Sketching at the Laundromat

Solano Laundromat, ink and watercolor 10x8 in

Solano Laundromat, ink and watercolor 10×8 in

I haven’t been doing much urban sketching or dream drawing lately, while I try to complete a couple of commissioned dog portraits (that are taking forever) and attend figure/portrait drawing sessions and do other life stuff. But here’s a quickie from sketch night at the laundromat, a favorite place to sketch. I’m glad I have my own washer and dryer so I don’t have to go there to do laundry, but I do enjoy the perspective challenges and patterns of rows of rectangles, circles and black and white shapes, as well as the little still life of soap and baskets.

Point Richmond: Sip and Swim

Richmond Plunge (AKA Natatorium), ink & watercolor 5x7"

Richmond Plunge (AKA Municipal Natatorium), ink & watercolor 5x7"

It was so cold, cloudy and windy the morning my plein air group met to paint in Pt. Richmond I decided to start out by sketching from my car. The old Richmond Plunge, now completely and beautifully restored, is the first thing you see when you drive into Pt. Richmond. After I finished the sketch I crossed the street and explored the building and pool. Wow! I’m inspired to start swimming again.

Little Louies, Pt. Richmond, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Little Louies, Pt. Richmond, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

After my tour of the Natatorium, I headed to the main street of this little town, looking for a spot out of the wind to sketch. But I was seduced indoors by seeing my friend Sonia sketching at a table sipping a warm cup of tea. I joined her at the window table with a huge tray of apples on it and ordered a cup of coffee.

I started by drawing the apples on our table and then just kept going, drawing each next thing I saw. I was a little worried about getting the wonderful patterned floor tiles right, but took it slowly and they came out ok.

I liked Little Louie’s so much I returned the next morning with a friend for breakfast. I had a fabulous spinach, mushroom, bacon and cheddar omelet that was so big I had to take half of it home for lunch.

Inside Berkeley’s Maybeck-Designed First Church

First Church of Christ Scientist, Berkeley

First Church of Christ Scientist, Berkeley

The American Institute of Architects named this church one of the three finest uniquely American churches. I saw a picture of the spectacular interior and knew we had to sketch it. I contacted the architectural heritage group, Friends of First Church (see photos on their site), and one of their members was generously willing to open the church for our Tuesday night Urban Sketchers group.

She graciously gave us a tour and told us a little about the history and architecture and then we picked our spots and started drawing. The interior is sweeping and complicated, with “a pair of great crossed trusses spanning the central pace overhead.”

Interior photo from where I sat, First Church Christ Scientist

Interior photo from where I sat, First Church Christ Scientist

I tried to envision how I would get everything I wanted onto my page and then just started drawing in the left corner, working my way across the page, drawing directly in ink. I drew up until the last minute so had to add the watercolor at home.

That’s a pipe organ behind the choir loft. They’re trying to raise funds to restore it.  Everything is embellished with gilt so the room has a golden glow. The architecture and design includes many styles and periods, including Gothic, Romanesque Byzantine and Arts and Crafts.

Spending the evening in that beautiful, quiet, exquisite space was so special and we are very grateful to the Friends of First Church for so graciously sharing this jewel with us.

Sketching Solano Ave. in the 1700s and 1800s

La Farine Bakery, ink & watercolor

La Farine Bakery, ink & watercolor & piece of business card

Not the years 1700s-1800s, but the addresses. We started our Tuesday night sketchcrawl at La Farine Bakery (above), 1820 Solano Ave., Berkeley and two and half hours later we’d traveled only one block, ending at Kirin Restaurant, 1767 Solano Ave. Berkeley. It’s amazing how many interesting details there are to be seen and drawn on a street I’ve walked hundreds of times.

We only had 15 minutes to draw in the bakery since they were closing but the workday was just beginning for the baker who was tantalizing our noses with the mesmerizing scent of carmelizing sugar and butter. People rushed in and out, buying their bread for dinner. This lady (above) was in and out in less than two minutes.

Then we headed outside and were captivated by the art deco signage on the Powder Box Beauty Salon which will probably be gone soon since they are moving around the corner.

Powder Box Beauty Salon, ink and watercolor

Powder Box Beauty Salon, ink and watercolor

The wall is maroon tile and I spent way too much time drawing all the lines to indicate tile and then goofed when I drew the car parked in front of the building. I didn’t pay attention to how things lined up and accidentally parked the car on the sidewalk, halfway into the store.

This shop reminds me of one we used to pass on the way to my grandmother’s house when I was a kid. I used to get so annoyed at that shop’s name: “Lipstick Beauty Salon,” because it didn’t make any sense, and that started my life-long pet peeve of dumb business names.

Of course this was before the internet and the REALLY stupid business names that seem to be required for the web. They all sound like baby talk to me (picture a baby prattling, “Google, twitter, hulu, lulu, vimeo, gowalla.” (All successful web-based companies.)

Sue Johnson Custom Lampshades, ink & watercolor

Sue Johnson Custom Lamps, ink & watercolor

The sun had set and all the lit lamps at Sue Johnson’s shop were glowing in the windows. I’d never noticed the wonderful Spanish tiles and other decorative elements above the store windows, including a delicate mural of ivy leaves that I forgot to draw because I got so interested in the tree.

We finished up at Kirin Restaurant when it got too cold outside. Cathy eats there regularly so felt comfortable asking the host if we could come in and sketch and he graciously agreed. (That’s my cartoony version of Cathy on a bar stool, still wearing her gigantic. arctic puffy down jacket and signature baseball cap.) The kitchen is visible behind glass walls.

Kirin Restaurant, ink & watercolor

Kirin Restaurant, ink & watercolor

A Sketchy Christmas

Sketching at the Claremont Hotel, ink & watercolor

Sketching at the Claremont Hotel, ink & watercolor

The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley is all decked out for the holidays and a good place to sketch when it’s cold outside. We met there Tuesday night and had our choice of comfy places to sketch. That’s Sonia in the sketch above, drawing a piano that is just off to her left.

I found a spot near their fancier bar and restaurant with another grand piano where (I thought) a talented jazzy piano player was entertaining the diners. I really liked the way he riffed on holiday music (although his repertoire seemed not too extensive as he began repeating the songs after about an hour).

Outside the bar at the Claremont

Outside the bar at the Claremont

At the end of the evening I walked into the bar  to thank the piano player, having imagined what it must be like playing holiday music in a bar, night after night, the same tunes over and over, while people celebrated. The bench was empty! The piano was playing itself, the keys popping up and down on their own.

I liked both of these sketches more as ink drawings before I overworked them with paint. I’ve been really tired this week which often leads to mucking around when I should be moving on to the next page.

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