ink and watercolor sketch

A Poet at Oly Farmer’s Market

Our year-round Farmer’s Market has the gorgeous seasonal fruits, veggies, flowers, fish, meat, baked goods, artwork, and cool things like worm tea and fermented foods. Also live entertainment and world cuisines.

But last Saturday there was a new addition, a dapper fellow sitting at a manual typewriter set on a tiny table with a pile of small sheets of blank paper, offering custom poems! “Your Story, Your Price”

Who could resist? My first thought of course was to sketch him, but since I would be sitting close by and looking at him a lot, I first introduced myself and ordered a poem. My story. . .ummm. Something about a poet and a tree, I suggested?

fine liner pen and watercolor with Elliot’s poem in Etchr sketchbook

I sat at a picnic table with my back to the band that was playing. Children were running around, my picnic table received other visitors and their food and conversations and jostling. Most people walked right by. Some stood blocking my view for a while, speaking to the poet named Elliot, ordering poems, I presume. And I realized both Elliot and I were in the same boat, needing to concentrate fully on our creative task in the midst of numerous interruptions.

Over the years I’ve trained myself to do this, but how does one start a poem, get interrupted to take a new poem order, and immediately return to the middle of the one you were working on? I was impressed.

When I returned at the end of 45 min or longer to show him my sketch, he had a small pile of poems completed and waiting to be picked up. He dug mine out and read it to me. I was pleased! I particularly like the ending. . .”reminders, so, in the woodpulp that stays“. When I asked him how he does it, he replied, “there’s always poetry” and smiled.

 Elliot seemed pleased with his portrait too! And his poem fit just perfectly on the opposite page!

It had been a great meet up for our combined Tacoma and Olympia Urban Sketchers! Some sketched the building, others the flowers and people. All seemed to enjoy this time out of busy lives, sketching in public.

Monarch Sculpture Park

You may remember Monarch Sculpture Park’s post from last year This country park, supported by the artist/owners and donations, is not only an invitingly peaceful spot, but an outdoor art museum whose assorted sculptures interact with the meadows and woods and water features in a way that tickles the imagination.

I had a hard time deciding what to sketch this time. I actually just wanted to sit lazily on the grass and take it all in. How could I fit all rush of impression on the paper of my little sketchbook? Yet the sketchbook is what brought my two sketch buddies and I out on that afternoon. So I turned toward the duck weed carpeted pond and the forest with a tall rust sculpture and started “doodling” again. Since the whole scene read as green, I challenged myself to use a diverse palette, greens, blues and oranges.

When I got home I found the two new gel pens I’d bought in Portland and had fun perking up the scene with some opaque line contrast.  Lots of scribbling here. It was hard to stop!

Portland: Japanese Garden/Rose Garden

fine liner pen and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

How do they do it? Every inch of Portland’s Japanese garden elicits a sigh of recognition. Nature as the ultimate beauty. Sigh. One is invited to breathe it in through all the senses simultaneously. The sounds of water, visible or not, throughout. The contrast of stone against plant holding your interest so it never flags from step to step.

At times last Sunday spectators filled the paths, but a bench opened up inside a mini pagoda structure looking out on this scene, so we sat down for some sketching. I’m learning not to freak out about the complexity of forest scenes, to tell myself to start out with a kind of nature doodle, letting the pen wander, then coming back with playful layers of watercolor, and perk it up at the end with a colored gel pen. The important thing is, can you look at it and feel the cool forest air and hear the water?

Next day we started at the Hoyt Arboretum with its miles of specialized trails ribboning up the hill back and forth: the red pine, the spruce, the redwood, the hawthorn and magnolia and holly and more! We picnic lunched at a forest outlook point and later stopped above the fragrant rose garden where I had time to sketch this appealing restroom while we waited for the bus to take our weary feet back “home”.

Autumnal Equinox

pen and watercolor in Etchr w/c sketchbook

Years ago a garden master taught me to appreciate the spring and autumn equinoxes for their way of marking the changing of seasons by giving us a day of paradoxes. Warm and cool, breezy and calm, blooming flowers and dried up husks. By tuning in and noticing our garden on the equinox we begin to get it that summer is over and feel a sense of nostalgia about it while getting excited about what comes next.

This year I spent a good part of the day in the garden, and especially in the vegetable garden, which is a riot of vegetable and flower plants in all stages of growth and home to an impressive population of bugs and insects. The air was warm/cool enough to sit in the sun/light-clouds for hours and watch all the activity. Coming fresh from the Wild Wonder Conference I was ready and armed with ways to put down as much as possible of the drama, both plant and creature, as well as to watch my most curious human mind!

As I was talking to the kale, imploring it to be less bitter so that I can perhaps like it a bit more this fall, I realized that it might have some thoughts to give back. . . which led to adding the showy zinnia and sunflower that towered over it and getting all the attention. As it told me how it feels I realized that I had been overlooking it and unfairly giving more interest to the flowers.

And then the cabbage whites were flitting everywhere in the garden, and I noticed that they didn’t overlook, but landed on the the kale (though I wonder what they were doing there for that split second when I tried to sketch one). As I finished my nature journal page, I was very pleased with myself for having gotten my own garden story down. Can you think what yours might be?

