Selling Christmas Wreaths While Abutilons Bloom

Wreaths for Sale, ink & watercolor, 7x5

Wreaths for Sale, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

When the sun is shining I find it hard to stay indoors, painting in the studio, so I take a break for a walk and some “sketchercize.” I headed to the Farmers Market to sketch but got seduced by Trader Joe’s display of wreaths for sale instead.

While I stood and sketched, using a tall planter as a table for my watercolors and water, volunteers were collecting signatures on a petition to end the death penalty in California. I signed.

Abutilon Blooming in December, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Abutilon Blooming in December, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

On my walk home I spotted a beautiful, wildly blooming abutilon with wonderful red and yellow patterned blossoms. I would have liked to snip off a few flowers to take home and draw in detail, but I recently read reports of flower thieves in my neighborhood, stealing whole plants as well as taking cuttings and ruining plants. I didn’t want anyone to think that thief was me!

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Sketchercizing My Errands

Walking with my dust mop, ink & colored pencil

Walking with my dust mop, ink & colored pencil

I needed a new dust mop, a tube of silicon adhesive and some exercise, so I put them together and walked to Pastime Hardware, a large family-owned hardware store that has everything, including  their famously helpful employees.

The sketch above actually closely resembles me when I’m out walking, with my green backpack  that is so comfy, even when loaded with junk, my nifty purple cap, and old green shorts.

On the way to the store I called my mom on my iPhone, getting that task done as well. As she told me tales of her adventures with her new, and first computer, I stopped to draw some cacti I spotted along the way.

Cacti, ink and watercolor

Cacti, ink and watercolor

My last stop was at the video store to pick up a copy of Local Color which never came out in theaters in Northern California and is finally available on DVD. Then I walked home with the mop over my shoulder feeling like I should be whistling a little tune.

No Power So Sketchercize & Play

Peets Coffee Drinkers, Ink & watercolor

Peets Coffee Drinkers, Ink & watercolor

It’s been a weird weekend. As the song says, “It never rains in California in the summer” except it did on Saturday morning after a night of thunder and lightening (also rare in the Bay Area). It was supposed to be a plein air painting day but the combination of rain and a headache convinced me to stay home and paint instead.

Then the power went out. It was too dark in the studio to paint without some lights and I needed coffee to try to get rid of the headache so I walked to Peets to sketch there. I used my sepia Copic Multiliner and then did a watercolor wash (mixing a few colors on my mini-watercolor palette to match the ink color.

Alejandro's Dahlias, ink & watercolor

Alejandro's Dahlias, ink & watercolor

When I got home I called the electric company and they said to expect repair or a report by 11:00 p.m. that night so I made plans to go out to dinner and to the movies. I didn’t want to open the fridge so my food would stay cold as long as possible. Then I sat my sketching stool in the driveway next to my neighbor’s flower bed and sketched and painted a couple of his dahlias.

Then I took another long walk with  a friend, grabbed a fish burrito and went to see Julie & Julia which I loved! It had been ages since I’d been to the movies and even longer since I’d gone alone. I sat near another woman singleton who had the most infectious laugh and we laughed together throughout the delightful movie.

I appreciated the movie’s nod to the challenges faced by tall women (being one myself). The obsession with eating and cooking rich French food made me curious to know whether Julia Child ever dealt with body image issues or weight problems.I found these quotes from her in an interview in Business Week magazine in 2000:

Q: Could you sum up your feelings about the low-fat food movement? A: I don’t go for that at all…our motto is: “Small helpings. No seconds. No snacking. A little bit of everything, and have a good time.” If you can follow that, it keeps your weight and health in good form. Even if you’re going to have some rich dessert, you can always just have a little spoonful to taste it and keep your spirits up. Then I don’t think you have to go into that miserable, low-fat stuff.

Q: That’s more the French way of eating, I think. Americans always wonder why the French aren’t fat even though they eat rich foods.
A:
It’s because the French don’t eat these great big helpings. It’s really horrifying to them to go to Disneyland and see these great big fat Americans plodding along, always eating something. No snacking is very important, I think.

