ink and watercolor sketch

Woodard Bay

My favorite thing about living in Olympia is that I can be on the Puget Sound, in a dense ferny, mossy forest, on miles of trails or a lake within 15 minutes of my suburban home. Last week we “discovered” Woodard Bay Conservation Area which provides habitat for shorebirds and songbirds, harbor seals, river otters, bald eagles, a large maternity colony of bats, and one of the most significant heron rookeries in the state. 

And boy could we hear the birds! The trail to the rookery is temporarily closed but it was unmistakable what was going on across the bay with all the ruckus. This week we hope to take the kayak back and explore the shorelines.

replica of indigenous tribe’s canoe

Yes, it was tempting to hop in the canoe and get out on the water, but it wasn’t going anywhere!

fountain pen and watercolor

So we sat a while, listening to the birds and the harbor seals and sketching!

And Andrew caught this picture of me, unposed, relaxed and in my Northwest element which suits me so well. I kept feeling my father was with us and remembering my early experiences of fishing with him in the Canadian wilds. He would have so loved this place. 

Quan Yin

When we moved from our home in California we left behind the garden statues of Buddha and Quan Yin, because it didn’t feel right to disturb the nature sanctuaries that had grown up around them. They would continue to protect and bless the land that we’d come to love so dearly, and the new owner was delighted to have them.

Our new garden is a wonderland that we have “inherited” and yet it had no statuary or bird feeders, -houses, -bath or garden art. But luckily we found a garden statuary place in nearby Lacey and brought home our own goddess of compassion to preside over the fountain in the back yard. Quan Yin is known as the One Who Sees and Hears the Cry from the Human World and her presence is gentle and healing. She stands now in the shade of a tree with round, coin like leaves that rustles in the breezes.

pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn sketchbook

I finally tore myself away from the endless tasks of “getting situated” in a new home and brought my sketchbook out to Quan Yin and the waterfall fountain. As usual I took on more than I should have in the sketch, but I really want to practice the water and rocks and flowering plants and trees that are such a delight! “Do it every day!” I said to myself. That’s always the way to learn.

view from the gazebo

True confession: I haven’t started the daily sketch regime yet. But several times a day I spend some time picking blueberries, watering the tomatoes, watching bunnies and picking flowers. Also all phone calls with friends happen here in the gazebo, like yesterday when I caught this moment that just struck me as so colorful! It begs to be sketched.

Thanks to all of you who let me know you visit this blog and follow along. I can add you to the faces of friends I “talk” to in the blog. I loved getting reactions to the purple boating hat in an earlier post and reassurances about getting over the hard parts of moving. The meeting-with-Bronka story engaged some folks in the practice of walking to stay young! When I know someone is paying attention to whether I stick to the sketch-a-day pledge, then it’ll happen! That’s human nature for you. And it’s even better if you join me!

Like a vacation, only it’s not

It is a strange experience. It feels like I’m on vacation. You know, finding your way around a new town, meeting new people, and everything is a bit of an adventure. Oh, and it’s summer and sunny and warm every day and lots of people here are on vacation, because this is a summer vacation destination. 

But it’s for keeps. So every new person you meet is a potential new friend or has a vital piece of information you are going to need about living here. And every new thing you learn brings you that much closer to being settled, comfortably.

downtown Olympia street fair

This weekend we headed to town for the first of a summer long Saturday afternoon event called LoveOly, a street fair with performers and a beer garden and dancing and activities and entertainment for children. As I posed in the (social media highlight) spot I realized that it’s just a really good idea, when moving to a new home town, to make a conscious decision to love it. So there I was, proclaiming it! (and now it will be social media-ed!) And I’ll be back for future Saturday’s to sketch the action from one of the shady spots I scoped out.

Then I got an invitation from the one art friend I had in Olympia, Jane Wingfield, to join her for sketching at the Farmer’s Market the next day. And her group of local urban sketchers showed up, a friendly and enthusiastic group! 

South Sound Urban Sketchers at the Farmer’s Market

Bob showed up to take the picture and meet folks before we did our shopping for local produce and some culinary herb plants for my herb-garden-to-be.

