pen and watercolor sketches

Glendi International Food Fair

I used to avoid summer festivals, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the crush of people, the hot sun, loud music, parking challenges, unreliable food offerings etc. But when I tell myself it’s another “sketch venture” somehow it all works.

So I arrive at the Glendi Festival in Santa Rosa thinking I’m there just to sketch and five hours later leave with a handful of sketches and a wealth of experience I won’t soon forget!


Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in 8X8″ w/c sketchbook

My friend Lynn had prepared me to be ready to eat and dance and enjoy the music. The food booths serving Greek, Russian, Eritrean, Middle Eastern, Balkan and Jerusalem taste treats, the tables heaped with baked delicacies from all these places. . .ahhh!


After a while I overcome my shyness just a bit to get out and try the Greek line dancing, faking the steps, which are slow enough but deceptively tricky to a newcomer. So I just hang on to the folks next to me, keep moving and hope no one minds. It’s a friendly family crowd of all ages.


Back to sketching, I’m having trouble tracking the now Eritrean dancers’ constant movement, so I settle on a very quick sketch of a pair sitting next to me engrossed in watching.


in Holbein Multi-Drawing Book, 6 X 7″

Then I head into the church, which is elaborately adorned with colorful iconography, to hear a male choir singing hymns from the Baltic region in a variety of languages.

glendi6And then for yet another treat of the day, the monk who is the resident artist creating the newly frescoed walls depicting the events of the new testament, leads a tour of the church. His discourse encompasses everything from the history of the church, the iconography, the ritual and symbolism, to the chemistry involved in painting frescoes. He shows the ground pigments and the binders and shares the laborious and devotional practice of creation which involves round the clock labor for each section of the fresco.


Small wonder that Fr. Doolan himself bore some resemblance to the traditional iconography he had painted.

Most of these were sketched while standing and painted on site while sitting. The last one of Fr. Doolan was done at home from a picture I took. I’m trying to be accepting of the shaky line which comes with trying to balance the sketchbook in one hand and not being able to anchor the other. Probably just takes practice! But then there’s the energy of the active line which is perhaps lost with greater stability.

What is your solution for sketching while standing? Any ideas?

Summer Concert-Going


Farmers markets used to be just about fruits and veggies, fresh farm crafted cheeses and such, but no more! Now there’s some really excellent music to tune into, dance to and of course, sketch. We caught the last 10 minutes of this engaging band so I whipped out the pen and started scribbling to the beat.

[Pentel pocket brush pen and w/c in 5.5X8″ sketchbook]


I have a strong preference for Jazz I can move to, and the Latin type knows how to make that work. The Healdsburg Plaza concerts are great for hearing the music, but the bands are in the shade on stage  with no easy visibility. There’s always somewhere to stand a get a partial glimpse though. I guess I didn’t even get the name of this group.


The Pete Escovedo Latin jazz Ensemble played a free concert at the Montgomery Plaza shopping mall and I was way too busy moving to do much sketching.  Did this one from an iPhone pic.

Shakespeare in Presidio Park

imagefountain pen and watercolor in sketchbook

Yesterday was the most glorious weather in Presidio Park, San Francisco, with the SF Urban sketchers meeting up for an afternoon of free Shakespeare on the lawn.  The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was performed with pathos and a perfect dose of comedy to an audience on blankets with their lunch and wine.

With the constantly changing scenes, costumes, gestures, it was both tantalizing and frustrating to try to get it down on paper.


When there was too much activity on stage, I reverted to contour drawing of the crowd, which helped a bit to calm me down so I could try again.  I also wanted to use my new watercolor pigment, Sepia with just a bit of Cerulean.


I was using my water soluble ink on the three women, but all the lines melted when I touched them with a brush, so I switched pens again for the friar.


Catching on that what I wanted was to capture the DRAMA of the moment, I realized that the Pentel Brush Pen was the way to go for quick gesture.  THere was no way to capture one whole scene in tact!  So I just kept adding figures as I thought I could sketch them.


For instance, Romeo and Juliet’s father, definitely not in the same scene!


The play doesn’t actually end here, but this is the ending we all remember.  AH!  Star crossed lovers!

After the play, as our group was sharing our sketches from the day, Juliet (alive again and smiling) and some of the other actors came by to enjoy the sketch art, as we thanked them for stellar performances!

A week in Ashland, OR


Carbon platinum pen, watercolor in 8 X 8″ Handbook w/c sketchbook

A week in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival started out with what turned out to be our favorite play “The Happiest Song Plays Last”.  (The Last was First??)  Although my husband assured me I was free to sketch on this shared vacation with him, this did not include sketching during performances. But I’ll share the quick sketches I did manage to fit in.


The “street people” turned out to be the best subjects, but I was not brazen enough to stand in front of this guy and sketch.  I never saw another sketcher while there. So I quickly snapped a picture and sketched this in the hotel room, using my Lamy cartridge pen with the ink that “melts” when you wet it.


Sketched on the spot and finished later with details from a photo I took.  This one-man act, performing in the daily free concert on the Green Stage, combined Native American dance and song with Rap – an interesting combination!


fountain pen w/c, gouache, in 5/5″X8″ Toned Tan Strathmore sketchbook

Once the food comes, the drawing stops.  I’m not one to let my food get cold while I sketch it!  The white is a Presto Jumbo Correction Pen.


There was a heat wave, and luckily we had a pool to soak in during the afternoons.  Sunbathing bodies are always a favorite subject, especially when sleeping, so they can’t see what you’re doing!


