Out at the West Bay Marina last week with Jan, warming ourselves in comfortable spring temperatures with mostly sun and those show-off-y clouds. We were almost at water level on the dock, and with Tugboat Annies and the kayaks behind us. I loved the shape of these mostly white buildings, the reflections and the sky and forest backdrop. There was so much more of both sky and water I wanted to get in, but ran out of space after getting the building geometry in. Always better to leave more space for these exciting skies! Next time.
More of my student work today, this time from Etchr Studios workshops where a lot of my favorite urban sketchers are offering classes. I met Pedro Loureiro a few years ago during the International Symposium of Urban Sketchers in Portugal. He’s a master of reportage (visual journalism) and capturing people in lively scenes. One of his Etchr courses, which you can watch on demand, is Humans in Action: Figures and Gestures in Ink and Watercolor.
(The artwork posted here is my student work)
This is a scene I probably would never have tackled, but Pedro breaks it down into foreground, mid ground and background; simplifying, suggesting rather than detailing, and sticking to more neutral color choices to unify. No pencil here. Students were asked to just pretend we were actually on location with all the movement and visual/kinesthetic/auditory/aromatic inputs and keep the pen moving! Watching his pen move across the paper in flowing motions was ample inspiration to give it a try!
In another workshop with Pedro I discovered my achilles heal. My perceptual capabilities break down when I have to switch from foreground figures to tiny people in the distance. (Only part of that can be attributed to my poor distance vision, haha!) Surely it’s a matter of practice. I didn’t recover from the urge to toss this paper in the trash until I added watercolor. Focusing on patterns of light and shade on the figure is the speediest way to render a figure in motion.
This scene is the sort I love to sketch. With such a clear figure as star of the show the question is how to include figures in the background as supporting actors. By simplifying them with simple line, no detail and neutral color washes they add interest without distraction.
The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a protected estuary at the southern end of the Puget Sound where river meets sea, birds flock and salmon run and nature lovers can walk way out into the estuary on a long boardwalk. My friend Jane and I were there on a cold and windy but gloriously sunny Sturday. The meadows were densely populated by Canadian geese and the parking lot was full.
After a bracing walk onto the open area of the boardwalk we entered the forest by the river to enjoy the dense fall foliage and sketch the play of light and shadow.
The boardwalk through the forest created the light and shadow patterns necessary to make visual sense of this dense forest scene. With nowhere to sit and get this view, I leaned myself up against the railing, sketchbook braced in the my arm, and got the pen moving! Luckily I’d brought clips and a water brush and mini-palette which attaches with a magnet to the clip. Otherwise it might all have ended up on the forest floor!
The punctuating sound effects of hunting season were intermittant and disturbing. It was hard to tell how far away the shots were, but not so hard to imagine the poor unwitting targets.
Tired after finishing the ink sketch, I sat down on a bench across the way to rest my legs and eat some chocolate. In moments a gray squirrel had hopped up on the bench and boldly approached me with obvious intent!
I took a picture of course, thanking him for his attention, but stopped short of offering my chocolate. Wouldn’t you agree that salted caramel dark chocolate is a rather extravagent offering for this little fellow who stays healthy eating acorns I imagine? But I suspect he probably wouldn’t have agreed.
A couple weekends ago I got invited to a concert with The Duo Quartet (Nina Gerber, Chris Webster, Pam Delgado, and Jeri Jones) on the grand shady lawn of the Davis’ family. We arrived after it had started and grabbed a seat at the back. Not the best place to see the musicians, but excellent for listening and grooving on the lyrics and tunes of this dynamic foursome of kick ass women! Like I want to be cool like them when I grow up.
So, peeping between the heads of the people in front of me I managed to see enough to get something down in an old toned sketchbook I started back in 2015. A bit of white gouache at the end perked it up a bit. The audience was mostly grey haired and groovy and appreciating, like me, this brand of folksy rock n roll with lyrics you could relate to, or at least remember what it was like back when the hormones were raging.
It’s eerily quiet around our house today. I mean there’s still the usual birdsong and occasional car, but no cocky bird fellow pecking and crowing throughout the day. I must admit I miss Mr. Peckerdoodle a bit, even though we spent days trying to locate his owner and then when we couldn’t, stalking and trying to catch him. Have you ever tried to catch a rooster that wasn’t roosting and asleep? None of the help that Google had to offer was working.
It’s not like he was unfriendly either. In fact he was frequently to be found with his beak to our front door, anticipating our company or at least our bird seed.
Finally though, yesterday morning the Hav-a-heart trap worked!