Oly Farmer’s Market, fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn sketchbook

They tell me about the long gray winters here but it’s hard to imagine, with these long summer days that are sure to make the vacation last a bit longer.

Departure and Arrival

Golly, has it been only 10 days since I last posted?!! More like a lifetime ago. Now I know why all my friends were sending encouraging comments to help me weather this move. No matter how positive it is, it is a severe jolt to the system. The best metaphor for the experience is that of squeezing awkwardly down the birth canal.  Leaving the comforts of the womb for a sudden arrival and realizing. . . there’s no going back now! Gulp.

I promised myself I would not stop making art through the move and packed all kinds of fun materials. But honestly, what was I thinking?! Too ambitious, at least for this first couple weeks. So I’ll just take you along as I like to do after I’ve traveled – with a few pictures to satisfy curiosity and tell a tiny bit of the story that is unfolding each minute.

the 80 foot monster truck

June 15 the driver of the monster truck decided not to try parking in front of our home in the country, so the movers loaded everything onto a smaller truck and ferried three entire loads over to a spot on River Rd. to move it again into the big one.

the garden on moving day

The garden posing for a last memory. Friends on the street were stopping by to say goodbye all day. 

Andrew says goodbye

Andrew filling his eyes with the view we’d enjoyed for 21 years, since he was 8 yr. old.

the studio emptied out of all but the floor splatters!

I know, this is a hard one to look at. But I guess it’s part of the moving on process. Art and the comradeship of making it has not ended. The Muse group has a life of its own which has grown outside the boundaries of these walls. Brave words from me as I allow myself to feel the loss as well.

Olympia city harbor, view of the Olympic range.

We arrived in Olympia just after a significant rain. Sunny and warm. The right kind of weather for a vacation and for moving in. But I’ll admit we had been looking forward to rain after months of drought and elevated temperatures in California. Now we face a record breaking heat wave. Did we bring it with us?

the view in the opposite direction from the harbor tower of the marina and Washington Capital building

We moved into the Doubletree Inn on the harbor for a week’s wait until we could move into our new home. Time to explore the city and pretend we were on vacation.

And I did one quick sketch just before sunset, staring into the setting sun. It felt so good to finally get the watercolors out!

fountain pen and w/c Stillman + Birn sketchbook

Stay tuned for more pics of this quirky town (and I mean that is a positive way!) with more than its share of natural beauty!

Inktober into November

In the second half of October I on a trip which interrupted my participation in the Inktober 2020 challenge, but I’m doing a bit of catching now. It’s never too late after all and I quite like the habit of sketching after dinner. So here’s some more.

Higgins Red Fadeproof ink, Noodler’s Golden ink, Sumi ink

Day 16 this theme was Rockets so I got out some firey colors.

Sumi ink

Day 18: Trap I’m working from the Sktchy pictures. This was a subtle but excellent choice to convey the feeling of being trapped. I used the warm black Sumi ink to match the feeling tone.

Higgins Red ink and Sumi ink with brush

Day 22: Chef.   My guess is she’s making cannolis here and my bet is they taste pretty good.

A while back I added fountain pens to my sketching armory, and that opened up a whole world of inks which I knew nothing of previously. I ordered samples from Goulet Pens and soon had amassed a large number of mini ink vials which have sat on my table for some years unused. . . until now.

Diamine Grey and Winsor and Newton Sepia Calligraphy ink with brush

For this one I watched the Sktchy video of teacher Arto Isotalo demonstrate his masterful method of wet on wet watercolor. Water has a mind of its own in this kind of wet painting, and if you can surrender to it and be ready to work with all the blossoms and other irregularities, sometimes you get those the most amazing results. I’ve got to do more of these.

My son Andrew continues to blow my mind with his ink drawings. He’s letting me show one more of them here.

by Andrew Cornelis

I’ve had a lot of days lately where I could relate to this drawing. How bout you?

You can see more of Andrew’s drawings here. 

