Ripping It Up for New Beginnings: Two Johns

John Deere & Porta John, Ink & watercolor sketch of tractor

John Deere & Porta John on my corner, Ink & watercolor

They’re tearing up all the streets in my neighborhood which were already horrible. There are so many potholes I often drive with one wheel on the center double yellow line since that is the only part of the road not in shreds.

The city had deferred maintenance for the past couple years, waiting for funds to replace the water lines (requiring street demolition) and then finally to pave them. The federal money finally arrived (thanks Obama!) and now the workers are out in force ripping up all the streets (in between their lengthy breaks every hour to stand around, smoke, snack and shoot the bull).

This seemed a fitting image for one of the last few pages of my journal since I’d done some tearing up and rebuilding of my own (figuratively) during the months it was in use. (More about that next time.)

I was sitting on a corner near my house sketching this near sunset when a nice, ordinary, family man who lives on that block (with a perennially messy front yard), wandered over to see what I was doing, reeking of marijuana. He showed me a wooden burl bowl he’d just carved and we talked briefly about the joy of creativity and then he wandered off again.

P.S. Not that anyone cares, but I was curious what this tractor thingee was called so I looked it up. It’s a backhoe-loader, a fun word to say out loud. It sounds like a line in a country western song.

Tuesday Night Sketching at Brennan’s Berkeley

Brennans, ink, watercolor and logo

Brennan's Bar and Restaurant, ink, watercolor and logo

I stood outside on a dark, drizzly night in front of  Brennan’s Bar and Restaurant last Tuesday night, drawing until my sketchcrawl buddies arrived.  Brennan’s recently moved to a new building, a former train station a block away from their former location under the University Avenue overpass in Berkeley.

I’d propped up my sketchbook on the hood of a truck parked nearby and immersed myself  in figuring out the building. “HONK! HONK!” Suddenly the truck honked at me.  I jumped, and moved away, thinking someone was approaching and would get in their truck and drive away.  But nobody showed up so I went back to drawing. But then every few minutes the truck would HONK at me again.

Each time I jumped and then I heard guys laughing. One of the three silly, half-drunk men joking around near the bar was using his remote to play around with me.  He came over to see if I was drawing him, as his friends said I was doing. Uh, no. But I told him he could pose for me. He declined and they left just as Cathy and Sonia arrived.

Brennan's Turkey Leg Dinner, ink and watercolor

Brennan's Turkey Leg Dinner, ink and watercolor

We went in and ordered dinner. I have a thing for turkey legs so while Cathy and Sonia each ordered half turkey sandwiches, I got this huge plate of turkey, mixed veges, boiled cabbage (yuck, what was I thinking?) and boiled potatoes. The turkey was great and I took home enough for two more meals.

Old Dudes at the Bar, ink

Old Dudes at the Bar, ink

I switched to using a Pilot Varsity fountain pen, adding water over the lines with a waterbrush to make washes. It was so convenient sketching at Brennan’s. The light was good, the atmosphere full of energy, and we sat  right near a water and condiments station so we could fill and empty our water containers a few feet from our table. Since it’s cafeteria style dining there was no waiter to care how long we sat there.

Dining alone, ink

Dining alone, ink

Cathy suggested we do some contour drawing so I drew the condiments at the next table.

Condiments and Irish Coffee

Condiments and Irish Coffee

I used to go to Brennan’s back in the 70s for their Irish Coffee (and for pitchers of beer with my women’s softball team after our games). Now that I’m not consuming sugar or much caffeine that wasn’t an option. But I did get a cup of decaf and it was worse than our office coffee so I figured I probably wasn’t missing much.

Couple talk

Couple talk

This couple was pretty good about moving between two poses. I found that if I just waited a bit they would return to the position I was drawing.

Really nerdy guys

Really nerdy guys

These guys at the bar were soooo nerdy. The guy on the left was actually wearing orange pants.

This week we’re going to the Berkeley main library to draw.

A Cold Walk by Macaroni Grill, El Cerrito

Macaroni Grill on a cold day, ink & watercolor

Macaroni Grill on a cold day, ink & watercolor

On the last dayof vacation before returning to work, the world outside my windows looked raw, blustery and wet after a frost-covered morning. Hibernating sounded good, but I was feeling uninspired and blah and could tell if I stayed home I was just going to mope around. Since I needed to pick up my my sunglasses from the optometrist, I decided to walk up there.

I almost turned back after the first couple of blocks. My ears were cold and my feet were complaining. But I kept going and eventually began to perk up and enjoy myself. By the time I got to Peets Coffee (a mile later and across the street from my eye doctor’s office in El Cerrito Plaza) I was feeling enthusiastic and cheerful.  With a hot latte in my hand, I sat at a cafe table outside Peets and sketched this odd chain restaurant across the street.

I ate there once when it first opened (I was curious about the new restaurant in my neighborhood) and enjoyed it, but have never been able to get anyone to go back there with me. With so many unique and trendy restaurants in the Berkeley area, I suppose there’s really no reason to go to a “big box” version of an Italian restaurant, though people do seem to pack the place on weekends.

But I’ve always had an aversion to stupid business names, and the name “Macaroni Grill” irks me. I keep picturing the chef trying to grill slippery macaroni and cheese, with all the noodles falling through the grill grates. When I was a kid I remember being annoyed by a hair salon named “Lipstick Beauty Parlor,” which I thought made no sense.

New Sunglasses

New Sunglasses

While I was waiting at the optometris’ts office, I started sketching a stand that holds many pairs of eye glasses. There were too many tiny, overlapping details and I wasn’t really interested. Fortunately the optician arrived with my glasses so I stopped. When I got home, instead of leaving a partially messed up page I turned the page 90 degrees and added a quick sketch of my sunglasses (from memory) and then stuck myself in them.

Pardee Home Museum Tea Party

Pardee House Water Tower, ink & watercolor 8x6"

Pardee Home Museum Out-Building, Ink & watercolor 8x6"

Driving by Preservation Park in downtown Oakland today I noticed this odd little structure on the grounds of the Pardee Home Museum and pulled over to sketch. I have no idea what this little building was for, but it’s in between the carriage house and the main building.

The museum is available for tours by appointment but had the nicest “Closed” sign I’ve ever seen. It says something like, “If you find yourself on our doorstep without an appointment, try phoning our office as we may be able to assist you with a tour on short notice.”

Their office must be located in the neighboring Preservation Park collection of Victorians, now homes to non-profit organizations. The Pardee Museum offers a full house tour for $5, a “Tour and Tea” for $10 (tea and scones), and more elaborate teas, with as many as eight dishes, can be combined with tours for $25 per person.

The tour and tea sounds like fun and I’m trying to think of an excuse to schedule one. There are four parlors, four bedrooms, the billiard room, the curio room, and the hallway lined with cabinets of Mrs. Pardee’s antiquities and the cupola, or tower, to admire the views.

Beauty Parlor Still Life

Beauty Parlor Still Life

Ink and watercolor, 9×6 (larger)

This was my view while I was getting my hair cut on Friday. The beautiful peonies were an apology gift to my hairdresser from one of her clients. I don’t know what the client had done wrong but I thought the combination of the scissors, hairbrush and flowers made an interesting still life.

I’m going to be in a painting workshop all week with Camille Przewodek in Petaluma and may not have a chance to post until I return. It should be an exciting and intense week of painting. It’s also a vacation from work (whoopee) and I intend to enjoy every moment!

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