watercolor sketch

Beatles Night in Sebastopol

It was the first time back in the Sebastopol Community Center after the flood that put it out of commission. I arrived after the performance had begun and was greeted by a wall of sound. Joyous voices singing – not hymns – but hippie anthems written by our beloved Beatles!

The Love Choir was belting out the tunes accompanied by Mr. Music and Moon Puppy (aka David Klotz) and others. They seemed to take up at least a quarter of the space in the hall, dressed in exaggerated hippy attire. It was a spectacular Baby Boomer convention.

At first I was seeing it all through the eyes of my teenaged self who vowed to never get old! But these folks were old (chronologically)  – oh yeah, like me. But like me, young at heart. So I guess maybe some of us actually were sort of able to keep that promise made 40-50 years ago?

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Soon a good portion of the audience was dancing, while I just kept sketching like mad. You know, that oneweek100people2019 sketch challenge still ringing in my ears! And I kept running into friends . It was the kind of event that, although you maybe know about 1% of the people, the remaining 99% are ready to act as if they’d known you for years. That’s Sebastopol for you – “All you need is love. . .oowaoowaoooooo!” A bunch of flower children still. Gotta love it!

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As I left that night, listening to the music pouring out of the hall, it felt like I was going home from a high school dance. I mean really, do we ever totally outgrow high school?

 

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On Becoming a Nature Nerd

I spent that gorgeous day yesterday out on the Las Galinas Wildlife Ponds with John Muir Laws and a bunch of nature nerds. It’s OK to say that because Jack (John) told us to approach our nature explorations and journaling like a nature nerd and he should know. In case you don’t know him, he’s the author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and other nature journaling guides, and the founder of the Nature Journal Club here in the Bay Area.

So what does it mean to be a nature nerd?  Well, it’s things like data collection: location/date/weather. It’s walking along a trail and looking for something weird, something that tweeks your curiosity. It’s not just making pretty colored pictures, but writing down your thinking about what you’re observing.

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What I love about this approach is that you don’t have to know the names of the plants and animals or be able to identify the bird calls. You draw and describe what you see and hear and your questions and guesses, and it’s all in the service of being there in your experience of “the wild”. Like those red patches on the red winged blackbirds that look like military medals or epulets. Or the ole coot dunking his head up and down while fishing, and that sound like an “ow, ow”. Was that the ole coot complaining?

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If I had been there alone i would have drawn the familiar outline of the sleek black cormorants lined up on the pipe. But Jack and the other bird watchers were there with their fancy tripods and telescopes and I got to see what a truly exotic bird this common bird of California wildlands is, with its hooked beak and orange face, electric blue mouth and lavishly patterned back! And then they were doing the orange gular pouch flutter and double crested fluff-up of the mating dance. All that can’t be seen without binoculars of course, and you can’t draw what you can’t see!

The young night heron however was quite visible from the path and not inclined to move. While sketching him/her I couldn’t help imagining that the mother had given strict instructions for him to stay put until she came back.

lasgalinas3 Here’s the setting where Jack is showing us an example of how to draw a quick map of the area and use symbols to illustrate different types of wildlife. Along with the usual Marsh wrens, egrets, geese, ducks and cormorants there were spottings of otters and maybe even an orange tailed weasel?

If you want to be on the email list to find out about these outings and courses, go to the Nature Journal Club, and maybe I’ll see you there some time.

 

Occidental Fools Parade

Tomorrow is Fool’s Day of course. But you’ll have to wait til next Saturday to celebrate Occidental-style with the annual Fools Parade. This is some of the best sketching of the year with many of the townspeople dressing up as the fools (I am sure they are not) and parading down the main street of town, accompanied by the Hubbub Club marching band and lots more foolery.

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Whether or not you want to dress up as some kind of fool and march in the parade, or just come and gawk and sketch, you are invited to join me and others for a sketch meet up. Here’s the details:

Details

Join in the fun of this whimsical tradition where families in this picturesque town in the redwoods dress up as “fools” and parade their silly way down the main street in town, ending at Occidental Center for the Arts.  Experience extreme frivolity, bands, music, crowning of the King and Queen of Fools, Lunapillar rides and more!

Meet at noon in the parking lot of the Occidental Community Center to sketch people getting ready for the parade, which starts at 1pm. Walk in the parade while sketching, or sit on the street and watch. To sketch people in costume, there’s no better setting. (Some sketchers will be in costume too.)

The Hubbub Club band will provide live music, and there will be food of course. It’s all totally foolish and fun. What better excuse do you need to get out of the city and go exploring in Sonoma county?

There are people to direct traffic and help with parking nearby.

I will be there in my tutu at noon and later walking in the parade. We can meet back in the same parking lot of the Community Center after the parade to see presentations by Zero the Clown and others on the Podium of Impossibility and share sketches after that, around 2:30 or 3 behind the Community Center where the bleachers are.

See sketches from an earlier year’s parade here 

Meet you there?! Contact me if you have questions.

On the Slopes (of San Francisco)

No, it hasn’t been snowing in S.F., but I was on the slopes there last week for a few days. My husband Bob had portfolio reviews over the weekend at Photo Alliance , which is held at San Francisco Art Institute up on a hill in North Beach. It’s hard to go anywhere in S.F. without encountering some steep elevation changes.

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We started out with some shopping in Union Square. From a sunny spot the world flowed by at big-city speed.

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Next morning we were at Fort Mason on the Bay front, checking out the SF MOMA gallery and just filling our lungs with that fresh sea air.

