watercolor sketch

Quan Yin

When we moved from our home in California we left behind the garden statues of Buddha and Quan Yin, because it didn’t feel right to disturb the nature sanctuaries that had grown up around them. They would continue to protect and bless the land that we’d come to love so dearly, and the new owner was delighted to have them.

Our new garden is a wonderland that we have “inherited” and yet it had no statuary or bird feeders, -houses, -bath or garden art. But luckily we found a garden statuary place in nearby Lacey and brought home our own goddess of compassion to preside over the fountain in the back yard. Quan Yin is known as the One Who Sees and Hears the Cry from the Human World and her presence is gentle and healing. She stands now in the shade of a tree with round, coin like leaves that rustles in the breezes.

pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn sketchbook

I finally tore myself away from the endless tasks of “getting situated” in a new home and brought my sketchbook out to Quan Yin and the waterfall fountain. As usual I took on more than I should have in the sketch, but I really want to practice the water and rocks and flowering plants and trees that are such a delight! “Do it every day!” I said to myself. That’s always the way to learn.

view from the gazebo

True confession: I haven’t started the daily sketch regime yet. But several times a day I spend some time picking blueberries, watering the tomatoes, watching bunnies and picking flowers. Also all phone calls with friends happen here in the gazebo, like yesterday when I caught this moment that just struck me as so colorful! It begs to be sketched.

Thanks to all of you who let me know you visit this blog and follow along. I can add you to the faces of friends I “talk” to in the blog. I loved getting reactions to the purple boating hat in an earlier post and reassurances about getting over the hard parts of moving. The meeting-with-Bronka story engaged some folks in the practice of walking to stay young! When I know someone is paying attention to whether I stick to the sketch-a-day pledge, then it’ll happen! That’s human nature for you. And it’s even better if you join me!

Like a vacation, only it’s not

It is a strange experience. It feels like I’m on vacation. You know, finding your way around a new town, meeting new people, and everything is a bit of an adventure. Oh, and it’s summer and sunny and warm every day and lots of people here are on vacation, because this is a summer vacation destination. 

But it’s for keeps. So every new person you meet is a potential new friend or has a vital piece of information you are going to need about living here. And every new thing you learn brings you that much closer to being settled, comfortably.

downtown Olympia street fair

This weekend we headed to town for the first of a summer long Saturday afternoon event called LoveOly, a street fair with performers and a beer garden and dancing and activities and entertainment for children. As I posed in the (social media highlight) spot I realized that it’s just a really good idea, when moving to a new home town, to make a conscious decision to love it. So there I was, proclaiming it! (and now it will be social media-ed!) And I’ll be back for future Saturday’s to sketch the action from one of the shady spots I scoped out.

Then I got an invitation from the one art friend I had in Olympia, Jane Wingfield, to join her for sketching at the Farmer’s Market the next day. And her group of local urban sketchers showed up, a friendly and enthusiastic group! 

South Sound Urban Sketchers at the Farmer’s Market

Bob showed up to take the picture and meet folks before we did our shopping for local produce and some culinary herb plants for my herb-garden-to-be.

Oly Farmer’s Market, fountain pen and watercolor in Stillman + Birn sketchbook

They tell me about the long gray winters here but it’s hard to imagine, with these long summer days that are sure to make the vacation last a bit longer.

The Fourth

It was kind of a joke on us that we moved up to the northwest coast to get away from the heat/drought/fires and arrived just after a a week of downpour and in time for a historic heat wave. What could we do but use some of that cardboard we’d brought with us to cover some windows and keep the hottest part of the sun out. 

It was one of those worrisome global warming shocks, but the nature here in our yard at least seems to have recovered quite nicely. The bunnies that went underground for a few days are back munching the grass in the yard and the hydrangeas are blooming again above their crisped leaves. And my basket is still overflowing with flowers. 

My friend Shambhavi from Seattle visited over the weekend and we took our sketchbooks out to Tumwater Falls.

watercolor in Stillman and Birn sketchbook

There were lots of families out on the trail around the falls and one particular group was proud to show off their patriotic attire.

I’m not particularly a fan of July 4th, but I sure appreciated their style and spirit. When evening came we got to experience another kind of holiday fervor. . .fireworks, which by the way were outlawed here this year due to the recent heat wave that elevated risk. Ahem. You wouldn’t know it from my neighborhood. There were all kinds of sizzles and pops and airborn light shows going off in all directions. Who needs to go to a public display when you can just stand on your sidewalk and gape.

