It's Christmas in Mystic! Starring Badly Drawn Bowlers

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Williams Cove, Mystic, CT

If you've been following this blog over the years, you know that the holidays at my in-laws' in lovely Mystic, CT (see the view across the water above) involve several traditions. Herewith, a sampling.

Tradition No. 1: Bowling on Christmas Eve with my sister-in-law's family at Spare Time in Groton, CT. Since I'm terrible at the actual knocking-down-pins bit, sometimes I bring knitting (or a skein of yarn to wind), but often I bring a sketchbook, which brings us to...

Tradition No. 2: Badly drawn bowlers. Which is probably a direct result of...

Tradition No. 3: Resolving (unsuccessfully) to practice bowling -- and sketching people in the act thereof -- at least once before the following Christmas Eve.

At Spare Time, Groton, CT

Bowling at Spare Time, Groton, CT


So, a few hours later, it's time for

Tradition No. 4: A CVS run to stock up on mints and Purell for Christmas Eve mass. This one started in M.'s family -- apparently the lord is more inclined toward those who take communion with brand-name fresh breath and sanitize after handshakes. We learned from last year's Smarties bulk-buy disaster and wisely chose Ice Breakers Sours in a berry flavor.

Tradition No. 5: Sketching at church. There are several points during the Christmas Eve service where we're just waiting -- waiting for a processional, waiting for the rector to read the nativity story to the young ones, waiting for everyone to place their contributions of baby food and diapers up at the manger, etc.

Christmas Eve service at St. Mark's Episcopal, Mystic, CT

Therefore I draw -- and I included a list of items to bring next year to make sitting through mass more entertaining comfortable.

Christmas Eve at St. Mark's Episcopal, Mystic, CT

Of course, next year we'll be looking at (and live-tweeting?) this Internet sensation.

Happy holidays, everyone!!

"New York City"

Around Columbus Circle

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A few quick sketches from this morning's NYC Urban Sketchers excursion. Here, I'm looking out from in front of the Time Warner building.

Columbus Circle, New York, NY

And this one's from W 56th & Eighth Ave.

W 56th and 8th Ave, New York, NY


Stonington at Thanksgiving

Monday, December 09, 2013

Water Street, Stonington, Connecticut
We're often in Mystic, CT, for Thanksgiving, and on the Friday and Saturday afterward we like to trawl nearby towns to start our holiday shopping. Sometimes Wickford, RI, or Niantic, CT, are in the mix, but this year we stayed a little closer -- downtown Mystic, of course, but also Westerly, RI, and Water Street in Stonington, CT. Sketched this from a bench outside a shop, wearing a warm coat and fingerless gloves.

"New York City"

A Writerly Walk Through the West Village

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Joined the NYC Urban Sketchers yesterday for a jaunt through New York literary haunts in Greenwich Village. We started at Washington Square North -- the world of Edith Wharton, Henry James and others. Was wishing I'd brought fingerless gloves by the time I finished this sketch, it was so cold. (What I did bring along was my new messenger-style bag from R.E.Load Bags in Philadelphia, as it allowed me to haul a lot of sketching stuff very comfortably with my hands free.)

Washington Square North, New York, NY

Then we went in search of Louisa May Alcott's ghost, on MacDougal Street. When we spied a cozy-looking cafe across the street, we decided to pause our wandering and warm up over steaming mugs of tea. The minute we stepped in, we knew we'd want to spend a few hours -- it was exactly the sort of old-timey place you dream of stumbling upon as you stroll in the Village.

Tea Spot, New York, NY

The host graciously let us take over a table in the front and guided us through the extensive selection of teas. For subjects, we had the shop's ever-changing clientele, some of whom ordered drinks to go and some of whom lingered to read or gossip or tap away at a keyboard.

At the Tea Spot, New York, NY

We tried out one another's pens (we're always in search of the next one to add to our collection), and I was dismayed to learn that Art Brown (my go-to pen shop in NYC) closed a few months ago.

A reader at the Tea Spot, New York, NY

I kept a few of the tea-stained placemats to paste into my sketchbook (they were a bit too buckled to draw on).

Tea Spot, New York, NY with pasted part of placemat

Tea Spot, New York, NY, with address from placemat

After a light lunch, we continued on our book tour, crossing Seventh Avenue to walk down Grove Street, where O. Henry apparently wrote. I left the group at that point but tarried in a few shops along the way to Grand Central. Browsed the jewelry and John Derian-ware and Laura Zindel ceramics at Lori McLean and picked up a little brochure called "Charming and Unusual Shops, Galleries & Boutiques in Historic Greenwich Village" -- it's illustrated with fabulous ink drawings of the storefronts.

