travel sketches

NOLA Part II

On Saturday we met up with the New Orleans Urban Sketchers at the Historic New Orleans Collection  in the French Quarter. I must admit that another museum was not what I would have chosen on a sunny day in a city with so many sights to see. But we were welcomed with a heady combination of southern hospitality and urban sketcher friendliness. We were given a lovely sunny courtyard with French Quarter architecture and a history-savvy docent, away from the tourist-choked Royal St. outside.

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By this point I knew better than to spend my time with the frustration of ornate balconies and walls of columns and shutters, and picked the vignettes that told my chosen story. The scent of alyssum and violets behind the curtained window afforded flashbacks of my mother and grandmother.

For those of you who are sketchers, my sketchbooks were hand-sewn signatures of CP Fluid 100 paper which later will be bound in a book. The above size is the smaller, 7.5X11″ when open, as above.

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When we emerged again onto Royal St. we were hungry, but wandered a while, checking out the shops devoted to Mardi Gras, wild hats and jewelry, and hot sauces before settling on the Royal House for lunch.

Then back to more of the History Museum. One thing I learned from a week in NOLA was that my taste for history had not been totally destroyed in school by chapter books and memorized battle dates!

One sign in the exhibit: in a life sized picture which put the viewer in a seat in one of the early trolley cars: DEATH RIDES THE HIGHWAYS, BUT YOU ARE SAFE IN THE TROLLEY CAR!  Ironic that in the day of the Corona virus one might feel safer in ones car  on the highway than in a trolley car.

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And then one of the high points of the trip, the street musicians I’d hoped to hear, and in particular Doreen, who could lean back and blow that clarinet with every muscle and cell of her body and make you want to weep with it. That’s her husband on tuba and daughter on drums. Standing across the street in a crowd I managed to draw this and paint it later.

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She had glittery blue braided into her hair. Afterwards I shamelessly asked for her picture, and tired as she was from a long session on the busy streets, she beamed that warm smile.doreenandI

Note the vestiges of Mardi Gras on the balcony above, which one finds everywhere in the city. As we walked the streets of the French Quarter there were small marching bands and processions on every other street “celebrating” funerals,  weddings, and who knows what! When we reached Bourbon Street, where the amped music flooded the street along with liquor that permeated the air, we headed home.

 

Amsterdam: Part I

Back home again and resting up from an eight-day trip to Amsterdam to attend the annual Urban Sketchers Symposium. It was not exactly the best week to plan a trip to Amsterdam. Peak tourist season. Record breaking heat wave. But I had booked my trip months before and was looking forward to all the activities and seeing my friends from around the world and in the process seeing the city.

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Sketching is a great way to look closer at a city, to notice the details and get interested in knowing more. Many of you have probably been to Amsterdam, since it’s one of the most agreeable cities for tourists to visit. So I will share my very own impressions here as a way to also remember and consolidate reflections about a remarkable visit.

This first sketch was all about the the crowns on the bridge. There are crowns everywhere. The Dutch must have loved their royalty.

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But actually this was my first sketch, a piece which illustrates the madness of arriving at 10am in Europe after a 10.5 hour flight and needing to stay awake til the local bedtime in order to begin to acclimate. This syndrome is affectionately known as brain-deadness. So you soldier on and if you’re a sketcher, you sit and scribble out your first. I was at a canal-side table, elbow to elbow with people drinking cold drinks and facing one of the iconic bridges. These two guys at the next table touching mine were filming something for Mexican TV to be shown in the U.S. (?) and oblivious to my taking advantage of their process.

On the plane ride to Amsterdam I watched the movie about Vincent van Gogh, At Eternity’s Gate which explores his emotional/mystical inner life as an artist and struggles with insanity. Amsterdam is the home of the van Gogh Museum, which I will share about later. This trip came to be imbued with his presense. His words resonate so deeply with my own experience of life and art and my time in Amsterdam, such as. . .

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

-Vincent van Gogh

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After a morning’s canal cruise with my sketch buddy Cathy McAuliffe, we had lunch at a garden restaurant and sketched in the park to try to stay cool. There’s practically nowhere big enough to park much more than a bicycle in Amsterdam, so they have adapted by shrinking vehicles to the size of miniatures so they fit on sidewalks! The above is an Amsterdam delivery “truck”!

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Cathy here is demonstrating the ease to which a passerby could steal a car by lifting it off the curb. (Note the chain around the lightpost!)

