travel sketches

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!

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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!

A long weekend in San Francisco

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Pigma Sensei pen, w/c in Stillman and Birn sketchbook, 5 X 8″

A four day weekend with my husband was packed with San Francisco sights, from Japantown to the Legion of Honor, Turtle Hill and the Castro to Fort Mason and Haight Ashbury. This enchanting city  never lets us down.

The Bonnard exhibit at Legion of Honor was so much more spectacular than I’d anticipated. When we got to this mural room, we couldn’t resist taking pictures of these guys, ignoring the art and tuning themselves to cell-land.

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We were with Andrew’s friend Maura, and finally at lunch Bob and she got into a conversation so that I could (without being impolite) start sketching madly, trying out some of Bonnard’s space/perspective flattening techniques and color play.

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We were staying in the apartment of a friend which had views of Fort Mason (see the Golden Gate bridge peaking out on the right) and the harbor looking out at Alcatraz and across the bay to Marin.  So I did some thumbnail sketches, getting a bit carried away on the painting of them. i don’t think I’d ever get tired of that view.

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Next day I joined a SF Urban Sketchers meet up at Turtle Hill and the Mosaic steps (two sets).  Most of the sketchers climbed to the top, but I enjoyed the leisure and the view from the bottom.  In San Francisco the “bottom” would mean the Bay and this was already up many steep streets and commanding a view of lower lands.

A cool wet wind was blowing and I’d forgotten to bring my stool or any munchies. It had been an uphill walk from my car, and it was far from any warm cafe. And how was I to paint all those mosaic tiles? I leaned against a parked car and started in.

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A few blocks around the hill was another set of mosaic steps and these were a popular tourist attraction with carloads of people disembarking regularly. I found a curb to sit on and was alert to any cars that might accidentally head for my toes.

Later we saw Laurie Wigham’s exhibit titled “The Changing City” at Spark Arts Gallery in the Castro. A thoughtful, sensitive show of her masterful watercolor paintings and sketches of the developing scene in neighborhoods in San Francisco.

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Our last day we headed for Haight St. and got there before the shops opened. I sipped coffee, watching the diverse parade of people passing: from fresh faced young students in groups to stylish professionals to the gypsy/hippy garbed to the addicts and homeless people talking to themselves and picking remnants of joints out of the gutter and lighting up. As the shops opened the smell of incense wafted my way. It was a strange time capsule I’d happened into, this street with alternating tie dye, water pipes, and trendy sterile clothing shops catering to the new tech-y crowd.

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What a deal!  We were seated opposite the sushi chef at lunchtime.!

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I took a few pictures and wanted to get at least one of the street people, so I did this at home today from my Iphone.

Fort Mason

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Sailor fountain pen, watercolor in 6 X 6″ handmade sketchbook

A lovely day at Fort Mason on the bay in San Francisco with artist friends started with shopping at the new Flax store, picking out art papers.

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Lunch at Greens Restaurant, where you look out on the bay while eating lovely seasonal vegetarian faire that is presented like a painting.  What do you sketch in a restaurant but the people, starting with the person across from you. The food disappears too quickly!

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Next we enjoyed The Forty Part Motet, a sound installation by Janet Cardiff at SF MOMA.  Forty speakers in a large circle, each the recording of a single voice in a choir. As you walk around the room, the person-height speakers, seem to take on the qualities of the voices coming from them. This is “church music” to make your spine quiver and soul take flight, as you stand as if in the midst of the choir.

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Next door is the Interval Bar and Cafe, a great place to stop for coffee before heading north across the Golden Gate toward Sonoma Co.  It took a while till we could figure out this place (not sure I have yet).  Home of the Long Now Foundation supporting long term thinking and the 10,000 year clock, and the most fascinating coffee shop/bar I’ve ever been in. The girl with the antler ears was sitting in a leather cushioned booth.  I wanted to stay all afternoon looking at the steam punky/futuristic decor and sketching.

I’m loving my new fountain pen and taking advantage of reading the tutorial on all matters fountain pen-wise on Liz Steele’s blog. I had no idea there was so much to learn about using a fountain pen.  For instance, using the pen at different angles, how to hold the pen for calligraphy versus for sketching and so much more!

The Season Change

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The harvest was in, the hay baled, the wood stacked for winter heat. New color was popping up in the mountain landscape. I was wearing my jacket most of the day, and the wind often howled restlessly at night.

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Our neighbor up the road invited us into his field to harvest walnuts. Nazzareno is 86 yet scrambles up the hillside like one of his sheep. He didn’t want our help!  He wanted us to enjoy his walnuts, cracking one after another in his hand and transferring them to us to eat.

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We were invited up to his house for a drink, and got to meet his smiling wife Mevia!  Oh how I wished I had studied my Italian before this trip!

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One of the residents, Anne, is working on a video/poetry project about the Vite Maritata, the agricultural method that is no longer in use, except in some areas like Mount Subasio.  The grape vine is trained to grow up a tree which it uses for support.  Anne took me on a tour of the tree/vines, some of which live on the residence property.

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My last day I walked to the waterfall down the mountain, part way with Nancy and Deb, feeling the bitter sweet of endings soon to come. Humor saved us from becoming maudlin as Mr. Tree appeared. Humor and art had served us all month. . .

. . .along with Marina and her family, who seemed to work non stop. Her mother Adria kept the house pristine and immaculate. After serving homemade breakfast pastries and local specialties of the season on linen table cloths, she would hang the laundry on outside lines where our sheets would pick up sweet mountain scents. Enzo (the father) would stop by each day to chop wood, harvest walnuts and more. The art of wood collection and arranging became the art of photography as we residents greedily recorded it.  Poetry and paintings sprouted like wildflowers in fertile ground, and a simple moment of conversation could bloom into nature metaphors and the tinkling laughter of connection with the trees, the Italians, Americans, Dutch, Aussies and anyone else who wanted to share this mountain magic.

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That’s my story.  It was time to pack up the art supplies, say my goodbyes and head back to California.

Medieval Games

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A 50 minute drive on windy mountain roads led to Gualdo Tadino, a town on the side of a mountain and its Medieval Festival parade and games. Climbing steeply up from the parking lot we joined the crowds lining the parade route. Every aspect of medieval life was represented from nobility and merchant class to peasants, from Ottoman rulers to Genghis Khan.  From a towering witch-like character and the dreadful bodies dead from the plague, to beekeepers,winemakers, and weavers.  Gods and goddesses, witches and Devils and holy men and women. Squads of drummers and horn players of different ages.

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The costumes were made of silks and brocades, velvets and real furs, and invisible structures holding up impossibly large hats. Everyone was participating in some way, and the excitement was infectious.

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One of my favorite floats here.  I assume she is the plague and these guys sprawled out are the victims?

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Donkey races followed and were watched with as much suspense as soccer games.

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Go, Green and Yellow Team!

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