watercolor sketch

Revival Motorcycle and Coffee Co.

Motorcycles and coffee? Who would have thought that would be such a winning combination? Not a surprising one for Olympia of course. When we first landed here back in June and were staying in a hotel downtown, the only espresso place that opened earlier enough for us was a clothing store called Embers, and man! but they had the most amazing coffee served amidst the t shirts and pants. 

Fast forward to yesterday and a meet up with a handful of sketchers downtown, needing an inside place to stay warm and dry. Jane and I wandered into Revival to get, according to her, “the best decaf latte”. The front of the place has a coffee bar, maybe three tables, some retro furnishings, collector motorcycles and art. The back room has motorcycle gear, a repair shop, and lots more I know nothing about. Their motto is CHOP BUILD RESTORE CAFFEINATE.  So as we engaged in the caffeinate part, we sketched the motorcycles!

fountain pen and watercolor in 8 x 8″ w/c hand.book journal

This sketch rapidly became a lesson in motorcycle anatomy, a subject I have very little experience with. All those wires and tubes and tires at different angles, and lights and mirrors.  . . You certainly wouldn’t want to ride the one in my drawing!  But the owner was pleased that we’d come and encouraged us to return. 

the finished version with a bit more detail

With that kind of invitation and the great coffee (not to mention the cool sticker, which we sketchers always love to have!) we will definitely be back for more on another rainy day.

If you want to see Jane Wingfield’s version of the 1969 Honda CL90 Scrambler from a different angle, check out Olysketcher on Instagram!

McLane Creek Nature Trail

The living room coffee table is strewn with books on the Pacific Northwest trees, birds and mushrooms that I’m determined to learn more about. I need go no farther than my yard and neighborhood to sample the diversity, and I have yet to run out of new possibilities within a 20 minute driving radius of my house. So on Monday when Andrew was visiting and up for a walk in the woods with us, we headed out to McLane Creek Nature Trail, and hit the jackpot!

Mushroom hunting is an artist’s dream scavenger hunt. It’s also a culinary master’s dream, photographer’s dream and more. And it’s the pot of gold at the end of these daily rains we get here.  This two-mile loop trail had a discovery around every bend! Within minutes we’d passed the pond with the flamboyant wood duck and presiding eagle. Minutes later we reached the creek where the salmon were running. Heavy bodied fish at least 18 inches long, resting while settled on the creek bed, until with ferocious effort leaping, splashing, surging upstream to the next resting spot – a strenuous marathon ending in the spawn and the afterlife of becoming nutrients to a hungry biosphere. 

fountain pen, w/c in Nova beige toned sketchbook

I took a lot of pictures thinking I would bring them home and study them for identification purposes. Next week I’m taking a mushroom ID workshop in a park in town.

Meanwhile I continue to find beauties in my yard. There are fairy ring mushrooms that grow in a large ring in the grass. As the aging ones fall apart new rings are born! And here’s some more that made it into the nature journal.

You may know that this pretty white polka dotted Amanita, which I used to find in my yard in Sebastopol also, is poisonous. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to eat any of these!

Sketch meet up in the rain

Rising River Farm

These days the weather forecast is almost always rain. But often we have a good 5 or 6 bouts of sunshine in a single rainy day. And they are magnificent and one hopes that to be free enough to rush outside and take advantage of the spectacle of a colorful newly rinsed autumn landscape. I grab my pruning sheers, snip some of that wet roses to bring inside, collect new mushrooms for examination and sketching, and get to the business of pruning the perennials. Lucky for me the rain soon returns (before the back starts to ache!) and I seek the warmth of the house again.

But it’s tricky to plan meet ups for a group of sketchers who rely on some cover to escape the sudden downpour which no weather forecast seems to predict properly. Our little Olympia group decided on the old standby of the Farmers Market with its open at the sides building where year round local produce, meat fish, breads, artisan goods, seasonal wreaths are sold. The trick is to bundle up like you’re going to a ski resort, since the wet cold quickly seeps in where you’re still and sketching.

