reportage

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!

 

 

New Friends

It’s obvious, when you move to a new place where you know almost no one that you have to stick your neck out of your shell a bit to make new friends.  So I posted an invite on Facebook for a sketch meet up at the LoveOly Saturday event downtown and Jan and Ineke joined me.

fountain pen and watercolor

We plunked ourselves down in a row at the crossroads where everything seemed to be happening at once or at least successively – concert music, street entertainers, people meeting friends, often in front of us, beer drinking, giant chess playing, etc. So it became one of those sketches which grows across the page helter skelter with no planning possible and direct fountain pen to splashed on color. . .telling a story in pieces across the page. . .while getting to know my new sketch friends.

Meanwhile the amps on the concert stage nearby were turned way up, to make sure everyone for blocks around could hear, and I think a bit of the rhythms worked their way into the jerky line work as well.

And another day, in a more peaceful moment indoors at the dining room table, I settled on a favorite garden view out the window.

pencil, white gel pen and watercolor in Stillman + birn sketchbook

 Well that’s part of the art picture lately. Meanwhile there’s all the everyday stuff of registering cars and getting started with new healthcare and finding local stores and tradesmen, etc.

And Andrew moves to Seattle tomorrow after living with us for about 11 months!  Gulp. Things are still in constant motion!

Like a vacation, only it’s not

It is a strange experience. It feels like I’m on vacation. You know, finding your way around a new town, meeting new people, and everything is a bit of an adventure. Oh, and it’s summer and sunny and warm every day and lots of people here are on vacation, because this is a summer vacation destination. 

But it’s for keeps. So every new person you meet is a potential new friend or has a vital piece of information you are going to need about living here. And every new thing you learn brings you that much closer to being settled, comfortably.

downtown Olympia street fair

This weekend we headed to town for the first of a summer long Saturday afternoon event called LoveOly, a street fair with performers and a beer garden and dancing and activities and entertainment for children. As I posed in the (social media highlight) spot I realized that it’s just a really good idea, when moving to a new home town, to make a conscious decision to love it. So there I was, proclaiming it! (and now it will be social media-ed!) And I’ll be back for future Saturday’s to sketch the action from one of the shady spots I scoped out.

Then I got an invitation from the one art friend I had in Olympia, Jane Wingfield, to join her for sketching at the Farmer’s Market the next day. And her group of local urban sketchers showed up, a friendly and enthusiastic group! 

South Sound Urban Sketchers at the Farmer’s Market

Bob showed up to take the picture and meet folks before we did our shopping for local produce and some culinary herb plants for my herb-garden-to-be.

Oly Farmer’s Market, fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn sketchbook

They tell me about the long gray winters here but it’s hard to imagine, with these long summer days that are sure to make the vacation last a bit longer.

Departure and Arrival

Golly, has it been only 10 days since I last posted?!! More like a lifetime ago. Now I know why all my friends were sending encouraging comments to help me weather this move. No matter how positive it is, it is a severe jolt to the system. The best metaphor for the experience is that of squeezing awkwardly down the birth canal.  Leaving the comforts of the womb for a sudden arrival and realizing. . . there’s no going back now! Gulp.

I promised myself I would not stop making art through the move and packed all kinds of fun materials. But honestly, what was I thinking?! Too ambitious, at least for this first couple weeks. So I’ll just take you along as I like to do after I’ve traveled – with a few pictures to satisfy curiosity and tell a tiny bit of the story that is unfolding each minute.

the 80 foot monster truck

June 15 the driver of the monster truck decided not to try parking in front of our home in the country, so the movers loaded everything onto a smaller truck and ferried three entire loads over to a spot on River Rd. to move it again into the big one.

the garden on moving day

The garden posing for a last memory. Friends on the street were stopping by to say goodbye all day. 

Andrew says goodbye

Andrew filling his eyes with the view we’d enjoyed for 21 years, since he was 8 yr. old.

the studio emptied out of all but the floor splatters!

I know, this is a hard one to look at. But I guess it’s part of the moving on process. Art and the comradeship of making it has not ended. The Muse group has a life of its own which has grown outside the boundaries of these walls. Brave words from me as I allow myself to feel the loss as well.

Olympia city harbor, view of the Olympic range.

We arrived in Olympia just after a significant rain. Sunny and warm. The right kind of weather for a vacation and for moving in. But I’ll admit we had been looking forward to rain after months of drought and elevated temperatures in California. Now we face a record breaking heat wave. Did we bring it with us?

the view in the opposite direction from the harbor tower of the marina and Washington Capital building

We moved into the Doubletree Inn on the harbor for a week’s wait until we could move into our new home. Time to explore the city and pretend we were on vacation.

And I did one quick sketch just before sunset, staring into the setting sun. It felt so good to finally get the watercolors out!

fountain pen and w/c Stillman + Birn sketchbook

Stay tuned for more pics of this quirky town (and I mean that is a positive way!) with more than its share of natural beauty!

China Camp

ChinaCamp1

Playing a bit of catch up here. Mid month, before all the lightning and fire business, I spent a sunny morning sketching with friends at the historic China Camp Fishing Village right on the bay waters in San Rafael.

The weathered buildings in this Chinese shrimping outpost, whose heyday was in the 19th century, were so appealing to the eye, with their textured woods and sloping lines. This house belonged to the last Chinese resident there, who ran a little cafe long after the shrimping business had died out.

Now the village is well populated by day with families who are drawn by the uncrowded beach and picnic areas.

The history of discrimination against the Chinese immigrants was a dark chapter in our nation’s history. Regrettably our treatment of immigrants is still appalling in this country. I found myself wishing I could have met Frank Quan before he died in 2016 and heard some of his stories of life on the bay.

Wall of Moms

Doubtless you’ve read about the Wall of Moms that made a stand in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Portland. Moms flooded into the city from all over, night after night, incensed by the invasion of Federal troups, with their military bearing and disregard for civil rights.  Linking arms the moms created a wall, walking into the tear gas with all the others. My mom-ness linked up and felt the sting. wallofmoms

According to my friend Janet who lives there, since the Feds have left, peaceful demonstrations and police restraint have prevailed, along with some wonderful new protest art installations. But of course the camouflagers have been ordered now to occupy other democratically inclined cities (without invitation from local jurisdictions of course).