ink and watercolor sketch

Revival Motorcycle and Coffee Co.

Motorcycles and coffee? Who would have thought that would be such a winning combination? Not a surprising one for Olympia of course. When we first landed here back in June and were staying in a hotel downtown, the only espresso place that opened earlier enough for us was a clothing store called Embers, and man! but they had the most amazing coffee served amidst the t shirts and pants. 

Fast forward to yesterday and a meet up with a handful of sketchers downtown, needing an inside place to stay warm and dry. Jane and I wandered into Revival to get, according to her, “the best decaf latte”. The front of the place has a coffee bar, maybe three tables, some retro furnishings, collector motorcycles and art. The back room has motorcycle gear, a repair shop, and lots more I know nothing about. Their motto is CHOP BUILD RESTORE CAFFEINATE.  So as we engaged in the caffeinate part, we sketched the motorcycles!

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 x 8″ w/c hand.book journal

This sketch rapidly became a lesson in motorcycle anatomy, a subject I have very little experience with. All those wires and tubes and tires at different angles, and lights and mirrors.  . . You certainly wouldn’t want to ride the one in my drawing!  But the owner was pleased that we’d come and encouraged us to return. 

the finished version with a bit more detail

With that kind of invitation and the great coffee (not to mention the cool sticker, which we sketchers always love to have!) we will definitely be back for more on another rainy day.

If you want to see Jane Wingfield’s version of the 1969 Honda CL90 Scrambler from a different angle, check out Olysketcher on Instagram!

McLane Creek Nature Trail

The living room coffee table is strewn with books on the Pacific Northwest trees, birds and mushrooms that I’m determined to learn more about. I need go no farther than my yard and neighborhood to sample the diversity, and I have yet to run out of new possibilities within a 20 minute driving radius of my house. So on Monday when Andrew was visiting and up for a walk in the woods with us, we headed out to McLane Creek Nature Trail, and hit the jackpot!

Mushroom hunting is an artist’s dream scavenger hunt. It’s also a culinary master’s dream, photographer’s dream and more. And it’s the pot of gold at the end of these daily rains we get here.  This two-mile loop trail had a discovery around every bend! Within minutes we’d passed the pond with the flamboyant wood duck and presiding eagle. Minutes later we reached the creek where the salmon were running. Heavy bodied fish at least 18 inches long, resting while settled on the creek bed, until with ferocious effort leaping, splashing, surging upstream to the next resting spot – a strenuous marathon ending in the spawn and the afterlife of becoming nutrients to a hungry biosphere. 

fountain pen, w/c in Nova beige toned sketchbook

I took a lot of pictures thinking I would bring them home and study them for identification purposes. Next week I’m taking a mushroom ID workshop in a park in town.

Meanwhile I continue to find beauties in my yard. There are fairy ring mushrooms that grow in a large ring in the grass. As the aging ones fall apart new rings are born! And here’s some more that made it into the nature journal.

You may know that this pretty white polka dotted Amanita, which I used to find in my yard in Sebastopol also, is poisonous. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to eat any of these!

Sketch meet up in the rain

Rising River Farm

These days the weather forecast is almost always rain. But often we have a good 5 or 6 bouts of sunshine in a single rainy day. And they are magnificent and one hopes that to be free enough to rush outside and take advantage of the spectacle of a colorful newly rinsed autumn landscape. I grab my pruning sheers, snip some of that wet roses to bring inside, collect new mushrooms for examination and sketching, and get to the business of pruning the perennials. Lucky for me the rain soon returns (before the back starts to ache!) and I seek the warmth of the house again.

But it’s tricky to plan meet ups for a group of sketchers who rely on some cover to escape the sudden downpour which no weather forecast seems to predict properly. Our little Olympia group decided on the old standby of the Farmers Market with its open at the sides building where year round local produce, meat fish, breads, artisan goods, seasonal wreaths are sold. The trick is to bundle up like you’re going to a ski resort, since the wet cold quickly seeps in where you’re still and sketching.

Luckily I was able to post myself standing next to a one of those gas heaters and a few feet away from the this farm display. Another time I’ll get more people in. That’s the big challenge, and I keep thinking I’ll just draw them in with ink on top of the veggies, like market ghosts. Maybe next time. Or draw them first. I really prefer being behind the produce if possible, wearing my invisability cloak! Haha!

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a protected estuary at the southern end of the Puget Sound where river meets sea, birds flock and salmon run and nature lovers can walk way out into the estuary on a long boardwalk. My friend Jane and I were there on a cold and windy but gloriously sunny Sturday. The meadows were densely populated by Canadian geese and the parking lot was full. 

After a bracing walk onto the open area of the boardwalk we entered the forest by the river to enjoy the dense fall foliage and sketch the play of light and shadow.

