Berkeley Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Outdoors/Landscape Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Endless Summer #1: Clark Kerr Campus, World News Box

World Journal News Box at Clark Kerr Campus,  ink and watercolor, 7x5x5.5 in
World Journal News Box at Clark Kerr, ink/watercolor, 7x5x5.5 in

Although cold autumn weather and even snow already arrived in much of the western hemisphere, always radical Berkeley begs to differ. We had an unusually unfoggy and warm summer, a toasty fall, and now, with temperatures in the 70s we’re back to summer again. So far 2013 is the driest year in Bay Area history with less rain than any year in recorded history, all the way back to the Gold Rush.

After a delay posting work from the summer due to various health issues, at least it doesn’t feel awkward to be posting them now, thanks to our seemingly endless summer.

In the sketch above, this bright red Chinese newspaper box on the Clark Kerr Campus immediately drew my attention. Clark Kerr was built in the 1930s as a residential school for the blind. When blind students began mainstreaming into regular public schools, the University of California Berkeley bought the complex for student housing. Clark Kerr’s beautiful, serene grounds and Spanish style buildings provide an oasis of sketching opportunities in the middle of a busy urban area.  

Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Richmond Annex Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Emergency Response: Propane Tanker Overturns

Emergency response vehicles after double tanker truck overturned. Ink and watercolor, 7x5 in
Emergency response vehicles. Ink and watercolor, 7×5 in

A propane double tanker truck lost control and turned over at a freeway entrance/exit near my home around 3:00 in the morning. The emergency response teams evacuated people from nearby homes and businesses, including a nursery school, and then cordoned off two blocks on either side of the freeway. Oddly, they allowed traffic to continue flowing on the overpass right above the truck.

I didn’t realize any of this was going on until I tried to drive somewhere and couldn’t get on the freeway. I figured out another route, did my errands, and when I got home walked down to the scene with my sketchbook, paints and stool.

When I finished my sketch and headed home at 5:00 p.m. the fleet of emergency vehicles (including police, fire, utilities, and the Red Cross) and the small army of responders were just beginning to leave. Some of the evacuated residents were sitting on the curb, still waiting to be allowed back home. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the propane tanker didn’t leak. I’m so glad I live outside the evacuation area; I don’t know where I would have gone at 3:00 in the morning!

Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Life in general New York Sketchbook Pages

NYC Part 7 Finale: Bethesda Fountain, Yoko Ono, Verdi Monument, and Library Lion

Bethesda Fountain Angel, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x5.5 in
Bethesda Fountain Angel, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x 5.5 in

(To email subscribers: if no image appears above in your email, please click the title of the post above to see it directly on the blog.)

Walking back to Central Park on Sunday, Micaela and I stopped at The Dakota, a spectacular architectural landmark where Beatle John Lennon was killed and Yoko Ono still lives. The building was so well-guarded we were afraid to stop and draw.

But later, while sketching Bethesda Fountain (above), I looked up and saw Yoko Ono walking by a few feet away, on the arm of a tall, distinguished gentleman, apparently on her way home to the Dakota. Micaela didn’t see her and maybe didn’t believe me…you might not either…but I do.

Here are some images from nearby the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park:

Carol had shown us the tunnel by the fountain and pointed out the restrooms that are the best (or at least have the most stalls) in the park. Inside the tunnel we stopped to watch and listen to this amazing performance:

After our Central Park visit Micaela wanted to sketch another Upper West Side architectural landmark, The Ansonia. We sat in the Giuseppe Verdi Square where she had a view of the building and I sketched the monument (below).

Guiseppe Verdi Statue, NY, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x 5.5 in
Guiseppe Verdi Statue, NY, ink and watercolor, 7.5 x 5.5 in

As you can see from my comments on the sketch, I got really lost when it came to the sizes of the other figures on the monument. The guy in front looked like a baker to me but according to Wikipedia, the monument “depicts Verdi flanked by four of his most popular characters: Falstaff, Leonora, Aida, and Otello.” So I guess my chubby little baker is actually Falstaff in costume.

That’s a live pigeon on Verdi’s foot, not part of the statue. I wonder if statue sculptors ever think about the pigeons that will eventually sit on their subjects?

