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.

Codex Book Fair at Craneway Pavillion

Codex Book Fair inside Craneway Pavillion, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Looking into the Codex Book Fair in the Craneway Pavillion, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

I attended the Codex Book Fair at Craneway Pavillion (a former car factory, now an event space) in Richmond with some friends from S.F. Sketchers on a gorgeous, sunny day. The fair is an annual event where book artists and small publishers show their work. There were huge crowds enjoying the amazing art, although a few tables were empty because the artists or publishers got stuck in an East Coast snow storm.

The Park on the Bay by Craneway Pavillion, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

The Park on the Bay by Craneway Pavillion, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

After I visited the fair I sat outside on a bench and quickly sketched the view from the boardwalk by the building (above).

My favorite artist at the show was Andie Thrams. Her handmade, watercolor-illustrated, one-of-a kind books were amazing and inspiring. My favorite of hers was In Forests, which you can see page by page here. It really is a must-see for anyone interested in journaling and bookbinding, especially nature journaling in ink or watercolor.

Pork Bung Gut (?) at 99 Ranch Market

Mackerel and Tea Lady, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Mackerel and Tea Lady, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

We made our annual pre-Chinese New Year sketching visit to 99 Ranch Market and the Pacific East Mall (an Asian marketplace) with some new sketchers who joined us for our  monthly Urban Sketchers First Tuesdays sketch night.

I headed first to the fish department and we ended the evening at the Ten Ren Tea Shop (sketches above) where there were so many interesting and colorful items to draw but for some reason I chose instead to sketch the very nice shop girl.

Poultry and Pork on the Hook at 99 Ranch Market, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Poultry and Pork on the Hook at 99 Ranch Market, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

After the fish, I went where the Peking Ducks hang and was surprised to see a small pork carcass hanging there too (on the right above). I drew it first, and then found myself in a race with a woman taking down the ducks to clean up for the night. She won the race and I ran out of ducks so I copied the menu instead.

Could that carcass be Pork Bung Gut? Or is it what it sounds like (ew) and just wasn’t on display?

It’s interesting how different cultures are squeamish about different parts of the animal. I grew up loving my grandma’s roasted beef tongue, the chicken feet in her chicken soup, and my dad’s gribenes (pronounced “gribnis”)—like pork rinds except made from chicken skin. After removing the delicious crispy skins from the hot chicken fat that he’d rendered from them, he put the fat in the fridge to harden and then spread that “schmaltz” on his rye bread instead of butter.

None of those foods sound gross to me, nor does caviar, raw oysters (yum!), or rump roast, but please don’t offer me brains or intestines, thank you very much.

You can see my friends’ great sketches from the evening on our Urban Sketchers blog here: Susan’sMicaela’s, Cathy’s, and Ceiny’s, and my sketches from previous visits to 99 Ranch in 20012 and 2010, 2010, 2007.

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.

Catahoula Coffee Roaster & Smog Certificate

Catahoula Coffee Roaster, ink, marker & watercolor, 8x5"

Catahoula Coffee Roaster, ink, marker & watercolor, 8×5″

When I went to get my car smogged there was a 30 minute wait so I walked down the street to Catahoula Coffee for a latte and some sketching. I only had my pens and a couple of markers with me so I added a little watercolor over the ink and markers when I got home.

The coffee was good and the beautiful coffee roasting machine provided an inspiring challenge to draw. The counter in front of it curves around the shop. That’s an (empty?) burlap bag of coffee beans next to the barista reading his soccer magazine when business slowed down.

Northside Sketch - U.C. Berkeley University Library, ink & watercolor 8x5"

Sketching the Northside While Chevron Refinery Burned

Northside Sketch - U.C. Berkeley University Library, ink & watercolor 8x5"

Northside Sketch – U.C. Berkeley University Library, ink & watercolor 8×5″

Last week Gail Wong, Urban Sketcher from Seattle was in the Bay Area visiting and we had the privilege of sketching with her. You can see Gail’s sketch, story and the photo she took of us that evening on the Seattle Urban Sketchers blog here. I loved getting to see her amazing work and it was fun sharing sketchbooks all around even though I was a bit distracted all evening, because….

As soon as I sat down to sketch I got an emergency auto-dial call on my cellphone from the county with this terse warning: “There is an emergency situation at the Chevron Refinery! Shelter in place. Close all doors and windows and turn off heaters and air conditioners. Do not go outside until further notice.”

There was a huge fire at the Chevron refinery and while I thought it was at least 20 miles away, my house is actually only 5.5 miles south (I checked Google maps). The air was clear where we were so I decided to worry about it later. Friends seeing the smoke or the news kept texting and phoning to make sure I was OK. The smoke could be seen from all over the Bay Area, but not where we were.

Fortunately, when I arrived home the air was clean with the usual fresh sea breeze and everything was fine. The smoke stayed very close to the refinery which was really fortunate (except for those living close by and people who buy gas since the price is going up for the West Coast area supplied by the now damaged refinery).

The county called me back at 1:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 a.m. to let me know it was now safe to open windows or go outside. Gee thanks, county! I would have rather slept through the night!

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.

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