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue sketchbook

The boardwalk through the forest created the light and shadow patterns necessary to make visual sense of this dense forest scene. With nowhere to sit and get this view, I leaned myself up against the railing, sketchbook braced in the my arm, and got the pen moving! Luckily I’d brought clips and a water brush and mini-palette which attaches with a magnet to the clip. Otherwise it might all have ended up on the forest floor!

The punctuating sound effects of hunting season were intermittant and disturbing. It was hard to tell how far away the shots were, but not so hard to imagine the poor unwitting targets.

Tired after finishing the ink sketch, I sat down on a bench across the way to rest my legs and eat some chocolate. In moments a gray squirrel had hopped up on the bench and boldly approached me with obvious intent!

I took a picture of course, thanking him for his attention, but stopped short of offering my chocolate. Wouldn’t you agree that salted caramel dark chocolate is a rather extravagent offering for this little fellow who stays healthy eating acorns I imagine? But I suspect he probably wouldn’t have agreed.

Seattle Sketchcrawl

It was Sketchcrawl day last Sunday, as in Worldwide, meaning sketchers all over the world doing their thing, sketching on location at the same time (24 hour period I think). My own experience with Sketchcrawl goes back to 2009 (which I know thanks to my blog which predates even that by years!) See the post on my blog back then. This time I was able to join the Seattle Urban Sketchers to do my part at Pike Place Market.

This was my morning sketch, done before the hoards of shoppers descended. I have learned that if you want to plunk yourself down on a stool to sketch in a marketplace, your best bet for not getting trampled is to find a spot behind the action, which in this case was across the street from the front of another market. The smells were rather ripe, since I backed onto a fish market, and the conversations of the workers, taking their cigarette break, were similarly ripe.

Happily there was a fellow sketcher within view so I added him to the foreground. The word Sanitary appears to be a throwback to earlier days at this historic market when I guess one might not be able to rely on the public health department to enforce sanitation rules? When I saw this sign the smell of bleach came unbidden to me.

After lunch and the “throw down” where we shared our sketches with all the urban sketchers who’d shown up, some of us stayed a bit longer to do some more. Feeling pretty exhausted by the city crowds, which I’m not accustomed to, I found a quieter spot overlooking the water and the iconic Seattle skyline. . . and practiced the big picture which I have less experience with.

Later I added color and some foreground figures from pictures I’d taken. The empty space in the middle of the spread beckons, but I think I’m done. Oh, except for the cars, which I found difficult from this perspective of being so far away.  It’s fun the have the see-through, invisible people look. Why not?!

Tenino

Last week the South Sound Urban Sketchers met up in the small town of Tenino, and this California girl got a taste of on location sketching in a northern clime. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you bring lots of clothing options in the trunk of your car. We all went back to bundle up. Time to get out the fingerless gloves too!

Tenino town is about three blocks long and is home to a sandstone rock quarry, rock carving artisans, a historic stagecoach and later railroad museum. But my favorite thing is the signs: like the sign for “Aunt Kate’s Chocolates /Tenino Denture Center Creating Smiles. . .  Another favorite is the one with arrows to the right “Booze + Fun” and pointing to the left “Reality”.  I guess the one you would choose might depend on the kind of day you were having.

And then there was a new one in front of the tavern that day. . .

The stone carver is only open on Saturdays during this season, but there was a good spot of sun in front of the old barn, so I gave it a try.

There’s also a fabulous antique/resale/garden shop on the corner, where I finally gave in and purchased a wonderful rusted weather vane for the garden.

And we warmed ourselves with the chef’s special chicken pot pie soup at the Sandstone Cafe in a room all to ourselves where we could spread out! I can certainly deal with this kind of sketch meet up

New Faces

gouache on black toned paper: Sktchy Muse is Macho Iberico

This rugged face asked for a rough treatment with the brush, so I made no effort to “clean it up”, which is not that easy to do with gouache on black paper anyway! It was kind of liberating I must say.

brown deAtramentis document ink applied with a dip pen and brush on beige toned paper: Sktchy Muse, von Mypen

In an homage to Inktober, which many of you probably participate in each October, I switched to ink and slowed down a bit to work with washes at first and line detail later.

brown ink on gray toned paper outlined with white gel pen: Sktchy Muse is Jenny L

Do you think I got a bit obsessed with the eyes? haha! It’s always like that. If you don’t watch yourself or set a timer or something, there’s usually a part that gets overworked. But then she did have amazing eyes!

Diamine Silver Fox ink on gray toned paper applied with dip pen and brush on mostly wet paper: Sktchy Muse is Cansin Guven

So the next one I decided to move quickly and not overdo, and now I’m having fun and like the result better, and can’t wait to try another!

I included the names of the models for the pictures submitted as inspiration on the Sktchy app in case you want to give it a try!

Daily Visits

I told myself that moving to a place where we knew (almost) no one would be a challenge at our age. I would have to overcome any natural shyness and join groups, participate in local activities, get out and mingle to make new friends. Ha! Not on your life during a pandemic, and especially lately with the Covid numbers spiraling upward. 

