watercolor sketch

Pigs and Clouds

My friend Ruth happened to mention that her neighbor next door has pigs, so I invited myself over to visit them . . .oh, to visit her too.

Since there will be no county fair this year, no 4H kids with their pigs ready to show, I took the opportunity to meet Goldie and Zoomzoom. They were quite busy sticking their snouts in the wet mud, snorting and carrying on as pigs are wont to do. I’m not sure where the syllables “oink oink” originated because I heard none of that. I quickly gave up trying to sketch them from the perimeter and did this later from pictures.

GoldieandZoomzoom

Can you imagine the good fortune of the small children of this household who get to ride around on the backs of these remarkable creatures? Of course I wonder how they will feel when their porcine friends become bacon.

viewofsouthyard

The time to paint the sky in California is mainly in the winter and early spring when there is more than just endless blue skies. But one day last week I realized that we didn’t have many days left with those heavenly cloud formations. So I grabbed my sketchbook to try to capture the scene outside my studio door.

But then the light kept changing every five minutes and the smoke bush was glowing and changes colors and I got all excited and frenetic and lost it all!  So I turned it into a kind of map of one portion of my one acre home. Some day, who knows, I’ll look back on this sketch and it will fire off the sound of rushing waters in winter and the smell of mint and the excitement of my young boys who found the mint there and transplanted it closer to the house, where we now regularly pick it for recipes and tea.

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?
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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.

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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)

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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!

Meal service at The Living Room

I parked myself under the trees at The Living Room this week to grab a sketch of of the scene. The staff and volunteers have figured out a way to feed people in need  while still following the shelter in place guidelines. . .by handing the to go food out the kitchen window! Breakfast and lunch are inside the bag and if you want to see the lovely food they’re serving to about 120 people a day, visit their Facebook page!

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I arrived after the morning rush. I’ve missed my weekly visits to The Living Room where I talk to people, sketch the stories and portraits of the women who come. But it’s good to see that they’re able to continue serving so many people during this time even though the facility cannot be open as a day shelter.  And they continue to hand out necessities for people who are homeless, like toiletries, clean socks, pet food, and now of course, masks! If you feel inspired to help, there are easy ways to help, which can be found here.

 

Zoom sketching

Urban sketchers no longer need to pack up and drive to the meet up locations, then brave the weather. In fact we can’t due to the shelter-in-place rules for Covid times. Zoom sketching is fun though. That is, Zoom as in the social media meeting app, but also as in fast! 

It was my turn to be host so I picked three pictures from my New Orleans trip last month. When we were done chatting we did two 20 minute timed zoom! sketches.

jazzgumbo

This is downtown NOLA where all the big skyscraper hotels are located. I just loved this sign, which covers four of the main attractions in Louisiana: Jazz, gumbo, gators and pralines.

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One of the Mississippi steamboats, which we never got around to riding while there. Somehow I had pictured Spanish moss-covered trees reaching over the river while somewhere a banjo plays. But in New Orleans the river is wide, flat and brown. So we chose to stay in the colorful city instead of venturing onto the water. Next time though, I want to go out on the bayou and see some real gators!

bump

In the garden at home I’ve been doing more weed pulling than sketching. Guess I’d have to sit in someone else’s garden to feel like I could just loaf and sketch. I live on a private road where the houses are a bit spread out and off the road, so the neighborhood sketching has not really happened. But I noticed this little vignette while sitting on our patio under the redwoods, looking across the road.

 

Sketching the Spring Garden

The purple irises have just started blooming and they reminded me of a video demo my son Andrew shot and edited ten years ago while he was taking a high school filmmaking course. Wish he were around now to help me record.

I had such a surge of sentimentality watching this again! We no longer have chickens, and the trees have grown, blocking some of the view in the distance. Oh, and of course I’ve aged. . .just a bit. But the natural environment in this month of April is still extraordinarily active and abundant! So before I show you the video, here’s what’s happening now.

mothsex

Lots of sex. Butterflies, birds and bees of course, and yesterday I noticed this two-headed insect on a succulent plant. And of course my mind went a bit crazy trying to imagine how that joining was happening underneath. These two, I assume, moths were so intoxicated that nothing I could do would disturb their joining. I assume he’s the one on top, and more colorful.

turkeyeggs

The grasses in our back yard (acre) are about 5 feet high now and an excellent place for a mother to lay her eggs. As I said earlier we got rid of our chickens years ago. But the wild turkeys have taken up residence and this mother scared me as much as I scared her when I came upon this cache with her on it! They are bigger than chicken eggs, but not by much. I guess we’ll be seeing the make-way-for-little-turkeys processional soon.

lizard

This is the top of a birdhouse that’s on a bench directly outside my studio door. The lizard population has soared in the past two weeks and I rarely arrive at the door without a scaly critter waiting for me on the door jamb. What do they think they would do inside anyway? Pick up a paint brush?

OK, here’s the video. Hopefully it will get us both out sketching the spring garden.

