Waiting and Watching (and Sketching)

Waiting and Watching at Peets, ink, 5x8"

Waiting and Watching at Peets, ink, 5×8″

I love the way the big guy seems to be looking at the pretty girl’s butt in her shiny black tights. In reality they got in line at different times, but my drawing took on a life of its own.

One of the things I love about living in the Bay area is the wide variety of people you see, dressed however they please, with either no concern about fashion or a style all their own. I fit right in!

Oakland Chinatown Sketch and Group Photo (Plus One)

Oakland Chinatown, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Oakland Chinatown, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

Early on the morning after Thanksgiving our Urban Sketchers group went to Oakland’s Chinatown for some sketching. It was business as usual in the busy produce markets, herb shops, meat and seafood stalls, and Chinese restaurants, with no sign of Black Friday.

I found a spot to sit in front of a bank and had fun drawing all the details in the architecture. I started in pencil because the scene seemed so complicated. It’s easier to get it “right” with an eraser but it takes so much longer to draw it twice, in pencil and then in ink. I had to add the watercolor at home from a photo because by the time I chose my spot and did the drawing, it was time to meetup with the group.

While I drew, local people stopped to watch and give me encouragement, whether in excellent or broken English. My favorite was the plump, elderly lady who said something in Chinese, grinned, and gave me a big thumbs up. The amazing thing about sketching in public is that no matter how good or bad you’re doing, people always say nice, encouraging things.


Chinatown-some of the Urban Sketchers plus-1 (that’s me, second to right)

Since many of us were there, we took photos for our group blog. I used the timer on my camera, setting it on the edge of a defunct fountain in the center of this plaza. I didn’t realize I was including the lady on the end. She must have been really tired as she nodded off and slept through our photo session. The photo we ultimately used on the USK blog masthead here was kindly taken by a guy who watched me repeatedly duck under the yellow warning tape around the fountain, set up the camera, and dash back to sit with my friends.

The Voice: Top Ten Finalists Sketched

The Voice: Sylvia, Terry & Melanie, drawn in ink from TV on pause, 5x8"

The Voice: Sylvia Yacoub, Terry McDermott & Melanie Martinez, drawn from TV, in Moleskine watercolor notebook, 5×8″

Faced with a Tuesday night at home instead of out with the Urban Sketchers (nobody could go) I turned on the TV. Boring. But wait, those performers on The Voice (a singing competition show) are all so interesting looking. Why not sketch them?

The Voice: Cody, Bryan & Amanda

The Voice: Cody Balew, Bryan Keith & Amanda Brown

Each of the performers has been crafted into a carefully defined “package,” with extensive costuming to further exaggerate their type. If you click the images to make them bigger you can read my snarky comments. Some of the finalists are incredibly talented with beautiful voices (e.g. Amanda Brown is fantastic).

The Voice: Nicholas, Trevin & Cassadee

The Voice: Nicholas David, Trevin Hunte & Cassadee Pope

It amazed me how different each of their features were, especially noses. As I was drawing, using a Lamy Safari fountain pen with the nib upside down to get a finer ink line, I was getting nervous because they were turning out well and I wanted to do all 10 in a row with no do-overs.

The Voice: Casadee (again) and Dez

The Voice: Casadee (again) and Dez

I finally did mess up the last one, Dez (above, his mouth got too inky and it’s not a good likeness). I could have redone him but he doesn’t interest me much (I think he’s supposed to be the “teen idol”) and I was tired. He was on his own page but I let him hang out with his neighbor across the spread here so I don’t end the post with the one funky drawing.

It took about 2 1/2 hours for the project: to find a spot in the program to pause and then to draw each of them. It was really fun! It’s amazing how much more you see when you’re really looking, even when drawing from TV.

Earthquake water jugs, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Greetings from Topsy Turvy World

Earthquake water jugs, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Earthquake emergency water supply jugs that sit beside my bin of earthquake supplies along the fence outside my kitchen. Ink & watercolor, 5x7"

This sketch and the next few I post are from back in the good old days when I used to just sketch, paint, and work. Now I live in construction chaos and once that’s over in a week or two, I’ll still be in sort/discard/move stuff mode as I downsize my living space.

