Going North

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Daytrip north, on a Monday a few weeks ago. Summer eats and a bike ride in Bodega Bay, then a longish drive home with a stop in Marshall (Tomales Bay).

191014 Bodega Bay CA

191014 Marshall CA 2

191014 Marshall CA 1


Dinner at Nyum Bai

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Had been wanting to visit Nyum Bai, the storied East Bay Cambodian restaurant, so we popped up there for dinner last night. Sketched Fruitvale Public Market while waiting in line to be seated.

191005 Fruitvale Public Market Oakland

Open kitchens are an invitation to draw, so I quickly sketched the cooks while the food was being prepared.

191005 Nyum Bai Oakland

And yes, the food was delish. Ended our meal with ice cream/sorbet from the vendor inside the Public Market. Mmm.


Getting Out of a Rut

Sunday, October 06, 2019

People: I stopped drawing for a while. I came back from Labor Day weekend and just stopped. I had my sketchbook and pen with me all the time, but I didn't take them out. I had a block. Work was all-consuming. And nothing was coming out of the pen onto the page. Every day I told myself, I'll draw tomorrow. And then tomorrow would come, and then... and then it was October! Which, in the drawing world, is Inktober!

So I decided it was time for tough love.

Recall that I have all those inks from the workshop I took at A Verb for Keeping Warm with Judi Pettite. I parked myself in the studio, put on some music, and got them out.

191005 natural inks studio shot

And I did, and got caught up on my Inktober debt.

191005 fig leaves in light

191005 Carmel beach ink abstract

191005 lime purple inks abstract

191005 red inks abstract

191005 red purple inks abstract

Sometimes you're in a drawing drought. It happens. Just have to drag yourself out through sheer force.


Join Me in Italy Next May!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Want to come back from your travels with a sketchbook full of memories? In this dynamic 4-day Urban Sketchers workshop co-hosted by La Romita School of Art, you’ll learn techniques for quickly capturing scenes in ink & watercolor as you explore Umbria, Italy. You’ll use gestural line to sketch the essence of fleeting moments, whether it’s people at a cafe in the piazza or clouds over a sweeping landscape. Then you’ll add vibrant color to bring your drawings to life.

Each day will bring new places and subjects to inspire and challenge you: markets, ruins, even vineyards. There will be a mix of demos, exercises, and individual instruction in each location. You’ll come away energized and excited to draw!

Participants will learn to:

  • Choose and frame a subject, using compositional principles
  • Simplify architecture and people using gestural, dynamic line
  • Use appropriate marks for both close-up as well as wide-angle scenes
  • Tailor their sketches to the place, using a localized palette of colors and textures
  • Add color to their sketches with loose washes, not bound by the lines drawn.
  • Selectively “break the rules” of color, tools, and paper to get a fresh perspective
  • Create a visual narrative of their travels
All you have to do is get yourself to Rome; everything else is taken care of! Learn about dining and accommodations at La Romita School.

Workshop details

Day 1

  • Arrival and orientation
  • Transfer from Rome to workshop location
  • Showcase and intro to the workshop
  • Survey of sketchbooking styles - words, pictures, collage, textures

Day 2
Outdoor Sketching Basics

Morning [San Gemini or nearby]

  • Warm up, getting loose
  • Choosing a subject
  • Principles of composition
  • Close ups, wide angles

Afternoon [Studio]

Techniques for proportion, angles, and perspective
Measuring and capturing proportional elements and angles

Day 3
Gesture, Place, and Values

Morning [Todi or nearby]

  • Using gesture for suggestion: buildings, people
  • Localizing your sketch - textures, unique features
  • Simplified scenes, a sense of place

Afternoon [Studio]

  • Simplifying values
  • Focus on light and shadow
  • Ink and wash value sketches; coloring sketches

Day 4
Paint the rainbow

Morning: [Montefalco or nearby]

  • What color is that? Seeing color in a beige world
  • Pushing colors to extremes
  • Complementary colors and how to use them for vibrant scenes
  • Compositions using contrast and vibrant colors

Afternoon: [Studio]

  • Explore options for limited color schemes
  • Using different 3- or 4-color palettes

Day 5
Day trip [Assisi or nearby]

  • Putting all the elements together
  • Creating a narrative and adding notes
  • Series of sketches to tell a story of a place
  • Use a sketch as template for “breaking rules”
  • Sketching scavenger hunt

Day 6
Departure - Transfer to Rome for travel home


Minimum 10 participants. Beginners welcome. Scholarships available; please inquire when you register.

Fee: $2,100. Includes all instruction, airport transfers from/to Rome, dining & accommodations. Pay in full by 30 November 2019 to get 10% off the workshop price. Register for the workshop >>

East Coast

From City to Beach

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Traveled to New York for a work conference the week before Labor Day, so I got in a few sketches before breakfast/between meetings:

190828 New York City 2

190828 New York City 1

Spent the long weekend in Mystic, CT, with family. Just as we did last year, we spent a morning watching the waves roll in at Misquamicut Beach in Rhode Island. (And cooling off with a Del's frozen lemonade, naturally.)

