Reportage Sketching

The Living Room: Pandemic Times

When the doors of The Living Room were ordered closed over two months ago to protect an already endangered population of homeless and at risk women and children from the viral spread, the staff got busy reinventing the program to meet the needs of the pandemic. Outside the gates. In other words, in the parking lot.

Last week I found my spot again under the redwood trees on the outskirts of the parking lot. I was sketching and hoping to see some of my friends, participants of the program I have come to know for the past year and a half of volunteering in the programs.

Redwood Gospel Mission had parked their mobile shower truck in the parking lot and people were lining up for the free hot meals – a breakfast and a lunch of healthy and appetizing food which they could carry off to eat somewhere off the property. Some headed for the side street and curbs, others for the bus stop or their cars.

Men were welcomed along with women and children. A man emerged from his shower and, after picking up his hot meal of pulled pork and veggies, did a little jig of happiness, exclaiming to no one in particular, “This feels so good! I want to live here!”

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After getting their food, which was handed out the window of the kitchen, people were invited to go around to another window to pick up mail or get referrals and toiletries if needed.

My friend Ruth was getting her food bag and stopped a minute to talk with me. I asked how she was coping since the Covid crisis. She still sleeps in a tent with her partner, but no longer has the support of the programs and her friends at The Living Room, can’t do her laundry and rest comfortably there, and so much more. Also since the libraries are closed, it’s more difficult to stay connected with what’s going on, not to mention find public bathrooms to use. The encampments tend to be so dirty with trash that she doesn’t stay there, where otherwise there might be some sense of community.

Sheltering in place has a whole different meaning when your “place” is a tent or a car. I’ll be sharing more stories as I learn them and sketch stories of these folks who come to The Living Room. They’re our neighbors and we wish them well and want to be of help in any way we can.

The Living Room offers a variety of ways you can be of service. You can find out more on the their website and Facebook page.

 

Meal service at The Living Room

I parked myself under the trees at The Living Room this week to grab a sketch of of the scene. The staff and volunteers have figured out a way to feed people in need  while still following the shelter in place guidelines. . .by handing the to go food out the kitchen window! Breakfast and lunch are inside the bag and if you want to see the lovely food they’re serving to about 120 people a day, visit their Facebook page!

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I arrived after the morning rush. I’ve missed my weekly visits to The Living Room where I talk to people, sketch the stories and portraits of the women who come. But it’s good to see that they’re able to continue serving so many people during this time even though the facility cannot be open as a day shelter.  And they continue to hand out necessities for people who are homeless, like toiletries, clean socks, pet food, and now of course, masks! If you feel inspired to help, there are easy ways to help, which can be found here.

 

Zoomin with the Family

My first experience with Zoom was with the family. Our family is quite small so we could see each other well in Gallery mode (sharing equal space on the screen). Funny thing, these predictable family patterns that pop up in every interaction when you get together.

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Just so you get the geography here. . .Andrew is in Princeton, I’m in my home studio in Sebastopol, California, Ben is in Nashville, and Bob is in the house.

It took a few minutes to school Mom in how to use Zoom, and then I didn’t get a word in edgewise, because it got pretty silly with typical male teasing behaviors. So I took a picture to document this jump into contemporary family communications, and later sketched it. Not surprisingly I captured everyone in their usual roles. I’ll leave it to you to guess what those are!

Would you like to join me in a month of sketching portraits? I signed up for Sktchy’s 30 Faces/ 30 Days – April 2020  It’s a class where you get a video demo/lesson with different teachers every day of the month and can draw from the models they’ve chosen. I did it in January and learned so much! It’s also a way to experience the social connection with others by posting your work and and seeing others’ portraits.

Also you might really enjoy this article in the New York Times called The Quarantine Diaries about creative ways, including sketching/journaling, that people are finding to give shape to their experience of this historic pandemic time.

Between Riverside and Crazy

When I was in elementary school I loved to stage little plays with neighborhood kids. In junior high I played one of the red headed twins in Elmer and the Lovebug. Never heard of it? Oh well. And that was the end of my career as a thespian. But the wonder and delight of the stage never left. And now I may have found a way to get closer to that backstage experience, by going to some rehearsals. . .

This is our second year now of having seasons tickets to Left Edge Theatre, featuring left leaning, edgy theatrical productions. So I asked if I could come and draw at their rehearsals. The director said sure! I knew it would also be a great way to sharpen up my reportage sketching skills.

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fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mix Media spiral book

My first try was in the second week of rehearsals for Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which by the way opened last night.

I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to approach drawing a theatrical production. As the actors started drifting in, I introduced myself and started to learn their names and parts played. Meanwhile I had time to sketch the set before they started rehearsing.

