reportage sketches

Old Courthouse Square

I am embarrassed to admit that I never paid much attention to Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa.  I assumed that the Empire Building, since it is the most stately of buildings in the square, was the courthouse.  But of course the old courthouse came down in the 1960’s and now the lovely Empire Building, formerly a bank, is the home to legal offices. The name however remains.



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

This is a sketch subject that previously would not have interested me. I mean basically there’s a lot of dirt, fencing, tractors, wire, plastic netting and building with lots of windows. But. . .


I wanted to come back when the workmen were out and the claws of the diggers were moving, and practice sketching a foreground, middleground and background and tell the story of transformation over time.

And now I’m finding tractors and pipes and even piles of dirt to be totally fascinating.  And the orange posts and neon jackets. . .and it’s all so real and engaging! So I’ll definitely be coming back. Next I need to try to get up in one of the buildings to get more of a bird’s eye view.  Any suggestions?


Railroad Square Music Festival


fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn sketchbook 6X8″

If you were at the music festival at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa last weekend you may have seen two ladies plop down on their tiny collapsible stools in front of some of the bands, in the midst of surging crowds.  It’s always like plunging into an icy river (or more appropriately for last Sunday, a raging fire) , at least until you start sketching, and then there’s no awareness of the crowd or (for a few moments at least) the hot sun.

While sketching the Betty Blues and enjoying their tunes, I learned that my fountain pen ink doesn’t dry fast enough, even in the California sun and I messed up on the lovely face of the lead singer! Oh well.


brush pen, fountain pen and w/c in 9 X 12″ Mixed Media Canson sketchbook

The two figures in bold were done on site.  The moving accordion was a particular challenge!  The other figures were added later using my iPhone pics as source. This particular band, the Odd Job Ensemble was so spirited and fun! Later I caught them accompanying the circus act.


In case you can’t read the text here, it says: Too hot and sunny to stay, but the white platform “nurses” shoes and pink hat made her a must-sketch.

. . .not to mention the tattoos. But I was so anxious to get out of the hot sun that I  didn’t get my proportions right and cut off her feet! No problem!  Who said they had to be on her feet?!

SF Porchfest


brush pen and watercolor in 9 x 12″ Canson Mix Media sketchbook

We joined up with the San Francisco Urban Sketchers yesterday for a Meet Up in the Mission district to sketch the Porchfest musicians.

It’s always a bit of an expedition to drive into “the city”.  It’s a bit like a back packing trip where you have to think about carrying all the possible necessities on your back.  For starters, one can never really predict the weather in S.F., so you have to bring your sun hat and rain coat or down parka and sometimes all three just to be sure. And then there’s the snacks, because once you start sketching, you aren’t going to be wasting time stopping for food or drink along the way. And then there’s getting things like keys and wallet and cell phone and reading glasses and sunglasses (what have I forgotten here?) stashed in safe and easily accessible pockets. And then there’s the collapsible stool and maybe a clipboard, and we haven’t even gotten to the art supplies yet!! And then, where are you going to park once you get there?

But we braved all of the above and we glad of it as we arrived at Buena Vista Horace Mann School to hear the first band The Bogues  heat up the day and call the sun out of the clouds.


Next was the Colonels of Truth (love their title!) playing at the House of Brakes in front of one of the most phantasmagorical 2-3 story murals. This is a true community event with bands playing on many blocks of the Mission simultaneously and music lovers of all ages and persuasions.


Next we followed some of the group through an opening between city buildings and into a secluded garden that felt like another world. All in Common Garden was a wonderland of exotic plants, vegetable garden and bamboo forest.  Under a gigantic avacado tree was Katie Holman, a folk singer soloist who shared some of her repertoire with us in this intimate green shaded setting.

Next year I think I’ll plan to stay into the evening. Walking to the car we passed groups of spectators listening to more bands playing music from a wide variety of genres. I really love this kind of informal setting for enjoying live music, and it seemed that the musicians did as well.

Sketching in the Rain


Fountain pen, watercolor in Stillman + Birn Alpha Sketchbook, 6 X 8″

Last weekend we headed over to the open house at the goat farm to sketch, but it was closed due to rainy, soggy ground. Next stop, Julliard Park in Santa Rosa for the Japanese Arts Festival and a chance to practice sketching in the rain.  The performers were on stage under a tent and the audience under umbrellas.  I was under neither and initial sketching efforts of the judo demonstration afforded a valuable lesson:  namely that ink shapes dissolve quickly on saturated paper (not shown here).

But the rain stopped at some point and these delightful dancers came on stage and the ink settled again onto the paper.


These were from iPhone shots.  I wanted to capture the attitude of pure glee of the dancers!


At one point the performers taught the audience to do the dance moves. We were furiously sketching and looked up at one point to realize that the audience and dancers were circling around us as we sat on our stools in the wet grass, too absorbed to get up and join in.

