#tubbsfire

Kevin’s house

It all started with the article in the Press Democrat showing Bettina and Carole and I sketching out on the streets of Coffey Park, that famously unfortunate neighborhood of fleeing souls that lost 1200 homes in one night in last October’s firestorm in Santa Rosa, CA.

Sasha saw the article and contacted us to see if we could do a similar “fire story sketch” of  Kevin’s (her fiance) home that burned that night.  The idea was to try to do something showing the passage of time.

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I started by sketching what was the present moment of the new home coming up on a street which was busy with construction.

Of all the neighborhoods in Santa Rosa that burned in that fire, Coffey Park is way ahead in efforts to rebuild. You can see the Coffey Strong signs everywhere that express a kind of neighborhood “united we stand” sentiment that has proved to be so vital to the spirit of healing and renewal.

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Sasha wanted another sketch showing the possession that Kevin was the most distressed to lose in the fire – his shiny new red motorcycle! Luckily she had a photo of the motorcycle before and after, as well as a before the fire photo of the house. I was able to combine all three in this rendering.

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Sasha invited me to come after work to see how the house was coming along, meet Kevin, give them the sketches, and watch the Coffey Strong neighbors greeting each other for their “walk the neighborhood” and potluck gathering.  There were smiles and hugs and picture taking and exchanges of information about how the construction is going, decisions that are being made, etc. It felt like the kind of survivor’s club I’d want to be a member of.

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Kevin and Sasha are told the house will be finished by Christmas. I sure hope Kevin has a motorcycle under the tree!

Sketching Climate Stories

Next weekend I’ll be participating in “Sketching Climate Stories” at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The Bay Area urban sketching groups are joining together to document the  Climate Summit and the people who are coming to it. We’ll be doing portraits in pictures and words, telling the stories of how individuals and their communities have been affected by climate change—and how they’re working on solutions.

2 Interview/sketch pieces, 8.5X11″, pen, water soluble pencil, w/c on w/c paper

So I got together with my sketch buddies this week to practice interviewing and sketching in pairs. The three of us had lots to relate about how Global Warming is affecting our community here in the post-Tubbs fire era.

Bettina’s comment: “The threat of fire was always more theoretical before . .now the danger can’t be ignored. It’s right on our doorstep!” could have been made by just about anyone here in the Santa Rosa and other areas. And when asked what she is working on, Carole responded that she is using her art to “bring awareness to social issues like Climate Change”.

And if you’re looking for ways to do the same, read on here.

We’ll be starting at the Rise for Climate march on Sunday and dropping in on different events and actions during the week. We have applied for press credentials to do sketch reportage of the GCAS events in the Moscone Center.

The main groups involved are the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers, a chapter of the international Urban Sketchers organization, with 220 chapters around the world, and SF Sketchers, a San Francisco-based meetup group with nearly 3,000 members.

We will be posting our sketches online in the blog SketchingClimateStories.org (currently under construction), a Facebook group, Sketching Climate Stories and on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #sketchingclimatestories.

The sketches themselves will be shown at several locations during the week, including a popup show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on their Green Thursday evening. We are planning a larger show of all the sketches after the Summit and are considering ways that the climate stories could evolve into a long-term project, documenting the effects of climate change on frontline communities. (I would add here, that one of the frontline communities will be here in Sonoma County where we’ll be commemorating the first anniversary of the Oct 2018 firestorms this year with events by many local groups.)

Here are Inks to currently scheduled events (this will change as more events are added)

Practice session at Arch Art Supplies, September 1

Reportage sketching at the march on September 8

Popup show of the sketches at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Green Thursday, September 13

It’s all pretty exciting and constantly evolving. Feel free to contact me if you wonder how you can get involved, either in the S.F. event or in October for our Sonoma Co. events.

 

“Sketch Artists Capture Coffey Park!”

We made it to the front page of the paper! A treat to wake up to this:

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The online version here is easier to read and features lots of sketches, Carole Flaherty’s, Bettina Armstrong’s and mine.

Many thanks to the members of the award winning (a Pulitzer prize no less!) Press Democrat team of reporter Robert Digitale and photographer Beth Schlanker for adding this story to their ongoing series about the recovery of Coffey Park, the Santa Rosa neighborhood destroyed by the Tubbs fire.

And here’s page two:

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Carole, Bettina and I agree that this kind of on location sketching is always heart opening and healing for us as much as any people we meet along the way.

“When there’s something that touches our hearts like this, there’s just more in it.” -Carole Flaherty

Color Comes Back to Coffey Park

I was anxious to get back to do another sketch of Coffey Park this week, and managed to make two more trips with my sketch buddies.

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direct watercolor in my new handmade sketchbook, 9X15″ Fluid 100 paper

I’m still working with the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge. I wanted to capture the effect of homes going up here and there without much detail and that seems to work well with the direct w/c approach.