NY Public Library Lion, ink and watercolor, 5.5 x 7.5 in
NY Public Library Lion and Whole Foods Heads, ink and watercolor, 5.5 x 7.5 in

Soon it was time to meet Micaela’s daughter for dinner in Union Square. Along the way the bus stopped at the NYC Public Library so we hopped off to sketch the lions and then hopped back on the next bus.

We sat in the café upstairs at Whole Foods Union Square to wait for Juliette, where I had an odd experience. I was sketching a guy (second from the right above) and got his face totally wrong: no likeness at all. He left and another man sat down in his place. The new guy had the exact face I’d just drawn: perfect likeness. All I had to do was add hair because the first guy was bald.

After a late dinner in an Italian restaurant, we returned home to our cozy apartment.

The next morning, my last one in NYC, we went back to the Metropolitan Museum where we visited the “Balthus: Cats and Girls” exhibition. My favorite part of the show were the 40 small ink drawings he made when he was 11 of his adventures with his cat Mitsou. His mentor, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who at the time was his mother’s lover, wrote the preface and got the little book, Mitsou, published.

Then we explored the rest of the second floor, “European Paintings from 1250 to 1800.” It was exciting to see the Dutch and Flemish paintings since I’d spent my summer studying Flemish painting technique. But the biggest thrill of all was rediscovering Rembrandt portraits. Despite period clothing, the people in the paintings, even Rembrandt in his self-portrait below, looked so contemporary and authentic, like people you might see on the street.

Rembrandt self-portrait
Rembrandt self-portrait (detail)

After a week of visiting museums and seeing modern art that while ground-breaking when it created, often seems intentionally unskillfully rendered, it was so inspiring to see work full of passion and beautifully painted.

Then it was back to the apartment to pack and my trip home. A much more confident transit rider than when I arrived, I took the subway to Penn Station, transferred to the Long Island Railroad, then caught the Airtrain which was partially shut down for repairs, and then a shuttle bus to JFK. My Jet Blue flight home was very comfortable and went smoothly, so much better than the Southwest nightmare flight to New York.

Building Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Life in general New York Sketchbook Pages

NYC Part 6: Jana’s Ganja Guy and the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge and Ice Cream Shop, ink and watercolor, 7.5x5.5 in
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, ink and watercolor, 7.5×5.5 in

Carol, Micaela and I got on the subway, heading to the Brooklyn Bridge. On the subway you get treated to exciting musical performances by buskers or you are subjected to rants by lunatics or pleas for money. Or all of the above, as they often take turns, getting on and off at each stop.

This time an extremely loud and annoying guy told a too long tale of his hardships, throwing in everything from the Iraq war to Hurricane Sandy. The man standing next to me had the sweetest face and long dredlocks. He gave the guy a dollar.

Here’s New Yorker Carol telling the rest of the story, from her funny blog post:

We got on the Lexington Ave. express. It was packed, but Micaela and I were lucky enough to get a seat. Jana was standing. As the doors closed we heard the familiar sound of someone asking for money. The man standing next to Jana gave the guy a dollar.

And then the unthinkable happened…Jana talked to the dollar-giving guy.

I was astounded.  Jana asked him if he always gives money to people begging on the subway or does he evaluate the story first and then give. The man told Jana he gives out of love and because he always gives money, he gets money back. Now he has a lot of money. Jana then asked what he did for money?  His reply? He sold da ganja.

Yep,  He sold marijuana.

Weed, Mary Jane, Waccy tobaccy. Chronic. Grass. He said he was from Trinidad and asked Jana what month she was born in. She told him and he said that according to the bible she was part of the tribe of Joshua. What tribe is that?  Where is that in the bible?  Mr. Chronic said it was in the LOST BOOKS of the Bible. Oh. We finally got to the Brooklyn Bridge stop where Micaela, Jana and I got off and Jana’s new best friend hoped that God blessed her and continued on.

Yep! I just get so curious I can’t help talking to strangers.

After the fascinating ride to Brooklyn the three of us walked across the bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, with Carol pointing out the landmarks. Then she headed home to attend a birthday party and Micaela and I went in search of a spot where we could draw the bridge. Below are some views from the bridge:

The area of Brooklyn at the end of the bridge is called DUMBO, for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge.” The two bridges are just a few blocks apart and the area under and between them is packed with interesting shops and a variety of mostly renovated old brick apartment buildings and art galleries.

