Lima, Peru for Virtual Paintout October 2013

Lima, Peru, ink and watercolor from Google Streetview, 4x5 in

Lima, Peru, ink and watercolor from Google Streetview, 4×5 in

I love doing the Virtual Paintout, strolling around a city in Google Streetview and picking a scene to paint. This sketch is a preliminary study for an oil painting  still in progress. The location is Nicolas de Pierola and Jr. Cańete Streets in Lima, Peru. Here’s a link to the map:

Below is the original screenshot plus a few other streetview pictures from around Lima. Although the city looked very beautiful, I’m often drawn to funkier parts of town.

NYC Part 5: Central Park Conservatory Water, John Zorn at the Met, NYC Food Oddities

Central Park Conservatory Water, NY, ink and watercolor, 5x5"x7.5"

Central Park Conservatory Water, NY, ink and watercolor, 5×5″x7.5″

Saturday mid-day we met Brooklyn art blogger (and funny lady) Carol King by the Conservatory Water (above) in Central Park, named for the Conservatory of Flowers building it was meant to reflect but that was never constructed.

In the sketch above, I abused the rules of perspective, enlarging the boathouse and model boats but not the distance to the front of the pond, making the water look more like a kids pool than the small lake you can see in the photo below. Oops.

Photo of Central Park's Conservatory water from where we were sketching in the park

Photo of Central Park’s Conservatory water from where we were sketching in the park

Before Central Park, we went to the Metropolitan Museum where they were presenting hourly performances of John Zorn music to celebrate the avant-garde composer’s 60th birthday. I’d heard him interviewed on Fresh Air and was blown away by his dedication to a life of creativity, stripping almost everything else out of his life. You can read the full transcript here. This (slightly edited by me) quote really got me:

GROSS: What does turning 60 mean to you?

ZORN: There are no more doubts...That little guy that sits on my shoulder…that used to whisper in [my] ear, you know, “you could be really wrong about this,” that guy’s not around anymore. I brushed him off.

Everything is very clear: what I need to do, why I’m on the planet, the best way to accomplish it, what is a distraction, what helps me focus. Everything is really there. And…I work very hard, I work all the time, I’m not really interested in vacations or getting away from my work….

Now there are no more solutions because there are no more problems. I just turn the tap, and the music comes pouring out.

We chose the 11:00 a.m. performance Volac – Masada; Book of Angels with Erik Friedlander, cello, held in the Assyrian Gallery.

Assyrian Lamassi at Met during John Zorn Cello Concert, ink, 7.5 x 5'

Assyrian Lamassi at Met during John Zorn  Concert, ink, 7.5 x 5′

Assyrian Lamassi

Assyrian Lamassi protective being, after the concert and the crowd left

The sketch above left started out quite nicely, despite drawing standing in a crowd. But later, forgetting I’d used a water-soluble pen, I added watercolor. The ink spread and smeared all over. I tried restating the lines with a brush pen but don’t like the results.

I filmed the clip below holding my iPhone over my head; I couldn’t see what I was recording since my actual view was the crowd in front me as in the sketch above, but at least it is a snippet of the sights and sounds:

Next Carol was taking us to Brooklyn. We followed her down 5th Avenue to the subway, stopping quickly along the way for her to pick up a new-to-me food item. Pronounced as one word, “butterroll,” according to internet sources a “buttered roll is a big, pre-buttered, pre-wrapped roll, soft in the inside, chewy on the outside. Usually eaten in the morning with a cup of coffee, regular.”

And that’s another New York food oddity: when you order coffee most places you’re supposed to say “regular” if you want it with a “normal” amount of milk and sugar, or specify dark, light, sweet, or no sugar if you want something different because they put the stuff in there for you. I’m glad we had a coffee grinder filled with dark, rich beans and a French Press pot in our apartment. It was the best coffee I had in New York, with just the right amount of modifiers, added visually not verbally.

New York City Part 2: Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Figures al Fresco

Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5x7.5"

View from Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5×7.5″

My first morning in Manhattan I woke to sun streaming through the trees and hurried to get ready for a day of sketching in Battery Park with Shirley Levine and Pat Gaignat. Above is my first sketch of the day: the view from Battery Park of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where my grandfathers first arrived in the U.S. from Russia. It seemed like a perfect way to mark my arrival too.

Pat had created a multi-media iBook titled “Way to Go, Jana!” with directions for finding my way to the park at the other end of Manhattan. I downloaded it to my iPhone and headed out the door.

At my first intersection I stepped off the curb at a green light and BAM! a truck hit a motorcycle right in front of me. The bike went down but the rider didn’t seem injured. The drivers began their negotiations and I scurried across the street.

