urban sketchers

Worm Tea at the Market

blue ink, watercolor in 5X8″ Canson Mixed media sketchbook

The past week has given us everything from rain to sleet and snow flurries and one sunny day in the 70’s. That was the day last week that we sketchers hit the Farmer’s Market, which is now open Thursday through Sunday through the spring, summer, fall season! Unaccustomed as I was to bright sunlight, I sought the shade of the building and stood for a couple sketches while the sun blindness abated. The worm man was an easy subject as he hardly moved a muscle and there were no actual live worms to wriggle.

Turning 45 degrees to the left, I had the pleasure of watching an old woman leaning against her walker and talking with a young artisan behind the jewelry counter (ran out of space and time to include her). The conversation celebrated the woman’s release from two years of Covid isolation!

Back at the picnic tables under the tent I snapped a pic of this young man enjoying a kabob and later sketched him at home after I’d eaten my own lunch.

Cold weather? Who cares?

fountain pen and watercolor in hand.book Travelogue sketchbook 8X8″

Last week I went out to the point of Budd Inlet just beyond Swantown Marina, hoping to see the Olympic range in its full snowy glory. The cloudy atmosphere was too heavy for the spectacular view that day, so I took a brisk chilly walk and brought home a photo to sketch. The figure bundled and braced for a walk in the damp cold of a Pacific Northwest winter helps tell the story of the day. 

Another day I met up with my sketch friends who are always up for something. At the South Puget Sound Community College we found shelter in the Center for Student Success building, hoping to sketch busy students. It was all but deserted by student life, due no doubt to the tide of Omicron. I sat on the second floor balcony to attempt an architectural interior sketch with one actual student in the lower reaches. This involved numerous angle intersections which taxed my three dimensional perceptual capabilities to the limit.

Meanwhile I contemplated the building name and the cruel irony that with all the comfortable chairs and quiet study spaces, there were so few students taking advantage, I assume out of caution. A challenging formula to achieve success in studies.

Another day, having had enough of serious art making for a while, I found myself pulled into a project to help create an auto wonderland for a two year old car and truck aficionado. My own portion involved traffic sign and people painting. So since it fits in with the art-life theme of this blog, I decided to share the results.

popcycle sticks, wooden “knob heads”, styrofoam, mat board and Posca Pens

I know this probably sounds weird, but one day when the sun came out, at first I was thrilled. but then I realized that sun necessarily led to going outside and away from all these fun indoor art projects. Oh my, what’s come over me!?

More Sparks Lit on Spark!

A busy city scene is probably the most challenging subject for an urban sketcher, especially for one like me who has lived in the countryside for the past two decades. But oh, I can’t resist the challenge. It would be marvelous to go out each day and practice in a busy location, but winter temps here in the Pacific Northwest are not amenable to on location sketching, especially in the time of Covid. So what better time to learn some new skills, sketching along on Zoom with people who excel at capturing the lively city! 

(The art shown here is my student work.)

Jedidiah Dore is a New York City artist and passionate urban sketcher/reportager who teaches a series now on Sketchbook Skool’s Spark platform called Creative Urban Sketching

Creative Urban Sketching with Jedidiah Dore: a street scene in New Orleans

One lesson was about editing a complex scene – deciding before putting pen to paper what should be included and what left out. And the scene was one I remembered well and loved from a sketch trip to New Orleans almost two years ago now!

Let’s Figure it Out with Jedidiah Dore

In another class titled: Let’s Figure it Out: Drawing People, we were timed and coached in a way to simulate live action scenes and draw decisively. Continuous line gestural drawing, while looking more at a subject, who will move at any moment, than at the paper. This is from Jedidiah’s photograph, but in the spirit of live action.

We all want to “get it right” and know we can’t possibly succeed at that with a moving scene. So it takes a certain practiced surrender to let go enough to set the hand loose from the thinking mind.  A lifetime of practice surely. Works for me, because it’s such a high to be able stop the mind for a while. Most sketchers would agree.

And I took another fun urban sketch class on Spark with someone whose style many of you will recognize instantly – Ian Fennelly! Lots of patterned pen work and zany watercolor washes which I dutifully tried. It’s not my style, but I wanted to play with different pens and was happy to go wild with it and even get tangled up in all the patterns. Such a fun way to tell a story of a time and place!

In the Home of the Beatles with Ian Fennelly

So much of what I’ve learned about drawing and painting and dancing and playing music has been a process of imagining myself in the body of the master . . . trying to hold a pen or leg or hand in the same way, watching and feeling and listening from the inside. Almost an Alice in Wonderland leap into another perception.

