Animals Bay Area Parks Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Pt. Richmond Sketchbook Pages

Christmas Goose and a White Pelican

Canadian Goose, Knox Miller Park, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in
Canadian Goose, Knox Miller Park, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

After an extraordinary autumn and early winter, with many things other than art going on in my life, I’ve gotten way behind on posting. This goose isn’t really a Christmas goose, it’s a summer goose, as are the rest of these sketches from Knox Miller park.

Knox Miller Park Clouds, watercolor, 5x7 in
Knox Miller Park Clouds, watercolor, 5×7 in

Knox Miller Park in Pt. Richmond is so pretty, with a lagoon of sorts, grassy meadows and the bay and mountains of Marin in the distance. The birds were all sketched from photos, the little landscape above was the only sketch I managed to do on site, after arriving late and feeling poorly that day.

Knox Miller Goose, ink and watercolor 5x7 in
Knox Miller Goose, ink and watercolor 5×7 in

Silly goose. My first attempt at drawing him from a photo.

White Pelican, Knox Miller Park, ink, watercolor and gouache, 5x7 in
White Pelican, Knox Miller Park, ink, watercolor and gouache, 5×7 in

I struggled and struggled trying to draw and paint this unusual white pelican from a blurry photo. I ended up adding some gouache to get back some white, which never really works well.

Albany Animals Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Urban Avians and the Highway

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in
Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

While I was having my car’s oil changed at Toyota Albany I took a hike down to the SF Bay Trail to sketch. I followed a confusing bike and walking path that goes up onto an overpass and then down under the freeway. It leads to the marsh on the way out to Albany Bulb, a spit of land homesteaded by the homeless that the city is constantly trying to reclaim. There were birds everywhere, including the beautiful, delicate white Snowy Egrets that always delight me (above).

Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in
Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

I even spotted birds living right on the freeway walls; the family of pigeons above didn’t seem disturbed by the constant roar of cars. The hike was a bit isolated, and it felt spooky walking under the freeways, even on a sunny weekday morning. Fortunately the few people I saw along the way were polite bicyclists. No trolls living under these bridges like the Brothers Grimm fairytale I remember with horror from my childhood.

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5x7 in
Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5×7 in

While I was sketching, a man was photographing birds nearby and he told me the names of the birds we were seeing, and how to differentiate them. I made notes on my sketch as I tried to figure out the basic shape of the birds.

Building Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Life in general New York Sketchbook Pages

NYC Part 6: Jana’s Ganja Guy and the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge and Ice Cream Shop, ink and watercolor, 7.5x5.5 in
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, ink and watercolor, 7.5×5.5 in

Carol, Micaela and I got on the subway, heading to the Brooklyn Bridge. On the subway you get treated to exciting musical performances by buskers or you are subjected to rants by lunatics or pleas for money. Or all of the above, as they often take turns, getting on and off at each stop.

This time an extremely loud and annoying guy told a too long tale of his hardships, throwing in everything from the Iraq war to Hurricane Sandy. The man standing next to me had the sweetest face and long dredlocks. He gave the guy a dollar.

Here’s New Yorker Carol telling the rest of the story, from her funny blog post:

We got on the Lexington Ave. express. It was packed, but Micaela and I were lucky enough to get a seat. Jana was standing. As the doors closed we heard the familiar sound of someone asking for money. The man standing next to Jana gave the guy a dollar.

And then the unthinkable happened…Jana talked to the dollar-giving guy.

I was astounded.  Jana asked him if he always gives money to people begging on the subway or does he evaluate the story first and then give. The man told Jana he gives out of love and because he always gives money, he gets money back. Now he has a lot of money. Jana then asked what he did for money?  His reply? He sold da ganja.

Yep,  He sold marijuana.

Weed, Mary Jane, Waccy tobaccy. Chronic. Grass. He said he was from Trinidad and asked Jana what month she was born in. She told him and he said that according to the bible she was part of the tribe of Joshua. What tribe is that?  Where is that in the bible?  Mr. Chronic said it was in the LOST BOOKS of the Bible. Oh. We finally got to the Brooklyn Bridge stop where Micaela, Jana and I got off and Jana’s new best friend hoped that God blessed her and continued on.

Yep! I just get so curious I can’t help talking to strangers.

After the fascinating ride to Brooklyn the three of us walked across the bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, with Carol pointing out the landmarks. Then she headed home to attend a birthday party and Micaela and I went in search of a spot where we could draw the bridge. Below are some views from the bridge:

The area of Brooklyn at the end of the bridge is called DUMBO, for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge.” The two bridges are just a few blocks apart and the area under and between them is packed with interesting shops and a variety of mostly renovated old brick apartment buildings and art galleries.

The annual DUMBO Art Festival was going on and the streets were filled with thousands of partiers, artists and bands. We skipped the crowds and found our way down to a new waterfront park by the “Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory” right next to the bridge. (That’s the sketch at the top of the post and here’s a photo of it):

Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

The sign in front of the lighthouse-looking building says “Famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory” in case you weren’t sure it was the “famous” one. We didn’t try the ice cream; the line was way too long.

When we finished our sketches it was early evening. Micaela and I wandered around the area, looking for the right subway station. I wanted to preview where I would need to go after dinner at my friends’ apartment nearby. She got on the train and went back to the Metropolitan Museum for the 8:00 p.m. John Zorn concert. I made my way through the DUMBO Art Festival chaos to Nora and Kevin’s beautiful, new apartment.