Babatunde Lea and Friends


fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn (alpha)  6 X 8″sketchbook

My husband the Jazz buff gets me out to these incredible concerts, this one at the Healdsburg Art Center, where they moved panels and art aside to make space for this evening concert. If you weren’t able to be there, you can look forward to hearing more of Babatunde Lea at the upcoming Healdsburg jazz Festival in June!  This drummer here, cooking up some pretty spicy beats, is Babatunde, and the other sketches are some of his “friends”, all amazing jazz musicians in their own right.


This dude plays the most liquid keyboard, and not only with his fingers but it seems with every muscle in his body.  How can I ever learn to capture that?!


We were not sitting where I could see much, but I was able to lean over to a space between heads and zoom in for a shot with my Iphone so I could sketch later.


The singer was so hot I thought she’d melt the microphone!

Nursing Home Sketches


fountain pens, watercolor in 7 X 12″(full spread) handmade sketchbook, Fluid w/c paper

I’ve made some new friends at the nursing home where my mother-in-law lived. My weekly visits coincide with this fellow Chris coming to play and sing folk songs to the residents, who largely sit quietly listening, enjoying and zoning out. Almost all the patients are in wheelchairs. The staff has given me permission to sketch and I’ve become part of the “furniture” in the activities room.

fcactivities2 Funny thing, I always feel better when I leave. It’s a heart opening. My own personal world grows larger from sketching these folks. fcactivities4

Some patients brighten their day, which is pretty much always like the day before, with colorful clothing.


and accessories.

FCactivitiesFamily visit are cherished.  And music in all forms lifts the spirits and soothes.


There’s ball “games” for the residents!


I like to use my fountain pen with the Noodlers Golden Brown ink to start the sketch. The softer line works best for old people whose edges are softened by the years and by inactivity. The Golden Brown ink melts a bit when color is added, and later I go back for some line emphasis with black.


I’m learning my way around wheel chairs.  They’re as complicated as bicycles!


Someone’s grandpa.  I never knew either of mine, and I lost my father 27 years ago.


Such a wonderful face – I couldn’t resist. A friendly man, happy to be sketched.

In the Sketchbook


fountain pen and watercolor in handmade sketchbook 6X12″ spread

Poche, [poh-shey], the walls, columns, and other solids of a building or the like, as indicated on an architectural plan, usually in black.

The name of (my son) Andrew’s roomate cat, apropos an apartment of architects. It’s French of course (my keyboard doesn’t have the accent mark for the e), and derives from a word meaning a rough sketch. It also sounds like “poach”, as in steal? which relates to sketching in that one is “stealing” images. I often feel like a thief, sort of. But I can’t help myself.


More sketches over the holidays. . .this was a day jaunt to Berkeley with Bob, starting out with lunch on 4th St., followed by window shopping and coffee at Peet’s.


Who says being in a wheelchair is a handicap? Not for this grandma whose lap made the nicest cosiest playground for a grandson (I assume). Both looked so warm and happy on this cold, cold day.


Bob was looking dapper in my green knit cap. Maybe I’ll let him have it.


Another day a hike at spring Lake and Howarth Park in Santa Rosa and a gaggle of geese and swans with children to enjoy them.


It could be frustrating to try to sketch on a cold and rainy day, but there’s always the inside of the car.

A friend just gave me the most wonderful book, “Meanwhile in San Francisco” by Wendy MacNaughton. Charming sketches of life in the city.

Celebrating Autumn in Sonoma County


fountain pen and watercolor in 8X8″ Handbook sketchbook

Once or twice a year my artist friend Chris Carter comes to town to teach a workshop and we get some time to go sketching together. After lunch at our local Willowood Cafe  we headed next door to sketch the lovely bamboo garden and green and red building housing the Bamboo Tea House, only to discover the bamboo and other plants dug up. It was a lovely but bittersweet scene, since they just lost their lease and must move.


Next stop, Lynmar Estates winery, home of many memories of sketching in the gardens, doing workshops there, wine tasting and more. The fall colors upstaged the people, as you can see.  With these quick sketches I’m learning to leave out what I don’t have time for.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t have left off the lady’s head!


Next day my sketch pal Carole and I were out again, enjoying the Dry Creek area , first for a hike up a trail that wild boar apparently frequent. Hence the trail name “Boar Scat Trail”.  We saw plenty of scat and signs of snouts routing around in the dirt, but luckily none of the wild boar.


We’re both more interested in people scenes than landscapes these days, so next stop was the Dry Creek General Store, frequented by everyone from local vineyard workers spending an afternoon drinking through their six pack of beer on the porch outside, to stylish young adult cyclists and wine tasters (from the Bay Area, is my guess). Throw in some leather jacketed, tatooed bikers and you’ve got enough subjects to make a sketcher drool.  I even tackled the bicycles, which totally confounded me with all those spokes and elliptical shapes.


I took a break from sketching people to record some of the winery signs on one pole at the intersection. Honestly, this was not even all of the wineries up that road, and there were an equal number in the opposite direction! Time to clean my fountain pen which was not flowing well.

Looking up at the porch, where people were waiting for their lunch orders I caught one man before the whole group left.  The Christmas elf on the porch (a part of the holiday decor) generously offered to stand still so that I could finish the sketch.