Departure and Arrival

Golly, has it been only 10 days since I last posted?!! More like a lifetime ago. Now I know why all my friends were sending encouraging comments to help me weather this move. No matter how positive it is, it is a severe jolt to the system. The best metaphor for the experience is that of squeezing awkwardly down the birth canal.  Leaving the comforts of the womb for a sudden arrival and realizing. . . there’s no going back now! Gulp.

I promised myself I would not stop making art through the move and packed all kinds of fun materials. But honestly, what was I thinking?! Too ambitious, at least for this first couple weeks. So I’ll just take you along as I like to do after I’ve traveled – with a few pictures to satisfy curiosity and tell a tiny bit of the story that is unfolding each minute.

the 80 foot monster truck

June 15 the driver of the monster truck decided not to try parking in front of our home in the country, so the movers loaded everything onto a smaller truck and ferried three entire loads over to a spot on River Rd. to move it again into the big one.

the garden on moving day

The garden posing for a last memory. Friends on the street were stopping by to say goodbye all day. 

Andrew says goodbye

Andrew filling his eyes with the view we’d enjoyed for 21 years, since he was 8 yr. old.

the studio emptied out of all but the floor splatters!

I know, this is a hard one to look at. But I guess it’s part of the moving on process. Art and the comradeship of making it has not ended. The Muse group has a life of its own which has grown outside the boundaries of these walls. Brave words from me as I allow myself to feel the loss as well.

Olympia city harbor, view of the Olympic range.

We arrived in Olympia just after a significant rain. Sunny and warm. The right kind of weather for a vacation and for moving in. But I’ll admit we had been looking forward to rain after months of drought and elevated temperatures in California. Now we face a record breaking heat wave. Did we bring it with us?

the view in the opposite direction from the harbor tower of the marina and Washington Capital building

We moved into the Doubletree Inn on the harbor for a week’s wait until we could move into our new home. Time to explore the city and pretend we were on vacation.

And I did one quick sketch just before sunset, staring into the setting sun. It felt so good to finally get the watercolors out!

fountain pen and w/c Stillman + Birn sketchbook

Stay tuned for more pics of this quirky town (and I mean that is a positive way!) with more than its share of natural beauty!

RR Square

It was a glorious Saturday at RR Square in Santa Rosa and everyone seemed to be “out”. I was there with so many of my sketch friends for the first meet up since before the pandemic. Local friends, friends from the Bay Area, former students, brand new sketchers . . . and then all those folks who are always drawn to people putting brush to paper out on the street. 

water soluble pencil and watercolor in Field Watercolor Journal

Windy was one of the people who stopped by, and then stayed to pose and tell us about her travels.

I followed friends over to the old graffiti covered brick facade west of the RR track and got that sudden immersion in street traffic noise and pedestrian walk-bys of the kind that one takes for granted as an on-location urban sketcher. A bit of a shock for this pandemic-stay-at-home-and-sketch-from-the computer artist of the past year. Fast and dirty, and it felt wonderful!

I got busy talking to friends though and got behind on sketching. For one, Richard Sheppard, friend of many years who is also moving away, and will be greatly missed by this community! And dear people with whom I share memories. . . Anyway I was too late to try to make out those building structures across the street from the Furniture Depot, so I populated my visual space with friends and got some paint on it. A supremely satisfying day!

If you are interested in joining a sketch group in Sonoma County you can ask to join the Facebook group Ready, Set Sketchers

RR Square’s Charlie Brown, painted by me in 2006

My memories of making art in RR Square go back years. The RR Square Charlie Brown statue I painted back in 2006 still stands at 4th and Davis St. You’ll find more about its creation here on my blog

Mission Accomplished!

We have a new home in the Pacific Northwest! Last week, about ten days into my Washington state odyssey, just when I was feeling a touch of despair at soon being “homeless”, we found an Olympia property that we fell in love with. When I say “we” I mean me, and my husband Bob (at home here in Sebastopol and with me on Facetime), and my dear friend Janet who was with me every step of the way, driving me around, helping me with sanity checks, while we explored the area with walks in the woods and on the beaches. And then there was our tireless realtor Connie, whose energy in this thoroughly nerve wracking endeavor never flagged. Our offer was accepted and we move in June!

