It was a day of “wintry mix” precipitation last week and we sketchers were not to be deterred. A wintry mix forecast on the weather apps, I’ve learned, means an unpredictable and freezing mix of rain, sleet, and snow with a similar mixture involving some ice on the ground. In all cases it means lots of layers of clothing to put on and take off throughout the day unless you just stay inside.
Wintry mix does not mix well with sketching on location outdoors, obviously, so the always resourceful Jane Wingfield suggested the perfect solution: the enormous indoor plant nursery at the Bark and Garden Center with its endless (still life-) displays of plants and statuary. And it was a balmy 50 – 60 degree temperature!
Of course the nursery was in full-on Christmas tree, poinsettia and reindeer mode, and I probably go back there to do at least one Xmas card illustration sketch! The owner was so welcoming to us sketchers.
But there was something about this Greco-Roman mother figure that attracted me to sit with her for a while. She seemed powerful and indrawn, and so at one with the enveloping plant life, that the sketching of her became my own afternoon meditation.
My thanksgiving holiday was pretty much like many people’s with lots of cooking and eating, visiting, getting out to see some sights around town. Ben flew in from North Carolina and Andrew and Holly joined us from Seattle. I snatched some pictures and decided to do so quick sketches from them after the holiday, using the same kind of technique I would use in on-the-lap-on-location sketching/storytelling.
I rarely take an inkpot out with me because of the chance of spilling it! But this was done in my studio and I didn’t spill it! That’s me at the end of the table. Can you tell?
The day after Thanksgiving Ben wanted some Pacific Northwest nature drama, so we drove out to the ocean at Westport and lucked out by arriving at high tide, a King Tide crashing against the sea wall in 15 foot vertacles, spraying onlookers and flooding the nearby streets. We stuffed ourselves on fish n chips watching the water creep down the road out front.
Afterward we took a walk above the dunes, not wanting to be ON the beach where the tide sometimes drags people out to sea! A very dapper looking pheasant was not to be deterred from his walk on the trail so we followed him for quite a way. And later stopped for coffee at a coffee shop with unique decor. The mannikin at the window seemed to be inviting visitors to come and sit a while with her!
Back home again, Drew (Andrew) took up his favorite spot in the living room. My boys are masters of comfortable poses!
I just went grocery shopping to replenish the larder. Our two sons, home for Thanksgiving, had left after working their way through the stash from Thanksgiving. By the time I got back to the car with, once again, heavy bags of groceries, it was snowing. Real snow. First of the season?
But the snow in this picture from yesterday was courtesy of our newly redecorated and updated Center for the Performing Arts and their snow machine effectively created a winter scene on the sidewalk and road. Once again the four blocks downtown were closed off for another Love Oly celebration, this time called Winter Fest! with all the cozy touches of lights, hot cocoa, high school orchestras and choirs leading carols, candy canes and fun kidstuff. I didn’t see the horse and buggy rides but heard they were there too. Lots of happy holiday shoppers.
We sketchers lined the window seats at Ember Goods clothing store and coffee shop indoors to stay warm as the crowds ambled by and wandered in for some of the best espresso in town. Meanwhile we chatted, tried out a new pen and sketched whatever came into view for a moment or two. It made for a pretty disorganized sketch, but hopefully one that is full of the holiday season cheer!
Saturday was a perfect day to head to Seattle for a Seattle UsK meet up! The Wallingford Center was the setting, a shopping mall housed in a historic school with the headline act of a colorful Trophy Cupcake and espresso cafe. When Jan and I arrived, the sketchers were lined up on the benches in front of the cupcake showplace, because after all, who could resist? so we joined them.
There was time for one more so I perched outside this very festive women’s clothing store to sketch and later paint in.
Our Washington Center for the Performing Artsdowntown Olympia has been closed for months for renovation. When it reopened recently, three of us sketchers joined the public for the tour of the new digs. Everything had been refaced and upgraded, from walls to seats and carpets, to lighting and sound systems!
I chose the Loge section to take on the challenge of perspective and the fun of the new multicolored seat covers!
The “trick” to being able to convert the wide angle 3D experience of the human eye to a flat 2D on paper is to take a picture with your phone and use that to anchor the major lines on the paper first. Even so, this was a particularly gnarly scene in its detail and complexity. Good practice, if not much fun!
I spent Veteran’s Day on a Mushroom Foray with the South Sound Mushroom Club. It was a good sized group of people of all ages, from babies to toddlers and elementary schoolers to parents and us seniors. I must confess I have forgotten much of what I learned in the workshop I took last fall. And yet it was mostly very familiar, the baskets and knives, the large classifications of gilled mushrooms, polypores, boletes, puffballs, jelly-like and cup fungi.
There weren’t as many as I remembered from last year. The leader said that mushroom season is about six weeks late this year, because the rains were so late. And now with the arrival of frosty temps the season will soon be cut short. Nevertheless there were some wonderful finds on our fungi scavenger hunt! We were given whistles and orange vests and taught the whistle signals: once to alert others of a find, twice to call a leader over for a look and ID, and thrice for an injury that needed help.
Did I say that there was a bit of rain at first, but you can see here how well dressed-for-the-woods this Pacific Northwest gang was.
My absolute favorite was an Earthstar, which bears a striking resemblance to a cross between a snicker doodle and Hersey kiss cookie. And the cool thing about it is if you squeeze the top, it comes alive and puffs out spore from its point!
