Con Brio

Warm weather loosens one up, and a dose of music on the Plaza (in Healdsburg on Tuesday evenings) helps too. Bob and I often start out in the crowd of people in lawn chairs sipping wine and eating a picnic dinner while the performance starts. Everyone seems so relaxed. Note that in this sketch there’s no one on their cell phone!


I was a bit too relaxed (or maybe excited) at first and managed to spill my dinner and my wine on myself before even getting to the sketching. Then the parade of people was so colorful!

Have you seen these “sippy” cups that you can put a wine glass into, so you don’t risk spilling your wine (as I did, more than once)? I bet you can find them at Costco, since everyone seems to have them now.


The group Con Brio (with verve!) was lighting up the plaza with their music. I put in my loudness-canceling ear plugs and sat right below the stage to sketch. The charismatic lead singer danced up and down the stage, reaching out to the audience, which was going wild.


By the end of the performance half the plaza seemed to be standing and clapping with hands in the air.

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.


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.


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. . .


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!

Palace of Fine Arts

I was hankering for some sketching of “grand” architecture, like what one finds in Europe or other places in the world where a historic building is older than 100 years (ah, Italy!) A visit to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last week was a great way to satisfy that longing and only 1 1/4 hour drive from my house.

As I recall, when I started taking watercolor painting lessons after my second son was born, I started with a day-long workshop where we camped out on the lawn opposite the Palace and I struggled with drawing, perspective, design, color, and watercolor technique all at once. What was I thinking?! Twenty three years later it’s still a formidable task, but oh what fun my sketch buddy and I had!


The Palace was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition but has been rebuilt and retrofited and landscaped in more recent years, so it can hardly claim antiquity. But who cares, since it is hard to imagine a lovelier place to spend a summer day (and get away from the heat of north county!) especially if you like tourists.

We knew better than to launch in on a sketch of the whole palace with infinite colonnades, the lake with swans and reflections, etc. Even a small portion of a colonnade has a fair amount of detail. I mainly wanted to get the graceful forms of the Greco-Roman Amazons that seems to be holding things up. Since I’m so much more accustomed to sketching people, if helps me to put a human form in a sketch before I tackle the more knotty angles of the architecture. (many people would say the opposite)

We soon learned that we were considered one of the tourist attractions. Especially the Asian tourists, of whom there were many, became the audience and photographers of our event. But then there were the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were set up nearby. They were so interested in our sketches and in getting our cards that they forgot to offer us their literature.


I’m going to skip over my second sketch which was enough of a disaster that it will not be allowed on this blog! We watched many romantic bride-and-groom pairs posing for pictures before the Palace backdrop. It is June after all and the solstice at that!

The wind picked up quite a bit in the afternoon, but we found a bit of respite from it in the sun and next to the water where the ducks and gulls were bathing and wildly flapping their wings. And here at least (I suppose I shouldn’t be on this side of this cord) I couldn’t see the tourists watching and photographing my artistic efforts.


The question of the day seemed to be, “how did you learn to do that?” referring to sketching, and with the conviction that I know how to do it. The way I heard the question was, “gee it looks like fun, how might I do that?” And the answer to that is . . .still learning (even though I’ve been teaching for many years now).


Carole still sketching, at the end of our day, with the fog rolling into the Bay. . .


At home later I analyzed the scene I’d screwed up. Still feeling a bit flummoxed but at least the scale and perspective is a bit closer. I’ll keep at it. It’s a learning chore I enjoy, always have. Carole said, “Let’s go back and do it again.” I guess that’s how it works, over and over until it’s a bit more second nature.

Beating the Heat

In an effort to beat the heat on Father’s Day Bob and I left early for the beach and were rewarded with sparkling sunshine, no wind, and temps in the 70’s. I think we got one of the last five parking spaces at Doran Beach.


When we arrived at 9:30am many families were setting up camp on the beach with tents, coolers, chairs, sporting equipment  and more. Our north coast ocean water does not beckon most of us to want to swim.  We’re content to soak up sunshine without the blistering summer heat of inland.


