Sunday, November 23, 2014

Skulls with John Muir Laws and the Nature Journal Club

My Great Dane and Dachshund skull drawings.

After enjoying the Facebook group of the Nature Journal Club for quite a few months now, I finally was able to join them in person for a "field trip" - and today the "field" was the California Academy of Sciences to catch one of the last days of the awesome "Skulls" exhibit.

It was a gorgeous day and a good-sized group (about 30) of all ages.  John Muir Laws gave us a quick introduction and some time to sketch, and then gave an in-depth class about skulls and what to look for on them and how to draw them.  Quick lunch outside with our friend, the gull, and back again to draw some more.  I had to leave a bit early so missed the later journal share, but the dogs, I knew, were eager to have me return and let them out for a run.

I highly recommend that any sketchbook folks in the Bay Area check out this group.

I drew in a 5" x 8" Handbook, mostly with my new love, the Pelikan fountain pen.  But also messed around with some Tombow pen and waterbrush and gave the non-photo blue pencil a try in the afternoon after seeing JML demo it in the morning.

Of course, even though there were so many cool, exotic skulls there, I kept gravitating to the dogs.  What is it with me and dogs?

JML sketching the Gray Wolf skull.
My Wandering Albatross sketch from the afternoon.  It got so crowded and wild after lunch!

David Lukas joined us - I'll have to check out his books!

David Lukas, JML, gull friend on fountain, other Club members.

Club members enjoying lunch in the lovely sun.

JML sketching demo of the gull on the fountain.
My sketch of the gull on the fountain at lunch.

Great Dane skull (and other smaller dogs)

Mug says "Eye Opener" and my Gray Wolf sketch

Notes and sketches from the lecture.

Another morning sketch - California Sea Lion "C9".

Monday, November 10, 2014

More San Francisco Giants

 I guess my way of coping with the end of baseball season is to spend some time drawing "my" Giants.  After being a student of Sketchbook Skool's "Storytelling" klass with the amazing Veronica Lawlor, I tried a bamboo pen and ink for these and had a great time!

I also found a "chop" that translates to "gradually, step-by-step" and feel like that fits me beautifully in a number of ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beautiful rain!

We are SO happy to be getting some rain here in the Bay Area.  Here are the glorious clouds over our local dog park, Point Isabel, this morning.

I used Tombow ink pen and coffee (dipped my finger in my hot coffee and used as a brush - probably not recommended for one's toxic load.)

In just about an hour, I'm going to collect a foster dog to take care of for a week or so.  It's not at all practical, but if you can't sometimes be a fool for love, what's the point?  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Go Giants!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while here!  Sadly since my last post, my application to be part of Beach Watch didn't pan out - the group had a lot of applicants for the volunteer spots so that's a win for beaches, but a bummer for me.

Happily, our San Francisco Giants are doing well and I'm enjoying the third Sketchbook Skool class greatly.  One of our assignments this week was to create a "manual" of some kind.  Here is what I came up with.

Last night's game was one of those awesome, cliff-hanger-y, "Giants torture" kind of games.  Loved it!

I was very lucky to go to Monday's day game with my excellent friend Barbara.  We both had fun playing with the "Slo-Mo" function on our iPhones, recording people waving rally towels.

I drew this "How to pack for the Giants Game" manual while enjoying lunch before the game.  It's great to have friends who put up with me drawing during our time together.

Barbara even let me use her "Ganesh, remover of obstacles" charm as a "model" for this piece.  Not sure if Ganesh truly did her job on Monday, but we ultimately succeeded last night, so that's ok.

Update October 11 - I'm adding other "Giants-oriented" images below:

Sketchbook page I did during the no-hitter (June 25) that Tim Lincecum threw - which, of course, I had no idea would be happening while I was drawing.  What a killer day.  It was supposed to just be a long lunch of a few innings with my new boss (who is a HUGE fan and had never seen a no-hitter) but we kept canceling our afternoon meetings as the streak continued.  

Custom Converse shoes I ordered up in Giants colors. 
Buster Posey (from photograph)
September 14th game against the Dodgers, which was a treat from my lovely friend Barbara.  

Just before the special event on June 14 - the Lefty O'Doul Gate with Juan Marichal statue.

The fifth is from June 14, which was the very first time I took my sketchbook to the ballpark - this sketch is of a special event honoring women baseball fans and took place before the game started.  That's why you see the guy on the field with the big rake.