I guess I thought there would be long pauses where the actors got more direction and I could do a quick freeze-frame captures. But this cast was already so far along that there were almost no pauses, and to my delight and dismay, the action kept moving! How to jump in with the pen and brush? It was like trying to catch a train as it’s leaving the station by running alongside until you get enough speed to grab a door handle and hop! So forgive me if I omit the rest of my scribbles from that evening.

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Before I went back a couple weeks later I thought I’d practice a bit using their PR photos from the website. In their glamor PR shots here they bear only a slight resemblance to the characters they play , but it was a good warmup with no pressure.

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Two night ago I was back to watch the dress rehearsal. [Let me interject here that I do not recommend sketching at performances like this unless you have already seen them or will be seeing them without sketching.]

This play gets off to a rip-roaring start and never lets go of your attention until the very end. So as soon as it started, I had an overwhelming urge to put down my sketchbook and say “this is impossible!”

But I had a sort of strategy, to start with the main character Pops, who hopefully would stay put in his wheelchair for a few minutes, and then just add other characters willy nilly as they appeared. I put a bit of watercolor on during the intermission and the rest the next day.

Leftedge8 I’m no theatre critic, but this is my blog, so I get to give my opinion. This play is outrageous, hilarious, touching, and full of surprises, with a cast of seasoned professional actors. It runs through Nov 10. I’ve already got my tickets for November 3, but you may want to hurry and get yours.

And there’s a whole season of plays coming up. Hopefully by season’s end I will have figured out how to sketch-a-play!

Climate Strike

I don’t know what it will take for enough people to wake up to the dire state of our world’s climate change to save us. But it surely was a ray of hope to see our youth showing up and crying out for change at the Climate Strike yesterday. . .  and in no uncertain terms!

I was at the youth rally in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square, attended by folks of all ages from groups of younger school children to grandparents. I arrived just as the march from the SR Junior College arrived at the square in a massive surge which filled the street for many blocks. I heard the count – 2000 of them!

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The traditional Aztec dancers in the feathered headresses led the way and then performed a ceremonial blessing as the entire crowd formed a massive ring around them.

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I was there, along with my friends Bettina and Carole to participate by doing reportage sketches of the event.

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I wandered around trying to find a vantage point and preferably one in the shade, since the temps were climbing up to the 90’s. I got some of the backdrop roughed in and realized I’d have to stand and do some sketching in the sun or standing in the thin shade of a telephone pole! But little by little I filled in pieces as I found them.

While standing in the crowd a woman about my age came by with her sign and said to me, “I’m not liking this agism thing going on!” I guess she had probably been demonstrating on Earth Day and such for much of her life and didn’t like the invasion of the young folks. Meanwhile I was thinking this was the best sign possible!

One of the speakers, all of whom looked like high school and college age (and one middle schooler), said “We were raised by the generation that said ‘we won’t be there then.'” (meaning when life becomes unbearable on this planet)

Of course I’m one of them, who at least in my private thoughts have heard that selfish statement come up. But we all need to hear these young people and feel their distress as our own!

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At the Global Climate Summit march last October we interviewed active participants and sketched their stories to provide a different kind of coverage of the protest. A collection of these climate stories was created.  You can also see some of my sketches and pictures from the event in San Francisco here.

My friends and I were hoping to make contact with some of the young speakers in order to do some sketch stories. So we hung out by the podium and were lucky to “enlist” two high school seniors who were charismatic speakers and leaders in the youth movement, Natasha and Annabelle. And as a bonanza they turned out to be good friends of many years as well.

friends So sitting in the generous shade of a tree, Bettina interviewed them while I sketched portraits and Carole sketched on fabric, which will become a fiber art  protest piece. The girls warmed to the task, and we were charmed.

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We asked them to speak about their personal fears about global warming, but they were also very tuned to their “mission” about climate change.

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This was not the first time I’d heard young people say that they felt it was not fair for them to bring children into this world. That’s particularly hard for me to hear as a someday hopeful grandmother, but I certainly know where it’s coming from.

One can get quite depressed thinking about what we human beings have done and are still doing to our planet. But these youth know they don’t have the option to be inactive, and they are highly motivated to vote. So look out climate-deniers! The youth wave is coming.

Volunteering at TLR

I was talking to the volunteer coordinator at The Living Room (the day shelter for women and children in Santa Rosa) while I was there this week. Katie coordinates the 120 weekly volunteers who offer their time and skills to support this amazing program. The onset of summer means that some volunteers have moved on or gotten jobs and left vacancies in the schedule. Just saying. . .if you have time and the inclination, I can’t think of a better volunteer gig than this.

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This poster shows some of the countless ways volunteers can provide vital services to these families.

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The moms who come to the Living Room are not only dealing with the challenges of mothering, but the added burden of not having shelter or financial means. Here they have a safe place to get counseling, eat nutritious meals, and have some fun time with their children, or even take an art class here while a volunteer plays with their child.