A super-hot afternoon in the park, and we actually got a spot in the shade on a bench in front of this cellist.  I was quite happy with my drawing until I started to put the white on his hair.  The heat had melted or boiled and pressurized the correction fluid so that it spurted and globbed!  There was nothing to do but move the white around the page, which actually created the sensation of movement.


Finding another shady spot we watched a frisbee game.  I abandoned the white goo and just dipped my waterbrush into a tube of white gouache, discovering that I really liked the effect.


Our last dinner was back at the brewery and it was still very hot despite the fans, and noisy with Saturday night diners/drinkers. I got in one more sketch before the food came.

Festival of Feathers


fountain pen with Noodler’s Golden Brown ink, watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, (9.5×7.5″)

We joined the crowds at the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center’s annual Festival of Feathers on Saturday to practice more standing and sketching  (in a jostling crowd).  Most of the birds were relatively good posers (except for the raven) and there’s just nothing like coming up eyeball to eyeball with these elegant wild creatures. We lasted about an hour and a half and then were so exhausted we had to stop.  The sketches were done on site, the painting afterwards.


Japanese bush pen with water soluble ink.

The raven was completely black, but that felt like it would be too much.  After “melting” the ink line to create volume I added just a touch or two of color.


Wowl is the poster child of the bird sanctuary and my absolute  favorite!


The Honkey Donkey Farm and Bird Refuge


Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen, watercolor on BFK Rives paper in handmade journal, 5X8″

As many of you know I love birds.  And who wouldn’t be excited by a large room filled with exotic plumage and bird talk! The Honkey Donkey Farm and Bird Refuge is only 7 minutes drive from my house, so when my friend Chris Carter was here teaching and visiting this week, we headed over to sketch the birds and donkeys.

You probably can’t read my handwriting in the sketch above so here’s the “translation”:

an afternoon at the Bird Exchange with Chris sketching standing up, peering into cages where 100’s of birds chattered, screamed, and even spoke English while feathers flew and poop landed 

If you didn’t have a headache when you entered the cage room, you’d certainly have one if you stayed very long.  The ear splitting racket of it all!  But Oh! the delight of the colors and expressions, and bizarre mannerisms, and extreme variety of these feathered beauties!

Soon enough we sought the fresh air outside and settled on our stools to watch the donkeys.


Japanese brush pen and watercolor

The miniature Sicilian donkeys were grazing out in the field, and I know from experience that you don’t want to call attention to yourself as a possible food bestower or you’ll get too much attention to be able to draw.  But while I was sketching the little fellow on the left, I looked up into the prehistoric eyes of one of the two resident ostriches and got quite distracted!  Actually the donkey and the ostrich are maybe about the same size, but the Ostrich puts out a pretty intimidating vibe.


The donkeys did finally discover us after a bit, and they started working their way over to where we were sitting, just a few at first. ..


So out of gratitude for their being such wonderful subjects we started the feeding, and then the donkey word went out, and well, we had a lap full of the sweetest faces. . .


Aren’t they adorable!?

Stoves and coffee shops


Lamy Safari fountain pen and watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook 5 X 7″

We finally replaced our old stove, which could only be lit with a match, and installed a new exhaust fan.  It became an opportunity for a sketch of the “everyday matters” variety.  I’m having some trouble with my fountain pen lines, which are sometimes too fine. I go over them and then the drawing looks insecure.


My insecurity is showing here as well.  Sketched from up above on the balcony, it was a great angle though.  My son and husband and I were there for coffee.  They did stuff on their computers while I sketched and texted pictures to my other son who wasn’t with us.  We fit right into coffee shop/internet cafe ambiance.


Another day, this baby was on his father’s lap, one seat away from me at the coffee bar.  The father said nothing as I brazenly scribbled and flirted with his son.

Goaties and woodpeckers


Lamy Safari fountain pen and watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, 7 X 5″

When you first walk up to the fence (at the bottom of my road) the goats are all where you think you want them to pose for you.  But some of them get suddenly very interested in you. . .like this one.  Cute, huh?!


My first pen lines were too tentative.  This new fountain pen takes some getting used to.  Going over the lines darker isn’t the effect I want either. . .and then there’s the aspect of drawing standing up.  I tried supporting the sketchbook on the fence top, but with that hard goat head and horns so nearby, it didn’t seem like a good idea.


I have an idea for a new APP. . .a Google Translate for woodpecker chatter.  These guys seemed like they were having an argument, but maybe it was all in fun.  I certainly couldn’t guess.


Thanksgiving was a day for cooking and visiting, and of course eating, but I had a few minutes to sketch the table decoration.

Sunday afternoon at the figure drawing marathon



A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon – brush pen in hand and a steady flow of excellent poses with attitude.  The Bay Area Model’s Guild always serves up a feast of figure poses in the marathon day for artists at Merritt Collage in Oakland.  I settled down to do the 5 and 10 minute poses, arriving late in the day with no time to warm up.  I brought my Tombow brush pen, which I’ve been enjoying lately for its bold line and water soluble mark which is good for running a wet brush over and establishing 60 second shadow forms.



The partially clothed model is so much more interesting to me.  The clothing helps to tell a story.


This model (same one – she took off her orange wig!) really knows how to vamp it up!


And the combination of the boots with the cute little 1950’s stewardess style hat really worked. (different model)


Switch to all angles for the masculine  effect.


The posture here tells the story with such utter simplicity.


I pulled out my watercolor palette for this one.  Painted some color shapes to start, then inked in the drawing and put another layer of watercolor on.


A wonderful pose with two girls back to back.  Not enough time to get much detail in.




Maybe I can get a job doing fashion design sketches?!