SF Urban sketchers

Ferry Boats

On Saturdays the Ferry Building and environs in San Francisco is host to a confluence of attractions, from the wonders of the bay with ferry boats and sail boats and ocean going vessels to world class farmer’s market, eating and of course sketching! The SF Urban Sketchers Ferry Boats and Piers Meet Up was the perfect opportunity to enjoy the day.

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We met up at a quieter spot away from the Ferry Building crowds between Piers 3 and 5. The day was that rare (in S.F.) combination of sunny weather with little wind and mild temperatures that made it possible to even sit in the sun for a while without roasting.

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Here I am practicing urban architecture to try to prepare for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Chicago later this month. One thinks that a sunny warm day will be best for seeing the light and shadow shapes on buildings, but honestly when the million watt sun is beating down on the white paper and your eyes are blinded by all the reflections, one can almost long for the overcast weather in the U.K.! And then there’s the constant looking up at the skyscrapers and down at the paper, back and forth. . .

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Ah, but the shapes and angles – the geometry of architecture. It is quite mesmerizing. It does help me to put some folks in the foreground to humanize the scene, or just out of habit.

I’ll be taking the art up to the mountains for the rest of the week and will try to post some pictures on Facebook and Instagram. So please connect with me there!

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Porchfest Musicians

Yesterday was an SF Urban Sketchers meet up for the Porchfest Musicians an afternoon of music on the porches, backyards and stoops of the Mission! The day was sunny perfection and the streets filled with relaxed and appreciative audience and the feeling of open community.

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I made a concertina style “sketchbook”  for the day – 30″ X 7.5″ folded in six sides. Low and behold it worked for the four groups I heard/saw (one on the front fold)

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Honestly speaking us sketchers were there as much for the visuals as for the music. This group was playing in front of an open garage door and it took a couple songs, and asking the person next to me, to realize that the Wet Paint sign, which looked so natural in this setting, ( as did their grunge style ) was the group’s name.

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Ziva was in a doorway singing like an angel. I plopped down in a comfortable chair below her, a terrible angle to do a portrait (sorry), but great to watch the audience on the street corner.

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For a larger venue we walked to the House of Brakes where a group called Monkey, backed up against an awesome three story mural, was working on getting the crowd engaged. I couldn’t resist the guy with the fuschia colored sideburns and beard! Eventually of course that also meant our clear view filled up with pulsating bodies.

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With only minutes left before our end of day meet up to share sketches we found the Kai Lyons Jazz band and got in one more. Honestly? It was about the hat and dark glasses along with the flowered crop pants.

But the day was mostly about the personal aspect, meeting a very diverse crowd of people. The performers were sometimes as grateful to us for sketching them as we were to them for the music and visuals. There was lots of picture taking, and I even (supposedly) got on a live internet feed? which I will probably never see and that’s lucky. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Porchfest! Here’s the sketches from last year.

Home Land Security

Yesterday I joined the San Francisco Urban Sketchers at the Presidio to see the exhibition titled Home Land Security which is housed in five former military structures at Fort Winfield Scott. It also happens to be at one of the prime viewing spots of the Golden Gate Bridge, so there was lots to sketch.

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fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ hand.book w/c sketchbook

There’s something about viewing the Golden Gate bridge from any angle that makes one whip out a camera or sketchbook. Yesterday there was this amazing shadow cast on the bay and Marin hills that made it even more of an imperative. In the first five minutes I realized this was not the warm up sketch I should have tackled, so I gave myself 30 minutes before moving on. Thirty minutes of sitting on the roof of an old bunker above the bay, feeling my good fortune to be there enjoying such a day, mixed with the frustration of trying to put it down on paper!

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This is one of the bunkers where the art was exhibited. The Sacred Land refers to the Ohlone tribe which preexisted the bunker and the celebrated and maligned city of San Francisco. One low ceilinged bunker room was hung with missile shaped spindles made from secondhand clothing representing the stories of individual journeys.

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The Chapel where we met at the end housed an installation of metal sculptures suspended in space that simultaneously elicited the fearful nature of war and the enduring beauty of the culture and art tradition that glorifies it.