The view from our seats on June 14 - I loved seeing all the boats in McCovey Cove!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Point Molate sketching

A group called "Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate" asked if they could use some of my sketches of the area on their website, to which I happily agreed!  They aren't up there yet, but I will post again when they are.  Looks like this group does a ton of good in protecting a beautiful place from rampant development not suited to the site.

Here is my sketch from today.  I can't believe I can actually have a lunch break that allows me this.  I treasure it.  Spotted several beached jellyfish, a tiny dead crab (about 2 inches across), lots of kelp.  Picked up my usual bag of plastic trash as I walked along, which makes me feel like a good Girl Scout.

I just finished a book called "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr and it further validated my fascination with the seashore and its amazing creatures, sounds, shapes and textures.  Both of the main characters are strongly drawn to understanding the nature of the world and Marie-Laure (living in World War II's France and blind) is especially intrigued by whelks and snails.  One small example:

"The water is icy and deep; her toes go numb in an instant.  But the grotto itself comprises its own slick universe, and inside this universe spin countless galaxies: here, in the upturned half of a single mussel shell, lives a barnacle and a tiny spindle shell occupied by a still smaller hermit crab.  And on the shell of the crab?  A yet smaller barnacle.  And on the barnacle?" 

Marie's father works in the Natural History Museum in Paris and there are glorious detailed passages on all the things she learns there too.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has this interest in the sea.  Or even just in humans.

The other main character, Werner, a young German, ends up in the same town as Marie-Laure from deep in industrial Essen area, having never seen the ocean.  His letter home to his sister reads,

“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.

It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.” 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Falcon on Tunnel Avenue

Here we have yet another creature sighting (after the last post of a Barracuda), but a Ford Falcon on Tunnel Avenue this time.  From vicious fishies to sleek birdies.  

I believe this is a 1963.  (Great year!)  This is a super-shiny, well-kept beauty.  Yum.

I used a new kind of pen that is water-soluble and used the native color as a wash as well as adding some watercolor pencil.  It's a much looser effect, which I like.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Barracuda on Santa Fe Avenue

I'm pretty sure this is a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda.  Spotted her on Santa Fe Avenue here in Point Richmond on a foggy morning and it gave me a little happy jolt.

How in the world did they make those rear windows?  Kind of amazing.

And if you're anything like me, you're now remembering the Heart song, so may as well give you that link!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beach Watch bug!

So this daily sketchbook habit has been brilliant in many ways.  But the one I'm noticing and cherishing lately is how it has reconnected me to what I find important.  The best example I have of this - since I now carry the sketchbook with me everywhere, and love going to the beach and seeing what critters, rocks, trees, and so on are out there in their ever-changing glory, I've been able to do some little nature studies.  
I've posted just a few pages of these.

Well, the day I went out there and found the skeleton of some kind of ray was a great reminder of how much I used to love my Beach Watch volunteer gig.  Beach Watch is a program through the National Marine Sanctuary and enlists volunteers to monitor beaches and report back data on human use, bird species spotted and so on.  

One of the super-geeky things I loved doing as a Beach Watch person was figuring out what species a bird was when we'd find a skeleton on our beach.

In fact, that's really how it all began.  In 1993, I started my first real non-profit fundraising job at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now renamed Point Blue).  I had just returned to the Bay Area to finish my 800-year undergrad program (or so it seemed) and had taken a summer class to fulfill the dreaded "lab science" requirement which was otherwise very difficult to squeeze into the schedule of someone working full-time.  I picked the class solely for that reason and the fact that I could meet the requirement with this 6-day camping trip to the Sierra Nevada.  I didn't know a thing about birds and didn't think I really cared either.  But the teacher of that class, Dave Shuford, (known affectionately as "Shuf") had such a gift with sharing his passion for birds that I got hooked quickly.  Plus these "birder" people (my fellow students) were smart, down-to-earth, not too loud or braggy, and kind.  So I wanted to hang with them more.

So when I spotted this "Want Ad" (in a real paper newspaper, kids) for an Administrative Assistant / Membership Coordinator for Point Reyes Bird Observatory, I called them immediately and asked,

"Is this the same place where Dave Shuford works?"  They responded yes.

"Then I really want this job," I said, "so I'm driving over there right now to hand you my resume."

"You do realize," cautioned the nice lady at PRBO, "that we are way over Mount Tamalpais near Stinson Beach?"

"Yes!  No problem!  You really want to hire me, I promise!"  And jumped in my car and eventually snagged that ridiculously low-paying but massively fascinating job.

So, one morning, in the serene wooded cabin that served as our office, David Ainley, an esteemed ornithologist, came into our front office to ask me a favor.