I’m preparing to rent out the half of my duplex that was my studio and move everything I haven’t discarded into either my smaller (but quite comfy) living space or new studio. Meanwhile I’m trying to maintain some semblance of order while everything from my kitchen is in my living room (new kitchen floors in progress) and the wall between the two units has been replaced which means I have to continually go outside, unlock the door, lock it again to get to something that is in the other unit.

Ceramic bowl that Barbara made that I use to hold my phone and it's charger.

Ceramic bowl that Barbara made that I use to hold my phone and it's charger.

I love working alongside my carpenter or just watching him work because he is so smart, competent, serene and cheerful and always has a solution and a tool for every problem. On the other hand, I’m no good at all at transitions. I like things to be done, but nothing is finished because he can only work for me a few hours each day, after his full-time job and before it gets dark. The biggest chunks are done but the finishing touches can take just as long.

It’s all for the good though since the rental income will help support my getting to paint full-time within a year or so. Meanwhile, sketching saves me when my topsy-turvy world makes my head spin. Just looking, seeing and drawing anything calms me down and restores my sanity.

Celebrating Young Sketcher Mariah

Mariah Sketches Her Living Room

Mariah Sketches Her Living Room

Just a small post (with a tiny cellphone photo) to celebrate talented 12-year-old sketcher, Mariah, who loves to draw and paint. For Christmas I gave her the accordion-fold Moleskine above along with some acrylics and brushes. She texted me this drawing last night, an excellent rendition of her living room.

Abstract Acrylic Painting by Mariah

Abstract Acrylic Painting by Mariah

Above is another recent picture in a text message I received from Mariah showing me her latest acrylic abstract. She’s famous for her beautiful tropical beach and mountain paintings but now is exploring abstract (expressionist?) painting too.

Funky Tilden Carousel Sketches

Tilden Park Carousel, ink & watercolor 5x7"

Tilden Park Carousel, ink & watercolor 5x7"

I almost didn’t post these sketches from the Tilden Park Merry-go-round because I was so frustrated drawing them. But I think it’s interesting to see when others post things that challenged them so here you go.

I try to find something positive in work that doesn’t succeed overall. The one above was the last one I did as I was leaving. I really like the trees in the background and most everything else EXCEPT the messed up shape of the building that houses this wonderful 100-year-old carousel.

Carousel structure, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Carousel structure, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

I did the one above sitting on a bench inside the building trying to sort out the perspective and the way the whole thing fits together. Meanwhile the smells of burning popcorn and greasy hot dogs were making feel rather ill. I really struggled but in the end I think I got the understanding of what is a merry-go-round and how it works, though you can’t tell from this mess.

Carousel quickie, 7x5"

Carousel quickie, 7x5"

Another one that I struggled with. The little girl calmly rides while the horse seems to be expressing my struggle. And boy are the perspective and ellipses way, way off!

Get me out of here!

Get me out of here!

Another quickie with the horse expressing my feelings: “Get me out of here! It’s too hard to draw!” My friend Cathy did some nice sketches of the carousel, posted here on our Urban Sketchers blog.

Sketching at the Teddy Bear Fountain

Teddy Bear Fountain, ink & watercolor on hot press paper, 6"x4"

Teddy Bear Fountain, ink & gouache on hot press paper, 6"x4"

Teddy bears hold hands in a circle in this wonderful, historic fountain* in North Berkeley on Marin Circle. We sketched there on a warm Tuesday evening as the sun was setting.

I did the one above very quickly at the end of the evening when just as I was about to pack up a worker came and switched on the fountain’s lights and adjusted the water so it sprayed up from the top. I had to give it one more try.

Teddy Bear Fountain, ink & watercolor, 5 1/2 x6 1/2"

Teddy Bear Fountain, ink & gouache, 5 1/2 x6 1/2"

This one was done first and I spent a longer time with it—more than I should have probably, as it began to get overworked. My friend Cathy did several wonderful sketches while we were there, which you can see here.

*An interesting bit of history about the fountain: In 1908, a real estate developer came up with the idea to make Berkeley the state capitol and lobbied hard for his proposal. The Circle and the fountain were to be part of a grand entry to the new capitol building to be built nearby. The California Legislature passed the proposal and the governor signed the bill, but Berkeley was a dry city and the liquor lobbyists were successful in convincing the voters to narrowly defeat the bill.

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