travel sketch

Watercolor Simplified in Sonoma

On Saturday I met with 13 sketchers at the historic Barracks in Sonoma to teach the day- long Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop. The weather was warm and lovely and the sun kept dipping behind clouds and then re-emerging. I figured I better get in the demonstration of the “one-two-punch” sketch while the sun was casting lovely shadows.

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fountain pen and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal 7 X 10″

It was also a chance to put in a “sky dash”, which is a juicy blue sky wash that leaves a bit of white for occasional clouds and doesn’t get all fussy when there’s not time to get the particular sky “right”. The one-two-punch goes in layers of darkening values, the last one of which pops out the sketch, rescuing it from ho-hum.

Of course by the time I’d finished my demo, the sun ducked behind a light cloud obliterating the shadows for my poor students, who were then supposed to paint the shadow shapes!

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When you’re learning watercolor it’s important to find a way to have fun with it so you don’t get bogged down in trying to get realism in your application. So I demonstrated the spritz-splatter method of creating a colorful sketchbook page and then drawing/painting some detail on it to tell a bit of the story. Since it is spring and the Sonoma Plaza was filled with blooming flowers, this was a good bet. And it turned out to be the most popular technique of the day.

Sonomafountain This fountain went into/behind many of the spritz-splatter floral displays!

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Some of the sketchers were putting people in, and this fellow sitting around the fountain was so still as to be an ideal model! He seemed in fact to have perfected the art of doing nothing! I used this as an example of anchoring your subject to the context and leaving out unnecessary detail.

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Then the ducks in the pond became a favorite subject! Honestly I could sit all day and watch them and the children shreeking with delight at their antics.

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I managed to work them into my spritz-splatter floral!

And then suddenly it was time to call it a day, and such a good one it was!

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A Day at the Presidio in S.F.

In the winter it’s always good to have some indoor sketch options. Last week some of us met mid-week at the Officers Club in the Presidio in S.F. on the excellent advice of our East Bay buddy Cathy.  The Presidio is a 1,500-acre park on a former military post known for its scenic overlooks, forested areas, and recreational opportunities. The Officer’s Club houses, among other things like an Andy Goldsworthy installation, a fascinating historical exhibition and restaurant.

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Fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn Beta sketchbook, 6 X 8″

The lobby was an inviting place to start, especially with this relaxed lounger, waiting to start his work shift at Arguello, the restaurant which was our next stop.

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Exclusion is the title of a current exhibit in the Heritage Collection gallery which tells the story of the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. As I sketched this desk and chair it was easy to imagine the old black dial phone being used by some officer to give the order to round up innocent Japanese Americans. It’s a story I’ve heard told and read about so many times and the injustice of it stays fresh in mind.

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Listening to the docent tell stories about the history of the Presidio, from Native American Ohlone tribes to Spanish on horseback and so on I also got to contemplate the costumes of WWII service men and women.

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and a hand tooled Spanish calvary saddle.

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At the visitors’ center we stamped our sketches after I sat once again trying (and failing at) a quick sketch of the GG Bridge while the weather and colors changed from moment to moment confounding all my efforts. Another try might have worked better. The bridge needed to dissolve romantically into the Marin hills. One of these days. . .

Camp Winnarainbow 2015

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fountain pen and watercolor in Strathmore mixed media sketchbook, 5.5 X 8in

Camp Winnarainbow.  Fun to be a kid at camp again, sleep in a teepee, do arts and crafts and dance class and Zen clowning, and swim in the lake when it gets too hot and wear costumes, oh, and sketch!

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Wavy Gravy still at it!  Officiating at a game of Beach Blanket Bingo by Lake Veronica.

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Hearty delicious meals under the trees with Wavy reading poetry in the morning and “cabaret” performances in the evening.

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Back at home I had more time to sketch, from my pictures, some of my favorite camp personalities, like Mr. YooWho. . .

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Hiroko, the Butoh teacher.

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J. J. Crashbang

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Juan Too Many

Other art projects at camp. . .felted dreadlocks and rainbow tie dye t-shirts.  Now that I’m home again, I’ve shed some of my hippy dippiness, but in my heart of hearts. . .

Toned Paper Sketching

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fountain pen, brush pen, Sharpie Paint Pen (white), gouache in Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook

The recent lesson in Sketchbook Skool’s “Stretching” course was with Miguel Herranz, who does the most wonderful sketches on toned paper, so here are some stabs at that lesson.  The paper is meant for dry media but takes a light wash of watercolor or gouache  Gouache is better for this because it’s creamy and sits on top of the paper opaquely, (or at least could if I put enough on!)

This is a usual scene for me, eating breakfast in the car after Jazzercise.  Sitting behind the driver’s wheel however is not the best place to sketch – too cramped, but it was too chilly outside and the comfort of a cushioned seat and warmth won out!

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On Saturday three of us lined up on a bench in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square to fill the page with whatever story unfolded before us.  This working on toned paper is challenging in all sorts of new ways.  Maybe by the time I work my way through this new sketchbook I’ll get the hang of it.  I like the way you have to make decisions about value and color based on design and making readable contrast, rather than matching what you see with “realistic” color.

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What started out as an overcast morning, with not much happening except cars driving by, became a sunny day with lots of colorful activity, including a march against Monsanto, complete with marching band (which unfortunately was too late in the day to sketch on site). This is another spread which captures just a bit of it.

Last chapter: Bahamas

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These Bahamians have a thing for color.  I mean the interior walls of the little airport at Marsh Harbor are bright salmon and lime green.  And the historic kerosene fueled lighthouse in Hope Town with its candy cane exterior is hot pink and green on the interior!  It’s enough to make a sketchbooker froth at the mouth.  And the sea is so many constantly shifting shades of green and blue that I found my little two by three inch watercolor travel palette to be insufficient to the task.  I needed a Cobalt Teal and a Cobalt Blue Violet and any number of other exotic pigments. We walked up to the top of the lighthouse for a 360 degree view of the harbor, but couldn’t sketch from there, so here’s a photo:

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It was a day for sailing so we headed over to Man O War, a neighboring island with another lovely marina. We were hungry and stopped in at the Dock n Dine restaurant on the wharf for lobster (deep fried) BLT’s and sweet potato french fries.  This was not a time to worry about cholesterol.

bahamas13The dinghy (pictured here with the  motor on it) was the mode of transportation from sailboat to dock.  Man O War turned out to be a particularly great place to view interesting sailboats, some of them hand crafted in the historic manner.

I will end with the most adventuresome day when the sea finally tossed me and my cookies, if you know what I mean.  I had been wearing those bracelets with the buttons that activate the acupuncture point which prevents nausea, and taking the homeopathic remedy for motion sickness while sailing.  But it was a particularly windy day and Brit and Sandy wanted to take us out to a reef where the snorkeling was particularly good, which it was!  I think this picture, sketched later by an active imagination,  will finish the story.

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That night we came back by way of another island called Lubber Quarters and stopped at Cracker Pi’s for the famed full moon feast and party. The definition of the word “lubber” is

1. a big clumsy, stupid person: lout

2. an awkward or unskilled sailor.

Both fit me quite nicely that day.

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Is there anything more magical than a full moon sail?  I am still under the spell and hope to never forget.

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Here we are, Liz, Sandy and me, wishing you a happy springtime from our coffee deck in the Bahamas.