Christmas Goose and a White Pelican

Canadian Goose, Knox Miller Park, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Canadian Goose, Knox Miller Park, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

After an extraordinary autumn and early winter, with many things other than art going on in my life, I’ve gotten way behind on posting. This goose isn’t really a Christmas goose, it’s a summer goose, as are the rest of these sketches from Knox Miller park.

Knox Miller Park Clouds, watercolor, 5x7 in

Knox Miller Park Clouds, watercolor, 5×7 in

Knox Miller Park in Pt. Richmond is so pretty, with a lagoon of sorts, grassy meadows and the bay and mountains of Marin in the distance. The birds were all sketched from photos, the little landscape above was the only sketch I managed to do on site, after arriving late and feeling poorly that day.

Knox Miller Goose, ink and watercolor 5x7 in

Knox Miller Goose, ink and watercolor 5×7 in

Silly goose. My first attempt at drawing him from a photo.

White Pelican, Knox Miller Park, ink, watercolor and gouache, 5x7 in

White Pelican, Knox Miller Park, ink, watercolor and gouache, 5×7 in

I struggled and struggled trying to draw and paint this unusual white pelican from a blurry photo. I ended up adding some gouache to get back some white, which never really works well.

Urban Avians and the Highway

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

While I was having my car’s oil changed at Toyota Albany I took a hike down to the SF Bay Trail to sketch. I followed a confusing bike and walking path that goes up onto an overpass and then down under the freeway. It leads to the marsh on the way out to Albany Bulb, a spit of land homesteaded by the homeless that the city is constantly trying to reclaim. There were birds everywhere, including the beautiful, delicate white Snowy Egrets that always delight me (above).

Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

I even spotted birds living right on the freeway walls; the family of pigeons above didn’t seem disturbed by the constant roar of cars. The hike was a bit isolated, and it felt spooky walking under the freeways, even on a sunny weekday morning. Fortunately the few people I saw along the way were polite bicyclists. No trolls living under these bridges like the Brothers Grimm fairytale I remember with horror from my childhood.

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5x7 in

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5×7 in

While I was sketching, a man was photographing birds nearby and he told me the names of the birds we were seeing, and how to differentiate them. I made notes on my sketch as I tried to figure out the basic shape of the birds.

Electric Owls and Giant Rats: Pest Control at Pastime

Pest Control at Pastime Hardware, ink & watercolor, 5x8". Sketch of artificial owls and other pest control devices

Pest Control at Pastime Hardware, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

When we made our annual sketching pilgrimage to Pastime Hardware on a cold winter evening I picked the Pest Control department. I was attracted by the big, ugly, inflated hanging rat and the artificial owls who seemed to be discussing who was going to nab the rat.

The names of the products seemed inflated too: Pest Chaser Pro and Sonic Pest Chaser (both made me imagine cartoon critters that jump out of the box and chase critters away). And then there’s the Tom Cat Mole Trap (contains cat? that chases moles?) and Cat Stop (do you need Cat Stop after you’ve released the Tom Cat Mole Trap?)

I know someone who is courting real owls by putting up owl houses in her yard. That solution might be worse than the problem. My son has a family of screech owls living in a tree across the street from him and they keep him awake, screeching all night long.

Sketching in the Lamp Shop

Lamp sketch: Fertility and Glass, ink & watercolor 5x8"

Fertility and Glass, ink & watercolor 5×8″

Last night our sketch group visited Sue Johnson Lamps in Berkeley, a shop that has specialized in custom, artisan-made lamps and shades since the 1970’s. Sue generously held the store open late for us and even offered us tea and persimmon pudding. We all fell in love with their amazing variety of hand-crafted works of art that also happen to light up.

A good example of the variety: on the left above, a “ceremonial fertility carving” of a mother with big hair and a (very stiff) baby on her lap and an exquisite hand-blown glass base that lights up from inside with a shade embellished in lovely Japanese print fabric.

sketch of elephant and parrot lamps in ink & watercolor

Parrot and Elephant Lamps, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

And then there was a whole menagerie of animal lamps: birds, elephants, dogs, monkeys, frogs and more. Sketching the elephant made me realize how much I didn’t know about what elephants look like. I hope we’ll be invited back again because there is so much more there to draw.

Be sure to see my sketch buddies’ very different drawings on our Urban Sketchers blog: see Cathy’s, Ceinwen‘s, Sonia’s, Cristina‘s, (and I’ll add links to Susan’s and Micaela’s when they get them posted).

