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.

Mira Vista Country Club Golfcarts

Mira Vista Country Club Putting Green and Carts, ink & watercolor, 5x16"

Mira Vista Country Club Putting Green and Golf Carts, ink & watercolor, 5×16″

My plein air group held our annual season kick-off meeting at the Mira Vista Country Club on Saturday where one of our painters has a membership. Afterwards, I sat on a bench in the sun and sketched the clubhouse, putting green and all the cute little golf carts.

Mira Vista, left side of spread, 5x8"

Mira Vista, left side of spread, 5×8″

Although I prefer jeans to dress up and agree with Thoreau’s quote: “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,” the club has a dress code that prohibits denim. So it was fun seeing how nicely the paint-spattered artists I’m used to seeing at our painting sessions can clean up, even if it meant I had to dress up too.

Mira Vista, right page, 5x8"

Mira Vista, right page, 5×8″

Our plein air schedule starts up again next month. Last year I only sketched at our paintouts but this year I’ve committed to dragging my oil painting supplies again and giving actual plein air painting another try. But if I still find it too frustrating to stand in one spot instead of exploring the locations, I’ll go back to sketching.

Urban Angel & Exciting News!!!

Urban Angel, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Urban Angel, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

I sketched this scene at the Sundar Shadi holiday display on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito. More about that in a minute but first the…

Exciting News

Katherine Tyrell of my favorite art-related blog, Making a Mark, has selected my painting, UPS Delivers at Night, as one of four portraits up for “Best Picture on an Art Blog 2012: The Making a Mark Prize for Best Artwork – Person.”

Katherine invited nominations and then selected 4 paintings in 4 categories (still life, people, places, nature). Now the public has 4 days to vote for their favorites. Click here to visit Making a Mark, see the beautiful work in each of the categories and vote for the ones you like best. The deadline for voting is Sunday, December 30 at 6:00 a.m. London time (10:00 p.m. in California).

Sundar Shadi

Now back to Sundar Shadi’s holiday display. Mr. Shadi was born in India but moved to the Bay Area to attend college in 1921. In 1949 he put up a holiday display on the large empty lot next door to the home he built in El Cerrito.

Sundar Shadi Holiday Display

Sundar Shadi Holiday Display (at sunset between rainstorms)

Every year until he was 96 he added to the display, building figures, animals and a whole village. He passed away but his family and volunteers continue to assemble the display each year. Sundar Shadi was a Sikh not a Christian, but created the display as a gift for the community.

View looking down the hill, Moeser Lane, El Cerrito

View looking down the hill, Moeser Lane, El Cerrito

The view looking down the hill from the display is pretty nice too!

Happy 75 Cerrito Theater! (Sketching on a Cube of Stone)

Theater, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

Theater, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

Well that’s a confusing title! What I meant was that I sketched while sitting on one of the giant cubes of stone set into the sidewalk along San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito. I assume they are meant to be used as seats. According to this brochure, a primary goal of the recent street upgrade program that included the stone blocks was “to identify El Cerrito as a distinct place…” I guess the city fathers (and mothers?) felt that poor little El Cerrito just didn’t have enough “there” there.

The Cerrito Theatre is having its 75th birthday celebration this week.  It originally opened on Christmas Day in 1937 as an art deco “motion picture palace.” It closed in the 1960s and was used as a furniture warehouse until a community group worked to bring it back to life as a theater in 2006.

LuluLemon, Corner of Ashby & College, Berkeley, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Turning Corners, Looking Back (plus Lightroom, LuluLemon and Dynamite)

LuluLemon, Corner of Ashby & College, Berkeley, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

LuluLemon, Corner of Ashby & College, Berkeley, ink & watercolor, 5×8″ (I don’t know what that huge loudspeaker thing is on the roof–maybe for the neighborhood’s emergency alert warning signal? There’s one in my neighborhood that runs a test every Wednesday at noon)

I’ve spent the past couple of days looking back over my artwork from the past decade while sorting and labeling it in the process of learning to use Lightroom* for managing my digital files. It’s been interesting to see what has changed (mostly for the better), and what has stayed consistent.