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There are so many things to figure out when you’re homeless. Add these onto the already complex array of life challenges when you have a home: laundry, showers, a nap (to catch up on sleep you missed), calls and emails to services you’re on the wait list for, connections with people who have said they will help, forms to fill out, buses to catch so you can make it back to the shelter in time to have a bed for the night, friends who need help more than you do, pets who are like family you cannot abandon just because you lost your home.

The Living Room is a lifeline for these women and children. For me it always feels like walking into a beating heart. I am so grateful for the new friendships I have formed with the women who endure with such strength and fortitude and such generosity of spirit with each other.

If you have some time to offer and want to support these homeless women and children, you can contact Katie Phillips at the Living Room or contact me with any questions.

Beatles Night in Sebastopol

It was the first time back in the Sebastopol Community Center after the flood that put it out of commission. I arrived after the performance had begun and was greeted by a wall of sound. Joyous voices singing – not hymns – but hippie anthems written by our beloved Beatles!

The Love Choir was belting out the tunes accompanied by Mr. Music and Moon Puppy (aka David Klotz) and others. They seemed to take up at least a quarter of the space in the hall, dressed in exaggerated hippy attire. It was a spectacular Baby Boomer convention.

At first I was seeing it all through the eyes of my teenaged self who vowed to never get old! But these folks were old (chronologically)  – oh yeah, like me. But like me, young at heart. So I guess maybe some of us actually were sort of able to keep that promise made 40-50 years ago?

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Soon a good portion of the audience was dancing, while I just kept sketching like mad. You know, that oneweek100people2019 sketch challenge still ringing in my ears! And I kept running into friends . It was the kind of event that, although you maybe know about 1% of the people, the remaining 99% are ready to act as if they’d known you for years. That’s Sebastopol for you – “All you need is love. . .oowaoowaoooooo!” A bunch of flower children still. Gotta love it!

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As I left that night, listening to the music pouring out of the hall, it felt like I was going home from a high school dance. I mean really, do we ever totally outgrow high school?

 

Fool-ishness

It was actually raining on our way over to Occidental for the annual Fool’s Day parade. Great weather for fools to go parading around town in costume for no other reason than – well actually – tradition, for more than a decade. (And really, only a fool would try to walk in a parade and sketch people in constant movement.)

But oh, how fun to try. And I thought today would be a good time to share the sketches since it is also the first day of the #oneweek100people2019 sketch challenge (and I was teaching today and had no time to sketch people!)

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The Hubbub Club is the marching band that shows up at so many such events in Sonoma County. They are self-described as “twenty volunteer musicians and second-line dancers who make music together in a funky, fun fashion to promote, uplift, and support local communities. . .at local rallies, benefits, farmers markets, town parades, music venues, and just jamming in the street. . . a cross between a New Orleans marching band and a Fellini movie.” They were out in the parking lot here warming up for the parade.

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Hubbub attire favors black and white and red, with a little pink thrown in.

fools3‘And in this parade pink is particularly favored by the men.

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The top side of this pink instrument is a keyboard! and she’s blowing into it ?? Anyone know what you call this?

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As you can see, anything and everything goes. Hiking foots are often paired with evening attire.

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And even the canine characters make a fashion statement.

People are very friendly. These teenaged girls started talking to me and agreed to pose to a two minute sketch.

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See what I mean about the pink fluffy stuff? Guys finally get a chance to wear it!

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There’s always next year if you couldn’t make it this time!

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

A Day at the Presidio in S.F.

In the winter it’s always good to have some indoor sketch options. Last week some of us met mid-week at the Officers Club in the Presidio in S.F. on the excellent advice of our East Bay buddy Cathy.  The Presidio is a 1,500-acre park on a former military post known for its scenic overlooks, forested areas, and recreational opportunities. The Officer’s Club houses, among other things like an Andy Goldsworthy installation, a fascinating historical exhibition and restaurant.

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Fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook, 6 X 8″

The lobby was an inviting place to start, especially with this relaxed lounger, waiting to start his work shift at Arguello, the restaurant which was our next stop.

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Exclusion is the title of a current exhibit in the Heritage Collection gallery which tells the story of the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. As I sketched this desk and chair it was easy to imagine the old black dial phone being used by some officer to give the order to round up innocent Japanese Americans. It’s a story I’ve heard told and read about so many times and the injustice of it stays fresh in mind.

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Listening to the docent tell stories about the history of the Presidio, from Native American Ohlone tribes to Spanish on horseback and so on I also got to contemplate the costumes of WWII service men and women.

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and a hand tooled Spanish calvary saddle.

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At the visitors’ center we stamped our sketches after I sat once again trying (and failing at) a quick sketch of the GG Bridge while the weather and colors changed from moment to moment confounding all my efforts. Another try might have worked better. The bridge needed to dissolve romantically into the Marin hills. One of these days. . .