#urbansketchers

“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

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Charlie Musselwhite in Healdsburg

The Healdsburg Plaza was packed to the gills on Tuesday evening to see and hear Charlie Musselwhite and his band. The loudspeakers were turned up loud enough to make your ears bleed. Fortunately we’d brought ear plugs, which barely muted the sound. I did my crowd sketching and dinner eating during the first hour.

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That’s Uncle Sam there, collecting for the July 4th fireworks, and Paul Mahder the art gallerist over there on the right and others stacked up overlapping which is how it goes down on the paper when you just keep the pen moving. One of these Tuesdays I’ll try to sketch Davy Crocket, the guy who always shows up in skins with fringe, coon tail cap and wooden rifle and seems to know everyone.

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It’s a bit of a conundrum where to sit and sketch the band. I certainly couldn’t sit in front like last week with the speakers cranked up all the way but the side view is not bad. Of course there were competitors for that real estate, as there always are – people grooving to the music and bumping up against me. I had 30 minutes there and held my ground! The paint came in when I got home. Oh and did I say? Charlie’s still amazing and that blues vibe goes right through to the bone marrow.

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.

 

Con Brio

Warm weather loosens one up, and a dose of music on the Plaza (in Healdsburg on Tuesday evenings) helps too. Bob and I often start out in the crowd of people in lawn chairs sipping wine and eating a picnic dinner while the performance starts. Everyone seems so relaxed. Note that in this sketch there’s no one on their cell phone!

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I was a bit too relaxed (or maybe excited) at first and managed to spill my dinner and my wine on myself before even getting to the sketching. Then the parade of people was so colorful!

Have you seen these “sippy” cups that you can put a wine glass into, so you don’t risk spilling your wine (as I did, more than once)? I bet you can find them at Costco, since everyone seems to have them now.

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The group Con Brio (with verve!) was lighting up the plaza with their music. I put in my loudness-canceling ear plugs and sat right below the stage to sketch. The charismatic lead singer danced up and down the stage, reaching out to the audience, which was going wild.

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By the end of the performance half the plaza seemed to be standing and clapping with hands in the air.

Smart Train to Novato Hamilton

After sketching the Smart Train and even teaching a workshop at the Depot at Railroad Square I finally got around to actually riding the train on Saturday! The train runs from the Sonoma County airport to San Rafael. During the week it is used by commuters and on the weekend for pleasure seekers like my friends and I. And last Saturday the train was full of people like us, and whole families taking their first ride. We took it just as far as Novato Hamilton which is where the beautiful Marin MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) with its gallery and artist studios is located.

On the train we met a young woman who commutes to her weekend job in San Francisco using train, bus, ferry, and another bus to arrive at her destination. Seems like a lot, but she has it worked out and enjoys the 2 hour commute which covers some gorgeous scenery and affords her time to relax and read her book as well. We kept her busy answering our questions til we got off.

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Direct watercolor on 140 lb CP Arches paper, 9 X 7.5″

The early California white stucco buildings at Hamilton Field’s former air force base are eminently sketchable. I started with a direct watercolor since I’m still working on the #30X30directwatercolor2018 challenge of this month. Some day I’ll master palm trees, but for now, I just really love trying.

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We had lunch at Beso, which is right next to the museum and has incredible food, then visited the museum and the Make Your Mark show, which had just opened. Then we wandered through the halls where the studio artists hang their work.

It was getting really windy and time to take the train back. We’re anxious to ride the train again. It’s especially nice to whiz in comfort by the cars clumped up and crawling along at the Novato and Petaluma “narrows”.

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Later I thought I’d give the same scene a try in a more whimsical style. If I’d tried once more I would have exaggerated even more. This version has more of the wind-blown feel.

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And then next day I had a few minutes for another direct watercolor quickie.

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.

 

Exploring Hip Brooklyn

I’ll skip over the day spent at The Met and Met Breuer because otherwise this post will get too long. But it’s worth checking out (online) the exhibits I saw  – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the dance performance of Gallim: (C)arbon, and my absolute favorite Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body. There are videos to watch and so much of the exhibits shared on The Met’s website.

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This is a scene I don’t get to sketch at home in Sebastopol! I was given a tour of Williamsburg, a hip Brooklyn scene, by Andrew and his partner Maura. Here the view of Manhattan across the river with its skyscrapers and brownstones. They even joined me for some sketching here!

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There was a bit of thrift shopping to do (by Maura) and time for a quick standing sketch of Andrew while we waited.

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and then a stop in the Levi’s store for Andrew to find some shorts. I was intrigued by 1) the new “logo” on t-shirts Button Your Fly and 2) the mannikin wearing high heals with cutoff shorts. ? ? A girl was machine embroidering patches to sew on jackets, another “latest” or is it “throwback”?

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I begged off the next shopping stop, and they left me happily sketching in an empty dog park which had a bench facing this church with the onion domes. My direct watercolor was not working out very well, when along came a woman with her dog and sat directly opposite me.grover2

I instantly abandoned my unfortunate domes and tilted the sketchbook up out of her sight of vision and drew like mad. A real authentic Brooklyn hipster, sitting still before me! I tried putting Grover in the sketch, but he was so ecstatic to be running free that he was just a blur that my model kept calling to. . .”Grover!” or was it Rover?

I must say I found the style in Brooklyn to be wonderfully free and creative. Not at all a scene where everyone was trying to look alike, but the outfits came across as artistic in that idiosyncratic way.

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Looking out through the front window of And/Or Coffee here. (I forgot to ask what the and and or referred to). We needed to linger a bit, rest weary feet, and cool off.

The sketch strategy here was a fun one. Pick the things that catch your fancy and leave out the rest. Then add selective color. There were hardly any people to distract, just a colorful slice of a city corner. I never found out what the sign “You’ve Got Nail” referred to or explored the exotic “Dilruba Grocery”.

And that’s the last of the Brooklyn sketches. Next day I hugged Andrew and Maura goodbye and was off in an Uber to Newark airport. My driver was a friendly smiling young man Andrew’s age from the mountains of Ecuador with a fascinating story I would tell if this weren’t a sketch blog!

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Back to airport sketching. Two characters sitting on the same row of seats, both on cell phones, of course. The older gentleman on the left took off his hat on the plane to reveal a yarmulka.

Well, that’s the end. Please forgive the uneven coloration on these pics. My scanner is temporarily not working. I put 95% of my sketches from the trip in this story so you might understand that travel sketching is not about making perfect little paintings but about capturing the moment in the time you have. The sketch installs the memory with all the sensory data, so you never forget. Not sure how that works, but it does! Thanks for coming along with me.