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After lunch we headed downtown to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see the “Show Me as I Want to be Seen” exhibition, which I highly recommend. The description of the show is, “How do we depict “the self” if it is unknowable, inherently constructed, and ever changing? How does the concept of portraiture shift when categories are in crisis, and visibility itself is problematic?” (For those of you who know me, I guess it’s pretty obvious why I would want to see it.) It will be there til July 7 if you want to see it.

Sitting on the grass at Yerba Buena Gardens, enjoying the warmest sunshiny day in months, I got a bit greedy with trying to put everything in, until I got numb-butt and gave up!

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It’s such a treat to ride the bus all over S.F. It’s inexpensive for seniors:  with my Clipper card it’s only $1.35/ride, and there are no parking woes or dealing with crazy drivers and one-way streets, and more.  And if you stay  on the bus for longer than three or four stops, you move through a variety of cultural ecosystems. Friday morning on Bus 19 down Polk St. there was a sudden onslaught of wheel chairs and the necessity to quickly rearrange seating patterns to accommodate.

One gets a new appreciation of what it takes to get around the city in a wheelchair with items like. . . musical instruments, and then to board crowded buses. This keyboard, held together with masking tape and protected by a strip of cardboard, had found a spot behind its owner where it would be safe.

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Bob wanted to check out the SF Center for the Book on Portrero Hill, and next I showed him Mission Bay, and made him sit and rest while I sketched a house boat. Then down to Dogpatch to see the art shows at Minnesota Street Project.

There was lots more bus drama on the ride back, with invasions by teens, just out of school, who never looked up from their smart phones, even to talk to each other. Then more wheelchairs, and finally, the last stop at Fisherman’s Wharf where we were staying.

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If you’re still with me here, this is the part about the real slopes of SF. On Saturday the SF Urban Sketcher Meet up was at Macondray Lane, which is itself flat – a narrow and verdant alleyway off a particularly vertiginous street with knockout views of the city and bay.

For whatever reason I woke up that morning feeling particularly shaky and unsteady, but slowly made my way up the hill, still hopeful that I could capture the city in its undulating glory. When my inner undulating wouldn’t stop, I found a shady spot in the Lane with an obstructed view, and very slowly and with great patience constructed a calmer scene until my brain cleared.

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It sort of worked, because minutes later I was back to my usual rough and ready style,  much relieved and enjoying the company of my beloved SF sketchers. The afternoon ended with a mini “salon” to share our sketches at STUDIO Gallery and see the current show of “Tales of the City by the Bay”.

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And I got to meet the handsome sketcher named Jeff who had been a subject in the sketch!

On my last day in the city, once again I hit the slopes and I trudged up the steps of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower up close, the murals inside and the views. It’s actually a more impressive sight from the distance as a recognizable icon of the cityscape.

telegraphhill Five days in the city, along with all the steps I’d climbed, had exhausted me, so I found a relatively quiet street to do this study. I call it that because I’m more used to sketching people and animals and country scenes and such, and city architecture requires “study” before I can attempt it. (Actually I may have studiously ignored it here!) There were few people on the street, and they were moving quickly, but the lone figure in the doorway sufficed to give scale. She came by to see my sketch, and when I showed her that she was in the sketch, she clutched her chest and shrieked with delight!

Post-flood Guerneville

The flooding in Guerneville, a town ten minutes down the road from where I live, made national news.  Aerial views showed a town under water which was the color of cafe au lait. Piles of rubbish, and threats of toxicity and disease outbreak came as soon as the waters receded. We were expecting the worst yesterday as we drove along River Rd. to the flooded areas for a day of reportage sketching.

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The roads had been washed clean of debris by the subsequent rains and many of the businesses were open on Main St. in Guerneville. Garbage trucks were busy hauling trash to the dump. We caught this scene before the truck arrived to pick up the damaged goods. Betty Spaghetti’s restaurant next to the r3 Hotel with its pool and full activities calendar had flooded, and all the flood-damaged chairs and tables were lining the street.

Guerneville is one of the friendliest towns I know. People stopped to chat with us and tell us a bit of their story. Even though the flood had some devestating consequences, no one we talked with seemed dispirited. In fact I got the sense that most people here carry their toughness about weathering floods as a badge of courage. They are the self-proclaimed River Rats, who readily claim that most of the year they live in a river paradise.

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Roger Jensen, Bar Manager and Event Coordinator at r3, was delighted with the attention of sketchers recording his place of business. He had confidence that they would quickly have the flood remediation completed and their doors open to the public this spring.

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An old woman with a cane came by on her way out walking her dog and struck up a conversation. Her apartment is on the second floor of a residence down the street that had flooded.

She said, “This old matriarchal river rat stayed put during the flood. [against evacuation orders, by the way] I watched the water climb to the 18th step and stop. (cackles) I had to protect my property from looters.”

“With a gun?” I asked.

“No! with my cane (holds it up) and then there’s the pit bull next door. . .”

 

Rainy Sketch Date

A little rain never stops us urban sketchers. Well actually it usually stops me from going out, but not when my die-hard buddies are willing to risk the elements. So on Tuesday we met at Dominican University in San Rafael for a drizzly day. Sitting on a porch wasn’t such a bad idea, at least for a while until the cold started to seep into the bones.

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Of course then we had water saturated sketchbooks that needed to be held open under the umbrellas while walking back to the car. The next stop was lunch in a warm bar downtown.

 

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I’m not accustomed to hanging out in bars, but I must say that the sketching opportunities are good. One gets a little bored with coffee shop folks glued to their computers.

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When I christened these men Sports Bar Flies I realized that we had sat there for a while after finishing lunch and could easily fall into that same category!