reportage

Cold weather? Who cares?

fountain pen and watercolor in hand.book Travelogue sketchbook 8X8″

Last week I went out to the point of Budd Inlet just beyond Swantown Marina, hoping to see the Olympic range in its full snowy glory. The cloudy atmosphere was too heavy for the spectacular view that day, so I took a brisk chilly walk and brought home a photo to sketch. The figure bundled and braced for a walk in the damp cold of a Pacific Northwest winter helps tell the story of the day. 

Another day I met up with my sketch friends who are always up for something. At the South Puget Sound Community College we found shelter in the Center for Student Success building, hoping to sketch busy students. It was all but deserted by student life, due no doubt to the tide of Omicron. I sat on the second floor balcony to attempt an architectural interior sketch with one actual student in the lower reaches. This involved numerous angle intersections which taxed my three dimensional perceptual capabilities to the limit.

Meanwhile I contemplated the building name and the cruel irony that with all the comfortable chairs and quiet study spaces, there were so few students taking advantage, I assume out of caution. A challenging formula to achieve success in studies.

Another day, having had enough of serious art making for a while, I found myself pulled into a project to help create an auto wonderland for a two year old car and truck aficionado. My own portion involved traffic sign and people painting. So since it fits in with the art-life theme of this blog, I decided to share the results.

popcycle sticks, wooden “knob heads”, styrofoam, mat board and Posca Pens

I know this probably sounds weird, but one day when the sun came out, at first I was thrilled. but then I realized that sun necessarily led to going outside and away from all these fun indoor art projects. Oh my, what’s come over me!?

Revival Motorcycle and Coffee Co.

Motorcycles and coffee? Who would have thought that would be such a winning combination? Not a surprising one for Olympia of course. When we first landed here back in June and were staying in a hotel downtown, the only espresso place that opened earlier enough for us was a clothing store called Embers, and man! but they had the most amazing coffee served amidst the t shirts and pants. 

Fast forward to yesterday and a meet up with a handful of sketchers downtown, needing an inside place to stay warm and dry. Jane and I wandered into Revival to get, according to her, “the best decaf latte”. The front of the place has a coffee bar, maybe three tables, some retro furnishings, collector motorcycles and art. The back room has motorcycle gear, a repair shop, and lots more I know nothing about. Their motto is CHOP BUILD RESTORE CAFFEINATE.  So as we engaged in the caffeinate part, we sketched the motorcycles!

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 x 8″ w/c hand.book journal

This sketch rapidly became a lesson in motorcycle anatomy, a subject I have very little experience with. All those wires and tubes and tires at different angles, and lights and mirrors.  . . You certainly wouldn’t want to ride the one in my drawing!  But the owner was pleased that we’d come and encouraged us to return. 

the finished version with a bit more detail

With that kind of invitation and the great coffee (not to mention the cool sticker, which we sketchers always love to have!) we will definitely be back for more on another rainy day.

If you want to see Jane Wingfield’s version of the 1969 Honda CL90 Scrambler from a different angle, check out Olysketcher on Instagram!

Sketch meet up in the rain

Rising River Farm

These days the weather forecast is almost always rain. But often we have a good 5 or 6 bouts of sunshine in a single rainy day. And they are magnificent and one hopes that to be free enough to rush outside and take advantage of the spectacle of a colorful newly rinsed autumn landscape. I grab my pruning sheers, snip some of that wet roses to bring inside, collect new mushrooms for examination and sketching, and get to the business of pruning the perennials. Lucky for me the rain soon returns (before the back starts to ache!) and I seek the warmth of the house again.

But it’s tricky to plan meet ups for a group of sketchers who rely on some cover to escape the sudden downpour which no weather forecast seems to predict properly. Our little Olympia group decided on the old standby of the Farmers Market with its open at the sides building where year round local produce, meat fish, breads, artisan goods, seasonal wreaths are sold. The trick is to bundle up like you’re going to a ski resort, since the wet cold quickly seeps in where you’re still and sketching.

Luckily I was able to post myself standing next to a one of those gas heaters and a few feet away from the this farm display. Another time I’ll get more people in. That’s the big challenge, and I keep thinking I’ll just draw them in with ink on top of the veggies, like market ghosts. Maybe next time. Or draw them first. I really prefer being behind the produce if possible, wearing my invisability cloak! Haha!

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a protected estuary at the southern end of the Puget Sound where river meets sea, birds flock and salmon run and nature lovers can walk way out into the estuary on a long boardwalk. My friend Jane and I were there on a cold and windy but gloriously sunny Sturday. The meadows were densely populated by Canadian geese and the parking lot was full. 

After a bracing walk onto the open area of the boardwalk we entered the forest by the river to enjoy the dense fall foliage and sketch the play of light and shadow.

