reportage

Geese at the old brewery

I’d come to sketch the historic brewery across the water at Tumwater Historical Park, but first the Canadian geese were putting on such a show of preening, with feathers and beaks going in all directions while also holding stiller than usual. . . so how could I resist?

fountain pen and watercolor on 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media paper

Of course that meant putting my stool down in, well you know what happens around flocks of geese. The two standing characters in the show actually held their posture for a good 20-30 minutes, leading me to think they must be the sentries, watching over the preeners.

I sort of remembered getting waylayed by the geese (or ducks) last summer when I was intending to focus on the brewery. See that sketch here. So, determined to have another go, I got a drawing and photo done and worked on that at home.

fountain pen, black brush pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

And I’ll happily give it another go another time. Maybe it will be an annual thing, a way to show my fealty to my new home town.

Spooners

This berry stand is three minutes from my house, and I’ve been watching the parking lot fill up with folks buying flats of strawberries every day lately, at least until about 11am when they sell out! These are not the California variety. They are a very deep dark red all the way through and you have to gobble them up quickly because they’re very ripe and juicy. And since red is probably my favorite color to paint, I couldn’t resist setting up the stool to sketch the action, and Ineke joined me. 

You may notice that the sky is dark in the picture. It was 11 am and the sun was doing its hide and seek game we’ve gotten used to here. That was then. Now we’re getting some real sun and heat this week, finally!

fountain pens and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Something about the bright colors compelled me to lay the paint down first and draw later. No way to get too precious and correct but the result has more energy. I also did another couple pages with figure studies, about a minute each, because that was how long it took folks to get their flat and carry it away. And then home to binge on strawberries!

Taco Truck

fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Across from the wonderful Childhood’s End Art Gallery in downtown Olympia is a parking lot with food trucks. When Jan and I met to sketch somewhere between the harbor and Capitol Lake, this colorful truck caught my eye and shouted Sketch Me! The other choices were the usual boats and water and overcast skies. So we set up our stools on the pavement for a chance to pretend we were in Mexico for an hour! When it started to drizzle and the ink lines burst in tiny water explosions, we aborted and moved under an awning for lunch.

Whidbey

brown fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue sketchbook

A tiny lake on an island in the northwest, the kind of place we all dream about for summer sunshine, boating, hiking, fishing and sitting on the dock for hours listening to birdsong! I was on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington for a few days last week, staying in this rustic but magical setting which had all the above delights minus the sun and warmth.

Our cold and drizzly spring continues so far here in the northwest. So this sketch was twice aborted by sprinkles. And of course the light changed so many times that I gave up trying to get it “right”, and now I realize i forgot to put in the osprey who was circling overhead for the best part of an hour and the four bald eagles at play later in the day. But this is why we sit and sketch and don’t just rely on photos, because forever after those elements will dwell in our sketches and be released even years after when we open our books!

Park Side Cafe and Mud Bay

Cloudy day? Sunny day? Rain? Yes, we got it all in the hour or so out in the tiny but lovely West Central Park, NW Olympia across from the Park Side Cafe. The light was so changeable and unhelpful in defining the architectural planes, so I went wonky and kept the clever palette of the building’s painters. West Central Park promises to be a good venue for summer music concerts and people sketching! Jane and I ate on the roof afterwards with a view of the city along with wind and rain sprinkles. But hey! Such a delight to be out in slightly warmer temps.

blue fountain, black liner and white gel pen and w/c

Another day with similar wether this week, Ineke and I met at Randall Preserve on Mud Bay Rd, well named for the mud that covers large areas of the tideline estuary at the southern-most end of Puget Sound on Eld Inlet. The mud/muck is surprisingly lovely and patterned, though very much like quick sand if you’re stuck in it!  I learned last summer to beware of the tides turning when you’re out in a boat! Across Mud Bay Rd. from Randall Preserve is Buzz’s Bar and Grill, a great locals place for lunch.

 

North Carolina cont.

Fine liner pen, watercolor and gouache “spray”

As I said in my last post, I think another time I’d like to try white water rafting, with a solid guide and good crew of strong paddlers at least! The White Water Center in Charlotte would be my first choice. You could tell who the beginners were. Their rafts went wild in the rapids, tossing them shrieking into the air and occasionally, and very inconveniently into the swirling waters. Gulp. No one got hurt that I could see, making for a great show.

