reportage

Dia de los Muertos

How do you draw swirls of skirts in motion? I have no idea except to attend a Folklorico Ballet and drink in the excitement of the mariachi music and families and color, color, color!

I arrived late at the Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa for the Dia de la Muertos celebration in the courtyard. Plunked myself down on a wall in back and started in.

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Next came the couples, and the children, and I was getting a bit dizzy trying to watch and sketch. Noticed some caballeros waiting to go on and gave that a try.

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They were a bit easier. not so much swirly skirt stuff, but kind of stiff looking.

Afterwards I entered the Art Museum, past the dancers changing into street clothes, and viewed the (not to be missed) Tierra de Rosas exhibit and then into the history museum for the Dia de los Muertos exhibit where I got at least two ideas for Muse Group lessons! Both exhibits will be up til November if you haven’t already seen them.

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Railroad Square and City Hall film screening

Railroad Square in Santa Rosa is home to the railway depot, originally built in 1903 for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, but now in use by our new SMART train. When you arrive at the Depot you are greeted by a familiar figure of Peanuts fame. . .Lucy. Not the slightly diabolical looking one you see below. I’m not sure how that happened as I sketched. Perhaps a memory of how bossy she was/is with Charlie Brown?

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Santa Rosa is the home of Peanuts creator, Charles Schultz. Our airport, a museum and skating rink are named after him and the city is home to 70 statues of Peanuts characters, one of them my own. Years ago I was commissioned by the Railroad Square business Assn to paint RR Square Charlie Brown, a train conductor of course. He still stands a block from the Depot on 4th St.

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Afterwards I was planning to sketch the RR tracks but a strong wind whipped up and I sought shelter across the parking lot from Flying Goat Coffee, previously known as the Western Hotel.

Then it was time to head over to the City Hall for the showing of a newly released video, Last October which was a firsthand glimpse into what it was like to work as a public servant during the firestorms, as well as the support and heroism of the community.

It was enough to take the breath away! And afterward the Community Resilience Collaborative led a breathing exercise titled Soft Belly to help the audience process, and recover? from the screening experience.

I for one was particularly grateful for that, because I was up at the microphone next, to talk about our Sketching Fire Stories project and to invite the audience to stay and see the fire sketch exhibition in the hall. The exhibit will be up until October 3. Find more information about how to visit it on the above link.

An Afternoon at Point Reyes

I used to think of Point Reyes Station, CA as a sleepy little town on the way to the spectacular north coast park trails, beaches and Tule Elk, not to mention Tomales Bay. But that couple blocks of the town is a busy, happening place on the weekend, especially in fine weather. Bob and I were there for the opening of our good friend Todd Pickering‘s exhibit: This Sacred Land: Images and Words from Point Reyes at Toby’s Feed Barn.

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I had a few minutes before to sit at a picnic table in the sun outside Toby’s Feed Barn and the farmer’s market and enjoy some music and a bit of sketching. Jerome’s tunes were sweet and folksy. Later he shared with me that he spends his days at the parks nearby, enjoying the nature scene and contemplating making it a more permanent residence.

Todd’s exhibit of black-and-white photography of land and nature worked evocatively with written words by locals about their experience of the sacred in the land there. One has to feel awe at his ability to capture Raven and Moon, the secret poses of Owls, the mystical ocean, and more. If you’re in the area you should stop by and see it. It’s open til September 30.

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Sitting down on one of Todd’s custom made wooden benches, I was compelled to capture this musician, whose solo act was music played with hands on this unusual metal drum. I got a bit carried away with his head piece, which perfectly matched the extra terrestrial vibes of the sound and instrument!

Good Friends at TLR

There’s a lovely courtyard area at The Living Room, Santa Rosa’s day shelter for women. With landscaping, picnic tables, chairs and shade it’s an inviting space to eat, visit with friends, counselors, and have a moment’s peace. It’s become my favorite place to sit and sketch visual stories about what happens here.

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Dogs are as welcome here as the women (only accompanied of course). And these dogs are a select population. Some of them live in houses and apartments, but many live in cars or camp out with their mistresses, and they rarely appear down-on their-luck. In fact I venture to guess that they are blessed with an extra dose of loving care in that they are devoted companions.

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Some are lap sized and cared for as a child. They all seem to have the effect of calming nerves and dispensing love when its most needed. No wonder the bottom line for finding housing is a place that accepts your best canine friend!

