Shelter in Place

The Living Room: Pandemic Times

When the doors of The Living Room were ordered closed over two months ago to protect an already endangered population of homeless and at risk women and children from the viral spread, the staff got busy reinventing the program to meet the needs of the pandemic. Outside the gates. In other words, in the parking lot.

Last week I found my spot again under the redwood trees on the outskirts of the parking lot. I was sketching and hoping to see some of my friends, participants of the program I have come to know for the past year and a half of volunteering in the programs.

Redwood Gospel Mission had parked their mobile shower truck in the parking lot and people were lining up for the free hot meals – a breakfast and a lunch of healthy and appetizing food which they could carry off to eat somewhere off the property. Some headed for the side street and curbs, others for the bus stop or their cars.

Men were welcomed along with women and children. A man emerged from his shower and, after picking up his hot meal of pulled pork and veggies, did a little jig of happiness, exclaiming to no one in particular, “This feels so good! I want to live here!”

TLRpandemictimes

After getting their food, which was handed out the window of the kitchen, people were invited to go around to another window to pick up mail or get referrals and toiletries if needed.

My friend Ruth was getting her food bag and stopped a minute to talk with me. I asked how she was coping since the Covid crisis. She still sleeps in a tent with her partner, but no longer has the support of the programs and her friends at The Living Room, can’t do her laundry and rest comfortably there, and so much more. Also since the libraries are closed, it’s more difficult to stay connected with what’s going on, not to mention find public bathrooms to use. The encampments tend to be so dirty with trash that she doesn’t stay there, where otherwise there might be some sense of community.

Sheltering in place has a whole different meaning when your “place” is a tent or a car. I’ll be sharing more stories as I learn them and sketch stories of these folks who come to The Living Room. They’re our neighbors and we wish them well and want to be of help in any way we can.

The Living Room offers a variety of ways you can be of service. You can find out more on the their website and Facebook page.

 

Sketch Stories in Pandemic Times

Have you been wondering how to get your hair cut in these perplexing times? Well I took things into my own hands and at least got some of it out of my eyes. The scissors I grabbed were not so sharp and I had to get my glasses to see well enough, but it more or less worked.

haircuts

So how did I sketch this when both hands were occupied with the hair? The iPhone is good for so many things, like the timed selfie picture. So I leaned it up against the wall below the mirror.  etc etc.

plantshopping

Another day I ventured out to buy some plants for my spring garden. My local nursery, Harmony Farms was mobbed with people anxious to plant their vegetable gardens, so I stopped by Ace hardware and found some plants. They were all set up with the plexi window and masks to protect the cashiers, but it became a comedy act as I was asked to shove my plant under the window and lost a bit of soil and flowers in the process. (The sketch is from memory.)

cemetery

My friend Bettina lives next to the old, historic part of the Santa Rosa cemetery. The back gate of her garden leads directly into this wonderland of historic oaks and vines and every shade of green. Nature has aggressively moved to reclaim this final resting place. A dense sprinkling of rain started just as I set up my stool to sketch this story, so I collected some pictures and later put it together in this.

kindness

Yesterday I went to town and sat in the plaza to see what action I could capture. Sebastopol is a small town where as far as I can tell people are taking the Shelter in Place and social distancing order pretty seriously. The main event that Friday morning was a helicopter circling noisily overhead. I wonder why? After sitting for a while in an empty plaza finally at noon there were a handful of folks in family groups eating lunch.

The sign on the road made my day though.

Kindness is also contagious

Spread it around!

Are you keeping your distance?

We in this multiverse society seem to be ranting at each other a lot lately about the right and wrong way to do everything now from proper mask wearing and social distancing to proper cleaning of vegetables and doorknobs. Meanwhile we are wishing we had more face to face contact with others.

So of course this issue popped up in my latest conversation with the muse, when I pulled some pieces of previous mixed media demos and experiments off the pile I keep in my studio. I put them together, and they started to tell a story of current relevancy.

socialdistancing

masking tape, acrylics, collage, pen on w/c paper 10X11″

Is this enough distance? or am I crowding you?

