ink and watercolor sketch

Where do you find 100 People to sketch?

Last year I joined the challenge to sketch 100 people in a week, thinking I would never find that many people or that much time. Fiddlesticks! Go have a coffee somewhere or sketch your family/friends for the 100th time. And if it’s raining or you’re pressed for time or tired, turn on your computer or iPhone (it’s obviously already on, right?) Our world abounds with people to sketch. And we people are so very interesting with our funny facial expressions and ethnic characteristics and hats and slouchy postures and hairdos. As a sketch subject, it’s the antithesis of boring.


fountain pen and watercolor in spiral Field Watercolor Journal, 8 X 8″

Here’s a couple examples of my recent “people finds”. This fellow was playing along with the group on stage at the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market, which, if you’re local, is the premier people sketching spot all day every Sunday.


Four musicians I could see from my bench. I could have listened all day to the Andean folk sounds of Cuyuy. The guy on his knee on the left was playing a drum that I couldn’t see. The two next to him kept changing instruments. You just have to keep sketching whatever you have a good view of at the time and hope it comes out looking like an understandable scene!


Another day it was rainy and cold and I got an announcement from Playing for Change ,a music station I subscribe to, about a new recording. They record the same song performed by people all over the world at the same time and it’s so inspiring! Also, it’s great for people sketching, so I got out my beige toned Stillman + Birn sketchbook and a bit of gouache. Just hit pause and start drawing!

But if you’re going to try for 100 people in one week, you can do quickies in pencil or brush pen or any medium you want on any kind of paper. To my way of thinking this is not a contest. If you like to draw, it’s a way to give that draw muscle enough of a workout that by the end of the week you can say, “Wow! this drawing thing is getting easier and easier.”

The week starts tomorrow. Use the #OneWeek100People2018 hashtag if you share your sketches and are into that kind of thing. Or just do it for yourself. I’ll do it with you.


Annas and Mourning Cloaks

We’re finally getting some rain today, intermittent with the sun breaking through clouds. Nature has been so bountiful this week with brief hailstorms, the blooming of those miraculous orchid-like Pipevine flowers which look like Dutchmen’s pipes.

And there was the morning I was standing in our front walkway talking on my cellphone while scanning the garden and my eyes fell on this jewel.


Regrettably no, this little Annas Hummingbird was not just tame or friendly, but rather quite dead, newly so, and with no sign of external damage and no cats around to blame. And so brightly festooned in neon iridescence that I was quite awestruck. He may have been the one buzzing around my head in an urgent greeting some mornings. There was nothing to do but say a prayer for him and. . .


. . .to immortalize him in sketches! I have been watching these beautiful creatures for years and wondering how to paint that color, which changes into a multitude of pinks and reds and purples and russets and even blacks with each turn of the head. The dot you see on the top of the page is one of those head feathers that came off. I glued it onto the paper, and when you turn the paper in the light, all those colors manifest!

The next day on an afternoon stroll at Riverfront Park not far from my home, I was delighted to find myself practically alone on the trail, except for a pair of Mourning Cloak butterflies that accompanied me the whole way, weaving back and forth and stopping just ahead to open wings wide as if waiting for me. At one point one of them came repeatedly to rest on my scarf almost touching my chin! No way to sketch this in real time, so I just enjoyed the conversation.


watercolor in 5 X 8″Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook

But as I sat on a bench overlooking the lake I heard a drone overhead – the electronic kind which we will be seeing more and more and everywhere. Such a strange world. I wonder what the butterflies and birds think of those flying “brethren”?


It was time to leave, but this view delayed my departure. Another challenge for the artist here in wine country, to get the color right on those impossibly yellow (actually the definition of yellow!) mustard plants that abound in the winter vineyards with a backdrop of blue violet hills.

A Week of Sketches

Catching up a bit with sketches from the past week, first a day in San Rafael enjoying the bucolic campus of Dominican University.


light pencil and watercolor in spiral Field Watercolor Journal, 8 X 8″

I was setting up my stool in the sun, planning to catch the bright morning light on the bench with the English country style building behind, when the lady in the red slippers sat down and started texting/talking. I was happy to include her and had just started drawing her in when she looked up and saw me. She immediately jumped up, thinking she was in my way, and came over to apologize and see what I was doing.

