me of an abbey crossed with a gentlemen’s lounge.

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The rain stopped long enough that I could head out to the lawn to attempt deconstructing one of the ivy covered buildings. It was still dark and overcast, adding to the challenge, but I was kept company by a very bold little squirrel asking for handouts. At one point he was standing on my shoe and looked like he was heading for my lap!

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It was still raining the next day, so I headed to the Princeton Art Museum to sketch some tomb figures in the archaeology wing.

 

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This guy was my favorite, especially fierce and powerful. Looked like he could do a pretty fair job of guarding a tomb!

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Next day it was raining yet again and though Ben and I took a nice walk along the river, he also had to do some remote work, so Andrew got me into the Frank Gehry designed science building on campus where it’s hard to find right angles. I pulled up one of the cushy chairs (you find everywhere for students a Princeton) to a tilted window to study the tilted scene below through rain splattered glass. The curvy brown structure below is none less than the Hedgehog and the Fox, a massive sculpture by Richard Serra similar to the one you see in the lobby of SF MOMA.

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On the second floor of the same building is a study hall called the Tree House and looking down from there you see this lobby. The colors and angles! How could I resist.

Next day we headed to Brooklyn. Stay tuned for more. . .

 

Flaneurs a Trois

Wednesday this week was #4 of my “flaneur” days rambling through the streets of San Francisco, taking it all in with sketchbook in hand. The flaneur(m), flaneuse (f) (French for loafer, stroller, loiterer, dawdler) apparently has nothing better to do with their time, though in this case I would agree that I can think of nothing better to do with my time than this!

Two of my urban sketch friends agreed with me and asked to join, hence Flaneurs a Trois – the esteemed Oliver Hoeller (from whom I stole the idea) and the esteemed Cathy McAuliffe of urban sketching and other fame.

We met on Mission St. in S.F.and started out at Grand Mission Donuts and Bakery, an unassuming neighborhood bakery, where we set the ground rules. Oliver had the idea of a throw of dice to introduce randomness into our expedition, but more importantly to avoid long discussions (aka disagreements) about which direction to walk in. We all agreed.

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Cathy called the first stop (she’s sooo good at seeing sketch opps!), and we plunked right down on the sidewalk to do our first 20 min sketch. I tried not to panic.

It helped that, as I was putting color on my messy sketch, a very hip young couple with their kid in the stroller and their designer dog came along. Luis asked if he could take my picture. “Of course!” I said. After all, I shamelessly sketch everyone in sight without ever asking permission.

“You are so cool!” he said enthusiastically. Of course I’m thinking, you think I’M cool?! This old lady on the sidewalk doing this messy sketch?

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Cathy and Oliver

It wasn’t long before it happened again! We were sketching across from the colorful Women’s Building when another person said, “You guys are so cool!” You get the picture here, right? Sketching on the street is the new uber-cool thing to do. And look at these cool dudes here.

Mission2 Well I think it was at this point that I was getting a little tired of Oliver’s dice running my day (even though I’d been enthusiastic about it in theory). And the dice was sending us down a street I didn’t want to sketch and I started whining. They noticed and were both very sweet about it, asking me what I wanted.

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Turns out I didn’t want to sketch buildings (which take too long for me to figure out) so when I saw the workmen, we stopped. Notice how I got out of doing much building sketching even though that’s what they were building? We’re talking 20 minutes after all!

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And then my wish came true and we went inside Paxton Gate a shop with endless curiosities from the natural world and a wall full of taxidermy. Around the time I’d sketched the last of these animals I started to think about the exploitation of wild animals and felt uncomfortable about sketching them.

It was time to put on paint so I went out to the back where there was space to sit and was soon joined by a young woman who was also sketching. Turns out she’s a Vietnamese born college student at U.C. Berkeley who has just started to sketch and was excited to hear about Urban Sketchers. What are the chances. . .?

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Walking down Mission St. again the wind was kicking up. I was learning that you don’t want to walk down the sidewalk in this part of the Mission without keeping your eyes on the ground where your feet are stepping – a difficult thing when you’re being constantly distracted by the life on the street.

This guy on the corner selling fruit drinks and corn, Latin American style was a magnet for us. It started to feel like my memories of Mexico, which is what I love about the Mission.

Next stop was for coffee and to get out of the wind. An interesting discussion of how we approached the day and what it all means transpired then. Cathy filled us in on the history she’d collected at our various sketch sites. Oliver approached it with his scientifically trained mind, asking lots of questions. He promises to shed light on this flaneur business with his thoughts, soon to be written out and shared!

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And then it was time for me to hit the road for the long drive home. But not before a last sketch on the corner of 16th and Mission.

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and a selfie of the trois flaneurs.

Look for Oliver and Cathy’s sketches on Instagram and other media!

Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival

Last Sunday Bettina and I met at the Japanese Arts Festival in Julliard Park, Santa Rosa. Matsuri is the yearly festival to share and promote Japanese Arts & Culture. We were there for the second time, to see the dancers and Taiko drummers.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor journal, 7 X 10″

The dancers and musicians started on the stage and then gave instructions to the audience and led a dance snaking across the lawn, right in front of where we were madly painting!

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Taiko drumming is theatrical and high spirited, martial you might say. The drummers have a swagger. They strut their stuff. It’s not hard to imagine how much fun it would be to join them, especially at the end of a long, frustrating day. You can tell there’s a bit more punctuated energy than precision in this sketch!

You can see my sketches from two years ago here.

We also stopped in to see the Paleo-Mythic art show at Saltworkstudio in the Backstreet Gallery, the SOFA Santa Rosa Arts District, Art Alley behind 312 South A. Street. This is one you don’t want to miss – a multi-media, multiple artist (Suzanne Edminster, Caren Catterall, Joel Bennett, Harry Frank, Luann Udell) response to the earliest art making, with fresh myth-making interpretations. The show runs through the end of the month.

Watercolor Simplified in Sonoma

On Saturday I met with 13 sketchers at the historic Barracks in Sonoma to teach the day- long Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop. The weather was warm and lovely and the sun kept dipping behind clouds and then re-emerging. I figured I better get in the demonstration of the “one-two-punch” sketch while the sun was casting lovely shadows.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal 7 X 10″

It was also a chance to put in a “sky dash”, which is a juicy blue sky wash that leaves a bit of white for occasional clouds and doesn’t get all fussy when there’s not time to get the particular sky “right”. The one-two-punch goes in layers of darkening values, the last one of which pops out the sketch, rescuing it from ho-hum.

Of course by the time I’d finished my demo, the sun ducked behind a light cloud obliterating the shadows for my poor students, who were then supposed to paint the shadow shapes!

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When you’re learning watercolor it’s important to find a way to have fun with it so you don’t get bogged down in trying to get realism in your application. So I demonstrated the spritz-splatter method of creating a colorful sketchbook page and then drawing/painting some detail on it to tell a bit of the story. Since it is spring and the Sonoma Plaza was filled with blooming flowers, this was a good bet. And it turned out to be the most popular technique of the day.

Sonomafountain This fountain went into/behind many of the spritz-splatter floral displays!

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Some of the sketchers were putting people in, and this fellow sitting around the fountain was so still as to be an ideal model! He seemed in fact to have perfected the art of doing nothing! I used this as an example of anchoring your subject to the context and leaving out unnecessary detail.

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Then the ducks in the pond became a favorite subject! Honestly I could sit all day and watch them and the children shreeking with delight at their antics.

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I managed to work them into my spritz-splatter floral!

And then suddenly it was time to call it a day, and such a good one it was!