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.
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.
My sister Marcy hosted our Thanksgiving dinner and my niece Sophie made the stunning table centerpiece that my sketch above doesn’t do justice to. We added a new tradition to our Thanksgiving dinner: The thrift-shop Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest (below).
Mine was no doubt the ugliest but Robin’s (on the right) got extra points for being ill-fitting. It’s too bad you can’t see Nilla the dog’s lovely sweater, complete with jingle bells and ornaments. She only looks like a giant because of being closer to the camera. Britney (center) got extra credit for her Walmart faux-patent-leather skin-tight leggings to go with her Vegas-grandma-style sweater.
LOUDDRUMMING! Brilliant Colors! Aztec Dancers! Smoke from sage (and other “herbs”) and grilling meat! LOUD Bands! Dancers! LOUD Spanish radio stations broadcasting live! Sugar skulls! Costumes and painted faces! Marigolds everywhere!
I followed the man in the sketch above after he finished dancing, trying to get a photo or a sketch of him and failed, meanwhile losing my fellow sketchers in the crowd. Micaela managed to get a photo which she let me use for this sketch.
It was the Dia de Los Muertos celebration in East Oakland and I felt like I was in Mexico. Spanish was the language heard everywhere. Families came to celebrate and honor their loved ones who had passed on with beautiful altars filled with marigolds, fruit, religious imagery and mementos of loved ones.
I was finding it difficult to sketch at the festival since it was so LOUD my ears hurt and so crowded we kept losing each other. Being tall, I didn’t want to stand in front of someone’s booth or altar and block the view. Then I found the wonderful old low rider car show at the edge of the event which was much quieter and less crowded. I set up my stool and started sketching directly with a Micron Pigma pen.
People stood behind me and watched me draw. They said nice things about my sketch, including the owners of the car, Jose and Denise, even though my sketch turned their meticulously restored, beautiful work of art into a jalopy.
My first car when I was in high school was a ’49 Plymouth (it was already an antique) and looked a lot like this sketch. To get to school in the morning my sister would have to push it until I could “pop the clutch” to start it. Then she’d run after me and hop in. I was afraid to tell my dad that it wouldn’t start on its own—I thought I’d broken something but it just needed a new battery. I was sad when the motor died.
This young man stood behind me and watched me draw so I offered him a notebook to try his hand at sketching the car but he declined. He said he didn’t know how to draw cars but liked to draw cartoons. I said I didn’t know how to draw cars either, but just did it anyway.
There were booths selling decorated skulls made of sugar, beautiful little skeletons in fancy dress, paper cut-outs, hats, jewelry and even paintings on black velvet of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis as skeletons.
On our sketching trip to Sacramento we visited theEdgar Payne painting exhibit at the Crocker Museum. Above is my sketch of the beautiful old Ford he used to get to plein air painting sites. According to the brief video they showed he also frequently traveled by mule. I only had a few minutes to sketch the car so I painted it when I got home.
You can see the photo of the car and some of my favorite paintings from the show below. His compositions (he wrote the book Composition of Outdoor Painting) and his use of warm and cool colors to create a sense of light and depth are fantastic to see in person.
Hi! Come on in and let me show you around my new studio. The concept for the studio began in 2000 when I bought my cottage, a 1940s duplex. I planned to use the front unit as my home and the rear unit as my studio while still working at my “day job.” When the time came that I could leave to paint full time, I planned to rent out the back apartment for extra income and convert the 400 square foot garage to my studio.
The rear unit studio was wonderful and I spent many happy hours painting and teaching there. But the new studio is even better! Even though it’s near my house, it’s completely separate so the distractions of laundry, dishes and computer; the nagging of cats for dinner; email and phone calls disappear and painting time flows uninterrupted.
Before the tour, here are “before” pictures of its former life as a grease-monkey garage where my son worked on cars.
The bare garage walls had 40 years of grease and grime and Bondo dust and the concrete floor was badly stained and cracked. The only electricity came in from an extension cord.
The only entrance was the heavy and awkward sliding barn doors on the driveway side of the garage. Now I’ve transformed the old garage from a place for pursuing a passion for pistons to a passion for paint.
I added the doors and deck (though the contractor’s mistakes led to it not being a two-steps up raised deck as planned–but it islevel unlike how it seems in the photo). The high-maintenance funky grass is gone, replaced by gold fines which makes it feel like a beach. Now it’s a great place to set up a still life and paint outdoors and I love eating lunch and reading out here too.
Here is a 6 minute video tour, and below that, pictures with more detail.
In the video and photos below, you can see that I love good art tools. I have collected this studio equipment and supplies over many years of painting. Much of it I bought secondhand or long ago.
Port Costa is a strange, tiny, rundown town and a popular destination for motorcyclists out riding the winding roads in herds on noisy Harleys. At the end of town, by the railroad tracks and behind their cracked and crumbling Post Office I sketched above, is the Warehouse Cafe, a seedy bar in a ramshackle warehouse with cheap, stiff drinks, a funky outdoor deck, and a surly female bartender (perfectly described in this collection of hilarious Yelp reviews).
The bikers roar into town, have themselves a breakfast beer or two and ride out. While they seemed like a bunch of tough, old burn-out guys with beer guts and women who looked “rode hard and put away wet,” they were very polite when I asked them questions about their (very expensive) bikes.
It turned out that the corner where I was sketching (red arrow in photo) is where they line up before tearing out of town in a caravan of ear-splitting noise, leaving behind a cloud of flying dust and gravel from the barely paved road. I had to pull my sweatshirt over my face and plug my ears every time a group tore off. My friend Beth Bourland posted some great pics of the day here including one of me so focused sketching I didn’t even know she took the picture.
Besides the bikers, it’s a fun place to paint so my plein air group meets there once a year. And then same thing always happens: we set up for our critique on the patio at the Warehouse Bar and just as we start to talk about the day’s work, they crank up the music on the outdoor speakers so loud that we can’t hear a thing and have to move all our stuff down the street to a quieter spot. Is it a coincidence? Does their music always go full blast at 1:15? Or are they trying to keep away the wrong sort of customers (us)?
A few weeks ago Cathy and I were sketching guests at the Spring Meet of the Golden Gate Live Steamers Club in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. The train people were as curious about us as we were about them, and they wanted to see what we were doing. I usually don’t care when people look at my sketches, but I was drawing their trains that they had lovingly built from scratch, designing and engineering everything from the wood-burning boilers to the screws that held them together. It was like drawing their children—one thing out of place and they would know it.
Many of their members maintain and operate trains that their fathers or grandfathers built and they are now apprenticing their sons in the craft. Over the years the club has built a complete course of tracks with trestles, tunnels, and small buildings to match the 1.5″-to-the-foot scale of the trains. You can see photos and videos on their website including this one below of me sketching at the meet (much to my surprise!)