Along with turning a major corner in my life (more about that next week), I’ve also been looking back (and forth) through my current journal to find the pages I haven’t posted yet.  So I thought it would be appropriate to post sketches of two corners I pass often. The sketch above shows LuluLemon where I bought my periwinkle runner’s hat (photo, sketch) that I wear whenever I go out sketch or walking.

Peet's Coffee and Albany Hill, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Peet’s Coffee and Albany Hill, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5×8″ (shape on right near bottom is the roof of the Old West Gunroom)

Peet’s Coffee in El Cerrito is a one mile walk from my house, a pilgrimage that I make often. Albany Hill is immediately behind it: an odd uprising in an otherwise flat area. The hill is forested with eucalyptus trees.

In the late 19th century Judson Powder Works manufactured dynamite at the foot of the hill and planted the trees to catch debris and muffle the sound of their many accidental explosions. The stop on the transcontinental railroad tracks just to the west was called Nobel Station, after the inventor of dynamite.

*If you’d like more information about Adobe Lightroom, leave a comment and I’ll either write about it here or send you the information directly. I discovered some great free resources for learning why and how to use it and set up a solid workflow for editing and managing digital image files.

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor

The Danger of Sketching While Tired

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor, 8×5″

I was so tired I almost didn’t go to our Tuesday sketch night but our destination, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, was near home so I pushed myself out the door. I only managed the sketch above, made standing using a shopping cart as my table. Even the colors looked tired. Cathy focused on the meat department and entertained the butchers with her drawings of them. Her chicken sketch is a hoot.

We left at 8:00 when the store closed and then I sat in my car for a few minutes, checking my email on my phone while trying to talk myself out of a trip to the ice cream shop. My phone rang: “Hello, this is El Cerrito Natural and you left your little notebook in your shopping cart.”

Thank goodness I always put a note on the first page of every journal: “IF LOST PLEASE CALL…” with my phone number. I said I was still in the parking lot and ran back to the front door and gratefully took it home.

Outside Peets Coffee, Ink & watercolor

Outside Peet’s Coffee, Ink & watercolor

This was another drawing while tired. I tried taking a walk to Peet’s coffee to wake myself up. Since caffeine is no longer an option, the walking and an iced decaf had to do the trick. It didn’t. I was just more tired when I got home but at least I got to sketch a bit (and didn’t lose my sketchbook this time).

I watched the blind woman at the next table (in the sketch above) make a phone call by listening carefully to the tone as she pushed each number. Her friend arrived shortly afterwards, also blind, walking a large black poodle.

Two things I wondered:

  1. If you’re meeting someone and you can’t see them, how do you know they’re there or arriving without calling out “Susie are you here…” or phoning?
  2. Why don’t you ever see standard poodles as guide dogs? I live near a center for the blind and also often see people training guide dogs on our subway system. They’re never poodles. Though they do always wear very cute booties–I wonder why?
Wildflowers on Carlson Boulevard, ink & watercolor 5x8"

Dangerous Wildflowers on Carlson Boulevard

Wildflowers on Carlson Boulevard, ink & watercolor 5x8"

Wildflowers on Carlson Boulevard, ink & watercolor 5×8″

When the two-year long repaving project on the one-mile stretch of Carlson Boulevard from El Cerrito to Richmond Annex was finally completed, someone planted wildflower seeds in the dirt-filled center dividers. The ugly, urban street took on new life as the wildflowers bloomed into a gorgeous riot of color. There were little white ones and fluffy yellows, brilliant orange California poppies, and my favorites, the blue bachelor buttons and tall lavender lupines that stood (note past tense here) three feet high.

I’m glad I spent a lovely hour enjoying sketching them because the next day work crews came through and HACKED them all down. The neighborhood email newsletter was abuzz with people horrified at the destruction.

Then we found out why. There was a serious car accident and a couple of near misses because the flowers grew so high that you couldn’t see oncoming traffic on the other side of street when crossing or making turns.  It was true; even in my sketch you can’t see the street on the other side of the center divider because the flowers completely hid it.

Happily, new, completely different wildflowers have now sprouted, and hopefully they won’t be so dangerous and will be left to bloom in peace.

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