190831 Misquamicut Beach RI 1

190831 Misquamicut Beach RI 2


Recap: Sketching Techniques

Sunday, September 08, 2019

My workshop last month -- Sketching Techniques: Layer It On! at Arch Supplies in San Francisco -- combined outdoor sketching with indoor exercises. It was great to see everyone's exploration of mixed media, including layered watercolor and colored pencil.

Here's a peek at some of the demo sketches.

Thanks to everyone who joined!

Sunday drive

Hiking at Big Sur

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Woke up a few Sundays ago craving a leisurely pre-birthday weekend drive, a hike, a swimming hole. Big Sur River Gorge, accessed through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, checked all the boxes, plus rock scrambling and wading, to boot. How had I not known about this??

190818 Big Sur River Gorge

But we didn't stop there. The one-mile hike to the beach at Andrew Molera State Park gave us this view, below. In the sky, gulls and swooping pelicans. On the sand, just a smattering of people and several driftwood beach shelters. Bliss.

190818 Andrew Molera State Park Beach

local colors

Playing with Inks

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Last month I took a workshop with Judi Pettite called "Wild Ink" at the knit/sew/dye boutique A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. We learned all about the process for turning materials such as indigo, buckthorn, black walnut, and eucalyptus bark into saturated inks.

I've been thinking a lot about creating a sense of place in a drawing through the palette of colors used, and it's even more interesting to consider local plants as a source of those pigments.

We had fun testing and playing with the various inks, and got to take six bottles home.


10th Urban Sketchers Symposium: Amsterdam

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Just back from the annual Urban Sketchers extravaganza, aka sketching in extreme heat. Thought it would be a lovely 70F-80F in Amsterdam, but no such luck; temps hovered around 100F pretty much the entire week, making it very challenging to be outdoors in the afternoon.

Here are the highlights:

Tuesday, July 23.
Took the bus out to Volendam, a fishing village turned tourist magnet. I sketched the buildings facing the marina, and we had fun watching a demo on cheese-making.

190723 Volendam marina

That evening, after our Urban Sketchers Advisory Board dinner, I went out sketching with the lovely Uma Kelkar and Elizabeth Alley. The light on the Amstel river around 10 pm was absolutely gorgeous. I started with a line drawing, then added a first wash for the highlights before finishing with the darks.

190724 Amstel River at sunset - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wednesday, July 24.
USK Symposium sponsor Royal Talens invited the faculty and board members to tour their factory and Experience Centre in Apeldoorn, about an hour and a half from Amsterdam.

It was fascinating to see how paints, pastels, and other art supplies are made. We walked quickly, so it was tough to capture even a little sampling of all the steps in the process. I'll never look at my tube colors the same way again!

190724 Royal Talens tour 1

190724 Royal Talens tour 2

190724 Royal Talens tour 3

190724 Royal Talens tour 4

190724 Royal Talens tour 5

190724 Royal Talens tour 6

190724 Royal Talens tour 7

Thursday, July 25.
My morning workshop was with Joerg Asselborn. It was called "Catching Windmills." We took the tram out to De Gooyer, to see one of the few windmills in the city.

We started out with semi-blind contour drawings and proceeded to capture small details like the windows. Finally, we put everything together in a sketch of the whole structure. It was a challenging subject, but it was very helpful to break it down and truly "see" each part before tackling the whole.

190725 De Gooyer windmill Amsterdam

In the afternoon, I escaped the soaring temps by visiting the Van Gogh Museum.

Friday, July 26.
The heat was relentless. This morning's workshop was with Karen Sung. It was called "Growing a Drawing." She challenged us to think outside the square/rectangular format of the paper and to add paper wherever it made sense, to extend focus areas. I liked the concept, though the scene before me wasn't very inspiring and the alternating smells of garbage and cleaning solution (from restaurants preparing to open) were distracting.

Still, I managed to crank out a sketch or two.

190726 Hotel Atlanta Growing your sketch Amsterdam

In the afternoon, M. met me and we rented a Bakfiets cargo bike.

It was very uncomfortable to sit in given the extreme heat, but we toured about in it for a while, visiting Jordaan and going past the Anne Frank House. It was nearly impossible to sketch from the bike, but I tried.

190726 Jordaan from cargo bike Amsterdam

190726 house from bike Amsterdam

We ended up at the book market, where I got out and did a quick drawing while M. went to get ice cream.

190727 Book market Amsterdam

In the late evening, we took a canal cruise. This was a better opportunity for sketching in motion, and I was able to do four mini sketches while waiting for the tram and also while on the boat.

190726 Amsterdam thumbnails

Saturday, July 27.

My last workshop was with Marina Grechanik. I've long been a fan of her colorful, layered sketches of people in context, so it was great to see how she worked.

We practiced doing portraits and capturing emotions before "hunting" people's faces at the local flea market. For our final sketch, we had to keep portraits as the main focus while telling a story, a narrative of the market. I founded a shaded spot at a cafe to draw some bored stallkeepers as they waited for customers in the searing heat. It was fun to let go of conventions and just play around with color!

190727 Flea market Amsterdam

All too soon, the symposium was at an end!

Next year we'll all meet up again in April ... at #uskHongKong2020!