My best estimate is that moving takes up 95% of ones mental real estate for weeks/months, and possibly a larger percentage of physical energy! For three days after our offer was accepted I took an average of two naps a day. So in between naps and phone calls to arrange details, I would pick up my brush and paint a bit. One day I even walked to a park across the street to sketch a “living table” for a half hour!

watercolor and pen in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook

And then a couple more portraits. . .

watercolor on beige toned paper

My weariness shows here! I couldn’t bring myself to finish the clothing!

watercolor and white gouache on beige paper

(Both portraits from pictures posted on the Sktchy app)

And now I’m home in Sebastopol again, enjoying the spring garden explosion, looking forward to seeing friends, and little by little packing and clearing. Will it never end? Ah, but yes!  Now I can see the end and am breathing deep again.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! The blog isn’t going anywhere and I hope you’ll stay with me.

Kortum Trail

From my house, heading east, this week you’ll need sunglasses, not just because of the sunny days but because nature is yelling  Yellow! at the top of its lungs. Yellow against the black vines; yellow against the violet mountain backdrop, yellow yellow yellow! Mustard, oxalis, acacia, daffodils. . .like it’s been saving up for this season’s festival of yellows.

And if you travel instead west from here you run into the beach. That’s where Andrew and I were last week for a rare break from. . .well, I’ll get to that in a minute. We walked along the bluff above Shell beach and found this lovely spot which we had to ourselves for an hour of sketching and picnicking. There was less yellow and more blue!

Andrew on his perch above the ocean!

We were taking a break from the gardening and house painting and clearing out of things for the important project of getting our house ready to put on the market this spring. The plan is to move north to the Puget Sound area in Washington. Leaving our beautiful home and art studios and nature refuge after 21 years is a big deal, as you can imagine.

Through this pandemic I have realized that distance is not an insurmountable obstacle to friendship. It is no obstacle to reading a blog, and I plan to continue art-ing and blogging indefinitely. There may be longer gaps in my posting frequency at times when I’m actually “on the move”, but not for long. So I plan to take you with me, through the excitement and uncertainty, and the impossible goodbyes to a place I have come to love passionately for its people, nature and (for the most part!) climate.   I hope you’ll hang in there with me!

Landscapes of near and far

. . .just to get the sketchbook and watercolors outside in nature,

to set up the three legged stool and have it sink into the soft forest bed,

to use the lap as a table and the eyes as a sponge to soak up the shapes and colors of the trees and plants,

to forget that it’s just a bit too cold in the shade,

to remember to include what is of greatest interest before you,

to know that you will not forget it when it goes into the sketchbook

where it will always be there to fire off distinct sensory memories of those moments along a trail on a winter afternoon. . .

The sketchbook rarely comes along on nature walks these days. The walks are more about exercise and contemplation. But for a change, last week, a stop along a trail. . .at a complex forest scene, as seen looking down into a ravine from a distance . . .

watercolor, Gray Fox ink, white gel pen in field watercolor journal 8 x 8″

While on an earlier page of the sketchbook, a precious memory from a trip to Ireland four years ago:

Painted from one of my photos taken on the trip. It made me remember how much I loved being there, in a way that will never leave me, and surely bring me back one day.

 

Golden Mushrooms

These are not chanterelles, but what are they? The bigger ones are about 6 inches across and they don’t look very edible. I keep promising myself to learn my mushrooms! I did try to look these up and in the process discovered that there are a great many different types of mushrooms that are the psychedelic variety, not that I would ever want to explore them without expert guidance!

But equally exciting in my studio garden right now is the exceptionally large return “crop” of pipevine, which is a tangled mass on the iron trellis right now with hundreds of fuzzy buds which will soon pop open with those glorious Dutchmen’s pipes. And then next month, the return of the pipevine swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs.

But back to mushrooms – I have been recording them in different media for years now. Here’s a couple of earlier posts, featuring crinkled Masa paper and monoprint/collage/stamps: January 2011 and December 2018

Riverfront

I do so love a spot in the sun on a winter day, and with a sketchbook and a view. Riverfront Park was not the busy spot it’s been lately, with scores of families and their dogs. Not midday on a weekday. So after a walk through post-rainy day mud, as well as drier places on the trail, it was time for a sit-down in the sun with a smashing view of the water.

and time to get some details of vegetation and water reflection and finish a sketch on location. Just the kind of activity to serve as an antidote to pandemic and insurrection pandemonium!