I have a feeling she’s right about the snacking, but I know I find it a lot easier to maintain my weight if I cook and eat simply than if I’m surrounded by delicious, rich food and try to just eat a spoonful to taste it. But then I’d always rather be in the studio than in the kitchen, and am just as happy with a bowl of brown rice, broccoli and tofu than fancy French cooking.

P.S. The electricity came back on the next morning, 24 hours later.

Sketching Lake Merritt, Oakland

Lake Merritt View, Copic Sepia Multiliner

Lake Merritt View, Copic Sepia Multiliner

Last week I took advantage of quick sketchers Martha and Cathy being away to spend an hour working on one image instead of constantly moving from one spot to the next. This was a really complex scene and the more I drew the more details appeared to draw.

By the time I finished, Sonia (who did several sketches of different views from the same spot) and I were so cold we decided to head home. I work right across the street from the lake and doing this drawing helped me to see what an amazing resource I have for sketching right outside my door.

Lunchtime Sketching Lake Merritt Birds

Lunchtime Sketching Lake Merritt Birds

The next day at lunch, instead of eating in the kitchen with my colleagues, I took my sketchbook and went for a walk by the lake. My plan was to sketchercize: walk for 15 minutes, do a sketch, and walk 15 minutes back, getting in a 30 minute walk. But 5 minutes from the office I saw a row of Double-Crested Cormorants all lined up drying their wings in the sun as if they were on clotheslines.

(Cormorants are easily identified because they’re the only waterbirds that sit in the sun with their wings spread, hanging their feathers out to dry.  They lack an oil gland for preening, so their feathers get waterlogged when they swim under water.)

After I sketched a cormorant and walked a few minutes more, a gaggle of goofy geese were all lined up at the edge of the sidewalk, waiting for someone to decide what to do next, and they needed sketching.

Walking back to the office I came across a foot-high rock with a bronze plaque on it that said “Leon Olsen loved to walk here.” What a great way to honor someone. A memorial walk rock!

Sketchercizing My Grocery Shopping

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, Copic cobalt multiliner & Polychromos colored pencils

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, cobalt Copic multiliner and colored pencils

I had to make my morning coffee with the last drops of non-fat milk (yuck, 1% is OK but non-fat in coffee just doesn’t cut it) and there were no peaches or milk for my Cheerios. A trip to the market couldn’t be put off. But I had a full day of experiments in the studio planned and I needed some exercise. Easy solution:

  1. take the long way around, up and down big hills, to my favorite grocery store, El Cerrito Natural Grocery (cardio)
  2. sketch the market using the cobalt Copic Multiliner I wanted to experiment with (I think I prefer the sepia)
  3. shop
  4. carry groceries home in a loaded backpack plus another full bag (weight lifting)
  5. add colored pencil to the sketches to try out the new Polychromos colored pencils (LOVE THEM!)
BART riders, cobalt Copic Multiliner and colored pencils

Quick subway sketches with the cobalt Copic Multiliner and colored pencils

I’m trying to simplify my choices with my art supplies, wanting to narrow down the pens, ink, pencils and colored pencils to keep handy and those I’ll give away. I did tests today on drawing pencils, sepia liquid inks and sepia pens and will post them and my preferences tomorrow.

I’m also working on painting a grid of 16 different acrylic painting techniques to improve my understanding of acrylic techniques and possibilities. It became clear this was needed when I started a series of paintings in acrylic and realized I didn’t have the “chops” to accomplish what I wanted. I was trying to use oil painting techniques and was getting nowhere fast (and ruining brushes with all the scrubbing I was doing with them which seemed the only way to get the smooth transitions I wanted).

Each medium has its own capabilities and pitfalls. Why not make good use of the characteristics of the media instead of trying to force it to be something it’s not? Despite people claiming acrylic can be used like oils and like watercolor,  I’m going to try to learn to use it like acrylics instead and have fun with all the crazy stuff it can do. This series of large paintings wants to be in acrylic and so it shall, and soon I hope.

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