ink and watercolor sketch

Chicago: Part IV

On the last official day of the Symposium, there was time for a few more sketches while things were winding up for the big picture taking (of all 570 people from 34 countries and then the evening festivities.

But I thought also to share some of the small sketches/thumbnails I did to get my bearings while in the city, using water soluble graphite in a cake form with my water brush and pen.

 

I often liked these small ones better than the finished pieces. When the visual scene is most complex is the best time to go super small to simplify it.

The soaring green “gargoyles” on the library had been calling out all week to be drawn!

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And then in the afternoon the final sketchwalk with all participants while the city was busy closing down the public areas by the lake in preparation for the big Lollapaloosa music festival.

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The city workers were hanging the sign, piece by piece as many of us dashed off a sketch of the brave native on horseback. My friend Cathy read my mind as she commented, “Is this the Indian they stole Chicago from?”

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Once again here I am trying to prove myself as an authentic urban sketcher (even if a country girl at heart), seeing how many buildings and traffic I can pack into a quick sketch while on the corner of a busy intersection!

Then we were all getting ourselves arranged on a grassy hilltop for the grand Symposium picture, made more fun by a drone that circled around filming us from all angles.

Followed that evening by the closing party and announcement of the location for next year’s Symposium, in Porto, Portugal. Maybe you’ll be there?!

But there’s more! An epilogue, as we stayed a couple more days in Chicago. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to join me and the Ready, Set, Sketchers! in Sebastopol this Saturday, we’ll be meeting up at 10am and sketching the Gravenstein Apple Fair. All are welcome!

Join us at the 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair for the next “Ready, Set, Sketch” meet-up!

Saturday August 12 from 10:00AM-1:00PM

We’ll meet at the entrance to the park at 10am.

Ragle Ranch Regional Park

500 Ragle Road

Sebastopol, CA 95472

 

 

Chicago: Part II

I guess you haven’t really seen Chicago until you’ve visited The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) in Millenium Park on the Lake. At least I don’t think there were any UsK Symposium people who didn’t sketch it. My first sight of it was on our first night in the city. A woman who claimed to be an official greeter offered to take a picture of Bettina and I and did an expert job.

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So the Bean/Cloud Gate is an enormous, reflective kidney bean. But here’s another picture to get a better idea.

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And by the way, the whole city is reflected here, and the sky, and you can’t take your eyes off it!

The next evening I got there a bit late, and by the time I’d sat down next to a charming sketcher from Paris and opened up my sketchbook next to hers, it was dark. Knowing we might not get a second chance Sandrine and I loaded up our brushes and went for it while she smoked her Parisiene cigarettes.

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The caption seemed appropriate for this one.

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The Calder sculpture titled “Flamingo” in a plaza among skyscrapers was another popular sketch sight. I was tempted to sketch the Falun Dafa (like Tai Chi for older people in the park) group who were using the plaza for their morning routine. People are more my comfort zone, but I was in Chicago, a capital of the architecture-universe, to sketch city architecture! But in this spot, the sculpture actually got top billing.

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That afternoon the Urban Sketcher Symposium was launched with a “sketchwalk” in the Art Institute Garden, a magical place of lacy foliage!

chicago34The next morning the workshops began and those of us with Basic Passes participated in sketchwalks around the city. I was grateful to go along at my own speed, thinking I would get more sketching done.

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I had watched Paul Wang, one of my instructors from last year, sketch this very scene the day before and thought I’d try my hand at it. It’s a typical one point perspective scene in Chicago with the train (the El) crossing over the street between tall buildings, many of them with reflective surfaces.

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Let me explain. Not far from The Bean is Crown fountain, consisting of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out. The images are slowing morphing all the time and periodically a spout in the mouth opens and sprays a stream of water out, delighting all the children who engage in delirious water play in the summer.

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That evening a bunch of SF Bay Area sketchers met for dinner, drinks, and the proverbial “drink and draw” at Exchecquer, a nearby restaurant. Luckily the food took a while in coming. Otherwise, hungry as I was at 9pm I would have immediately abandoned the sketch!

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part III!

Nature Sketching in the Sierra Buttes

Three of my sketch buddies and I rented a house in Sierra City, CA for a few days last week and indulged greedily in things we love passionately, nature and sketching in equal parts. Oh and some swimming, hiking, boating, and eating. The weather was sunny and hot of the dry mountain sort which is comfortable in the shade and sometimes even in the glaring sunlight for a while.

 

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Day one we explored the Wild Plum Trail and falls, soaking our feet in the rushing mountain stream. I brought a concertina folded w/c “book” to explore whatever caught my eye, starting with the roaring stream.

