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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Saint Monica and Joshua Tree

My best friend Monica Smith would often bemoan her early Catholic upbringing. Nonetheless, the southern California mecca, Santa Monica was named after Monica's patron saint and I will forever be mindful of her while visiting the site.

Just north of Venice the welcome sign says it's famous for it's sport fishing, yacht harbor, cafes and carnival rides. The entrance and palm-lined walkway border the beach.

We listened to Christmas songs in the 70 degree weather at the Santa Monica market.

A pending storm rolled in on Thanksgiving Day.

. . . so we headed over to Joshua Tree National Park

Where I had to sketch quickly before the storm moved in.

The next day we headed to both Getty museums. I caught this sketch of "Faustina" in one of the galleries.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Abbot Kinney's Dream

With the flip of a coin in 1898 Abbott Kinney won the rights to the marshy tract of land along the Pacific Ocean just south of Santa Monica. A businessman and real estate developer, Kinney developed his vision to create a cultural mecca - the Venice of America - while traveling in Europe. Despite his efforts at establishing a cultural mecca with gondolas and gondoliers  the dream morphed to accommodate the tastes of the beach-goers and summer holiday guests--the Coney Island of the Pacific complete with freak shows, foreign exhibits and carnival rides.

The canals have been cleaned up and the area has become one of the most desirable residential areas in Los Angeles. We walked the public paths that line the canals and provide a glimpse into the backyards and living rooms of residents.

The Venice Boardwalk borders the beach and maintains the amusement park identity. Cheap eateries, psychedelic shops and medical marijuana dispensaries lure locas and tourists alike. We were warned off the strip after dark "when the gangs come out".

A couple of blocks inland Abbot Kinney Avenue attracts a different set - hipsters and shoppers with enough expendable income that allows them to shop in the boutiques and eat in the upscale restaurants or at least pose in the daily line at Intelligencia coffee.

I did a quick sketch on the LAX Shuttle bus as we toured the parking lot dropping folks off at their respective lot locations.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

University of Washington Botanical Gardens

Ahhh. A taste of the tropics in mid-November. 
I warmed up, literally, with the long view. 
The light was amazing and the structure a bit overwhelming, but I loved the contrast of the technical exposed structure and the organic shapes and colors of the plants.  

This multi-colored palm tree caught my eye with the rich texture in the trunk. The leaves were multi-colored with a leopard-like pattern.

I concur with you all who have said it, our host, Doug Ewing was incredibly gracious and welcoming. Maybe we should make this an annual mid-winter location.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yashiro Friendship Bridge bombed with cozies

Last Friday, in honor of Olympia's Arts Walk XLVII, the main bridge linking downtown Olympia to west Olympia was dressed up in winter finery. A local group that calls themselves the Spectral Spiders organized this community project. Many community members contributed to the lamppost fashion show, some taking on a whole lamppost, others contributing pieces that were stitched together to cover a post.  

Spectral Spiders' facebook tagline says, 

Spectral Spiders warm urban environments with wooly wonder and weird whimsy through community creation of handcrafted textiles. We are based in Thurston County, Washington in Cascadia, USA, and we want a cozy world.

Judging from the smiles and comments posted and heard among the Arts Walk crowd, they've certainly warmed the hearts of Olympians. 

The organizers termed this particular event a yarn installation because they had permission from the city, differentiating it from "yarn bombing" a popular form of guerilla/street art, albeit more widely accepted than most graffiti. Not only is it somewhat domestic (See NY Times article, Graffiti's Cozy, Feminine Side) , it is non-permanent and most often easily removed.  Too easily, it seems since at least three of the lampposts have been totally or partially defrocked. Street people desecrating street art? 

