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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Sakya Monastery and the Princess in the Land of Snow


I’ve been wanting to visit Sakya Monastery since the last time USk Seattle sketched there in 2019. The bright yellow and red former Presbyterian church in the Greenwood neighborhood in north Seattle was established in 1974 by the some of the first Tibetan Buddhists to come to America. 

When China took over Tibet , they forced Tibetan Buddhists to comply with Chinese rule. Many Buddhists including the Dali Lama fled. The Rinpoche of the Sakya order also fled with his wife and family, trekking over the Himalayas, while being pursued by the Chinese Communists. They eventually landed in India. 

While there they met UW Professor who convinced them to come to Seattle under a Rockefeller Foundation grant. The wife of the Rinpoche, Jamyang Sakya, is still alive. She told the story of her life in Tibet in the book, “Princess in the Land of Snows”, co-authored by former Seattle Times reporter Julie Emery. 

She became one of the first females allowed to become a lama, preach teach Buddhism and grant inititiations and is held in very high esteem in the Buddhist community. 

While I sat in the shade sketching on that warm May afternoon, two women emerged from the side entry and crossed my path. Although I didn’t confirm it, I’m sure one was Jamyang Sakya, the Princess from the Land of Snow walking under the beautiful Seattle summer skies. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Saga of Dharma Ko Dunga

“We had to find a virgin to pee on the masts,” Peter Tucker, aka Dorjé* tells me, “It’s required for the renaming ceremony." He got a 12-year-old boy, a friend’s son to do the honors. 

The recipient of that honor is the Chinese junk I stand before as Tucker and I talk. It sits perched on stanchions. The keel is about one foot off the ground, the deck is at least 15 feet up. My husband and son first spotted it being hauled to the boatyard in late January, two yellow pontoons keeping it afloat. “The deck was totally underwater. It’s a good thing I had it tied to the dock all around.” 

Built in 1918 the junk spent its youth in Southeast Asia—Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong—until it came of age in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. "In 1945 they decided to make it into a Cris Craft. You know The African Queen and all that." A Chinese/Canadian architect bought it, named it Mai Su Li (possibly 迈 苏 李), and brought it to Nanaimo Harbor in British Columbia. Tucker bought it in ’93. When Tucker asked the former owner about the meaning of the name, “He said he named it after his kids, Michael, Susan, and Lee.” So much for Chinese culture. 


Tucker, a Seattle lawyer who was instrumental in getting the Dali Lama to Seattle for the 2010 festival, Seeds of Compassion, is a fitting owner for this unique boat. He is a character himself with a very storied history, and I only know what he told me in the hour or so that we visited. 

We spoke as he stood amidst the ship’s contents—moss-covered ropes, bright orange lifejackets, yellow pails—all spread out on a bright blue tarp. He told me he was born in Canada in 1961 and believes his mother was a young Irish immigrant banished to a Catholic home for unwed mothers and forced to give up her baby. He was in eight foster homes before he was three when he was adopted by the Tuckers. At 18, he was working as a carpenter in British Columbia when he crushed his spine. The Canadian government offered alternative training to injured employees, so he studied graphic design intending to pursue a degree. A friend intervened and convinced Tucker to study music instead. He still plays music with a group called, Smokey Coal and the Short-Bus Riders. Somewhere along the line he studied law and became a lawyer. That’s where our time ran out, but I’m sure there are still stories upon stories aboard the man and his boat. 


One could draw an analogy between the transformation of the Chinese Junk and the transformation of its owner. Over the years they’ve each weathered many storms, been remodeled and renamed, and yet still stand out among their peers. They've come up to here. If all goes well Dorjé will soon set sail in Puget Sound riding the wind to collect stories, the boat's new name painted on the stern, Dharma Ko Dhunga - Vehicle of Wisdom.

Dorjé's planning sketch of his boat, drawn on the back of 4 paper placemats from a local Chinese/American restaurant. You know...the ones with Chinese horoscopes printed around the rim. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Falling In Love with the World, Part Two

Twelve years ago, in November 2009, my sister mentioned something she'd seen in the newspaper. This guy, the Seattle Sketcher, was inviting people to sketch at Volunteer Park the following weekend. Was I interested?

I went and I fell in love with sketching. And I keep falling in love again and again and again -- every time I hit the streets to sketch what I see. 

My very first sketch with Seattle Urban Sketchers - 11-21-2009

In some ways, my first sketch outing was the re-kindling of an old flame -- like meeting up with a former beau and starting up where were left off. I'd been drawing since I was a kid. I studied art in college -- drawing, painting, printmaking -- but not being confident enough to believe I could earn a living at it, I expanded my interests enough to get an unfocused degree from a local liberal arts college. I continued to draw quietly. I was a closeted sketcher. 

