Mystic Holiday

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Charles W Morgan Mystic

M. and I surprised my father-in-law for his birthday by showing up at the house in Mystic, CT, for the Fourth of July holiday. During our stay, we walked downtown, ate at some favorite restaurants, and got in a boat ride. I also got to sketch the whaleship Charles W. Morgan again (above) at Mystic Seaport.

One morning, we went out to breakfast at M Bar, a place that used to be an old gas station. The food was fantastic.

M Bar Mystic

I love the scenic roads around Mystic and Westerly, RI, especially the ones with old stone walls that suddenly appear and disappear.

Road in Mystic CT


Dual Model Life Drawing

Monday, July 17, 2017

On Monday nights, the School of Visual Philosophy in San Jose has an open life drawing session in the evenings. One night they featured two models instead of one.

The models took poses that were interactive and challenging and held them for just a few minutes each. I was impressed and intimidated, because I had to rely on observation -- I couldn't "cheat" by pulling from my memory any shortcuts for drawing people in those poses.





I was seated on a high stool, so I had to balance my drawing pad and tools on my lap. Next time I'll choose a drawing horse or a table.


USk 10x10: Putting the Urban in Urban Sketching

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The heat wave broke and the breeze was fine at San Pedro Square in San Jose for my Urban Sketchers 10x10 Workshop on June 24. The idea was to consider different ways of putting the city into a sketch. We talked about:


  • What colors are in the environment? Is there a dominant color?
  • Sunlight/clouds: Are there shadows, or is the color flat?
  • What are the textures in the scene (marble? concrete? cobblestone? wood?)
  • What are the marks we could use to express the different textures (stippling, hatching, wash, etc.)?
  • Can we use found materials to draw on? To draw with? To add to the scene via collage?
  • Are there right angles? Curves?
  • Is everything up close, or are there sweeping views?


Los Gatos Plein Air: A Recap

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last week I had the honor of participating in Los Gatos Plein Air, a four-day paintout plus show/sale that had me going from hilltop to seaside, vineyard to trail. Here's the play-by-play, with photos by M. of me painting everywhere.

Tuesdsay, June 13

Weeks of prep had finally come to an end -- buying panels in San Diego, ordering frames in several sizes, getting extra paint just in case. I stacked my panels in a bag, gathered my gear in an IKEA rolling tote, and set off for Los Gatos, an upscale town about 20 minutes away that's probably most known for being home to Netflix.

First stop: Gallery 24, to get my canvas panels stamped (this is to deter cheaters -- everything must be painted within the week, so you can only paint on the stamped panels).

I looked at the list of suggested painting locations and decided to go to Mountain Winery in Saratoga, a vineyard/concert venue/event space with sweeping views.

I set up my easel between two rows of vines, looking out onto the valley below.

LGPA Mountain Winery oil

As I walked back to the car, I stepped on a branch and THWACK! The other end of it whipped up and struck my foot, hard. Ouch. (It's been more than a week now and it's *still* painful to wear closed shoes.)

After lunch, I elected to stay closer to home. We drove into Santa Teresa County Park so I could paint one of the trails. Several mountain bikers passed, so I did some quick captures of them in my sketchbook.

LGPA Mtn biker oil

Wednesday, June 14

Chasing cooler temperatures, I decided to head to Davenport and paint a seaside view. It was definitely jacket weather out by the rocks. I chose a slick panel surface and almost immediately regretted it. The paint simply slid around, and I had a hard time getting it to stay put. Still, I stuck it out and did what I could.

Toward the end, the wind really picked up; I was holding onto my umbrella with one hand and painting with the other. The umbrella kept flipping up and finally just detached itself and took off across the land. Not ideal conditions -- but that's plein air!

In the afternoon, I painted in the shade of a building on the beach in Santa Cruz. Bliss! This time I sketched out the scene with a Sharpie marker and then painted in acrylic.

