It was such a beautiful sunny day (our drought continues) I decided to go for a walk and find a spot to paint outdoors instead of in the studio. I walked the mile to Peet’s Coffee and then, with a cup of their dark, rich (decaf) coffee in hand, I turned towards home, still looking for inspiration.
I passed the little urban creek behind Peet’s, and considered sketching it but it was shaded by trees and very chilly. As I walked by the little pocket park alongside Albany Hill, this little cul-de-sac called out, “Paint Me!” With a handy picnic table right there to lay out my paints, how could I resist?
Although I usually sketch directly in pen, this scene was so complicated I decided to draw in pencil first. As I was completing the drawing I spotted a guy on his roof with a string of holiday lights. Do you see him? I know it looks like he’s standing on top of a tree but the roof of his house is just behind the tree. I think I made him a bit of a giant!
On the next test run of my new Schmincke palette that Roz introduced here, I painted some roses on a tablecloth in the sun on the deck. While the Schmincke pan paint is lovely to use, and the palette a good size and design, the colors frustrated me. Their version of rose called Permanent Carmine (PV19) is much redder than the Winsor Newton (PV19) Permanent Rose I rely on for pinks and several other colors didn’t appeal to me.
In the color chart below, the top and bottom rows are the original Schmincke colors that came with the set. I added the colors in the center row by filling empty half-pans from tube paint in the space designed for adding extra pans.
(Apologies for posting twice–forgot to include all three images the first time).
I noticed this palm tree-lined street when I was exiting Highway 80 in Emeryville and suggested it as a place for our Urban Sketchers group to meet. I guess the directions I provided to the spot weren’t very good because everyone else went down to the end of the marina and I sketched alone all evening.
I knew we’d meet at Chevy’s Mexican Restaurant at 8:30 so I wasn’t worried. This was one of those really fun drawings where I started by deciding what I most wanted to fit on the page (the lamp post, palm trees, Chevy’s sign and water). I started with the lamp post because I could use it to figure out where other things lined up to it. And then I just kept seeing and drawing more and more until it was all in there.
I painted the sketch just as the sunset was at its brightest and everything looked so pretty, pink and yellow. It’s such a lovely spot, and yet so urban, within a couple blocks of two major freeways and the entrance to the Bay Bridge. You can see Cathy’s sketches of the bay bridge and the freeway on our Urban Sketchers Bay Area blog.
When Laura Frankstone of Laurelines was in San Francisco for a long weekend I had the great pleasure of joining her for an afternoon of sketching in Golden Gate Park. Laura and I had corresponded and participated together in many art blogging activities since 2006, but this was the first time we met in person. She is a brilliant artist, a delightful person and great fun to sketch with.
Below are our sketches of the Conservatory. I added watercolor to mine (above) in the studio later since it was windy, foggy and cold sitting on the grass and so were ready to go explore the (way too hot) conservatory.
After getting all steamy inside the Conservatory of Flowers’ jungle-like atmosphere, and touring the Wicked Plants exhibit, we came back out to sketch people on the lawn.
We agreed to paint these later too, since time was short and we wanted to keep moving. Below are our two sketches.
If you click the image above to enlarge it you can see how Laura even captured the girl on the left’s cheek bulging with her snack.
Our last stop was the Tea House in the Japanese Tea Garden. The garden is an absolutely beautiful place with incredible plantings, sculptures, buildings, ponds, trees, moon bridges and more. I wanted to live there.
While our tea was the most delicious jasmine tea we’ve ever had, our experience was not exactly the “meditative cup of tea overlooking the peaceful waters of the garden” because men were doing construction and running a small but loud and smelly bulldozer back and forth on the path behind what I sketched above. The combination of noise and exhaust were less than ideal but unlike me, Laura didn’t complain once.
Moments after we sat down in the Teahouse another woman sat down beside us and pulled out a sketchbook (before we had ours out). She was an art history student visiting from Boston and we all sketched happily together. The waitresses kept coming over to praise our drawings. I said, “You must see people sketching here all the time.” She said no, we were the first she’d seen.
When my tabby cat Busby Berkeley decided to sit in my still life light box and pose, I decided to paint him. After all, what’s more of a still life than a cat (except when they’re running through the house and pouncing on wrinkles in the covers when you’re trying to sleep)?
I painted from the photo below, displayed on my monitor near my easel.
Busby spends most of the day sleeping in the closet, my bureau, or a kitchen cabinet so painting him from life wasn’t an option. Even drawing him from life is tough. In the same way cats chose to sit on the one person who doesn’t like cats, they also get up and leave if they notice you watching them.
This was the first time I’d painted a cat in oils and it was fun and challenging. I’m about to try another from a different Busby photo to see if what I learned the first time will make it easer the second time. This painting is available here on my Daily Paintworks page where I am in the process of placing selected paintings from the past along with current work as I paint it, when/if I’m ready to let it go.
Last Saturday my plein air group met at Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge Open Space. It’s a beautiful place that feels far away out in the country, and is surrounded by strange, tall hills covered in a hundred shades of green.
While I was painting I kept hearing the strangest sounds: yips, yelps, squeals and howls. I ruled out the sheep, goats, pigs and roosters and decided it was either the world’s most annoying beagle or a coyote. Later I asked the ranger who confirmed that there were three coyote families in the three nearby hills. He said they all have pups in their dens and are very talkative now. Want to hear a coyote? Click here to go to a site with a coyote sound clip.
To see wonderful photos and stories about life with an adopted coyote who was orphaned at 10 days old when his parents were shot for killing sheep, please visit The Daily Coyote blog, “a story of love, survival and trust.”
Now back to the painting–I tried to simplify, avoid details and focus on color, light and big shapes. The sky was completely covered in a thick layer of clouds and I noticed a painting “rule” in action: cool light creates warm shadows (and vice versa). Although the heavy cloud cover meant there weren’t obvious shadows, I could see how darker areas leaned toward red while areas in light were cooler (e.g. lemon yellow, not an orange-yellow).
When I got home I broke my rule of not touching up plein air studies and fussed with it, eventually ruining it and throwing it in the trash. I’m glad I took a photo first…and that I had the joy of painting to a coyote soundtrack!
It’s nice to remember those sunny summer and fall days when painting outdoors required sunscreen, not rain gear. Back in October I painted this view from the former refinery “company town” of Tormey. Now Tormey is just a couple blocks long on the edge of the Tosco Oil Refinery near Crockett. At the end of the main (only?) street is a small paddock with horses and goats. It was a fun place to paint.
I did 75% of the painting onsite and finished it in the studio from this photo:
Now it’s another rainy Sunday here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but after a great walk in the hills between showers, I’m happy to be in the studio working on several paintings in progress.