pen and watercolor sketches

How (not) to Draw a Car

I’m not much of a car person and normally try to avoid drawing them, but when my Meet up sketch group suggested cars as a subject that would not get us in trouble with the Shelter in Place guidelines, I figured it might be a time to build some mechanical skill of the auto sort.

Sitting out in my driveway I got closer than 6 feet to my car to challenge myself with the extreme foreshortening of the angle. . .

cartalk1

I figured at least I would be able to see the details. I even did some measuring comparison, though it sure doesn’t show!

So I took a picture and determined to try “getting it right” by drawing from the picture in pencil.

cartalk2

The tire looked pretty flat, though the sketch was more convincing, automotively speaking. But was this the same car??

cartalk3

Still determined to “get it right” I tried again the next day, sitting in the same spot and taking a bit more time. If you don’t look at it for more than a couple seconds, it looks almost right. . .until you start to get the feeling it’s waiting to get fixed at an auto body shop after getting side bashed.

If I were really serious about drawing cars I would try again. Only honestly. . .I like the first one best, because it looks like it’s just about to say something interesting. All it needs is a bubble above it with “toot! toot!”

Are you finding things to do that you wouldn’t normally attempt, either because there’s no time or you feel it is too frivolous when the hospitals are filling up with people suffering from the pandemic? I hope so. We all need the frivolity as an antidote to terror.

Bud Book

Apparently the flip side of Corvids, those noisy crows and such, is Buds. At least that’s the case in my little Pentallic Accordian sketchbook which helped me to weather the first two weeks of sheltering in place.

Whenever the sun was out I took my pens, mini-watercolor palette and sketchbook out to the garden to watch what news was happening there. While I sketched buds I noticed other things, like the bumblebees hiving up in the birdhouse next to my studio door, and the pipevine swallowtail butterfly newly emerged from it’s chrysalis and drying its wings on the passionvine trellis. . .

brandnewbutterfly

I stood and watched it with its stuck-together wings blowing back and forth in the wind until they were dry enough for it to fly away, leaving me standing, hair on end in awe.

grapevine

The vintners here in wine country call it bud break when this particular spring marvel occurs, as it did along my house this month. So I started there in my little book.

succulent

I must admit that spring fever got to me while sketching these. I kept looking up to see the honey- and bumble-bees and loosing my place in the complexity of the succulents, but that was precisely the point, to catch the spring fever rather than the viral fever, right?!

 

rhodyapple

The apple tree behind my studio is one of those ancient hollowed out ones that still produces large quantities of apples. In February it attracts the bluebirds and in March, when the apple blossoms bud out, the butterflies seek them out for nectar.

euphorbia

Euphorbias of all kinds love my otherwise rather wild and untended garden. The flowers are blooming now in a riot of miniature bow ties of different sorts.

pipevine

But my favorite spot in the garden is the pipevine, which is blooming and fruiting and attracting the butterflies in ever greater number each year. Here is what is found at this stage. The little orange eggs are “deposited” in the pipevine bank by the butterflies, like the one in the picture above, and next month the hungry munchers with the orange polka dots will be hatched and systematically eat the entire hillside of pipevine to the ground!

chrysalis

And what is this magnificent sculpture? Another chrysalis on my studio wall which I noticed at the same time as the emerging butterfly. But this one is another species – the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, also known as Passion butterfly here on the wall where my passion vine grows. Last time I looked it was a yellow green color, but now is daily turning orange, the color of the butterfly, slow enough that there’s no point in watching it, but I do check in regularly.

budbook

So I can’t help thinking that all this spring metamorphosis provides yet another silver lining to those of us who, while ruminating on the dreadful pandemic news, have time to notice the small things like insects and buds.

Corvid: Corvidae

If you’re like I was, you’re probably doing a double take. I mean it looks like the name of that virus we’re all freaked about about, right? But that’s Covid and this has an R and it’s a family of birds we know well.

Corvid:  any of a family (Corvidae) of stout-billed passerine birds including the crows, jays, magpies, and the raven. And my friend Laurie Wigham had the prescience to challenge the Nature Journal club with a shelter-in-place meet up idea to sketch them, 19 of them in fact!

