Building Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Places Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

The Actual Cafe and Neighborhood

Around the Corner from Actual Cafe, ink & watercolor 6x8"
Around the Corner from Actual Cafe, ink & watercolor 6×8″

When we arrived at the Actual Cafe in Oakland to sketch, the sun was just starting to set. It seemed a shame to go indoors while it was still nice out so we sketched around the corner from the cafe first. Even though it’s in a rundown neighborhood, this house had some charm, with its pillars and rounded porch roof.

Susan Ford's Sketch of Me Sketching
Susan Ford’s Sketch of Me Sketching

While I was sketching the house, Susan was sketching me sketching the house (above). She also got the house next door and the cute car as well.

Actual Cafe Espresso machine and counter, ink & watercolor, 6x8"
Actual Cafe Espresso machine and counter, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

And then we went inside. I had a delicious cappuccino (decaf these days) and sketched their snazzy Italian espresso machine. As you may have noticed, these are from September; I’m still trying to get caught up on posting sketches and paintings but I just keep making more. That’s a good thing, right?

Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Roof Garden Lunch at the Cathedral, Oakland


Lunch in the Cathedral Garden, ink & watercolor
Lunch in the Cathedral Garden, ink & watercolor


Every now and then I manage to get out of the office at lunch time long enough to eat and even sketch for a few minutes. Across the street from our office building is a huge modern cathedral that looks more like a concrete prison with an upside down glass ship on the roof.

Their roof garden follows the concrete theme, with a sort of maze of square concrete planters with benches that force you to sit straight upright on them. But there are trees, shrubbery, and perfectly maintained grass (a delightful treat to pull off sandals and enjoy on bare feet).

I keep wondering why I never see any birds in the roof garden even though it is across the street from Lake Merritt which is a bird refuge, full of pigeons, waterfowl, pelicans, egrets and more. And it is kitty-corner from Snow Park favored by huge flocks of Canadian geese and pigeons (and always covered in big slimy goose turds). Do the guards chase the birds away? Are pigeons Catholic?

Update: I wrote to the Cathedral’s contact person and she explained why there are no birds: “With regard to the birds, I think the main reason for the lack thereof is the cleanliness of the facility. Birds will congregate wherever there is food. Our janitorial staff is always sweeping and keeping the grounds neat and clean.” It’s true, the place is very clean.

Animals Ink and watercolor wash People Photos Places Sketchbook Pages

Lion Door Guard and Cathy’s Bike Guy

The Lion Doorguard & Cathy's Bike Guy
The Lion Door Guard

Here is the lion that guards the door at the hotel beside the chubby cherubs on Harrison Street. I love his big nose and stylized fist. I sketched this from the photo on my monitor from across the room, to simulate drawing from life as best I could. I did a complete pencil sketch with shading and then drew over that with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and then decided to erase all the pencil shading and paint him with watercolor. Here’s a photo of the building.

Cherubs & Lions on Harrison
Cherubs & Lions on Harrison

A couple weeks ago when I posted my sketches from the library and Peet’s Coffee I mentioned the old man in a weathered, WWII leather aviator cap and his 1940s era bicycle that Cathy sketched. I adored the way she captured this funny old character who was selling bike parts to a young man so I asked her to send me scans. She did, and now I get to post them below.

Cathy's sketch of the bike guy
Cathy's sketch of the bike guy
Cathy's sketch of bike guy's ride
Cathy's sketch of bike guy's ride
Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Sketchbook Pages

Chubby Cherubs on Harrison

Chubby Cherub on Harrison, watercolor
Chubby Cherub on Harrison, watercolor

These angels guard the entry of an old residential hotel at 2332 Harrison Street in Oakland between my office and Whole Foods, along with a pair of vicious, brass lions (coming soon). As I passed by on the way to lunch, the light and shadows on the angels intrigued me.

Angel on Harrison, graphite
Angel on Harrison, graphite

Although I always prefer to draw from life I didn’t have time on this work day so I took a photo. When I looked at the image on my monitor I found the shape and detail so confusing that I decided to sketch in pencil first instead of my usual ink. It felt like sculpting since as I sketched and shaded shapes of dark and light and saw form began to appear.

My initial drawing needed a lot of correcting because I’d given the angel adult proportions instead of a child’s so it looked like a pot-bellied, naked man instead of a cherub. For some reason we think chubby cherubs are cute holding up pots with their heads on buildings, but fat, naked, old men, not so much.

Then I started over on the facing page in my sketchbook, drawing in ink and adding watercolor. I think I got his proportions better in the second one. The graphite angel still looks too old, like a teen angel maybe?

Questioning Cherubs

I wasn’t raised with religion so I am completely ignorant about angels and their tribe. Are there girl cherubs too or are they all boys? Why? Why are cherubs usually depicted as chubby? What happens to cherubs when they grow up? Do they become angels? Or do they not age?

I googled “Chubby Cherub” looking for the answers and found information about “Chubby Cherub, the worst video game of 1987” and this Wikipedia entry that says according to some linguistic and bible scholars, this is what cherubs are really meant to look like:

What Cherubs Really Look Like?
A "Real" Cherub?

and that they were often displayed sitting calmly guarding entrances as in this image:

Guarding angels
Guarding angels?

If you like reading about the source of words, language, and myths, and how they evolve over time, check out the Wikipedia page about cherubs. I found it fascinating.