Reportage Sketching

A Tania Day

My friend Tania and I have a shared passion for encountering people of all stripes. You might say it’s a social anthropological interest (that was my major in college by the way). It’s also a love-of-humanity mixed in ample proportion with a flaneur’s curiosity. Tania channels it with travel, photography and writing. She talks to everyone, often in their native language, as if they were family and they end up feeling that way. I channel this urge more quietly with sketching, blogging and some travel. When I asked if she’d like to collaborate and see what happens, she agreed, even though neither of us knew exactly what that meant.

On Tuesday morning this week I showed up at 10:30am at her San Francisco apartment and we set off to see what would happen with a day in the city. She, traveling light with her iPhone (camera), credit card and keys in her pocket, and me with a small backpack (with stool, water, etc), my over-the-shoulder art materials kit, and a 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media spiral sketch pad which I carried in hand to be ready-on-the-spot. Oh, and a waist belt pocket for my iPhone and credit card. My version of traveling light.

taniaday11

I requested a look at the Russian orthodox church where Tania and her family were members when she was growing up. When we got out of the car, parked in front of the golden onion domes of the Holy Virgin Cathedral, our eyes went immediately across the street where the colorful cathedral was reflected in the windows of the St. George Pathfinders building where Tania went as a girl scout.

As we crossed the a street a van was unloading this man to spend the day at the Senior Center next door. But instead he sat directly in front of the glass reflection. I signaled to Tania and she engaged happily with the gentleman, the driver and passers-by, providing cover while I shamelessly sat down and started sketching!

taniaday2

photo by Tania Amochaev

When I got up to leave 30 minutes later, I approached the gentleman in the picture, who had been totally silent, to thank him and show him the sketch. This brought a big, almost toothless grin at which point he rose and went silently into the Senior Center. We realized that he had actually been quietly posing for me!

taniaday3

Inside the cathedral with its ornate iconography and candlelit gravity I sat wondering how I could capture this scene. A story always seems to emerge. Tania lit candles in blessings for her deceased family members, while a cleaner was noisily scraping wax off the floor, from hundreds of candles burned in prayer. (color added later)

taniaday4

It was lunchtime so we headed off to the Cliff House. The sun had some out and we had a lovely view of the Sutro Bath ruins in our ocean side seats.

I sketched this one in pencil, a composite of different people who occupied tables as we ate, and then added some color later.

taniaday5

Next stop at 2:30 was the windmill at Golden Gate Park where I sat on the lawn in the sun and sketched madly with my brush only, knowing that the California sun is too hot to linger very long without shade or movement. Meanwhile I heard Tania’s unmistakable laughter across the lawn and saw that she had befriended a family of tourists and sent the girls over to see my sketch. This resulted in the most delightful conversation about where they had traveled, their impression of the U.S. and more!

taniaday7

photo by Tania Amochaev

I’m the one without the braid, in case you couldn’t tell.

taniaday6

Tania was showing me her favorite spots as a kid growing up in S.F. So the next stop was Spreckels Lake, an enchanting body of water filled with model yachts on the weekends. She was so disappointed when we arrived at 3:30 and a couple men were taking the last boats out of the water. All that remained were birds! So the men took pity on us and invited us to the model yacht clubhouse which housed a regatta of handsome, handmade yachts!

Once again while I sketched madly, she got the scoop about this appealing hobby and the personal story of Russ, owner of the Sugarie Bake Shop in Pleasanton, while he cradled a small boat.

What followed was a walk down the street where Tania’s family home still sits, beautifully maintained. And we dropped in on her dear family friend Montie, 90 years old and a gracious and still flirtatious, host. We left with candy and smiles. . .and headed back to the park and the Conservatory of Flowers and Dahlia Garden, where we encountered. . .

taniaday8

the Summer of Love in all its musical, turned on, tuned in mellowness. As the late afternoon sun warmed and the clouds of marijuana smoke enveloped us, the memories unspooled for these two old girls who were teens in the 60’s.

It’s probably beginning to seem more like a weekend of sketching, but it wasn’t over yet! Hungry again we headed to The Commissary, a restaurant in the Presidio, chosen by Tania for the seats at the bar where you can watch the chefs cook and plate their divine creations.

taniaday9

As we plowed into our delectable dinners we learned how a chef tests the doneness of meats, saw deserts flamed and sauces stirred and meals plated with delicate mini-veggie gardens. And because it was a Tuesday and not a busy weekend night, we got to visit with the charming executive chef Ragelio.

Thinking about our day I was actually beginning to feel a bit guilty, having this much fun. The old Protestant work ethic had kicked in. (Sketching feels more like play, even though it’s a fair amount of work!) To which Tania replied, “The work ethic ends at 65!” No wonder she’s one of my favorite people in the world to hang out with.

taniaday10

photo by Tania Amochaev

So I’ll end here. It was 8pm when we left the restaurant and I headed back to Sebastopol. But not before we got this picture. What a fun crew. If I hadn’t just retired from the Protestant Work Ethic I would have applied for a job.

A big thank you to Tania for her amazing ability to engage people of all walks of life, ethicities, and ages, and for sharing her San Francisco with me. And to all the people we met that day, who gave us smiles and the stories we will never forget.

Advertisements

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.

NYC02

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!

NYC23

Not a bad seat for viewing and listening!

NYC01

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!

NYC03_edited-1

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.

NYC04

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.

NYC05

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!

NYC24

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!

60+fashion

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.

whoarewe

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.

electionday

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.

lewisrd2

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.

lewisrd3

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!

lewisrd

Country Pleasures

martinray

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.

farmvisit

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

duncansmills

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!