Actually I was here first, so you’re crowding me. And I can see that you’re not wearing your mask properly. You’re probably one of those people on the news protesting the shelter-in-place rules, because you want to be able to go to the beach or to work when it’s not safe, and you don’t care if people die because of it!! Murderer!!!

What does 6 feet look like anyway?

In my neck of the woods anyway we are moving in jerky ways in public, rushing to get done with our shopping, then halting suddenly when someone gets too close. We avert our eyes in an effort to avoid contact when someone needs to get down the aisle past us. Or someone quietly hovers just out of range, waiting until we finish picking our avocados. It’s nerve wracking. We apologize and accept apologies. However because we are starved for any person to person contact, even that satisfies some of the need.

At this writing I’ve tried different kinds of masks, and am learning to breathe better while wearing them, though I wouldn’t be able to carry on a longer masked conversation without passing out from the exertion. But the glasses still fog up a bit with each exhalation. So I hope if you run into me in public, and I don’t recognise you, I will be forgiven, because it might be right at the moment when I exhale and the world blurs over. It’s just another one of those adjustments.

 

 

 

Confusion

Is there anyone out there who isn’t confused about where we’re going with this pandemic? It makes us a bit ditzy, wondering what other people are doing to cope, I mean other than wearing masks in public, taking walks, zooming, and watching whole series’ seasons on Netflix.

Me, I do some deeply satisfying art dawdling in my art studio each day. Sometimes I start by cutting up a doodled painting from another day and seeing where the pieces take me. It feels so right to recycle art at this point in time. This particular one came together when I found the woman, and felt I could relate.

walkofftheedge

acrylics, black and white gesso, collage, white gel pen

She’s a bit confused. . .aren’t we all?!

Oops! Don’t walk off the edge.

“It” came from China on a wave.

Where is everyone going? We’re still on a Shelter in Place order!

Of course it’s particularly distressing when our medical heros, the scientists we rely on to find the cures, are unable to reassure us. This Covid virus is still eluding the best of them! It seems we still have more questions than answers.

questions gesso textured w/c paper with acrylic inks, gesso and citrasolv collage.

I almost put cations on this piece as well, but decided to leave it open to interpretation. Please fill in any dialogue that comes to mind.

Meal service at The Living Room

I parked myself under the trees at The Living Room this week to grab a sketch of of the scene. The staff and volunteers have figured out a way to feed people in need  while still following the shelter in place guidelines. . .by handing the to go food out the kitchen window! Breakfast and lunch are inside the bag and if you want to see the lovely food they’re serving to about 120 people a day, visit their Facebook page!

TLRMealService

I arrived after the morning rush. I’ve missed my weekly visits to The Living Room where I talk to people, sketch the stories and portraits of the women who come. But it’s good to see that they’re able to continue serving so many people during this time even though the facility cannot be open as a day shelter.  And they continue to hand out necessities for people who are homeless, like toiletries, clean socks, pet food, and now of course, masks! If you feel inspired to help, there are easy ways to help, which can be found here.

 

Zoom sketching

Urban sketchers no longer need to pack up and drive to the meet up locations, then brave the weather. In fact we can’t due to the shelter-in-place rules for Covid times. Zoom sketching is fun though. That is, Zoom as in the social media meeting app, but also as in fast! 

It was my turn to be host so I picked three pictures from my New Orleans trip last month. When we were done chatting we did two 20 minute timed zoom! sketches.

jazzgumbo

This is downtown NOLA where all the big skyscraper hotels are located. I just loved this sign, which covers four of the main attractions in Louisiana: Jazz, gumbo, gators and pralines.

steamboat

One of the Mississippi steamboats, which we never got around to riding while there. Somehow I had pictured Spanish moss-covered trees reaching over the river while somewhere a banjo plays. But in New Orleans the river is wide, flat and brown. So we chose to stay in the colorful city instead of venturing onto the water. Next time though, I want to go out on the bayou and see some real gators!

bump

In the garden at home I’ve been doing more weed pulling than sketching. Guess I’d have to sit in someone else’s garden to feel like I could just loaf and sketch. I live on a private road where the houses are a bit spread out and off the road, so the neighborhood sketching has not really happened. But I noticed this little vignette while sitting on our patio under the redwoods, looking across the road.