So the Earthstars, seen here in various stages of development became the star of the day! And they also gave me ideas for holiday cookie baking.
Oh, you probably think I mean the psychedelic kind! Naw, just the chocolate buttery kind.
We were back to the Squaxin Island Museum for a holiday craft fair on Saturday. I wanted to sketch the front of the building for its unique architecture with exquisite landscaping around. But as rain threatened to resume, the warmth of the museum beckoned.
Inside the Museum the tribal artesans had spread out with their wares and in many cases were practicing their arts while the public shopped. I found a bench where I had a view of Eileen here, doing some pretty skillful turning of the heel of a patterned sock, using four needles, while she greeted friends and family and only occasionally looked down at the needles. Her legs were cozy in their bulky knit leg warmers and the museum’s leather sofa with the tribal symbols made a comfortable place to knit. Meanwhile her niece stood behind stacks of sweaters, hats, and gloves, selling to the customers. The sketch got quite cluttered as I put in the museum display cases. And the quote on the wall – A place to come together, to collect, gather, and share – seemed to so perfectly reflect the feeling of that day. The translation back to the indigenous language follows. I would love to know how to pronounce these or perhaps this word/concept which conjures such warmth. It reminds me of the Scandinavian word hyggelig.
I went home with the warmest, softest knit hat, which will come in handy this week as our temperatures in the northwest plunge to the 20’s!
To continue my education about the lives and history of the Squaxin Island people who have lived in Olympia and the surrounding areas since time immemorial I visited their museum and research center this week.
The colorful wall murals answered so many of my questions with pictures, texts, and stories. And the display cases were rich with artifacts. After perusing the displays, Jan and I sat in the well appointed library, feasting on the books and later went outside to enjoy the lovely gardens and stream for some sketching.
It was a smoky day in western Washington, but we didn’t notice it there in the secluded area by the Sound with its rich oxygenating greenery.
Autumn is upon us now quite suddenly, at least a month late, bringing the rain and cold temps. I’d like to go back to the museum on a rainy day with the friends who weren’t able to join us, for the kind of immersion that sketching always promises. Like leaving the tea bag in longer to get a richer brew!
My younger son Andrew turns 30 this month! Sunday I took the train to Seattle to spend the day with him and his girlfriend to celebrate. My home is about 7 minutes from the Amtrak train, which is good because I’m not much for dealing with the city traffic at this point.
The day was fun – trendy vegan restaurant for brunch, followed by art museum and beautiful parks. Seattle is definitely a more high-energy city than Olympia, which seems so laid back in comparison. We waited 45 minutes for a table at the restaurant. Apparently not unusual.
Then headed for the Seattle Asian Art Museum in lovely Volunteer Park.
My favorite was the contemporary Be/Longing exhibit. This spectacular garment? made of thousands of dog tags, yes, dog tags.
The interior was reflective. I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the fun house mirror effect. The sculpture definitely creates some kind of mental/emotional collision. Something about the power of individuals in the collective or maybe it’s a longing for . . .(sorry I didn’t record the artist’s name!)
Afterward our feet were weary so we found a perch in the shade next to some grass. Andrew stretched out for a rest while I sketched the water tower.
And later rode the train back home again. Gotta do this more often!
Sometimes I forget, when encountering a natural attraction here in my new Olympia home, that my reverence for such things has been long running. Like the salmon run. Just now I used the search window in my blog to see what I might have sketched, painted, written about the salmon run. And this post from July 2011 popped up. A mixed media Muse piece with a native woman kissing a fish and my words written in reverence:
The salmon always run, and we must welcome them as the sustenance for more than the body of woman. . .as the running fervor of a life worth living, even through and beyond the destruction of habitat, even through the unconscious living which lacks the vibrancy of a shimmery wet creature wriggling in your hands and burrowing into a space, not only in your stomach, but in the heart, where its beat and yours are joined in celebration. . .
And now that I live on the land where the peoples of the Salish Sea have worshiped the salmon for thousands of years, that feeling has grown.
On Wednesday this week some of us nature journalers met at Tumwater Falls to watch the salmon swimming and leaping upstream. I’ve been trying to capture the drama with my phone camera, but wanted to tell the story in my sketchbook, on location.
I started on the opposite side of the viewing bridge from this point, where the fish were lining up on the river, resting up from the already tumultuous trip up the river from the ocean. Ahead were the big leaps that would take them to their spawning waters (or the hatchery tanks). They were barely visible underwater, dark undulating shapes, so I started my story there.
As they crossed under the bridge they largely disappeared in the foaming waters, except an occasional one would attempt the leap up the falls and the onlookers would gasp in delight and amazement. Above the falls it was easy to see the fish up close in the hatchery tanks where some had “bruises” from hurling themselves against rocks on their passionate journey!
In the annotated version here you see the fish ladder to the right of the falls where I presume most of the salmon were able to ascend the river successfully.
Many of the Chinook were already turning this golden color. See the wounds on the mouth of the one on the lower right side. Many of these salmon are quite large, around 50 pounds. If you have a lot of questions about this salmon migration and hatchery, I recommend this article to read.
This sketch was done at home from a picture I took from a different vantage point. It happens quickly, this sudden burst of energetic athleticism. I waited minutes, with breath held and finger on the button to capture this shot.
It never gets old, this adrenal rush and the moment when the fish slaps the water. You can feel it in your belly.