One of them is The Ink Pad, a tiny stamping and paper arts emporium crammed with all kinds of creative objets. Since it was on my way to the 14th Street subway station, I stopped in and picked up a Strathmore hardbound watercolor journal. After all, I'm just pages away from filling my Moleskine sketchbooks from the Lisbon and Santo Domingo Urban Sketching symposia....

"Old Town"

A Weekend in Northern Virginia

Monday, November 04, 2013

Took advantage of a crisp fall weekend to drive down to Virginia. Stopped at Ellicott City and Frederick in Maryland, then Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on the way. Visted a friend from high school in Winchester, then proceeded south on Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park before exiting at the tiny town of Sperryville to have lunch and sketch with Jessie while M. biked.

On the hill, Sperryville, VA

Then it was onward to Old Town Alexandria, where I spent a leisurely Sunday morning with a block of Hahnemuhle Quattro watercolor paper. I strolled down King Street from the Lorien Hotel & Spa to the waterfront, stopping to sketch along the way.

Old Town, Alexandria, VA

The town takes a while to wake up on a Sunday morning, so I had the streets mostly to myself.

Old Town theater, Alexandria, VA

Prince Street, Alexandria, VA

Union and Prince Sts, Alexandria, VA

A highlight of our trip was Wisconsin-style pumpkin frozen custard at Dairy Godmother in Alexandria's Del Ray section. So decadent! On a future visit, will have to stay longer and sketch that neighborhood, too!


At the Harbor Point Beer Garden

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ace pear cider, Harbor Point beer garden, Stamford, CT

Capped off a day wandering around New York with a visit to the Harbor Point Beer Garden here in the South End of Stamford. I was pleased they had Ace ciders and not just Angry Orchard, which everyone around here seems to stock. Listening to the band, sipping pear cider, sketching quickly as the breeze picked up -- a nice end to the evening.

Band at the Harbor Point beer garden, Stamford, CT

home improvement

New watercolor: "Do It Yourself"

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Do It Yourself"

Painted this to enter into a show ... was going to call it "Saturday Afternoon at the Big Box Store" but then figured "Do It Yourself" would say it all in fewer words.


Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, in a Mustang, with a sketchbook

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Palm tree, Malibu, CA

A week in California is never enough. But when I found out I was going to a conference in Anaheim around my birthday, my immediate thought was: perfect excuse for M. and me to drive from LA to San Fran in a convertible (with shades and a scarf and a sketchbook, of course)!

Kicked off this coastal crawl with a mini Urban Sketchers reunion: Chris and Shiho met me at Downtown Disney in Anaheim (I was staying at the Grand Californian Hotel). We had dinner at Tortilla Jo's while we drew.

At Tortilla Jo's in Downtown Disney, Anaheim, CA

Downtown Disney, Anaheim, CA

People at Downtown Disney, Anaheim, CA

The conference ended on Monday night -- so Tuesday morning M. and I picked up our ride -- a black Mustang convertible -- and set off on Highway 1.

In Malibu, I found that I really like watching people surf, or at least attempt to surf.

At the beach, Malibu, CA

Surfers in Malibu, CA

We lunched in Santa Barbara, and I sat in the shadeless part of the park to sketch the Mission:

Mission, Santa Barbara, CA

And then ... the fog rolled in. It pretty much sat on us for the rest of the trip. We never saw the top of Morro Rock (though we did kayak out to see the sea lions and the pelicans up close).

Foggy day in Morro Bay, CA

We spent most of Wednesday chasing gaps in the fog all the way from Morro Bay to Carmel. Don't get me wrong - Big Sur was still beautiful in its misty coyness. And it lifted enough for us to take the requisite souvenir photos of McWay Falls and the Bixby Bridge. But mostly we'd look to the left and see ... gauzy whiteness. So? We'll just have to go back another time.

Thursday was: Carmel-Monterey-Golden Gate Bridge-Sausalito-lunch in Napa-back to San Francisco for dinner-drop off car at SFO-get on redeye. All this with the Bay Bridge closed for the completion of the new eastern span!

But still, time for one last sketch to kiss California goodbye, from Bridgeway in Sausalito.

Sausalito, CA

As Arnold says, "I'll be back."

Summer Streets in New York

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer Streets, New York, NY

On three days in the summer, New York opens up Park Avenue/Lafayette Street to pedestrians and bikes and rollerbladers. This was the scene last weekend at Lafayette near 4th St.


Updating Shakespeare, in Peterborough

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Unitarian Universalist Church, Peterborough, NH

Driving to New Hampshire took way too long on Friday afternoon (>3 hours to Hartford?!). But once we arrived in Peterborough, all the getting-there-annoyance melted away. Peterborough has enough around it to keep us busy (shopping, lakes for kayaking, bikeable country roads) but is small enough not to attract hordes of tourists. Our base was the ever-delightful Little River Bed & Breakfast. Saturday evening, after kayaking, a trip to Eastern Mountain Sports, lunch with area friends and downtown shopping, we parked our folding chairs at Depot Square Park for the Actors' Circle Theatre production of "Two Gentlemen of Verona."

