2014: The Year of the Dog (and other delightful detours)

Millie: 2014 The Year of the Dog Detour, graphite in jumbo Moleskine WC Notebook, 8x11.5 inches

Studies for Oil Painting: “Millie: 2014 The Year of the Dog,” graphite in jumbo Moleskine WC Notebook, 8×11.5 inches

This has been an amazing year in my corner of the world for many reasons, and only some of them are related to art-making. There have been numerous (happy) detours away from the studio, including my son’s wedding and the birth of my first grand-baby, Sadie. And then there’s Millie, my Formosa Mountain Dog who was rescued from life on the streets of Taiwan when she was four months old, flown here and fostered by a local rescue group until I adopted her a few weeks later.

Over the past year with me she’s overcome some fear and health issues to become a wonderful, funny companion. Most mornings we’re out hiking 3-4 miles on forested trails in the beautiful hills or along the SF bay where she can run off leash and play with other dogs. Afternoons she hangs out on the studio deck, keeps an eye on the neighborhood, dismantles things in the garden, chews sticks and sleeps in the studio while I draw or paint. Now that she’s almost a year and a half she requires less work on my part so I’m expecting 2015 to be a lot more productive!

I spend New Years eve and day reflecting on my art/life during the passing year, and considering/setting my goals/intentions for the year to come. I will share a summary of that here soon. My first painting of the year will be a portrait of Millie that the above sketches were a study for. I’m loving my new jumbo Moleskine Watercolor Journal and happy with this first page in it!

The Exotic Loring Cafe and On a Starbucks Bag

Loring Cafe, Oakland, ink & watercolor, 8x10"

Loring Cafe, Oakland, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

Oakland’s Loring Cafe has the most eclectic decor and architecture I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. In addition to the arches, pillars, sculptures, palms and vibrant lighting, the restroom is like a brick-covered Hobbit house with no sink. To wash your hands you step out of the restroom where there is a large, round, stainless steel, multi-user industrial sink with little signs explaining how to turn on the faucets and get soap. Quite a unique washroom experience!

I’m glad I had my jumbo Moleskine watercolor journal with me since there was so much to capture in one drawing (above).

Sketched at Starbucks on Starbucks Pastry Bag

Sketched at Starbucks on Starbucks Pastry Bag

As my note in the sketch above says, I was just recovering from a bad cold and was so tired after my walk to return movies to the video store I had to stop at Starbucks to sit before I could walk back home.  I’m always grateful there are still video stores to provide entertainment during an illness. The only good thing about being sick is the opportunity to catch up on movies. Fortunately I don’t get sick often, and this sketch was done back in April. I think I’m caught up now on old sketches.

Standing Tall in a Moleskine

Succulents Along the Walk, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Succulents Along the Walk, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

To shake things up a bit I thought I’d try a watercolor Moleskine watercolor sketchbook this time instead of binding a new journal. These sketches are the first in the Moleskine from a walk in my neighborhood on a sunny winter day.

A few spreads into the Moleskine, I’m liking the paper but hating the stupid, floppy, too-wide landscape format. Why, oh why does Moleskine refuse to bind a watercolor book on the long size in portrait format! Brenda Swenson had a clever solution: she bought a very large watercolor Moleskine and sawed off half to make one the right size! Here’s someone else who had hers sliced at the local photocopy shop.

Succulents 2, ink & wat5ercolor, 7x5"

Succulents 2, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

The spike on this plant was about 15 feet tall but I didn’t think through how to make it look that way, and since it was in ink, it is what it is. The stalk should have gotten skinnier as it got further away instead of looking like a fat asparagus.

Sketching at Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat)

Le Bateau Ivre, ink & watercolor

Le Bateau Ivre, ink & watercolor

Le Bateau Ivre is a cafe I used to visit often when I first moved to Berkeley so it was great to rediscover it with my Tuesday night sketch group. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere warm and inviting. Le Bateau Ivre is in an old house on Telegraph Avenue and each room has its own charming personality and decor.

Details of the room and music

Details of the room and music and my drawing mistake

I fell in love with the classical music playing in the cafe and was holding up my iPhone to the speaker, hoping that the Shazam or Soundhound apps could guess the recording. The owner of Le Bateau Ivre saw me and asked if the music was too loud. I explained what I was trying to do and she ran to get the CD and showed it to me. I took a photo of the cover which I later pasted on to this page. The CD was Heinrich Ignaz Franz van Biber: Sonatae a Violino solo of 1681.

