ink and watercolor sketch

Vacation With a Purpose II

We spent a few hours in Carmel, precious and touristy in the money’d way. Lots of galleries. We saw a bright orange Lambergini or Porsche convertible parked on the corner. You know, the kind of car you certainly wouldn’t park in S.F. or anywhere else for that matter. Not a speck of dust and soft leather seats. Ahhh. And there was a crowd of mostly men ogling it.

But I love to see the latest Mark English mixed media paintings at Jones and Terwilliger gallery.

demetra

ink and watercolor in Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book 6 X 8″

For lunch we ended up at Demetra, a mediterranean restaurant on Ocean Blvd that is so popular that I was dodging elbows while sketching the same wonderful fresco I sketched last time I was here about 3-4 years ago. Hummus and Babaganouj drenched in olive oil, yeah!

Asilomarbeach

(This is not in chronological order I’m afraid.) The beach at Asilomar, unlike our otherwise beautiful beaches north of S.F., has white sand, so you feel like you’ve been transported to the Caribbean. (except for the chilly wind)  It’s the main advantage of staying at the Asilomar Conference Grounds – this daily walk on the white sand beach.

As I was walking along the beach I had the thought that I really ought not to be thinking about anything that was not on that beach in that moment. I really ought to just forget, at least for the time being, everything but the bliss of those waves and that white sand and the endless horizon and sky.

grill

But vacations are also about needing to find a place to eat three times a day. That evening we were in Monterey and so wanted to be on the water. The windows at the Sandbar and Grill look out onto the bay. The sign promises that you will see otters playing. And Bob did while I was busy sketching.

Pablo was our waiter, a handsome swarthy Hispanic fellow. When he “caught” me sketching, it became a bit of an event. I was into my second half a glass of wine when the bus boy arrived, having heard of the artist. He was not satisfied with my rather “loose” portrayal of his buddy Pablo. “He doesn’t have a mustache”, he counseled, and offered other tips for how to get the picture right. This was not the first time I’d been corrected by my “audience”.

Another glass of the wine arrived then, courtesy of Pablo, hoping perhaps that the extra wine would help me to get it right after all?

asilomarlodge

 

There’s just something about the trees on the coast that makes them seem almost human the way they reach out – the textures of the bark and the way they reach out in ways that connect the land to the sea.

Next: 20 tables and kites in memorium

Vacation With a Purpose

Bob and I agree that we’re not much for the leisure-on-the-beach vacations. So when we headed to Carmel (California) a week ago we were looking forward to the events surrounding Rfotofolio’s Depth of Field Biennial Juried Exhibition at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel. As an exhibitor Bob was looking forward not only to the show but to meeting and sharing ideas with the other notable photographers who were converging from all over the country, Canada and Austria!

PGbeach

fountain pen, watercolor in Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book, 6X8″

We were staying at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove and had a couple days to explore first. This is the beach in town. I was so relaxed in the warm sun and loving my vantage point that I kind of overdid it and tried to put everything in! Just like me.

As we wandered around Pacific Grove we discovered throngs of people, trailers, security personel, and movie cameras at an area called Lover’s Point. An episode of Big Little Lies was being shot there and the fans were out in force. (off to the left of where I was sketching).

littlelies

“That’s Meryl Streep there, drinking water, see?!”

“Yes, and I heard they’re looking for extras. . .”

PGtree

So I found another lovely place nearby out of the fray and still in the warm sun.

redcafewait

Eating in town proved to be difficult our first night. We stood shivering on a porch until we got a table at the Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove. Not a big place, but when we finally got a table. . .

redcafewait2

we were next to a lovely fire and the food was yummy and filling!

Next: Carmel and the Center for Photographic Arts.

Fire Restoration

The northern California fires of last October left us all feeling vulnerable. The devestation and loss of peoples’ lives, homes, livelihoods, and more is not even close to being put in the past. I’ve been going back out to some of the burned neighborhoods I sketched a few weeks or months ago to observe the physical changes.

fountaingroveburn2

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book trav.e.logue sketchbook

After the fire you could always find the “steps to nowhere”, only then they were covered with the considerable debris of people’s homes that had burned down. Now almost 90% of the lots have been cleared and scraped and are theoretically ready for rebuilding, though little construction has yet to get started. Here you see a cleared lot, no longer blackened. All around one sees the irrepressible greening of nature. So many of the burned trees are now blossoming or budding out!

fountaingroveburn1 Here’s another lot which perches on the edge of the canyon with a jaw-dropping view. The cement foundation of the upper story stands clear and ready while a giant tractor claw rests in the green grass rusting. One wonders if the holdup is the post-fire discovery of toxins in the water system that must be remedied before construction gets underway? The lay of the land looked eerily familiar to me.

fountaingrove1

It was the same lot I had sketched (on gray paper) last December when part of the house was still standing! All the homes seen across the way had also disappeared!

