Building Ink and watercolor wash Landscape New York Sketchbook Pages

NYC Part 4: Micaela Arrives, We Walk the Highline, Get Lost, Greenwich Village

Washington Square Park Arch and Fountain, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x 5"
Washington Square Park Arch and Fountain, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x 5″

On Friday morning Micaela arrived after an all-night flight from Berkeley. We were both tired but excited to plan our first day exploring the city together. After coffee and bagels at Irving Farm Coffee we made our way by foot and subway to the High Line, a 1.5 mile long park built on railroad tracks up above the street. The rail line operated from 1934 to 1980 to carry mail, meat and produce to the meatpacking district.

Views from the High Line

We’d planned to sketch there but the High Line is so narrow we couldn’t find a spot with a view that wasn’t blocking the path so I took photos instead. (Click in a photo to enlarge.)

Next we began a long, crazy, circuitous walk to Greenwich Village, first trying to use Google map directions on my phone (FAIL), then print maps, and finally just asking people on every corner. Sometimes we were told to turn around and go the other direction; once someone told us it was too far to walk, to take a taxi. Often the people I asked were from other countries (some really cute guys from Norway tried to help) or were just as lost as we were.

On the Walk to the Village

I wanted to see if the funky Village tenement on MacDougal Street where I lived when I was 19 (I moved to Manhattan from San Diego with big dreams) and my old hangouts, Kettle of Fish bar across the street and Cafe Figaro on Bleecker  were still there. The funky tenement looks unchanged, but according to this New York Times article the Figaro and original Kettle of Fish are long gone.

Me and my sketch of Washington Square, Greenwich Village
Me and my sketch of Washington Square, Greenwich Village

We finally arrived around 3:00, explored the area a bit and then sat and sketched in Washington Square Park. It was a cloudy, breezy day and we kept getting sprinkled with spray from the fountain.

Cutie and the Boxer

At 5:00 we decided to try to make it to the 5:20 showing of the documentary Cutie and the Boxer about the art and lives of married, now elderly, artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, who came to New York from Japan when they were young (FYI the only boxing is with sponges on boxing gloves dipped in paint).

One of "Cutie's" drawings with the Washington Square Arch in the background
One of Noriko Shinohara’s “Cutie” drawings with the Washington Square Arch in the background

it was nearly 5:00. There were people trying to get taxis on each corner so we walked a block, waved down a cab and arrived at the theater in time to grab a couple of fish soft tacos next door before the movie started. (They were a mess to eat in the dark but delicious). Getting around most of NYC is so much easier and cheaper than the SF Bay Area!

We both liked the thought-provoking film; I especially enjoyed seeing Noriko drawing the Washington Square Arch (above) in a sketch that looked a lot like my sketch of the arch. There’s a great video trailer on this NY Times review that shows many of the best parts of the film.

But wait there’s more….

Taking the subway home afterward we had to change trains and walk through Union Square. There was a group of Hare Krishnas playing music, singing and dancing, but with added NYC flair: the saffron-robed guys were doing occasional break-dance and Bollywood moves!

Across the street we at spotted a Whole Foods and went in to shop for supplies. We were way tired and overstimulated and Whole Foods was packed with shoppers who knew their way around. We finally figured out the two-story layout, got the basics and stumbled to the long check out lines. Like the subways, there was a complicated system of numbers and colors and electronics meant to guide you to your destination, in this case one of 35 or so cash registers in five lines from the queues of shoppers standing under different colored banners.

I thought I had the system figured out so when the person in front of me didn’t go when it was her turn, I tapped her and told her to go. She and others in the lines gave me a pitying look. Apparently I got it wrong.

Finally, heads spinning, shopping bags and hearts full, we got back on the subway and found our way home. We plugged in and inflated the airbed our Airbnb host had left for Micaela (having to hold it up on its side in order to reach the one visible outlet) and soon we were sound asleep in our own semi-comfortable beds.

To be continued…

Building Ink and watercolor wash Sketchbook Pages

Toot’s Saloon, Crockett

Toot's Bar, Crockett, Close Up, Ink/watercolor, 8x5"
Toot’s Bar, Crockett, Close Up, Ink/watercolor, 8×5″

I struggled sketching the building containing this rundown bar on site (below) in downtown Crockett. The many bay windows were especially challenging. Despite my love for detail, I realized I needed to crop my view. So later I worked from a photo and did the better sketch above. I actually liked the version below before I added watercolor to the ink drawing.

Toot's Bar in Crocket - Second Try , ink/watercolor, 5x8"
Toot’s Bar in Crockett; ink/watercolor, 5×8″

And below, another sketch where I struggled: first to find something to draw in the short time remaining after a plein air watercolor demo at St. Mary’s College. Then I struggled with using another artist’s watercolor palette that had way too many colors. I couldn’t tell which colors were which and ended up with a lot of mud. 

St. Mary's College Student Union Detail, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
St. Mary’s College Student Union Detail, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

Since I always seem to get behind on posting I’m tempted to just post my best work and keep the funky ones to myself. But my journal is the record of my journey and each sketch is a stop along the way.

Berkeley Building Ink and watercolor wash Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Elmwood Theater, Berkeley

Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8x5"
Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8×5″

The Elmwood Theater was originally named The Strand and was built in 1914 in an Art Nouveau architectural style. Admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for kids. It closed in 1941 and reopened as the Elmwood in 1947 with a new “zigzag Moderne” decor.

All the zigzags and neon made for a fun drawing challenge. I sat on my stool on College Avenue, sheltered from the wind in the doorway of a shop closed for the evening, while people went in and out of the Korean restaurant next door carrying their fragrant food to go.