 

 

How the Days Get Filled

Well, yesterday Bob and I spent about three hours combined doing a deep cleaning of just one of the wall areas in my studio. And then there’s the hours fixing computer glitches after my computer was upgraded. And there’s the keeping up with phone calls and checking in with friends and keeping up with the (bad) news.

But in between it all some art is happening and it’s my salvation! So yesterday I sat up on the road above my studio to listen to the birds, enjoy the view and do some “Shelter-in-Place Sketching: My Neighborhood”,  a Meet up organized in the San Francisco Urban Sketchers group.

backyard

For the sake of those of you who have never been to my home/studio, and might even live in another country, I labeled things. Clearly sheltering-in-place here is not a particularly difficult occupation, especially in springtime.

I live on an acre on a private road, so there’s not much traffic of the human sort, but still, in the half hour I sat there I got to talk to my neighbor and wave to our postman.

stilldreamingNO

Still glorying in the wonders of our trip to New Orleans in early March, I have done some thumbnail sketches from pictures, good practice for the art of urban sketching which requires that one leave out a great deal of detail and capture the essence.

In the cleaning of the studio I pulled out a portfolio of portrait paintings I’d done in the 1990’s. They were so clean and accurate. Not like these messy concoctions I enjoy so much now. My vision is not what it was then, or even ten years ago, so the painting has changed. The farther away my subject is, the more I must simply get the “feel” of it and  sacrifice accuracy in the process. The result is different, but no less satisfying. I share this in the hopes that you may also accept wherever you’re at with your art as worth the effort to express yourself. That’s why we do it anyway, isn’t that true?

And then I’ve been drawing portraits for the #30faces30days April challenge on Sktchy. But I’ll save the results for another day.

 

A Week in New Orleans

A little over a week ago, while the Covid19 pandemic was brewing, but not yet declared, I was on my way for a week in New Orleans, in a state that as yet had no cases of the dreaded virus. Nevertheless my morning started with a text from my son Ben – to not worry because the tornado which ripped through sections of Nashville during the night had (rather too narrowly for comfort) missed him. I guess that goes to show that when you’re focused on one disaster, you could be missing another coming your way! (I mean there’s always the stock market and the election to worry about.)

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I’ve been wanting to get back to New Orleans (NOLA) for 45 years since I was last there. So I talked my sketch buddies into joining me. It wasn’t a hard sell.

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We rented an AirBnB in the Lower Garden District and discovered we were in a neighborhood that became easy to call home. While waiting to get going the first morning, I sat on our porch to sketch the deli across the street. The Turkey and the Wolf won  America’s best new restaurant of 2017 award from Bon Appetit!

And 3 blocks away was District coffee shop (donuts, sliders, etc) which became one of our home bases for eating. Ever tried Miso Praline Bacon?!

NOLA3

So I know it sounds like a strange way to get started seeing NOLA but a thunderstorm was brewing that day, so we headed to the WWII Museum on the 11 bus (40cents for seniors!) It’s more like a theme park, and the Beyond All boundaries theatre provided an immersive sensory experience including vibrating seats with machine gun fire and even falling snow. I kept ducking the fire and tearing up at the letters written home by soldiers.

NOLA4 Both my parents were enlisted in the war: my dad on a submarine in the Pacific, my mom as a WAVE. The dog tag card above was a way to follow the experience of a particular serviceman or woman in the exhibits.

Our rental house was the lower story of the house on the right. Highly recommend it if you have a chance to go!

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Next day we were out walking around the Garden District enjoying the architecture and trees. I made the mistake of plunging right into a sketch in my larger sketchbook and rapidly felt impatient with all the detail.

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So I took the lead from Cathy and scaled way down to a more manageable 3X3″ size. While sitting on the sidewalk a man stopped to tell us about his experience with the WWII museum. We found people in NOLA friendly and always ready to tell a story, whether it was how they lost everything in Katrina or the sights they recommend.

Lunch that afternoon turned into a extended affair when we decided to explore not only the excellent cuisine of Lula but the distillery and tasted the gin and tonics, where not only the gin but the tonic was made on site.

In the evening we were at Frenchman St where there is door to door live music and other attractions like the Poets for Hire sitting with their typewriters cranking out spontaneous poetry.

NOLA6

One has to do the French Quarter in NOLA and get the beignet and coffee at Cafe du Monde, but personally the crowds of tourists were exhausting.

When I finally found a quieter spot in Jackson Square and was ready to paint, a park guard said it was not allowed! Apparently the painters would otherwise take over the park and mess it up, if they allowed the lowly watercolorists to get their brushes out.

NOLA7So I satisfied myself with a pen sketch of the statue of Andrew Jackson, for whom the square in named. On a side street, in front of the Conjure Shop (hoodoo, voodoo, spiritual magic, rootwork, and readings) we found a spot to not get trampled while we set up our stools for a bit.

Next: a meet up with the NOLA UsK group, the museum that woke up my interest in history, and the jazz I had hoped to find on the streets of New Orleans!