So instead I spend time with plants and animals that don’t need vaccinations and masks. The daily visits I refer to here are mostly the ones I make out to the garden with its infinite diversity and lessons to teach. Most of my outside painting is with eyes and other senses and without brushes. What can you call that blue of the sky? and what’s that rustle sound of those leaves that shimmer like golden coins? And if you close your eyes where in your body do you hear that bird song?

Sometimes lately though I get some paint on too!

I have been eating my lunch out where I can watch the Juncos and chickadees dribbling bird seed from their red perch. 

bamboo pen and ink and Derwent Line and Wash paletter

Another day just as the sun slanted toward the horizon I brought my sketch kit out to the back where two gigantic sunflower “volunteers” were luring me. The challenge was to hold the ink bottle and sketchbook in one hand and the bamboo pen in the other and draw. You’d think the flower would be facing the sun wouldn’t you? But for some reason these two plants are contrarians. Instead the sun was shining directly in my eyes and back lighting the flower. Speed was required to finish before the call to dinner and blindness from the sun. What fun!

Tried the other sunflower another day, this time with my usual watercolor palette and in a bigger 9 X 12″ sketchbook with more room for gestural strokes, and once again thought, wow, this is a lot more fun!

But today I brought my subject indoors and focused on detail. I’ve become the garden clean up crew, with Bob’s help of course, since we’ve had a hard time hiring help.  I had just pulled up a flower bulb in my vigorous clearing of dead growth. And what I found stopped me dead in my tracks as I contemplated my cavernous ignorance about plant biology. Perhaps you could help me understand what I saw? 

I mean really, all that bewitching beauty is underground! Just imagine what we are missing out on, just living our lives on top of all this and never seeing it. Those were my thoughts which ranged more to metaphor and visual poetry and spiritual ecstasy than scientific explanation.

Neverthless I would appreciate knowing more about the function of those jewelled clusters! Any suggestions? Ellyn, are you there?

LoveOly and Tumwater Historical Park

The weather has been irresistible lately, issuing an invitation to get out “in it”. And everyone here promises a lot of non stop rainy weather come fall and winter. So the indoor stuff can wait! 

Cedar Teeth playing at the LoveOly event – two other performers missing

The real colorful performers here were in the audience in the middle of the road in front of the band stand, but I was already attracting too much attention up front where I could see, so I figured I better stay with the performers who I knew wanted to be seen. The downtown public in Olympia are a colorful lot, and maybe by next summer I’ll be comfortable enough to sketch more of them. Like the person dancing in hot pink fuzzy pants and wig and sporting a Big Bird sized tail of hot pink boas and waving pom poms. Now that I think of it, they probably would have loved for me to sketch them!

The Thursday morning sketchers met at Tumwater Historical Park and I sat right down near the lake’s edge among a flock of juvenile ducks and one Canadian goose. They were so marvelous to watch, and the light and colors were constantly changing, and I was so distracted by the beauty of it all that I just kept painting and trying to get it in without any plan, while listening to the quacks and honks and meeting the bold ones that circled my feet in hopes of some food dribbling their way. 

Meanwhile the Tumwater brewery with it’s broken windows and rosey glow eluded my efforts to capture an atmosphere that was beyond my painting ability, but thoroughly in my enjoyment!

Rookery and Stuck in the Muck

When you launch yourself out in nature settings you have to be ready for anything. . .which obviously we weren’t last week when we returned to Woodard Bay with the kayak, ready to explore from the water side.

I had checked the tides and we put in at high tide on a gravel shore with a gentle incline into the water. The day was sunny and warm with a cool breeze. We paddled along to the foot of the noisy cormorant rookery. From our front row seats we enjoyed watching the bird family commotion in the tall trees above us!

pen and watercolor

(This sketch, which was done quick and messy when I got home, shows the impact of the scene.) What we were able to see was silhouettes of nests and leaves and birds, sometimes indistinguishable, and a white feathery dust over it all.

Two juvenile bald eagles glided over the water next to us and lit on fallen trees over the water. Later some seals followed us and kingfishers, great blue herons and an osprey made appearances. We were indomitable explorers in high spirits.

Until it was time to go home and the shore had become an expanse of brown muck with holes spouting water from hidden mouths.

Oh right. Low tide. Actually it was a pretty funny joke on us. Attempts to get out of the boat and walk to shore resulted in sinking in up to mid shin level in stinky (of the organic smell variety) brown muck. Using the paddles as a platform and leaning heavily on Andrew’s youthful vigor and strength, we finally made it to the parking lot with every exposed surface coated with muck, which mostly got wiped off with beach towels to avoid smearing the insides of my freshly washed car. 

. . .one of those great new memories which improves with the telling! 

Note to self: next time you go kayaking in the Puget Sound, check the low tide times and get out of the water before!