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Sketching rocks and rushing water and ferny side shows is a an entrancing form of meditation. There’s no way to get your drawing “right”, so you satisfy yourself with diving deeply into the shapes and colors, all the while experiencing the awe of discovery.

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In the afternoon we moved to Sand Pond at the foot of the Sierra Buttes and went swimming. I struggled with the sky color and so tried out my different blues. Since that day I have decided to add Manganese Blue Hue to my palette and see if that helps. Please let me know if you have another suggestion.

The sun was literally blindingly white making it quite impossible to judge color or value while painting. I decided it was far better to view the sketch in the context of the natural setting where it makes the most sense!

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My favorite shapes were the bare white ones against the dark green forest background, so I painted a strip of green and used dark paint and my white pen on top.

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The dragonflies were everywhere. At one point three of them stopped on my towel and I was able to sketch quickly and then take a picture to finish .

sierrabuttes15This sketching in nature is no elegant affair, as you can see here where I sit perched on a rock, post swimming, with as much protection from the afternoon sun as I can muster.

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Next day we found a lovely spot where the Wild Plum creek and Yuba River meet. I’d played around with spraying inks over seed pods from the forest floor and glued them into my sketchbook for a start. The tree was added on site and then more forest floor gems added for the picture on the rock before adding writing in the white space.

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This mossy tree base just invited one to sit. But then it seemed to say, “sketch me” and,so I did, imagining the creatures that live in that hole.

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Another day we took the ferry boat across Salmon Lake and hiked up to Deer Lake.

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At times it was a steep climb up wildflower strewns meadows, past tiny lakes and even patches of snow.

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And always the search for the perfect sketchable view of the Buttes, here once again.

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And here in town with the last of our energy a timed 15 minute sketch of the church above below the Buttes.

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On the last day I got my wish to take a boat out on Salmon Lake. We lasted about 30 minutes in the antique row boat we’d rented with the clunky paddles and found another sweet spot for the last sketches of the trip.

 

 

Ferry Boats

On Saturdays the Ferry Building and environs in San Francisco is host to a confluence of attractions, from the wonders of the bay with ferry boats and sail boats and ocean going vessels to world class farmer’s market, eating and of course sketching! The SF Urban Sketchers Ferry Boats and Piers Meet Up was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the day.

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We met up at a quieter spot away from the Ferry Building crowds between Piers 3 and 5. The day was that rare (in S.F.) combination of sunny weather with little wind and mild temperatures that made it possible to even sit in the sun for a while without roasting.

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Here I am practicing urban architecture to try to prepare for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Chicago later this month. One thinks that a sunny warm day will be best for seeing the light and shadow shapes on buildings, but honestly when the million watt sun is beating down on the white paper and your eyes are blinded by all the reflections, one can almost long for the overcast weather in the U.K.! And then there’s the constant looking up at the skyscrapers and down at the paper, back and forth. . .

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Ah, but the shapes and angles – the geometry of architecture. It is quite mesmerizing. It does help me to put some folks in the foreground to humanize the scene, or just out of habit.

I’ll be taking the art up to the mountains for the rest of the week and will try to post some pictures on Facebook and Instagram. So please connect with me there!

4th of July postscript

My boys are grown up now and there’s no grandchildren, (yet anyway) but I do enjoy a bit of the chaos and color of children’s events and have the perfect excuse to go – sketching! So July 4th’s sketch-venture at the Healdsburg Plaza was the Annual  Rotary Duck Dash and Kids Parade. Oh, and there were plenty of canine characters too, some of them upstaging the kids and yes, ducks.

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The Russian River Ramblers were playing Dixieland Jazz. There was free ice cream, fishing in duck shaped kiddy pools, and lots of prizes for not only costumes but if your rubber ducky won the duck dash.

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It was all a bit dizzying to try to sketch all the frenetic activity which could be seen sitting almost anywhere. So we picked some shade and plunged in.

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I got out my red and blue Inktense watercolor pencils to color things in. It really was a sea of red, white and blue. But I ended up painting over it in watercolor. Next time I think I’ll use colored brush pens or markers or just stick to watercolor.

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These beautiful girls had some function related to the Duck Dash. Everybody who wasn’t a parent or kid had a role to play in this community event.

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Uncle Sam was there too of course. This is a sketch I did of him 3 years ago, but thought I’d revisit it here.

We’ve got a lot of politics going on every single day, if you know what I mean, so it was nice to take a break and just be with other people celebrating our families and our living-togetherness, not our us-versus-them-ness. Now back to work finding a way to include everyone beyond as well.

