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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dia De Los Muertos - LA style

Halloween takes on a whole new dimension in Los Angeles. Everywhere I look I see signs advertising for Dia De Los Muertos with multiple celebrations around the Greater Los Angeles area. We went first on Saturday Oct 28 to Pasadena's tour of altars which turned out to be a way for the business community to draw customers into the different shops that hosted altars. Cute but very commercial.

Sunday, Los Angeles' Olvera street in downtown LA hosts a big bash. And even thought the souvenir-lined alley is one of the biggest tourist traps in LA, especially for Mexican goods, it put on a real party.

The permanent stalls selling a myriad of colorful goods empties out on Los Angeles Plaza, a zocolo, or city square. The big guys built their altars here. That's altars that were on average 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

The place was packed and the music enlivened the atmosphere even more. Food carts, oversized skeletons, and Aztec dancers all added their flavors to the colorful pot.

While I was sketching a woman came up and asked if I was with a group. When I mentioned Urban Sketchers, she nodded in recognition. It was Stephanie Lowe, a long time urban sketcher who was there with her high school photography class.

Just after sunset the plaza bandstand became the stage for an extravagant performance featuring skeletons telling elaborate tales and singing ballads which I can only guess (because it was in Spanish) were lamentations for fellow deadheads.

As we enjoyed our mole and enchilada dinner back on Olvera street, the nightly procession marched within inches of our table. 

And that was just the beginning. Today at the public library I picked up another brochure advertising at least eight more Dia de Los Muertos events around the city. I guess I'll be carting around my watercolors for a few more days.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Falling in love with the world, one sketch at a time

I was reading a fellow-sketcher’s blog a while back and she posed the question, why do you sketch? It’s a question I ask myself often. It can be a nagging question – why?

“Why are you doing this?”  I hear my monkey-mind say. “You’re not getting paid. You’ll never be a great artist—why waste your time? You should developing your own business or working for peace or delivering blankets to the homeless- or at least making soup for shut-ins. But sketching?”

I've always had a rebellious streak, so I keep going. I snub my nose at my monkey, grab my pen and have at it.  

I've come up with plenty of rationales: 

It keeps me from missing my grown kids, and now grandkids, who live thousands of miles in different directions.

 It helps me remember where I've been. While sketching we experience it all -- the sounds, sights, smells...exhaust fumes, french-fry grease, perspiration dripping down your back…

Not to mention the smell of nail polish remover as I sit at the local nail spa.

I've sketched since I was a kid. That's a good reason - I've always done it. I may still have a sketch of my feet done when I was 12 while sitting on the front stoop of our apartment on the south side of Chicago. 

 To keep from getting bored. Work meetings are perfect opportunities to study slouching body-shapes. 

Waiting in long lines are perfect for analyzing which hip rises and which falls with a bent knee.

It also steers me away from judgments and frustrations. Instead of wondering how anyone could actually choose to wear that outfit in public, I notice how the orange shape of the top contrasts so vividly with the purple hippie skirt. Add a blue sky for background and the colors are operatic. 

My daughter says I notice the strangest things. 

The other day, however, it came to me. I SKETCH BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD again and again and again. A pop of color here; a rusty texture there; the orange, yellow and green fence in front of the blue store; the way the sun paints an ephemeral shadow-shape on the side of a building. Or the shape of the truck as it blocks my perfect view.

So I sketch. I take it all in. I get excited about the variegated pink of easter egg radishes, I love the bulbous shape of the vendor’s belly as he reaches to pick out the best apple a our local farmer's market. 

I constantly search for a good angle and analyze the shape of the a building as I both flatten it out in my mind and try to add depth on my paper.

I wake up in a new city excited . . . no, chomping at the bit . . . to discover new neighborhoods, new storefronts, another red door, an abandoned streetcar, countless new people on subways – each shape unique and each story lending worlds of depth to what I see. 

You could say I’m obsessive. Or captivated. Or a rebel. All apply. One thing’s for sure. I just can't won't stop falling in love with the world and sketching whatever I can. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Los Angeles Museum of Natural History

I've been in Santa Monica since mid-June getting acquainted with my second grandchild, I've had a couple opportunities to emerge from Babyland into LaLaLand. Today I met up with a few of the Los Angeles Urban Sketchers at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. It's an old building that has been expanded; the contrast between old and new is striking.

Virginia Hein and Heather Evans Davis and I headed across the street to the lovely rose garden where we could have a bit more distant view of the original building. Check out their sketches here.