LGPA Santa Cruz beach acrylic

Thursday, June 15

In the morning I went to Vasona Lake Park, where some kids were learning to fish. I got there pretty late so I only had time to put in one person fishing before lunch.

LGPA Vasona fishing oil

Lunch that day was at one of the organizers' homes in downtown Los Gatos. The heat was pretty intense in the afternoon, so I set up in the Town Plaza by the fountain and painted the kids splashing around in it.

It was a challenge to paint the water and the reflection of it on the wet pavement.

LGPA town plaza fountain oil

Friday, June 16

After a quick gouache sketch of people doing yoga in St. James Park in San Jose, it was time to name and frame!

M. had pre-drilled holes into the frames, so he was able to pop in the panels and secure them with little nails before wiring them for hanging.

I chose "One More Hill" (the painting of the mountain biker in Santa Teresa Park) to bring to the VIP reception/silent auction that evening at Dio Deka.

It was a relief to know that all the painting was over. M. and I went to Blue Line Pizza for dinner, and they kindly gave us pizza boxes for transporting the paintings the next day. We also got a few bigger ones at Mountain Mike's for a nominal fee. They were perfect for the framed wet paintings.

Saturday, June 17

Show day dawned hot and stayed hot. I was pleased with my spot in the park -- I was right near the shady trees, so it was great to put our chairs there all day. Between the heat and the highway lane closures, though, there definitely didn't seem to be as many people in the plaza as in the past.

I enjoyed walking around to look at everyone's paintings, and it was great to chat with Randy Sexton, the judge, whose workshop I'd attended last year. Some people did really well and sold multiple works over the course of the day. It was so nice of Laurie and Suhita and Srivani to come out to see the show.

At 5 o'clock it was all over. We packed up, headed home to shower, and then went off to Suhita's place for a drink and draw. Time to kick back and chat and doodle with friends over wine and a curry!


Gouache on Kraft Paper

Sunday, June 11, 2017

On my last visit to Daiso, I picked up a ringbound brown kraft paper scrapbook. Thought it would be fun to paint on with watercolor and gouache. Here are a few studies I did earlier today.

gouache study 1

gouache study 2

gouache study 3

Los Altos

Sky Drama

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sky drama, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

Got back from a work trip to Boulder, CO, Friday night. Saturday morning, I was up bright and early to paint with Pacific Art League at the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve near Los Altos, CA. The one-day workshop was led by Steve Curl. It's a steep and winding road up into the hills. It was tough to set up to paint there, as the grasses hugging the hiking trail were waist high.

After my initial painting (above), I did a few quick studies to round out the day.

Winding road, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

Quick tree study, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

Watercolor study, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve


At the Beach - Santa Cruz

Sunday, June 11, 2017

At the beach, Santa Cruz, CA

The mountains are lovely, but I do love that we live less than an hour from the sea. Painted with Cobra water mixable oils on a cheap Art Alternatives canvas board. It was a struggle to paint on this chalky rough surface. I've since read online that this board is mostly used by kids. Apparently you have to sand it or coat it generously with gesso (or both) to use it for anything serious. Oh well.


Plein Air in the Park

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Old but not forgotten - Martial Cottle shed

Got my paintings back after the awards ceremony for Santa Clara County's Plein Air Art in the Parks event (see my previous post). This is the watercolor I painted during the Quick Draw competition, at the Martial Cottle life estate. We had to paint it, name it, and frame it on site. I titled it "Old But Not Forgotten."


Laurel Canyon, Santa Teresa County Park

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Redwood in Laurel Canyon, Santa Teresa County Park

A lone redwood, surrounded by other trees and vegetation. I was drawn to its cinnamon light in the dappled shade. It stands in Santa Teresa County Park, near the Laurel Canyon waterfall. That's right, there's a waterfall barely a mile from our house. We've been here two years and only just went up that trail today!


