#watercolorsketch

First Christmas (in our new home)

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you are able to be with the ones you most care about this year, one way or another. Last year we were able to be with our son Ben on Zoom, a blessing but a rather pale one compared to having him with us this year after not seeing him for two pandemic years. He had never seen our new home, his family home now, and has quickly settled in to enjoy some days with us before returning to North Carolina. 

Ben works hard as a software engineer, and also knows how to chill, and often with guitar, and often after occupying the most comfortable spot in the house – in this case our new Stressless recliner. I don’t know how many times now I have sketched him in this position in previous years. A lot.

Andrew will be joining us soon. The 1000 piece crossword puzzle is out on the coffee table and will need all of us to tackle its complexity. But first I got an interior scene sketched, to be able to pass along the holiday cheer. We must all snuggle in a bit more now, for a while at any rate, as this pandemic rages on.

Sending love and blessings and heaps of gratitude to all of you who have been joining me here. May you experience all warmth and good cheer on this holiday!

Downtown Oly: Spar Cafe

Another cold and damp day, but this time with sun, dazzling sun. That day there was nothing for it but to bundle up and brave the icy wind to sit on the sidewalk, with fingerless gloves and an intrepid spirit! And the blue sky lasted all the way until sunset, which arrived with a ferocious downpour as if to say “don’t get used to it!”

While sketching I couldn’t help but envy the fellow inside, imagining a warm bowl of soup and shelter from the wind. . .as the trucks and cars rumbled and screeched by. I made it through the ink sketch and did the rest of the paint and detail later in the comfort of my warm home. I guess that counts as only partial intrepid spirit.

Here I am, huddled and counting the minutes until I can have lunch with my friend in warmth! But oh how good it felt to have showed up.

Harmony Springs

A member of our small sketch group got permission for us to meet at Black Lake Bible Camp and retreat center. The idea was that we could stay warm in the dining hall while looking out the window and sketching the view.

But just on the other side of the parking lot is a western themed campground. Harmony Springs is staged like a western movie set with a frontier town, calistoga wagons, a circle of teepees, archery range, etc. I took advantage of the scene to practice my weakest skill – buildings and perspective.

What was I thinking?! So many vanishing points and and details distracted from the task of putting the 3-D experience onto the 2-D surface of my sketchbook. I got the drawing done and painting begun in the hour until the tips of my fingers went numb and legs got stiff.

But what if I had done it from another angle with a more compressed perspective of the buildings? I had some time at home and tried it again. After all, the harder you work on something, the greater the payoff, right? Quantity and repetition often beats out striving for perfection in the end. But by this point I was getting pretty bored with the scene and ready to move on!

The weather has grown colder lately and the cold along with damp makes sitting outside, even while bundled up, seem masochistic! So I walked around downtown and took some pictures and did this practice sketch at home.

Meanwhile things are moving along slendidly on our garage studio construction! 

The first wall went up yesterday, and the pounding and sawing is going on all day. Music to our ears! (sort of) I can’t wait to unpack the acrylics and collage materials and get back to some Muse painting again by next month some time.

Evergreen

The word evergreen is of course very descriptive of the west coast of Washington state where I live. It’s on our license plates, the state college here in Olympia, as well as innumerable public places, groups, and commercial products.  

When I set off to explore the forest at The Evergreen State College on the opposite side of Olympia from where I live, I was searching for yet more varieties of fungi life. A few paces into the forest on the Beach Trail (trail to the Eld Inlet of the Puget Sound) it felt like someone had hit a dimmer switch on the day. The greens had all gone greener or darker and momentarily felt ominous. Gulp. Until I switched into something I will call forest bathing vision and started to feel like a kind of relaxed excitement. There was just so much life there talking to me! I slowed way down to listen, sense, absorb, linger, and take time to look in a different way.

fountain pen, watercolor, white gouache in beige toned sketchbook

The trees were like alien creatures, reaching their visible roots everywhere, entwined like fingers, claws, hands held. Trees growing out of downed trees (aka Nursery logs) like this image I had to paint.

Then I remembered I was there for the mushrooms!

And was not disappointed, because even though this one had already been found, it lay on the ground where it could not only thrill hunters like myself, but contribute its spores to the living forest floor.

So I decided to take nothing, even the smallest sample, home with me. I mean, would you take even the smallest votive candle from a cathedral?

like this translucent umbrella

I walked slowly so as not to trip over roots, staring up in puzzlement at the towering giants with their fuzzy monkey green tails.

then putting on my reading glasses to focus in on the tiny creatures like this elegant slug

until the waxy cap mushrooms stole the show for a few minutes

At some point I started to realize that without eating the magic mushroom I was being given an almost psychedelic ride in this enchanted forest!

