Sketching at the Laundromat

Solano Laundromat, ink and watercolor 10x8 in

Solano Laundromat, ink and watercolor 10×8 in

I haven’t been doing much urban sketching or dream drawing lately, while I try to complete a couple of commissioned dog portraits (that are taking forever) and attend figure/portrait drawing sessions and do other life stuff. But here’s a quickie from sketch night at the laundromat, a favorite place to sketch. I’m glad I have my own washer and dryer so I don’t have to go there to do laundry, but I do enjoy the perspective challenges and patterns of rows of rectangles, circles and black and white shapes, as well as the little still life of soap and baskets.

Sketchcrawl #44, UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5x8 in

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5×8 in

I had a great time at Sketchcrawl 44 on the University of California, Berkeley campus. I missed the starting meet up at 11:00 because I stopped at the entrance to do the sketch above (and to be honest, because I arrived an hour late due to my seeming inability to get out of the house on time in the morning no matter how hard I try). Most of the students are gone for the summer but there were hundreds of visitors from all over the world and families doing campus tours with their high school students and large groups of teens in summer programs on campus.

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8x5 in

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8×5 in

At lunchtime I met up with Cathy and some other sketchers, and had lunch sitting on white chairs set up for a wedding in front of the Faculty Club. Then I sketched at our meet up spot, Sather Tower, aka “the Campanile,” a tall clock tower in the center of campus. I rode the elevator up to the top and was going to sketch the panoramic view when I noticed someone looking up at the huge bells just over my head. I would have totally missed that sight (until the bells sounded excruciatingly loudly at 2:00 as I was drawing the one bell above). I skipped drawing the panorama since it took so long to understand and draw the bell. Then I took the slow elevator back down and sketched the tower. I only got the top 3/4 in the sketch on the right so added the base with a statue and stairs on the left.

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

At our 3:00 meet up time I was delighted to spot my friends and fellow Urban Sketchers Pete Scully and Gary Amaro. It was such a treat to see them again and get a chance to look through their amazing sketchbooks. I told Pete I wish I could live in the world he draws. I so love the light and depth and detail in his sketches! Gary’s gouache and ink sketch of a campus building is really gorgeous in person.

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels (my couch isn’t really that yellow…ick)

I’ve missed going out sketching all the time like I used to. 2014 so far has been the year of the dog. Unfortunately, having been rescued from the streets of Taiwan, Millie is not fond of urban environments, making urban sketching with her rather difficult. She shivers and shakes on busy streets so much that her teeth chatter. Even though she did get into trouble while I was out (see above) in the hour before the dog sitter came to take her to the park, I’ve really enjoyed the time I spend with her and she’s becoming a great studio dog (see below).

Studio Pup Millie

Studio Pup Millie

Brazil Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor Painting Commission (steps in process)

Brazillian Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor, 22 x 30 in

Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor, 22 x 30 in

When I received an email from a woman in Switzerland, asking if I’d be interested in a commission to paint the site of her wedding (the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park) as a 10-year anniversary gift for her husband I said an enthusiastic, “Yes!” We agreed I would have the painting completed when she visited the Bay Area a couple of months later so that she could hand carry it back to Switzerland.

Brazillian Room, Tilden Park, Original Photo Reference

Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Original Photo Reference

I visited the site, took photos and we agreed I would use the one above as reference for the painting. Since I shot the photo in late spring it wouldn’t really match the colors and light of her August wedding so I also used my imagination and memory of the park in summer to capture the warmth and strong light of August in the Bay Area. Below are some of the steps in the painting process. Read More

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.

Empress Hornblower and the Wanna Be Cantaloupe

Empress Hornblower at Sunset, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Empress Hornblower at Sunset, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

Sounds like a great title for a children’s book, no? The Empress Hornblower (above) is part of a fleet of party boats moored behind the ritzy hotel at the northern Berkeley marina, an area long-time residents remember as the old Berkeley dump.

Before “ecology” and “global warming” were common words, cities dumped their garbage, old cars, construction rubble, etc. in the San Francisco Bay. As they filled in the bay with garbage, they created new land on which they built housing, freeways, and, when they finally closed the dump, parks and hotels.

Wanna Be Cantalope

Wanna Be Cantaloupe, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

My tenant (I own/live in a duplex) loves to garden so I put in a raised bed for her and we prepared the soil along the side of our property for flowers and veges. When she  planted cantaloupes I warned her they wouldn’t thrive in our foggy climate but she ignored me.

They were cute but never got bigger than chubby  cucumbers, and probably most of that was skin. She pulled them out before she left on vacation in October. I didn’t have the heart to ask her if she ate them or put them in the green bin for recycling.

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.  

Elmwood Theater, Berkeley

Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8x5"

Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8×5″

The Elmwood Theater was originally named The Strand and was built in 1914 in an Art Nouveau architectural style. Admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for kids. It closed in 1941 and reopened as the Elmwood in 1947 with a new “zigzag Moderne” decor.

All the zigzags and neon made for a fun drawing challenge. I sat on my stool on College Avenue, sheltered from the wind in the doorway of a shop closed for the evening, while people went in and out of the Korean restaurant next door carrying their fragrant food to go.

Halfway through the drawing a man climbed up a ladder and started changing the movie titles. I considered including him in the sketch but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. By the time I finished drawing it was time to meet up so I added color at home. My favorite part of the sketch is the pigeons.

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