By my second day the heat wave had kicked in big time and I was seeking the shade of a nearby park. This elderly lady (probably not much older than me!) looked like a local who had discovered a way to keep a bit cooler. She was doing a crossword in the paper and drinking her coffee and seemed quite content. Nearby was a group of Surinamese men speaking animatedly in a language I didn’t recognize.

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Rembrandt is a big deal here. I mean he is everywhere, and especially in Rembrandt Square where we were waiting to meet other Bay Area sketchers for an Indonesian rijsttafel or feast. I couldn’t help the comparison of the two highly adept artists! (Rembrandt and modern day Cathy)

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This restaurant on the canal (by the way, everything is on a canal in Amsterdam) was right around the corner from the hotel where I was staying. Earlier we had taken a morning walk through the Red Light District which looked like the morning after a Fraternity party. amsnosexworkerpics

There were no sex workers to be seen. The shutters were drawn, but the signs pointed to a world that we needed to at least acknowledge with our cameras! Interestingly the Amsterdam flag which flies everywhere around the city, has three red X’s on it. We never found out what they stand for. Do you know?

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So back to the serene canal scene I was trying to capture. It was heating up once again and life was active on the water. I was beginning to wish I was in the murky canal water.

Stay tuned for Part II Amsterdam!

Amsterdam Bound

The bag is packed. All the decisions are made about what sketch supplies to bring. And I’m Amsterdam-bound today for a little over a week of joining people from around the world at the 10th Urban Sketchers Symposium. It will be my fourth year attending and first time in Amsterdam, so I know I’m in for a wild and wonderful ride. After all, I can sleep when I get back home!

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So this sketch does not qualify as an “urban sketch” because it was not done on location, but in my studio, from a tourist pic on line. It’s a practice run, since I’ve never sketched a canal and they are everywhere in Amsterdam. This one was a study of what happens with reflections in the water, and how much of the bicycle you need to put into a sketch to make it read “bikes” which are as omnipresent as the canals.

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Another bicycle practice. It’s sort of like studying the anatomy of the human body which one does in figure studios. Getting those circles and ellipses is a challenge.

Also I dove right into this one and later thought about the perspective of the buildings. I think I’ll start with pencil lines mapping that out before the painting, rather than after.

And then the reflections in the canal. Why not just bring the paint loaded brush down into the water after painting the trees and buildings? That could save time and integrate the painting.

I added some Naples Yellow to my palette, a pigment that might help to create a warm subdued glow on the city surfaces. Also I’m bringing an extra teeny palette with some white and colored gouache to add highlights.

Now how does one sketch from these bridges which are everywhere and frequented by fast moving bicycles at the very least? Hmmm. Well, soon I’ll find out! I’ll be posting on Instagram and Facebook while gone and back here on the blog by August 1st.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

L.A. Trip

A week trip to L.A. and now I’m back again, and happy about it. Some of my garden has grown several feet in that time and the pipevine caterpillars are plump and juicy from all that green munching.

The purpose of our trip was to do a bit of art sightseeing, since neither Bob nor I had been to LA in decades.

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I managed to get a bit of sketching in, though that was not the point of this trip (granted, a bit unusual for me.) It was so lovely to fly direct from Santa Rosa’s airport (one hour in the air) and not have to deal with cars the entire time!

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I brought my small and larger handmade sketchbooks which are lighter to carry and have good Fluid watercolor paper.

We were staying Downtown to make it easy to get around on public transport (more on that below) and the first day visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which looks like a regatta of sailboats madly reflecting light off its curved stainless steel walls. Designed by Frank Gehry. I sat briefly in the garden to capture some smaller perspectives.

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I would have loved to sketch this scene in the MOCA Grand art museum live, but that was not possible, so I took a picture. The design was so perfect so I sketched it later. I loved seeing classes of students of many ages in the museums we visited.

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This was the view from our AirBnB apartment downtown. Seemed like a good idea to be centrally located. But oh my, I think this sketch tells the story. Suffice it to say we were situated between the Bang Bang Room and the Cabinet of Curiosities with its 5 bars on different levels.

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I had to get one of the electric Lime scooters in this. You can pick them up anywhere and drop them anywhere when you’re done, or at least that’s what people do, after careening helter skelter down the crowded sidewalk.