One of my current master teachers is a two year old boy across the street who soaks up everything in his environment, interacts with it, seeks to understand it with all his senses, and never seems to worry about getting it wrong. So I’ll take my cues from him, and above all keep it fun!

First Christmas (in our new home)

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you are able to be with the ones you most care about this year, one way or another. Last year we were able to be with our son Ben on Zoom, a blessing but a rather pale one compared to having him with us this year after not seeing him for two pandemic years. He had never seen our new home, his family home now, and has quickly settled in to enjoy some days with us before returning to North Carolina. 

Ben works hard as a software engineer, and also knows how to chill, and often with guitar, and often after occupying the most comfortable spot in the house – in this case our new Stressless recliner. I don’t know how many times now I have sketched him in this position in previous years. A lot.

Andrew will be joining us soon. The 1000 piece crossword puzzle is out on the coffee table and will need all of us to tackle its complexity. But first I got an interior scene sketched, to be able to pass along the holiday cheer. We must all snuggle in a bit more now, for a while at any rate, as this pandemic rages on.

Sending love and blessings and heaps of gratitude to all of you who have been joining me here. May you experience all warmth and good cheer on this holiday!

Revival Motorcycle and Coffee Co.

Motorcycles and coffee? Who would have thought that would be such a winning combination? Not a surprising one for Olympia of course. When we first landed here back in June and were staying in a hotel downtown, the only espresso place that opened earlier enough for us was a clothing store called Embers, and man! but they had the most amazing coffee served amidst the t shirts and pants. 

Fast forward to yesterday and a meet up with a handful of sketchers downtown, needing an inside place to stay warm and dry. Jane and I wandered into Revival to get, according to her, “the best decaf latte”. The front of the place has a coffee bar, maybe three tables, some retro furnishings, collector motorcycles and art. The back room has motorcycle gear, a repair shop, and lots more I know nothing about. Their motto is CHOP BUILD RESTORE CAFFEINATE.  So as we engaged in the caffeinate part, we sketched the motorcycles!

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 x 8″ w/c hand.book journal

This sketch rapidly became a lesson in motorcycle anatomy, a subject I have very little experience with. All those wires and tubes and tires at different angles, and lights and mirrors.  . . You certainly wouldn’t want to ride the one in my drawing!  But the owner was pleased that we’d come and encouraged us to return. 

the finished version with a bit more detail

With that kind of invitation and the great coffee (not to mention the cool sticker, which we sketchers always love to have!) we will definitely be back for more on another rainy day.

If you want to see Jane Wingfield’s version of the 1969 Honda CL90 Scrambler from a different angle, check out Olysketcher on Instagram!

Sitting on the Dock

The local sketchers met up at the Farmer’s Market and I headed over to the boardwalk at the harbor nearby because the weather was cool enough to sit comfortably in the sun! There were groups of children led by teen counselors in activities that must have been a summer camp.

I instantly fell in love with two sailboats sitting peacefully in the water casting colorful reflections on the water. I figured I’d have time for one of them before the scene changed. Sure enough a group of campers loaded onto the sailboats and sailed away! but not til I’d gotten enough of a start.

I still had some time before rejoining the group, and wanted to try a different approach.

From where I was sitting I could see blocks of color and lines that added up to a ship(s), trucks and cranes with containers or logs. I couldn’t see enough detail to be convincing, so opted for shapes in the abstract, finishing off with my favorite white gel pen. So much fun!

And a nice group of enthusiastic sketchers to have lunch with, and they go out weekly, at least in the summer.

Sketching Home and Virtual Travel

There are so many stories going on in the spring garden and I should be out recording them with paint and brush. There’s the Australian Tea Tree whose pink blossoms have been the stage for performances of honey- and bumble-bees for over a week now. The hum and vibration of it drowns out all other sounds. And now after the rain yesterday the pink has spilled onto the ground all around like a spilled can of rose pink paint.

But this is the scene I saw from my comfortable patio chair. The yellow jackets have not arrived yet as they surely will by summer, and then it will become impossible to eat lunch out there without getting invaded. Enjoy it while you can, right?
frontstoop

On the day when my friend Cathy was supposed to leave on her trip to Japan last week, she invited some of her friends to join her on a virtual trip.

japan1

These Zoom sketch meet ups are fun. Sketching from a photo, 20-30 min each, while chatting a bit, and then sharing afterward. (see the link below if you want to try it)

marketinkyoto

I loved all the detail in this market scene and only got one basket done in the time we had, and so finished it later. My favorite was the little ceramic frog.

