You know Google Street View. It’s great for sketchers even if it breaks the cardinal rule of Urban Sketchers which is to sketch on location. Since Covid, travel sketching has sprouted an auxiliary wing with the discovery of Street View, where you can pick an exotic location, move your cursor around til you find the view/place where you would like to stand/sit to sketch, and then do so in the comfort of your home studio, and better yet, on Zoom with sketch friends!
On Thursday last week I joined my friends for a 90 minute Gage Arts Academy Zoom session led by Seattle based Eleanor Doughty and German based Jenny Adam. And the guest artist of the day was San Jose based Uma Kelkar. Fun people, lots of new ideas and things to try. Fast paced with engaging commentary. Highly recommend it. And it’s free!
Times: First Thursday of every month. 10am-11:30am PST.
Here’s the first 20 min street view, somewhere in Hawaii, along a river with lots of rocks in it.
That was fun! and lot cheaper and easier on the body than an actual trip to Hawaii. I have a friend who’s just been on the big island for a week or so and every day was so windy/stormy that only one of the days could she even walk on the beach! So while I know there’s a big difference between sitting at your computer and feeling warm sand in your toes. . .the Street View and with fellow sketchers, goes a ways toward feeling good about staying home.
On a chilly winter afternoon this week Ineke and Jane and I met at the Port Plaza downtown to attend a Lummi Totem Blessing event, and to sketch. The Lummi tribe is centered in the Bellingham area of northern Washington. Representatives from the House of Tears Carvers came to Olympia, welcomed by our local Squaxin Island tribe and Interfaith council and others. They came to gather support for their tour which is headed to Oak Flat Arizona in support of the Apache tribe who is protesting the proposed copper mining which endangers the future of the land and its people.
For us the event was an opportunity to experience our home through the eyes of the indigenous people whose fundamental mission is to be guardians of the health of ancestral lands, not just here but in the wider world.
As I approached the Port from the parking lot I was suddenly overwhelmed by a noisy flock of seagulls circling over the spot where the ceremony was about to start. There was no doubt that the ancestors had been summoned and announced themselves through this avian presence!
As the ceremony and program began, reluctantly I took my hands out of warm pockets to open the sketchbook and start drawing. As I heard bits of the story and introductions of the speakers, I took notes and picked the two Lummi elders who had traveled to Olympia on this mission, bringing a totem.
After I’d dropped my pen a couple times, I gave up and the hands returned to the warm pockets, and full attention to the speakers and message. I never fail to be brought to tears by the indigenous speakers who so naturally communicate their understanding of the oneness of man with the natural elements. Salmon are their relatives, as are the eagles. The earth is the living embodiment of their ancestral identity and cannot be separated from it. As I listen, everything in me responds with a yes, that’s it! I look around and see the same response on the faces of the crowd.
I watched as the totem slowly made its way around the circle of attendees who reverently laid hands on the pole in silent prayer, joining with the hands of the local and Lummi tribal members. Meanwhile the symphony of gulls and the stories and blessings of Freddy and his auntie Mary filled the air and gave me goosebumps.
One more sketch here of this diminutive Lummi elder and great grandmother of 25, her braid almost down to her ankles. Embellished a bit by my experience of her larger than life presence.
It was one of those times when I didn’t wonder about how/why I am so far from my Sebastopol home of many years. I believe the move is bringing some kind of new lessons about ways to live in harmony with the natural world. My sincere gratitude goes to the indigenous peoples who have this lesson to teach us.
After the event was over it was dinnertime, and we were all invited to warm ourselves by enjoying delicious salmon chowder prepared, I assume, by the local Squaxin Island folks.
It was last winter when Jane Wingfield and I sat on the sidewalk across the street from Spar Cafe in toe-numbing cold, sketching the buildings. (See the post here.) This year we made a more comfortable choice and had lunch inside, enjoying a freshly made soup and sandwich. The Cafe’s decor pays homage to a rich history going back to the 1930’s. I would love to do some real time travel in this spot and be a fly on the wall to watch the longshoremen who eagerly bookended their day with drinking and gambling pursuits. Now a days it’s still a great place to imbibe, to eat, and play pool, but has a respectable family feel and is very low key on weekday lunchtimes.
We were both impressed by how much detail one could get lost in sketching there, and meanwhile we had a lot of eating and talking to do. Jane got out her cool Kakimori pen and I watched her demo it. Mine would arrive in the mail later that day and I wanted to be ready. I confess I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on the detail of the back part of the restaurant, being two days away from much needed cataract surgery. But the chandelier and the chairs. . .and this pen with the unusual brass nib that looks like a bullet presented interesting subjects.
To my delight when I arrived home, my Kakimori had arrived, and I took it for a spin! Lots more practice is needed, but so far it carries lots of ink and has amazing line variability. And now, cataract surgery successfully completed, I can’t wait to get back to it with a bit more vision power.
My house in Olympia is a 45 minute drive from the city of Tacoma which is on another finger of the Puget Sound. The city of Ruston is glorious with its scenic waterfront views of Commencement Bay, the snowy Olympic Mountain Range on one side and the Cascades and Mount Rainier on the other! But we were headed for sketching in the indoor Waterfront Market on a cold and rainy Wednesday.
The meet up was hosted by the Tacoma Urban Sketchers. A spot prefered during the weekday when there were no crowds, with plenty of food and drink, colorful vendors and holiday spirit. ( It took the rest of the day to get the Christmas carols to stop looping through my mind though!)
OK, so the red wall was my homage to the holiday in this one, though the scene was entirely black and white, which was what I liked about it! Strong value patterns! The other thing was that I had a lovely quiet space to put my stool and Shalaine the eyebrow threader would not be in. Good thing, since there was not a soul there looking to get their eyebrows threaded. Certainly not me! though I would have enjoyed watching it, since it’s a mystery to me what eyebrow threading is.
This was the next quiet spot I found, next to the booth with the sign for massages and the young masseuse who didn’t seem concerned that there were no takers, but carried on having interesting conversations with passersby and other venders. I was tempted to stop drawing and join them.
So with that inspiration today, I’m finally kicking into gear with Christmas decorations – a gorgeous wreath purchased at the Farmer’s Market. It seems that everyone here in Olympia is holding with Thanksgiving as the time to get started with trees and lights, so I’m already way behind. The neighbor next door set up a colorful and well-lit tableau of snowman with head phones and cell phone and a gang of glittery snow figures in the slice of property between our houses. So we get credit for that too, without the work! Lights make even more sense here in the north country where people use their headlights every day and the sky is dark by 4.
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!