The Pub/Sketchcrawl Continues: The Pub, Albany

On Pub Time, ink & watercolor

On Pub Time, ink & watercolor

The Pub in Albany was originally an old house and though long ago it was (minimally) converted to a pub, it is as comfy as hanging out in my living room (except a lot more interesting). People come to drink beer or espresso, play card or board games and sit around in big overstuffed chairs to chat. There are interesting collections of objects in every room.

The Pub: Like a Living Room, ink & watercolor

The Pub: Like a Living Room, ink & watercolor

Until we started sketching in pubs I had no idea that there was so much game playing going on. Beer drinking aside, it just seems so wholesome the way groups of friends meet in person to play games instead of playing digital games alone or with virtual friends online.

A note about the picture above–the white shape above the bottom right chair is the head of the bald guy who was sitting there. I liked how it looked even though you can’t tell what it is.

Sketching at Target (?!)

Ladies Shoes, Target, Ink & watercolor

Ladies Shoes, Target, Ink & watercolor

Yes Target! Although we’ll be so happy when we can go outside for our Tuesday evening Urban sketching again, sketching at Target was a lot more fun than you might think. I had fun sketching the silly high heels and flip-flops on the wall behind them. Nobody seemed to notice or question why I was painting in the shoe department.

Left over Valentine Flowers, ink & watercolor

Left over Valentine Flowers, ink & watercolor

It was the night after Valentine’s day and there was the display of sad, wilting Valentines roses, on clearance, half off.

Remote Controlled Baby Swing, ink & watercolor

Remote Controlled Baby Swing, ink & watercolor

Whatever happened to sitting in a rocking chair holding the baby in your arms? This contraption had a touch pad remote control with 6 speeds and more. Someone told me he bought one of these only to discover it came in a million parts that was a nightmare to assemble.

 

Santa and Christmas Sleeping Rough in the Park

Santa version 6, oil on panel, 8x6

Merry Christmas Santa (version 6), oil on panel, 8x6

People are living in the park known as the Albany Bulb again. On a walk we saw more than a dozen homemade shelters, tree houses and tents hidden away in the brush, this one (below) complete with Christmas tree.

Christmas at the Bulb

Christmas at the Albany Bulb

Although I no longer celebrate Christmas with trees and gifts myself, I always like to get out my Santa (at top of post) that was given to me by a wonderful former student who died not long after in a motorcycle crash. The funny, cheery Santa always reminds me of the value of generosity and the transitory nature of life.

I hope Santa finds the homeless families living in the park and makes their Christmas bright. It can’t be much fun camping out in the mud, pouring rain and wind we’ve been having.

And I hope all of you are having a wonderful winter holiday too!

Urban Nature: Swimming Rats, Smiling Cats

 

Sunday Morning Nature Sketch, ink & watercolor

Sunday Morning Nature Sketch, ink & watercolor

 

It was a rainy Sunday morning and at first glance out my window the world looked gray and bleak. Then a flock of seagulls swirled by in the clouds and I looked a little closer. A dove sat nestled on a wire, a few ants straggled along my windowsill, a bee sniffed around a flower–a rose–beautifully blooming in November! The more I looked the more I saw and sketched. My cat Fiona joined me in looking out the window so I sketched her too.

 

Swimming Rats and Ducks, Pitt Brush Pens

Swimming Rats and Ducks, Pitt Brush Pens

 

A couple of days later I drove my car to the Toyota dealer in Albany for an oil change (and free car wash). They offered a ride home but though chilly, it wasn’t raining, so I decided to walk the 3 miles instead. I stopped along the way to watch the egrets and ducks in the creek next door to the Pacific East Mall.

I was stunned to see a big rat swimming across the creek. Then another rat swam by and disappeared under the concrete bridge. I sketched (above) while I waited for another rat sighting to take a photo. And then…

SCREEEEEECH…. KABOOM! I heard tires screeching and looked up as a driver on Pierce Street tried mightily (but unsuccessfully) to swerve and avoid crashing into the car of an old Chinese man who had suddenly turned left in front of him to enter the Asian mall parking lot.

 

Swimming Rat and Duck, photo

Swimming Rat and Duck, annotated photo

Then an old Chinese woman stopped to talk to the ducks. She told me that she brings them bread every morning. I asked her about the rats and she said, “Oh yes, they live under the bridge” we were standing on; she didn’t mind them eating her bread too.

