Reportage Sketching

A Week in NYC, Part I

This California girl hit the big city last week for a visit with my son Andrew and a whole lot of sketching. I go to San Francisco as often as I can and would have to rank it as my favorite city, but New York is like, well, S.F. on steroids. I spent most of the week agog at its architecture and people and art and neighborhoods and on and on. I haven’t really done any sightseeing in NYC since I was a child living in Connecticut, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

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Lamy Joy fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn, Beta series 5.5X8.5″ sketchbook

First day I met fellow urban sketcher Chris Carter at Washington Square Park. Chris lives in New Jersey but has a familiarity with Manhattan which was reassuring, not to mention her city sketching skills, which I hoped she’d share with me. (Check out her blog for some of her sketches from the day!)

Right away we found a band playing in the park and set to sketching. The Animule Dance plays old-time Jazz, Blues, and country music. OK, so now I was feeling at home!

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Not a bad seat for viewing and listening!

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Actually, while waiting for Chris to arrive I found the chess players. My husband had given me instructions to sketch them. It was a great warm up!

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The band took a break and we strolled around the area, coming to this scene of the old fashioned water tower across from a modern muraled building and we both elected to plop down on stools, hugging the stone wall by the sidewalk and give it a try. I noticed that I have trouble getting the proper scale of the “big buildings” in the city (being such a country girl!) I tend to shrink them down to manageable size. More practice needed.

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After lunch we were planning to walk around Greenwich Village, but the sun was out and we headed back to Washington Square. Just to change things up a bit I started drawing with paint and then worked some pen line in.

The fountain was scintillating, the gardens in blooms, the people joyful, and the scene was so divine that I christened it “The Bliss of Fountain-eity”.

Later Chris had a turn to get a quotable from the day. “When you find your line, then you become able to share your unique experience of the external world”  (or something like that) I realized that I am forever in search of my line. It seems that others can usually see one’s “line” more easily than you yourself can.

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There was soo much going on: gymnastics/break dancing (shirtless guy on the left with blue pants), tourists taking selfies, hot dog and pretzel selling, tulips blooming and musicians in every quadrant. I gave up trying to put anything in perspective and just kept drawing the stories!

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Chris helped me to remember to photograph the sketch in the setting sketched. It helps to have an extra hand to hold the book up while taking the iPhone pic!

Our day ended with dinner at a bistro in Greenwich Village, much philosophizing about the abundant gifts of being an urban sketcher and a vow to meet again for more sketching, in N.Y and other world cities!

60+ Art, Music, Fashion

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts was bulging at the seams last Friday with a possibly record breaking crowd to view 1) the opening of the 60+ Exhibition and two other gallery shows (all must sees!) 2) the 20 piece Ray Walker Swing Band and 3) the Aging With Attitude Fashion Show: Style and Sass at 60+.

That’s 60+ years of the artists of course! My gang, so of course I was there with my curiosity and sketchbook, trying to look between the gray haired and flamboyant hatted heads to capture some of the action.

60+artLamy Joy pen and w/c in hand.book field watercolor journal 8 X 8″

The swing band was playing what I consider my parent’s generation music. I guess that’s what’s happening with our aging population now. It comprises more than one generation! Fun to see the stage literally filled with brass instrumentalists!

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Still peering between heads I caught glimpses of the fashion show and the appreciative audience. The styles were way beyond the usual seen here in west Sonoma County! Cell phones were busy videoing the spectacle of local friends doing the runway with a lively commentary going on.

Aftermath

Another beautiful day. I thought it would help with this disoriented feeling I have since the election, so I went down to sketch the goats in the pasture below my house. Within five minutes they’d all migrated to the other end of the field where I couldn’t follow them. Still disoriented, so I put it into this piece of paper, which couldn’t walk out on me.

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Who in this world are we? Can I even stand to say WE any more? I’m trying to understand, sitting here in my bubble.

On Tuesday I had prevented finger biting during the early election returns by sketching the candidates from a news headline.

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Not a mystery here about who we Californians thought (hoped) would win. (Actually the majority of American voters.)

And then there were the reportage sketchers who were out there manning the polls like Suhita Shirodhar, or with the crowds of voters in NYC like Melanie Reim and Veronica Lawlor. We were all in the same bubble, hoping to be celebrating, then stunned and disbelieving and now trying to make sense of it all so we can move on.

Lewis Road Repair

This is a new sketch interest of mine: tractors, workmen and dirt. I can’t tell you how many years of painting flowers I have behind me. I love flowers too. But the bright yellows and oranges and twists and turns of machinery, is pretty appealing too.

So when the trucks showed up this week to repair the culvert right above my studio, I was ready with camera and sketchbook. It was all moving so quickly at first that I couldn’t figure out how to approach it, so I took pictures and then sketched this as a warm up before sitting down outside.

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pencil, fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook

Later I was able to sit on a cinder block right outside my studio door in the warm autumn sun and sketch in real time amidst a torrent of Spanish. There was lots of chuckling and what seemed like enjoyment in the work, which made the sketching more fun too.

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I had more difficulty with the tractor, which was in motion, but I think I got the basic idea. Mainly I was relieved that I hadn’t chickened out about sitting there right next to them. At one point the dirt was flying and I had to shield my face with the sketchbook!

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Country Pleasures

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This winery is five minutes from my house and along one of my favorite walking routes, Vine Hill School Rd. The iconic landmark of Martin Ray Winery, seen from far and wide, is the tower. I always find it easier to do a quick sketch of a lovely landscape if I can fit a manmade structure in as a counterpoint to all the foliage. (And there’s a farmworker in there too below.)

So Bettina and I spent a lovely half hour or so in the shade, enjoying the pleasures of the quiet garden (with the busy wine-making going on behind those trees). And while sitting there we were visited by a welcoming crew of the marketing chief, the assistant gardener (who gave us freshly dug up dahlia bulbs) and the master gardener who shared his project plan with us.

sheep fountain pen, watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book w/c sketchbook

Once again taking advantage of the weather I ventured out with Carole this time to another Sebastopol farm to visit a friend who gave us a tour of her magical garden with chickens and doves and these sheep and an arts and crafts studio and more! All the creation of a person with an irrepressible urge to manifest things of beauty.

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At her kitchen table I couldn’t help myself. . .

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Saturday was Bob and my 27th wedding anniversary and we headed out toward the beach, getting as far as Duncans Mills before the cold wind moved in. So I practiced some speed sketching (and painted it later).

The anniversary date continued with a visit to art galleries in Guerneville and in particular the Blue Door where we met paper (collage) artist Douglas Devivo and were treated to an explanation of his process of transforming paper of all kinds into tapestry-like art of stunning beauty.  Check it out  at devivolife.com I left with a bag full of papers scooped from his table and blessings to give it a try. . .which I will!