L.A. Trip

A week trip to L.A. and now I’m back again, and happy about it. Some of my garden has grown several feet in that time and the pipevine caterpillars are plump and juicy from all that green munching.

The purpose of our trip was to do a bit of art sightseeing, since neither Bob nor I had been to LA in decades.

LAtrip13

I managed to get a bit of sketching in, though that was not the point of this trip (granted, a bit unusual for me.) It was so lovely to fly direct from Santa Rosa’s airport (one hour in the air) and not have to deal with cars the entire time!

LAtrip1

I brought my small and larger handmade sketchbooks which are lighter to carry and have good Fluid watercolor paper.

We were staying Downtown to make it easy to get around on public transport (more on that below) and the first day visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which looks like a regatta of sailboats madly reflecting light off its curved stainless steel walls. Designed by Frank Gehry. I sat briefly in the garden to capture some smaller perspectives.

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I would have loved to sketch this scene in the MOCA Grand art museum live, but that was not possible, so I took a picture. The design was so perfect so I sketched it later. I loved seeing classes of students of many ages in the museums we visited.

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This was the view from our AirBnB apartment downtown. Seemed like a good idea to be centrally located. But oh my, I think this sketch tells the story. Suffice it to say we were situated between the Bang Bang Room and the Cabinet of Curiosities with its 5 bars on different levels.

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I had to get one of the electric Lime scooters in this. You can pick them up anywhere and drop them anywhere when you’re done, or at least that’s what people do, after careening helter skelter down the crowded sidewalk.

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A bookstore with big comfy chairs to lounge in while reading! (or to lounge in while sketching the loungers.) The Last Bookstore. I bought a book too – on writing poetry by Mary Oliver.

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Two of my Urban Sketch friends invited me for a meet up in the historic part of Downtown, el Pueblo de los Angeles. There was such a friendly Mexican community vibe to the place, and within minutes we were enjoying the company of families interested in checking out our sketches.

LAtrip10b

A quick capture of City Hall and Grand Park.  As often happens with urban sketching, the sketch, however simple, reminds you later of the people you met while sketching. In this case the friendly Latino family of 7 or 8 siblings, cousins and parents, who stopped to marvel at what I was doing with my colorful paints and water brush. The six year old told me that if I mixed all my  colors together I would get brown. And the teenage boy said they were learning about color mixing and value scales in school. I think the kids would have stayed with me a long while, but the parents (wrongly) thought they might be intruding and ushered them off.

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There’s more to the trip of course, but you’re getting the sketch version here. I’ll end with the airport where I had lots of time to capture travelers looking at their screens.!

Another Portrait Party!

A portrait party? You mean a figure drawing studio class? Or a party where you get your picture taken or sketched?

Well, none of the above, but all of the above. Our second Portrait Party held at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts last week attracted many new curious souls, some of whom wanted to observe, or in fact to pose and be sketched (without themselves sketching). But what we were doing was sitting in groups of six  sketchers and taking turns sketching each other (one person posing at a time). No teacher, but lots of sharing of ideas, techniques, and materials. We were fortunate to also have some accomplished artist/teachers among the crowd of enthusiasts.

We started out with one-minute sketches.

pparty03_19_11

. . .and went up to five and seven minutes so I got out the watercolor and Inktense pencils. And rescued some hats I’d brought. (A little dog had curled up on them to take a nap, bored as I’m sure he/she was to be in a group of humans where no one was paying him any attention.) We had fun posing with hats. They really help to add some (additional) character to us characters.

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No names here, because really. .  .it’s not about likeness. I have destroyed many a lovely person’s visage with my paint and pencils.

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Can you tell that this was my favorite of the evening?

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A hoody for a change.

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A last minute dark wash pencil at the end, heavy handed, but oozing enthusiasm. . .

And we’ll be holding more of these portrait parties at the Seb. Arts Center, so I hope you’ll be able to come next time. Stay tuned for the dates!

 

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!

coffeyback

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.

 

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.

skyline

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!

andrewwaiting

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

levis

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”?

domes2

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.

andor2

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.

sushi

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!

centralpark1

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.

saxplayer

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.