June 22, 2019

Montrose Lamp post
Lamp Post outside Coffee Bean in Montrose, 4/27/2019 (6 by 8 inch Inktense pencils and watercolor pencils on watercolor paper)

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.

Vintage Lamp post1
One minute scribbled lamp post, Glendale, 6/13/17 (pen and ink in scribble pad)
Vintage Lamp Post with Telephone Pole
One minute scribbled lamp post with cactus, Glendale, 6/30/17 (pen and ink in scribble pad)

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.



June 16, 2019

hip bone
Human hipbone, summer 1990 (airbrush and some colored pencil on crescent board)
brochure for airbrush
GNSI (Guild of Natural Science Illustrators) description of summer 1990 natural science workshop, Philadelphia

Monday, June 10, was the last day of school for me. When working at a school you spend a lot of time in the weeks before summer vacation talking about looking forward to summer vacation. You do this with the kids as well as the other adults. Such conversations usually also always come round to discussions of plans for the summer. Adults seem to be obsessed with trips, spending time with his or her own children and sleeping in. My summer list includes sleeping in (of course), but reading is also an important part of my summer plans. I am always for sleeping in, whether it’s summer vacation or the weekend, as I am a night person in a day person’s world. And I can easily stay in bed dozing and reading until 10 on days with no imminent or important plans. I often ask my students what they plan to do, trying to suggest they read of course. The kids don’t usually ask me about my plans because it is all about them, of course. But if I can slip in something about me, I say that I plan to read a book whenever possible and draw or paint, of course.

What I have posted today is what I did one summer vacation almost 30 summers ago. The airbrush of a now 130 year old human hip bone from a Smithsonian collection, was done as part of an amazing 2-week scientific illustration workshop in Philadelphia at the the University of the Arts Philadelphia. It was sponsored by GNSI and we took inspirational illustration classes with some of the best scientific illustrators working at that time, many from the Smithsonian. I have also included a brochure created by one of the artists I met then and there, not to show something amazing that I had created (out of at least 100 or so possible pieces), but to show some of the other art that my fellow scientific illustrators produced. If I think back on that time, there were a couple illustrators working with various software programs to produce such art. I think we all had an inkling of future computer programs that would take over what we were doing by hand. But we kept protesting that real scientific illustration (e.g. ink wash, silver point, carbon dust/pastel dust, scratchboard, pen and ink etc) could only be done by hand. Nothing like having that kind of monastic attitude of “wearing a hair” shirt for bonding some geeky artists. I posted some pen and inks I later did at the CA Academy of Sciences (October 7, 2017, May 19, 2018) that I am sure could today be generated with the aid of a couple drawing programs. 

I suspect the domain of airbrush then as now is part of car detailing. But today, it seems that some use an airbrush to apply make up, or to spray on a tan. Sounds like a bigger event than I would like to engage in because whatever you are spraying there is still a problem of getting the pigment to the right consistency to go through the fine sprayer. If it’s too watery, it will be drippy and run. If it’s too thick or lumpy, the nozzle will clog. Oh yes, it doesn’t matter what kind of pigment you are spraying as it is drying out as you work. Not to mention you really need to have a cursory knowledge of how a compressor works. There is probably one advantage to an airbrush spray tan and make up as you are probably only mixing one color. But if you have cut a bunch of friskets for car detailing or art of tiny swimming fish, you will need countless color changes as you go. And oh yeah, do you know about friskets? That’s the sticky film that needs to be applied to the surface you are painting on to mask the spots you don’t want covered in paint. For the hip bone, I had to cut and apply a frisket to the crescent board to mark the clean edge around it, as well as the opening below the socket for the femur and above the ischium. When exploring this technique with a gifted illustrator at the workshop, she told us that when she had a big job to finish, she actually hired someone to help her cut the friskets. She also reminded us to be sure to wear some kind of protective mask over your face, as you don’t want to breathe in any of the airborne particles that are actually the magic of airbrush. And some people actually spray airborne pigment towards his or her nose and/or eyes? I wasn’t a complete novice for this technique as I had learned to use it the summer before at the CA Academy of Sciences. At the time I was a volunteer plant fabricator for an exhibit that was called Life Through Time. We were hand painting gingko leaves and using the airbrush to spray redwood branches that had turned brown when preserved and needed “life-like” green needles. We did those branches outside and that helped greatly with the ventilation you should have with such a medium.