And then I arrived at the promised beach of the trail’s end and was given a reminder of the drama of the salmon run and evidence that at least one of the salmon did not make it back up the river, but nevertheless contributed its nutrient rich flesh to the circle of life. Or is the footnote here about man’s destruction of vital habitat and sustenance for the indigenous tribes?

Back home again I confronted the limitations of my palette in the quest to celbrate the infinite greens of my evergreen home!

Rookery and Stuck in the Muck

When you launch yourself out in nature settings you have to be ready for anything. . .which obviously we weren’t last week when we returned to Woodard Bay with the kayak, ready to explore from the water side.

I had checked the tides and we put in at high tide on a gravel shore with a gentle incline into the water. The day was sunny and warm with a cool breeze. We paddled along to the foot of the noisy cormorant rookery. From our front row seats we enjoyed watching the bird family commotion in the tall trees above us!

pen and watercolor

(This sketch, which was done quick and messy when I got home, shows the impact of the scene.) What we were able to see was silhouettes of nests and leaves and birds, sometimes indistinguishable, and a white feathery dust over it all.

Two juvenile bald eagles glided over the water next to us and lit on fallen trees over the water. Later some seals followed us and kingfishers, great blue herons and an osprey made appearances. We were indomitable explorers in high spirits.

Until it was time to go home and the shore had become an expanse of brown muck with holes spouting water from hidden mouths.

Oh right. Low tide. Actually it was a pretty funny joke on us. Attempts to get out of the boat and walk to shore resulted in sinking in up to mid shin level in stinky (of the organic smell variety) brown muck. Using the paddles as a platform and leaning heavily on Andrew’s youthful vigor and strength, we finally made it to the parking lot with every exposed surface coated with muck, which mostly got wiped off with beach towels to avoid smearing the insides of my freshly washed car. 

. . .one of those great new memories which improves with the telling! 

Note to self: next time you go kayaking in the Puget Sound, check the low tide times and get out of the water before!

 

 

New Friends

It’s obvious, when you move to a new place where you know almost no one that you have to stick your neck out of your shell a bit to make new friends.  So I posted an invite on Facebook for a sketch meet up at the LoveOly Saturday event downtown and Jan and Ineke joined me.

fountain pen and watercolor

We plunked ourselves down in a row at the crossroads where everything seemed to be happening at once or at least successively – concert music, street entertainers, people meeting friends, often in front of us, beer drinking, giant chess playing, etc. So it became one of those sketches which grows across the page helter skelter with no planning possible and direct fountain pen to splashed on color. . .telling a story in pieces across the page. . .while getting to know my new sketch friends.

Meanwhile the amps on the concert stage nearby were turned way up, to make sure everyone for blocks around could hear, and I think a bit of the rhythms worked their way into the jerky line work as well.

And another day, in a more peaceful moment indoors at the dining room table, I settled on a favorite garden view out the window.

pencil, white gel pen and watercolor in Stillman + birn sketchbook

 Well that’s part of the art picture lately. Meanwhile there’s all the everyday stuff of registering cars and getting started with new healthcare and finding local stores and tradesmen, etc.

And Andrew moves to Seattle tomorrow after living with us for about 11 months!  Gulp. Things are still in constant motion!

Departure and Arrival

Golly, has it been only 10 days since I last posted?!! More like a lifetime ago. Now I know why all my friends were sending encouraging comments to help me weather this move. No matter how positive it is, it is a severe jolt to the system. The best metaphor for the experience is that of squeezing awkwardly down the birth canal.  Leaving the comforts of the womb for a sudden arrival and realizing. . . there’s no going back now! Gulp.

I promised myself I would not stop making art through the move and packed all kinds of fun materials. But honestly, what was I thinking?! Too ambitious, at least for this first couple weeks. So I’ll just take you along as I like to do after I’ve traveled – with a few pictures to satisfy curiosity and tell a tiny bit of the story that is unfolding each minute.

the 80 foot monster truck

June 15 the driver of the monster truck decided not to try parking in front of our home in the country, so the movers loaded everything onto a smaller truck and ferried three entire loads over to a spot on River Rd. to move it again into the big one.

the garden on moving day

The garden posing for a last memory. Friends on the street were stopping by to say goodbye all day. 