Then last week I met Peter Phibbs, the sculptor who works at the Paradise Ridge winery that burned in the fire. I had the opportunity to see some of his creations made from burned wood and grapevines. My favorite was his “Wave”, an on site installation which took my breath away!

Paradise1

It was late in the day with not much time to hear Peter’s fire story or do more than one sketch. On October 8 he was busy at work building a stage on the property when the fire came roaring toward him and he just escaped in time, leaving all his tools and car to the flames. Since then he’s “rescued” a treasured oak tree by turning it into a sculpture that will last for ages. And he was just in the process of loading up and delivering a large burnt wood sculpture to a family who lost their home in Coffey Park (made of wood reclaimed from their property!).

Peter

While he was talking I snapped a picture and sketched this later. Here you see one of the phoenixes of the Tubbs Fire!

The much loved Paradise Ridge wines survived and the winery will be rebuilt. Visit their website to read their touching story. I hope to go back soon to capture more of this scene. The land is still laced with dramatic sculptures and llamas and more! And the vines are thriving.

paradiseridgevines

Wind tunnel sketching

Our Bay Area sketch friends Cathy McAuliffe and Laurie Wigham came up to the north county (Sonoma) last week on an invitation to sketch the mustard with us and ended up sketching the rolling green hills and winds of Petaluma instead. Not wanting to get too far away from lunch places we started out by the riverfront.

petaluma1

watercolor and Inktense pencils in Watercolor Field Journal, 8 X 8″

 

Then after lunch we headed out of town, determined to find that lovely yellow mustard on the landscape, but ended up settling for the rolling green hills view of Helen Putnam Park.

petaluma1a

Nothing in this bucolic landscape would suggest the howling winds here which turned my hair into a birds nest, rattled the pages of the sketchbook, and dried the paint instantly on contact with the paper.

petaluma4

But as you can see, our hardy group was not to be deterred! Here’s out tailgate gallery.

petaluma3

Back to town again, with the gale force winds continuing, we settled into a bit of town sketching before calling it a day – a mustard-less day, but fruitful nevertheless!

Bird Rescue Center Open House

On a rather cold and rainy Saturday earlier this month we headed over to the Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County. They have a first Saturday of the month open house for visitors to come and meet the birds and learn about them. The Center is supported by donations from the public and a devoted crew of trained volunteers. Did you read about how they evacuated their entire bird population during the notorious Tubbs fire that was raging down the mountain toward them last October? Luckily the Center did not burn and the bird inhabitants were returned to their home unscathed. Many of them cannot be returned to the wild and this has become their permanent home.

Rescue4

fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ spiral Field Watercolor Journal by Hand Book

When it got drizzly outside, the taxidermy display inside came in handy with the lovely barn owl spreading its wings. Barn Owls are particularly difficult to draw because of their unusual disc shaped face, but oh so lovely!

Rescue2

Then out to the yard where the docents/handlers were holding the birds and answering questions.

Rescue6

Pisces is an Osprey with a broken wing.

Rescue3

The volunteers were dressed for the weather and the birds were of course unconcerned when it started to rain again. Even I would have been unconcerned because a few drops of water dissolve the watercolor paint in the most appealing way. At some point it did however make for a bit of an aborted sketch!

Rescue7

Each time I go to the Open House I learn something new, like the meaning of “bracelets” and “gape”.

Rescue5

This raptor’s name is Star and judging by the color of the tail, must be a Red Tailed hawk. I have dreamed of being a volunteer here but wondered how one can stand for a half hour-hour with the weight of these large birds on the wrist?  Star however was light weight at a bit over three pounds.

Rescue1a

Every once in a while one is treated to an outspreading of wings that lasts only seconds. I caught this one on video and was so struck by the pose of bird and handler here that I had to sketch it later. One might be tempted to romanticize this relationship. When you are treated to this up-close-and-personal display, it is abundantly clear that the humans care very much for the birds, whose habits and idiosyncracies they have learned over the years. Even if the birds don’t have the instinctual equipment to reciprocate with tenderness, they are clearly well cared for and honored for their wild natures.

I have made the acquaintance of many of these same birds on previous sketch visits. See more of the sketches here and here.

Put People in Your Sketches

These on-location (urban sketch) workshops I’ve been teaching can be a challenge. Not only do I need to be prepared with the content, but there’s all the logistics, like parking and food and bathrooms and the big unknown, WEATHER. This time the weather picture changed each day this week from sun to rain to sun and then, finally to just plain damp and cold. I know this sounds whiny to those of you who live where it snows. I see the posts on Instagram of icy, snowy scenes that are sketched on site, and I’m impressed.