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue sketchbook

The boardwalk through the forest created the light and shadow patterns necessary to make visual sense of this dense forest scene. With nowhere to sit and get this view, I leaned myself up against the railing, sketchbook braced in the my arm, and got the pen moving! Luckily I’d brought clips and a water brush and mini-palette which attaches with a magnet to the clip. Otherwise it might all have ended up on the forest floor!

The punctuating sound effects of hunting season were intermittant and disturbing. It was hard to tell how far away the shots were, but not so hard to imagine the poor unwitting targets.

Tired after finishing the ink sketch, I sat down on a bench across the way to rest my legs and eat some chocolate. In moments a gray squirrel had hopped up on the bench and boldly approached me with obvious intent!

I took a picture of course, thanking him for his attention, but stopped short of offering my chocolate. Wouldn’t you agree that salted caramel dark chocolate is a rather extravagent offering for this little fellow who stays healthy eating acorns I imagine? But I suspect he probably wouldn’t have agreed.

Seattle Sketchcrawl

It was Sketchcrawl day last Sunday, as in Worldwide, meaning sketchers all over the world doing their thing, sketching on location at the same time (24 hour period I think). My own experience with Sketchcrawl goes back to 2009 (which I know thanks to my blog which predates even that by years!) See the post on my blog back then. This time I was able to join the Seattle Urban Sketchers to do my part at Pike Place Market.

This was my morning sketch, done before the hoards of shoppers descended. I have learned that if you want to plunk yourself down on a stool to sketch in a marketplace, your best bet for not getting trampled is to find a spot behind the action, which in this case was across the street from the front of another market. The smells were rather ripe, since I backed onto a fish market, and the conversations of the workers, taking their cigarette break, were similarly ripe.

Happily there was a fellow sketcher within view so I added him to the foreground. The word Sanitary appears to be a throwback to earlier days at this historic market when I guess one might not be able to rely on the public health department to enforce sanitation rules? When I saw this sign the smell of bleach came unbidden to me.

After lunch and the “throw down” where we shared our sketches with all the urban sketchers who’d shown up, some of us stayed a bit longer to do some more. Feeling pretty exhausted by the city crowds, which I’m not accustomed to, I found a quieter spot overlooking the water and the iconic Seattle skyline. . . and practiced the big picture which I have less experience with.

Later I added color and some foreground figures from pictures I’d taken. The empty space in the middle of the spread beckons, but I think I’m done. Oh, except for the cars, which I found difficult from this perspective of being so far away.  It’s fun the have the see-through, invisible people look. Why not?!

Tenino

Last week the South Sound Urban Sketchers met up in the small town of Tenino, and this California girl got a taste of on location sketching in a northern clime. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you bring lots of clothing options in the trunk of your car. We all went back to bundle up. Time to get out the fingerless gloves too!

Tenino town is about three blocks long and is home to a sandstone rock quarry, rock carving artisans, a historic stagecoach and later railroad museum. But my favorite thing is the signs: like the sign for “Aunt Kate’s Chocolates /Tenino Denture Center Creating Smiles. . .  Another favorite is the one with arrows to the right “Booze + Fun” and pointing to the left “Reality”.  I guess the one you would choose might depend on the kind of day you were having.

And then there was a new one in front of the tavern that day. . .

The stone carver is only open on Saturdays during this season, but there was a good spot of sun in front of the old barn, so I gave it a try.

There’s also a fabulous antique/resale/garden shop on the corner, where I finally gave in and purchased a wonderful rusted weather vane for the garden.

And we warmed ourselves with the chef’s special chicken pot pie soup at the Sandstone Cafe in a room all to ourselves where we could spread out! I can certainly deal with this kind of sketch meet up

Arts Walk

I went downtown last weekend for the opening of Olympia Arts Walk, a semi annual event that was attended by thousands in pre-Covid days. Wandering around I came upon an impressive hip hop dancing performance of a group of teens in front of the Performing Art Center. Not being at the time in possession of my sketch gear, I took pictures and later did sketches of some colorful bystanders.

I keep trying to understand the style in Olympia, but have decided there is none, except maybe tattoos on all the younger generation, and in abundance. Instead there is an abundant show of individuality that is quirky and colorful from head to toe, and often purchased at thrift stores and combined in intriguing ways.

The lady in the red was participating in the Silent Disco, where the disc jockey sets you up with headphones, and you get to shake your bootie alongside other silent dancers shaking theirs!

Meanwhile we had a bit of excitement last week in finding a contractor to build our studios-in-the-garage! When he submitted the drawings for a permit, our project was promptly put in the pile where there will be an 8-week wait for a permit to start. Phooey, especially since the temperature in the garage is dropping with the fall weather.

So I have moved my studio into the house in a carpeted room where messes must stay on the table (meaning watercolor and gouache) and out to the backyard where the fall color begs to be painted!