Sea Shells: Accidental Watercolor Texture

Shellfish Shells, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Shellfish Shells, original version, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

A shellfish company saw a previous shell painting of mine and commissioned me to paint one for them to use as a background on their business cards. They shipped me a box of their oyster, clam and mussel shells to use as reference. I created the above sketch in my Moleskine watercolor notebook and sent them the file for their review.

Accidental texture from working on reverse of page

Close up: Accidental texture caused by painting on reverse page

On the next page in my Moleskine, I sketched a landscape and painted it with juicy washes, something I do on the 140 lb watercolor paper in my hand-bound sketchbooks all the time. Without my noticing, the water seeped through the lighter-weight Moleskine paper, wetting the shell painting on the previous page.

Some of the mussels’ paint lifted, creating the wonderful texture (close up above) that I probably couldn’t have achieved if I had I tried. The only downside to this “technique” is that some of the lifted paint printed on the opposite (fortunately blank) page.

I wasn’t worried about the change in the art for my client because I’d already created a high-resolution file of the original. And as it turned out, they asked me to do another version with two different kinds of oyster shells and more clams, apologizing for changing their directions. I’m happy to paint as many versions as it takes since shells are one of my favorite subjects.

Sketching Sketchers and Doodling Meetings

Doodling to Stay Awake at Meeting

Doodling to Stay Awake at Meeting

On my first day back to work after being sick for weeks we had a staff meeting. I wanted to put my head down on the table and nap so doodled to stay upright and awake. Later I pasted the page in my sketchbook with the added note about antibiotics.

Sketching Sketchers #1

Sketching Sketchers #1

Then my first night back at Tuesday night sketching (at the Bread Workshop) after I drew my food I sketched the sketchers at my table. I had to add that shading to the right of Amy’s face to “erase” the splotch I made by her nose that looked like a booger.

Sketching Sketchers #2

Sketching Sketchers #2

I added one too many lines, which lead to more lines to try to fix them, in Sonia’s hair which had been perfect until I did that. I made a note to remind myself to STOP at “good enough” and not keep going.

The Draw Your Food Diet (at The Junket and The Bread Workshop)

Turkey & Swiss at The Junket, Lamy Safari, Carbon Platinum Ink & watercolor in Moleskine Watercolor

Turkey & Swiss at The Junket, El Cerrito. Lamy Safari pen, Carbon Platinum ink & watercolor in Moleskine

Whenever we meet to sketch at a cafe we always try to sketch our food before we eat it and we always joke about what a great diet it would be to do that at every meal. It not only helps to slow down eating, but it also helps to speed up sketching! This leads to looser, more playful sketches which I think are more fun to make and to see.

Sonia and I met for lunch at The Junket, a deli in El Cerrito Plaza. My Turkey and Swiss Sandwich on a sourdough baguette (sketched above) was the best I’ve had in years. It was my second choice though, as we originally ordered Chicken Dumpling Soup. But when I saw them spooning it into a bowl, it had the consistency of gloppy, yellow gravy. I asked if it was cream-based (Sonia is allergic to dairy) and they said no, they knew it wasn’t because they reconstitute it with water. Um…no thanks. I switched to the half sandwich and Sonia got salad and we were happy.

Grilled Veges & Brown Rice at the Bread Workshop, ink & watercolor in Moleskin

Grilled Veges & Brown Rice at the Bread Workshop. Ink & watercolor in Moleskine

On our next Tuesday night sketch-out we met at the Bread Workshop. They had contacted me the week before to ask if they could use this previous sketch I did there to illustrate a newsletter they are sending to supporters and I gladly said yes. They reserved a large table for us with a view into the bakery so that we could draw the bakers working.

I wasn’t much up to that challenge as it was my first night out after being sick for two weeks and my sketching felt rusty. You can see Micaela’s wonderful sketch here and Sonia’s here and here. The food was fantastic: my grilled veges (above) were so flavorful!

 

Bread and Baker at Bread Workshop, ink & watercolor

Bread and Baker at Bread Workshop, ink & watercolor

This was the extent of my drawing bread and bakers. The Bread Workshop are advocates of sustainable foods and practices and ranked as one of the top ten greenest restaurants in the Bay Area. Everything I’ve had there has been delicious and they were playing great music that night, going from George Benson to Billy Holiday to Tom Waits in succession.

 

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