Sketching North Berkeley with Carole Baker

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carole Baker is an amazing painter in remote northern Alaska who I’ve known through our blogs and correspondence for years. When she was in Berkeley for a visit we met in North Berkeley to sketch. Above is a photo of my wonky sketch (held by Carole so that I could photograph it) of Earthly Goods, the store on one corner of Vine and Shattuck.

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

We sat on the same bench but looked in opposite directions. Here is Carole and her sketch of the produce market on the opposite corner of Shattuck and Vine.

I was so inspired by Carole and her art on the beautiful greeting cards she gave me as a gift. You can see Carole’s art on her blog Carole Baker’s Art Journal.

Boring? Not!

Peet's Coffee Corner, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

View north from Peet's Coffee, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

At first glance, the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carlson in El Cerrito is boring, boring, boring: a wide busy avenue with boxy buildings. But when viewed on a lovely summer day from a cafe table outside Peet’s Coffee with pen in hand, it transforms itself into a sketching delight full of fun details and color.

San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

View South down San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Looking the other way down San Pablo, the Wells Fargo Bank building holds little hope for drawing inspiration. But start sketching and it too transforms itself. There are trees of all kinds and colors. A cerulean sky with only a hint of clouds, a pink apartment building and a gold dentist office. Sun, shadows, banners.

Not boring! I don’t think I’ve ever felt bored when I was sketching. Years ago a friend told me that when I was sketching I looked like I was roller-skating. Whee! Let’s skate!

Golden Gate Park with Laurelines and JanasJournal

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

When Laura Frankstone of Laurelines was in San Francisco for a long weekend I had the great pleasure of joining her for an afternoon of sketching in Golden Gate Park. Laura and I had corresponded and participated together in many art blogging activities since 2006, but this was the first time we met in person. She is a brilliant artist, a delightful person and great fun to sketch with.

Below are our sketches of the Conservatory. I added watercolor to mine (above) in the studio later since it was windy, foggy and cold sitting on the grass and so were ready to go explore the (way too hot) conservatory.

Laura's on left, Jana's on right

Laura's on left, Jana's on right (click to enlarge)

Photo of the Conservatory with my sketch

Photo of the Conservatory with my sketch

After getting all steamy inside the Conservatory of Flowers’ jungle-like atmosphere, and touring the Wicked Plants exhibit, we came back out to sketch people on the lawn.

Girls Picnic  in Golden Gate Park, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Girls Picnic in Golden Gate Park, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

We agreed to paint these later too, since time was short and we wanted to keep moving. Below are our two sketches.

Girls in the Park; Laura's above, Jana's below

Girls in the Park; Laura's above, Jana's below

If you click the image above to enlarge it you can see how Laura even captured the girl on the left’s cheek bulging with her snack.

Our last stop was the Tea House in the Japanese Tea Garden. The garden is an absolutely beautiful place with incredible plantings, sculptures, buildings, ponds, trees, moon bridges and more. I wanted to live there.

View from Teahouse in Japanese Tea Garden, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

View from Teahouse in Japanese Tea Garden, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

While our tea was the most delicious jasmine tea we’ve ever had, our experience was not exactly the “meditative cup of tea overlooking the peaceful waters of the garden” because men were doing construction and running a small but loud and smelly bulldozer back and forth on the path behind what I sketched above. The combination of noise and exhaust were less than ideal but unlike me, Laura didn’t complain once.

Moments after we sat down in the Teahouse another woman sat down beside us and pulled out a sketchbook (before we had ours out). She was an art history student visiting from Boston and we all sketched happily together. The waitresses kept coming over to praise our drawings. I said, “You must see people sketching here all the time.” She said no, we were the first she’d seen.

What She Said

Aletha Kuschan said something wonderful in her post, “There Are Bright Colors in the World”  (and in her painting below). She starts the post by saying:

“I like color. Color is what made me want to be an artist. Just looking at the color….”


Watercolor Painting by Aletha Kuschan

Watercolor Painting by Aletha Kuschan

And she says:

I paint to look at things.  And if my paintings say things, it is “look at this!” and “look at that!”  The world is so amazing to look at.  We ought to be looking at it all the time.

