reportage

Symphony Rehearsal

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s Discovery Concert Series is a great and affordable way to hear a concert at the Green Center. As a side bonus, the open seating makes it possible to move around and get different vantage points for some sketching!

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Pen drawing on site and watercolor added later.

The soprano, Jennifer Thuman waits here for her part in Vivaldi’s Gloria. She rises then, and singing like an angel with delicate and subtle tones, guides Vivaldi’s music into heavenly realms!

Sitting in the second row one looks up at the stage and can see the violinists, the conductor and the soloists. The rest of the orchestra is heard but not seen from down below.

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How to sketch a conductor swinging a baton? Imagine many hands at once?

Listening to Christopher Fritzche sing next, once again in a voice of more heavenly realms, high and ephemeral, I had to look in the program for what a voice in that range is called. . .countertenor!

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Sketching in the second row one notices certain details. . .like the casual attire of the musicians in this practice session. The black gowns are saved for the actual concert later in the evening.

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After the intermission we moved up to the balcony for another view.  Bassoons, clarinets, French horns and cellos. A challenging angle for a nice drawing challenge.

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And then the viola soloist with the impossible name and riveting stage presense.

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Symphony to Farmer’s Market

Two great ways to spend a weekend, at the symphony and a farmer’s market.

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I’m sitting in the second row, looking up to the stage at the Green Center at the Santa Rosa Symphony conducted by the marvelous Francesco Lecce-Chong. It’s an open rehearsal with various starts and stops and instructions to the orchestra, which I can hear, though the music already sounds perfect to my ears.

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The program is Dancing Across Time and I’m having trouble sitting still enough to sketch when the music demands that I MOVE! From my seat I can see only the conductor and stringed instruments, so at the intermission I move up to the balcony to get a different view.

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I am in awe of the conductor who expresses the emotion of the music with every pore of his body, and the musicians who come in on time and play the complex music and seem so relaxed!

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This morning I’m at the farmer’s market in Sebastopol, on a bench in the shade. I wonder what the Joy Pop is and marvel at the business model of this guy who cycles with his product right up to his spot by the stage.

It’s lunchtime and everyone seems to have a plate of food with something green on top. I recognize the poet (top left) who showed up at my open studio over ten years ago and wanted me to read his little books. “No charge, but you can donate.” And then the bunny shows up. . . That’s Sebastopol for you, every Sunday of the year.

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Reportage with Oliver

On weekends Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is a three ring circus, a place I would probably avoid if if were not for the superlative sketching possibilities! Last Saturday I was there for a Reportage sketching workshop with my good friend and fellow flaneur, Oliver Hoeller and a small group of “advanced” students wanting to learn his delightful illustrative style of storytelling journalism.

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Working in a 9 X 12″ spiral bound Canson Mix Media sketchbook I did a warm up here before the workshop started.

You can sit on one bench on the Wharf, as I did here, and turn your head to see all of this (that’s Alcatraz at the top) and catch a performance while watching the tourists and sailboats and being tempted by food. Here I’m going fast and trying to fit the elements together, something which I know Oliver will be teaching.

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First warm up in the workshop was to draw a composite figure using different subjects to complete it. Why? Because in a place like the Wharf everyone is moving, so unless you want to finish the figure from memory (not recommended) you may need to wait for the next subject to come along. I made it easy on myself and sketched what I could see from where I was standing, David’s head (another student) and Oliver’s body. We referred to this sketchy form of laboratory science as the Frankenstein man.

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The next exercise (my favorite!) was like a scavenger hunt! Oliver would tell us what category of subject to add to the drawing and give us five minutes to complete it. Then we would move on. (this only works in a small group!) I added color later and might have overdone it.

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In this one I’m focusing, with more concerted effort and the encouragement of Oliver, on varying and exaggerating the size of the various elements and connecting them in a “designed” way. It’s so liberating to pick and choose the story telling elements based on interest and the needs of the sketch rather than struggling to get perspective and other pictorial aspects to match the scene before you!

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Sketching within cells, graphic novel style – another great way to capture aspects of an otherwise overwhelming scene. I lasted inside the Musee Mecanique arcade for about 15 minutes before the noise drove me back outside!

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At the end of the workshop Oliver led us into the bowels of commercial Fisherman’s Wharf where the stimulation level reached a screaming pitch. But the great thing is that there is so much to choose in a setting like this.

This is not my favorite sketch of the day –  too locked down and closed up with no lost edges. And I was trying out Oliver’s grey felt pen and overdid it. But this is the kind of sketch that teaches the most. . .when you have that if-only-I-had. . . experience, because there’s always a next time, and a next. I can’t wait!

And a big thanks to Oliver!

See more of my Fisherman’s Wharf sketches here.

Halloween on the Plaza

At first glance it didn’t seem like there was much Halloween “stuff” going on at Healdsburg Plaza on a Tuesday afternoon, so my friends and I were left to find some and apply our sketches to it. After enjoying the world’s best coffee at Flying Goat we picked the north block and gave ourselves 30 minutes to put the Halloween story together.

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Walking down the block we each picked elements, found on signs and in store windows from clothing stores to bars and restaurants. The exercise ended up looking like what you would do in designing a store window at holiday season, only it’s your own assemblage story. Each element is from a different location, so fitting them together is like constructing a puzzle on the go.

