Inspired by a wonderful urban plein air painting workshop and demo by one of my favorite artists, Randy Sexton, I sketched the main street in the funky little town of Crockett that houses his studio, Epperson Gallery and a tattoo parlor. Randy is one of the nicest gentlemen I’ve ever met, as well as a highly skilled and talented painter, and a gifted teacher.
Crockett is home to many oddball characters and funky old bars and shops. When I said I’d love to paint portraits of some of the local denizens he said he’d been doing just that, starting from when a professional model didn’t show up for a figure painting session. He and his fellow artists just popped in to one of the neighborhood dive bars and recruited a regular to come pose for cash and beer.
When it was time to leave for the Sketchcrawl in San Francisco I couldn’t find my sketch kit containing all my favorite sketching tools. I scoured the studio and the house. No sketch kit. I feared I’d left it at my figure drawing class the day before at the community college where it had probably already been adopted by a needy art student. Sad and frustrated, I cobbled together some pens, pencils, brushes and paints, threw them in a bag and drove across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.
Catching up with my friend Susan Cornelis who came down from Sebastopol for the day, and connecting with some other local sketch buddies helped me forget about my missing precious pens and paints for a little while. Since I was so late, after a quick walk around the neighborhood, I decided to sketch what I could see from a bench on the porch in front of the library where the final meet up would be. The lamp post in the sketch above was up on the porch too, which is a little confusing perspective-wise, being up about 8 steps from the sidewalk in this hilly neighborhood.
The good news is that I had a great time at the sketch crawl AND the next day when I was getting ready to go out to the studio I picked up the basket I use to carry things back and forth from house to studio and my sketch kit was in the basket! YAY! And I put a “Reward for return” note in the bag with my name and phone number on it in case it ever disappears again.
I think I like the sketch better broken into two separate ones (below). What do you think?
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.
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.
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.
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).
I used a Pentel Tradio Pulaman Fountain Pen for drawing at Picante Mexican restaurant. I love this pen with its smooth chisel tip. Since it isn’t waterproof I could add washes of water to make the gray areas. But Picante is such a colorful place I had to add a little color too. I ordered delicious fish tacos but was too hungry to draw them.
When we planned the Urban Sketching evening for Cato’s, a great old pub, little did we know that a large group of Kaiser doctors were also planning a happy hour event that night too. The place was totally packed but a large group of urban sketchers made it work anyway. We gathered around several tables and sketched eaters, drinkers and sketchers (and in my case, dinner).
My hamburger was delicious but I ate it too quickly, anxious to get sketching and a bit overwhelmed by the noise and crowds. That was my first night out sketching since adopting my pup, who was waiting patiently and not all that happily in her bed in my car in the parking lot of the PetFood Express store across the street from the pub.
I am happy to say that the excellent new book Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken, includes this “Urban Animals” page (above) featuring my sketches of cats. When the publisher contacted me to request the use of the images, I was delighted. I was even happier when they sent my complimentary copies of the book and I saw all the really useful information and wonderful sketches it contains.
Field Guide to San Francisco
Then I got an email from an art director from the San Francisco office of the national advertising agency, Ogilvy. They were moving and she was designing a “Field Guide” to the new SF neighborhood for their employees. When searching for sketches of the area she found mine, and as she looked through my blog she found sketches to illustrate most of the pages in the guide.
(This would be a good time to point out to fellow art bloggers how important it is to tag or attach categories to your images and your posts. WordPress makes it easy; the feature is a little hidden in Blogger but it really helps to find posts or images with specific content.)
Historic Ships (and partial map from facing page). This one was actually drawn from a model in a case at a seafood restaurant!
Coit Tower and part of map on facing page. This sketch was made during last summer’s West Coast Sketchcrawl
Dogs are allowed, not lizards and bunnies; here are the rules. A collection of sketches from different days and sketchbooks
In the end, they licensed 18 of my sketches for use in the printed field guide. Above are a few of the pages, brilliantly composed by the art director.
What I’m working on now
I am honored to be working on a commissioned large watercolor painting for a couple who live in Europe now, but were married in a lovely building in a Bay Area park. The wife wants to give her husband the painting for their anniversary. I visited the venue and took photos and we agreed on a composition. The painting is underway and so far is going well, but because it is large and has many details, it is keeping me very busy (and happy) in the studio.
(I’m leaving out any identifying details about the locations to make sure there’s no way her husband will find out. I know that seems unlikely, but when working on a previous commissioned painting of a house for a surprise anniversary present for the husband, their daughter found the work-in-progress painting I’d posted of her parents’ house when she Googled “Oakland Federal Building,” landed on my sketch of the building, scrolled down and the next post was her home. She was so surprised to see it she called her parents!)