After fantastic home-cooked vegetarian dinner Nora, an art director, showed me her website (scroll down the page to see some of her recent work). I told her I’d seen Cutie and the Boxer and she said that they live a block away in a funky old apartment building full of artists and that most of the movie was filmed in DUMBO.

When it was time to leave they took me up to the roof to see their spectacular view first:

Rooftop View of the Manhattan Bridge
Rooftop View of the Manhattan Bridge with park in foreground

Nora pointed out the building next door and told me actor Ann Hathaway lives there. I wish I did!

Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Places Sketchbook Pages

Santa Cruz Retreat and Surfers

Santa Cruz Beach from Bluff, in & watercolor, 5x7"
Santa Cruz Beach from Bluff, in & watercolor, 5×7″

I attended a weekend retreat in Santa Cruz, held in a remodeled former convent still operated by nuns. I stayed there once before in the 90s, when it was still an operating convent. Then I had a tiny room with a single bed, a cross on the wall and a bathroom down the hall. This time I had my own bath and a nice big bed and the nuns were wearing Bermuda shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops.

Santa Cruz Wetsuits, ink & watercolor, 5x7"
Santa Cruz Wetsuits, ink & watercolor, 5×7″

The retreat center is located on a bluff above the ocean, with stairs leading down to the beach. The weather was sunny but windy. The ocean is cold in Northern California so surfers always wear wetsuits. They’re not easy to put on so the guys in the sketch helped each other get into them. When I went through scuba certification many years ago, the hardest part of the whole program was getting into the darn wetsuits.

Emeryville Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Places Sketchbook Pages

Closed and Open: New and Old Bay Bridges

New and Old Bay Bridges, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
New and Old Bay Bridges, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

They closed down the old Bay Bridge over the long Labor Day weekend to disconnect it and open the new Bay Bridge that took twenty years to plan and build. After breakfast in Emeryville on Monday morning, we walked to Ikea, which is near the start of the bridge, and climbed up to their rooftop parking structure to get a look at the two bridges, which were both still closed.

It’s kind of weird seeing them piggy-backed together like that. We could see where the old bridge had been cut off and barricaded which brought back memories of the big earthquake in 1989 that broke the bridge, leaving a car dangling. I was home sick with the flu when that happened, and remember lying in bed feverish, watching the video of the bridge breaking, the car sliding off, over and over.

The new bridge opened to traffic Monday evening. On Tuesday they opened the bike and pedestrian lanes. You can only walk from the East Bay side to the central tower now, since they have to tear down the old bridge before they can complete the bike/pedestrian lanes all the way to San Francisco.

I’m plan to walk the 5-mile round trip soon, and sketch from the bridge. For this one I had to work from a photo because my breakfast buddy didn’t want to wait while I sketched, especially since we still had a long walk back to our car at the Doyle Street Cafe.

Bay Area Parks Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Plein Air Sketchbook Pages

Sunny Landscapes, Summer, Spring, and Smelly

Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10x8"
Briones Park, Sunny Afternoon, oil on panel, 10×8″
Briones Park Sunny Afternoon available for purchase here

I didn’t realize until I saw these two pictures together, that it was easy to tell that I painted one in summer (above) and the other in the spring (below), just by their color palette, even though they were both painted on warm, sunny days. I started the painting above plein air, but only got halfway done before it was time for the group critique. I finished it from memory and a photo but didn’t touch areas I already loved, like the yummy turquoise color in the background.

Briones Park (above) is gorgeous, but dogs are allowed off-leash there so the grasses along this beginning stretch of the trail are littered with stinky dog poo, thanks to irresponsible dog owners. But like bugs, wind and weather, smells are part of the plein air experience too.

Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8x10"
Castle Rock Park and Mt. Diablo, Spring, 8×10″

I painted this watercolor view of Mt. Diablo in my 8×10 Moleskine. I didn’t have time to set up for oils because although we’d planned a day at Borges Ranch we learned on arrival that a 4-H club had reserved the area and we had to leave. The ranger suggested we go to Castle Rock Park down the road.

I parked at the Borges entrance for a while, catching others as they arrived and directing them to Castle Rock. Finally I left a big note on a brown paper bag taped to the Borges entrance sign, hoping latecomers would see it and know where to find us.

After the drive to Castle Rock and a hike to the top of a hill I only had time for a watercolor sketch. The bright yellow-green grassy field was beautifully spotted with lavender wild flowers. In the summer everything would be pretty much the same color of golden brown. This time it didn’t smell like dog poo; it was the pungent odor of the cows that graze there that accompanied the view.

Ink and watercolor wash Marin County Sketchbook Pages

Lyford House Tiburon

Lyford House
Lyford House, Tiburon, ink & watercolor 8 x 5″

My plein air group had a lovely day painting at the Lyford House in Tiburon. Since we had a workshop leader doing a demo that day I brought my sketchbook instead of plein air gear, knowing I wouldn’t have time to do a full painting.

I focused mostly on the drawing, trying to capture this very complicated Victorian home. The Lyford House was built in 1876 as the main residence of a nearby dairy farm. It was barged over to its present site, an Audubon Sanctuary, in 1957 after conservationists saved it from being torn down.

The site is surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate in the country, with an average price of $3.5 million but with many homes for sale in the $18 million to $35 million range. I wish I could have visited the lavish Mediterranean-style villa next door that I was spying on through the bushes.