travel sketches


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.


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.


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.


They looked like they were either dueling or kissing!


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!


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


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.


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!


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



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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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!


Not a bad seat for viewing and listening!


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!


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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


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!)


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


and the sun came out for a while!


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.


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


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.


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?!


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.


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

A long weekend in San Francisco


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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!


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.


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!