IMG_0520

I had already decided to employ my Pentalic accordian fold sketchbook, which was contributing nothing whatsoever by staying in my drawer for the past 12 months, to sketching the bud break in my garden. I realized the other side could be devoted to crows.

IMG_0521

This also gave me an opportunity to try out a new bent tip fountain pen I just got.

IMG_0522

So you may have guessed that these Corvids were not posing for me, but were gleaned from my online research into what their differences might be.

IMG_0523

The Magpies were my favorite. They are real tricksters yet nevertheless they are a good luck symbol, so I think we need them at this moment in time, or maybe always.

IMG_0524

The Rook is a Dickensian-looking character of chess fame.

Tomorrow I’ll get out and try to finish the bud side of the book.

And if you’d like to explore sketching the Corvids this week, join in with the Nature Journal Club

Beauty among the ashes

Exploring yet another burned out neighborhood in the path of the October 8 Tubbs fire I drove out Mark West Springs road. While walking down a street of flattened homes this antique car rose out of the ashes and stared at me like a giant beetle. The squashed garbage cans seemed to be having a dialogue with it, so I sat down to listen to what they had to say about the event.

antiquecar

pen, watercolor and gouache in 9 X 12″ Stillman + Birn toned Nova series sketchbook

The constant drone and thunking of the bulldozer down the street and conversation of workers kept me company while I followed the lines with my eyes, unencumbered by knowledge of familiar shapes I’d drawn before. Squashed circles and wavy/sharp edges and broken pieces set the brain free to engage in a pure effort of drawing as it should be, without distractions of the mind.

A couple of workman stopped by to ask me if I had lost my house here. People are always ready to offer condolences. A supervisor with a company on contract with FEMA or OSHA or, I wasn’t quite clear, engaged me in conversation. He had come from Miami, where he lives.

“I was there in the middle of the hurricane destruction,” he said, “and it looked a lot like this does” waving his hand over the flattened neighborhood they were clearing.

markwest

Continuing up Mark West Springs way and out Reibli road and other country lanes, I traced more of the fire destruction and found a peaceful spot by the side of the road. It was a typical scene with layered colors of alternating lush vibrancy and dark, burned areas with debris, like the trees above, still green at the tops with browned scorched leaves and black charred trunk. The human habitation was leveled and peppered with white and black ashes, and the grasses were surging back encouraged by recent rains. Even here the cranes and bulldozers droned on in their clearing jobs around every corner in the road.

ARCH Art Supply Poster

Arch Art Supply store in San Francisco made blk/white posters of the sketches done by all ten of the Urban Sketch teachers who will be offering workshops in the Bay Area this spring! For more information about the workshops, check out the 10 X 10 workshop schedule. My workshop is June 10, “Sketch Vignettes to Share the Story That Interests YOU!”

Here’s the Arch poster with my sketches from the Occidental Fool’s Day Parade, which will be coming up again this year.Yes, on April first. Maybe I’ll see you there?

archposter

Garden magic

It’s raining again now, but Buddha and I were reveling in the sunshine this week, I with my pen and watercolors while he basked in meditative bliss right outside my studio.

buddhabasking

Pigma Sensei pen (fine) and Lamy Joy fountain, w/c in hand.book sketchbook, 8 X 8″

daffodils

Years ago I planted daffodil bulbs all in a row along the driveway only to find that by bloom-time they had mysteriously migrated to other places. Every year now a big clump of daffodils emerges on the steep hillside above my studio. I had a few more moments to catch the last light of day standing downhill from the blooms on rain softened ground for a shaky scribble of a bloom capture on paper. And then the miraculous baby Pipevine pipes appeared just by my feet so I leaned over to sketch them as well.

pipevine

These Dutchmen’s pipes will soon open, then be quickly replaced with green leaves and eggs and then my favorite black and orange polka dotted caterpillars. Now if that isn’t garden magic, I don’t know what is.

Cirque de Boheme

cirquedeboheme

fountain pen and w/c in 7 X 10″ Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook

I don’t know if they still have tickets, but you don’t want to miss Cirque de Boheme at Cornerstone in Sonoma, CA. It’s a 1920’s era French style circus show in an intimate tent setting.

