toned sketchbook

The Botany of Fire

As the fires now rage in southern California those of us in the north watch with compassion and relive the terror of those days in October when we watched our city burn. In the interim we’ve had good bit of rain to green things up here and to begin the clearing of properties. Yesterday I turned my attention to some of the strange and, dare I say, wonderful vegetation that survived the burn on a property where the dwelling sadly burned to the ground.

AngelaRd2pen and w/c with white gouache in 9 X 12″ toned Stillman and Birn sketchbook

A palm tree, blackened and charred but possibly not all the way through. These plants hold secrets within their cells that we could learn from.


Trees don’t bleed like humans, except metaphorically.  These palms are relatives of the grasses with fibrous material to the core. I’m rooting for them to shed their outer layers and come back with fronds greener than ever. The hillside above and below here was already vibrant with luxurious new growth fertilized by the ash.


But for now these ghostly figures tell the story of the raging fires. Quan Yin silently witnessed it all and now watches over the restoration. She stands serene and unwitting of the worry that this artist has placed on her brow in the art here. This is after all my telling of the story, with hopefully enough of the recognizable to touch some place in you.



Doorways to openess

Fountaingrove is where neighborhoods of gorgeous homes sit in the hills above the city of Santa Rosa. They are the homes to many of our doctors and other professionals. It used to be that if you drove around you’d notice the homes and landscaping. The properties cleared out now by the Tubbs fire of two months ago, your eye is now drawn first with dismay to rubble from the fire and then to the lovely brick and masonry entranceways that lead the eye unobstructed to open views of the valley below.


Or in this case to a house across the ravine that did not burn.


On this cul de sac the workmen were busy doing the work of clearing debris. No shovels and wheelbarrows here! I have captured only a couple of the machines at work. “The Claw” does most of the heavy lifting. And there’s a fellow who sprays a stream of water to keep any particles from going airborne. The woman in the bright vest was seated for a while watching the action. I figured she was there to direct traffic or something. But suddenly she jumps up and starts barking loudly enough for two back hoe operators to cease their machines’ noisy rumbling and listen to her instructions.

She came over to check out my drawing and introduced herself as a QC operator. That stands for quality control, if you hadn’t guessed. So the construction guys have to pay attention to her. She explained that there are different companies working contracted to work together to get the job done quickly and safely. These were homes built after 1980 so they didn’t have to worry about asbestos control and the job was going more quickly. It was getting dark when I left and they worked on. I liked the idea of a pretty lady boss, so I put her in the sketch twice!

Barbeques are the Survivors

A lot of mobile homes burned in the Tubbs fire last month. And some next door did not. One tries to imagine the fire burning through one property and not crossing the street to burn another. What stopped it at that point? These are the questions that run through your mind when you look at the burn.

One thing you see lots of is barbeques standing intact among the rubble. They are the survivors of the firestorm. They look like you could light them up and grill a steak on them as is. By the end of the summer season I know our barbeque doesn’t really look so different from the ones I’ve seen in the burned neighborhoods. I guess their “species” already had lots of experience with fires and heat, so they took the Tubbs Fire in their stride.

barbequepen and watercolor and gouache in Stillman + Birn 9 X 12″ gray toned sketchbook


A week in Ashland, OR


Carbon platinum pen, watercolor in 8 X 8″ Handbook w/c sketchbook

A week in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival started out with what turned out to be our favorite play “The Happiest Song Plays Last”.  (The Last was First??)  Although my husband assured me I was free to sketch on this shared vacation with him, this did not include sketching during performances. But I’ll share the quick sketches I did manage to fit in.


The “street people” turned out to be the best subjects, but I was not brazen enough to stand in front of this guy and sketch.  I never saw another sketcher while there. So I quickly snapped a picture and sketched this in the hotel room, using my Lamy cartridge pen with the ink that “melts” when you wet it.


Sketched on the spot and finished later with details from a photo I took.  This one-man act, performing in the daily free concert on the Green Stage, combined Native American dance and song with Rap – an interesting combination!


fountain pen w/c, gouache, in 5/5″X8″ Toned Tan Strathmore sketchbook

Once the food comes, the drawing stops.  I’m not one to let my food get cold while I sketch it!  The white is a Presto Jumbo Correction Pen.


There was a heat wave, and luckily we had a pool to soak in during the afternoons.  Sunbathing bodies are always a favorite subject, especially when sleeping, so they can’t see what you’re doing!


A super-hot afternoon in the park, and we actually got a spot in the shade on a bench in front of this cellist.  I was quite happy with my drawing until I started to put the white on his hair.  The heat had melted or boiled and pressurized the correction fluid so that it spurted and globbed!  There was nothing to do but move the white around the page, which actually created the sensation of movement.


Finding another shady spot we watched a frisbee game.  I abandoned the white goo and just dipped my waterbrush into a tube of white gouache, discovering that I really liked the effect.


Our last dinner was back at the brewery and it was still very hot despite the fans, and noisy with Saturday night diners/drinkers. I got in one more sketch before the food came.