And you bird lovers, do not despair! Our gardener picked him up and took him to the ranch where he will not only be well treated but will have an instant harem of eight hens awaiting him. Bye bye birdie.
Our wine country fire evacuees are plentiful just now, 10% of the population of Sonoma County I heard this morning! I am not one of them. I am also not one of those heroic first responders. My lungs cannot tolerate smoke and I’ve been spending a great deal of time fretting and checking on friends and neighbors and just sharing stories and of course fears as the fires rage on.
I was happy to see that someone in our rural neighbor of a shared water company had found an old fire hose to attach to the simple fire hydrant which sits next to my driveway.
We’ve all been watering around our homes in hopes of preventing fires here if the wind changes directions and blows the embers our way. I could go years and not have so many conversations with my nice neighbors as I’ve had this week. I learned for instance that you can plant native plants that burn up and out quickly and then sprout again the next year! And then there’s the Scotch broom which makes for a more deadly fire.
Today I visited my friend Liz who has welcomed evacuees in her home (inside and out) so that I could meet and then sketch them. The air was more clear today thanks to winds from the north overnight so I climbed inside the pig pen with Madeline and Liam while Barbara enjoyed the sun and serene country setting.
You can also see Zoey in the picture to the left. She’s the only one who actually lives here ongoing. Barbara, in the chair, was evacuated from a senior living center which luckily did not burn (although her son’s home in Santa Rosa did) and the miniature pigs are the beloved pets of other people who needed a temporary place to house them. Normally they are actually indoor pig-pets, so these accommodations were a bit of a come down for them. But they were adapting admirably. They were not however the best models for sketching.
I spent my first few minutes trying to understand their various parts as they were in constant movement. These little pigs look more like miniature warthogs without the tusks.
They had the annoying habit of burying the parts of their body I was sketching in the straw where they were finding something delectable to eat. Nevertheless I was rapidly becoming enamored of them, particularly their gross lip smacking snorting sounds and gorgeous curly tail swishing. They really are the epitome of bad table manners when eating, which seems to be non stop and it’s hilarious! Madeline has these long white eyelashes and bright pink halter (for if you would want to take her for a walk), and Liam is small and dark and they’re both so friendly. Here’s a picture of Liam when he got interested in painting and gave my palette a good wet snort-sniff.
I wasn’t feeling particularly successful with the sketching, but thought I’d give it one more try. And after a while they actually stopped eating and got kind of mellow.
and I had more time to observe.
But once home I had try one more from a photo. My heart goes out to all the fire evacuees, but these little piggies totally stole my heart.
fountain pen and brush pen and watercolor in Strathmore mixed media sketchbook, 8 X 10″ spread
It was sizzling hot at Camp Winnarainbow in Laytonville, 2 hours north of my home in Sebastopol (northern California). The day after I got home Bob and I went to San Francisco for the day. As you can see in the picture, it was cold and windy, at least 50 degrees cooler than at Camp. I dropped Bob off for a workshop at the S.F. Center for the Book and had the day to wander and sketch. Potrero Hill was a brand new area for me to explore, so I set off with a map, not realizing that every two blocks or so I would ascend and then descend another hill.
I found these gentlemen, possibly homeless, in a small park bundled up against the cold wind and sound asleep. Rather than turn and head on, I sat down nearby to sketch the scene and contemplate their lives. . .with compassion. I have slept in parks in the daytime, clutching my purse to my breast. I have slept curled up on seats in airports with my legs wound around my luggage. It was a nice neighborhood. They would be safe there.
Sitting outside a popular restaurant on a narrow retaining wall, I had an unobstructed view of a different kind of crowd in this gentrified neighborhood. The challenge was to tell the story in a short period of time, leaving out 10 times more details than I put in. The dog was my favorite part. Luckily the wait for a table was rather long, so I had some good models!
Here I actually had a bench in the sun which was so welcome as the wind was still blowing off the sea. Once again so much detail to choose from, so I just started and worked my way around. Something I’m learning about urban sketching in S.F. is that most of the streets go abruptly up or down, like the sidewalk in this scene which disappears. I need more practice with the visual cues to quickly describe the scene.
When I’d finished the sketch I stopped in at the Open House in the residence next to where I was sitting, curious about what one could buy in S.F. for $1,150,000. A great view in a trendy neighborhood and a place to park your car off the street. Highly desirable in a city like S.F. Otherwise a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bath flat.
If you like adding watercolor to your drawings, I wouldn’t buy the Strathmore mixed media sketchbook. I like the 5.5 X 8″ size which gives you the choice to draw across the gutter if you need more space, but the paper is not sized like w/c paper so it’s harder to do washes of color. So once again I’ll be looking for the perfect sketchbook!