Sketchbook spread with lamps, 5x16"

Sketchbook 2-page spread with lamps, 5×16″

Happy Turkey (Vulture) Day; One More Thing to Be Thankful For

Turkey Vulture drawn from taxidermy specimen, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Turkey Vulture drawn in ink from taxidermy specimen, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

So here it was the day before Thanksgiving and I wanted to draw a turkey. I called around trying to find a live one to sketch but failed. Then I tried to find a taxidermy turkey. No luck. The ranger at the Tilden Nature Center said they did have a collection of taxidermy birds including owl, songbirds, turkey vulture…but no turkey.

Wait! Turkey Vulture! It’s a bird, it’s named Turkey so why not? I called back to confirm they had it in stock (they rent it out: $10 for two weeks) and then drove up to Tilden Park.

Turkey Vulture: It's Value, ink & watercolor 5x16"

Turkey Vulture: It’s Value, drawn from specimen with notes from display case, ink & watercolor 5×16″

Here are a few interesting things about Turkey Vultures:

  • Turkey vultures (nicknamed “buzzard”) have a 5-6 foot wing span; “there is no more graceful bird in flight” but they have weak legs so walk awkwardly
  • In order to fly they need a run into the wind to lift off and can fly 60 miles per hour
  • Vultures are the “garbage collector of the bird world” and eat everything from dead mouse to moose.
  • If they are in danger and can’t run, they vomit their foul-smelling meal at their enemy.
  • Be thankful for them: “Without vultures, much of the world would be cluttered with the bodies of dead decaying animals.”

I’m Thankful For…

Along with turkey vultures, here are some things I’m grateful for:

  • YOU, my dear blog visitor and reader,
  • my much-loved friends and family, and
  • the freedom, security, comfort, and good health that allow me to live this wonderful creative life.

I know none of the above is guaranteed or permanent so I try to be grateful every day, not just Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?

Earthquake Weather Sketching

Miller-Knox Park Sketches, Journal Spread, 11x7"

Miller-Knox Park Sketches, Journal Spread, 11x7" (see enlarged individuals pics below)

We are having the most glorious Indian summer this October, with nicer weather than we had during the real summer. I always think of this hot, dry weather as Earthquake Weather because of the earthquakes and fires during other hot Octobers. And sure enough there have been several earthquakes the past week.

The little tree, from my car, sketch #1, ink & watercolor

Little tree, from my car, sketch #1, ink & watercolor

When I arrived at Miller-Knox park for a plein air group paint out at 10:00, I decided to sketch the first thing I saw: this little tree. I sketched from where I parked my car. At the end of the paint out, when we returned to the parking lot, everyone was laughing at the dope who parked their car all wonky and it was my car they were pointing at.

Apparently in my enthusiasm to get sketching, I managed to park at such an angle that I went around the cement parking stop blocks, ending up half on the grass and half in the next space, none of which I’d noticed doing.

Lagoon view, geese in the shade

Lagoon view, geese in the shade

I took a walk and found a nice spot in the shade with a view of the lagoon and lots of white geese and Canadian geese. I lost the white geese when I repainted the shaded area so later added some white watercolor (which never quite works) to try to get them back. Since they’re in the shade, it’s OK that they’re not super white.

Lagoon and bridge view

Lagoon and bridge view

In the Bay Area you can be in a stunningly beautiful park but have views of freeways or bridges in the background that remind you you’re still in an urban area.

People Picnicking in the Park

People Picnicking in the Park

My last sketch of the day was of these folks setting up a picnic under the trees. This was one of those days when the weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful, and my pen and paint just worked.

Ostrich with Hole in the Sand (How I Get My News)

Ostrich with Hole in the Sand, ink on Stonehenge paper

Ostrich with Hole in the Sand, ink on Stonehenge paper

One of the Everyday in May drawing cues is “Draw How You Get Your News.” The image that immediately came to mind was an ostrich with its head in the sand. I am the opposite of a news junkie. I cancelled my newspaper subscription years ago when I realized it made me cry nearly every day. TV news is even worse, with “If it bleeds, it leads” as the guiding principle.

So I just stick my head in the sand instead of consuming all the fear-based media, and do what I can to create better news. Avoiding the news means I can continue to believe that most people are mostly good and that it’s great to be alive.

About the paper: Stonehenge just started making their wonderfully soft drawing paper in this color called “Kraft” except unlike regular Kraft paper it’s archival 100% cotton. It’s fun to draw on with black ink and white gel pen.

About ostriches: They don’t really bury their heads in the sand. When frightened they try to hide by lying low and pressing their long necks to the ground which could look like they have buried their heads in the sand.

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