He was due to provide an update to his book about beached bird identification but had lost the original disc with the first edition.  Would I possibly be willing to type the first edition into the computer again so he could create the next edition?  I agreed and began learning things I never would have expected to learn, and got more and more fascinated as I typed my way along.

I found out that this book was used by the Farallones Marine Sanctuary's Beach Watch volunteers and eventually signed up to be one myself.  I had to laugh at my strange head-start on that part of the training!  (In fact, Dr. Ainley even gave me a thank you - probably the only time I'm going to get a publication credit so let's all enjoy my 15 minutes of fame!)

I've now signed up for Beach Watch again and am eagerly anticipating the October training.  (It's been so many years so I need a big refresher.)  Looks like I'll be able to get "my beach" assignment shortly after that.

I find it very fascinating how the "sketchbook bug" has turned into the "Beach Watch bug" - how tuning into a daily practice helps surface what I really want to spend my time and energy doing.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Sometimes, I just see a photo that sings, "paint me, paint me!"

And that photo is usually connected to someone I like, so it's heart-warming to then spend time drawing and painting while thinking about that person and hoping they'll enjoy a surprise.  It's the best form of meditation I can imagine.

That was the case when I spotted a photo of Kristi's little dog, Paco, on Facebook recently,  Now Kristi is just full of awesome in many ways, but her sense of humor is one of my favorites. She's especially funny about how she was really a cat person but this dog just wheedled her way into her heart.  And with that cute face, you can see why.

Paco and Kristi live in Austin, Texas - met Kristi when I lived there for a couple of years, but will have to venture back soon to meet Paco his own self.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mount Tam crosses the country!

My long-time friend commissioned me almost a year ago to paint Mount Tamalpais for her.  She now lives back east and wanted a reminder of Marin County and its physical beauty.

It was a daunting assignment, but also one filled with great discovery and joy.  First of all, there are about a million possible perspectives of the mountain and so many ways to think and feel about it too. So I told her, given this particular subject, that I needed some time and that I wanted to paint several paintings, each 8" x 10" and then let her see them and choose one.  And she kindly agreed!  (It helps that she is a writer so understands the weird processes we artists sometimes need to go through.)

For landscapes like this, I typically work "en plein air" - which means that I set up my easel and paint the entire painting in the one session while I am outdoors looking directly at my subject "live!"  It is an excellent way to hone my observation skills and learn to edit complex scenes.

Well, finally her chosen painting of Mount Tam has arrived to Adrienne clear across the country and she says she adores it!  That is the happiest moment for any artist, of course!  This view is from the shoreline of Corte Madera Creek, just behind the Bon Air shopping center in Greenbrae.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

VW Bus on Washington

I'm taking my mind off the discouraging Giants streak by drawing and painting some more.  I also should be cleaning my house, but looking for a good excuse to procrastinate on that too!

I wonder how many adventures this VW bus has seen?  Mountain lakes?  S'mores?  Grateful Dead concerts?

This one lives high up on Washington with a glimpse of the bay and Mount Tamalpais beyond (or it could be Angel Island.)  Still working to understand the watercolors but learning a bunch with each effort.

Ford Station Wagon on Crest

Huge station wagon on Crest reminds me of my friend Birdie's "Olds 88" - in which one could lie down nearly fully stretched out across the back seat.  My sisters teased our dad that his Oldsmobile (also this era) was a "mush-mobile" due to its ride.   Now, this vehicle clearly says "Ford" so I'm just free-associating here, but I think they must be quite similar.  Anyhow, this shot of the Ford with the powerlines in the background as the hill rises up to the right just made me smile.

Almost at the end of the drawing, I noticed a big area where I'd gotten the perspective completely whacked, but decided to mentally file this under "gives it wonky character" and kept going.  As one of my revered teachers, Tommy Kane, taught me!  Same thing applied when my watercolors did some blooming.  Just keep going!  And when I finished, I realized, hey, I actually really dig this just as is!

Yesterday, I did a medium splurge on some new watercolor paints and got some Schmincke tube colors.  They were so expensive that I limited myself to one red, two blues, a yellow, a white and a burnt sienna.  This station wagon was the virgin expedition for those colors and I really enjoyed these paints.  Now just can't wait for my next art store shopping trip!

I've been sharing these drawing/paintings on the "NextDoor Point Richmond" discussion board and got a compliment there that really sings to me.  I'd never heard this expression before, but one of my neighbors wrote (responding to one of the drawings), "As we say in New York, you've got a fresh head."  Isn't that funny?