So, what else do I plan to do this summer? Glad you asked. I haven’t had many opportunities to do any volunteering recently, so I hope to work in the garden at Heritage Square Museum. I also hope to do some sketching out there as well. 

As I have already written I hope to try my hand at making some YouTube presentations based on my One CA Girl theme of presenting a piece of my art and responding to it. As always I plan to talk about the materials and technique used for each piece, and when and where the CA image came from—northern CA through the central Coast and then on down to SoCal. The third part of my blog has also included stories of my CA family. Not really sure how that would translate to a moving picture of me creating art and talking about it. Not really sure how interesting that would be to anyone unless you knew me or my family. So, I think I will focus on the art and the places in CA I have seen, past and present, in and out of different mediums, techniques and inspirations.

But the vacation has only begun and I am just trying to keep up with what I have been doing for over two years now. Oh, and I am assiduously working on the sleeping in and reading part. Not sure why I started with Catch 22…

Henry, so glad I saw you graduate from UCSC on Friday, 6/14. I love you!

June 9, 2019

coral tree
Coral Tree, Marina Vista Park, 4/17/19 (6 by 8 inch, watercolor colored pencils and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

The other day I was in Long Beach, visiting my aunt and uncle. As I drove around Marina Vista Park (English/Spanish translation=“marine” distant view) I noticed there were a number of coral trees (Erythrina) in bloom. The park is actually just an expanse of grass, dotted with these trees, and of course the marina. In summers past I have actually sat on a lawn chair on the grass, with hundreds of other people, to listen to live music. Pretty nice actually. Such events are generally in the evening and whoever is playing sets up right next to the water, so you look out over a narrow strip of very calm break water while enjoying the music. But I don’t remember seeing any of these amazing bright flowers on the trees in summer, so they must be done blooming before then. On the 17th it was just me, a few dogs on leashes with their owners and gardeners riding around on large lawn mowers, cutting the grass. 

I have driven through the park countless times and hadn’t planned to stop this time either. But I had just come from Starbuck’s and decided I would sit at a picnic table under one of the trees and drink my cappuccino. As luck would have it I also had my little “just add water” sketching bag in the car. So, I sat down, set up and began sketching with my watercolor and Inktense pencils. When I had finished I took the cup of water I got from Starbucks and poured some in my squirt bottle. Then I gave the sketch a light spray of water, tipped the paper from side to side, top to bottom—moving the color around. I also scrubbed some of the pigment with a wet brush, then I added just a bit more of the pencil to brighten up some of the color. And there you have it!

As spring is here in sunny southern CA, I have been on the lookout for blossoms on plant material that looks like it should have some kind of flower—roses, wildflowers, irises, gardenias… There are quite a number of flowering trees in the various neighborhoods and parks all around. The coral tree is very exotic looking, even without the blooms and I had a feeling that it is not native to CA. So once I got home I looked up “coral tree” on the Internet. Sure enough, it is not only not from California, but it is also not native to North America. It is actually supposed to be growing in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. I also learned that the seeds, flowers and leaves of most species are poisonous. It was actually very shocking to learn that as it is quite a gathering place for lots of people and animals throughout the year. Not to mention, I was there, and so was a crew of gardeners mowing the lawn under the trees where I sat drinking my coffee. Good thing that cup had a cover on it. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been good if anything from a coral tree dropped into my coffee.

If you have been reading my blog you may remember the art and story I did the other week about another non-native brightly blooming beauty called the jacaranda. As I just said, Southern CA is loaded with exotic looking non-native flowering trees, as well as flowering shrubs (e.g. geraniums, bird of paradise, hibiscus). Our winters are so mild that tropic plants grow very well here. All you need to do is water them regularly. (Not really a great idea to have tropical plants in this desert climate. Did I mention that there are also lots of palm trees here?)

