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”.


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).


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!


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.


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!



Jazz Sketching


Sharpee ultra fine pen, watercolor in Strathmore watercolor 5″ X 8″ sketchbook

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival started this week and Bob and I went to the Healdsburg Plaza on Tuesday evening for a free concert with the Roger Glenn Latin Jazz Ensemble.  The plaza was packed, so while Bob was wandering around with his camera, I scored a bench spot where I could listen, watch the dancers and be enthralled by the steady procession of humanity walking by.  I’d brought my sketchbook and, though I felt a bit rusty, got it out and sketched the few folks in front of me who were standing or sitting still. . .in between the people walking by.

jazz2Many people come in big friendly groups and stake out their territory with blankets and chairs, wine and  finger foods.  A rather large percentage of the people there were filming/taking pictures or texting/playing games on their phones.  The red hat guy was a thoroughly Latin dude who really knew the moves and had partner after partner dancing with him, all of them giggling and loving it.  (impossible to sketch!)

jazz3I’m not sure how this lady’s head got so wide, and those ears. . .!  Since you asked. . .I added the paint after I got home and while my feet were up and I was watching reruns of Foyle’s War.

It’s great to be sketching again.  There’s a perfect spot for my sketchbook and paints in my new yellow purse. . .

Vancouver, Victoria and home again

Victoria, British Columbia

Back now from my trip to Vancouver and Victoria to visit with my son Ben.  We had a great time.  The cities were all about tulips and cherry blossoms, gazillions of them blooming on every street!!  Not what I would call a relaxing vacation, what with cleaning and moving him out of the apartment, ferry rides and border crossings and days in the cities, but days rich with sights and new experiences, meeting his college friends and hanging out in the finest coffee shops in the world (according to my coffee expert, Ben) as well as pubs.  Some hiking in those lush northern forests and eating great seafood.  I visited the Art Gallery of Victoria to see Emily Carr:  On the Edge of Nowhere, a British Columbian painter whose biography The Forest Lover I’d enjoyed years ago.

And had scant time for sketching. . .but here’s some airport and ferry sketches.

. . .at our little airport in Sonoma County waiting for the flight to Seattle (I drove from there to Vancouver).

iPads Rule in airports.  I knew if I brought one I would never get around to sketching, so instead took advantage of the models.

Sabrina had dark glasses on and was texting on her iPhone the entire ferry ride, so I figured I was safe sketching her anonymously. I made her look at least 20 years older, not on purpose!  And she caught me.  It happens sometimes.  So as a concession to her I let her take a picture of it, which I assume immediately got posted on Facebook or something like that, and promised to post it here. She’s really soooo much cuter.  It seems when I’m doing a really quick sketch I either make people look much older or younger.  I guess there’s a kind of averaging thing going on unconsciously, when what I’d really like to be doing is more caricature.  Got to work on that.