I was tired after standing to sketch all this and spent my next 30 minutes seated and adding color while resting.

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Next was the south side block of the Plaza, dominated by Copperfields book store which was a gold mine of Halloween books and chotskas (sp?) Lots of Harry Potter books and games, which took me back on a nostalgic tour of those days when my boys and I enjoyed the young wizards’ adventures!

Fort Baker/Cavallo Point

The gorgeous fall weather drew me back to the Golden Gate Bridge mid-week, this time on the north side of the S.F. Bay at Fort Baker, an old army post that is now a luxury lodge called Cavallo Point. The combo of the white buildings, golden hills, S.F. Bay adorned with white sails and magnificent city skyline make it a most appealing sketch spot. Cathy McAuliff met me there for the day. We shared a couple of the same views, so you will enjoy seeing her sketches as well!

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Knowing we had the leisure of several hours I brought along my gouache paints and pencils and started out with them. When I work with gouache and colored pencils I tend to just keep working, which is very fun, but it all feels very experimental and I’m very weak on strategy. At some point I just said STOP! to all the corrections and decided just to enjoy the lovely rich colors.

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. . .but then switched to watercolor and a different sort of loose interpretation. Living out in the country, I rarely get the chance to paint interesting buildings like these, so I left out the visitors who were leaving their cars with the valets as well as the cars. Cathy loves to sketch the buildings, so it’s a good opportunity for me to practice when I’m with her.

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Next we headed down to the bay side.

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What caught my eye at the marina was the iconic cityscape in the background as well as the trees clinging to the side of the hill like a group of bare-legged crew members carrying their boat down to the launch. (The crazy line work in the upper corner was a drawing I started weeks before, while on a bus that was jerking mercilessly!)

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The GG Bridge has become so trite as an art subject that I almost thought I’d skip it, and just sat for a while taking in the real majesty of it, which never, ever grows old. But then the sky did this miraculous thing (no, I didn’t make up that shape!) and I dove in without pen. But not without measuring! A bit of colored pencil and it was done.

Golden Gate Bridge times 60!

Big turnout for the S.F. Urban Sketchers this weekend thanks to two big highlights – the always-so-sketchable Golden Gate Bridge and a well loved sketcher/blogger/teacher/author visiting from Australia, Liz Steel. Apparently last time she was in town the fog rolled in and obliterated the bridge show, so she needed to give it another try. And this time the fog and wind and sun all conspired to make for a dazzling display of the bay and bridge in all its orange-gold-red-purple-hazy-clear-appear and disappear glory!

dockofSFBay I found a spot at the end of the pier in front of the Warming Hut where the fishermen were busy and the dock was covered with crab shells and cigarette butts. Some children were screaming Octopus! Octopus! when a small one was pulled up in a crab net. As usual I was excited enough about being there myself that I started putting in all the things I don’t get to see at home, like the S.F. skyline with the Salesforce building and Transamerica Center and the Bay Bridge and sailboats. . .

And then realized I needed a foreground element and started sketching the fisherman who was directly in front of me. When he saw me looking his way he apologized and started to move out of the way. So I had to fess up and tell him that he was my subject. He loved that! So he resumed his position and let me finish. Meanwhile I got to find out he was from Fiji and it was his first time fishing for crab!

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I did eventually join the throngs of familier sketchers in this iconic spot below the bridge and did my obligatory sketch of the bridge, putting in another fisherman and leaving out the scores of tourists standing right in front of me taking their selfies!

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Then my sketches joined the other bridge scenes, each of which expressed a unique viewpoint of our beloved bridge. A memorable day with the best of company in my favorite city.

Latino Community Event

Last night I attended an event for the Latino Community to share experiences of the firestorms last October. KRCB in conjunction with KBBF were the hosts and there was dinner and entertainment. It was a great opportunity to listen to and sketch “Fire Stories”.

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Trio Orion was a perfect way to warm up the crowd. I learned that KBBF radio provided the only translation of fire disaster information to the Spanish speaking community that was experiencing the same terror and uncertainty as the rest of Santa Rosa.

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Patty Ginochio, of Ginochio’s Kitchen in Bodega Bay talked about the throngs of fire evacuees that filled the roads and later the beaches in the wake of the fires. Many of them were Spanish speakers who were afraid to go to the shelters closer to Santa Rosa because they feared deportation. But she also spoke of the overwhelming support provided them by the community in the days that followed.

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Irma Garcia spoke eloquently about the need for government and other agencies to be better prepared to understand and respond to the needs of the Latino community that works so hard and makes such a large contribution to our county.

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Some middle school girls read their poems about the fire. And then individuals shared their anxiety the night of the fires and their difficulty coming to terms with their post-fire lives.

My pen and brush were moving like mad to try to record all this while my heart filled with compassion for these folks. I hope we all do a better job of watching out for all the people in our community whenever the next disaster appears, regardless of citizenship, language or economic status.

If you think you’d like to sketch fire stories like these please join us on Saturday Oct 6 at the Shiloh Park Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together. And please sign up at the Meet Up site where there’s more information, and so we know you’re coming.