Find more information in Wikipedia's yarn bombing entry, and 

Enjoy it while it lasts - it's only up until Sunday, October 13 at noon.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bainbridge to Pike Street

I started early Sunday morning on Bainbridge Island at the tail end of a vacation. I hit Pegasus Coffee shop just after 7:00 am and by chance met a group of old salts who meet there every morning. They invited me to join their conversation (because I happened to be sitting in their group spot at the shop). One of them was just off the boat having sailed from Hong Kong then met up with another of the group in Hawaii to sail home. After I left and sketched the scene next door -- a take off on one of Frank Ching's sketches -- to learn the art of composition. Learn from the masters. 

I took the ferry over to the Market to meet up with the afternoon post-sketch workshop group. Tried my hand at Post Alley again. 

It was a full day of sketching and I still have a little more color to add to one more and scan another. I love full days of sketching in such great weather and interesting locations.

Hometown Bar-B-Que - Brooklyn, NY

Hometown Barbque, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY

In July our family went to Brooklyn with the intention of celebrating our daughter and son-in-law's new barbecue restaurant in Red Hook, a section of Brooklyn that was 6 ft under water when Sandy hit last October. I've postponed posting this sketch until opening day; and it's finally here! 

Hometown Bar-b-que, at the corner of Van Brunt and Reed just across from Fairway Market. 

Although it wasn't open to the public yet, they hosted a private party for my birthday: brisket, Caribbean jerk chicken, mac n' cheese, collards with pork and sangria. It makes my mouth water just remembering. 

Here's to Billy and LIanna and their new endeavor!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Under the Viaduct, Seattle

I took last weekend's location literally and located myself UNDER the viaduct.  The sketch below faces west where you can see a peek at what will be panoramic in the near future. 

This scene is on the same street, directly up from Starbucks. It's a juxtaposition of the underworld with it's graffiti wall painting and the upper world up the stairs that lead to first avenue.

 I really liked this sketch location. It had a lot of variety. And what amazing talent in our group!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Music in the Park - Huntamer

One of the signs of summer is outdoor music. Music blasts, floats, rings, and rises from parks all over the country, maybe even all over the world. Along with music comes the vendors. At Huntamer Parke in Lacey, Washington music in the park plays every Wednesday at noon. The styles range from classical to military to jazz to folk. 

Terry Carr's hot dog truck, Mustard's Last Stand is there reliably every Wednesday hawking hot dogs, chili dogs, chips and drinks. His personality stands out as much as the fire licks on his chevy truck. He saw me sketching and offered me lunch a generous offer for a busker like me. 

click image for larger view

Monday, July 22, 2013


Fun day in a new place. 
The Ivars sketch was done with my Lamy fountain pen on watercolor paper.

This one was done with a fine tip Sharpie (my Lamy pen ran out of ink) on a really absorbent rag paper 

And this, on the Edmond's beach. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Olympia Oyster House Destroyed by Fire

Fire ripped through the Olympia Oyster House, a long-time landmark early this morning. Originally an oyster-shucking business at the turn of the century, it became a restaurant in 1940. The 80's brought the addition of a sports bar and blue neon decor. The Oyster house holds a special spot in my heart since we held our wedding rehearsal dinner there a looong time ago.

Monday, July 15, 2013

After the Red-Eye

Took the red eye to Brooklyn and Manhattan the first of July to visit family. Arrived at 5:30 am hopped on the AirTrain to Penn Station. It was 6:30 am, about 90 degrees. Thought I'd take the subway to Brooklyn and cooked below ground drawing this sketch.

 Thankfully my daughter sent me a text saying she was on her way by car to pick me up, so I headed above ground - 33rd and 7th I think - and had a few minutes to do this very quick sketch of the Empire State Building.

I did a few more -a sort of visual diary -  some of which I'll post through the week. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

America's First Suburb - Brooklyn Heights

We stayed in Brooklyn Heights, Willowtown specifically, a sweet apartment in a lovely neighborhood with a canopy of trees lending shade to the 90 degree/90% humidity. It was the first suburb in America where Manhattan residents escaped the intensity of the city in the early 1800s. Hopefully our current American suburbs will grow to be as charming. This one also had charming cafes,  mid-block churches and even a fire station amidst the brownstones. Found it on Airbnb.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sunny's Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Sunny's is a legendary bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn, but according to the the New York Times, "To merely call Sunny’s a bar is to shortchange it. The place feels like a delicious secret, with its century’s worth of knickknacks, joyous multigenerational bluegrass jamborees and unassuming intimacy." In short, it's legendary. 