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A bookstore with big comfy chairs to lounge in while reading! (or to lounge in while sketching the loungers.) The Last Bookstore. I bought a book too – on writing poetry by Mary Oliver.

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Two of my Urban Sketch friends invited me for a meet up in the historic part of Downtown, el Pueblo de los Angeles. There was such a friendly Mexican community vibe to the place, and within minutes we were enjoying the company of families interested in checking out our sketches.

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A quick capture of City Hall and Grand Park.  As often happens with urban sketching, the sketch, however simple, reminds you later of the people you met while sketching. In this case the friendly Latino family of 7 or 8 siblings, cousins and parents, who stopped to marvel at what I was doing with my colorful paints and water brush. The six year old told me that if I mixed all my  colors together I would get brown. And the teenage boy said they were learning about color mixing and value scales in school. I think the kids would have stayed with me a long while, but the parents (wrongly) thought they might be intruding and ushered them off.

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There’s more to the trip of course, but you’re getting the sketch version here. I’ll end with the airport where I had lots of time to capture travelers looking at their screens.!

Porto: Part II

 

And then the much anticipated Urban Sketchers Symposium 2018 began with registration at 11am. The event had somehow grown to 800 sketchers from around the world (500 the past two years I attended) and they all seemed to converge at once on the Alfondega or “hub”. Here’s what happened to me. . .

 

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And so the Symposium started for me “taking shelter” on the littered steps across the street where some ebullient Brits were sketching and chatting. And I guess you can tell by the sketch that I was ready for some fun.

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And later, while a long row of experienced sketchers from around the world were doing the entire skyline of colorful edifices on the hill, I picked out one spot on the hill to do a quick study. A rousing opening ceremony closed out the day.

Workshops started the next day and I had signed up for a full schedule of four workshops and a demonstration over the three days.

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L.K. Bing, architect and master painter from Indonesia was teaching my first workshop Dramatic Atmosphere in Black and White. We climbed the hill to a spot with the street view he wanted to capture, waited until we could find a spot for 15 of us to congregate on the street without blocking any doors. Then the delivery trucks started arriving and we kept squeezing over to avoid toes getting run over. (Urban sketcher workshops are always great adventures!)

We started out with the little cards he gave us, sketching the shadow patterns of the scene with water soluble pencil and black watercolor and white, then moved on to a larger piece. The view was partially blocked by the trucks and the wall of tourists who were curious and wanting to take pictures of us. The day was overcast so we were mostly guessing at shadows, but I must say that getting to see this teacher paint with large expressive strokes that captured the drama of street life was worth every minute.

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In the afternoon I attended a demonstration with U.K. teacher Lynda Gray

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This is Lynda’s signature style, gorgeous line work that thins out at the edges and delicate, restrained watercolor around the focal point. The result is serene and refined. Watching her slow build up of color was a relaxing break from the mad rush of activity in the city and symposium events.

Next: more workshops

 

Princeton

Two weeks ago I flew east to visit my two sons. Andrew is an architecture grad student at Princeton. Ben, a software engineer in Nashville, came up to join us in Princeton and later in the week in Brooklyn. We packed a lot in and I did my best to keep up with some of it in sketches.

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There was plenty of waiting time in San Francisco airport, with a flight delay to Newark, but I was too sleepy (after getting up at 3:30am!) to do more than one.

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Andrew had thought he’d be done with classes/building projects etc and apologized that he still had work to do, but I loved it! What sketcher could resist an invitation to be a fly on the wall at the Embodied Computation Lab where his group was working on their installation? You get it, right? The embodied part is the robots. It was not exactly clear how there were getting utilized.

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They looked like they were either dueling or kissing!

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I tried to catch the positions that the students held for more than 30 seconds while building, but wasn’t so good at predicting which those would be!

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Meanwhile it rained almost non-stop and the campus grounds had become lush in that greenest-of-greens, east coast way.

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The undergrads had mostly left the campus, but there were studious souls to be found in the numerous libraries and study halls on campus. I don’t think I could have gotten any study done in this particular one on a rainy afternoon.  Too comfortable with it’s stuffed leather chairs and soft light filtering in from 19th century  Victorian Gothic windows that reminded me of an abbey crossed with a gentlemen’s lounge.

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The rain stopped long enough that I could head out to the lawn to attempt deconstructing one of the ivy covered buildings. It was still dark and overcast, adding to the challenge, but I was kept company by a very bold little squirrel asking for handouts. At one point he was standing on my shoe and looked like he was heading for my lap!