Luckily I was able to post myself standing next to a one of those gas heaters and a few feet away from the this farm display. Another time I’ll get more people in. That’s the big challenge, and I keep thinking I’ll just draw them in with ink on top of the veggies, like market ghosts. Maybe next time. Or draw them first. I really prefer being behind the produce if possible, wearing my invisability cloak! Haha!

Autumn Foliage

When we moved to “wine country” in California 21 years ago I became obsessed with painting the vineyard landscapes. My paintings always fell short of capturing the awe I felt gazing at the tapestry of winter’s yellow mustard accented with bare black vines with a backdrop of lavender hills. Now I’m repeating the experience here, once again failing in attempts at finding the right pigment and techniques for these outrageous autumn foliage displays. But the enjoyment of observation grows ever stronger with each attempt!

Starting here with some of the trees in the backyard that I can see from my upstairs window, where I can paint in warm comfort on cold days. I thought I’d just start with trying to mix the colors. The yellow leafed tree is now bare and the ground beneath, a thick carpet of gold. Weeks later red and orange now prevail in the garden.

pen and w/c in beige toned sketchbook

When we first moved in I thought this short tree was rather hideous and Troll-like, with a thick mop of foliage all the way down to the ground. We gave it a haircut and discovered in intriguing patterned trunk, but the color was muddy. Now it’s red hair can only be approximated with a mixture of opera and vermillion and quin rose paint!

One day I went out on an exploratory mission to find autumn trees to paint and pulled over to the side of the road when these beauties caught the sunlight and made my hair stand on end! I did a quick sketch on my lap in the car, not wanting to expose myself to the damp cold of the air outside.

More drama needed, I thought. So I painted another one at home and liked it a bit better, though a third try might have been the best.

And that got me ready for this last one from a walk on the Chehalis Trail during the Bomb-Cyclone! The big leaf maples were getting undressed by the cyclonic winds and the air was electric with the golden rain of leaves 8-12 inches across. The gray path was carpeted with leaves. As we walked along suddenly a leaf wrapped itself around my face, held there for a moment by the force of the wind as if to say, “Look at me! Pay attention!” And I still am.

Lattin’s Cider Mill

I live right on the edge of country, so if I drive a mile down Rich Rd from my house, the landscape starts to look like my Sonoma County home (after several good rains anyway) with barns and woods and old weathered buildings and open fields and the occasional farm stand, and then Lattin’s Cider Mill! Last Thursday they were in full swing getting ready for their apple festival and lots of families were getting a head start, enjoying the hot apple fritters and making the tour of the farm animal pens and cages.

bamboo pen and ink, red felt pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ Travelogue Artist Watercolor Journal

As soon as I sat down to draw, a drunken yellow jacket joined me and wouldn’t go away. And I hadn’t even treated myself to an apple fritter yet, so I’m not sure why he chose me to bother. Soon a whole family decided to join me  – I guess, figuring I was part of the show and would be fun to watch while they devoured their donuts and fritters, dropping powdered sugar around me in a semi circle and not once being visited by that yellow jacket. Go figure. I held my ground though and eventually it got bored with me. 

fude point fountain pen, watercolor and watercolor pencil

At this point after sitting in the damp and cold for an hour, I was about done, so I bought an apple fritter to boost my energy for more sketching! And then stood at a couple of fences to sketch my old favorite. . .goats! Later when I got home I added a larger drawing from a picture I took, just to feel more finished. Those goat eyes are so very alien that it takes concentration to get even close to capturing goat-ness.  

And the sheep are so very different!

So back home I slowed down and studied a picture of an old goat I’d taken, playing with my Inktense pencils and white gel pen and, I swear I started to feel warmer and like I was knitting a muffler, enjoying the hyggelig (coziness) of winter wool and charm.

And the apple fritters? Where were the apples? They were warm deep fried dough with a sugar glaze. Give me a hot piece of apple pie over that any day. I’ll be back when they go into full production of pies next month!

Tenino

Last week the South Sound Urban Sketchers met up in the small town of Tenino, and this California girl got a taste of on location sketching in a northern clime. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you bring lots of clothing options in the trunk of your car. We all went back to bundle up. Time to get out the fingerless gloves too!