In 2005, my son returned from college study-abroad in Italy and brought me a deliciously creamy handmade paper sketchbook from the Amalfi coast. I took it with me on a trip to China in 2006 and made a few simple sketches. 


Hainan Island - Save to Living the Station 

Then came 2009 and the sketch outing at Volunteer Park. I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited. That day I met other folks who I knew what it was like to be taken aback at what they saw, put a pen to paper, and record it. And better yet, there was no need for a studio, easels, or special lighting. The world was my studio and there was a reason to sketch -- to share other sketchers. The practice was simple--meet up, sketch, share, post. That's it. 

Due to Seattle's notorious November drizzle, we held our 2009 throwdown in the now-closed observation deck of the water tower at the south end of the concourse. The guy, Gabi Campanario,  gave us credentials to sign in to the blog he had just created for Seattle Urban Sketchers. He explained the manifesto. I immediately signed on and then volunteered to start a Facebook Page for the group. I was happily hooked on sketching and I was committed to driving the 120 miles round-trip for every outing I could. 

Group Photo at the Water Tower Observation Deck - Nov. 21, 2009

I've come to understand that this aspect--falling in love with what you see--is, for me, not only a side effect but a key component in the art of sketching. Frederick Franck, author of The Zen of Seeing calls it identification 

"To find the essence, the artist needs the grace to obey the reflex with ever increasing sensitivity, coordination, and freedom. The reflex begins in identification. I have to become the apple, then draw the apple, yet remain myself. What applies to the apple, of course, applies to a figure or a crowd. Where identification is missing, I stumble, and find I cannot draw a line."  
- My Eye is in Love,  by Frederick Franck. 

I find if I slow down enough to connect with what I'm drawing as I'm drawing it, my hand records what I'm seeing/feeling. That is the reward of drawing from life.

Sure, I have grown as a sketcher over the past 12 years -- I've gotten better at remembering principles of composition, color theory perspective. But the real value for me is experiencing the activity of seeing/drawing/drawing. 

2019  - A friend's 50th Birthday Party - Sunny's Bar, Red Hook Brooklyn. It was dark and I couldn't see what I was drawing. One of the most fun times I've had drawing at a restaurant/bar. 

I hear people say it in many ways. They remember the whole experience of being on location--the sights, smells, sounds. When they look at old sketches the experience comes back to them with all the senses ignited. When they sketch it's like a meditation. They slow down; they're in the moment. 

Sounds like love to me. 

I sketch a lot now. It makes me feel alive. It rekindles my love of life. I've sketched in places I never thought I'd see. I've made connections with people who know what I'm talking about. 

To honor this past twelve years with urban sketchers, I re-visited the location of my first sketch outing, Volunteer, that expansive Olmstead park on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I love the expansive park, Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Water Tower at the south end of the concourse, and of course, the Volunteer Park Conservatory which was modeled after London's Crystal Palace. 

When I visited the other day, it was unusually cold. I chose to draw some of the same subjects I had drawn in 2009. but took the most time with the Conservatory. It was a challenge.  November nostalgia painted the skies grey, but the room of poinsettias tinted the windows. While I sketched I was totally focused. Until shivering took over, 

I was in love . . .  with yet another corner of the world. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Market shopping in Corona Time

I can deal with a lot of places being closed but I'm really happy that the Olympia Farmer's Market isn't one of them. We've been able to wind our way through the stalls albeit only "essential" vendors (food and plant related) are allowed.

The Olympia Farmer's Market has a long history. Ever since women gathered with the produce from their local victory gardens. In 1983 when I returned to Olympia after a 10 year absence, the farmers' market was a muddy path next to the local Shakey's Pizza on Plum Street in Olympia. From there it made it's way to the Yardbirds Parking lot. Some miraculous turn of events occurred and voila, the market stands in it's current location the westernmost end of Capitol Way--our own Lincoln Memorial.

I had been to the market a couple of previous weekends but this was the first time there was a line to enter. So I drew the line of masked visitors first, then joined it. 

I had a muffled chat with my line neighbors, a couple whose children went to elementary school with mine.  Two young men monitored the entrance and exits relaying how many were exiting so the other could allow an equal number to enter. There was a traffic pattern, clockwise only, entrances to the stalls from either end only, not the middle. Handwashing station at the entrance.

One vendor had built a mountain of early Walla Walla Onions- bulbous and begging to be drawn.

Since I had stood drawing them I felt compelled to buy a bunch as well that I later drew at home.

There were flowers, seeds, bread, tomato plants with flowers no less, cookies, baby apple trees, sausages and ribs and so much more. People did a decent job of keeping distant; most wore masks. The hardest part was staying alert to those who stopped mid-stream to contemplate a purchase.