With all this blooming going on around me, and probably in your neighborhood as well, I am acutely aware of the exposed pollen each and every flower presents each and every time another flower opens. For some this time of year is not only the spring season, but also the allergy season—with sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. I usually only get seasonal allergies (hay fever) during spring and it usually isn’t the pollen from flowers that gets me—it’s grass. In fact, ragweed seems to be the biggest blooming bad boy for me. (I just sneezed thinking about it.) Several years ago I worked on a book about ornamental grasses for Sunset (Landscaping with Ornamental Grasses, copyright 2002). For that book I interviewed Tom Ogren, an expert on the subject of allergies and how it relates to all manner of plants that produce pollen. He lives in San Luis Obispo and wrote a book called “Allergy-Free Gardening.” In the book he has a kind of handy list of plants that he has rated for allergy—with an allergy index scale from best (1) to worst (10). It’s pretty extensive and I found it very interesting reading. I found out that the coral tree has a ranking of 6 on that scale. So, it isn’t really bad for allergies, but it isn’t great. I remember him saying that allergies have been on the rise in recent years because people just want to landscape with ornamental flowering trees that produce only flowers (male) and not fruit (female). So, there is a problem here. People don’t want fruit dropping on the ground, but I don’t think they want extra pollen blowing around that might kick up some allergies either. BTW, he said that you can’t really blame your neighbor for having a flowering tree that’s blowing pollen your way. That’s much too far away for one or two trees to make you sneeze. It is more likely that the pollen offender(s) is in your own backyard. As you would probably guess, grass is a big allergy producer too. Mr. Ogren said that most grasses produce pollen in the morning. So, he said to be sure to keep grasses short, but not to mow during early morning hours when the pollen is most likely to be at its peak. And isn’t that when the garden guys come around to mow and blow? Hmmmm…

But what if there are thousands of pollen producing trees nearby?  This might be a problem if you live close by them and have allergies. And if you live near California’s Central Valley, you would definitely be subject to large amounts of pollen in spring. It is here that mile after mile of fruit and veg have been planted and grow in abundance. I looked up the allergy index for some of the fruit trees we have in huge numbers here. Prunus is the genus that includes over 400 species of deciduous shrubs and trees. I was most interested to read about our garden variety “Prunus” fruit trees such as plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. Mr. Ogren has rated all of these trees for possible allergies. It seems that the different kinds of cherries ranged from 5, 6 or 7—so not bad, but not good either (similar to the coral tree). Plums and peaches were pretty good for allergies at a ranking of 3 or 4. What was most surprising, however, was the ranking for almonds. It is the biggest offender for allergies with an index value of 10, the worst. I wasn’t surprised that apricots are the lowest at 2. This is because it is not really that easy to grow and have it bare fruit, as it needs very mild winters. I have had a couple of these trees drop every blossom after a couple cool evenings in a row. He mentioned that plums and pears are pretty good, with a ranking of 3 or 4, but that pears are susceptible to fire blight. I thought it interesting that he said some people thought the blossoms of pear trees had a bad odor. Who wants a beautiful blossom that stinks? And I have had a tricky time with pears because of the blight and worms that love the fruit as much as we do.

So, what to do? Should you take a chance and plant a tree that produces flowers? This is what I suggest. Go to the farmer’s market and enjoy the fruit that others grow. And, if you want to look at beautiful blossoms, just keep looking here at One CA Girl and I will brave the pollen and poison for you. Until next time (A-choo)!  

June 1, 2019

Siamese Cat at home, 5/29/19 (6 by 8 inches, Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Several months ago I went looking for the one and only egg tempera I ever completed. As I rifled through every portfolio and possible drawer of art I should have also looked for some unused pieces of my beloved Strathmore cold press illustration board. That illustration board used to be the staple of many of my watercolor landscapes. In fact, when you look at the homepage of One CA Girl, you see myself and my son (when he was little) looking out at the J Lohr vineyards on the east side of 101 in Paso Robles. That was done on this same illustration board. The heavy paper has just a bit of texture, compared to a smoother hot press paper surface, and that open texture allows for the paint to nestle in very nicely, while the colored pencil scoots on the surface, leaving behind tiny bits of white. As it is a board it doesn’t warp when you get it wet. Even good watercolor paper can warp a bit if you don’t wet it all over and stretch it before painting on it. Back in the late 80s I learned of this wonderful board and technique (Prismacolor colored pencil and watercolor) from a scientific illustrator at the CA Academy of Sciences. She did wonderful and richly colored pieces of “space” art for the Morrison Planetarium.

I used to have no trouble finding this paper as I had a hefty package of what seemed like countless 30 by 40 inch sheets that I cut to whatever size I wanted as needed. The all over dark blue package it came in was easy to spot and it seemed that every time I looked into it there was always more. Until one day there wasn’t, and sadly that large blue package disappeared. I thought maybe I had used it all up, but was almost certain I still had a few smaller pieces tucked away into random places. Yeah, yeah, I guess I could buy some more. But, ever the optimist, I went looking for some because I wanted to do this piece for a friend for his birthday and didn’t want to wait for a paper delivery. 

