watercolor sketch

Wine Country Fire Evacuees

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.

firecountrystyle

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.

pigs5You 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.

pigs1

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.

pigs2

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.

pigs6

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.

pigs3

and I had more time to observe.

meetmadeline

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.

Advertisements

A Tania Day

My friend Tania and I have a shared passion for encountering people of all stripes. You might say it’s a social anthropological interest (that was my major in college by the way). It’s also a love-of-humanity mixed in ample proportion with a flaneur’s curiosity. Tania channels it with travel, photography and writing. She talks to everyone, often in their native language, as if they were family and they end up feeling that way. I channel this urge more quietly with sketching, blogging and some travel. When I asked if she’d like to collaborate and see what happens, she agreed, even though neither of us knew exactly what that meant.

On Tuesday morning this week I showed up at 10:30am at her San Francisco apartment and we set off to see what would happen with a day in the city. She, traveling light with her iPhone (camera), credit card and keys in her pocket, and me with a small backpack (with stool, water, etc), my over-the-shoulder art materials kit, and a 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media spiral sketch pad which I carried in hand to be ready-on-the-spot. Oh, and a waist belt pocket for my iPhone and credit card. My version of traveling light.

taniaday11

I requested a look at the Russian orthodox church where Tania and her family were members when she was growing up. When we got out of the car, parked in front of the golden onion domes of the Holy Virgin Cathedral, our eyes went immediately across the street where the colorful cathedral was reflected in the windows of the St. George Pathfinders building where Tania went as a girl scout.

As we crossed the a street a van was unloading this man to spend the day at the Senior Center next door. But instead he sat directly in front of the glass reflection. I signaled to Tania and she engaged happily with the gentleman, the driver and passers-by, providing cover while I shamelessly sat down and started sketching!

taniaday2

photo by Tania Amochaev

When I got up to leave 30 minutes later, I approached the gentleman in the picture, who had been totally silent, to thank him and show him the sketch. This brought a big, almost toothless grin at which point he rose and went silently into the Senior Center. We realized that he had actually been quietly posing for me!

taniaday3

Inside the cathedral with its ornate iconography and candlelit gravity I sat wondering how I could capture this scene. A story always seems to emerge. Tania lit candles in blessings for her deceased family members, while a cleaner was noisily scraping wax off the floor, from hundreds of candles burned in prayer. (color added later)

taniaday4

It was lunchtime so we headed off to the Cliff House. The sun had some out and we had a lovely view of the Sutro Bath ruins in our ocean side seats.

I sketched this one in pencil, a composite of different people who occupied tables as we ate, and then added some color later.

taniaday5

Next stop at 2:30 was the windmill at Golden Gate Park where I sat on the lawn in the sun and sketched madly with my brush only, knowing that the California sun is too hot to linger very long without shade or movement. Meanwhile I heard Tania’s unmistakable laughter across the lawn and saw that she had befriended a family of tourists and sent the girls over to see my sketch. This resulted in the most delightful conversation about where they had traveled, their impression of the U.S. and more!

taniaday7

photo by Tania Amochaev

I’m the one without the braid, in case you couldn’t tell.

taniaday6

Tania was showing me her favorite spots as a kid growing up in S.F. So the next stop was Spreckels Lake, an enchanting body of water filled with model yachts on the weekends. She was so disappointed when we arrived at 3:30 and a couple men were taking the last boats out of the water. All that remained were birds! So the men took pity on us and invited us to the model yacht clubhouse which housed a regatta of handsome, handmade yachts!

Once again while I sketched madly, she got the scoop about this appealing hobby and the personal story of Russ, owner of the Sugarie Bake Shop in Pleasanton, while he cradled a small boat.

What followed was a walk down the street where Tania’s family home still sits, beautifully maintained. And we dropped in on her dear family friend Montie, 90 years old and a gracious and still flirtatious, host. We left with candy and smiles. . .and headed back to the park and the Conservatory of Flowers and Dahlia Garden, where we encountered. . .

taniaday8

the Summer of Love in all its musical, turned on, tuned in mellowness. As the late afternoon sun warmed and the clouds of marijuana smoke enveloped us, the memories unspooled for these two old girls who were teens in the 60’s.

It’s probably beginning to seem more like a weekend of sketching, but it wasn’t over yet! Hungry again we headed to The Commissary, a restaurant in the Presidio, chosen by Tania for the seats at the bar where you can watch the chefs cook and plate their divine creations.

taniaday9

As we plowed into our delectable dinners we learned how a chef tests the doneness of meats, saw deserts flamed and sauces stirred and meals plated with delicate mini-veggie gardens. And because it was a Tuesday and not a busy weekend night, we got to visit with the charming executive chef Ragelio.

