Recap: Stop, Drop & Sketch!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

What a fantastic group we had for yesterday's workshop at ARCH Art & Drafting Supply in San Francisco!

We practiced techniques for using a minimal kit (sketchbook, fineliner, small watercolor set, and waterbrush, provided by ARCH) to make quick captures of the area around the shop.

Even though that area of Mission Bay is a bit industrial looking, there are still opportunities for interesting compositions.

180707 Mission Bay SF 2

180707 Mission Bay SF 1

180707 Mission Bay SF 3

180707 ARCH Supplies SF

The exercises were deliberately brief, to get people used to sketching rapidly and spontaneously. I was very impressed with how much everyone achieved given the constraints of time, place, and materials.

I hope it inspired some of the attendees to take up on-location sketching more regularly. Thanks to everyone for joining!


Packing for Porto!

Friday, July 06, 2018

Just one week to go before the journey to Portugal begins! Can't believe it's been a whole year since Chicago - wow!

Porto will be my 8th Urban Sketchers symposium, so I've mostly gotten my prep down to a science. I have a workshop pass, which means I'll need to take supplies for each of the 4 classes I'm taking. I've reviewed all the supply lists, eliminated overlaps, and added my fave sketching stuff.

So what's going in the bag this year?

-Gouache tubes and empty palette
-A pan of gold watercolor paint (why not?)
-My watercolor palette and go-to brushes (travel rounds, rigger, flat)
-Sketchbooks: one with hot press (smooth) paper, plus my usual ones; pastel papers
-Pastels (vintge, from various tag sales) & pastel pencils
-Set of colored pencils & pencil sharpener
-Binder clips
-Wet wipes, paper towels
-Old toothbrush
-Some ink
-Water container and a holder from the hardware store
-Various fineliners
-Small folding stool

I may yet add to the list, but this is where I am today. Can you guess from my materials which workshops I'm taking? :-)


Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Nothing says Independence like a day full of random adventures. Our Fourth of July was spent meandering along the California coast.

We began the day at Refuge in Carmel Valley, a day spa with saunas, steam rooms, and warm-and-cold plunge pools with little waterfalls. There are firepits and hammocks and gorgeous plantings all around. Silence is enforced, and no electronics are permitted. Books and magazines are encouraged, though, so I figured a discreet sketchbook wouldn't be out of place.

180704 Refuge Carmel

As the temperature was in the 60s, we spent most of our time in the warm and hot pools. The cool pool was too cold to stay in for more than a few seconds, and the cold pool was downright icy!

After a delicious lunch at r.g. Burgers, we continued down Rte. 1 toward Big Sur in search of a spot to hang our newly acquired Eno DoubleNest hammock.

We stopped at Garrapata State Park and hiked a little way inland on the Soberanes Canyon Trail.

180704 Soberanes Canyon Trail

It's amazing to see cacti covering the hillsides as you get further from the trailhead. I didn't have my folding stool with me, so I sketched standing up to avoid cactus needles and poison oak.

Apparently the trail soon enters the redwoods and passes some waterfalls on the way to the ridgeline. We'll have to go back another day. Parts of the trail are still officially closed after the devastating floods and mudslides of last spring, but hikers go anyway.

We kept driving south, looking for hammock-worthy trees about 12 to 15 feet apart. About 14 miles from Lucia, we found what we'd been looking for: a stand of trees overlooking the Pacific.

On went the straps, and ... ahhh. What a serene end to the day!

quick capture

On My Commute

Thursday, July 05, 2018

I see this building a lot (I wait for the light rail in front of it on the way to work), so I sketch this building a lot. I usually have about seven minutes before the train comes. City National Civic, San Jose.

180629 City National Civic, San Jose


Finish Line: 30x30DirectWatercolor2018

Sunday, July 01, 2018

OhMyGoodnessThisChallenge. At the beginning of June, I'd just come back from Hawaii, and the thought of doing 30 watercolors in 30 days seemed a fantastic way to get warmed up for the Urban Sketchers symposium in Porto.

So I started off strong -- *really* strong -- and then the doldrums set in. I found myself fishing for ways to make the challenge more interesting: using up random papers from my studio like Yupo...

180625 Rose on Yupo from photo

180625 Portland alley from photo - Yupo

...finding inspiration on television...

180626 portraits from tv

...even painting while riding in M.'s cargo bike.

180624 Santa Teresa from cargo bike

Let's be real: I was bored.

But I kept trying.

180628 beach scene from photo

And as the 30th drew near, I came up with lots of excuses not to paint. And then yesterday it all came pouring out. With a waterbrush, in the car:

180630 From car on 280N

At a cafe:

180630 SF cafe silhouettes

From photos:

180630 San Francisco streets from photo

180630 Kauai Poipu beach from photo

180630 Vineyard Morgan Hill from photo

180630 Na Pali coast Kauai from photo

180630 Kauai mountains from photo

Until I did, finally, make it to 30.

What I (re)learned through this challenge: (1) I get bored easily. Look! A bird! (2) I'm super competitive. (3) I procrastinate like a boss. (4) And when the deadline looms, I get it done.

Thank you Marc, Suhita, Liz, Uma, and Anne-Laure for putting me through this (excruciating) (awesome) month. I am truly grateful.

plein air

Off the Easel: Hanalei Bay

Sunday, June 24, 2018

You may recall that I did a plein air oil painting at Waioli Beach Park on the last day of our trip to Kauai, Hawaii. I was painting it the glare of sunlight (didn't pack my umbrella kit, to save space), so it was hard to see what I was doing. Figured it would need to be reassessed once I got home.