Summer of Love at the de Young

I was a high school (almost but not quite college) student in Stockton, Ca that summer of love in 1967. Even though I could drive and had a car I was not allowed to join the hippies in the Haight in S.F. However the music, the fashion, the psychedelic/consciousness expanding (drugs secretly imbibed) were a kind of salvation as I felt boxed in and bored with my suburban existence, etc, etc.

Walking into this Summer of Love exhibition at the de Young museum last week, it all came back. And I was in good company with my sketch buddies of the same era and other museum goers who were ready to share their memories.

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I wanted to record it all – the hippy fashion, the posters and button art/quotes, the lights and lyrics. Most of these were sketched standing with the paint added later.

“What’s scandalous about jeans is how you outrage them.”

Denim -ocracy (We’ve still got this!)

“I’m from Berkeley, but I’m not revolting.”

One little comment here about this exhibition, which I loved! They used the same mannikins from the Oscar de la Renta show and gave them no wigs! We were the hair generation! How could they not put hair on them?! So I added it in the sketches.

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The fashion in the show is flea market finds – artsy, craftsy, hand sewn (we girls all knew how to sew and repurpose clothing back then) cross cultural. . .

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And then there was the protest art, which we are now seeing such a resurgence of. I particularly enjoyed these two pieces. Hmmm. Does this give you an idea of someone else who could be a fine subject for art pants like these?

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In the heart of the exhibit is an empty room with light shows throbbing on every plane and bean bags chairs on the periphery inviting weary museum goers to curl up, watch the show and listen to the music. Now this is my kind of exhibit! I always get tired feet in big art museums so I was one of the grateful ones. After a nice rest I sketched this young couple sharing a bean bag.

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. . .while listening to, who else! Janis. . .

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This is me, grooving for a few minutes. A totally natural high. By this point in the day we were all pretty giddy as years had been shorn off our ages.

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And we weren’t the only ones. Like this fellow who we spoke with. I sketched this later that night from a picture I’d taken. My husband came out to my studio and the walls were pulsating with Jefferson Airplane as I painted. “Remember what the doormouse said”  Or just go see the exhibit.

Palace of Fine Arts

I was hankering for some sketching of “grand” architecture, like what one finds in Europe or other places in the world where a historic building is older than 100 years (ah, Italy!) A visit to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last week was a great way to satisfy that longing and only 1 1/4 hour drive from my house.

As I recall, when I started taking watercolor painting lessons after my second son was born, I started with a day-long workshop where we camped out on the lawn opposite the Palace and I struggled with drawing, perspective, design, color, and watercolor technique all at once. What was I thinking?! Twenty three years later it’s still a formidable task, but oh what fun my sketch buddy and I had!

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The Palace was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition but has been rebuilt and retrofited and landscaped in more recent years, so it can hardly claim antiquity. But who cares, since it is hard to imagine a lovelier place to spend a summer day (and get away from the heat of north county!) especially if you like tourists.

We knew better than to launch in on a sketch of the whole palace with infinite colonnades, the lake with swans and reflections, etc. Even a small portion of a colonnade has a fair amount of detail. I mainly wanted to get the graceful forms of the Greco-Roman Amazons that seems to be holding things up. Since I’m so much more accustomed to sketching people, if helps me to put a human form in a sketch before I tackle the more knotty angles of the architecture. (many people would say the opposite)

We soon learned that we were considered one of the tourist attractions. Especially the Asian tourists, of whom there were many, became the audience and photographers of our event. But then there were the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were set up nearby. They were so interested in our sketches and in getting our cards that they forgot to offer us their literature.

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I’m going to skip over my second sketch which was enough of a disaster that it will not be allowed on this blog! We watched many romantic bride-and-groom pairs posing for pictures before the Palace backdrop. It is June after all and the solstice at that!

The wind picked up quite a bit in the afternoon, but we found a bit of respite from it in the sun and next to the water where the ducks and gulls were bathing and wildly flapping their wings. And here at least (I suppose I shouldn’t be on this side of this cord) I couldn’t see the tourists watching and photographing my artistic efforts.

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The question of the day seemed to be, “how did you learn to do that?” referring to sketching, and with the conviction that I know how to do it. The way I heard the question was, “gee it looks like fun, how might I do that?” And the answer to that is . . .still learning (even though I’ve been teaching for many years now).

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Carole still sketching, at the end of our day, with the fog rolling into the Bay. . .

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At home later I analyzed the scene I’d screwed up. Still feeling a bit flummoxed but at least the scale and perspective is a bit closer. I’ll keep at it. It’s a learning chore I enjoy, always have. Carole said, “Let’s go back and do it again.” I guess that’s how it works, over and over until it’s a bit more second nature.