Our Washington Center for the Performing Artsdowntown Olympia has been closed for months for renovation. When it reopened recently, three of us sketchers joined the public for the tour of the new digs. Everything had been refaced and upgraded, from walls to seats and carpets, to lighting and sound systems!
I chose the Loge section to take on the challenge of perspective and the fun of the new multicolored seat covers!
The “trick” to being able to convert the wide angle 3D experience of the human eye to a flat 2D on paper is to take a picture with your phone and use that to anchor the major lines on the paper first. Even so, this was a particularly gnarly scene in its detail and complexity. Good practice, if not much fun!
You may remember Monarch Sculpture Park’s post from last year This country park, supported by the artist/owners and donations, is not only an invitingly peaceful spot, but an outdoor art museum whose assorted sculptures interact with the meadows and woods and water features in a way that tickles the imagination.
I had a hard time deciding what to sketch this time. I actually just wanted to sit lazily on the grass and take it all in. How could I fit all rush of impression on the paper of my little sketchbook? Yet the sketchbook is what brought my two sketch buddies and I out on that afternoon. So I turned toward the duck weed carpeted pond and the forest with a tall rust sculpture and started “doodling” again. Since the whole scene read as green, I challenged myself to use a diverse palette, greens, blues and oranges.
When I got home I found the two new gel pens I’d bought in Portland and had fun perking up the scene with some opaque line contrast. Lots of scribbling here. It was hard to stop!
I was sitting in my studio, glued to the screen, watching and sketching along with the many live streamed teachers at the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, and finally broke away to explore the wild right outside my studio door. Usually when I spend time in the garden it is to harvest vegetables or dead head flowers or discover garden chores that are overdue. So, strangely, it took some very clear intention to head out to the garden with my sketchbook!
I started with my most recent discovery of wasps swarming Grandma Marie’s paper birch tree in the Ancestor Grove. It was so named because we found two side by side birch trees in our new home garden and planted ashes from our two mothers’ urns under those trees. Grandma Marie’s was chosen by a colorful Yellow Bellied Sapsucker as a place for his preferred meals of sap, opening the way for others to dine as well. At the moment it is hosting swarms of what look like wasps. One could say that the tree does not look happy, being blackened and sticky, but that would surely be from the standpoint of our very own species and not that of a tree, which gives generously to the cycle of living things, throughout its life and decomposition. In any case it was a story to tell in my nature journal, recently fortified by ideas and tools of other nature lovers in the conference. I started drawing while standing and gazing at the swarm on the spot close by, then started feeling uneasiness when I realized I was in the flight path!
Next I was drawn to my favorite small corner garden, no more than a yard long and a foot deep. It is filled with seeds, which I must remember to distribute to other areas of the garden, and blooms steadily from spring through early fall with wildflower tenacity. The Calendula and Love in a Mist are the stars of the show.
And on then to the end, you might say, of the blooming season for the Bee Balm flowers. I am so struck by the beauty of these going-to-seed plants whose seed vehicles are golden chariots in shape and tone and texture, and rival their spring beauty.
The late summer sunset was then upon me, so I brought the Bee Balm inside to have better light to view it. Also at that point I was wondering how all these drawing/paintings would sit in a balanced way on the page. Text, boxes, descriptions and personal feelings were easy ways to fill the empty spaces and put down more of the late summer afternoon experience in a way that I can never forget.
In the summertime Thursten County, WA, where I live now, reminds me so much of Sonoma County, CA! It’s the dry sunny weather and the farms, just a few miles from my house. Last week their Sunflower Festival became a perfect opportunity to get out and sketch with friends. Rutledge Farm is best known for it’s Corn Maze, Halloween, and pumpkin harvest activities which draw the crowds.
For the price of admission we got a very bumpy, dusty ride out to the four acre sunflower fields where 46 varieties awaited, and later the opportunity to pick our favorite bloom to take home.
These best friends hopped into the car ahead of us and later posed for a picture. This is a yearly activity for them, and they were loaded with t-shirt and bags and jewelry from previous sunflower doings!
There’s always some kind of unexpected challenge when approaching a new location, even one as picturesque as a field of sunflowers. The obvious ones this day were: no shade, dusty ground, air thick with pollinators, aka bees, and humans of all ages trampling around with their clippers, looking for the biggest and brightest “stars” of the show to cut and take home. I did some standing sketches and retreated to the shaded picnic tables to add color.
We ended the morning by sharing sketches, eating homemade berry ice cream, and showing off our blooms to take home.
Proud of my choice! Something about the slump of the seed center that added to the personality.
As you may guess from the sketch, the Time Machine is a vintage/antique shop in a historic building on the main street in this small town of Tenino. While I sketched, Janet, a non-sketcher, took her time enjoying the Shiplap Quilt and Coffee Shop across the street.
