Sunday was a glorious day in the Bay Area; sunny, breezy and in the 70s. A perfect day for some “Sketchercize.” I packed up my sketching gear and hiking poles and headed on foot through my hilly neighborhood and up to the El Cerrito Memorial Grove and the Hillside Natural Area above it; nearly 80 acres of nature with spectacular views.
I intended to walk for at least 30 minutes before sketching but was stopped after 10 minutes by some seed pods hanging from a tree, glowing red and green in the sun that I had to sketch. Next stop was for some California poppies along the road. Then the view of the giant hill that I’d be climbing came into view so I added that with an “X” marks the spot where I was going, all on the same sketchbook page.
At last I reached the top of the hill and hiked along the skyline trail until I reached a bench where I could sit and admire the 180 degree view–a great reward for the 2 mile, mostly uphill hike. I ate my apple, sketched and then began the trek back home, which just happened to pass by Payoff #2: Baskin Robbins, where I got an ice cream cone to eat on the way (a bit counterproductive, I suppose, but quite yummy). I pasted the cone wrapper in my sketchbook when I got home.
My plein air group met at Tilden Regional Parks Botanical Garden this cold and foggy morning. Since I wasn’t familiar with the park I explored a bit and then decided to sketch instead of trying to drag my painting gear around the hilly, pebbly paths. Since I only had my large Moleskine and a Micron Pigma .01 pen with me, I added watercolor later at home. The May Lilly above was so sweetly but delicately scented that drawing beside it was like breathing in a dessert.
This bridge and creek was the first thing I sketched when I arrived, still arguing with myself about whether to go get my painting cart, whether to go home because it was too cold, whether to go home because I arrived late, how I should have brought my watercolors, how the scene was so complicated and so maybe I should just go home.
But as I drew, I started noticing interesting details, how dark and light shapes lined up, where one puzzle piece fit against the next, the design the water was making as it poured over rocks and down the creek, the sound of frogs and birds, and before I knew it that busy, chattering mind had shut off and I was having fun.
As I sketched this spectacular Manzanita, I began noticing how much like strong lean muscles the branches were, with their smooth, polished red surface. Then I found other human attributes: the knotholes looked like eyes while the bends in the branches looked just like elbows. This led me to consider the oneness of all things and I felt very connected to all the nature around me. During our critique at the end of the paint-out, we each take a turn showing our work and talking about our process. When I shared these thoughts someone laughingly asked what I’d eaten for breakfast! I was high on drawing, not Cheerios!
Walking to our critique, I spotted this garden kittie, having a nice nap in the buckwheat section of the garden and had to stop and sketch it. Nothing bothered this plump pussy who slept amidst the plants, little signs, wood chips and stones near the garden entrance. I added the whiskers with white gel pen.
Sunday I took Mariah to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (formerly known as Marine World) for her 10th birthday. After the dolphin show I saw a poster of Quilson the Porcupine and said I hoped we’d get to see him. An exuberant and joyful young lady, Mariah’s enthusiasm paled next to mine when we sat in on animal show and there was Quilson, just as cute as in his picture. It turns out they can’t shoot their quills at enemies (they’re just for display).
Also in the show was an adorable anteater, a cute coatamundi, a jittery chinchilla who shed a pile of fur on her handler, and a desert fox with gigantic ears “used as air conditioners” according to the show’s corny young announcer. He never explained exactly how they work as air conditioners, though. Do they flap them? Do they sweat? Do they just create shade? Who knows?
I was so thrilled to get to see and sketch these critters that I apparently took leave of my senses and unfortunately also my sketchbook. When I next reached for it to sketch the flamingos in another area of the park (“I thought they were extinct” said Mariah), sadly so was my sketchbook. Gone! We backtracked looking for it, filled out a form at Guest Relations, and then I just tried to focus on having fun with Mariah.
After 7 hours and 6 miles (I was wearing my pedometer) and seeing the crowning event of the day, the Killer Whale Show, we headed for the exit and the Lost and Found office. I told the woman what I’d lost and she asked me to describe the first picture in the sketchbook. I said, “I have no idea what the first picture is but I know what the last one is: a PORCUPINE!” so she handed it over and I literally jumped up and down with glee (looking pretty stupid, and not caring!)
I’ve never lost a sketchbook before and while not disastrous, it was most unpleasant, especially because I use mine not only for drawing, but also to write notes or sketch out ideas for art projects and techniques to try, and information about art events, etc.
I’ll blame it on my sensory overload at Six Flags, with no escape from the speakers placed every 20 feet throughout the park playing loud rock music interspersed with DJ blather and commercials for Six Flags (?!), the crowds, trying to find our way from one “kingdom” to another, and all the other sights and sounds of a large amusement park. They even have a jumbotron screen at the killer whale show, which displays the same show you’re watching only gigantic (with more loud music). They actually interrupt the show and play a COMMERCIAL for Six Flags and more commercials play on large TV screens around the park. Hello Six Flags, we’re already here! Why are you interrupting our fun to tell us about the fun we could be having if we were here?
When my plein air group at Martinez Waterfront Park last Saturday I really enjoyed the painting process despite getting a late start. Then I tinkered in the studio, never one to leave well enough alone. Above is the final version and below are the steps I took to get there, recorded just for fun. First is the thumbnail sketch/value study:
Then I blocked in the colors using really thin paint at the average color of each of the large shapes and planes or puzzle pieces as I like to think of them. I was pleased to see I did the drawing pretty well, and was able to fit everything on the square panel in about the same proportions as I saw them and as in my thumbnail sketch.