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.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Centerpiece, ink and watercolor, 5x7.5 in

Thanksgiving Centerpiece, ink and watercolor, 5×7.5 in

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).

Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest Winners

Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest Winners

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.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration (Day of the Dead) Oakland

Aztec Dancer wearing animal head, fur and feathers

Aztec Dancer waiting; wearing animal head (coyote? wolf?),  fur and feathers, ink & watercolor, 8×5″ (drawn from Micaela’s photo, not on site)

LOUD DRUMMING! 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.

Blessing with sage smoke and feathers, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

People of all descriptions lined up to be blessed with sage smoke and feathers, (drawn from my photo, not onsite) ink & watercolor, 8×5″

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.

1948 Chevy Decoto Fleetline,  ink & watercolor, 5x8" (drawn on site, painted at home)

1948 Chevy Fleetline, drawn in ink on site, painted at home (5×8″)

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.

Boy who likes to draw cartoons watched me sketch

Boy who likes to draw cartoons watched me (in blue hat) sketch

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.

Aztec Dancers, brush pen ink

Aztec Dancers, brush pen ink

Sugar skulls, little skeleton ladies and a view looking down from BART tracks when we were departing

Sugar skulls, little skeleton ladies and a view looking down from BART tracks when we were departing

Painted faces everywhere

Painted faces everywhere

Sugar candy skulls

Sugar candy skulls; they added your name on top for free

Pretty skeleton dolls

Pretty skeleton dolls

Aztec Dancer

Aztec Dancer

One of the amazing altars at the festival

One of the many amazing altars at the festival

Edgar Payne's Ford, ink & watercolor, 4x6"

Edgar Payne’s Paintings and His Plein Air Ford

Edgar Payne's Ford, ink & watercolor, 4x6"

Edgar Payne's Ford, ink & watercolor, 4x6"

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.

My New Remodeled Art Studio Tour (at last!)

Looking out to the deck

View from inside looking out to the deck

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 1970 Firebird Cody was restoring in my garage

The garage before it was transformed and the 1970 Firebird Cody was (still is) restoring

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.

Huge Chevy engine and garage full of tools (and grease)

Huge engine under construction

Backyard before door and deck

Backyard before door and deck

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.

Deck and door to studio

Deck and door to studio

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 is level 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.  Read More

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