Not to mention the mushrooms of various varieties that have scattered themselves through the grasses in familial processions.

Radical Radishes

When we first started exploring a move to the Pacific Northwest I contacted Jane Wingfield, a friend I’d made years before at an Urban Sketcher symposium in Chicago. I remembered her Instagram name as Olysketcher and realized that meant Olympia! When I planned my first exploratory trip north, Jane invited me to meet her at the Farmer’s Market, which is by the harbor in Olympia. As it turned out Jane was the one person I knew in Olympia when we moved here in June.

Fast forward to Saturday when I met Jane and another urban sketcher Eleanor Doughty at the Market for sketching, and afterward for that favorite activity of sketchers – sharing our sketchbooks, materials, workshops we’ve taken/taught, travel sketch itineraries and more. That usually involves trying out each other’s pens and paints too, much like siblings trying on each other’s clothes.

Higgens Black India ink applied with a bamboo pen and watercolor

It was morning and I was uncharacteristically willing to stand and sketch while balancing the open ink bottle – the only way to capture these radical radishes as seen from the back. They were radically red, radically fresh, radically regal on their throne of green. And they were screaming out “We are the queens (kings?) of the harvest fair!” which is saying alot, because oh my the apples and pears and corn and. . .

The owners of Skipping Stone Garden, Sarah and Gabriel Baisan, parents of the rad radishes, caught me in the act, and posed with their bounteous beauties. Not only is their produce artistic inspiration, but they grow a variety of produce as well as soil-grown microgreens on less than one-quarter acre!

There was time for more, so I headed over to the picnic tables and grabbed one right in front of the jazz band that was playing. I regret to say I got distracted and forgot to ask their name! A shame since I really liked their music.

variety of pen work and watercolor

. .. or actually, probably a good thing, since I confess I made a mess of the drawing when I got home, trying something “interesting” with color

LoveOly and Tumwater Historical Park

The weather has been irresistible lately, issuing an invitation to get out “in it”. And everyone here promises a lot of non stop rainy weather come fall and winter. So the indoor stuff can wait! 

Cedar Teeth playing at the LoveOly event – two other performers missing

The real colorful performers here were in the audience in the middle of the road in front of the band stand, but I was already attracting too much attention up front where I could see, so I figured I better stay with the performers who I knew wanted to be seen. The downtown public in Olympia are a colorful lot, and maybe by next summer I’ll be comfortable enough to sketch more of them. Like the person dancing in hot pink fuzzy pants and wig and sporting a Big Bird sized tail of hot pink boas and waving pom poms. Now that I think of it, they probably would have loved for me to sketch them!

The Thursday morning sketchers met at Tumwater Historical Park and I sat right down near the lake’s edge among a flock of juvenile ducks and one Canadian goose. They were so marvelous to watch, and the light and colors were constantly changing, and I was so distracted by the beauty of it all that I just kept painting and trying to get it in without any plan, while listening to the quacks and honks and meeting the bold ones that circled my feet in hopes of some food dribbling their way. 

Meanwhile the Tumwater brewery with it’s broken windows and rosey glow eluded my efforts to capture an atmosphere that was beyond my painting ability, but thoroughly in my enjoyment!

Rookery and Stuck in the Muck

When you launch yourself out in nature settings you have to be ready for anything. . .which obviously we weren’t last week when we returned to Woodard Bay with the kayak, ready to explore from the water side.

I had checked the tides and we put in at high tide on a gravel shore with a gentle incline into the water. The day was sunny and warm with a cool breeze. We paddled along to the foot of the noisy cormorant rookery. From our front row seats we enjoyed watching the bird family commotion in the tall trees above us!

pen and watercolor

(This sketch, which was done quick and messy when I got home, shows the impact of the scene.) What we were able to see was silhouettes of nests and leaves and birds, sometimes indistinguishable, and a white feathery dust over it all.

Two juvenile bald eagles glided over the water next to us and lit on fallen trees over the water. Later some seals followed us and kingfishers, great blue herons and an osprey made appearances. We were indomitable explorers in high spirits.

Until it was time to go home and the shore had become an expanse of brown muck with holes spouting water from hidden mouths.

Oh right. Low tide. Actually it was a pretty funny joke on us. Attempts to get out of the boat and walk to shore resulted in sinking in up to mid shin level in stinky (of the organic smell variety) brown muck. Using the paddles as a platform and leaning heavily on Andrew’s youthful vigor and strength, we finally made it to the parking lot with every exposed surface coated with muck, which mostly got wiped off with beach towels to avoid smearing the insides of my freshly washed car. 

. . .one of those great new memories which improves with the telling! 

Note to self: next time you go kayaking in the Puget Sound, check the low tide times and get out of the water before!