By the time we left around noon, all the parking at the beaches was taken and the coastal road was jammed for miles and miles with folks from inland trying to make it out to Bodega Bay to escape the record breaking temps!

More Summer Concerts

I’m always a bit behind on sharing sketches. The first ones here are from the Railroad Square Music Festival June 11. This fine musician Andy Graham was set up on 5th St. in Santa Rosa with his didgeridoos and electronic whatsits mesmerizing the crowd with what sounded like a whole lot more than the music of one person!


Wandering around we found the biggest crowd one street over on 4th street  and did  standing quick sketches of the musicians before escaping the too loud and not our style of music making!


And then it started to pour. From warm sunshiny day to cloudburst. Definitely not California style weather! We ducked into another venue to escape the rain.


And happily seated ourselves in the Cast Away yarn store to listen to Kevin Russell and his friends and wait out the storm with some mellow folk tunes


(I sketched this later at home) Heading back to my car, trying to beat the next downpour I caught a few moments of a band and snapped a picture of this dude dancing to the Earls of Newtown. Maybe he thought the extra hat would protect him better from the rain? I made it back to my car just as the hailstorm started. Maybe the hat guy knew what was coming?


Later last week Bob and I made it over to the Windsor Green for their summer concert series. It was hot enough that we chose the shady grass over a view of the band. I believe that most of Windsor and the surrounding townsfolk were camped out there for the evening.

Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings

My favorite time of the year, bar none, is summer when free concerts are happening almost every day of the week in one of the many towns in Sonoma County. The Healdsburg Plaza was packed with families this Tuesday celebrating the beginning of this season and raising wine glasses to the amazing Roy Rogers on his slide guitar and the Delta Rhythm Kings of blues. Charlie Musselwhite was even on hand to join in with his harmonica at times.


I actually had to start dancing right away. You know, to kind of get it out of my system so that the pen wouldn’t go bananas when it hit the paper. But then I noticed an artist on stage sketching away and wondered if I might try that as well. In the break I asked Roy Rogers if he would mind my sitting behind them in the back of the gazebo/stage.  So I got a new vantage point, and even met some of the folks traveling with the band. Doesn’t exactly make me a groupie, but I can pretend.


Charlie Musselwhite is there in the red plaid shirt.


This guy Jase Casabella sketches performance style (he’s also a musician) with charcoal in one hand and a video palm recorder in the other. By the end of the performance he had pages and pages of sketches of the band to sell to enthusiastic viewers and a youtube video for Facebook.

Got me thinking. . .maybe I should try a bit of recording with my free hand? There is something so intoxicating about the mix of music and sketching, and my sketches can only show part of the scene.



Honoring WWII and Korean War Vets

I live about 15 minutes from the Pacific Coast Air Museum at Charles Schultz (Sonoma So.) airport but had never been there before Saturday. The event honoring WWII and Korean War Vets was a great opportunity to enjoy a sunny day sketching vintage planes and servicemen from an earlier era, while also remembering my parents (both now deceased) who served in WWII.


Volunteers were giving tours of the aircraft, but we were there to tell the visual story of planes and people. When I was almost finished with this one, the blond lady came over to look and told us that her father had flown over 30 missions in a plane like this in the Korean War. He died in March of this year at 93 and she was there to honor him.


I think I’d have to spend longer than a couple hours sketching planes to understand the dimensions of them. This one with the shark face painted on presented a challenge, possibly because it wanted to be more of a marine species than an avian one.


Do you think that face would scare away the enemy, or would then fly closer to get a peak at the pin up girl by the cockpit?


In the open hanger beyond were veterans seated at tables where you could sit down and hear their stories. Lovely calendar girls walked around, posing with happy airmen, while a WWII vet sang songs from the 40’s and yodelled for an enthusiastic crowd.


Families could put their children in the cockpit to give them that pilot experience. I started this sketch of a one-legged veteran, then turned around to sketch the plane, not realizing the irony of his placement, mirroring the single wheel in the front of the plane and two on the sides. Or does he look like he’s holding up the front of the plane? I’m learning it’s all OK in the pursuit of the story and an afternoon of fun!