Spring! Iris!

Iris, ink & watercolor, 8x5 in

Purple Iris, ink & watercolor, 8×5 in

I put my sketching stool in my front garden to paint the one iris that decided to bloom this year. The past two years none of them bloomed and I think it’s because you’re maybe supposed to dig up the bulbs and separate them and plant them further apart when they get too crowded? Gardeners, your advice welcomed!

I missed sketching the first blooming of my roses, when each rose is so perfect and beautiful it’s just heart breaking. I was “too busy,” putting it off one day too many and then the big rains came and the fresh perfect roses were no more.

I really enjoyed drawing and painting while practicing close observation of the different shapes and structures of this amazing plant.

Women’s Work: Rosie the Riveter and Super Wonky Singer Sewing Machine

Craneway Pavillion and Rosie the Riveter Museum, ink  & watercolor, 8x10"

Rosie the Riveter Museum (left) and Craneway Pavillion (right), ink & watercolor & National Park rubber stamp, 8×10″

When my plein air group met at the Rosie the Riveter Museum alongside Craneway Pavilion (a former auto factory where “Rosie’s” riveted during WWII) on the San Francisco Bay in Richmond, everyone else painted the bay view on the other side of these buildings.

But as soon as I drove into the parking lot, this industrial backside grabbed me. From the row of street lights to the giant smokestack and thousands of windows, I was sold. I set up, sketched and painted in the parking lot. Then I toured the museum. My mother, RivaLee was a “Rosie” and worked in an airplane factory in L.A. where she was known as “Riv the Riveter.”

Singer Sewing Machine circa early 1900s, ink & watercolor

Singer Sewing Machine circa early 1900s, ink & watercolor & gold pen

I don’t know what happened to my sense of perspective when I sketched this early 1900s Singer sewing machine in a warehouse full of antique industrial equipment. It was very heavy, almost impossible for me to move, so I guarantee it wasn’t lifting off the table or sliding downhill like it looks in my sketch.

As I drew I was struck by the beautiful decoration and the rounded shapes that seemed to echo the curves of the women who used them. What a lovely tool it is compared to the sterile, boxy, plastic computerized sewing machines of today.

Spring Into Summer

John Muir Home and Orchard, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x10"

John Muir Home and Orchard, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×10″

After I filled the jumbo Moleskine watercolor journal I discovered I forgot to post several pages. From March! So here are a few of those sketches from early spring. Above and below are the John Muir home, with a bit of the fruit tree orchards and redwoods on the property. I sketched and painted these on site, with a little gouache added to the fruit tree blossoms at home.

John Muir Landscape, ink, watercolor & gouache, 10x8"

John Muir Landscape, ink, watercolor & gouache, 10×8″

Spring at Blake Gardens, watercolor, 10x8"

Spring at Blake Gardens, watercolor, 10×8″

Above is another spring sketch, painted directly with watercolor, of  magnolia trees and the pretty little flowers planted around the tree.

Playing Catch Up!

Egret at Miller-Knox Park, Ink & watercolor 5x8"

Egret at Miller-Knox Park, Ink & watercolor 5×8″

Since my end-of-year wrap-up blog post remains unfinished, here are a couple of autumn sketches that were waiting patiently to be posted. I have a good excuse though: my new iMac arrived last week and since then I’ve been immersed in learning the Mac after over a decade on Windows PCs. I’ve been transferring files, talking to both Moron and Genius-level tech support, and installing and learning Mac versions of my applications.

Miller-Knox Park Autumn, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Miller-Knox Park Autumn, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

I’m finding the Mac to be quite delightful in many ways and a bit confounding in others. But little by little I’m getting the hang of it… And..Oh Crud! right after I typed that I made some kind of wrong move and instantly I was popped out of the blog and into an endless loop of…

Computer: “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” I click: “Stay on page.” Computer: “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” over and over until I finally give up, say OK and click “Leave this page.” And of course nothing happens. Had to force quit and restart.

But Yay WordPress; it saved the draft! I wish I knew what I did so I don’t do it again. It has happened a bunch of times and I have no clue why.