The annual DUMBO Art Festival was going on and the streets were filled with thousands of partiers, artists and bands. We skipped the crowds and found our way down to a new waterfront park by the “Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory” right next to the bridge. (That’s the sketch at the top of the post and here’s a photo of it):

Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

The sign in front of the lighthouse-looking building says “Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory” in case you weren’t sure it was the “famous” one. We didn’t try the ice cream; the line was way too long.

When we finished our sketches it was early evening. Micaela and I wandered around the area, looking for the right subway station. I wanted to preview where I would need to go after dinner at my friends’ apartment nearby. She got on the train and went back to the Metropolitan Museum for the 8:00 p.m. John Zorn concert. I made my way through the DUMBO Art Festival chaos to Nora and Kevin’s beautiful, new apartment.

After fantastic home-cooked vegetarian dinner Nora, an art director, showed me her website (scroll down the page to see some of her recent work). I told her I’d seen Cutie and the Boxer and she said that they live a block away in a funky old apartment building full of artists and that most of the movie was filmed in DUMBO.

When it was time to leave they took me up to the roof to see their spectacular view first:

Rooftop View of the Manhattan Bridge
Rooftop View of the Manhattan Bridge with park in foreground

Nora pointed out the building next door and told me actor Ann Hathaway lives there. I wish I did!

Ink and watercolor wash Life in general People Sketchbook Pages

New York City Trip Part 1: Three planes for the price of one

OAK to NYC-Flight In, ink and watercolor , 7.5 x 11" spread
OAK to NYC-Flight In, ink and watercolor , 7.5 x 11″ spread

I’m back from New York, happy to be home but a little sad to leave New York behind, and even sadder to have the sniffles, thanks to all the sneezing, coughing people on my planes. Next time I fly I’m wearing a mask. The flight to New York on Southwest was the only bummer part of the trip.

Seat Back Tray Still Life, ink and watercolor
Seat Back Tray Still Life, ink and watercolor

My flight was supposed to have a quick stop in Chicago but no plane change. I sketched my instant coffee (in a tea bag!) and swizzle stick on my seat-back tray (above). Later I added people waiting in the airport to the page.

Chopped salad with swizzle stick chop stick
Chopped salad with swizzle stick chop stick

(The swizzle stick came in handy when I went to eat the chopped vege and chicken salad I’d brought and discovered that Southwest has no silverware on board. The flight attendant suggested using two swizzle sticks like chopsticks. That’s one way to eat more slowly!)

So there we sit on the Chicago runway with doors closed….and wait…and wait. The woman sitting next to me is sneezing and coughing. I ask her if she’s contagious and she says no, she’s been sick for days already (ugh). I was about to change seats when they announce there’s a problem with the plane and we have to return to the terminal while they find us another plane. 

Waiting at Chicago Airport, ink and watercolor 5.5 x 7.5"
Waiting at Chicago Airport, ink and watercolor 5.5 x 7.5″\

Trying to be positive, I figure that’s better than flying with a bad plane, and now I have more time to draw. An elegant young man in a gray-green suit with his hair in a top knot played beautiful music on a lute while I sketched him and a Hasidic young father with his big hat and side curls.

Finally Southwest instructed us to walk to the other end of the terminal to board our new plane. We hustled across the terminal, lined up, slowly boarded and crammed luggage in the overhead bins again. And then waited. Again.

Southwest is known for being funny so I thought it was a joke when the flight attendant announced she was really sorry, but this plane also had a problem and we had to get off again and return to the terminal. But it wasn’t a joke.

Back in the airport they said they would find another plane and bring it to us. Twenty minutes later they told us to walk back to our original gate at the other end of the terminal to board what was hopefully a different plane (or the original plane, now fixed?). It was 10:00 PM, the time we were supposed to be arriving in New York.

That plane flew! Yay! I took a taxi from the dark, mostly closed Newark airport and arrived at the Upper West Side apartment I rented via AirBnB after 1:00 a.m. and went right to sleep.

(To be continued.)

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.