While we were sitting there we met 1) the owner of the house I’d sketched last week and got to hear some of his story and 2) a reporter and photographer from our (Pulitizer prize winning!) Press Democrat paper. Exciting stuff, this sitting in the dirt by the side of the road with bulldozers driving by!

So today we were back again for another eventful morning, which started with greeting the carpenters who were having a nutritious breakfast together before working on framing in a house.

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I was immediately struck by how colorful the construction scene was. The bright orange ladders and outhouse, the yellow cords and blue helmets and neon striped vests. Moving up closer to be in the tiny bit of shade available, I also got close enough to hear a lesson in construction and the easy banter of the workmen, punctuated by drills and hammers.

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Meanwhile I was sketching like mad, because the press had arrived to hear our story. How did we get the idea to sketch the fire stories and to keep doing it for months?

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Carole told her story, here with Robert Digitale. . .

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And Bettina told hers, and of course I told mine. And as always happens when we’re sitting out in the dirt on our little stools, we met more people who had their own stories. A man holding his granddaughter walked up to take a peek. He was the owner of the home I was sketching. He recognized my name and I recognized him as my son’s 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Borbe. And there it was, the fresh pathos of a respected and loved man who had lost his home in the fire. Sigh. Even so, he was all smiles. This is what is meant by Coffey Strong!

And then speaking with the photographer Beth, I got a peek at what it was like to drive into Coffey Park on the night of the inferno, to drive past the road blocks, showing their press badges, to have their own fire fighter suit to wear as they encountered that red-hot story.

The last bit of pathos came as I showed the sketches to the carpenters and heard what it is like for them to see what they’ve seen and live daily with it. The up side is getting to actually contribute something so tangible as a new home to people who lost theirs. But coming so close to the stories of loss takes its toll. One of the guys had to stop mid-sentence to staunch the flow of feeling coming on so strong.

And as I remember this day I feel the lump in my throat and the burning in the eyes returning. . .and I can’t wait to get back to more sketching. Funny thing, that.

 

Coffey Park is Coming Back!

It’s been a while since I’ve been out sketching the firestorm and aftermath story. But the timing was right on Tuesday and we headed out to see what we would find.  Not what I expected surely. Lots of building going on! Lots of homes going up. The debris removers were gone. All of the twisted up vehicles and singed barbeques were gone. And in their place, lumber, and pipes, and carpenters with tool belts. I found a small patch of shade and jumped in!

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watercolor and pen on 9 X 15″140lb CP Arches paper

I’ve gotten tired of the paper one finds in  ready-made sketchbooks, so I’m trying out a system of working on signatures of paper cut to size and later to be bound in books. Bob has signed on to do the binding (after the fact) since he has all the equipment and know-how. Lucky me! I actually do not like this Arches paper for sketching. It’s too hard and too textured, so you have to work too hard to get the paint down. So I ordered the paper I love, which is Fluid 100 paper made by Hand book Co. (Global arts). And that’s what I’ll be using, not this hard stuff. However I really like this size which can either be 9X7.5″ portrait or opened up to full spread at 9X 15″, which is about the size I can manage if I have 30-60 minutes to sketch. I’ll share the whole set up once I get it figured out and more importantly, tried out!

I must say the mid day visit to Coffey Park was good for my spirits. The carpenter reading the blueprints in the right hand corner helps to tell the story of a community which has a chance for a brand new life. I’m anxious to go back and even breathe in all the exhaust from trucks and construction to enjoy the spirit of renewal. It’s been a rough few months since the fire for these folks who lost their homes.

 

Sentinels of the Fire

I was worried that when I got the time to stop by Paradise Ridge Winery again, where the tasting room and wine making facility were burned in the Tubbs fire, that these tanks would be cleared away. Yet there they stood, silent sentinels before the charred trees, . If only they had voices to speak of what happened that fateful night last October.

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fountain pen and watercolor in a grey toned Stilman + Birn 9 X 12″ sketchbook

Of course I took a bit of artistic liberty here to portray them as I saw them, like comrades at arms, standing together for solidarity during and after the firestorm. You can see the green of the meadows peaking through, and the miraculous return of foliage. The vineyard below has also leafed out, portending an excellent season of winemaking.

sentinels2

fountain pen and w/c in Field Watercolor Journal 7 X 10″

This sketch I did first on site recorded another aspect of the story. In the post-fire clean up efforts, the crushed grapes were emptied in a pile in the foreground, another colorful metaphor for the destruction. My sketch ended up looking too “clean”, which is why I opted next for the grey toned paper (above) I’ve been mostly using for sketches of the burn.

I hope to get back for more sketching at Paradise Ridge. They are busy working on a building to serve as a tasting room that may be open this summer. The grounds are so alluring, with sculptures still standing like eternal guardians.

To see my other sketches from Paradise Ridge see this post.

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