Drawing Every Day Matters Life in general Sketchbook Pages

Beach at Tennessee Valley, Marin County – EDM #74

Beach at Tennessee Valley cp water

Ink & watercolor pencil in large Moleskine watercolor book (above)

Beach at Tennessee Valley cp

Watercolor pencil before adding water in large watercolor Moleskine (above)

Beach at Tennessee Valley pen and ink
First drawing: Ink in large watercolor Moleskine (above)

Today Michael and I went for a hike and picnic at the beach. As usual for the Bay Area in July, it was cold, windy and foggy. I wore two shirts, blue jeans, a bandana tied around my neck, a down vest, earmuffs and Goretex parka. I needed every single item for the beautiful one mile hike to the beach. We found a nice sheltered spot along the cliffs next to a tiny cave and were about to set up our picnic when I got a whiff of something that smelled more like a bathroom than a beach. It wasn’t going away so we did–we found another spot further down the little beach that smelled the way it was supposed to–like fresh sea air and seaweed.

While we were eating lunch we watched a young mother pushing a massive all-terrain stroller through the sand while carrying a baby in a front back with a toddler running along beside her. She set up camp, unpacking a folding lounge chair and deli sandwich for herself, and food for the little ones. After a few minutes her toddler, all dressed in pink, apparently needed to use the non-existent little girls’ room so the mom pulled out a white plastic, inflatable toilet seat which she carried over to the area we had so recently vacated. She laid it on the sand and held up a beach towel for privacy. When they were done, she folded up the seat and put it back in her bag and they returned to their lunch. We felt like we were watching a weird movie. Maybe all the regulars at the beach know that spot is the unofficial potty?

Once lunch was done, I got out my pens and watercolor pencils and enjoyed drawing the rock formations and sea in ink and watercolor pencils. I’d forgotten a brush so I added the water after I got home, but first scanned it to be able to show all three versions. These are Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft pencils. I’d tried Faber-Castell first but they were too hard and unpleasant to draw with. These apply nicely, but I’m not happy with the colors they come in. I’d rather have colors more like my usual paint palette. Watercolor pencils are easy to carry and fun to use, and remind me of magic coloring books when I was a kid that had the color impregnated in the paper and you just painted with water. But they won’t replace my paints!

By the time we started the hike back to the parking lot, the fog was gone, the sun was shining, and I was down to an undershirt and jeans with all the other gear crammed into my backpack.

Drawing Every Day Matters Life in general Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Mailboxes: Everyday Matters Challenge #73

Everyday Matters’ challenge for this week is to draw or paint your mailbox. Below is a sketch of my front porch and mailbox (though I think I temporarily forgot everything I knew about drawing when I made it), plus photos of my actual painted mailboxes and a story about mailboxes and Art as Revenge:

Mailbox drawing

Below is my current mailbox (my crazy cats and I with address slightly blurred to protect the innocent):

Below is my old mailbox: (Notice the required opening of the jaws to insert mail.)

Molly-mailbox Open

Back in the freedom-loving Berkeley days of the 1970s, leash laws weren’t enforced and dogs could go anywhere with their owners. You never heard about people being attacked and bitten by pet dogs. Our friendly old dog Molly loved to bask in the sun in our front yard and would lazily greet people who parked on our street while shopping for produce at nearby Monterey Market.

We had been waiting for an important piece of mail–a much needed escrow check. After a week of not receiving ANY mail or notice as to why there was no mail, I spotted our mailman (who looked very much like R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural) at the end of the block. I caught up to him and asked why we had no mail.

He told me he wasn’t delivering it anymore if our dog was outside. He wasn’t impressed by my saying she was gentle and harmless. I demanded he give me our mail; he refused. I begged him to give it to me and said he could just put it on the ground and I’d pick it up; he refused. So I climbed onto the hood of his jeep holding my toddler, Cody in my arms, and insisted I wouldn’t get off until he gave me our mail. He threatened to call his supervisor (but couldn’t get to a pay phone unless I got off his jeep in this pre-cell phone era). We both threatened to call the police (he was stealing our mail, I said). We went back and forth like this for quite awhile, and we both refused to give in.

Finally, Cody announced he was hungry (and I’m sure confused by his mother’s very odd behavior) and then the postman announced that actually, he had no mail in his pouch for me. At this I realized I’d lost, got off his jeep, and from then on had to make sure Molly was indoors if I wanted to get mail.

But ART IS POWERFUL and I got my revenge. I kept Molly inside but painted my mailbox to look like her so he had to put his hand inside the dog’s mouth each time he delivered the mail!

Of course, I later came to understand how dangerous a mail carrier’s job can be and know how often they actually do get bitten…so Mr. Natural…er, Mr. Postman… if you’re reading this, I apologize.

Drawing Every Day Matters Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Reflecting Pool at Blake Gardens

Watercolor on Arches 9×12.

I returned to Blake Gardens today, much better equipped for painting outdoors and did this 2-hour sketch of the pond from a different angle. I brought my new lightweight Winsor Newton watercolor easel and put all of my supplies into my granny cart (one of those tall wheeled mesh carts that you usually see old ladies pulling to the grocery store. I’d bought it a year ago to use like a janitor’s rolling cart and pulled it around the house with my cleaning supplies hanging from it and a trash bag in the middle–now it can do double duty since I paint way more than I clean!). Setting up, I clamped a sheet of foamcore on top of the cart which turned it into a handy table beside the easel.

When I arrived I had a delicious picnic on the grass under the tall trees. My back got tired halfway through painting so I laid in the grass for a while and watched the sky like I used to love to do when I was a little girl.

Drawing Every Day Matters Gardening Life in general Plein Air Watercolor

Plein Air Painting at Blake Gardens (EDM: Someplace New)

Blake Garden

Plein air painting done at Blake Gardens, the 11 acre botanical gardens and University of California President’s Residence in Kensington, CA. (Open to the public weekdays.)

The Everyday Matters challenge for this week was to go someplace new and paint it. I’d never been to Blake Gardens before and I’d never done a complete watercolor plein air painting before except little sketchbook pictures, so I went to Blake Gardens and did this painting on a 9×12 Arches watercolor block.This scan actually looks better than the original, which was a little washed out.

I’m very fond of working in my studio from my photographs, with excellent lighting, comfortable temperature, a stereo playing my favorite music or audio books, and a comfy window seat when I need to sit back with a cool drink from the nearby fridge and rest.

Plein air (outdoor) painting is different! It was very HOT out so I picked a spot in the shade, but as the sun moved it was soon shining directly in my face. My white paper was blinding me. I’d look up at the scene and could barely see it–all I could see was white. My paint kept drying too quickly and I’d brought a too-small brush which was making icky streaks. I had to give up on wet-in-wet painting entirely and had trouble mixing colors because they looked much brighter than they really were. I spent the first hour just doing thumbnails, trying to figure out which part of the scene to put in the picture. It’s much easier to compose a painting from a photo than looking at the wide world in person!

I’m glad I pushed myself to try something new and will go back again soon, with bigger brushes, an umbrella and better snacks.