So I fretted right up to the minute when my workshop started on Saturday, but then this group of ready-for-just-about-anything sketchers showed up from all over the Bay Area ready to go.

peoplesketch1

We started out with drawing warm ups in the back room of Aroma Roasters, enjoying their coffee and warmth and practicing the 30 second pencil gesture followed by pen drawing, using each other as models and later infiltrating the coffee shop proper.

The idea is to go from drawing big shapes to smaller details like clothing and facial features, but to get the gesture down first in case the person moves. We were about to move out to the train station where people stand still for only moments!

peoplesketch2

Then things got really interesting as passengers arrived.

smartpeople3

Passengers getting their tickets. . . I realized that I’ve never even ridden this SMART train yet. I bet it’s fun!

smartpeople2

Well, I may have exaggerated the colors here a bit, but this gentleman did in fact have yellow pants and shirt. The assignment here was to give the figure some context in your sketch. We were telling people stories after all!

peoplesketch3We huddled around the bed of an antique wagon on site to share our morning’s sketches. Some of this group had completed the OneWeek100People sketch challenge and had many wonderful sketches to share from the morning alone.

coloradded

The afternoon was about adding color to the sketches. Here I’m doing a minimal treatment of skin, clothing and context, which is often all one has time for.

skin

On the right I mixed the yellows with the reds in my palette to get light skin tones. It’s something you just have to play around with. The basic “recipe” is to use lots more red than yellow and dilute with water. I add Cerulean Blue for the shadow shapes. For dark skin I use dark versions of the red and yellow and blue. Then if there’s bright clothing or other bright reflected light (the skin reflects everything around it!) I glaze a bit of that color over the skin when it’s dry.

smartpeople1

The finished demo. I wanted to show how you could draw one figure over another without worrying too much about the lines showing through (her arm)! And notice the green on his face.

smartpeople4

We were all a bit chilled at the end, but there were a lot of smiles and enthusiasm about doing more people sketching!

We missed the lovely warm spring weather by a couple days! But there’s more opportunities coming up to attend on-location sketch workshops here in the Bay Area if you’re interested.

My next day workshop is Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher on May 5 in Sonoma Visit my website for more details. But that’s not all! On May 26 I’m teaching Sketch the Vignette in Petaluma. It’s one of the 10X10 Urban Sketch workshops, all listed below!

URBAN SKETCHERS BAY AREA 10X10 CLASSES, SPRING 2018

The International Urban Sketchers organization and San Francisco Bay Area Urban Sketchers are bringing back the popular series of on-location sketching workshops, running from April to June 2018. (We are hoping to repeat the series in the Fall.) Workshops are designed for all levels of participants, but check class details to see if it’s a good fit for you. Class size is limited to 15 participants. Workshop cost $45 (some have an additional materials fee.) 

Info about individual classes is listed below. Click here to see a flyer with more information plus links for all the classes.

10×10 – Nina Khashchina: Gouache Your World

April 7, 10-1 

Location: Palo Alto

This workshop will give participants basic tools needed to use gouache successfully. It is geared toward people who struggled with gouache before but also to those trying this medium for the first time. We will use small-scale exercises to cover transparent and opaque methods available with the gouache and learn techniques for working with shape and color, creating interesting textures, and details of urban landscape, on location, using gouache as the main tool. There is a materials cost of $15, paid to the instructor on the day. 

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Mark Simmons: Your Storytelling Kit

April 14, 1-4

Location: San Francisco

We’ll look at a variety of comics and cartooning techniques that can be applied to urban sketching, event reportage, and storytelling. The workshop will be held at San Francisco’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, where we can practice our comic art tricks; we’ll start with a presentation and demo of comic devices like word balloons, captions, and sound effects to capture dialog and incorporate text, pen and ink rendering, with emphasis on monochrome art, use of line weight and spot blacks and organizing a visual narrative into sequential panels. We’ll apply them at the event, and then regroup to compare notes in a brief show-and-tell.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Bill Russell: Procreate Digital Sketching

Location: Larkspur

April 21, 10-1

Finally, with the Procreate drawing app and the Apple iPad Pro, artists have the best quality technology for urban sketching. Join Bill at Marin County Mart in Larkspur Landing for a fast-paced primer, starting with a one-hour tutorial, where he will share his own digital sketching knowledge and skillset. He will teach you how to simplify the process, so you can make beautiful pictures fast and easy. You will create some of your own digital sketches of their farmers market, cool stores and live entertainment. Each person must have a basic understanding of Procreate and have it installed on their iPad Pro. An Apple Pencil is also required.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Diane Olivier: Chinatown Drawing & Eating Adventure

