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″

Amusement Park and Circus Museum: Playland Not At the Beach

Detail of Playland Diarama, ink & watercolor

Detail of Playland Diarama, ink & watercolor

Playland Not At The Beach Museum of Fun is an amazing place created by a group of volunteers and artists who are passionate about the circus, history, carnivals, and a San Francisco amusement park (now long gone) called Playland at the Beach.

Laughing Sal, ink, gouache & watercolor

Laughing Sal, ink, gouache & watercolor

Hidden away behind a nondescript storefront in El Cerrito, Playland Not At The Beach is both a museum  and a place to play carnival, penny arcade and pinball games (including historic and 3-D pinball machines), watch movies, see magic shows, have parties, explore the world of the circus and the world of Charles Dickens in miniature and much more, with room after room of visual delights, each surpassing the next.

Circus Diorama Detail, ink & watercolor

Circus Diorama Detail, ink & watercolor (the actual scene had about 3 times as many characters, but with so much to capture in 2 hours, I picked my favorites for this sketch)

The circus dioramas contain 300,000 hand-carved and hand-painted realistic figures of every kind of person, animal and behind-the-scenes activity (even including the cooks carving up big fish for dinner and the separate men’s and women’s dressing tents with performers washing up or changing clothes) and all the acts under the big top, all created by a man who joined the circus at 14 and his father, who were both lifelong circus lovers. It took a month just to create one elephant, which were each carved from a separate block of wood and are about an inch tall.

The creativity and dedication to follow one’s passion that went into making the circus dioramas brought tears to my eyes and left me intensely inspired.

You can see the wonderful sketches made by my buddies on our Urban Sketchers blog here. We plan to return to Playland Not At The Beach as soon as we can!

Herding Elephants? Rallying Rats?

Elephant & Rider, Ink & Gouache

Elephant & Rider, Ink & Gouache

I drew this elephant to illustrate an interesting blog post for my job last week. The post is about change and uses the analogy of an elephant and a rider. The “Rider” is our rational, analytical side and the “Elephant” is our emotional side and the author explains why you have to work with both to make a change.

Elephant, ink drawing painted in Photoshop

Elephant, ink drawing painted in Photoshop

I drew the elephant in my sketchbook, scanned the line drawing and painted it in Photoshop. That’s the one I used for that post. Later I painted the line drawing at top with gouache in my sketchbook. Which do you like better?

Rats Rally the Herd, Ink & Gouache

Rats Rally the Herd, Ink & Gouache

I did this illustration for the same article, but it got rejected, theoretically because two pictures were too many for the one post, but I suspect it was because rats are a little too creepy, even though it is the acronym of a group that was highlighted in the post (RATS: Reading Apprenticeship Teachers and Supporters).

RA Rats, ink drawing recomposed & painted in Photoshop

Rats Rally the Herd, ink drawing recomposed, painted in Photoshop

I used the same line drawing for the final illustration above, but cloned/altered some of the rats and painted and sketched more in Photoshop. This is the one I proposed for the post and got rejected. I didn’t mind, it was fun to do.

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