It’s quite humbling going from being expert on the PC to being such a beginner that I couldn’t even figure out how to turn on the Mac (finally found the power button hidden behind the screen).

View from the Marsh: 3 Attempts

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #1, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #1, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

Very near my home is Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline, with the world’s largest and most beautiful dog park. It is situated on the San Francisco Bay directly in line with the Golden Gate Bridge. There are views of San Francisco, wetland marshes and the East Bay hills looking east. I love dogs and don’t have one so I often go down there to walk the trails and enjoy other people’s dogs.

In the sketch above, I stood on the wooden bridge over the marsh and tried to capture everything, the marsh, the freeway, the buildings behind it and the hills beyond. Too much, really, for a small 8×6 sketchbook.

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #2, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #2, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

On my next visit it was extremely windy and I almost lost my sketchbook and a brush over the top of the wooden bridge rail I was using for a table. The light wasn’t very interesting, very flat with no shadows.

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #3, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

View from Pt. Isabel Bridge #3, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

On the third visit the tide was in and the area in the first two sketches was mostly underwater so I turned to face west with San Francisco and the bridges in the distance.

I don’t feel that I did the scene justice in any of these sketches and hesitated posting them, but will return again and keep trying until I’m happier with the result.

Taco Bike at Fairyland and Japanese Garden at Lake Merritt

Taco Bike at Fairyland, ink & watercolor, 8x6"

Taco Bike at Fairyland, ink & watercolor, 8×6″

The $2.00 taco was delicious, made to order from the box mounted to Taco Bike. As I look at my sketch above I am wondering: there must have been a third wheel on the other side of the cart. Otherwise it would be impossible to ride and balance, no? And they did ride it in to the park.

My plein air group was meeting at Oakland’s Lakeside Garden Center, but when I parked at Fairyland across the from the garden I decided to start there. It is a small amusement park where children create their own amusement in storybook-themed play areas/structures.

Fairyland Parade and Sliding Hill, ink & watercolor 8x6"

Fairyland Parade and Sliding Hill, ink & watercolor 8×6″

I hadn’t been there since my kids were little; adults aren’t usually allowed in without kids but this day Fairyland was hosting the Childrens’ Hospital Anniversary celebration and everyone was allowed in. I tried to sketch a parade (above) as it zipped by. Behind the parade are children sliding on cardboard down a little grassy hill and balloons everywhere.

At the other end of Fairyland a radio station was emceeing the event over loudspeakers. They introduced a guy who performed annoying kids’ songs who was followed by blasting Latin music and someone shrieking “TURN, TURN, SHIMMY, WHOOEEE!!! WHOOP WHOOP! TURN, TURN!…” I later learned this was a Zumba demo.

Japanese Garden at Lake Merritt, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

Japanese Garden at Lake Merritt, ink & watercolor and white gel pen, 6×8″

All morning I’d felt a migraine coming on and the Zumba shouting was the last straw. I headed over to the Japanese garden in the Lakeside Garden Center. The peaceful setting and sound of the waterfall soothed my achey head long enough to sketch and paint the scene.

Mr. Wong's Giant Bonsai, ink & watercolor sketch, 8x5"

Mr. Wong’s Giant Bonsai

Mr. Wong's Giant Bonsai, ink & watercolor sketch, 8x5"

Mr. Wong’s Giant Bonsai, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

The 90-year-old owner of this house on Allston and McGee in Berkeley has trimmed the bonsai trees in his garden for 50 years and they are beautiful. I enjoyed sketching from in front of his house while my sketch buddies took posts across the street and on the corner.

I have a whole bunch of paintings and sketches to post so I may keep my writing brief on some of them in order to get caught up. This is one of the brief ones.

Update: When Carol asked if “Giant Bonsai” is an oxymoron I looked it up. According to Wikipedia:

The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower).

Bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.

So apparently I was wrong to call these trees Bonsai since they are growing in the ground and while shaped like Bonsai trees, actually are full-sized trees. So it’s not an oxymoron, but I wonder if there is a word to describe this situation: “A full-sized tree cultivated to look like a miniature tree that is cultivated to look like a full-sized tree, only in miniature.” ????

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