Halfway through the drawing a man climbed up a ladder and started changing the movie titles. I considered including him in the sketch but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. By the time I finished drawing it was time to meet up so I added color at home. My favorite part of the sketch is the pigeons.

Berkeley Building Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Seeing Is Believing or Drawing Is Seeing? Zach’s Snacks on Berkeley’s North Side

Zach's Snacks on Berkeley's Northside, ink & watercolor sketch, 5x7"
Zach’s Snacks on Berkeley’s North Side, ink & watercolor, 5×7″

They say, “Seeing is believing.” I say, “Going through life without drawing is like being nearly blind. Only when I stop to look in order to draw, do I really see!”

Berkeley’s Euclid Avenue ends at the north side of University of California’s Berkeley campus (the greenery on the right, above). This block has everything you’d expect for a street abutting a college: shops with pizza, beer, coffee, burgers, snacks, and oh yeah, books.

There is some great architecture in this neighborhood too, including this apartment building with a snack shop tucked away in a little basement room. I’ve probably walked past here a hundred times and never noticed the interesting features of this building, with porches, pillars, carved wood decorations, fancy brickwork, and cool old lanterns.

Only when I stopped to draw and started really looking did I see what was there all along.

Building Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Shop windows Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers Watercolor

Happy Face? Donuts?

Dream Fluff Donuts, ink and watercolor, 5x7.5"
Dream Fluff Donuts, ink and watercolor, 5×7.5″

Do you have a happy face right this moment? I didn’t until I received a blog comment/email from a German blogger whose email and blog name is happyface313. It made me wonder what it would be like to be that committed to a happy outlook.

She inspired me to lose the grumpyface I’ve had the past few days while working on helping a loved one with difficult challenges, and to try out being Ms. HappyFace instead. I put on a smile, made the mental shift from grumpy to grateful, and surprise! It worked!

Happy Donuts, watercolor painting (sold)
Happy Donuts, watercolor painting, 15×22″ (sold)

What does all that have to do with donuts? Well, “Happy Face” made me think of Happy Donuts and my old painting of their shop (above), which reminded me I needed to post my recent sketch of Dream Fluff Donuts (at top). And donuts used to be my shortcut to happiness but I stay far away from those deep-fried, greasy sugar bombs now.

Building Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Places Sketchbook Pages Sketchcrawl Urban Sketchers

Oakland’s Lake Chalet Plus Drawing Rocks and Milk Cartons

Lake Chalet on Lake Merritt, Oakland. Ink & watercolor, 5x7.5"
Lake Chalet (and Plumbing) on Lake Merritt, Oakland. Ink & watercolor, 5×7.5″

Lake Chalet was originally built over 100 years ago as a high-pressure salt water pumping station for the Oakland Fire Department. In 1913, two wings were added to serve as boathouses. In 2009 the building was transformed into a lively restaurant and bar with outdoor seating on the docks behind it on the lake.

What attracted me to draw this scene wasn’t the lovely building; it was the multiple plumbing features on the grass that slopes down to the restaurant from the sidewalk where I sat to draw. And of course the antique street lights that circle the lake.

Milk at Picante, ink & watercolor, 5x5"
Milk Carton at Picante, ink & watercolor, 5×5″

I struggled trying to draw these two milk cartons so issued a challenge to the other sketchers at my table to draw them too. We all had different views of the cartons set in the middle of the table so it was fun to see the variety of approaches and points of view.

Drawing Rocks Practice on Sculpture at Oakland Museum, ink & watercolor, 5x7x5"
Drawing Rocks Practice on Sculpture at Oakland Museum, ink & watercolor, 5x7x5″

After a workshop on drawing rocks (part of John Muir Laws’ Bay Area Nature Journal Club) Susan and I walked down to the Oakland Museum’s sculpture garden, looking for rocks to practice on. The only rock-like object we could find was this clay sculpture. It’s so helpful to practice new concepts before they slip from my mind, as most things do these days.

Building Ink and watercolor wash Landscape People Sketchbook Pages Sketchcrawl Urban Sketchers

San Francisco Sketchcrawl Part 2: Ferry Building, Ferries & Ladies Room Lines

Ferry Building Clock Tower, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Ferry Building Clock Tower, ink & watercolor, 7×5″

While I waited for the Sketchcrawl to begin I started drawing the Ferry Building clock tower. The clocks weren’t really set for different times. It looks that way because I drew what I saw: by the time I got to the right clock it was 7 minutes later.

Sketchers Sketching on the Embarcadero
Sketchers Sketching on the Embarcadero

Next I tried to draw the sketchers on the little plaza across from the Ferry Building (above). My perspective got way wonky on the street on the right. Although there are many hills in San Francisco, this street is actually quite flat.

Marin Ferry, ink & watercolor 5x14"
Marin Ferry, ink & watercolor 5×14″

Behind the Ferry Building I watched the huge Marin ferry arrive. I knew I only had about ten minutes to draw it while passengers got off and on. I nearly finished the drawing before it headed back out so added the colors I remembered afterward.

Standing in Line for the Ferry Building Restrooms, ink & watercolor 7x5"
Standing in Line for the Ferry Building Restrooms, ink & watercolor 7×5″

I’m glad I didn’t wait until the last minute to use the restroom in the Ferry Building. There were 35 women in line for the ladies’ room and only about 3 for the men’s. Why? It was interesting drawing the women right in front of me because of the odd foreshortening I perceived looking down their backsides. Next time you’re waiting in line, try to draw the person right in front of you and you’ll see what I mean.

Later someone gave me a valuable tip I’ll share with you: there’s a little used ladies room on the second floor of the building. I wonder why the Ferry Building management doesn’t include that information in the signage directing people where to stand in line for the downstairs restrooms.