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It was still raining the next day, so I headed to the Princeton Art Museum to sketch some tomb figures in the archaeology wing.

 

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This guy was my favorite, especially fierce and powerful. Looked like he could do a pretty fair job of guarding a tomb!

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Next day it was raining yet again and though Ben and I took a nice walk along the river, he also had to do some remote work, so Andrew got me into the Frank Gehry designed science building on campus where it’s hard to find right angles. I pulled up one of the cushy chairs (you find everywhere for students a Princeton) to a tilted window to study the tilted scene below through rain splattered glass. The curvy brown structure below is none less than the Hedgehog and the Fox, a massive sculpture by Richard Serra similar to the one you see in the lobby of SF MOMA.

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On the second floor of the same building is a study hall called the Tree House and looking down from there you see this lobby. The colors and angles! How could I resist.

Next day we headed to Brooklyn. Stay tuned for more. . .

 

The Vacation Purpose

I was the tag-along spouse for part of this trip to Carmel last weekend. The primary “purpose” was to attend a gathering of esteemed art photographers (emphasis on ART) who were coming from around the country, Canada and even Austria, to attend an opening of of the 2018 Biennial Juried Depth of Field Exhibition curated by Rfotofolio at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel. One of the first events was “20 Tables” where invited artists displayed their work and got to meet each other and share techniques, ideas, and approaches.

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While Bob was enjoying the exchange with other artists, I was able to be a fly on the wall so to speak and sketch from my vantage point in the corner!

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But only after I’d made the rounds and listened to these amazing artists tell the stories of their work and show it off. No doubt some of what I learned will show up in future Muse Group lessons!

Diana Bloomfield‘s refined nature and mystical portrait work with gauzy layers of gum bichromate over palladium. Joanne Teasdale‘s work documenting the relations between women and water around the world. Sandra Klein‘s “portrait” series of Inner Dialogues relating to her relationship with her mother who has dementia. And so many more. It was a great honor to be able to hang out with these folks.

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And then of course Bob Cornelis sitting here at his table with his palladium prints in books and portfolios he made and printed with letterpress, and answering the questions of some very interested photographers.

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I got in a bit of sketching in the garden too. This fellow was another photographer’s helpmate enjoying the garden unaware that he was posing.

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And brunch at a French bistro in town, where the people had left their table long before I got the color on. I loved the hanging lamps draped with vintage kitchen towels!

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The event ended with a memorial for two beloved photographers who passed away recently, Judy Sherrod and Denis Roussel. We gathered on the  beach in Carmel in late afternoon. Each person was given a different cyanotype print made into a kite to be flown. With a wind and rain storm brewing, there was just enough time for some pictures and final goodbyes.

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And I made a valiant (?) effort to sketch the story of the event, adding color later out of the wind and rain.

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This lovely Hahnemühle Watercolor Book was a great companion for the trip. At 8X6″ it’s the right size for the purse or sketch gear bag. The CP watercolor paper is as good as it gets in a book that opens flat as this one does. Great for getting a whole scene in. If you paint wetly, then it is likely to curl up, so you need clips to keep the edges down while painting. I’ll write more about sketchbook papers in another post.

 

A Week in NYC, Part I

This California girl hit the big city last week for a visit with my son Andrew and a whole lot of sketching. I go to San Francisco as often as I can and would have to rank it as my favorite city, but New York is like, well, S.F. on steroids. I spent most of the week agog at its architecture and people and art and neighborhoods and on and on. I haven’t really done any sightseeing in NYC since I was a child living in Connecticut, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

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Lamy Joy fountain pen and w/c in Stillman + Birn, Beta series 5.5X8.5″ sketchbook

First day I met fellow urban sketcher Chris Carter at Washington Square Park. Chris lives in New Jersey but has a familiarity with Manhattan which was reassuring, not to mention her city sketching skills, which I hoped she’d share with me. (Check out her blog for some of her sketches from the day!)

Right away we found a band playing in the park and set to sketching. The Animule Dance plays old-time Jazz, Blues, and country music. OK, so now I was feeling at home!

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Not a bad seat for viewing and listening!

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Actually, while waiting for Chris to arrive I found the chess players. My husband had given me instructions to sketch them. It was a great warm up!