So does this kind of virtual sketch travel satisfy? Well, a bit anyway. If you’re a sketcher and missing travel and maybe getting tired of sketching your kitchen sink and view out the window, there are so many ways now to explore that passion.

You might join the SF Urban Sketchers online for portrait parties and other zoom sketch events. Or join UsK Talks on Instagram every Sunday to get inspired by great teachers and join the unique challenges. And Suhita is doing live sketches on Instagram that you can tune into and sketch along with her and friends. And then there’s Sketchbook SKool still rolling out workshops, live streaming fun, books, blog and enough to keep you busy making art every  minute of the day. And that’s just the beginning. . .but don’t wear yourself out!

Jacuzzi Vineyards and the Olive Odyssey

Last Saturday it had been too long since I was out sketching on location! So I seized the opportunity with the No. Bay Urban Sketchers meet up at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards . A glorious sunny day and the special event was an Olive Odyssey! meaning tasting, tasting, tasting! (even olive iced tea!) and a mammoth crowd of bay area partygoers.

Jacuzzi1

Unfortunately due to an allergy attack I lasted only a while, doing my best to get something down on paper before heading home. But what a delight to sketch some building geometry!

Jacuzzi2

And then the noisy tasting crowd! Yes, this man on the left had wine glasses on his shirt to match the wine glass in his hand. That’s what I call a die-hard wine connoisseur! The ladies on the right were probably just as avid, but not quite dressed to impress.

Ferry Building with Oliver

My friend and fellow urban sketcher and teacher extraordinaire Oliver Hoeller is moving from SF to Austria, so I took the opportunity to join him in yet another urban sketcher workshop last weekend, in the area around the Ferry Building in S.F.

The morning was “Sketching 101”. I was interested in learning how he builds his playful and entertaining urban scenes with pen and then pimps them out with various media. (The afternoon was titled “Pimp Your Watercolors”!)

 

FerryBldg1

We were coached through the steps of growing a sketch out from the center, using added line weight to add form, textural lines and gray value pens for contrast. A musician was crooning Frank Sinatra and similar era songs with amplification all morning.

FerryBldg2

Four days later I’m still trying to get those songs out of my head! But they did find a place in the sketch. The idea with building out the sketch like this is not that you put in what you see, like a camera that you hold still. There were hundreds of people passing across this picture plane as I sat there. I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to draw them and all the palm trees!

So you pick what you like – the muscle man on his taxi bike (who disappeared after 5 min) – a couple of palm trees – a bit of obelisk and bike rentals. Enough. Next exercise.

FerryBldg5_1

After lunch we moved down the pier toward the Bay Bridge and started pimping. Here I’m trying out all kinds of stuff, sampler style: gray pen shading, splatter, textural marks, watercolors gone overboard!

FerryBldg3

2″X4″ two-color quick-y looking out at the bay.

FerryBldg5

And finally this view looking out at a (wonky) Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, and trying to incorporate as many of the tools as possible.

The workshop ended at 6pm, and most of the workshop students continued for another day. Now comes the digestion phase! Practicing, integrating, making it my own.

Although Oliver is moving, he’s promising to return to do more workshops in the Bay Area and in other locations where he’ll be traveling. If you’re interested contact him and get on his email list.

 

Sketching Fire Stories: An Exhibit

We’re just a little over a month away from the second anniversary of the deadly firestorm that traumatized the entire population of Santa Rosa and well beyond. In my household we have our emergency bag and supplies packed for a quick get away should need be. And once again Carole Flayerty and I have been asked to share our fire sketches with a community that can never forget October 2017.

SketchingFireStories-CatalogueImage

On Tuesday September 17, at 6pm the City of Santa Rosa will be hosting a public screening of Last October, a new 50- minute documentary film that captures experiences during and following the Sonoma Complex Fires from the perspective of several current and former City employees and officials who served as first responders, disaster service workers, and community leaders. A film trailer and more info is available here

The screening of the film will take place in conjunction with the art exhibit Sketching Fire Stories on display at City Hall thru October 3, 2019. Sketching Fire Stories is a year-long project of watercolor sketches that tell compelling stories of destruction and recovery in the aftermath of the October 2017 wildfires. The sketches were done on location by myself, Carole Flaherty, and others.

Carole and I will be at the event to meet the public, talk about our sketch stories and listen to others’ stories. I hope you can join us.

Location: Santa Rosa City Hall Council Chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Ave

Date: September 17, 6pm

This event is free and open to the public. For more information call (707) 543-3010 or email me.