I read that and said “Yes!” Her artwork always inspires me with it’s freedom of expression and brilliant colors and her writing does the same. Do take a look and a read!

Painting by Aletha Kuschan

Painting by Aletha Kuschan

Honda of El Cerrito: Sketching Cars

Honda of El Cerrito, Ink & watercolor

Honda of El Cerrito, Ink & watercolor

The El Cerrito Honda dealership was kind enough to allow our Tuesday night urban sketchers group to come and sketch in their showroom. There were chairs and tables for us to sketch and paint in comfort and interesting architecture and cars to draw. I remember boys drawing cars all the time but never thought that someday I’d go out of my way to draw cars too.

The artist Rebeca Garcia Gonzalez told me that she likes including cars in her paintings because they remind her of jewel-like candies. In this post she not only included cars, but got a passerby to stand and pose for her and included him in the painting!

 

Shark Honda, ink & watercolor

Shark Honda, ink & watercolor

I drew this car at the end of the evening and it was so close to me that it got way out of proportion and then started looking like a shark with whatever that thingee was on top. It’s good to develop the ability to see and draw cars because they’re everywhere, and leaving them out of a scene can look strange.

 

Artist Beth Bourland told me a funny story about this car sketch on her blog. She kept working on her drawing after the cars drove away. Some passerbys looked at her sketch and then at the empty street in front of her, and back at the sketch, wondering if she was seeing things.

You can see Cathy’s Honda sketches on our Urban Sketchers blog here.

My Super Bowl (of apples) Sunday

Super Bowl of Apples, oil on panel, 8x8"

Super Bowl of Apples, oil on panel, 8x8"

I don’t really “get” football although I have fond memories of men (my father and others) gleefully yelling at televised games. I didn’t want to feel left out of the Super Bowl Sunday festivities so I celebrated in my own way: painting a Super Bowl of apples.

I love this old “Metlock California Pottery” bowl which I think might have been my grandmother’s. I use it for my big lunch salads nearly every day. It’s also a great popcorn bowl.

Plane Divisions chart, from Hensche Colour Study pdf

Plane Divisions chart, from Hensche Colour Study pdf*

At last weekend’s workshop with Peggi Kroll-Roberts, one important bit of guidance she gave me was that “every plane has a color change and/or value change” and she diagrammed for me how to visual the planes of the cylindrical object I was painting (an old teapot), similar to Fig. C above. She encouraged me to see and paint those changes in value and color and I tried to do that with the apples.

I learned so much at the workshop and hope to return to her next session in March. It was also great finally meeting my friend Kathryn Law in person (she attended the workshop too). Kathryn has already posted her terrific workshop paintings with commentary on her blog. You can see her Workshop Day One here and Day Two here.

*The diagram above was from a  source completely unrelated to Peggi Kroll-Roberts. I extracted it from the lengthy .pdf file “Colour Study,” downloadable from the website, Oil Painting Thoughts and Ideas about Henry Hensche’s approach to color study.

Hydrangeas (and me) in Progress

Hydrangeas in progress, ink & watercolor

Hydrangeas in progress, ink & watercolor

We had a sunny day after months of rain, so I took a walk around my garden. I was happy to see the hydrangeas coming back after having been cut down to little woody stalks. The three I’d planted after the comical hydrangea planting fiasco were all sprouting and there was a new one, a volunteer that appeared on its own volition.

And I too feel cut down to my woody stems, stretched thin by all I try to do.

So I’ve been thinking about who I am as an artist, who I want to be, what work brings me the most joy or the most suffering, my artistic strengths and weaknesses, and how I can make the time I spend on art as satisfying as possible.

I’m so grateful for artist friends like Barbara and my sister, who are good listeners and understand the challenge of having so many (too many?) interests and artistic pursuits to follow. Or, as Barbara writes, we’re “Never Bored” (or “Never B-ed” as she spelled it, for reasons she explains in her blog post).

Ultimately my goal is a more balanced life; I know that to stay healthy, along with time for art, I need to make more time for exercise, relaxation and play. (And some of my best art-making has been play; it just doesn’t have to be so darn serious!)

And like my hydrangeas, some good ideas are starting to bud and bloom about how I can nurture my most rewarding art pursuits now, while putting off or letting go of the others until more of my time is my own.

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