Tenino town is about three blocks long and is home to a sandstone rock quarry, rock carving artisans, a historic stagecoach and later railroad museum. But my favorite thing is the signs: like the sign for “Aunt Kate’s Chocolates /Tenino Denture Center Creating Smiles. . .  Another favorite is the one with arrows to the right “Booze + Fun” and pointing to the left “Reality”.  I guess the one you would choose might depend on the kind of day you were having.

And then there was a new one in front of the tavern that day. . .

The stone carver is only open on Saturdays during this season, but there was a good spot of sun in front of the old barn, so I gave it a try.

There’s also a fabulous antique/resale/garden shop on the corner, where I finally gave in and purchased a wonderful rusted weather vane for the garden.

And we warmed ourselves with the chef’s special chicken pot pie soup at the Sandstone Cafe in a room all to ourselves where we could spread out! I can certainly deal with this kind of sketch meet up

Arts Walk

I went downtown last weekend for the opening of Olympia Arts Walk, a semi annual event that was attended by thousands in pre-Covid days. Wandering around I came upon an impressive hip hop dancing performance of a group of teens in front of the Performing Art Center. Not being at the time in possession of my sketch gear, I took pictures and later did sketches of some colorful bystanders.

I keep trying to understand the style in Olympia, but have decided there is none, except maybe tattoos on all the younger generation, and in abundance. Instead there is an abundant show of individuality that is quirky and colorful from head to toe, and often purchased at thrift stores and combined in intriguing ways.

The lady in the red was participating in the Silent Disco, where the disc jockey sets you up with headphones, and you get to shake your bootie alongside other silent dancers shaking theirs!

Meanwhile we had a bit of excitement last week in finding a contractor to build our studios-in-the-garage! When he submitted the drawings for a permit, our project was promptly put in the pile where there will be an 8-week wait for a permit to start. Phooey, especially since the temperature in the garage is dropping with the fall weather.

So I have moved my studio into the house in a carpeted room where messes must stay on the table (meaning watercolor and gouache) and out to the backyard where the fall color begs to be painted!

Not to mention the mushrooms of various varieties that have scattered themselves through the grasses in familial processions.

Salmon, Squirrel, Bird

I bring all my visitors to Tumwater Falls for its Wow factor. Last week when Laura and Liane were here we really lucked out. One of the more anticipated events was going on – the salmon run! The fish swim from the salt water of the Puget Sound up the rivers, navigating turbulent waters and fish ladders to spawn and lay their eggs in the same rivers where they were “born”. 

Chinook and I

Here I am greedily snapping pictures as the salmon swim by in the tanks on their way up the fish ladder and through the viewing portal.

while below in the Deschutes River the hundreds line up for their turn

And down below the falls here the Chinook Salmon are waiting their turn, either to try to leap the falls (which many did!) or make their way up the “ladder” maze. The mind boggling part is that they find their way from the ocean back to their natal river and there they spawn and end their lives. An epic drama.

Another day I headed out to Woodard Bay with Gals Go Birding, a very friendly group of “bird nerds” (my son Andrew’s words, not mine. He’s actually impressed.) If you’ve been following here, you’ll remember that Woodard Bay is where we got our kayak stuck in the muck after seeing the Cormorant rookery. 

There was a light drizzle going on as we headed out to the viewing spots. Since I’m a neophyte wannabe bird watcher whose only gear is tiny binoculars that I bought for my boys when they were little, ahem, I relied heavily on the company of these veteran bird watchers. They would stop and go silent, scanning the trees and ground cover, listening intently, while their world filled up with birds and their stories, and mine waited to see and hear what I was missing.

The Douglas squirrel was pointed out to me – an adorable cousin to the gray squirrel with whom I’m better acquainted. Later I added him to my sketchbook.

I don’t remember what they spotted here. In the background you see the bare trees where the Cormorant rookery has denuded the trees in the past years. Bald eagles are sort of ho hum here where they are so plentiful, but oh, seen through a powerful scope they are breathtaking.

