Watercolor sketches

Westside Farm

We’re all concerned about a February month without a drop of rain in our rainy season. But that hasn’t stopped us from glorying in the gorgeous “spring” weather we’ve been having. It’s such a treat to be able to sit out in the direct sun to sketch without becoming overheated or burning.

I haven’t driven out Westside Road in ages, even though it’s so close to my home. Many of the wineries were closed, or appointment only, on Saturday. I guess because it’s off season? Westside Farm is not a winery, but an magnificently picturesque collection of aging barns backed by vineyards. 

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This shack/shed hung off the back of one of the mammoth old barns whose roofs had become sieves. It tilted in wonderful ways that gave it personality. I sat on my three legged stool while a big orange barn cat wrapped himself around my legs and the chickens in a nearby coop kept up a symphony of whines and clucks. It was heaven for a while, far away from other folks and the din of my home responsibilities!

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A perfect setting for a sketch with a backdrop of the Mayacama mountains, a curving path, fence, a stately tree, and a bit of red barn.

Jacuzzi Vineyards and the Olive Odyssey

Last Saturday it had been too long since I was out sketching on location! So I seized the opportunity with the No. Bay Urban Sketchers meet up at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards . A glorious sunny day and the special event was an Olive Odyssey! meaning tasting, tasting, tasting! (even olive iced tea!) and a mammoth crowd of bay area partygoers.

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Unfortunately due to an allergy attack I lasted only a while, doing my best to get something down on paper before heading home. But what a delight to sketch some building geometry!

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And then the noisy tasting crowd! Yes, this man on the left had wine glasses on his shirt to match the wine glass in his hand. That’s what I call a die-hard wine connoisseur! The ladies on the right were probably just as avid, but not quite dressed to impress.

The Sweetest Cat no longer in this world

We’ve known for the past month that our beloved Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, was preparing for his final passage. It almost seemed he was waiting to spend his last days with the boys who grew up with him. Who can know such things? They lavished him with attention in the two weeks they were here for the holidays and he responded with steady purrs and the kitty conversation Phil was known for. He passed away on the evening the full moon rose.

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All my students and many folks who came to open studios over the years will remember Phil, because he was the official greeter, happy to receive a neck or belly scratch from all visitors.

I’ve gone back in history to find sketches and paintings of Phil I have posted here on the blog. The above collage is his “official” portrait, hanging in our home along with other beloved pets.

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I was never able to sketch or garden in our yard without the company of Phil. He would nudge me to let me know I must give him attention before I could get on with my business.

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When I was trimming plants in the garden I would have to take special care not to snip his whiskers or tail, because he couldn’t seem to get close enough and was always talking.

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Phil would eventually find a spot on the bench to nap after a long spell of purring.

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Phil was a teenager when he adopted us about 17 years ago, just showing up and insisting in no uncertain terms that we belonged to him!

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He acquired the habit of throwing himself down suddenly in front of people on our walkway, exposing his belly, with a clear message that he was to receive love before one could proceed.

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And then Sylvester showed up, and his devotion to Phil was so complete that even though Phil gave him the message, in no uncertain terms, that this property was  his territory, Sylvester persisted. . .and eventually they came to terms with the arrangement and became Phil and Syl, eating, sleeping, and lounging together. When I finally got around to doing Sylvester’s portrait, I knew it would be incomplete without his best friend.

Recently on the cold winter nights when Phil was so weak, Sylvester warmed him with his body and checked on him throughout the day.

This may not be the end of my portrait-making of Phil, though it is the end of Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, who we will never forget! The boys want to plant a tree in the yard for him above where he is buried.

We would love to hear any of your memories of this lovable feline family member!

Grandma Buddy’s Trees

My son Andrew is arriving tomorrow and Ben the next day, and I was rushing to get a tree before the next rainstorm which is due today. Grandma Buddy’s Tree Farm is five minutes from our home, so I popped in to get a tree yesterday, and scored the most gorgeous freshly cut 6 foot tree for a bargain price. There was no time to sit and sketch the fairyland barn draped with “snowy” wreaths, electric trains, candy canes and hot chocolate. . .

But remembering a lovely afternoon spent by the pot bellied stove there December 2016, I will turn the clock back and re-blog those sketches.

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Thank you Grandma Buddy!

 

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Now I better get back to decorating that tree! If you haven’t gotten yours yet, you’d do well to get over to Graton’s Grandma Buddy’s

Gypsy and Rose

Catching up a bit with posting sketches. On another lovely fall day BF (before the fire) I headed over to the Russian River Rose Co. to catch the gypsy music and buy some of their freshly harvested and divinely distilled rose water.

As I took my seat in the generous shade of a tree bordering the rose garden and sipped my cup of Russian tea, Jan Tolmasoff, the co-owner with her husband Michael, introduced the “gypsy” musician Joella and shared the process they undertake each year to harvest over a ton of rose petals, which get distilled into a small quantity of fragrance. Starting in the dark at 4:30am, wearing miners’ hats they collected petals from 400 rose bushes!

Along with the fresh rose fragrances another of my favorite things on visits at the Rose Co. is the butterfly garden. I don’t know how they manage it, but their pipevine (host to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly) was still climbing the trellise, green and vibrant. (Mine was eaten to the ground by caterpillars months ago.)

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I have to admit I was really hoping to hear a real gypsy violinist of the eastern European variety. When I was 21 and traveling in Hungary and Yugoslavia I remember on more than one occasion eating dinner in a roadside inn where a gypsy violinist was in the corner playing the most heartbreakingly romantic folk music. . .I’ve been trying ever since to find music that would have a comparable effect.

 

Dia de los Muertos

How do you draw swirls of skirts in motion? I have no idea except to attend a Folklorico Ballet and drink in the excitement of the mariachi music and families and color, color, color!

I arrived late at the Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa for the Dia de la Muertos celebration in the courtyard. Plunked myself down on a wall in back and started in.

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Next came the couples, and the children, and I was getting a bit dizzy trying to watch and sketch. Noticed some caballeros waiting to go on and gave that a try.

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They were a bit easier. not so much swirly skirt stuff, but kind of stiff looking.

Afterwards I entered the Art Museum, past the dancers changing into street clothes, and viewed the (not to be missed) Tierra de Rosas exhibit and then into the history museum for the Dia de los Muertos exhibit where I got at least two ideas for Muse Group lessons! Both exhibits will be up til November if you haven’t already seen them.

Pet Families

I like to sit in on the Community meetings at The Living Room where I learn about services that are available to homeless and at risk women and children. One particularly popular program is called Dogwood. It’s an animal rescue project that supports animals and the people who love them. And in the case of the women who come to The Living Room this service is as supportive as the hot meals, counseling, and groups. The pets support these women in crisis in fundamental ways we can all relate too.

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So I continually add to my sketches of women with their dogs and hear heart warming stories like. . .

“I couldn’t have made it on the streets without his companionship.”

“My dogs are like family, only better. They love me regardless of what happens.”

“I have learned that I have to take care of things even when I’m down so that I can continue to take care of her. “

“I need them with me so that I can feel safe in the [homeless] encampments.”

“They won’t abandon me like my ____________.”

“When I cry, they lick my face and make me feel better.”

sofia_1 “He sleeps on my chest, right over my heart.”

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The Living Room is a place where women can get help and feel connected with a community of people like themselves. And that connection flows generously to folks like myself whose only real difference is that I don’t have the anxiety and depression that comes as a matter of course with having lost the security of a home. And that caring spirit extends seamlessly to the pets, who enjoy an extended family of caretakers that make it possible for women to participate in activities at times without their pets.

See some of the other TLR pet sketches here.