Not being skilled at sketching action in the dark (or maybe even light for that matter) I took a few pics with my iPhone and did these later at home. I’m trying out my new brown deAtramentis document ink, which is waterproof.

cirquedeboheme2

One act superimposed on the other here. The show incorporates marvelous circus acts like trapeze, acrobatics, juggling, unicycle, and clowning all woven into an engaging and at times downright hilarious story thread.

Thanksgiving

My plan was to sketch whatever aspects of a busy Thanksgiving day and aftermath I could manage in between hosting, cooking, serving. It started with my friend’s arrival and a sketch-chat with her. No food was on the table yet, but there was a pumpkin at least.

fountain pen and watercolor in 7 X 10″ Beta series Stillman + Birn sketchbook

We picked up Andrew and his girlfriend Maura and discovered that both of them were stealing every possible moment to work on portfolios for grad school applications.

No sketching was possible at dinner. I guess I’m not as dedicated an Urban sketcher as some I know. Being a slow eater and not willing to let my food get cold, I found that by the time I was finished, everyone else was ready for desert, which meant I must whip the cream for the caramel hazelnut pumpkin tart, oh yeah!

After the dishes were done we were not a lively crew as the tryptophan kicked in. Andrew fell asleep on the couch with his nose in his computer.

thanks2

This one I did later from a picture I took with my Iphone. I’m experimenting with how much I can leave out and still tell the story. The white of the paper is always so lively and skipping the color in clothes certainly saves time.

thanks

Next day my two young architects were still at it in our dining room with their backs to the window and view. Such discipline! and they’re so used to me lurking across the room with my pen and paints that they pay no notice.

Only problem is that the sketches here don’t tell the whole story of all the fun and food we had during their visit, and enjoying my two good friends who joined us and Bob who made much of the magnificent food. Once again this year Thanksgiving lived up to its reputation as the favorite holiday of the year.

Coming Soon, Reunification

kress

Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book w/c sketchbook

A lovely day for another sketch of the tractors and earth-moving at Old Courthouse Square where they are busy with a Santa Rosa city “reunification” project. Unfortunately there was little visibility of the work since the entire area is encompassed by green covered fencing and busy traffic.

So we situated ourselves at the corner across 4th Street, where the view was generous with urban “entourage” (as the urban sketchers call it). Meaning lights and signs and umbrellas and bikes and more. As usual I did not plan to be so detailed, but the day was lovely and there was time, so why not put it all in? Do you see Becky on her stool at the end of the columns? I thought I’d try out some more designed text as well.

comingsoon

It wasn’t quite lunchtime yet so I had time for a more abbreviated sketch of the “green wall” obscuring the construction. The restaurants and stores in the area really need people to know that they remain open in spite of the construction. We got hungrier and hungrier smelling the mouth watering aromas emanating from Flavors’ open door.

#OldCourthouseSquareReunification, #FlavorsRestaurant

Home Land Security

Yesterday I joined the San Francisco Urban Sketchers at the Presidio to see the exhibition titled Home Land Security which is housed in five former military structures at Fort Winfield Scott. It also happens to be at one of the prime viewing spots of the Golden Gate Bridge, so there was lots to sketch.

homeland

fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ hand.book w/c sketchbook

There’s something about viewing the Golden Gate bridge from any angle that makes one whip out a camera or sketchbook. Yesterday there was this amazing shadow cast on the bay and Marin hills that made it even more of an imperative. In the first five minutes I realized this was not the warm up sketch I should have tackled, so I gave myself 30 minutes before moving on. Thirty minutes of sitting on the roof of an old bunker above the bay, feeling my good fortune to be there enjoying such a day, mixed with the frustration of trying to put it down on paper!

homeland2

This is one of the bunkers where the art was exhibited. The Sacred Land refers to the Ohlone tribe which preexisted the bunker and the celebrated and maligned city of San Francisco. One low ceilinged bunker room was hung with missile shaped spindles made from secondhand clothing representing the stories of individual journeys.

homeland3

The Chapel where we met at the end housed an installation of metal sculptures suspended in space that simultaneously elicited the fearful nature of war and the enduring beauty of the culture and art tradition that glorifies it.

I would highly recommend a visit to the art exhibit which “brings together works by 18 contemporary artists and collectives from around the globe to reflect on the human dimensions and increasing complexity of national security, including the physical and psychological borders we create, protect, and cross in its name.”