 

The Living Room continues to serve

I’ve been missing my friends at The Living Room, the day shelter for women and children in Santa Rosa. The portrait project I’ve been working on for months came to an abrupt halt with the Shelter in Place order and The Living Room had to follow along and close its doors to prevent contagion spread among staff and the homeless women they serve.

But now the creative and hard working staff has reopened not the gate, but a window and Monday – Friday is serving those scrumptious and nutritious hot lunches they are known for. . .to go!

But they’ve also been coordinating with other groups to do what they can to continue to serve the homeless and at risk population, which has now grown exponentially. One day staff was making hand sanitizer in the dining room while practicing social distancing.

sanitizer

I wish I could have been there to help and of course sketch live! But I was able to add this sketch, done from a picture, to my growing book of stories from The Living Room.

 

How the Days Get Filled

Well, yesterday Bob and I spent about three hours combined doing a deep cleaning of just one of the wall areas in my studio. And then there’s the hours fixing computer glitches after my computer was upgraded. And there’s the keeping up with phone calls and checking in with friends and keeping up with the (bad) news.

But in between it all some art is happening and it’s my salvation! So yesterday I sat up on the road above my studio to listen to the birds, enjoy the view and do some “Shelter-in-Place Sketching: My Neighborhood”,  a Meet up organized in the San Francisco Urban Sketchers group.

backyard

For the sake of those of you who have never been to my home/studio, and might even live in another country, I labeled things. Clearly sheltering-in-place here is not a particularly difficult occupation, especially in springtime.

I live on an acre on a private road, so there’s not much traffic of the human sort, but still, in the half hour I sat there I got to talk to my neighbor and wave to our postman.

stilldreamingNO

Still glorying in the wonders of our trip to New Orleans in early March, I have done some thumbnail sketches from pictures, good practice for the art of urban sketching which requires that one leave out a great deal of detail and capture the essence.

In the cleaning of the studio I pulled out a portfolio of portrait paintings I’d done in the 1990’s. They were so clean and accurate. Not like these messy concoctions I enjoy so much now. My vision is not what it was then, or even ten years ago, so the painting has changed. The farther away my subject is, the more I must simply get the “feel” of it and  sacrifice accuracy in the process. The result is different, but no less satisfying. I share this in the hopes that you may also accept wherever you’re at with your art as worth the effort to express yourself. That’s why we do it anyway, isn’t that true?

And then I’ve been drawing portraits for the #30faces30days April challenge on Sktchy. But I’ll save the results for another day.

 

How (not) to Draw a Car

I’m not much of a car person and normally try to avoid drawing them, but when my Meet up sketch group suggested cars as a subject that would not get us in trouble with the Shelter in Place guidelines, I figured it might be a time to build some mechanical skill of the auto sort.

Sitting out in my driveway I got closer than 6 feet to my car to challenge myself with the extreme foreshortening of the angle. . .

cartalk1

I figured at least I would be able to see the details. I even did some measuring comparison, though it sure doesn’t show!

So I took a picture and determined to try “getting it right” by drawing from the picture in pencil.

cartalk2

The tire looked pretty flat, though the sketch was more convincing, automotively speaking. But was this the same car??

cartalk3

Still determined to “get it right” I tried again the next day, sitting in the same spot and taking a bit more time. If you don’t look at it for more than a couple seconds, it looks almost right. . .until you start to get the feeling it’s waiting to get fixed at an auto body shop after getting side bashed.

If I were really serious about drawing cars I would try again. Only honestly. . .I like the first one best, because it looks like it’s just about to say something interesting. All it needs is a bubble above it with “toot! toot!”

Are you finding things to do that you wouldn’t normally attempt, either because there’s no time or you feel it is too frivolous when the hospitals are filling up with people suffering from the pandemic? I hope so. We all need the frivolity as an antidote to terror.

Inks and Gesso: Another Free Lesson

Ready to try another free Muse Group lesson?! I’ve taught this one over and over for at least 12 years now. It’s a foolproof way to get excited about making art and to activate creative fancy. You’ll need watercolor paper, inks (preferably with droppers), gesso, and optional: scrapers, rollers, and rubber stamps.

inks_gesso

Click here to watch the video demo. But don’t stop there. Give it a try!