“No, no” I said. “Please make yourself at home on the bench and ignore me.” So she sat back down for a few minutes, then came back over to look again and tell me her story. . .her peaceful memories of that bench going back to when she was a young student there. . .losing her glasses. . .something about those wonderful red pom pommed slippers . .. . her own fascinating art life. Anyway, you get the picture. A delightful encounter for both of us, which would not have happened without the sketchbook.


Found a quiet spot in the sun to practice architecture, or a small piece anyway. Sitting in the direct sun with light bouncing off the white paper and sun-blind eyes is a challenge. Best to sit in the shade while sketching the sunny scene, but this is not an option on a chilly winter day.


We headed to lunch at the Flat Iron pub in San Rafael. Pork sliders and fried calamari. Yum!


Another day of sketching closer to home, at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. I wanted to catch the passengers on the train but missed the schedule.  Good thing because a costume shop down 4th St., Disguise the Limit, is a sketcher’s paradise with mannikins, masks and displays of every kind of costume for theatre and festival, including steam punk attire.


I guess I was in a Halloweeny mood with my macabre choice of subject, but I left in a much better mood than when I’d entered! Go figure.



Mixed Media and Sketch Workshops This Spring

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So what do I mean by “Previous sketching experience is recommended.”? This does not mean that you’ve got sketchbooks full of gorgeous drawings. It means that at least you’ve been out there at some point trying to sketch your experience, and enjoying the experience enough to want to do more of it and learn some ways to make it easier, to tell your personal stories with more color and pizzazz! If you don’t know if you’re ready for these workshops, contact me and we’ll talk about it.

For more information and to register visit my website, email or call me.

Marin County and Sonoma Sketching

I was out scouting for locations for upcoming sketch workshops. A new series of Bay Area Urban Sketch 10 X 10  workshops will be announced soon! And I’ll be teaching one of them, so stay tuned. This spot in Sausalito right on the Bay with a view across to San Francisco and the Bay Bridge was cold and windy, with colorful layers of clouds constantly changing.


fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ spiral Handbook Co. Field Watercolor Journal with the Fluid Watercolor paper I like!

The colors of water and sky and everything, even the values were constantly changing. You have to just decide where to set your sights and stick with it, something I’ve never been particularly adapted to. I get excited by all the changes and want to dip my brush in new colors. It can make for a mess. So I tried to reign myself in on this one.


Then, not so far away in Mill Valley looking toward Tamalpais Valley it was hard to find a spot where the wind was not blowing us to smithereens. Finally we found a building to block the wind and settled down to sketch this lovely scene of creekbed and lagoon beyond. I even managed to get the cyclists in! And then once again the weather changed while we were sketching, and the sun came out, wind died down, and all the colors changed! (Not that I’m complaining.)

Meanwhile my friend Laurie Wigham did a lovely sketch which captured the serenity of the natural scene and illustrated the reflections on the water, a subject she taught in workshops for the Nature Journal Club series last week.


On Saturday Bob and I headed to Sonoma Plaza so that I could scope it out for the May 5 workshop I’m teaching there titled Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher.  I was immediately drawn to the ducks in the pond that were delighting the small children. And then when these geese settled down on the grass, I did a quick standing capture of them since they were relatively still for a few minutes. That is, until a small boy chased them away! Because of the softness of the scene I left out the pen did a quick pencil sketch before the watercolor.


I was looking for simple subjects of interest for students in the workshop. Sonoma is a town where California history is well represented in an historic park bordering right on the Plaza. Not only can you visit the Mission but the Blue Wing Inn, with its Gold Rush era gambling room and saloon, and the adobe barracks built to house General Vallejo’s Mexican troops. So much to sketch, indoors and out!


But it was lunchtime, so we ordered at the Sunflower Cafe and I sketched in pencil til the food came, and later added color from memory (and imagination).

I hope you’ll join me on May 5 for the Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop. For more info and to register visit my website.

Happy Valentines Day!

