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Sketching on a Stormy Night at Au Coquelet

Au Coquelet, Ink & watercolor
Au Coquelet, Ink & watercolor

It was a dark and stormy night when Cathy and I met at Au Coquelet Cafe to sketch while listening to people debate the existence of reality and/or study English in Chinese.

I started by sketching the guy in the middle with black hair and just kept on going, seeing more and more stuff to draw. At one point he walked by our table, saw what we were doing, pulled out his cellphone and took photos of our sketches of him. That was a first! But it seemed a fair trade.

A group of four (perhaps retired professors from the university) seemed to have gathered for the sole purpose of defining reality, or proving it’s existence, or both, punctuated regularly by “huh?” “what did you say?” as one of the gents was hard of hearing (but not hard of “talking” as he blathered on and on).  On our other side were Chinese college students studying English, but mostly in Chinese, with the occasional English phrase thrown in such as “I am a pretty girl” and “I am eating an apple” (which she wasn’t).

Au Coquelet is a perfect place to sketch.  It’s large, open very late, has a couple of rooms,  and counter service only so you don’t have to worry about waiters.  There’s lots of wood, bricks, brick-a-brack and plants, design left over from the hippie days.

I have fond memories of sketching there on another stormy night, New Year’s Eve 1997, when I was supposed to be in Yosemite National Park but had canceled the trip due to rain. And it was good I didn’t go: the next day Yosemite had the worst flooding in 100 years, with roads and bridges so damaged that people were stranded there for weeks without sanitary facilities or food.

So with no plans for the evening, I headed up to the café to draw people who did have plans, partygoers coming in before and after their parties. After a while, a tall, handsome artist sketching at another table came over and joined me. We sketched together and talked, and ended up dating for a few months until I decided that the tales he told were too good to be true.

14 replies on “Sketching on a Stormy Night at Au Coquelet”

Nice post! I really like your posting.
i will come back to read more of your posts.
specially about Sketching on a Stormy Night at Au Coquelet



I have to admit that I look forward to your sketch postings:)

Just wanted to say thanks for the tip in a previous post on the Artist and Craftsman Supply store in Berkeley. They are right across the street from the quilt shop that I go to. It was as good as Dick Blick (if not better in many ways) but without the DB experience. A little dark for the eyes but doable I think.


LOL about professors! My husband is an academic, I get to see and listen to a lot of professors – with a rare exception they sound just like you described. Although I usually find the context rather engaging.

Very nice sketch as well. You Tuesday night sketching makes me think I ought to create something like this in my life.


What fun stories you tell, and taking a pic of you on his mobile that’s a good one. Nice picture too. I’m off for coffee and cake in a few minutes – a friend just rang and invited me. Peceli is sleeping so I’ll just sneak out!
w. It’s mid afternoon and the golf was too much for him today it seems.


How come handsome artists never join me while I’m sketching? The only people who ever talk to me are small children and psychopaths (well they look pyschopathic..)
I love your sketch and your stories.


Great sketch, Jana. I love starting in the middle of the page, like you said you did, and just letting the drawing happen, as you see more and more detail. There’s something kind of therapeutic about that, for me anyway; and your drawing came out wonderfully. Great color.


It’s amazing how that kind of drawing becomes almost a meditation in opening your eyes to what’s there. I think because of the way we’ve evolved as both hunters and prey are brains and are eyes are designed to see only the most salient facts around us: “Is it food?” “Is it danger?” When we release that and keep seeing more and more deeply more and more just appears, and each gives me a little thrill. Jana


Fun stories and sketches of the sketching night, Jana. You always come away from them with great stories as well as great sketches. It’s an adventure for us who watch because it feels like we have been there with you.

As for the video of the Yosemite flood, it sends my mind into a tumble because to experience it–if one lived– would give nightmares that we would not want to remember, yet the power and beauty of that water on the loose strikes me with awe to the bones.



The video was pretty awesome, especially when you realize that except for the waterfalls and the stream under the bridge, none of that area normally has water on it. It wasn’t a river overflowing its banks, it was just water melting and coming down off the mountains! I’m so glad I wasn’t there! Jana


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