May 6, 11-2 

Location: San Francisco

An outdoor/indoor workshop with a bit of walking. We will meet up at Portsmouth Square Playground for a demo of a few concepts to capture and organize information from our adventure. From there a 2 minute walk through the heart of Chinatown on Grant Avenue to eat lunch and sketch our meal. Diane will detail what to look for: the space, the wait staff, the customers, and the food! After lunch we’ll take a 2 minute walk for dessert at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Here we’ll see the tiny shop, the product and how they are made. We’ll end with a show-and-tell in the alley to share our stories and our drawings. 

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Uma Kelkar: Landscapes, Quickly!

May 13, 12-3 

Location: Millbrae

This workshop will teach you how to look. That’s right, learn how to see a landscape. Learn how to reduce a scene into no more than 3 shapes and 3 values. Experience agile sketching by using limited tools, single pigment, and letting go of some details. At end of the 3 hours, you should be able to do a direct brush sketch (with a single color) and yet capture a landscape. The lesson plan of the workshop is active, thus settling down to draw in balmy weather will not happen. Participants will move, sketch, move, make mistakes, make more sketches. Sketches will be be spontaneous, lively and the sketcher will be mentally energized.

Workshop full. Click here to be added to waitlist.

10×10 – Susan Cornelis: Sketch the Vignette

May 26, 10-1

Location: Petaluma

In this workshop we will explore tools for simplifying and designing your sketches on location to quickly get to the visual story you most want to tell. We will build the sketch out from the point of greatest interest, connecting it to its context and leaving out all that isn’t necessary to make a more powerful impact. Principles of vignette design and using the white of the paper will be practiced along with simple drawing and watercolor applications.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Oliver Hoeller: How to Build a Strong Sketch out of Weak Elements

June 2, 12-3

Location: San Francisco

Often we see things that appeal to us—a lamp, a button, a watch—but we don’t sketch them because they may be a weak motif by themselves. In this workshop we will learn strategies to combine many weak elements into an interesting hodgepodge that tells the story of a place. We will practice this skill at the Asian Art Museum, where we assemble personal spreads out of the individual pieces on display. We will start outside to practice contour drawing and discuss 10 strategies to form a rich picture out of individual elements. Participants will then select from the tools presented and draw their own 2 spreads in the museum. Half way through, one-on one feedback will help to solidify the approaches. In the end we will add (water) color to the work and discuss our results. 

Workshop almost full. Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Carlos Almeida: The Sense of Urban Spaces

June 9, 9-12 

Location: Palo Alto

The workshop is about process and the understanding of the urban space as a first approach through quick observation of massing, scale, proportionality of elements, textures, light, shade and shadow and how all these aspects can be incorporated in the frame to achieve a good sketch composition in order to clearly and effectively convey what is seen in a specific period of time.

Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Suma CM: From Line to Design

June 10, 1-4

Location: Redwood City

This will be an energizing class! We’ll explore the downtown with a minimal kit, stopping for demos and exercises. We’ll start by learning how to frame compact, pleasing vignettes on the fly, with an emphasis on shapes and balanced design. Then we’ll review techniques for adding vibrant color to bring the compositions to life. Beginners will be able to focus on objects and simple structures, while experienced sketchers can use the concepts to work on more complex streetscapes. Register here on Eventbrite

10×10 – Richard Sheppard: Unraveling the Complexity of Travel Sketching 

June 23, 10-1 

Location: San Francisco

The best souvenirs are not the things you buy or the photos you take while on vacation, but drawings you create in a sketchbook. Sketching allows the artist to slow down enough to get acquainted with surroundings that are so often overlooked while framing the world through a lens. Yet sketching in public can be a daunting experience for the self-conscious sketcher, or for those that are just unprepared. The first part of this class will cover tips on getting beyond the emotional roadblocks that keep us from sketching. Then we’ll discuss materials, styles, and techniques that are best suited for travel sketching. We will learn how to get the most out of our sketchbooks while on the road.

Workshop full. Click here to be added to waitlist.

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.

FarmersMkt2

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.

FarmersMkt

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!

MissPlayingforChange

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.

annasinhand

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. . .

annasisketch

. . .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.

Riverfront2

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”?

Riverfront1

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.

AnneHathaway

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.

GuzmanHall

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.

FlatIron

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

ogre

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.

Disguise2

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

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.37.07 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.37.24 PM

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.38.20 PM

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.38.33 PM

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.