Thinking about our day I was actually beginning to feel a bit guilty, having this much fun. The old Protestant work ethic had kicked in. (Sketching feels more like play, even though it’s a fair amount of work!) To which Tania replied, “The work ethic ends at 65!” No wonder she’s one of my favorite people in the world to hang out with.

taniaday10

photo by Tania Amochaev

So I’ll end here. It was 8pm when we left the restaurant and I headed back to Sebastopol. But not before we got this picture. What a fun crew. If I hadn’t just retired from the Protestant Work Ethic I would have applied for a job.

A big thank you to Tania for her amazing ability to engage people of all walks of life, ethicities, and ages, and for sharing her San Francisco with me. And to all the people we met that day, who gave us smiles and the stories we will never forget.

Searching for a Story to Sketch

plaza

nib pen and ink, Japanese brush pen, watercolor on 140 HP paper in handmade sketchbook 8X10″(spread)

On a recent sunny afternoon I went looking for some sketch stories in the park.  It wasn’t hard to capture individual people, but more difficult to get the family groups that were more active.

plaza2

Sketching the line of people ordering at the bakery (while sipping coffee and eating butterscotch yum! pudding)

plaza3

And then moving to the bench out front.

plaza4

This older gentleman had a very heavy lumbering gait which I wanted to capture

plaza5

Finally a story to record!  There was something in the posturing and weight shifting of the man and the way the woman was clutching the ice cream cup to her heart which suggested flirtation.  They seemed to be enjoying it enough that I actually had at least 5 min. to sketch it!

mariegetssun

Noodlers Golden Brown ink with nib pen, sketched from a photo I took

Another day, visiting my mother in law at the nursing home.  I had picked her a rose in the garden and she was enjoying the warmth of the sun.  Later I sketched from the picture I took with my iPhone.

Sketching away the holidays


coffeeatJoes

Japanese brush pen and w/c in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, 5 X 7″

The holidays are officially over now.  Today we’ll take down our Bookworm tree and lights.  My Strathmore sketchbook, inaugurated in October, is full.  The holidays are never a time to get much larger painting done, but they are a perfect time for some quick sketches.  Here’s a sampling.

The jury is still out on which of my pens works best.  They all have pros and cons. The brush pen, which you see in these images, is the most expressive, but it puts down such a bold line (a bit scary!) and it bleeds, so you can’t paint watercolor over it. unless you want mud.

farmersmarket

In pursuit of more colorful subjects I have found the Farmer’s Market to be the most accessible.  I went to sketch motion, but ended up sipping my chai comfortably on a bench and opting for a sedentary subject who was easier to draw.


taylormaid2

More brush pen sketching at a local cafe hang out. The trick is to stay away from facial features and go for body attitude. All the shading here is the brush pen bleeding as I swipe it with a water brush.

taylormaid3

 

The guy in the foreground was literally close enough I could touch him, but he was more interested in the people ordering their coffee, especially this young lady with the cool boots!

Model on a Rotisserie

lulu2

Tombow brush pen on hot press paper

Lulu had excellent posture which never sagged, only I couldn’t deal with the idea of a straight vertical line.  I thought it unwise to tell the model to slouch, since this might not have been a problem for anyone else.  So I rotated my paper to do the sketch, then added in some other sketchers when I still had time.  The Tombow pen bleeds when you wet it, for quick and messy form shading.

lulu

Tombow brush  pen and watercolor

The model turns as on a rotisserie to face different artists each time.  Once again a ramrod straight pose.  I could almost hear a parent saying “now don’t slouch dear”. So this time I turned the paper more than once and exaggerated the form (really hard for me to do for some reason).  I loved mixing the Chinese white in with the watercolors to make them more chalky.  Nowhere near a likeness, but that was not my goal.

Figure Marathon Continued

Watercolor and w/c crayon

More quick sketches from the Bay Area Model’s Guild Marathon last weekend.  In these 5-10 minute sketches I painted some watercolor wetly onto the surface to get started, then drew into it with w/c crayons.

Here, a second little swipe of color to define the shorts, but taking care not to overdo. . .which is my tendency.

Watercolor wash, Derwent dark wash pencil

The model is taking her clothes off over her head.  I left the ambiguity there, but had to paint in the red bra, which she was wearing.  She also had black and white striped stockings!

And one last sketch (below), I started with the two slashes of watercolor, with some loose idea about joining the two figures, then sketched them in with my Uni-ball pen. The hot slash of color across the woman could refer to her reaction to him or possibly how he sees her!  Definitely some connection here!