I can’t help wondering if the Time Machine will change the sign in 10 years when the future is no longer future and the Time Machine brings us back to the present, which we have been trying to escape for many years. Food for thought.
But to back up. . .we were heading out to Tenino on a Sunday and discovered that the Stone Carver studio, a main attraction in this town known for its stone quarry, would be closed. I called the number and reached Keith, who was eating his breakfast at the cafe across the street. “I’ll meet you there!” he said. And there he was waiting to greet us, still munching his hurried breakfast.
Turns out that Keith Phillips is the Master Carver in town and has been a journeyman stone carver for many years, working on large projects on government buildings like the capitol in Olympia but also creative sculptures like a stack of books for Powell’s in Portland. After showing off The Shed (the barn above) he took us on a tour of sculptures he made for the town and invited us another time to see the action at the workshop where the big tools are used.
Keith, beaming ambassador for Tenino, and a delighted artist/tourist. Gravestones? Birdbaths? Garden sculptures anyone? His team is ready to serve.
I sketched The Shed last year, and will definitely be returning for some more. Maybe sketching the stone carvers at work in the workshop next time?!
I was shocked! Double shocked. I’d forgotten how blue the sky is, for one. And three monster poppies emerged in our garden. Since we didn’t plant any of the flowers, bushes, and trees on our property, having just moved here a year ago and having lots of other things to keep us busy, we have been in a constant state of discovery this spring as colorful plants emerge from bare soil. The red poppies were like an anniversary present to celebrate our first year here.
So I got busy studying the unfolding of petals.
The first bloom popped before the others opened, and the sheer weight of it, combined with a steady drizzle that toppled it, made it an early casualty. The seed pod on the bottom here was the “final” stage in the cycle. I was ready to stake the other two so they would live a bit longer, and the rains finally stopped, giving a few more days to study the full expansion of beauty.
And then this morning, of all things! another casualty after a combination of direct water spray from the irrigation and sudden scorching sun.
But can’t you just imagine the most ravishing outfit on a Flamenco dancer? It put my sketches to shame as nature always does, and rightly so!
I thought it might be interesting to contemplate and document my loopy and sometimes treacherous path of art discovery in the area of portraiture and figura-ture over the past month. Discovery as in experimentation.
Starting with this one a month ago. I remember starting out with the idea that this would be a quick and expressive sketch. An hour later I was still correcting and laying in more layers of paint, which wasn’t at all what I had in mind when I started. I think I was distracted by the handsome fellow in the picture. Reminder to self: whether it’s a landscape or building or figure, don’t become too enamored with the visual subject matter.
After a break traveling and sketching scenery I resumed sketching portraits, mainly with the aim of discovering the personality of my own line making. I found that this is a lot more fun than trying to make a pleasing picture. I’ve never been partial to colored pencils, since watercolor is so much more fluid and immediately saturated. But since I’m not used to colored pencils there was more freedom expressed without the need to “get it right”.
So I turned the former sketch over, a loose sheet of unidentified paper I found in my drawer, and told myself I could just throw it away, so anything goes. And plunged in. Again, fun. I’d tapped into the secret I’d known and taught for years.
Reminds me of the paperweight I was given years ago on which is written “What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?” In this case, I could not fail because I wouldn’t ever have to show it to anyone. Then I realized that showing it to others would never result in failing either, because who cares!
So I go back to my toned paper sketchbook with more confidence in my ink line making, which is crude and scratchy in a way I am liking, and I realize that the shadow shapes in this subject are so fabulous that I can play with watercolor, running one color into another wetly. Soon I can’t stop painting, but at least I don’t hang out too long trying to make it “right”, so maybe I’m learning something.
So what the heck, now I figure I’m ready for a selfie, to celebrate my allowing the gray/white hair I’ve been coloring to emerge and help define the freedom of my senior status. Those of you who know me will say, oh that doesn’t look like you Susan, and in a way you’re right, but she’s there somewhere. . .and not least of all in the scratchy lines.
Next day I did this one of another older lady. Same materials and half the time. If I were smart and not so distractible, I’d do 10 more.
Instead I did just one more in the 15 minutes I had before the call to dinner. I think I used the Lamy Joy pen. Why in heaven’s name I sketched the pipe first I don’t know, except that I liked the shape and wanted to make sure to fit it in. But as you can see, the nose fit into it better than the mouth. So, big deal, I drew another pipe stem and made it darker. Problem solved. There was no time to add the white value with the gouache. and I don’t miss it at all in this one.
All of the portraits above, except for the selfie, were drawn from the excellent photos available for this purpose on the SktchyMuseum app I’ve been using. Gratitude for all these fine poses! Can’t imagine a better resource for us portrait artists. Check it out!