I was delighted to find several pieces—none very large, but all would do well for what I call my smaller “jewel” pieces. For this one I grabbed some colored pencils that I thought would make a lovely backdrop of the two paintings that flanked the kitty—nothing too dark, but just enough color and ambience to make the dark and luxurious colors of the cat come alive and jump off the page. Then I brought in the darks/shadows of the cat. I have my all time favorite colored pencils that I use to get that color. And the final shade I get is dependent on the order I use them. I usually see a kind of final “glow” color and that will be what goes on last. Those “go to” colors include blue indigo, Tuscan red and dark brown. Sometimes, if I think green is needed I will add to this deep mix of loveliness forest green or even grass green. But for this one, the top pencil color is Tuscan red.

As far as the watercolor goes I use that to help with the shadows and sometimes the texture of the whole piece—background as well as focal point. So, I mixed a pale grey that I used to tone down the two paintings as well as shading for the kitty. It becomes a kind of layering of pencil, then watercolor, then pencil, and then watercolor. I did the same thing with his eyes—giving depth to that amazing blue with a light touch of blue indigo and then a water color wash of cobalt blue and cerulean, layer upon layer.

There is only one problem you really have to worry about with this kind of technique and that is you need to be careful with adding too much “waxy” colored pencil. Over time you can get what’s called wax bloom. That’s where the paper gets a kind of filmy white coating in the parts you’ve scrubbed in the color too much. So, don’t press too hard. I will say, that I actually kind of like having some of the areas get kind of smooth and shiny, it adds a nice texture to certain areas of interest. I think the kitty’s face and some of the background pieces, like the poppies on the left and the eucalyptus on the right, are enhanced some with a more smooth and silky surface.

Here’s what else I found while digging around…

Now, I am not a pack rat for most things. But when it comes to my art I have kept a lot of the work I have done over the years, including a mountain of sketches—some very rough, but many very finished and complete. In fact, I did a complete and detailed sketch to scale for this one. And I used it as a template for the finished piece, transferring the drawing directly to the illustration board. So this takes me to something else I found myself looking for—the transfer paper I made in the late 80s and have used countless times to do such a transfer. Luckily I found that paper in an old sketchbook from that time. Looking through the sketch pad it took me back to not only the landscapes I just described, but to some close up botanicals I did at that time as well—some of my other small “jewel” paintings of mostly flowers. And it was funny, but the minute I looked at the outside of the pad, I knew the transfer paper I was looking for would be inside.

Finally, as I was digging around, I found about a zillion fashion sketches/paintings I had done. Most of them had been created in the mid 80s when I was making clothing for sale and thinking about becoming a costumer for movies or theater or television. Some were very complete as large watercolors on lovely watercolor paper I remember soaking in my bathtub in Long Beach. Some still had traces of the brown paper tape I used to attach the paper to the hollow board used for this medium. Some were done with colored markers.

Oh yes, there are more people than you might imagine who come to SoCal to be in the movies. I know of a pool guy who wrote screen plays and a waitress who wanted to sing. Then there was my grandma. She had come to California from Canada in the 1920s, and she and her sister wanted to be in the movies too. I was a special education teacher working for Long Beach Unified School and I had thought about it too—seemed way more glamorous than teaching. I’m not sure if I was really that serious about costume design, but that’s probably what we all say when it doesn’t happen and your life takes a different turn. It is fun to have the art that has somehow recorded a California time and place for me. The best part is that now when I look at this recent piece it reminds me all over again of that art and those times. And I don’t have go digging for it. It’s right here!!

Happy Birthday Kelly, 5/29

May 25, 2019

Jacaranda, 5:18
Jacaranda tree, Glendale, 5/18/19 (watercolor pencil, Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

After I posted last week’s story of where art takes you I went on another “art” journey. And I went looking for jacaranda trees that are beginning to burst with impossibly bright purple flowers. I had seen quite a few when I was at the Mount St Mary’s University Doheny campus the day before. Mount St Mary’s is right near USC, the California Science Center and the Museum of Natural History. The tiny university is just two city blocks, but my my they had some lovely jacarandas blooming there. 