One morning Ben had to work, and I had time on my hands to venture into the city to explore. Asheville is well endowed with colorful, quirky cafes, so I ordered breakfast at one called All Day Darling, and got out my sketchbook.

pencil and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Opposite from me was the perfect subject, an old guy (I later discovered exactly my age!) with a computer and lots of food and refills of coffee to work his way through. . . with a long wispy white beard and character-filled face. He chatted with everyone who walked by, none of whom were previous acquaintances, sometimes reading their palms and giving rather interesting, friendly advise.They all seemed to enjoy it. So when there was a break in the activity I joined him to show him my drawing and engage in conversation.

He was delighted, and with very little preamble, asked to read my palm, rather insightfully I must say. I introduced myself with the usual, and he introduced himself as a psychosocial cultural forensic anthropologist named Owl Bob or Sensei Owl Bob or Shaman and spent the next two hours adding onto that designation, at times detailing a roller coaster ride of a life that would make a riveting novel with science fiction overtones.

fountain pen and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Turns out his history with Asheville and the Arts District goes back to the 1970’s. I took him up on his offer to give me a tour of downtown, wondering how that would be, since he is partially blind (note the magnifying devise he uses to read his computer!) and walks with a cane. But off we went exploring block after block, where he interacted with storekeepers and foreign tourists, cathedral hosts, chocolate shop staff and hotel concierges, reading palms and relating the historical underpinnings of this cultural magnet of a city, once known as the Paris of the South.

The highlight of this short but eventful N.C. trip was spending time with Ben, getting to see some of the places I’ve only heard about from him, and discovering new ones together with him. An unanticipated delight was the experience of deja vous I had repeatedly as we drove around the countryside. I spent the first years of my life, up to 13 years old on the east coast, living in Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut, and again in my 20s and 30s for 11 years before returning to California. So there was a kind of “I’m home!” experience that was a constant echo.

And now back to Olympia! Coming next. . .

Tumwater Falls Salmon Research

Watercolor and brown and black fountain pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Tumwater Falls never fails to impress! I took the walk down to the lower falls recently hoping to see the enormous dogwood in bloom where it presided over a trickle of smaller falls anointing a fern and rock covered grotto.

But the real surprise was this research vessel anchored at the bottom with its stern message , which actually read “Wild Salmon Research. . .Extreme Danger. . .No trespassing”! and blocked half of the river. The spray from the falls made it impossible to sketch on site (and I didn’t have my sketch bag along anyway), so i captured the photo and sketched later.

I would like to be able to explain to you what the danger was that had to do with wild salmon. I mean I always thought we humans, and the bears up river of course, were far more dangerous to the fish than the other way around. Of course, looking at the large funnel in the picture I imagined that it would not be fun to be caught in it. I would like to think of this vessel as a friendly lift for salmon making their way up river to lay their eggs. If you know the meaning of the sign, please let me know!

A Day in Tacoma

@S 7th St and Pacific in Tacoma. fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

I think it was about the warmest day so far since last Fall! Jane Wingfield and I celebrated with a day in one of the downtown historic neighborhoods of Tacoma. Mount Ranier was visible in her snowy white robes, punctuating the southern portion of the Cascades. She looked almost close enough to be able to touch her 14,411 foot skirts! We visited the Tacoma Art Museum and then occupied sidewalk spots in the sun across from this lovely building.

While sketching on my stool I heard some mumbling behind me and noticed the lid of a trash bin was opened slightly from the other side. I saw no one but knew of course that one of the legions of homeless folks in the city was hunting for some lunch. An elderly lady named Maria parked in the handicapped spot next to me. After a while she came and politely asked permission to look at our sketches. Then she went over to the person at the bin behind me, still rummaging, and asked his name . . . William . . . and age . . . 35 . . . and struck up a friendly conversation with him. Not much later she returned to tell him how handsome he is and what a nice singing voice!

Finally she joined me to see my finished sketch and, with very little encouragement on my part, told me her own story of homelessness. Not so long ago she was living in Beverly Hills, but then her husband got sick and died. She was left alone, handicapped and not able to manage the remaining money and became homeless. Both of her children said they could not help her and, after staying with friends in temporary places for months, she was facing living in her car. Finally she was awarded the HUD apartment where she now lives.

Her story reminded me so much of the stories I heard when volunteering at The Living Room in Santa Rosa. So often it is the people who have themselves suffered homelessness who are the most compassionate and anxious to help those who still are. To see some of my watercolor portrait stories of my friends from The Living Room visit here.

Rainy Day at the Library

fountain pen and watercolor in Travelogue w/c journal

It was a rainy day, so we sought out the cozy comfort of the Tumwater Timberland Library.

 

Only a handful of library users on that day, but lots of subjects for drawing! The geometric domed skylight let in lots of light and the marvelous clock seemed to dominate, so i took the Alice in Wonderland approach to design!