For better or worse Olympians want to shop the market and I'm glad the city has found a way to accommodate both shoppers and vendors. Long live the market!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dipping my toes into oil

During this lockdown I needed a project so I decided to get out the oil paints that have been sitting on a shelf for 18 years. I had hoped to dive in but it's turned out to be more like dipping my toes gingerly. It takes so much set up and I don't really have a dedicated space so I have to protect the floor and surroundings. It's interesting to feel like a real beginner. It's hard to stay motivated when the results are so much different than my expectations. 

And I'm floundering a bit with where to go with it - Where do I start? How do I set up my pallette? Representational or abstract? I'm trying it all out but my resistance is amazing. As I told a friend it's like climbing a mountain in a blizzard. And the drying process--I'm impatient with watercolor--it takes days for layers to dry. After so much drawing on location, painting from photos feels weird, but it's a start. 

Here's my studio set up:

Here are some of my first attempts. 

Detail of above. This is what I love about oil. All the layers you can do. 

Kind of cheesy subject matter but I wanted some darks agains lights. 

Detail of Above. 

Detail of Above. Loving pushing paint around. 

Value and composition. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Great Wolf Lodge

Yesterday I joined the South Sound Urban Sketchers at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound. I'd driven past the place many times and was aware of its attraction to families as an indoor water/amusement park. I didn't expect the huge lodge lobby with it's massive stone fireplace, cushy seating and collection of stuffed wildlife. I decided to sketch a montage rather than taking on the massive lobby space.

And clearly visible from the lobby was the massive waterpark--waterslides, beach chairs, spouting water, a wave-pool, and hundreds of bodies scampering about in bathing suits and striped towels. When I walked in to the pool area, it was so warm and humid my glasses fogged up. Fortunately once my glasses warmed up the lenses also cleared allowing me to sit and sketch this stretch of indoor sunbathers. 

It was all so impressive especially since we could walk through and sketch anywhere on site without having to pay anything. Now if I wanted to hop in the pool or stay overnight ...that's another story. Thanks to South Sound Urban Sketchers for arranging this fun sketch outing! 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Frederick Franck's Pacem In Terris

When I was in the middle of raising three children I would dream of having a studio where I could have uninterrupted time to do artworks. Then I found Frederick Franck’s book: The Zen of Seeing, Seeing/Drawing as Meditation and I learned instead to make simple drawings, focusing intently on what was before me. That book by Franck - The Awakened Eye and Art as a Way, A Return to the Spiritual Roots were my touchstone to whatever shred of creativity I could muster.

Last year while visiting in Warwick, New York I was surfing things to do nearby and to my astonishment came upon mention of Franck.  

“Pacem in Terris is a trans-religious space created along the Wawayanda River in Warwick, NY by Frederick and Claske Franck. It is  "One man's work of art that aspires to be an oasis of quiet, of sanity, where spirit and nature may reconnect.  It is dedicated to what is Human in every human being"

I had to wait until summer to visit since it’s only open on weekends from May through October, but it was definitely worth the wait.

The site is inconspicuous from the road—no signage or grand entrance. Once inside it becomes an extension of Franck’s drawings—intimate and rich with meaning.  It sits on the Waywayanda River (more like a creek at that point) and has three separate entrances – one on either side of the river and another across the road. I first entered where the former Franck dwelling and some outbuildings sit on the east side of the creek. I was delighted to find some of Franck’s actual drawings on display. There’s also a small building with his stained glass of the Stations of the Cross and a video room where you can watch Franck highlight his life story including the Pacem in Terris project.

Several sculptures and a labyrinth wind in and out of trees allowing you to meander along the riverbank and contemplate the words of wisdom scattered in and amidst the sculptures.

On the other side of the creek sits the main building – a stone sanctuary completely dark inside save one candle and a bit of natural light. And across the road another sculpture garden and smaller meeting room are open for people to walk around.

Center of disc says, "The meaning of life is to see."
The physical site is impressive especially since a lot of it appears to be handbuilt with wood and stone from the natural surroundings. The sculptures, mostly wrought iron, are bold and dramatic often with a message spelled out in hand-cut letters. The retreat site is dedicated to Pope John XXIII, Albert Sweitzer and D.T. Suzuki, all super-respected leaders in their respective faith traditions.  

But what enthralled me the most was to see Franck’s drawings on display in the small gallery. I was taken back to my original inspiration for drawing on location – it’s not about creating great artworks. It’s simply about seeing and falling in love with the world.

"I am the living center of the heart"

One of the sculptures in the garden

This site has a nice collection of some of Franck's work.

Pacem In Terris - Warwick, NY