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Monday, August 12, 2019

Salt Spring Saturday Market Surprise


Friends have been telling me about the Saturday Market in Ganges on Salt Spring Island, for years. What’s another market, I thought. Lots of white tents, great produce, arts and crafts – what’s the big deal. But last week while visiting the Gulf Islands we were fortunate to spend a few days in Ganges and I was delighted that stay included a Saturday Morning.

To some degree my predictions were right. There were lots of white tents, red, blue and green sunbrellas, scads of shoppers and musicians busking here and there. But as I moseyed my way around I was really impressed by the quality of the goods. The jewelry was rich and varied from fine metal work to beautiful tumbled glass and hand-crafted beadwork. The pastries were everywhere—raspberry French tarts, croissants and pain au chocolate, crusty breads, Montreal bagels. I bought a pear “danish” and savored every bite.

As if all of this wasn’t plenty, the absolute highlight of my visit to the Saturday Market came by total surprise. As I entered the main pathway, I saw a small table with cds and books featuring a Baby Beluga game. Since we raised our kids on the song and sing it to our grandkids all the time, I stopped and was checking out the books. The man at the table was chatting with someone and I looked at him closely, then asked the woman next to me incredulously, “Is that Raffi?” Sure enough. In person. Turns out he lives there and has started a foundation called, “Child Honoring”. We chatted for quite a while. I was so impressed with his serene and absolutely lovely demeanor. He had no qualms when I asked if I could sketch him. I was over the moon with delight. After, I am a bona fide #belugagrad! 

Ganges and Kanaka Bay - Salt Spring Island, B.C.

Indigenous people have been in the area for over 3000 years; the town’s name has a connection with the holy Ganges in India. The counter culture is alive and, as one writer said, spiritual healers have become an invasive species. Seaplanes roar in and out of the harbor. There are loads of contrasts on this, the biggest town on the biggest of British Columbian’s Gulf Islands. But I was curious about the name of the bay - Kanaka.

It’s Hawaiian; it means “person” or “man”. But why this Hawaiian name here, in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia? It turns out back in early days of white settlement Many Hawaiians came to work for Hudson’s Bay Company as immigrant laborers. Here in Salt Spring they were contracted for a term and then free to do what they pleased after the term was complete.  Some stayed right here in Salt Spring. I tried to find evidence of the Hawaiian culture beyond the name of the bay. A local told me down in the town of Fulsome, there are gravestones with shells on them. “And Oh yes,” she told me there are the Hawaiians themselves. “

So no Hawaiian artifacts, but the island lifestyle is definitely evident. Lots of tourists, lots of boats, lots of music in open air bars and restaurants. One of the more well known is Treehouse Café, with live music nightly, indoor and outdoor seating and a giant tree growing right through the roof.

Color adjustment in Photoshop

Strolling through town I passed the Courtyard.  Bagels hung on string across the counter window. Who can resist hanging bagels? Not just any bagels, these were Montreal bagels.  They look more like bialies that I saw on the lower east side of Manhattan. I ordered one covered with lox and cream cheese. It came with a yellow and orange pansy sitting on a hand hewn wood cheese board. Absolutely delicous.

The bagel shop was a recent addition to the gallery, Hiro, the owner told me. “ We just opened it 2 weeks ago.” Hiro, is a Polish trader who commissions woodworked objects in Indonesia and brings them to sell in his gallery here on Salt Spring. His Japanese wife, Miro, manages the Montreal bagels. Hiro and Miro.

Just across from the Courtyard is a shiny new airstream mini, the home of Salt Spring Soft Serve. The owner Chris told me, “I mix cocktails for a living.”  He and his family moved to Salt Spring from Vancouver B.C. two years ago. “We didn’t want to raise our kids in downtown Vancouver.” For a while he commuted then just two months ago, after testing recipes for his dairy free, coconut and oat milk based soft serve, he opened his ice cream truck. “It wasn’t hard to go from mixing cocktails to mixing sundaes,” he said.

We really just tapped the surface of this interesting Canadian town and I hope to visit again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

SLO Town, Slab Town and parts unknown

It's been over 36 years but we used to live in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. We still have good friends there and periodically meet up here, there  or somewhere in between. In late May I had a good couple of weeks in the area staying with a friend and putzing around the county and points south.

Our friends own Sauer Adobe one of SLO's historic sites sitting just across the street from the Mission and just around the corner from the city's historic Chinatown district. Chinatown now consists of 3 buildings - Ah Louis Store, Mee Hung Low Restaurant and the brick candy store (now a real estate office.) The historic roots - Chinese, Native American & Spanish,-of these few square blocks tell the story of San Luis Obispo.

Montage of SLO Historic Chinese District - not to scale

Chinese arrived in the area in the 1800's providing manual labor for two converging railroads. At one time there was a sizeable Chinese population, but time and racism drove most of them out. The main identifier is the old Ah Louis store, founded in 1874  by Ah Louis of Hong Kong, as a grocery and general merchandise store, employment office, bank, post office and pharmacy for the Chinese population. Currently it serves as a retail outlet for an events producer.

Another favorite spot in town is the DelMonte Cafe sitting directly across the street from the Railway Station. The building opened as a barbershop in 1919 then served as the neighborhood grocery before a local family turned it into a thriving restaurant.