When Hurricane Sandy hit last November, Red Hook took a huge hit, and Sunny's sits on the downhill side, just a block from the East River. It's basement has a dirt floor. 

Thousands have rallied to raise funds to reopen Sunnys. At the same time, the owner, Sunny Balzano, has been living with cancer for the past 12 years. Still the patrons are loyal and I've heard the place hosts "speakeasy" bluegrass show occasionally. The green truck is a constant, by the way.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Honk Fest West

Made my way up to Seattle with the intention of hitting the Solstice Parade first then take in Honk Fest West at Gasworks. It was definitely Seattle's day in the sun. It took me 1.5 hours to get from Spokane Street to Nickerson Street. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring my bike, park near Seattle Pacific and bike over to Freemont. I pushed my bike through the crowd to get over to Gasworks where Honk Fest West was gathering steam. Captured these two scenes as quickly as I could. 

The Highline, NYC

I walked the Highline three days in a row.   Such a lovely park and so New York.   If you're not familiar, the Highline is an elevated park  built on an abandoned railroad track from the Meatpacking District to  near Chelsea.   If you're interested you can read more. Partly I love it because it's so different from any park I've been to. Also it's been beautifully designed and thirdly, it was a grass roots project instigated by some people in the neighborhood.   I did this sketch on my  third walk. Because it was my birthday I felt justified to ask my companions to indulge me and wait while I sketched. As it happened there was plenty of people watching to be done.  The Highline been dubbed "The new Times Square" and if you judge by the numbers, that day 's visitors certainly rivaled it's predecessor. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Trailer Trash Jazz Band

While on a lunchtime walk through St Martin's campus I heard horns blasting. I followed the stream to a parking lot filled with motorhomes. Between a Winnebago and a sat a group jazz musicians blasting away on a trumpet, a trombone, a french horn, and a banjo at least.

Dean Martin greeted me as I ambled up to the group. He called the group the Trailer Trash Jazz Band - a pre-function to the annual Dixieland Jazz Festival which opens Thursday. The audience knitted as the musicians, drawing from North Carolina, California, Calgary and Seattle put out some serious jazz. With this as a sample I can predict a great Dixieland Jazz Festival. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reed Block Building

Once the city post office, a motor stage depot and then offices the the Morning Olympian, the Reed block sits nestled on the corner of Washington and Legion. Some of the architectural details were destroyed in an earthquake in 1949 but Victorian pilasters and arched windows on the second floor remain intact. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

5th Avenue eats and drinks

Color is what initially attracts me to a scene. This grouping of buildings on Fifth avenue in downtown Olympia, between Columbia and Capital fit's that rule perfectly. Each building painted in a different bright color they can't fail to catch your eye, let alone your appetite. 

The red building on the left holds a special place in my heart. For the past couple of decades it has housed a Vietnamese restaurant called the Saigon Rendezvous. Well before that, however it was home to the New Canton Cafe where I was employed for a short time while going to college. It has a soda fountain style bar and several booths was owned by a Chinese-American woman and graduate of the University of Washington and her husband from Canton (now Guangzhou). On Saturday evenings she would roam the restaurant playing her accordion while I munched on fortune cookies that predicted my fate. Interestingly enough not long after working there I moved to Asia, albeit a bit to the east in Tokyo.  Must have been the influence of the accordion.

The Barnes Building

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rowland-Leland Building

The Olympia Downtown Historic District Walking Tour describes the Rowland -Leland building, built by Joseph Wohleb as Art Moderne style. It's rounded marquis and entrance columns make it a dead giveaway of the  30's and 40s. It was once the home of Olympia Oil and Wood products; today it houses several businesses including Mix 96 and Einmaleins, an interactive design studio. 