So many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Eating fresh crab and chocolate cake with my honey tonight. And yesterday roaming Tomales Bay with sketch friends and finding the perfect spot for sitting in the sun and watching small town life, Marin County style.


fountain pen and watercolor in spiral bound Field Watercolor Journal, 8 X 8″

These two ladies were talking in that best-friends-overlapping-anticipating-interrupting way that women do, so I figured they might not notice i was sketching them, even though I sat down a mere ten feet in front of them. After all the scene was so sketchable, even without them. As I was setting up my stool the lady on the left looked right at me and called out “Hey Pam!”  I looked behind me and saw no one and realized she meant me. “I’m Susan” I said, and she looked again more closely and said, “you sure look like her” and turned to her friend and kept talking, while I started sketching her. She only made that gesture with her left hand once in her expressive, enthusiastic way and I did my best to capture it! Often you only get that one chance.

In this place everyone talks to everyone without the need for introduction, and soon we had observers asking about our sketches, sketch supplies, and talking about their art, and their friends’ art and more. Everyone here makes art in one form or another. Like the two ladies in the chairs, whose lives are filled with art (I was listening a bit though trying not to evesdrop!)

Next to them in an open area was a group of about seven ladies of all ages and a couple babies, sitting in the sun around a table and knitting. That would have been another great sketch opportunity we didn’t have time for. I don’t ask permission but I always show what I’ve done before I leave, and people don’t seem to mind and are generally delighted.

saloon  I’ve been sketching a lot of people lately and probably losing my touch with buildings, so I did a quick one of the building across the street. . .a real old fashioned saloon/hotel! But no one went in or out of it on this lovely Tuesday afternoon. Doesn’t it look forlorn sitting there without people?

That’s why I wanted to teach the next workshop, Put People in Your Sketches coming up March 24 at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve learned to either start or end with figures in a sketch to tell a bit more of the story. If you want to join me for this workshop visit my website for more details, but hurry, because there’s only one spot left at this point! Also check out the next one on May 5 in Sonoma, CA, Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher.


Driving back along Tomales Bay in the late afternoon we stopped for two 10-15min. thumbnail landscapes. Putting the pen aside here and drawing with the brush. Great practice!

History, with guns

My father, being a hunter, liked rifles. So when I was little he let me help him make bullets, weighing the gunpowder before putting it in the cartridge and sealing it in some kind of contraption. That’s my memory. Later, when he tried to teach me to use a real gun, I was repelled. And now I am repelled by the accessibility of firearms in our society.

But here I was on an absolutely spectacular day in San Francisco, right beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point for a meet up with the S.F. Urban Sketchers. History Day at Fort Point was a staging of Civil War era activities, enacted by costumed history buffs, with an weaponry and soldiering drills.


Fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Artists Journal Hand Book, 8X8″

This soldier was exhibiting Civil War medicine. Note the saw for removing limbs, so the gangrene didn’t kill the soldier, I assume. I was trying not to listen.


There was a lot of standing around and looking military, with the weaponry clearly displayed.


Since the actors had mostly ornamental tasks that day, we asked these two ladies if they would pose, and discovered they were a wealth of information about the Historical Artillery Society they belong to. Evelen is normally in the uniform of a male soldier on manuevers, hauling the canon onto the field on horseback. Be not confused by their interest in war history – they are both pre-school teachers in their day jobs!

fortpoint04‘While sketching this group I overheard a recruiter talking to some interested visitors about the society. Apparently you can join them on one of their history days, borrow costumes, camp out with them in tents. “It’s like camping with guns!” he said enthusiastically.


I was getting a bit weary of sketching soldiers and looked up at the water tower and through the lattice of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Then back for a last sketch of this soldier enjoying a sunny spot. There were only Union soldiers here in San Francisco. The war ended before the fighting ever got here. But I got a bit of a taste of the soldier’s life on this day. More than once I looked up from my sketchbook to see a formation of soldiers following a drill that resulted in my facing down (unloaded) rifle barrels. Hopefully I’ll never face down the real thing! This one was enacted in all seriousness, and yet also, all in a day’s fun!