#watercolorsketch

Deer Island with John Muir Laws

When the boys were little we were always going out to find pollywogs or caterpillars, shiny stones or interesting seed pods. So spending the day at yesterday’s meet up at Deer Island in Novato with naturalist John Muir Laws and the Nature Journaling Club was a great reminder of how much I enjoy getting out to some wilder areas and feeling that freedom of fresh air, birdsong, wind in the hair, and a million discoveries large and small.

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Jack (nickname for John) started out by letting us all know that our goal was not to make lovely little paintings but to take visual notes of our observations, questions, sensory experiences, etc. Along the trail he invited us to explore, occasionally leading us in discovery and a method of delving deeper into the experience of the natural world. We sketched small and mostly standing so as not to interrupt the flow of discovery.

Among his suggestions were the “landscapito”, a drawing which is tiny enough to take mere minutes rather than an hour; annotations and arrows to say that which could not be sketched; and starting with a quick sketch of the trail map (which came in handy when my little group started to feel lost)

Walking a trail behind Jack is a novel experience. When he stops to take a closer look you are invited to look for the unexpected and formulate questions, like why are the leaves (which he measured with a tape measure from his bag) smaller on the bottom than the top of the tree? One suspects he knows the answer but prefers to get one noticing more, and soon a million questions and hypotheses come to mind and you’re noticing the smallest things popping into view everywhere you look! Not to mention your ears become more animal-ian and pick up sounds that were not audible before.

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This buckeye tree in its winter nakedness invited close examination by a several of us, enamored by its unique shape and jigsaw puzzled skin (bark). I might still be there sketching it, but we were already overdue for the lunch meet-up on the hilltop.

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Sketching along with Jack here on the hilltop, scribbling down his advise along with sounds and sensations, looking upward occasionally as one of the experienced bird watchers shouted out a sighting. Kite! Harrier! Sharpee! (sharp shin hawk)

By the way, if this sounds like your idea of fun, try one of Jack’s day outings or classes in how to sketch and paint all things in nature! I’m already looking forward to the next.

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Stow Lake and Speed Chess

What’s all the ruckus about?! That’s what we wondered when a flock of noisy, quarrelsome Canada Geese landed near us at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, “elbowing out” all the other, more well behaved ducks.

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So I had to put the noisy ringleader into my already under way sketch. It was a gorgeous day to be out in the park, so I can imagine what they were upset about.

Later Janet and I wandered the Richmond searching for lunch and landed at the place with the line out the door – Cinderella! a Russian bakery and cafe where every other person was speaking Russian and the menu was an enticing culinary adventure.

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Christmas day in the afternoon the house was suddenly so quiet. My sons had discovered a new way to compete. Speed chess , but not so speedy that the sketch story couldn’t be told. I need more practice with those chess men though!

Christmas Postscript

I suspect that if you want to find the happiest people around Christmastime you might head for the places where people are offering holiday cheer to folks who can use it, like at homeless shelters and such. lrrsantaandjingles_1

Places like The Living Room, a day program that service homeless and at risk women and their children. I’ve been going there for the last month as a volunteer, talking with the participants and volunteers and sketching the stories. I never leave without feeling that I have new friends and feeling a lot better about “human nature” to see the generosity of the community and the friendly welcoming-ness of the women who find solace there.

Of course the Christmas party was putting smiles on everyone’s face, with all the food and singing and treats for the kids and Santa and his elf. Not only did the kids get to sit on Santa’s knee, but the moms and other adults did too, including some luminaries who were visiting, like two young Wine Country beauty queens, tiaras and all!

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Before the hot lunch and the cookies there were Santa hats, bagels and coffee and more.

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And then Christmas carols for the adults and the children.

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The moms and kids all went home with pictures taken with Santa. (and no, I didn’t have time to sketch this one on location, but did it later from a picture!)

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Jingles and Santa Tim insisted on posing with me and surprised me with a (blush) kiss!

For our family’s Christmas card this year I sketched a Santa from about 24 years ago, with Ben on his knee.

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Hope you and your family had a very merry Christmas!

Symphony Rehearsal

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s Discovery Concert Series is a great and affordable way to hear a concert at the Green Center. As a side bonus, the open seating makes it possible to move around and get different vantage points for some sketching!

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Pen drawing on site and watercolor added later.

The soprano, Jennifer Thuman waits here for her part in Vivaldi’s Gloria. She rises then, and singing like an angel with delicate and subtle tones, guides Vivaldi’s music into heavenly realms!

Sitting in the second row one looks up at the stage and can see the violinists, the conductor and the soloists. The rest of the orchestra is heard but not seen from down below.

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How to sketch a conductor swinging a baton? Imagine many hands at once?

Listening to Christopher Fritzche sing next, once again in a voice of more heavenly realms, high and ephemeral, I had to look in the program for what a voice in that range is called. . .countertenor!

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Sketching in the second row one notices certain details. . .like the casual attire of the musicians in this practice session. The black gowns are saved for the actual concert later in the evening.

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After the intermission we moved up to the balcony for another view.  Bassoons, clarinets, French horns and cellos. A challenging angle for a nice drawing challenge.

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And then the viola soloist with the impossible name and riveting stage presense.