I would highly recommend a visit to the art exhibit which “brings together works by 18 contemporary artists and collectives from around the globe to reflect on the human dimensions and increasing complexity of national security, including the physical and psychological borders we create, protect, and cross in its name.”

A long weekend in San Francisco

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Pigma Sensei pen, w/c in Stillman and Birn sketchbook, 5 X 8″

A four day weekend with my husband was packed with San Francisco sights, from Japantown to the Legion of Honor, Turtle Hill and the Castro to Fort Mason and Haight Ashbury. This enchanting city  never lets us down.

The Bonnard exhibit at Legion of Honor was so much more spectacular than I’d anticipated. When we got to this mural room, we couldn’t resist taking pictures of these guys, ignoring the art and tuning themselves to cell-land.

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We were with Andrew’s friend Maura, and finally at lunch Bob and she got into a conversation so that I could (without being impolite) start sketching madly, trying out some of Bonnard’s space/perspective flattening techniques and color play.

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We were staying in the apartment of a friend which had views of Fort Mason (see the Golden Gate bridge peaking out on the right) and the harbor looking out at Alcatraz and across the bay to Marin.  So I did some thumbnail sketches, getting a bit carried away on the painting of them. i don’t think I’d ever get tired of that view.

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Next day I joined a SF Urban Sketchers meet up at Turtle Hill and the Mosaic steps (two sets).  Most of the sketchers climbed to the top, but I enjoyed the leisure and the view from the bottom.  In San Francisco the “bottom” would mean the Bay and this was already up many steep streets and commanding a view of lower lands.

A cool wet wind was blowing and I’d forgotten to bring my stool or any munchies. It had been an uphill walk from my car, and it was far from any warm cafe. And how was I to paint all those mosaic tiles? I leaned against a parked car and started in.

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A few blocks around the hill was another set of mosaic steps and these were a popular tourist attraction with carloads of people disembarking regularly. I found a curb to sit on and was alert to any cars that might accidentally head for my toes.

Later we saw Laurie Wigham’s exhibit titled “The Changing City” at Spark Arts Gallery in the Castro. A thoughtful, sensitive show of her masterful watercolor paintings and sketches of the developing scene in neighborhoods in San Francisco.

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Our last day we headed for Haight St. and got there before the shops opened. I sipped coffee, watching the diverse parade of people passing: from fresh faced young students in groups to stylish professionals to the gypsy/hippy garbed to the addicts and homeless people talking to themselves and picking remnants of joints out of the gutter and lighting up. As the shops opened the smell of incense wafted my way. It was a strange time capsule I’d happened into, this street with alternating tie dye, water pipes, and trendy sterile clothing shops catering to the new tech-y crowd.

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What a deal!  We were seated opposite the sushi chef at lunchtime.!

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I took a few pictures and wanted to get at least one of the street people, so I did this at home today from my Iphone.

Shakespeare in Presidio Park

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Yesterday was the most glorious weather in Presidio Park, San Francisco, with the SF Urban sketchers meeting up for an afternoon of free Shakespeare on the lawn.  The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was performed with pathos and a perfect dose of comedy to an audience on blankets with their lunch and wine.

With the constantly changing scenes, costumes, gestures, it was both tantalizing and frustrating to try to get it down on paper.

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When there was too much activity on stage, I reverted to contour drawing of the crowd, which helped a bit to calm me down so I could try again.  I also wanted to use my new watercolor pigment, Sepia with just a bit of Cerulean.

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I was using my water soluble ink on the three women, but all the lines melted when I touched them with a brush, so I switched pens again for the friar.

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Catching on that what I wanted was to capture the DRAMA of the moment, I realized that the Pentel Brush Pen was the way to go for quick gesture.  THere was no way to capture one whole scene in tact!  So I just kept adding figures as I thought I could sketch them.

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For instance, Romeo and Juliet’s father, definitely not in the same scene!

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The play doesn’t actually end here, but this is the ending we all remember.  AH!  Star crossed lovers!

After the play, as our group was sharing our sketches from the day, Juliet (alive again and smiling) and some of the other actors came by to enjoy the sketch art, as we thanked them for stellar performances!