I’ll finish this post with some practice drawings, copied from the Spanish illustrator Inma Serrano, whose workshop I’m taking: Capture Your City in Motion.
And here I’m sketching from picture of figures in motion on internet sites like Pinterest. All warmups for the real thing of capturing the action live. Gulp.
A tiny lake on an island in the northwest, the kind of place we all dream about for summer sunshine, boating, hiking, fishing and sitting on the dock for hours listening to birdsong! I was on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington for a few days last week, staying in this rustic but magical setting which had all the above delights minus the sun and warmth.
Our cold and drizzly spring continues so far here in the northwest. So this sketch was twice aborted by sprinkles. And of course the light changed so many times that I gave up trying to get it “right”, and now I realize i forgot to put in the osprey who was circling overhead for the best part of an hour and the four bald eagles at play later in the day. But this is why we sit and sketch and don’t just rely on photos, because forever after those elements will dwell in our sketches and be released even years after when we open our books!
The people at Batdorf and Bronson’s (Dancing Goat) roastery and tasting room have been gracious enough to let me be the fly-on-the-wall behind the scenes again; this time inside their training lab on S. Capitol Way in Olympia. When I arrived they were tasting a long row of freshly roasted cups in one of their rigorous methods to ensure top quality coffee. On the other side of the room Ben was training and testing Rowan in the fine barista art of making a variety of espresso drinks.
Ben timed and measured and tasted and took temperatures and gave scores, encouragement and corrections at every step of the process. Meanwhile Rowan concentrated with full attention, welcomed corrections and performed admirably. I was dumbfounded that so much science and precision could go into brewing an espresso drink!
And meanwhile I sketched like crazy, first with warm-up gesture sketches to discharge some of the excitement of the moment, and then with more careful pencil and finally ink lines. The color was added at home. Oh, and did I say that all the while I sipped an intoxicatingly fresh cup of French Roast coffee from the tasting room to keep my wits about me. Sort of.
If you’re in Olympia any time Wed – Sat 9am-4pm you must stop by the tasting room to sample different coffee brews, while peaking in the windows for an intimate behind-the-scenes look at roasting and maybe even training! And direct all your coffee questions to the knowledgable staff. Reminds me a lot of the fun of wine tasting that’s so popular in Sonoma County!
Another busy day in San Francisco started out with meeting my urban sketch friends for a ride across the Bay on BART to the Ferry Building, where I have sketched several times before. (see previous sketches here) It was a Saturday and it felt like a good portion of city was out to enjoy the culinary delights and bayside views. It reminded me a lot of Pike Place market in Seattle with its crush of humanity! Multiple live music, horns, screeching brakes, every type of public and private transportation converging in this one block area of one of the most fascinating cities in the world. And all under beautiful sunny skies.
I planted myself in the traffic island, listening to the crooner nearby with his medley of S.F. love songs, enjoying conversation with my sketch friends whom I’ve missed, and then tried to settle down for some sketching. The Jesus Saves guy was just one of the many colorful characters in view!
And there she was again! The young violinist from the deYoung parking lot again (in the center with the yellow hat), and this time with her fellow musicians. I quickly set up my sketch stool and got ready to sketch, just as they played their last notes and packed up to leave. Aargh! This may be another one to do from a picture, though it’s always more engaging to absorb the live music experience in the sketch.
The Chinese New Year parade was next on the day’s schedule. I’ve attended other urban sketcher meet ups for this event over the years, and it’s one of my favorite with unbeatable color and human vitality. (see past year sketches here and here The groups of adults and children of all ages assemble colorfully on Market Street in preparation for the parade.
By the time I got there my energy reserves had depleted, so this was done later from a picture I took!
The next four days I was on my old familiar turf in Sebastopol and the Russian River, which is always a bit of heaven in the early spring. A long lunch in the garden of Kay’s home on the River, watching her flock of “designer” chickens that produce a rainbow of different colored eggs.
marveling all over again at the bountiful lemons and the pottery studio overflowing with treasures. There was too much to catch up on with kay and Liz and lots of eating, so no sketching happened that day!
The temperatures were plunging, but not so much that a walk on the beach wasn’t possible, with a little bundling up against the wind. Bodega Bay is often windy and a bit chilly. Not your southern California year round beach, though there was a surfer out that day enjoying the waves. But a long clean stretch of beach with abundant birdlife and radiant sun. Ahhh!
It sometimes feels redundant to sketch on the beach, like I’m copying the art that is already so abundant there in the form of seaweed and shells and undulating sands. So I just gathered up some dried seaweed in an expression of how I felt about this part of our planet and about my week of revisiting.
Next, one last thing to share from my week in California – a Muse Group reunion with inspired artmaking which I will post soon!