laguna de santa rosa

The Laguna de Santa Rosa

When I first moved here to Sebastopol, California 19 years ago and saw the flat lands below my house fill up with water and birds after winter rains; saw the mustard bloom stretch out like a neon yellow carpet, I knew I would have to find a way onto the land and water to explore. This area, known as The Laguna de Santa Rosa, encompasses the ecologically rich watershed lands that span from Forestville and the Russian River south to Cotati.

Eventually I managed to get out on the water and paddle, and I joined the plein aire painters who sometimes had access to the private Laguna lands. Later I learned of the vernal pools and explored them on the magical Lynmar Winery lands on the Laguna. I became convinced that I’d moved to one of the more exotic places on Earth!

Fast forward to this week when the winter rainstorms abated, the sun came out, and I parked by the side of Sanford Road to do some mini Laguna captures.

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The traffic was roaring by so I wasn’t particularly comfortable and needed to find a place a bit more relaxed.

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This time I visited the Laguna Foundation which is open during weekdays and not only has views of the mustard bloom and Mayacama mountains behind but also the Heron Art gallery that features nature oriented art by a different artist every four months and Stone Farm with its weathered barns and farm equipment.

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And my sketch buddies joined me for a day of sketching and picnicking on site. I remembered sketching this barn 18 years ago when there were also cows, and not yet the offices of a Foundation with nature workshops, land stewardship programs, native plant gardeners, community education programs and so much more.

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Sitting here with my back to the “pond” and listening to a chorus of marsh birds.

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At this point my eyes were weary from the bright sunlight, so I sat in the shade of the maintenance man’s truck and enjoyed a closer subject matter. It’s so much easier to see what you’re doing when the sun isn’t shining either directly in your eyes or on your white paper!

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I’ll have to save a watery Laguna sketch for another day! This is the view from Lynmar Estates.

The mustard bounty will last a while longer. It’s a great excuse to get out with your sketchbook, listen to bird song, and experience that gratitude that we feel for living in the midst of such abundant natural beauty.

For more of my Laguna art see Herons on the Laguna, A Tale of Wings, Vernal Pools and A Harvest Gala

 

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Laguna Walks and Sketch Musings

Years ago, drawn to getting outdoors to make art, I tried to be a plein air watercolor painter (among other things). I found that I was too restless by nature, especially IN nature. I wanted to move before I could finish the painting. Well, maybe I couldn’t deal with the environmental issues either, like hot sun or wind or bugs or cold or. . .

I think that’s why I found sketching with pen and watercolor to be a better fit for me when I’m outside the studio. I get very stimulated by new environments, seasonal changes, people in public and want to try to capture as much as possible in quick sketches.

With the gorgeous sunny weather this week my sketch buddies and I headed to the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail for a hike/sketch day. The Laguna is “the biologically diverse landscape of Sonoma County’s largest freshwater wetland. Internationally recognized for its ecological importance, the Laguna’s marshes, vernal pools, riparian woodland and valley oak savannah are rich habitat for wildlife and plants, including the special-status California tiger salamander, Sebastopol meadowfoam and Lobb’s aquatic buttercup.”

At our first stop I set the timer for two 15 min. sketches so we wouldn’t get too carried away.

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When we ran into too big a puddle to cross without waders, we drove around to the other end (Occidental Rd)  to walk a bit and make another sketch stop.

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When I saw this massive unclothed oak bordered by the shimmering water I forgot my intention to keep it simple and got totally and quite happily bewitched by the tree!

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Another day I brought my sketch bag and stool along on a walk near my home for a quick study of the vineyard geometry, the reds and greens, and Albert Einstein-like mops of impossibly gnarled vines. This is one of my favorite times in the vineyards when the “bones” show. I used my Lamy Joy fountain pen for the black and Uniball Signo white pen for the sun catching highlights.

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Yet another day this week I sat out by my studio, back to the warm sun and totally overworked this sketch while my cat Phil kept bumping me to elicit a more attentive response.

Just now as I was out doing some garden clipping I realized that a lot of people shy away from sketching because they mistake it for an activity that’s about making a realistic representation of what you see, like (we think) a camera does. And so of course that becomes an obstacle to doing it, because we always fall short of that. In many ways I don’t think my drawing has changed/improved all that much over the many years I’ve been doing it, but my enjoyment of sketching just keeps growing.

That’s the part I want to share, the enjoyment of telling the personal story of our lives, or as the Urban Sketcher motto says “to show the world, one drawing at a time”.  And if you’re interested in participating, there’s so much coming up this spring! There’s both my workshops locally here in Sebastopol and Urban Sketch workshops around the world and particularly here in the S.F. Bay Area. Stay tuned for more about those tomorrow. Here are the ones I’ll be teaching locally.

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Regardless of your drawing ability you can enjoy sketching with some simple tools and skills and some like minded folks to sketch with. For more information and to register, visit my website, email me or call the number above!

Vernal Pools

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acrylic inks, cheesecloth and paper collage and texture on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

What wonders hide in vernal pools –  salamanders and rivers of slimy things, algae and water beetles.  I’ll be a fairy, take my hollowed-out walnut shell, paddle out among the flowering water plants and nap in verdant shade.

The shopping, weed pulling, and bill paying can wait.  I’m here to meet a salamander and sit a while before the summer sun scorches out a spot with cement hard soil and torched grasses.

I am a bit late posting this painting from a month ago when the lands of the Laguna de Santa Rosa  below my house were brimming with rain waters and vernal pools were blooming with nature’s miracles after months and years of drought.  We are still getting some gentle rains from time to time and my garden resembles an English country garden more than the semi arid California landscape it will again become some time in June. Then I will need reminders of the vernal pools of spring.