So the next day, I headed to where I knew some of these trees were blooming a little closer to home—in Glendale. And of course, this “art” journey became something of an all too familiar journey I had often done in this part of Glendale a couple years ago. So a quick sketch of a SoCal spring blooming jacaranda tree began an art gambol through the Glendale hills, where I greedily captured what I saw around me as I went. As I sat on my sheet of bubble wrap on the very cold concrete I formulated this plan of trying to capture several views as I walked along with my folded and cut watercolor paper, similar to the Sketchcrawl I wrote about April 27, 2019 on May 4, 2019. I must say that I was actually not inspired to sit there very long as every time I moved even the slightest bit I could hear the tiny bubbles pop that were trapped in the plastic. I knew it wasn’t going to be long before my posterior was sitting on  the cold concrete on a thin sheet of plastic, sans air bubbles of insulation. For this first one I wanted a kind vertical 3 rectangle sketch, emphasizing the expansive branches of the bright purple upper story, narrowing down on the left to the dark trunk of the jacaranda. (Isn’t that a great name? Jacarandas are not native to CA, like so many other flowering trees you can see down here, but comes from tropical and subtropical places in Mexico, Central and South America as well as islands in the Caribbean.) I was pretty excited about what I might see on my next stop, but kind of had the idea of going to the amazing pink stucco house that’s coming up next. I used walked past it on previous walks in this Glendale neighborhood. (See August 5, 2017 entry.)

Columbus, 5:18
Pink house on Columbus, 5/18/19 (pen and ink, watercolor pencil and Inktense pencil with watercolor crayon on watercolor paper)

Because of this kind of journey, I didn’t want to wait for anything to dry, so I didn’t add water to any of these pieces until I got home. Once I had the jacaranda just where I wanted it, sans water, I started the climb up the hill to this view. I have walked past this house countless times, visited with the next door neighbors, watched a for sale sign go and then down. And now the newer owners have added a massive fountain next to the pink wall in front. So, I stopped and sketched what you see here, focusing on the new fountain. Birds were coming and going and I wanted to capture it, with its bubbling water, that had invited new life to the pink stucco house. For the shape of this image, I dropped open the bottom right vertical rectangle, below the jacaranda,  and went to work. I liked the idea of doing this as a small 4 by 6 vertical piece because if I folded up the jacaranda just right, the welcoming fountain could be the front of a card I might put in an envelope so I could send it to someone. I have to admit, I really cheated on this one as I only did a pen and ink while standing there, adding the color and water when I got home. If you have ever stood and sketched anything, you know that it’s a little tricky to add too many elements to the paper when you are standing, as you are shifting materials in and out of a bag or pocket with one hand while holding the pad of paper with the other. So, I was there just long enough to see a couple birds, get the basics down, take a photo and head further up the hill. I wanted to capture one more piece on the back of my cut and folded watercolor paper before I headed to a Coffee Bean for a lovely double shot cappuccino. 

Kenneth, 5:18
House on Kenneth, 5/18/19 (pen and ink, Inktense pencil and watercolor pencils on watercolor paper)

It was truly a strange event for me to even stop and really look at this house. I normally don’t walk past it on Kenneth. I’ve driven by it, but have never really taken a good look as I speed by. For my usual journey through this neighborhood of Spanish revival houses, I come down the hill past just the corner of this one. And I have walked past there countless times, wondering who had painted this Italian villa inspired stucco house a couple odd shades of pink and ochre. There was also a small addition being added to this side and I was distracted by that as well. Yes, you could see some flowers here and there, but there was just too much boring grass and I didn’t realize there were so many palm trees in and around the house and lot. But for this Glendale gambol I found myself walking past the front of the house on the other side of the street. I noticed the whole house had been painted a rather lovely cream color. It was at this point I really noticed the amazing rose garden that was in full bloom the entire expanse of the front. I kind of stopped and almost gasped at my previous lack of attention to all this loveliness. I knew I wanted this image. So, I folded my paper into a long horizontal view so I could capture this lovely Italian looking stucco house with fountain and roses that a were bursting with color all along the low wall. I had the whole backside of the jacaranda and pink house fountain watercolor paper to do it. Woo hoo!

Finally, I had constructed the perfect three-piece art of my Glendale gambol. And it was all inspired by a lovely jacaranda tree. I don’t really have anyone in mind to send it to, so I think I’ll keep it awhile to remind me to always look again at things we think we have already seen. I was glad I had gone on my art journey, back to a familiar place to discover something new. Maybe it was good to be gone so long because it was fun to see it again. Where would you go visit again if you could? It doesn’t have to be a fancy far away place, it could even be something, or somewhere, in your own California backyard. 