As I was waiting for the group I started a quick sketch of one of the old guys - triceritops maybe? And on the way in to the museum, I quickly sketched some fellow "subway" riders. This may be the only "subway" in the world that has to stop for street traffic.

More Brooklyn and Manhattan - Summer 2016

These sketches were done in Red Hook Brooklyn during the summer of 2016. 

Cacao Prieto, "beans to bar" chocolate maker with a retail shop--where you can buy $10 dollar chocolate bars - yes they are that good. Widow Jane Distillery and Botanica cocktail bar are in the same building. 

Side view of the Cacao Prieto building.

And around the corner . . . the legendary Sunny's Bar

Heading across the East River and uptown you'll find the Queensboro bridge around 60th, just about due east of the Museum of Modern Art. I was waiting for my daughter as she finished her doctor appointment and came across this under-the-bridge view.

And of course, the Cloisters overlooking the Hudson River on the far north side of the city. While I was sketching this, my husband saw another man sketching and struck up a conversation. The man was visiting from France and got his card. I wrote to him after I got back to the Northwest and told him about Urban sketchers and pointed him to the closest groups I could find. He was very excited to learn about Urban sketchers and I got an invitation to visit and sketch in France!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From the Best Coast to the East Coast

I originally started this post last summer, in September 2016. Finally getting around to finishing it.
Since retiring a little over 2 months ago, life has been a whirlwind of travel, sunshine, reorganizing, weeding, pruning and sketching.

We had promised our daughter a visit to see their new house in upstate NY, so knowing I could also spend a few days in their Brooklyn place, I decided to arrive a few days before the rest of the family so I could have time to sketch to my heart's content and also meet up with Urban sketchers NYC.

I left Seattle August 25, a beautiful sunny Thursday.
Passengers queuing up for Southwest flight
Mt Rainier from the airplane (color added later)

My first day in Brooklyn I decided to get a 24-hr pass for a cite-bike (will never recommend - they charged me $200 for 1 day of riding). I rode along the Columbia Waterfront up to DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). I found the Shake Shack,  got a lemonade and scribbled out these two drawings under the umbrellas. 

Way too much detail for my liking

So I tried a simple version

Next I spent the day in DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) where you have a good view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I made a couple of passes at the scene, spending more time on the second one. 

Still Brooklyn side - Red Hook Specifically, I met up with the NYC urban sketchers. 
This first sketch is the Red Hook Yacht Club - pretty much a junk shop, although the proprieters might take offense with my description. It's quite fitting for Red Hook, though, which used to be the major industrial port before the evolution of container shipping and the New Jersey port won out. 

Behind the biggest grocery store in Brooklyn, Fairway Market, sits an abandoned streetcar. Rusted and gutted it is reminiscent of earlier times. As everything else in Brooklyn, it has a colorful history. 

The Red Hook Ball fields just may be the home of the first food trucks in the country. The Red Hook food vendors have been around since 1974. Serving mainly Latin American cuisine, they put out some great pupusas among other delicacies. Business was booming on this warm September Sunday. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sketch in the City

Have you ever wanted to be an urban sketcher? This class will show you how. You'll learn everything you need to know; from how to draw people quickly to sketching complex outdoor scenes. Through fun and confidence-building exercises, you'll create fresh and expressive drawings. You'll learn the keys to becoming a successful urban sketcher. 

Every level of artist is welcome in this class. 

Learning Goals: 
  • Explore urban sketching tools
  • Learn to create confident line work with pen, brush, and pencil
  • Build your drawings with simple shapes
  • Play with value in both black & white and in color
  • Understand on and two-point perspective
  • Explore the art of visual storytelling
  • Understand the value of thumbnails in sketching design
  • Enjoy outdoor sketching with classmates

Class size is limited to the twenty students so that every artist can get the personal attention they need to succeed. 

Sketch in the City will be held on (5) sequential Saturdays-- 3/4, 3/11, 3/18, 3/25, 4/1 from 9:30 to 4:30 PM  at the in Olympia, WA

Five Saturdays. That's a big investment in time, we know. We don't want to waste your time and money. Any less class time and we would have to skim over some important topics. That would be a great disservice to you. We want you to learn all you need to know to become a confident urban sketcher. 

We're so sure that you'll become a successful sketcher after this class is over that we're offering students a Money-Back Guarantee on the tuition. If, after the class series is over, you don't agree that you've achieved at least a minimum improvement in your sketching skills, we'll give you a prompt and courteous refund on your tuition. 

Sign up by February 18 and get the Early Bird Price of $200. That's a $25 savings over the regular price of $225. 

Email or with questions or to register.