Bay Area Parks Colored pencil art Outdoors/Landscape Plein Air Sketchbook Pages

Change Is…

Stege Marsh, ink and colored pencils in pocket Moleskine
Stege Marsh, ink and colored pencils in pocket Moleskine

I started to title this post “Change is Good” and then I thought, yeah, but change can be difficult too. As I thought of all the things change is (hard, exciting, scary, growth) I realized that if nothing else, change is constant, it just IS; thus the title.

So what about change? Well, the most obvious change is my blog’s appearance. I’ve begun the process of converting it to a website that will host both this blog,, and my art portfolio website, now at It’s a work in progress so please, if you notice any bugs, let me know.

The sketch of Stege Marsh above reflects another change in my life; it’s one of the first sketches I did while out walking my pup. I waited until after we’d walked about 3 miles through the huge off-leash dog park at Pt. Isabel (well I walked 3 miles, she was off leash and probably ran 10 miles running off and coming back). By the time we got to this spot she was happy to rest while I sketched this view along the Bay Trail. I carry a little bag of colored pencils and a small Moleskine sketch book in my bag all the time as it’s lighter than my watercolor kit for long walks so that’s what I used to color in the ink drawing.

Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Plein Air Sketchbook Pages

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.

Art theory Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting People Photos Places

Sit Stay Cafe Girl Sketch in Oils

Sit Stay Cafe Girl, oil on panel, 10x8"
Sit Stay Cafe Girl, oil on panel, 10x8"

When I painted this oil sketch I had three inspirations: First was the Peggi Kroll Roberts video focusing on designing value patterns by simplifying and grouping values, even when the colors are different (e.g. the red umbrella and green trees above are very different colors but approximately the same values).

Curan: Afternoon in the Cluny Garden
Curran: Afternoon in the Cluny Garden

My second inspiration was the Curran painting above that I saw at the Impressionists show at the DeYoung Museum. I fell in love with this painting because of the colors, strong values and abstract qualities and brought home a print. Charles Courtney Curran was an American artist who studied with the Impressionists in Paris in the 1880s and then returned to the U.S. His other work I’ve seen online doesn’t appeal to me at all, too sugary and romantic.

Original photo reference with face blurred for anonymity
Original photo reference with face blurred for anonymity

I was also inspired by my reference photo (above) that I took at the Sit Stay Cafe at Pt. Isabel’s dog park where I was lunching, sketching and taking photos to test a new camera last summer.

The tired young woman was very kind about allowing me to sketch and take photos of her. She told me she also liked to paint. Since I didn’t ask for permission to post her picture online I blurred her face in Photoshop first.

Animals Bay Area Parks Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Outdoors/Landscape People Places Sketchbook Pages Sketchercize

Pt. Isabel Sketchercize

Pt. Isabel Sights, ink & watercolor
Pt. Isabel Sights, ink & watercolor

No those aren’t circus dogs stacked up in a doggie pyramid, I just drew them that way as dogs came and went, begging for scraps at the table where the couple was eating lunch.

I’d planned to spend the day in the studio today, but when Barbara called to invite me for a walk at Pt. Isabel, I couldn’t resist. Since it was sunny and not too windy (or so I thought) I also brought along my plein air gear, thinking I might set up to paint there after our walk.  But we took a L-O-N-G walk on the Bay Trail with an equally long walk back, and then had a late lunch at the Sit Stay Cafe in the dog park.

The wind had picked up and I was getting cold and didn’t really feel like spending 3 hours standing in the wind (see top left picture with poor bent over tree from the constant ocean winds). So while I was trying to decide, Barbara took out her sketchbook and I decided to do the same. By the time I finished it was already 4:00 and another weekend was nearly over.

But a day with good solid exercise and a little sketching is a good day and it counts. (Unlike some days that just suck and don’t count.)

Animals Bay Area Parks Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Outdoors/Landscape Places Richmond Annex Sketchbook Pages Sketchercize

Amazing Grace: “Sketchercizing” on the S.F. Bay Trail

Amazing Grace, ink and watercolor 6x9"
Amazing Grace, ink and watercolor 6x9"

The weather is gorgeous in the S.F. Bay Area today, sunny and warm with a gentle breeze. It inspired me to drag my old bike out of hiding and go for my first bike ride in two years. Of course the tires were completely flat. I got my first bit of exercise pumping up the tires (while managing to get chain grease all over myself working from the wrong side of the bike.) Finally took off down the street and 3 blocks later realized that when the front tire pointed straight ahead, the handles bars were turned to the left.

Rode back home, called bike store, got directions to fix it, used wrong little L-shaped wrench thingee which got stuck in the hole, called bike store again, found the correct metric wrench they said to use in my son’s tools he left behind in my garage, got the stuck one out, tried again, but couldn’t loosen the bolt. Looked around to see if there were any men home on the block who could strong-arm it for me. No men home.

Called sons  (both avid cyclists). Son #1 not answering. Son #2 was working from home and was  so sweet, came right over and fixed it for me.  Finally, two hours after I first planned to leave, I was on my way, down to the Bay Trail.

It was glorious! I rode through Richmond Annex, crossed over the freeway on the pedestrian bridge at Sacramento St., over to Central, down to the Bay Trail, and rode all the way to the Rosie the Riveter Monument and National Park in Richmond. I stopped to paint the ship “Amazing Grace” (above) in the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor.

Sit Stay Cafe at Pt. Isabell, ink & watercolor, 6x9"
Sit Stay Cafe at Pt. Isabell, ink & watercolor, 6x9"

My reward on the way home was lunch at the Sit Stay Cafe at Pt. Isabel. I was sitting under a bright red-orange umbrella there when I painted this and so all the colors came out really weird (that’s the bay and SF in the distance on upper right). I loved the body language of the people and the dogs.  Pt. Isabel is an enormous dog park along the bay with spectacular views. The cafe is next door to Mud Puppy’s Tub and Scrub dog bathing shop, so the patio and cafe are dog friendly.

Then I cycled home happy, if a bit sunburned. Tonight is the El Cerrito Art Association meeting, with a demo by artist and Liquitext rep Michele Theberge.

What a great day! The views of the bay, the harbors, the city, were spectacular, the sun hot and the breezes cooling. Doesn’t get much better than this! Definitely an Amazing Grace kind of day!

(Some of this also posted on