Andrew says goodbye

Andrew filling his eyes with the view we’d enjoyed for 21 years, since he was 8 yr. old.

the studio emptied out of all but the floor splatters!

I know, this is a hard one to look at. But I guess it’s part of the moving on process. Art and the comradeship of making it has not ended. The Muse group has a life of its own which has grown outside the boundaries of these walls. Brave words from me as I allow myself to feel the loss as well.

Olympia city harbor, view of the Olympic range.

We arrived in Olympia just after a significant rain. Sunny and warm. The right kind of weather for a vacation and for moving in. But I’ll admit we had been looking forward to rain after months of drought and elevated temperatures in California. Now we face a record breaking heat wave. Did we bring it with us?

the view in the opposite direction from the harbor tower of the marina and Washington Capital building

We moved into the Doubletree Inn on the harbor for a week’s wait until we could move into our new home. Time to explore the city and pretend we were on vacation.

And I did one quick sketch just before sunset, staring into the setting sun. It felt so good to finally get the watercolors out!

fountain pen and w/c Stillman + Birn sketchbook

Stay tuned for more pics of this quirky town (and I mean that is a positive way!) with more than its share of natural beauty!

Zoomin with the Family

My first experience with Zoom was with the family. Our family is quite small so we could see each other well in Gallery mode (sharing equal space on the screen). Funny thing, these predictable family patterns that pop up in every interaction when you get together.

zoominwiththefamily

Just so you get the geography here. . .Andrew is in Princeton, I’m in my home studio in Sebastopol, California, Ben is in Nashville, and Bob is in the house.

It took a few minutes to school Mom in how to use Zoom, and then I didn’t get a word in edgewise, because it got pretty silly with typical male teasing behaviors. So I took a picture to document this jump into contemporary family communications, and later sketched it. Not surprisingly I captured everyone in their usual roles. I’ll leave it to you to guess what those are!

Would you like to join me in a month of sketching portraits? I signed up for Sktchy’s 30 Faces/ 30 Days – April 2020  It’s a class where you get a video demo/lesson with different teachers every day of the month and can draw from the models they’ve chosen. I did it in January and learned so much! It’s also a way to experience the social connection with others by posting your work and and seeing others’ portraits.

Also you might really enjoy this article in the New York Times called The Quarantine Diaries about creative ways, including sketching/journaling, that people are finding to give shape to their experience of this historic pandemic time.

Our Cups Runneth Over

As I write this, Russian River communities are evacuating, The Sebastopol Community Center is at flood level (where they pull up the flooring and cancel Jazzercise and other events). Our sump pump in the basement is filling up and may go off at any moment, and the rains keep falling.

So I thought it a good time to share sketches from last week when I took on the challenging task of sketching the water in the Laguna below my house., which is all about the reflections.

lagunareflections

I doubt there are any kayakers out there today, but really, wouldn’t it be fun to paddle over a road? We’ve gone from drought and fire season to days of winter’s atmospheric river, a dramatic transformation. I need to get out there again when the rains pause, to practice more reflections, where the skies and trees dip dizzily into the waters.

woodenheadAnother scene that near my home, the version which was aborted by my too cold fingers. You fill in the rest.

Women’s March Santa Rosa

womensmarch1

Pens, colored pencils, watercolor in 9 X 12″ Multi Media Canson spiral Sketchbook

The 2019 Women’s March Santa Rosa rally yesterday was a march in support of women’s rights, human rights for all, equality for LGBTQi+, freedom of religion & press, education, gun control, the environment, science, democracy and civil rights. Have I left anything out? All the good things we want for our community, country and world. So it felt really good to be sharing those ideals with like-minded people. . .and really quite sad to hear the speakers remind us of the brutality in our world today and the fight that is still ahead of us.

I was there doing my best to draw the stories I saw unfolding, and to highlight the presence there of The Living Room, a day shelter for women and children where I have been volunteering, because I’m struck by how powerfully they are addressing the injustices of our rich land where so many people do not even have the basics of shelter and food.

womensmarch2

I brought along a pink gel pen and a fine point pen and did my best to capture vignettes, some interesting signage and inspiring words, and later tried to knit them together. It started to rain at one point, actually when these powerful speakers came up to the podium. I couldn’t tell whether it was rain drops or tears dripping on the page as I listened to their moving stories of rising above insurmountable difficulties to fight for the rights of all people. The rain seemed to soften our hearts, blurring some of the lines of the sketch, as perhaps it was blurring our sense of the perceived differences that have caused all these human problems we get stuck with.