And I couldn’t wait to come back the next day and find another story!

And so i did. It was not hard to pick the subject. After all I’ve been quite perplexed about the strange shapes of my carrots, which remind me of those weird characters in Harry Potter books. . .which led to a fun few minutes refreshing my Hogwarts studies!

And this morning I decided to try pulling up some more carrots. Along with the forked ones I found some big fat 4-5 inch long fat beauties, along with all the rest shown here. Honestly is there anything more aesthetically and gastronomically and emotionally satisfying than garden successes?! (of course there is! but this was mine today.)

Wild Wonder out in my garden

I was sitting in my studio, glued to the screen, watching and sketching along with the many live streamed teachers at the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, and finally broke away to explore the wild right outside my studio door. Usually when I spend time in the garden it is to harvest vegetables or dead head flowers or discover garden chores that are overdue. So, strangely, it took some very clear intention to head out to the garden with my sketchbook!

fineliner pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media sketchbook

I started with my most recent discovery of wasps swarming Grandma Marie’s paper birch tree in the Ancestor Grove. It was so named because we found two side by side birch trees in our new home garden and planted ashes from our two mothers’ urns under those trees. Grandma Marie’s was chosen by a colorful Yellow Bellied Sapsucker as a place for his preferred meals of sap, opening the way for others to dine as well. At the moment it is hosting swarms of what look like wasps. One could say that the tree does not look happy, being blackened and sticky, but that would surely be from the standpoint of our very own species and not that of a tree, which gives generously to the cycle of living things, throughout its life and decomposition. In any case it was a story to tell in my nature journal, recently fortified by ideas and tools of other nature lovers in the conference. I started drawing while standing and gazing at the swarm on the spot close by, then started feeling uneasiness when I realized I was in the flight path!

Next I was drawn to my favorite small corner garden, no more than a yard long and a foot deep. It is filled with seeds, which I must remember to distribute to other areas of the garden, and blooms steadily from spring through early fall with wildflower tenacity. The Calendula and Love in a Mist are the stars of the show.

And on then to the end, you might say, of the blooming season for the Bee Balm flowers. I am so struck by the beauty of these going-to-seed plants whose seed vehicles are golden chariots in shape and tone and texture, and rival their spring beauty.

The late summer sunset was then upon me, so I brought the Bee Balm inside to have better light to view it. Also at that point I was wondering how all these drawing/paintings would sit in a balanced way on the page. Text, boxes, descriptions and personal feelings were easy ways to fill the empty spaces and put down more of the late summer afternoon experience in a way that I can never forget.

Oh how I love you, Love in a Mist!

Squaxin Park

Normally when I take walks in parks I leave my “gear” behind, preferring to swing my arms freely and not carry unnecessary weight. But the weather on Friday was lovely, and there would be few people on the trail that afternoon, so I headed off to Priest Point Park with my nature journaling gear.

Entering the park I noticed a new sign showing that the name of the park had been changed to that of the original inhabitants, namely the Squaxin tribe. Hooray! Better late than never. 

The park is just outside of downtown Olympia and along the shores of Budd inlet, with one of those mystical northwest forests of towering trees and ferny, mossy, living understory. A feast for a nature journaler creature. I walked out to the beach and wandered there a while until I my shoes alerted me with that sucking sound of the tidal muck, and I turned around. The tide was looooow, and the mud/muck was giving off that rich briny fragrance as the sea creatures breathed out through the doors of their under-muck homes.

Fountain pens and w/c in Etchr sketchbook

I’m always drawn to the holes and textures in tree bark and thought I would focus on that. What creatures live in those holes? The tree is of a generous nature, like a hotel or apartment owner, who invites such habitation, but never charges rent. Or perhaps its more accurate to say, like the host who invites those who not only need a home, but who begin the recycling of the host’s body while it is still alive!

But I was also struck by the exquisite patterning of the tidal  waters, and wondered how it would change over the hours and days with the steady ebb and flow.

It was a peaceful spot to sit and sketch, undisturbed, at least if you don’t count the bugs and the crow that perched himself directly above me and kept up a banter of heckling as I sketched. Was it derision or approval? Maybe he was calling to other crows to fly over and see what the lady was doing?

Here’s some of the nature delights that I would have painted . . .

So many creature homes in this view. . .and what manner of things are inside the web-hammock I could never imagine disturbing?

Down on the beach, (recently at high tide, the sea bottom), the remains of an old dock. But a sculpture park? cemetery? the ruins of an ancient civilization? The imagination goes to work on it.

Not hard to imagine what happened here, but was it gull or heron or ? that ate the crabmeat?

You probably guessed that I’m warming up for the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference that starts this Wednesday, September 14-18, with 30 teachers and speakers, online classes and talks, curiosity and community, wonder and fun! It’s not too late to register for the conference at the unbelievable price of $85 and stream it all online live and in recordings for a few months afterward. I’m hoping to pick up lots of tips for this kind of journaling and appreciation of nature, and it would be great for anyone just wanting to start a nature journal. If you live in the Olympia area, let me know and I hope to invite you to some upcoming nature meet ups.