 

Cool News (Urban Sketchers) and Albany Hill Sketch

Peet's Coffee El Cerrito and Albany Hill, ink & watercolor

Peet's Coffee El Cerrito and Albany Hill, ink & watercolor

Our Tuesday night sketch group is now an official Urban Sketchers group, known as Urban Sketchers SF Bay Area. If you’d like to visit our Urban Sketchers blog, you’ll get to  meet my fellow Bay Area sketchers and see the different ways we interpret scenes in our sketchbooks, often from the same viewpoint.

The sketch above was done while sitting on the steps of the Pier One across from Peet’s in El Cerrito. It was the first sunny day in ages and it felt so good to enjoy a latte and some sketching in the sun. Albany Hill sticks up right behind Peet’s. It’s an odd bit of geography that resembles a very tall cupcake (sprinkled with trees instead of jimmies) in an otherwise flat landscape.

Albany Hill’s “Dynamite” History

In the late 19th century, the Judson Powder Works used the hill for the manufacture of dynamite. The company was forced to move from San Francisco and then Berkeley because of continuing accidental explosions. They planted the eucalyptus trees on the hill to catch debris and muffle the sound of their explosions. The stop on the transcontinental railroad tracks just to the west was called Nobel Station, after the inventor of dynamite. Read More

Church on the Corner

Church on the Corner, Acrylic on canvas, 8"x8"

Church on the Corner, Acrylic on canvas, 8"x8"

On Solano Avenue in Albany to do an errand I looked up and saw the bell tower of this church against the very blue sky and was sorry I’d accidentally left my sketchbook and paints at home. Fortunately I did have my little camera and took a few photos I could paint from.

The title of the painting is actually the name of the church. According to their website this 100-year old church community changed their name from “First Baptist Church of Albany” to “Church on the Corner” in 2005 because “many people in the community refer to it that way.”

I can’t stop pondering the implications of this: like what if other businesses started dropping their identities and brand names and Apple Computer became “Big Corporation in Cupertino” or Starbucks became “That Coffee Place on Every Corner.”

Golden Open Acrylics and Utrecht Masters Panels

This painting had been nearly finished when I tried glazing over the sky and it failed miserably, lifting off some of the previous layer. So I painted the sky again. Not sure if it was something I did wrong or that the Open Acrylic Gloss Medium doesn’t work well for glazing over layers.

For this painting I used an archival-quality Utrecht Masters panel which is medium-textured canvas on MDF (medium density fiberboard). The surface seemed too absorbent and coarse for the soft Golden Open Acrylics so I applied a first layer of regular acrylic.

That solved the absorbency problem but the texture is still a little too rough for the way I like to paint in thin layers. I have several more of these panels so will continue to experiment with them, using paint more abundantly so the texture isn’t as problematic.

Sketching Dinner at Zaki’s Kabob House

Jerusalem Lemonade and Lentil Soup, ink & watercolor

Jerusalem Lemonade and Lentil Soup, ink & watercolor

Last Tuesday night we met at Zaki’s Kabob House in Albany for some delicious Mediterranean food and sketching. It was a cold rainy night but the restaurant was busy. Sonia had called ahead to confirm it would be OK for us to spend the evening there sketching. We were further encouraged by the bumper sticker on the door that said “Make Art Not War.”

Condiments & Empty Bread Basket

Condiments & Empty Bread Basket

If you wonder why this sketch has a note saying “Paste Menu Here,” it’s because when I said I’d ruined the composition (pre-watercolor) by adding that glass on the right, Cathy said, “Just paste a piece of the menu over that spot.” I solved the problem by just not painting the glass and leaving the note instead.

Sonia and I painted at the table but Cathy didn’t like the dim restaurant lighting for painting so made many more sketches instead. I was happy that my colors turned out well despite not quite being able to see them while  working.

Diners at Zakis

Diners at Zakis

Usually when we’re sketching in cafes we are unable to avoid eavesdropping on nearby conversations, always a source of amusement or amazement at what people say in public. But shortly after we sat down, Ellen, a member of our plein air painting group, arrived to join her realtor for dinner at the next table. After some introductions, and passing around of sketchbooks (including an invitation by the realtor to show them in their office “gallery” which we declined), we returned to sketching while they dined and chatted.

It was odd eavesdropping on someone we knew. Cathy appreciated it though, since they were talking about sofabed shopping, and Cathy is in the market for one too.

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