 

 

Bay Area Transit Adventure

Monday was total transit adventure. Remember that hilarious movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Steve Marten and John Candy? Well, it wasn’t that bad, but I think door to door the travel time to San Francisco and back was six hours. So much for the SMART train with its new connection with the ferry at Larkspur Landing. But hey, Bettina and I needed an adventure.

Mine started with squeezing into the very last parking place at the airport stop at 8am and then spending most of the train ride on the phone with my husband, who finally drove out to the parking lot to get my (new) license plate number so that I could pay my parking fee of $2.35 online.

The train is really comfortable, though Monday turned out to be the one day when the coffee bar is not open! And although the train now goes to Larkspur, the walk to the ferry is a good 10-15 minutes and there are no signs and several turns.

transit1

But all that was forgotten when we arrived at the Salesforce Transit Center and took the gondola up to the garden which, like the High Line in NYC, is a lavish oasis surrounded by the city’s highest skyscrapers. We met up with Cathy and hunkered down next to the trail which, midday on a work day, is a virtual parade of office workers, many in pairs, discussing margins, capitol incentives, chips on the table, androids and other engineering and marketing team issues. Since they were walking quickly past, I got just bits of phrases. . .

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The reflections are as spectacular as on an alpine lake!transit2

After an hour or so the sketch opportunities had not diminished, but our tolerance for the corporate talk we’d been hearing had dried up, and we headed back to the other transit center, namely the Ferry Building.

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to watch the afternoon rush hour unfold at the Golden Gate Ferry we would be taking home. We watched until the next ferry arrived, and headed into the throngs just as it was loading, figuring that would be our best chance to get a spot.

ontheferry

And we made it on! got a seat and everything. Had a glass of wine and enjoyed the trip across the now dark Bay. This sketch was from the morning run, and the sea motion made it a bit rocky.

And then we arrived, with 6 minutes to dash in the dark across a busy parking lot, down a path, dodging the bikes whizzing by, left along a busy throughway, up a steep ramp and across a bridge, huffing and puffing, and gasping for air we caught sight of our train, just pulling out of the station . . .without us.

My husband texted me that running and missing a train sounded romantic! Ha. Not to worry though, as we soon caught the next one and spent the next hour chatting with the conductor who was full of useful information about why things are the way they are in train- and ferry- land, while we finished our sketches.

A long day, to be sure, and I’m not sure I’ll leave the car at home next time. But all in all, a satisfying adventure, not soon forgotten. You should try it!

Catching moments

This is the part of winter here where I start to think, maybe this is my favorite time of year! There’s all kinds of hidden glories in the garden. Mushrooms popping up. Mosses and buds and those gorgeous bright green grasses replacing all the sunburnt ones, bare bones of trees, morning fog burning off in mauve mists.

But this is an art blog, and with family here I haven’t yet had much time to get my brush out. . .except

Osprey2

on a walk at the beach with the boys I plopped down in the sand for a few minutes to hang out with an osprey. Somehow these sketches always look better photographed in the nature where they belong. My raptor companion was long gone before I finished, but the drift wood remained. The little Whiskey Painter palette is so cool. I taped a magnet to the clip which holds the sketchbook open. I can open up the palette, which sticks onto the clip magnet, and use my water brush.

osprey

Messy but I caught that moment!

 

Drew 2

Another moment caught (messily) in the living room. . .hanging out with my son, who was sitting in our new yellow chair, which looks like something that Alice (in Wonderland) might like. I got the body all backwards – his shoulders are broad and his belly is not. He just caught me at the computer posting this, so I had to clarify! I guess that’s just the price one pays for having a mom who is a sketch artist!

 

Christmas at The Living Room

It’s a sunny morning, the day after Christmas, and my sons and I are headed to the beach for a hike! Both of them now live in land-locked places and appreciate the ocean air when they’re home.

So I’ll take a few moments while they’re eating breakfast (it’s been busy here lately!) to share my day of celebrating Christmas at The Living Room with participants, staff and Santa Tim and Jingles last week.

TLRmotherchildXmas

The week before I’d wrapped presents with the moms in the MAC (Mothers and Children) program. On this cold and rainy morning there were no children outside in the play area, so I headed into the MAC house which was packed with moms and their youngest children and a grandma or two. This little one was enjoying her new doll. . .

TLRMACXmas

. . .while other children were being entertained and entertaining the moms. I came too late for the young man who comes with his guitar to sing Christmas songs with the families. I caught what I could with my pen, took some pictures and added paint later.

The holiday feast was next, with roast beef, twice baked potatoes and all the other trimmings, and with an infinite supply of Christmas cookies, all served at white clothed, festively decorated tables by a large crew of volunteers.

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(above sketch from Christmas 2018)

Then Santa and Jingles showed up to pose with Moms and kids and staff and even some lucky volunteers.

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You may have seen this very same Santa on the front page of the PD paper this week!

Happy Holidays to one and all!