On Saturday, April 27th, I decided to walk to Montrose to use my “just add water” technique to paint some of the buildings and expanding garden at Rockhaven. I knew it would need to be a quick sketch as I could only peek through a chain link fence to see any part of it, but I was game. Once I got there I realized there was really no way to access the materials I would need and sketch what I had planned while peeking through the fence. I was disappointed, but I carefully took a couple pictures of the Spanish revival bungalows and surrounding garden, and vowed to paint that at a later time. So, I continued my way down Hermosa, and on to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Honolulu. While sitting outside I was determined to sketch something while I drank my cappuccino. I looked across the street, but nothing caught my eye. But directly in front of me was a tall vintage (1930s or 40s I think) street lamp, so common to many residential areas in Glendale and throughout SoCal. I decided right then that I wanted to paint the street lamp and set about doing a preliminary sketch of the whole lamp and flanking tree. However, I was really drawn to the glass shade and became enchanted with this vignette that focused on the stamped industrial milky blue/white glass orb set against the patchwork of green leaves backlit with patches of bright blue sky. So, I took my materials out of my backpack and went to work.
When I got home I remembered similar vintage lamp posts I had sketched in my minute “minute” scribble book. What is a minute (my-NOOT) minute scribble book? On the cover of this pocket sketch book is a rather terrifying tiny Picasso paper doll (meant to be a removable bookmark), with his piercing eyes staring out at you. I carry him with me in a small plastic bag with black ink pens of varying point size. I use it to sketch little spontaneous moments as I walk along. And I have decided that whatever I draw in this tiny 3 by 4.5 inch doodle pad, it must be completed in 1 to 2 minutes. I have opened it horizontally to make a number of 3 by 9 inch images. For example, I have drawn a row of symmetrical trees, as well as the sprawling detail of a row of second story windows of a house. I have also opened it vertically to sketch a 3 by 9 inch image of the trunk of a palm tree in Santa Barbara, a bird perched on the seat of a swing hanging from the branch of a large tree and a couple of old neighborhood lamp posts in Glendale. The whole point of this little sketchpad is to help me be more spontaneous by just stopping at random moments to draw something very quickly. I wrote about quick sketches I did on a Sketchcrawl the other day (April 20, 2019), but this is like the lightning version of those “sloth-like” 20-minute drawings and puts me very much in the moment (augenblick), literally.
When contemplating “sketching” adventures outside my comfort zone, I tried to think of other times I did something spontaneously. All of sudden, it came to me. If you are only interested in my art and/or stories of one CA girl that take place in CA, you may want to stop here. Because the following spontaneous tale does not happen in California, but it does involve a lifetime CA friend.
In the 70s I was living in Munich. It was getting time for me to come back to the states to go to UC Berkeley when a childhood friend (third generation native California girl) decided to visit me before I returned. We had numerous plans of what were going to do and places we would visit. We started our journey together in Munich, of course, with a proposed final destination of Norway (we made it as far as Copenhagen, but had a great time even without seeing Oslo). We both had “student” train passes and rode the rails for the whole journey. I had given up my room in my flat in Schwabing and was staying with a friend. It didn’t start out well as our first day trip to Fussen, to see Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, ended with my friend getting sick from eating Leberkase mit ei for lunch that day. While she recuperated at my friend’s apartment we formulated our plans. And just to prove I hadn’t tried to poison her, we took another day trip to Salzburg—without too much fuss. And we were off!
We stopped in several lovely German cities/towns on our way to Bruges. I had been there before with my boyfriend and wanted to show her this very enchanting town. If I remember, after Bruges we meant to head for Amsterdam, and then planned to go north to Oslo from there. On our way to see the lovely lace in Bruges we met a couple really cute guys from South Africa, as well as a couple Americans. They were all on their way to Ostend, then Dover with London as their final destination. When we got to our stop in Bruges we said our goodbyes, grabbed our bags and left the train. We got two steps out the door, simultaneously looked at each other and without a word got back on the train. We were on our way to London. It was grand and a memorable spontaneous moment for me. Of course the two South African guys ditched us at the train station in London, but we didn’t care. We found a cheap hotel and stayed there the better part of a week, with no regrets.
I’m not sure I need to be spontaneous all the time. I think I have experienced more than one frustrating occasion waiting for my spontaneous friends to show up. And now that I am rereading this story I am wondering if I have blurred the idea of being spontaneous with being in the moment. Maybe the difference between the two can be better discussed with another piece of art and a later story. But suffice it to say that I know my little Picasso pocket sketchbook has helped me to be in the moment on more than one occasion, and I am grateful for that. And when my Picasso pocketbook is full, there are many other similar inspirational sketchbooks that I can carry around with me in a plastic bag with black ink pens of varying points—just waiting for that moment to be used to do a very quick sketch. My next minute “minute” sketchbook, with tiny staring person bookmark, might be: a fauvist, a graffiti artist, organic architect (Frank Lloyd Wright), folk artist (Frida Kahlo), the Scream (Munch) or fashion model (Twiggy). Stay tuned.
Happy first day of spring!
And so sorry to hear that your mom passed away Monday, 6/17/2019, my CA friend. You told me that she enjoyed hearing my stories and I know she would have loved hearing this one as well.