Below are a couple of screenshots from Pat’s e-book that I literally would have been lost without!

Pat's guide map page

Pat’s guide map page

Pat's guide  featuring Shirley with video and audio instructions

Pat’s guide starring Shirley

In the afternoon we joined a dozen artists on benches around a small plaza for the start of “Figures al Fresco,” a weekly, free, clothed figure-drawing session sponsored by the city, complete with teacher. She drove up in an electric cart filled with art supplies to use during the session, including drawing boards, paper pads, watercolors, charcoal and pencils. I did most of my figure drawings on a newsprint pad from the cart. The last one (below) I did in my journal with my new Pentel Tradio Stylo water-soluble pen and a water brush.

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5x5.5"

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5×5.5″

John, the model was excellent, with many interesting poses that simulated working in fields and other kinds of manual labor. The teacher requested he remove his shoes so we could draw his feet. He took off the shoes, but wouldn’t remove his socks.

Me sketching in Battery Park

Pat’s photo of me sketching in Battery Park

When the session ended at 4:30,  in a hurry I returned my drawing pad to the cart, forgetting to remove my sketches. Then I joined Pat to walk the High Line, a public park built on a former elevated railroad line, as part of our journey back uptown.

You can see Shirley’s drawings here and Pat’s here. Shirley’s figure drawings show such sensitivity for the human form and Pat’s work is strong and unique. She draws on an iPad using a digital tool meant for drawing and filling shapes, not making lines. It seems extra challenging to me, but gives her line work a really dynamic look.

One funny thing about Pat who I only knew through our blogs…I didn’t realize until I saw her gentle face that I had pictured her looking the way she draws people, with thick, edgy, sharp, black outlines!

To be continued….

Top of the Top of Solano Avenue, Berkeley

Top of Solano Ave, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 5x7.5"

Top of the Top of Solano Ave, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 5×7.5″When we

When Cathy said, “Let’s sketch at the top of Solano Avenue Tuesday night” I chose to  literally sketch the top of Solano: looking up and drawing the tops of streetlights, buildings and trees.

It’s common here to refer to the “top” and “bottom” of streets when they’re on a hill, and 2-mile long Solano is on a slight incline as it runs from the start of the Berkeley Hills at The Alameda (just a street, but for some reason called “The Alameda”), down almost to the bay. I sat at a table outside a café and sketched the view at sunset. There are so many beautiful trees in Berkeley!


Sunny Landscapes, Summer, Spring, and Smelly

Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10x8"

Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10×8″

Briones Park Sunny Afternoon available for purchase here

I didn’t realize until I saw these two pictures together, that it was easy to tell that I painted one in summer (above) and the other in the spring (below), just by their color palette, even though they were both painted on warm, sunny days. I started the painting above plein air, but only got halfway done before it was time for the group critique. I finished it from memory and a photo but didn’t touch areas I already loved, like the yummy turquoise color in the background.

Briones Park (above) is gorgeous, but dogs are allowed off-leash there so the grasses along this beginning stretch of the trail are littered with stinky dog poo, thanks to irresponsible dog owners. But like bugs, wind and weather, smells are part of the plein air experience too.

Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8x10"

Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8×10″

I painted this watercolor view of Mt. Diablo in my 8×10 Moleskine. I didn’t have time to set up for oils because although we’d planned a day at Borges Ranch we learned on arrival that a 4-H club had reserved the area and we had to leave. The ranger suggested we go to Castle Rock Park down the road.

I parked at the Borges entrance for a while, catching others as they arrived and directing them to Castle Rock. Finally I left a big note on a brown paper bag taped to the Borges entrance sign, hoping latecomers would see it and know where to find us.

After the drive to Castle Rock and a hike to the top of a hill I only had time for a watercolor sketch. The bright yellow-green grassy field was beautifully spotted with lavender wild flowers. In the summer everything would be pretty much the same color of golden brown. This time it didn’t smell like dog poo; it was the pungent odor of the cows that graze there that accompanied the view.

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.

Oakland Museum: View From Sculpture Garden

View from Oakland Museum Sculpture Garden, ink & watercolor, 8x10"

View from Oakland Museum Sculpture Garden, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

After my monthly workshop at the Oakland Museum, with John Muir Laws and his Bay Area Nature Journal Club, I stayed to sketch in the beautiful sculpture garden. There are lovely trees and plantings, colorful sculptures and interesting urban views. The building with the flag atop it is the County Courthouse on the next block.

I also visited the fabulous “Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Lui exhibit.” The show features several rooms of her very large paintings plus early sketchbooks and painting studies completed in China before she came to the U.S. in 1984. The film of her painting with luscious juicy paint (and her signature drips) made me want to run to the studio and pick up a brush.

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