Another day we drove up to Cambria, originally a Chumash Indian site that sits between San Simeon/Hearst Castle and Morro Bay. Later it was known as Slabtown because its first buildings were made from rough slabs of wood. Now named Cambria, probably after a Welsh town,  its a lovely village attracting visitors from all over the world.

There's been a lot of development for better or worse since we've lived in SLO. This little shopping center hosts the usual Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, a few little cafes but it was a perfect spot out of the cool spring wind to sit on a sunny bench and sketch. 

The other fun thing I did while in my old hometown was meet with some local sketchers. There isn't an official USk chapter there yet, but stay tuned.  I think we may have stirred the pot for the makings of one. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Big Apple BBQ Revisited

Two years ago I was in NYC area for a couple of months. During that time I got to help out at the Big Apple BBQ - a fun, family friendly summertime event held in Madison Park which adjoins the Flatiron district with it's iconic tower. 

Event producers invited BBQ superstars from all over the country to participate. I met so many BBQ greats. Among them the famous Mike Mills of 17th St BBQ in Murphysboro, and author of Peace, Love and BBQ and co-author of Praise the Lard!, Wayne Mueller from Louie Mueller BBQ, Taylor, Texas, Gary Roark of Ubon's in Mississippi, Sam Jones of Skylight Inn BBQ, Ayden, North Carolina and of course the reason for our visit, our son-in-law, Billly Durney of Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

The bbq smokers roll in to town a few days before and on the Friday before the festival, the smokers start churning. The fires continue all through the night with workers poking the flames, checking the temps and tending the meats.  

On Saturday morning, with the streets blocked of since the day before, the hungry throngs start arriving. Standing in line  for your food is part of BBQ culture. I've heard stories of people meeting someone from another part of the country while standing in line for BBQ and creating lifelong friendships.  

Unfortunately the festival producers have ended the event so my sketches are a record of a very fun event and an a personal memory of good times. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Georgetown Posters

I really like sketching Georgetown. Sturdy brick buildings + grunge. Something about contrasts. This past Sunday, a grey-but-not-so-rainy day I met the Seattle Urbansketchers at the Georgetown Elysian Brewery. It was a wonderful space but I chose to venture out.

Color is usually the thing that catches my eye the most and other than the characters on the streets,  the layers and layers of posters on the telephone poles boasted a colorful contrast to the old brick buildings and grey skies.

I aborted my first attempt, something I don't usually do Instead I started over. So the left side page was a messy blotch of smeared watercolor and pencil; the right a more finished sketch. The next day I went back to Georgetown, found a pole with old posters. (I promise I didn't tear up anything posted after December 2018.) Keeping with the poster theme I decided to plaster my sketchbook with poster samples.

I moved on searching for another inviting scene and again the plastered posters caught my eye. Mingled with telephone poles and wires, freeway overpass and more brick buildings, it seemed if not quintessential, at least emblematic Georgetown. When we met up as a group I only had the line work done. I added color later.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Determined Enjoyment

It's been a long winter, and although I'm really grateful we haven't had snow and that I don't live in the midwest where the polar vortex is still spinning, it's been too damn cold for much outdoor sketching. Nonetheless, when the local sketch group organized an outing in Centralia last Saturday I decided to join them. Centralia is a little country, a little 1890's - a place where people go antiquing, non-Starbucks coffee drinking and brunching at the local McMenamin's. So I braved it and sat outside with determined enjoyment, in the shade even to catch the signage and a bit of color. 

While I sat there, as often happens, someone stopped to chat. An older gentleman who was curious. When I asked if he sketched or did art work, he told me he engraves... on old guns. Now that's a medium I haven't tried. 

McMenamins Olympic Club - Centralia

That was Saturday. On Monday I planned to visit a friend who lives on Vashon. From Olympia, it's shorter to go through Tacoma taking the Point Defiance ferry. I missed the ferry I wanted and there was a 2 1/2 hour wait till the next one. So I backpeddled to Ruston.

Ruston, was mostly known as the town within Tacoma that hosted a very toxic copper smelter for many years. It was deemed a toxic waste site. Now, however, through the miracles of science (I hope)  and money the city is making a comeback. Ruston Point is a thriving, 21st century village. A bit like an outdoor mall with low buildings in that ubiquitous of multi-color, multi-materials style. New restaurants, shops, apartments, condos and a theater. It was damn cold also, but I stuck it out. 
Century Theatres - Ruston Point

I returned to Olympia and stopped at my bank. I had one more page in a sketchbook I started in late January. So there in front of me the perfect example of how anything is sketchable. You can see in the lower middle, those scratchy marks are  the place where I test my ink flow -usually inside the back cover of my sketchbook. 

Also, I've been working on creating thumbnails to work out composition and valuee etc. I didn't do that with the third sketch but I'm posting the one's I did for the first two sketches.

McMenamin's Olympic Club - Centralia, WA

 Ruston Point, near Tacoma, WA

Monday, March 4, 2019

Practically Pointless Perspective!

New workshop!!
Saturday March 23 
State Capitol Rotunda - Olympia, WA

Do you get hung up on the mechanics of perspective? Often our thinking gets in the way, but once you understand the basics in perspective it’s really just about drawing what you see. In this all-day workshop I’ll share some simple tools to use for believable scenes. We won’t use rulers or triangles, instead just your pen or pencil and some helpful tips. 

Find out the details here