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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. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Rooster Crows

Seattle's International District is probably my favorite place to sketch. Somehow when I roam the streets and alleys I feel the history and get a sense of a thousand, thousand stories. When the lunar new year rolls around I love to take in the extra-colorful, extra-loud festivities. The noise and color is a stark contrast to some of the history that immigrants experience to get to this place physically and metaphorically. This year celebrating the strength and diversity of our communities seems more important than ever. 

I got there early to secure a spot under the covered benches at Hing Hay Park, but by the time our group was supposed to meet, that spot was like an overflowing can of sardines so I had to give up my front row seat to catch up with the group opening, thus missing a prime view of the opening lion dance. I did manage a few views of the crowd. 

I stood at the corner of Maynard and Jackson taking in the crowd. Frank Ching and I leaned against the same telephone pole swapping comments about just how long our fingers would stand the cold. 

After we met up and had our throwdown, I couldn't bring myself to leave without committing the lion dance to paper. By that time a smaller team of dancers were processing from doorway to doorway along 7th Avenue. The guy in charge of firecrackers laid out a big pack of probably 500 crackers just before the dancers arrived. As I stood in front of Deng's Studio and Art Gallery, they lit the crackers at my feet. I could feel the shredded remains as they flew astray like shrapnel - but, thankfully much safer. 


It's interesting to me how my style changes with different pens and paper combinations. The first were drawn with my Lamy pen on Shizen paper that's very absorbent and slows me way down. The lion dances were done with my Sailor bent nib on an unknown brand, but really nice watercolor paper. It was the first time I used my Sailor with the ink cartridge that shipped with it. Turns out it isn't waterproof, but adds a really different fluidity. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lead with Love

Before today, I’d only walked in two protest marches in my life – Seattle, May 1970 - the National Guard had just shot four students protesting the Vietnam war at Kent State– and 1981-ish when Pacific Gas & Electric built a nuclear reactor  at Diablo Canyon directly on top of San Andreas Fault about 7 miles away from our home.

The recent election with all if it’s disrespect, fake news and outrageous results seems to have inspired outrage and a wave of activism all over the world. The minute I heard about it I knew I was going to join. The question was where – Washington D.C. was very tempting, Seattle was a sure bet, but at the last minute I opted to stay in my own community.

It was drizzling when we parked and started walking towards the Capitol grounds. We could hear cheers and drumming as we got closer. Then, gradually the sun broke through the clouds and waves of marchers and signs poured through the streets. There was joy and happiness and empowerment flowing through the streets of Olympia. 

Also a little bit of humor: 

Our theme song was – “Lead with Love” by Melanie DeMore who’s chorus rings with freedom and justice:  

You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.

Don’t give up hope.
You’re not alone
Don’t you give up.
Geep movin’ on. 
You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
 Lift up your eyes
Don’t you despair.
Look up ahead
The path is there.
 You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
 I know you’re scared.
And I’m scared too
But here I am.
Right next to you.
 You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
 Lead with love.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cruising through LA

We had a lot to be thankful for over the Thanksgiving holiday. We joined some family members in the Los Angeles/Santa Monica area, enjoyed some sunny California weather and learned of another new family member to be born this spring. 

For the sake of expediency, I'm posting a collection of sketches from that trip.

Hollywood is packed with sketchable locations. TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theater) is an essential landmark on the Avenue of the Stars. Apparently when it opened, a riot broke out as fans tried to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities.  
Chinese Theater, Hollywood
Parmahansa Yogananda founded the Self Realization Fellowship in California, being one of the first to bring yoga philosophy and practice to the US in the early 1920's. The Lake Shrine, situated just up the hill from Malibu in the Pacific Palisades, is a wonderfully peaceful oasis so close to the bustle of LA.
Windmill at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, Malibu
Grand Central Market sits comfortably in the former entertainment center of downtown LA. Built in 1917 it was the green grocer for the neighborhood residents. It was refurbished in 1984 and now hosts not only a patchwork of food vendors, but a varied menu of events: game night every Thursday, free concerts, holiday markets and more.
First version- more detail than I wanted

Version 2 - quick sketch
Shinique Smith's "Forgiving Strands" welcomes visitors at the rear entrance to Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel. This internationally known gallery of contemporary art took over a 100,000 sq ft flour mill in the downtown LA arts district. I loved this piece of bulbous fabric twists, stuffed, tied and looping through the hallway. The contrast of these lush, plump textiles and the stark, concrete hallway was a gift to my tactile sense.
Entry Way to Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel Arts Center - Arts District, Los Angeles

Third Street Promenade, the outdoor mall, in downtown Santa Monica. I stood under an awning at 3rd and Arizona while a rare Santa Monica rain storm pounded the pavement all around me. Some amazing musicians play/sing on the promenade.
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
Bergamot Station- a collection of offices, architectural firms, galleries and shops in Santa Monica. It houses Hiromi Paper Inc., a warehouse/store with a delicious inventory of mostly Japanese papers. It whet my appetite for paper making again.
Bergamont Square, Santa Monica
 Iconic Santa Monic Beach - lifeguard stations and slack line artists walking their flat, slack tightropes, twisting their limbs to maintain balance - all makes for great sketching on the beach. These lifeguard stations are surprising difficult to draw!
Tower 16, Santa Monica Beach
Slack line walkers, Santa Monica Beach

 Los Angeles, one of the few places where the subway has to stop for traffic and vice-versa. Actually "sub" way is a misnomer since most of the track is above ground. Nonetheless, it's public transportation that runs from downtown all the way to Santa Monica. And it's cheap! 

The Binoculars Building in Venice - designed by architect Frank Gehry - formerly housed the advertising agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, but as of 2011 Google opted for a lease to house its Los Angeles expansion. The binoculars were designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and served as an entrance to the building and the parking garage.

Sunset on our last day - we'll be back.
Last night sunset - Santa Monica Beach

LAX - waiting for departure