Muslim Fashion

Have you seen the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco? If you haven’t, then you might only be picturing scarf-clad middle eastern women, rather than the complex and diverse assortment of contemporary Muslim dress styles around the world. The women’s apparel in the show is designed by seasoned and emerging fashion designers from Malaysia to Iran, Indonesia to Pakistan. We’re also talking Muslim Rapper and motorcycle fashion and the bikini a la “Burkini”!

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And modest sportswear, in this case ultra-chic with that red hijab.

Realizing my utter illiteracy in Muslim clothing vocabulary I looked up the word hijab when I got home found innumerable meanings from “veil” to “curtain” to “modesty” and dozens of translations and hundreds of different applications to dress worldwide.

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I do wish that the museum had invested in some mannequins whose hands had more than two positions and more than the non-descript high-fashion model faces. Nothing exotic or interesting about those. But watch the online videos to see real women moving in these creations.

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After an hour and a half of standing and sketching I finally plunked myself clumsily on the floor to give the feet a rest. There were Art Institute students camped out in this fashion. Not my choice, but better than nothing! I added paint to the drawings at home.

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I’m not sure why Red Rose, the most gaudy-glittery evening dress was so distinctly unadorned (immodest) on top, but the black box top on the other model makes up for it.

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Now the Saudi model on the right would certainly have at least had a rich head of black hair, don’t you think? And some less “comfortable” looking shoes? But hey, no one asked me, and I still recommend the show.

I’m wondering how to work some head scarves into my wardrobe without looking like a copy cat. It would certainly solve the problem of hair that frizzes when it rains!

Thanksgiving at Home

Rain outside -thank God- and fresh air after two weeks of toxin laden air from the Butte Co fire.  And cozy inside the kitchen with lots of cooking and so much catching up to do. Ben has been home this week, which means lots of interest in eating and talking and lounging in the window seat in our kitchen/dining area. He is always amenable to Mom’s sketching. The usual pose has a computer on the lap and foot in the air.

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In this one I tried painting direct with watercolor, then added the line into wet paint – not very accurate but fun. Only problem was that he sat that way (mostly) for so long that I got obsessed with getting his face right and ended up making it look like someone else.

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But then he changed position and I gave it another try:  drawing first, then painting, and because of the earlier warm up (and having sketched him a hundred times before at every age) it actually looks like him, though perhaps a bit wider.

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Knowing that I can never sketch the cooked turkey before it gets carved, I went for the uncooked bird this time, though I was being urged to be quick since it was supposed to be in the fridge.

Turkey anatomy  is something I have never actually studied as a subject to draw. But I found myself quite transfixed and challenged by it. The result looked a bit dopey to me, so I added the words for humor’s sake, and then was satisfied.

The cooking of this turkey was also a challenge, which led to various expletives and a promise to never again. . .so I’m glad I captured this much, because we may be considering other fowl or even vegetarian Thanksgiving entres next year!

Hope you had a heart and stomach warming Thanksgiving day!

Portlandia

It was a good week to get a bit of a getaway and breathe some fresher air, for a couple of days at least. The unhealthy air from the Camp Fire actually reached Portland for two out of the four days I was there visiting a friend. But then there was also some of that fresh moist north coast air you can take a lungful of without a gasp or cough.

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Our little Santa Rosa airport just minutes from my home makes the trip so easy. The terminal air was gritty with smoke, so I’m trying not to breathe too deep during the wait.

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In Portland it was too cold and damp to sketch outside, so Janet had already planned some indoor alternatives. She is not a sketcher, but one of those rare people who is happy to amuse herself while I sketch. The main library is elegant and architecturally interesting.

I had planned to practice the geometry of columns and windows and lighting, but no sooner had we sat down in one of the open areas than this old lady came up to us with big grin and said “Are you girls having fun?”

The thing about Portland(ia) is that, even though it’s a big city, you are likely to be approached by a stranger who acts like you’re an old friend and launches into a conversation with little preamble. So this dear lady cheerfully engaged us for a good 15 minutes about her dismay at the changes that had been made to the original Fantasia movie that would make dear Walt turn in his grave! Janet pretended to listen raptly, while I sketched.

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I found a spot on the stairway where I could look down into the periodicals room, a daunting view which I tackled with great trepidation, getting confused about the windows and bored by all the books! What I call a useful practice exercise for my weak points.

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Bob had told me to look out for “man buns” in Portland, hipster fashion as he knows it. However we were spotting very few man buns and many other manifestations of hipster-dom, like this couple at one of the many coffee bars, Case Study Coffee Roasters. Her raspberry hair and his cock’s comb were all we could see from where we were sitting but one can imagine more decorative fashion on the skin shrouded by coats.

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It’s slow going walking around town. The trees are shamelessly flaunting their finest apparel of the year and begging for pictures to be taken. And then there’s the shops, like the Peculiarium with products like bottles Hipster Powder flanked by wierd skeletons. And of course there’s a coffee shop on each block, like this one serving Stumptown coffee, where one can watch the procession of colorful humans. This coffeeshop, Vivace, had a piece of paper money from about every country in the world tacked to its walls inside, and nice porch seating as well.

The sun had emerged after our walk in the forest. The wind was blowing leaves on the table, and that became the subject of the sketch.

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Well, that’s about it for sketches. It was really a visit to see Janet, my friend who goes way back to, gulp, 1963 when two New England girls landed in Palo Alto, California mid-year in eighth grade and survived the culture shock together.

JanetandBalthazarHer housewarming gift was happily received, a mixed media (fabric/acrylic) portrait of her beloved cat Balthasar.