Boring? Not!

Peet's Coffee Corner, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

View north from Peet's Coffee, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

At first glance, the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carlson in El Cerrito is boring, boring, boring: a wide busy avenue with boxy buildings. But when viewed on a lovely summer day from a cafe table outside Peet’s Coffee with pen in hand, it transforms itself into a sketching delight full of fun details and color.

San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

View South down San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Looking the other way down San Pablo, the Wells Fargo Bank building holds little hope for drawing inspiration. But start sketching and it too transforms itself. There are trees of all kinds and colors. A cerulean sky with only a hint of clouds, a pink apartment building and a gold dentist office. Sun, shadows, banners.

Not boring! I don’t think I’ve ever felt bored when I was sketching. Years ago a friend told me that when I was sketching I looked like I was roller-skating. Whee! Let’s skate!

Urban Sketcher Train Trip to Sacramento Part I

Emeryville Amtrak Station, ink & watercolor

Emeryville Amtrak Station, ink & watercolor

Bay Area Urban Sketchers took a little field trip by train to Sacramento to see some art, connect with another Urban Sketcher and have some good sketching fun. We arrived early to sketch the Emeryville Amtrak station (above) and then it was “All On Board!”

Once we got underway I experimented with doing VERY quick watercolor sketches of the scenery as we traveled, with about 30 seconds to capture each lovely view flying by:

Capitol Corridor Views #1

Capitol Corridor Views #1

Capitol Corridor Views #2

Capitol Corridor Views #2

Capitol Corridor Views #3

Capitol Corridor Views #3

Capitol Corridor Views #4

Capitol Corridor Views #4

Capitol Corridor #5

Capitol Corridor Views #5

Once we arrived the weather was perfect so we walked the 6 blocks to the Crocker Art Museum to see the Wayne Thiebaud “Homecoming” retrospective show (ends November 28). One of the great things about the show was seeing that at almost 90, Thiebaud is still painting and innovating. The work in his show range from the 1960s to 2010.

Crocker Art Museum New Building, ink & watercolor

Crocker Art Museum New Building, ink & watercolor

We explored both the Crocker’s permanent collection and the Thiebaud show. I was a bit perplexed by the way the shows were curated. Works seemed to be hung randomly, in no particular order that I could discern. I would have really liked to see Thiebaud’s paintings arranged by date to see the progression of his work.

In the permanent galleries I had the sense that they had tried to just hang everything they had, regardless of quality, condition or style. There was something both amateurish and charmingly small-town about the museum and even the demeanor of the guards who were refreshingly friendly, enthusiastic and proud of the work they protect. The Crocker has paintings by many of my favorites from the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the 1970s and I enjoyed seeing those “old friends” again.

Next post tomorrow will be Part II of the trip…meeting up with Pete Scully for a sketching visit to Old Town Sacramento.

Two-Minute Tuesday Night Sketching at Cathy’s, Part I

Cathy's Bonsai, ink & watercolor

Cathy's Bonsai, ink & watercolor

Tuesday night we met at Cathy’s house instead of a public place where moving every two minutes with a timer ringing would be a nuisance. We started on her deck to the sound of burbling water and birds singing and lovely sights all around and warmed up with an untimed sketch. Drawing this little bonsai on the table in front of me was just what I needed to unwind from the crazy day. The sun went down and it was nearly dark when I painted it.

Then we went inside and started the timed two-minute sketches.

Orchid, 2 minute sketch, ink & watercolor

Orchid, 2 minute ink sketch (watercolor added later)

Cathy’s Berkeley Craftsman style home is a serene oasis decorated with simplicity and a Japanese zen style. Open space and emptiness balances still-life displays of special objects, art and her wonderful collections.  She set the timer for two minutes and said “Go” and we moved through the house, our eyes and pens devouring tender new morsels around every corner every two minutes.

I added the watercolor at home later for these two sketches.

Cathy's Calla Display, ink & watercolor

6 minute sketch: Cathy's Calla Display, ink & watercolor

After each set of 6 two-minutes sketches we met back at the dining room table to look at each other’s sketches. When I saw Sonia’s calla lily and apples sketch I realized I’d missed that corner. I liked that display so much I chose to ignore the two-minute bells and spent six  minutes enjoying drawing this one.

I’ll post the rest of the sketches after I add color to them. I am soooo lucky to have such great, dedicated sketching buddies!

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