May 18, 2019

Descanso May 5
Rose Garden, Descanso May 5, 2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Where does art take you?

On May 5th, my quest for art took me to the Descanso Gardens for a celebration of spring in the rose garden with some sketching friends. What a lovely quest for a lovely spring day. I wandered about around the edges of the rose garden and settled on a bench that was at the fence line and up slightly higher than the rest of that part of the garden. I thought this a good vantage point to look out over one entire side of flowers. There were roses of every size, shape, color and scent everywhere you looked. In fact, I thought it so great I imagined it was all mine. I imagined that I was looking at my little house nestled quite comfortably in the trees and flowers. It was fun to do this as I had forgotten how often in the past I had  projected myself into my landscapes so I could go wandering around there whenever I liked. Art can do that. It can transport you like a time machine that drops you into a wonderful place in the past as well as make you hover somewhere as long as you like in the now. 

My fantasy home you see here is actually the restrooms. But in my artistic mind I can walk right past them to a large nearby covered pavilion area. (They have weddings and receptions here.) I can imagine hanging a hammock or two from the massive beams in the ceiling there. (I say hammock or two because I may want to invite a fellow artist or friend to my fantasy.) There is a frig in this covered area directly in front of the restrooms (really). And in my fantasy garden I imagine that someone from a recent event has left some chilled champagne and maybe some yummy munchies for me and my guests. (Of course the food would need to be in the refrigerator too or I would surely have to fight off raccoons or skunks.)

Lilacs/Descanso Garden.jpg
Lilacs at the Descanso Garden, April 19, 2019 (Inktense pencils, watercolor pencils, ink, white acrylic on 6 by 9 watercolor paper)

I found myself at Descanso Gardens April 19th because I knew that the lilacs would be blooming. And my art quest for that day was to share those old fashioned flower clusters with someone who was getting over pneumonia and couldn’t come with me. So, I sent him a photo of the flowers and the art right there on the spot, as though he was sitting right next to me. Of course, he couldn’t actually smell the flowers, but he texted me back, saying that he was thankful for the art. Like I said, art can transport you to unimaginable places…

For example, the other day one of my students was wearing a t-shirt with a Storm Trooper on the front that was done in the style of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I have to admit that such an artistic journey leaves me a bit confused, but it did make an impression on me. (You guessed it, the kid was more interested in the connection with Star Wars rather than Van Gogh.) But maybe the art that goes into a good movie is worthy of a journey. Not that Academy Awards are a measure of artistic merit, but in 1976 the first Star Wars movie won an Oscar for best visual effects.

Other movies come to my mind that had noteworthy artistic cinematography that transports you to another time and place. I recently saw “Roma,” and it won for best cinematography last year. It was such a beautiful story set in 1970-71 Mexico City that moved seamlessly from charming family vignettes all the way to important and huge crowds and street scenes. After a while I didn’t even notice that it was in black and white. And the cinematography Oscar for 1965 went to Dr. Zhivago (set in pre and post WWI Russia). I remember my mom and dad saying that when they sat in the theater, watching the movie, they felt so cold as the art of each scene moved them along with countless characters slogging through the snow. Mom said they had some friends that had said they were really hungry throughout the movie, watching the people wandering around without enough to eat. Such is the power of art that can take you to a place, even one that is not familiar to you. The Red Violin is a personal favorite of mine that won an Academy Award for the original score of that movie in 1998. Not only does the music carry you around the world in a more than 300 year journey with its hauntingly music, but it also tells a cracking good story that starts out in Italy and ends in Montreal. So yes, stories that resonate with you can be another kind of artistic journey.

Are you moved by lyrics to a song, prose in a sonnet, or prayers beneath a psalm? Is there music that takes you to a special place because the melody reminds of someone? How about Billie Holiday? The minute I hear her singing, I am immediately transported to a 1930s or 40s smoke filled jazz club where she is performing, even though I wasn’t even born yet. 

I am a novice when comes to really appreciating the art in architecture, but when I heard that Notre Dome was burning, it made me profoundly sad. How about you? I recently saw a story about a contemporary Danish architect, named Bjarke Ingels. And looking at his work makes me want to walk around in the artistic spaces he has created in not only his many projects in Denmark, but also structures he has created in Paris and New York City.

So what kind of art strikes at your heart strings? And where does it take you?