Big Trees: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

Monday, May 29, 2017

General Grant Kings Canyon

Memorial Day. Logic says stay away from National Parks, right? Because of all the people who take advantage of the holiday to swarm the entrances?

Well, we joined the horde this weekend. True, we stayed in Fresno and got to the entrance early so there was barely any line. Also, we have an annual pass. And we went to Kings Canyon and Sequoia instead of, you know, Yosemite.

Okay, so getting to Fresno on Friday evening was not fun. At one point, it took an hour to go one mile. On the plus side, we saw an elegant woman on horseback as we waited, and some children in the car ahead of us got out to stretch their legs and went free range.

En route to Fresno 1

En route to Fresno 2

En route to Fresno 3

At least the traffic going south here is in the middle of farm country -- way more fun than idling on 95 in Connecticut.

And the payoff was those glorious vistas in the parks. At the top of this post is my sketch of General Grant (the third largest tree). Sequoias are massive. Many of them had fire scars like this one.

A highlight of our trip (apart from staring in awe at those gigantic trees) was our hike to Zumwalt Meadow. We picnicked in the shade by the river and then walked/waded to a lush clearing to see North Dome:

North Dome Kings Canyon

Like Yosemite ... but you don't have to share the experience with a hundred other people.

As we drove the Generals Highway through the parks, we saw lots of evidence of past fires. The chaparral with the twiggy remains is hauntingly beautiful.

Chaparral Kings Canyon

In fact, fires are part of the circle of life there -- the sequoias rely on it to release the seeds from their cones and expose mineral-rich soil.

Exiting Sequoia National Park


Workshops X 2 (+ Prep)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Last weekend I taught back-to-back sketching workshops in the South Bay. One was for winners of an Art in Action fundraising auction, and the other was for some Google colleagues.

The morning session was in Palo Alto, near the sculpture garden at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center. We found a shady spot to set up, and I had the group do several warm-up exercises. We practiced thumbnails, talked about using a waterbrush, and considered how to draw people. Quickly. Because they move.

AiA workshop Cantor Arts sculpture garden

Initially I'd considered holding the workshop at Baylands, but there's absolutely no shade out on the trails so I'm glad I chose the Cantor. Here are a few thumbnails I did as I scouted out locations:

Baylands Palo Alto thumbnails

The watercolor set we were using was made by Yarka. For an inexpensive student-grade set, the colors are quite rich. Below is a study I did to practice using them, from a photo I'd taken in Manchester at last year's Urban Sketchers symposium. It's a beautiful city; we all fell in love with it as we drew its cinnamon brick and shaded canals, and it's heartbreaking to see its people go through so much pain right now.

Manchester canal study

For the second workshop, I was providing the sketchbooks (I sprang for ones that were adequate but not too expensive), so I spent some time getting used to the paper beforehand. I chose Strathmore's Sketch (200 Series), which has 50 lb paper. It's for dry media, but I figured we could get away with a little bit of watercolor.

To test it, I took it with me when we rode the mini steam train at Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park a few weeks ago:

Tilden Regional Park train

And I experimented with watercolor washes.

Test landscape watercolor

I also used it at Artspan's sketch meetup at Huckleberry Bicycles in San Francisco. I'm pretty terrible at drawing bicycles (sad, I know, given M. does this) so it was a good chance to practice. The "models" (including M.) got to choose any bike they wanted and held poses for about five minutes. Just enough time to make a mess.

Huckleberry Bikes 1

Huckleberry Bikes 2

Huckleberry Bikes 3

Huckleberry Bikes 4

Huckleberry Bikes 5

Huckleberry Bikes 6

By the day of my workshop, I was pretty comfortable with the thin paper. Here's a quick demo I did for the participants, of people lounging in the park near the Mountain View Public Library. It's amazing how a little color can bring simple gestural lines to life.

Workshop people studies

At the end of the afternoon I was exhausted -- but very happy that both sessions had gone well. Next time, I won't be scheduling two workshops on the same day!