Curious about the setup? I use a Strada Micro 7-inch-square pochade box and an Easyl tripod. Since I was painting a panel that was vertically smaller than 7 inches high, I taped it to the back of an 8x10 panel so that it would fit. Doing this also enables me to carry the wet panel in my Raymar 8x10 wet panel carrier box.

Turns out the painting didn't need too much touching up after all.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, oil on gessoed hardboard panel, 5x7. View it on my portfolio site.


Catching Up - Slowly

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Don't know about you, but the heat out here this week is making me sluggish. I'm up to 17 in the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge, so have a few more to go to catch up to where I'm supposed to be.

I pass this lovely San Jose building (the City National Civic theatre) on my way to work, so I snapped a photo and tried painting it in a more opaque, gouache-y style:

180620 City National Civic San Jose

To me it feels more "illustration" than "sketch" - what do you think?

My inspiration for these next two was Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle, streaming via Amazon Prime. Much of the action is set in Venice, so I pulled out my Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors and a large pad of Canson paper to play with:

180621 Imaginary head inspired by Venice scenes

No real subjects -- just my imagination.

180621 Abstract inspired by Venice scenes

I'm crushing on the metallic colors in that set -- aren't those shimmery gold accents fun? Might have to use that in some other paintings going forward.

And here's a quick sketch from a photo I took in Big Sur a while ago:

180623 Big Sur from photo


Back to the Challenge

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A few quick studies for the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge. Twilight at Santa Teresa County Park, trying to capture a blanket of fog that filtered the setting sun over the hills. Didn't quite get it, but had fun trying.

180616 Santa Teresa County Park twilight

180616 Santa Teresa County Park twilight 2

just lines

A Day at the Alameda County Fair

Sunday, June 17, 2018

And also, a (short) break from the watercolor challenge! After our lovely dinner in downtown Pleasanton a little while ago when returning from Yosemite, we thought it would be fun to go up there for the Alameda County Fair. We figured it would be a lot like the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York, and we weren't wrong.

Livestock, racing pigs, quaint competition classes of crochet, jams, and more? Check, check, and check! But we're in the West with a capital W out here, and not surprisingly there were reminders of that everywhere. Lots of Texas-size meat wrapped in other meat, on and off a stick, et cetera.

I stuck to my cheap Muji notebook and pen for quick captures of the activities. First there was team cattle roping (I get that these events evolved from ranching tasks, but honestly it doesn't really look so fun for the cattle or the ropers). The object, it appeared, was for a pair of competitors to get the steer on the ground with its front and hind hooves roped in a set amount of time.

180616 Alameda County Fair 1

180616 Alameda County Fair 2

180616 Alameda County Fair 3

After the cattle left the field, the motorcycles roared in. The stunts performed by the motocross riders (at least one of whom was an X Games medalist) were unreal.

180616 Alameda County Fair 4

The whole time I was at the fair, that song featuring Templeton in Charlotte's Web kept running through my head:

"A fair is a veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord-orgasbord/After the crowds have ceased.
Each night, when the lights go out, it can be found, on the ground, all around,/Oh! What a rat-ly feast!"


Families Belong Together Rally

Sunday, June 17, 2018

It was incredibly moving to join the San Jose rally (one of many nationwide) this past Thursday to protest the forced separation of migrant families at the U.S. border.

180614 Families Belong Together rally

I realized as I was taking the train down to SJ City Hall from work that I had forgotten to pack my sketch kit that morning. So I stopped at the Muji store and picked up a few inexpensive supplies on my way there: a black rollerball pen, a small blank notebook, a tiny box of markers.

180614 Families Belong Together rally 2

Publicly showing our support for these families is necessary but not sufficient. Here are resources, including a list of organizations that are helping in various ways. Show up, donate, fundraise, volunteer, demand action from elected officials, run for office, and please, please VOTE.


Recap: From Line to Design

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Last weekend, I led the Urban Sketchers Bay Area 10x10 series workshop "From Line to Design" in downtown Redwood City. It was a lovely and sunny day, and we had a fantastic group.


We started out with an emphasis on line and how it can be used for composition, keeping in mind some basics like the rule of thirds, focal points, and balance:


We then moved on to design, considering ways to use color to enhance the initial drawing. We talked about using complementary colors and balancing areas of color across the sketch.

Color notes

The results were truly a reflection of each artist's individual expression. Thanks to everyone who joined me for the session!


Have you been bitten by the sketching bug? Join me at my July workshop, "Stop, Drop & Sketch!" hosted by ARCH Art & Drafting Supply in San Francisco. All materials are included in the fee. We'll be sketching our way around Mission Bay and learning how to use a minimal kit for maximum enjoyment. Space is limited, so sign up through Eventbrite today.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Another side effect of the #30x30DirectWatercolor2018 challenge: getting to know the South Bay better. I'm constantly driven to find new views within the surrounding area. Painted this one from memory after going down to the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. It's a view looking back toward the ranches next to the road, at twilight.

Morgan Hill landscape imagined

The paper I used is a new one: Hahnemuhle 95 lb rough. I don't mind the texture, but 95 lbs is a little too lightweight for my taste. I'm used to painting on 140 lb or heavier paper.