Olympia Harbor Days

Labor Day Weekend in Olympia was dominated by a colorful harbor scene at the 49th Annual Harbor Days Festival  presented by the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, boasting 250 things to do and see! The sketcher in me translated that to – 250 things to sketch!  Starting with the tugboats, which are a thing here with lots of history in the Puget Sound.

The historic roots of tugboat racing stemmed from the last half of the 1800s, when sailing ships arrived in the Sound from ports throughout the world.  Because of the lack of wind on the inland waters, steam-powered tugboats were required to tow them to the docks for cargo unloading.   By tradition, the first of the tugs that raced out to meet the arriving ships got the towing work.

 

fountain pen and watercolor in Hahnemuhle ZigZag book

Some of the tugboats I saw on the dock last weekend were hardly the working kind however. Like Tugzilla here, with its owners chillin’ on deck and answering questions from the appreciative crowd of onlookers. On Sunday there were tug boat races in the harbor and you could book passage on an historic boat to be able to view them out in the Sound.

The festival was crowded enough that finding a place to sit and sketch was problematic. I found this little bit of dock alongside the colorful Tugzilla and got set up to sketch, only to discover that the crowds of enthusiasts were finding their way down the boardwalk in my direction and creating a wave motion on the floating boardwalk, disrupting pen and my sense of equilibrium! 

So I adjourned and met up with Ineke, and we both decided to tackle the busy scene above while standing at a railing (color and details added later at home!) The big crane in the background is an ever visible reminder of the Port of Olympia activity and the lumber yard. The historical underpinnings of this city on the Puget Sound, its roots in native tribal life, white settlement, and  the role of commerce in expansion and development are abundantly visible to this day. 

Stay tuned for more sketches from Harbor Days!

A Taste of Cuba at the Farmers Market

fountain pen, watercolor, felt tip pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Ninety percent of our Farmer’s Market here in Olympia is under permanent open air structures year round. Not so vital during our dry summers, but in the other seasons it’s essential for staying out of the rain. And that includes eating. Market days are Thursday through Sunday from April to October, and most of that time, there’s live music under a roof where the picnic tables are! A perfect invitation for a sketch lunch.

A Taste of Cuba is a group I hadn’t heard before, with a lovely young professional Cuban born flautist/singer bringing her musical heritage to life on our northwest stage. 

It’s always a treat to share the sketch with the musicians afterwards. I was happy to wait my turn after someone consulted her about booking the group for another event.

Nature Journal meeting #2

the beach at Tolmie State Park on the South Puget Sound

10:00am on Monday, the time we’d chosen for the tides which rule the beach access in the Puget Sound. We met at Tolmie State Park as the tide was slowly ebbing and revealing the creature life, seaweed, driftwoods and muck, in patterns of movement and stillness. A windless sunny morning with a smattering of tidal bounty seekers and some nature loving sketchers. We were ready to focus on some aspect of the vast tableau, sit in wonder, and honor the memory with a journal entry filled with observations, questions and contemplations.  

brown fountain pen, w/c pencils and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook.

I love a good nature still life! Just pull up a stool somewhere on the sandy/pebbly beach at the tide’s edge where the seaweed, shells and barnacles collect, and the sea is stretched out to touch the land and blue mountains beyond. Inhale the salty sour sea air, and let the mind go blank as it fills with gratitude. What happier spot can there be for pulling out the sketchbook?

And then the “dessert”. Joining friends on the beach to braid together our discoveries, questions, and the wonders of the day!

If you missed our first meeting’s post, you can see it here. And if you live in the south Puget Sound area and want to join us for some nature journaling leave a comment here!

Summer in Oly

I must say I’m beginning to feel like the school teachers among us who must return to work now after a lovely summer vacation. . .only I’m not. But still, all good things eventually must come to an end. Like the steady stream of interesting events springing up each week in a summertime Olympia, when the weather makes it actually possible most days to be outside all day long in the sun!!! 

Bob and I were taking our favorite walk around Capitol lake and came upon the All Triumph Drive In! in Heritage Park. About 30 – 40 spit-polished luxury sport cars, parked on the lawn with the owners comfortably lounging in their folding chairs, ready to talk to admirers. The brew pub tour, Poker Run, and celebratory banquet may have also lured them to the capitol. I wanted to admire the intricacies of their shiny engines,  which were clearly displayed for this purpose, but I hadn’t the words to match the task. So I smiled and ooo’d and aaaah’d and commented on the nice weather instead. Oh, and then later sketched the colorful scene from a picture I took.

On Sunday we made it to the last day of the Love Oly Summerfest, a weekly (in August) street fair/block party put on by the Olympia Downtown Alliance with live music, street performers, games and activities for kids, a beer garden and more. I sketched one of the circus troupe in movement! and. . .

caught the next performers for the music stage, hanging out under the marquee in the back of their stretch limo/hearse with the red hub caps. A real class act I must say, though I didn’t stay to hear the music to see if it matched the quality.