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The band took a break and we strolled around the area, coming to this scene of the old fashioned water tower across from a modern muraled building and we both elected to plop down on stools, hugging the stone wall by the sidewalk and give it a try. I noticed that I have trouble getting the proper scale of the “big buildings” in the city (being such a country girl!) I tend to shrink them down to manageable size. More practice needed.

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After lunch we were planning to walk around Greenwich Village, but the sun was out and we headed back to Washington Square. Just to change things up a bit I started drawing with paint and then worked some pen line in.

The fountain was scintillating, the gardens in blooms, the people joyful, and the scene was so divine that I christened it “The Bliss of Fountain-eity”.

Later Chris had a turn to get a quotable from the day. “When you find your line, then you become able to share your unique experience of the external world”  (or something like that) I realized that I am forever in search of my line. It seems that others can usually see one’s “line” more easily than you yourself can.

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There was soo much going on: gymnastics/break dancing (shirtless guy on the left with blue pants), tourists taking selfies, hot dog and pretzel selling, tulips blooming and musicians in every quadrant. I gave up trying to put anything in perspective and just kept drawing the stories!

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Chris helped me to remember to photograph the sketch in the setting sketched. It helps to have an extra hand to hold the book up while taking the iPhone pic!

Our day ended with dinner at a bistro in Greenwich Village, much philosophizing about the abundant gifts of being an urban sketcher and a vow to meet again for more sketching, in N.Y and other world cities!

Ireland Sketches Part 2

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There were streets in Galway where music and performances of all types  were going on non-stop all day, several on each block at times. I wanted to stop to enjoy all of them, but was busy with the workshop for the most part. This bonnie Irish lass sitting with her hurdy gurty (sp?) let me sit with her and told me about her instrument as I sketched.

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and this young man was playing with a young violinist and three older traditional musicians inside a pub nearby.

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The music is informal each night and the musicians play as if around a table in a home, taking many breaks to sip a pint and chat with people. In fact they sit around a table in the window and everyone else stands (which is why my line is so fractured here: there was scarcely room to move!)

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On the last morning in Galway I found this colorful street for a last sketch before we moved on.

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While my friends got the castle tour, I stood out front of Dunsquaire Castle for a sketch, first with a watercolor pencil.

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After we’d checked into our B & B in Fanore by the sea, we headed over to the one local pub where musicians were playing traditional music and (bear with me a bit more!) we all sketched musicians.

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This was the irresistable kind of toe tapping fast paced Celtic music that’s a real mood lifter. The mist had settled in thickly outside but seemed to lift noticeably in the friendly atmosphere of the pub, where children danced on the stage in front of the musicians.

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Our teacher from the workshop Shari Blaukopt joined us for dinner and sketching.

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And of course we got to chat with the musicians.  When I asked the name of their group, I was told “the three stooges”, which of course was a joke. They just play and the people who show up are the group for the evening. I loved this kind of natural spontaneous music making I found in Ireland, showmanship without ego.

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I was surprised at all the modern housing in Ireland. Not the thatched roofs and moss covered stone cottages I’d expected. But we also found the ancient ruins, older than any I’d seen in Italy, like this wedge tomb from 4000 B.C. on the breathtaking landscape of the Burren.

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and the sun came out for a while!

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We were packing a lot of sights in that day. So I opted for a collection of pictures I wanted to remember. Our luck with the weather held as we continued on to more hiking on the Burren and the famous Cliffs of Moher.

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There’s a bit of travel craziness on this page.  It had been a very long day and driving in Ireland is an adventure at best and harrowing and confusing at worst. We had both. It was another few days til we had learned the logic of the road signs and more.

Next: onward to the Ring of Kerry

 

Babatunde Lea and Friends

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fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn (alpha)  6 X 8″sketchbook

My husband the Jazz buff gets me out to these incredible concerts, this one at the Healdsburg Art Center, where they moved panels and art aside to make space for this evening concert. If you weren’t able to be there, you can look forward to hearing more of Babatunde Lea at the upcoming Healdsburg jazz Festival in June!  This drummer here, cooking up some pretty spicy beats, is Babatunde, and the other sketches are some of his “friends”, all amazing jazz musicians in their own right.

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This dude plays the most liquid keyboard, and not only with his fingers but it seems with every muscle in his body.  How can I ever learn to capture that?!

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We were not sitting where I could see much, but I was able to lean over to a space between heads and zoom in for a shot with my Iphone so I could sketch later.

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The singer was so hot I thought she’d melt the microphone!