According to Tom Anderson who owns Thomas Anderson Studios next door, the Rowland Leland was considered the most modern building in town in 1941. Sirens that announced the attack on Pearl Harbor sounded from the roof. 

This view at the right highlights the curved marquis and entrance-way columns representative of the Art Moderne style.

The second view below was done the day before but it didn't really catch the most distinctive aspects of the building.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Olympia's own peregrine fledglings.

Perched 175 ft high above Budd Bay on a gantry crane sits a nesting box for a peregrine falcon and her  four fledglings. This years flock marks the 11th year the perigrine couple has chosen the Star crane as their birthing room. When the first nest appeared in 2004 the eggs were jostled and failed to hatch. The Department of Fish and Wildlife installed a nexting box in 2005 and since then the number of fledglings has produced several survivors. 

Dingey's Seafood at the Olympia farmer's market has set up a viewing station just behind their vendor stall, bordering the market parking lot. A telescope pointed directly at the nesting box sits beneath their red and white umbrella shielding birdwatchers from sun and rain. 

Every year the birds are banded for tracking purposes. The Department of Fish and Wildlife monitors several pairs throughout the state. Several have taken up residence in urban areas on bridges and high-rise ledges. 

Peregrines were endangered a number of years ago due to pesticide poisoning. They have since graduated from threats of extinction and their population has increased for the past few years. Peregrines are the world's fastest birds known to capture their prey, mainly other birds, mid-flight. 

This year's article in the Daily Olympian

Westlake Drive offers a clear, though somewhat distant view of the cranes and nest. 

Dingey's also has a rubber duck collection. Drop yours in the orange bucket to grow the collection.  More importantly, there is also a donation bucket sitting just to the right of the telescope. Drop in a few coins or bills to help defray the cost of the telescope and to  show your appreciation for their interest in public environmental education.

More Farmers Market

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Olympia. I sat down in the sunshine at a picnic table to drink my cup of coffee and and thought I'd do some figure studies. One grew to two, then I had to add some context...and some color. 

Then I went to the other end of the market. This time it was onions that caught my eye. 

I love Olympia's farmer's market.

I'm sure I'll have more market postings this year, however, you can also view 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Line to Color Workshop - Seattle

Last weekend I was immersed in the art of sketching. I got to Ballard early to warm up with a sketch of the Ballard Livery while the the Norway Day parade band tuned their instruments a few blocks away. After Frank's demo/instruction I went off to sketch McLeod's trying to remember some of the major points. 

The next morning we met in Freemont. 

We studied Lenin and he looked back, unmoved.

After lunch we headed to Gasworks. I've never sketched there so it was a challenge. I did this sketch was just after Gail introduced color focusing on values. 

The next morning we were at Pike Street Market.  Frank shared how he selects a scene, looking for a focus with foreground and objects in a triangle pattern. Here's my two attempts. 

We wound up with a super show of sketchbooks. So many different viewpoints, styles and stories. Great weekend - inspiring, stimulating and fun. Sketch geek's heaven. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Emerald City Trapeze Arts

I am the same age that Sam Keen, author of "Learning to Fly", was when he took up flying trapeze. And it was easy to see his inspiration last Sunday when I joined Seattle Urban Sketchers at their monthly sketch outing at Emerald City Trapeze Arts in Seattle's SODO district.

Gary Kirkland open the for profit school and stage for performers in 2009 after he discovered flying trapeze while vacationing at Club Med in Turks and Caicos. The school has since become Club Med's official circus school for the North America zone. The studio's instructor list draws from  Cirque de Soleil, Ringling Bros and Club Med.

Most of us sketchers situated ourselves on the viewing balcony. Other options included main floor, side or far end, or the ariel room where leotard clad bodies climbed silken sashes wrapping themselves as they performed acrobats.

This sketch outing was probably the most challenging to date, but it has got me thinking about the 50% off Groupon for ECTA that showed up in my inbox last week!

More Emerald City Trapeze Arts sketches by fellow Seattle Urban Sketchers