All images on this blog are protected by copyright. Please inquire before using the images for any purpose. For information about purchasing original or giclee prints please contact me:

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

A couple of wide angle lense views from Porto, Portugal

I'm just realizing I didn't post many sketches from the USK Symposium in Porto, Portugal. These are two of my favorites. They are both double wide 8 x 10 so about 16 inches wide. The first is the Dom Luis Bridge. I did it on our first group sketchcrawl with a few hundred other sketchers!

I intended to go back and finish this one; but I decided I like it just the way it is.

Back in Brooklyn

The temperatures in NY bounced around like a pinball machine. I got there during the polar vortex. Within four days it was up to 60 degrees. Then back to snow and cold and the last day I was there it was back up to 55.

So I went for a walk in the afternoon. The sun was just starting to cast that wonderful slanted light that I love. Visitation Church in Red Hook was illuminated. 

And the Red Hook Tavern, a new yet to open restaurant in the neighborhood was glowing. 

A Gem on the lower eastside- Eldridge Street Synagogue

Another day, I headed off to the Lower Eastside. It's such a wonderful mix of cultures all mixed together. A beautiful gem embedded in the middle of Chinatown sits the Eldridge Street Synagoue. I missed the NYC urban sketchers outing a week earlier where they went there. It sounded intriguing so I set out to find it on a cold NY morning. The museum wasn't open yet so I went hunting for a coffee shop.  I found a Starbucks on the corner of Delancy and Allen warmed my hands as I drank my tea. Then turned around to see the busy corner. The yellow just popped out at me. 

Once the synagogue/museum opened I found an intriguing history and a dark but beauriful interior. One of the more colorful stories included the time when the Jewish women in the neighborhood staged a massive protest when kosher meat went from 12 cents to 18 cents a pound. They interrupted a service at the synagogue and garnered a lot of media attention. And they managed to bring the price back down to 14 cents/lb.

In this sketch, I started with one of those well laid perspective plans, but I get too impatient. Not only that I couldn't actually see the structure very well due to glaring chandeliers,The  synagogue is very proud of the chandeliers, which used to be gaslight lamps, but their glare didn't really light up the interior as much as hide it. I tried to sketch beyond the lights and didn't include them in my drawing. 

The Highline and the Whitney - good companions

I stayed an extra week in NY due to weather in Seattle. My house in Olympia had no power, so I wasn't about to go from cold to cold with no heat. As a result I got in a bit more sketching. I started off towards the Whitney in the Meatpacking District. The white sawtooth south face makes the new Whitney recognizable.

I went up to the Highline first. It was warm enough to grab a couple of quick sketches.  I love the rooftop water cisterns that dot the NY skyline. I've especially seen lots of them in SOHO and the Meatpacking district.

Before entering to see the Andy Warhol retrospective - a wonderful collection of his work. This was my favorite room - though there were many amazing pieces.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Best Laid Plans

After several months of planning to spend a few months in warmer weather this winter, we changed our plans and decided to stick around the northwest. January was going pretty well, then a family emergency called me back to the east coast right in the middle of their deep freeze.  It went from -6 on Thursday Jan 31 to 60 on Feb 5.

That burst of spring was very short lived. Saturday it was back down to 25. The New York City urban sketchers, however had scheduled a perfect location for a winter outing that day. And since family matters had settled down I was able to spend the day with them. We met up at the former Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House now Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indians in lower Manhattan. 

I was able to sketch a couple of fellow subway riders on the way before finding the massive building in Bowling Green near Battery Park and Wall Street.

Joy Hecht, an urbansketcher from Newfoundland who uses collage as her medium, and is about to teach a 10x10 class, lent me her glue for the logo (the red square says "National Museum of American Indians".)

NYC urban sketchers meet from 10 to 3 every Saturday (!) so we broke for lunch and I found this peek-a-boo view from the restaurant window. 

After lunch I braved the twenty-five degree afternoon to watch folks lining up in front of the Charging Bull. The sunshine helped for the fifteen minutes I stood there as did two down coats and my Uggs and fingerless gloves, but it was a quick sketch.  

I went inside to thaw and watch the people watching the exhibitions. 

The "afters" was held at Murphy's pub around the corner where, New York USK style is to have everyone present their sketches show and tell style. Since I had missed their portrait party the previous weekend so I thought I'd throw in a belated offering, my tablemate, Linda Moses who had come to join urban sketchers for the first time. 

So the best laid plans of wintering in the tropics has had many bright spots and hopefully more to come.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Brooklyn Coffee Shop people

The winter weather forced the opportunity to head indoors to sketch. And what better opportunity than to sketch people in coffee shops and subways.  They're nothing special but I do really remember these people and the enjoyment I felt to get out and sketch.