Audience, Shakespeare in the Park, Peterborough, NH

Not the most accomplished of the bard's plays (most likely his first, apparently), but this version was set in the Roaring Twenties, so it was fun to see (and sketch) the flappertastic costumes and props. Remembering what I learned at the USK Symposium in Barcelona, I took along stencils, colored pencils, a glue stick, that Strathmore toned gray sketchbook and more, to get away from my usual pen + watercolor routine.

Actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Peterborough, NH

Actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Peterborough, NH

Actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Peterborough, NH

Actors in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Peterborough, NH


Antique boats in Mystic, CT

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Antique Boat Rendezvous, Mystic, Connecticut

At Mystic Seaport's Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous. Sadly several vessels couldn't make it, we learned, due to bad weather in the region a few days prior.


Barcelona sin Gaudi - Part Two

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Have I mentioned the amazing food in Spain? We really didn't eat a bad meal the entire time we were in Barcelona, though at a certain point I did tire a little of the ubiquitous pan de tomate ;)

At Matamala, Barcelona, Spain


Another warm, sticky day. Before the first workshop, went up to the 6th floor spa deck of Le Meridien hotel to sketch the view. Next time I'd like to go up into those hills.

View from Le Meridien Hotel 6th floor, Barcelona, Spain

Started off in the morning with Shari Blaukopf's Triad Symphony workshop, where we explored the possibilities of working solely with Alizarin crimson, Ultramarine blue and Aureolin yellow. After some value studies, we painted a small flower stand near the Església de Santa Anna, a lovely church. A bit bummed that I didn't actually go see the cloister.

Florist, Barcelona, Spain

After the class, a few of us took the metro to Barna Art -- because, you know, one never has quite enough art supplies. I snagged one of the few remaining Escoda travel brushes as well as a pack of Catalan-made watercolor paper at sister shop Barna Paper. After inhaling sorbet for lunch (yes it was that hot), I attended the Sketching with Dry Twig and Chinese Ink demo by Ch'ng Kiah Kiean. We watched closely as he deftly and rapidly sketched the cathedral with just a few tools.

Then it was off to Capturing Space Through Form and Color, taught by Marion Rivolier. Was not happy to walk nearly 30 minutes to the location, down in Barceloneta. (Plus, by now I know from experience that the second workshop on the second day of each year's symposium is generally my low point in terms of energy!) So I probably wasn't paying attention to the exercises, but I managed to paint a number of these panoramas of the buildings and trees down there. No pen or pencil lines, thus no "safety net."

Barceloneta panorama in red/blue, Barcelona, Spain

Barceloneta panorama, Barcelona, Spain


I knew this morning's workshop was going to be hard. Omar Jaramillo and João Catarino showed us how to paint around what we wanted to highlight in their workshop, titled Negative Forms as First Structures and Minimal Storytelling. I struggled with the first part, where we had to paint just the buildings, leaving the trees, cafe umbrellas, etc., white. I won't show you my sad attempts. The second part was more my speed -- we had to quickly paint gestural forms of the people wandering around near Placeta del Pi.

People at Placeta del Pi, Barcelona, Spain

After lunch at a Vietnamese place near the cathedral (a welcome break from tapas), I attended an informative and charismatic lecture by RISD faculty member and illustrator Fred Lynch. He was quite the storyteller.

Finally it was time for the 40th Worldwide Sketchcrawl! Keeping with tradition, the last day of the symposium coincided with a worldwide sketchcrawl, so we all gathered at the Arc de Triomf to draw, have a group picture taken and celebrate.

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona, Spain

Sketchcrawl at Arc de Triomf, Barcelona, Spain

A few of us went on to dinner at Luzia Street Grill, where the blank white paper placemat begged to be filled with a sketch.

At Luzia Street Grill, Barcelona, Spain


A day to rest, at last (sort of.) M. and I splurged for tickets and took a ride on the hop-on, hop-off Touristic Bus so that I could get a feel for the city (not to mention see some of the famous Gaudi buildings). It was nice to be off my feet. Of course, there were many stops along the route where crowds of people got on and off. I took the opportunity to sketch the Palau Nacional from the top of the stopped bus.

Top of Palau Nacional from Touristic Bus, Barcelona, Spain

I leave you with a sketch of the beach in Barceloneta, where we stopped for lunch and to dip our feet in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.

Barceloneta beach, Barcelona, Spain

Looking forward to next year's symposium, wherever it may be!