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Sometimes they are curled up together napping or resting on a comfortable couch.

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Recently the community suffered the sudden loss of a friend who was loved by everyone. The memorial was attended by women in the community who shared their memories, prayers, and their tears. These pets seemed happy to offer their doggie prayers, and as always to help make this place feel like home.

Sketching Fire Stories: An Exhibit

We’re just a little over a month away from the second anniversary of the deadly firestorm that traumatized the entire population of Santa Rosa and well beyond. In my household we have our emergency bag and supplies packed for a quick get away should need be. And once again Carole Flayerty and I have been asked to share our fire sketches with a community that can never forget October 2017.

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On Tuesday September 17, at 6pm the City of Santa Rosa will be hosting a public screening of Last October, a new 50- minute documentary film that captures experiences during and following the Sonoma Complex Fires from the perspective of several current and former City employees and officials who served as first responders, disaster service workers, and community leaders. A film trailer and more info is available here

The screening of the film will take place in conjunction with the art exhibit Sketching Fire Stories on display at City Hall thru October 3, 2019. Sketching Fire Stories is a year-long project of watercolor sketches that tell compelling stories of destruction and recovery in the aftermath of the October 2017 wildfires. The sketches were done on location by myself, Carole Flaherty, and others.

Carole and I will be at the event to meet the public, talk about our sketch stories and listen to others’ stories. I hope you can join us.

Location: Santa Rosa City Hall Council Chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Ave

Date: September 17, 6pm

This event is free and open to the public. For more information call (707) 543-3010 or email me.

 

The Duo Quartet

A couple weekends ago I got invited to a concert with The Duo Quartet (Nina Gerber, Chris Webster, Pam Delgado, and Jeri Jones) on the grand shady lawn of the Davis’ family. We arrived after it had started and grabbed a seat at the back. Not the best place to see the musicians, but excellent for listening and grooving on the lyrics and tunes of this dynamic foursome of kick ass women! Like I want to be cool like them when I grow up.

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So, peeping between the heads of the people in front of me I managed to see enough to get something down in an old toned sketchbook I started back in 2015. A bit of white gouache at the end perked it up a bit. The audience was mostly grey haired and groovy and appreciating, like me, this brand of folksy rock n roll with lyrics you could relate to, or at least remember what it was like back when the hormones were raging.

Amsterdam Last days

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures. -Vincent van Gogh

On my last full day in Amsterdam I visited the Van Gogh Museum and emerged two hours later feeling that I’d just encountered the part of myself that knows what it means to be an artist with a pressing need to draw and paint the world. I felt a kinship to this strange man who loved the common people, the miners, the potato eaters, and celebrated that love through his painting. . .kinship with his need to get out of the studio into the beauty and harshness of nature to try to find its “language”.

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Afterwards the trees outside the museum seemed to have stepped right out of his paintings, and I sat to ponder them while eating my sandwich. A bee was flying around my food and I welcomed it, like the birds, as a part of this glorious natural scene! When my attention was distracted I took a bite and felt an electric shock in my mouth. Out popped a dazed and dying bee into the grass. My tongue was on fire! What would Vincent do? Surely not freak out, but start his painting! Which is what I did (and clearly survived).

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Laurie Wigham met me for lunch afterward, and while I talked, she did this cafe portrait piece of me, direct watercolor with touches of after-the-fact water soluble pencil!

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My last morning I had an hour to head out for a last sketch before catching my shuttle to the airport. Ah, if only I had another week, I thought. . . but this will have to do for now.

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The flight back to San Francisco was fully booked. It was delayed and the waiting area was full of people already hot and weary, anticipating the eleven hour flight. My last sketch kept me from grinding my teeth, almost.

On the ride home my seat companions were a couple from Holland making their first trip to the U.S with their three teenagers. They got to practice their English and get some tips from a Californian. The man was a dyke engineer, so I got to ask my questions about how it’s possible that Amsterdam is not under water when it is over four meters below sea level!

The scene I never got to sketch on location!

I want to thank you if you’ve lasted through this rather long story documenting just a week of travel. It would have felt like a dream if I hadn’t put it down in this way. Actually as I look at my sketchbook, I think I’ve painted a dream.

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.  – Vincent van Gogh

Exactly, Vincent!