I’m not sure how I’m going to add a sketch kit to my gear, which must already grow to include rain gear and better binoculars! but I’ve been going back to the lessons of John Muir Laws and his nature journaling school. In his book on drawing birds he describes how to sit so you hold steady your binoculars with your non-dominant hand/elbow by bracing it on your bent leg, while drawing/painting with your dominant hand on the sketchbook on your lap, keeping your eye steady on the bird that’s moving and. . .haha! The fun of it is in trying. And this is nothing compared to my friend Chris Carter who has tried sketching while hang gliding and even while under water!

Radical Radishes

When we first started exploring a move to the Pacific Northwest I contacted Jane Wingfield, a friend I’d made years before at an Urban Sketcher symposium in Chicago. I remembered her Instagram name as Olysketcher and realized that meant Olympia! When I planned my first exploratory trip north, Jane invited me to meet her at the Farmer’s Market, which is by the harbor in Olympia. As it turned out Jane was the one person I knew in Olympia when we moved here in June.

Fast forward to Saturday when I met Jane and another urban sketcher Eleanor Doughty at the Market for sketching, and afterward for that favorite activity of sketchers – sharing our sketchbooks, materials, workshops we’ve taken/taught, travel sketch itineraries and more. That usually involves trying out each other’s pens and paints too, much like siblings trying on each other’s clothes.

Higgens Black India ink applied with a bamboo pen and watercolor

It was morning and I was uncharacteristically willing to stand and sketch while balancing the open ink bottle – the only way to capture these radical radishes as seen from the back. They were radically red, radically fresh, radically regal on their throne of green. And they were screaming out “We are the queens (kings?) of the harvest fair!” which is saying alot, because oh my the apples and pears and corn and. . .

The owners of Skipping Stone Garden, Sarah and Gabriel Baisan, parents of the rad radishes, caught me in the act, and posed with their bounteous beauties. Not only is their produce artistic inspiration, but they grow a variety of produce as well as soil-grown microgreens on less than one-quarter acre!

There was time for more, so I headed over to the picnic tables and grabbed one right in front of the jazz band that was playing. I regret to say I got distracted and forgot to ask their name! A shame since I really liked their music.

variety of pen work and watercolor

. .. or actually, probably a good thing, since I confess I made a mess of the drawing when I got home, trying something “interesting” with color

Ashley Creek Farm

What is it about pumpkins and autumn? Is it the pie? or the color orange which we experience as sun saturation that warms the belly and the soul? Is it orange’s tendency to make a blue sky electric?

I think I’ve probably painted pumpkins every year since my beginning in watercolor in 1992 and possibly even longer. So when the local sketchers got permission for a private access to what I’m guessing is the primo pumpkin harvest farm in the county, Ashley Creek Farm, I couldn’t wait!

The farm was getting ready for the hoards of pumpkin-loving families to arrive for their season opener, when their field fills up with carloads and they sell pumpkins so fast that they are constantly replenishing them from the fields nearby. It’s not just the pumpkins that draw folks, but the idyllic and beautifully cultivated farm by a creek with hundred year old trees and house.

I was drawn to the contrast of blue-green to orange and red pumpkins and orange tractor! and anxious to practice with my new bamboo pen and India ink, followed by the Derwent Line and Wash palette.

And while I was sitting there painting I kept glancing over to the farmer who was feeding the cows and driving the tractor. He was a much older gentleman who walked with a cane and moved through his farm chores slowly and with great care. I was delighted when he came over to see the art makers and show interest and gratitude for our efforts. 

And so I got to hear Robert Sand’s story of moving in the 1950’s to Tumwater, Washington  from eastern Nebraska where he grew up on a farm. He raised 6 (or 7) children on this farm, teaching them the work ethic of farming.

He wanted to join us for our “critique” time after sketching and shared specific appreciation for each of our sketches, charming us all!

But Robert was not the only art lover. His black kitty stole the show by making a big deal of the art, particularly Ineke’s lovely sketch of the house!