The Literal Artistic Journey of the Lilacs

Yes, this piece of art had a bit of a journey all its own. And the story begins with me deciding to send it to my son a week or so after I had painted it. I often send him a watercolor, pen and ink or random sketch through the mail. He had said he liked lilacs, so one day I sent it to him—with added postage I might add. I wanted to be sure it got there safely. Have you guessed that it didn’t arrive? You would be right. It took three weeks for him to find it. But it appears it had actually arrived in a timely manner. A postal person delivered it, but put it under the welcome mat outside his front door, without any bit of it showing or note explaining that it was under foot. My son only discovered it this week when the mat moved ever so slightly and a corner of the envelope was exposed. Yeah! It wasn’t really damaged, but it had been trod upon over and over for several weeks. I’m glad he found it, but I had already decided it was lost and wondered if it would be discovered in a hundred years in the basement in the midwest by the great grand daughter of a So Cal postal worker. 

Reminds me a bit of a supposed ledger that Vincent Van Gogh had sketched in, and it was discovered on a shelf the Netherlands in 2016. Who am I kidding? Of course this is nothing like that! However, it seems that maybe the journey of his art to the 21st century is a hoax. According to the Van Gogh Museum, the sketches were not done by him after all. But at least my 2019 lilacs were found. I was a little disappointed that it wouldn’t be found in someone’s basement in a hundred years…

May 11, 2019

Zenaida vineyards
Zenaida Cellars, Highway 46, spring 2003 (watercolor and colored pencil on cold press illustration board)

I had this watercolor framed for my aunt and gave it to her for Christmas. I can’t remember exactly which year, but I think it was December 2005. She has it hanging in the guest room of their house in Long Beach. I often stay in that room when I visit and don’t really notice it anymore. But the last time I was there, I stopped to look closely and found myself remembering a whole laundry list of things related to this very winery on Highway 46 that inspired the watercolor and this story. We lived in Paso Robles from the late 1990’s to August 2003 and my son, the dog and I frequently drove past this spot as we headed for the beach in Cayucos. I remember noticing the vineyard in the early 2000s and stopped to take photos that I used to create this painting. They had a great painterly looking sign out front of a kind of abstract vineyard with black, green and a kind of ochre I think. It was really creative and bold. Besides the sign, I was particularly intrigued with this vineyard because the grape plants hadn’t been in the ground very long. (If you look on the internet for the story of Zenaida it says that the land was part of a 100 plus year old homestead and the current winemaker started developing the land in 1998.) The plants were pretty vertical in shape as the branches hadn’t been tortured, tamed and trained to knit together sideways into what would become seemingly endless rows of thick green in the spring and summer. Then, of course, once the plants matured, the lovely fruit would come on with the lovely wine that comes from that fruit. Back then you could see the soil in between each plant. And the red roses at the ends of each row seemed just as distinctive and important as the pending cash crop. Nothing needs to be added here regarding the beautiful oak trees on that property because if you have read any of my previous blogs, you would know I am obsessed and besotted with oaks. 

As I continued to study this painting my thoughts of this place continued on. We had left Paso Robles by August 2003, but there was quite an earthquake in Paso that December and Zenaida had a bit of damage. A periodical from the time said that they lost about 6 barrels of wine and a 2500 gallon stainless steel tank sprung a leak! Yikes. I knew another winemaker who said that after everything stopped shaking he drove around to see how everyone had faired. It seems others lost product as well. Unfortunately, the building that housed York Mountain Winery had considerable damage after the quake and it was soon condemned. Once the thoughts of that place and time in my life had drifted away from me, I stepped in even closer to really take a look at the paper and pigment. During those years I was obsessed with local landscapes where I used Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on my beautiful Strathmore cold press illustration board. The pencils left a kind of pebbly look, that I smoothed out in certain places with light layers of watercolor washes. I remember that I was obsessed with the texture of the illustration board and began wondering if I still had a few pieces that I could resurrect. And then, as quickly as my attention was initially drawn to the painting, I looked away again and walked out of the room, briefly thinking about where I might find pieces of that board in my stash of paper. Such is the fickle and fleeting nature of one CA girl artist.

And all of that was completely forgotten until I stopped at the Southwest Museum Gold Line Metro station on April 20th, when I was participating in the 63rd WW Sketchcrawl. I stepped off that train at that stop and immediately saw a hillside of solar panels that reminded me of Zenaida’s fledgling grape plants that I had seen and painted 16 “springs” ago. Funny how things seem to come together like that. Do you have such “ah ha” moments?  I happily did that sketch (posted on 4/27), channeling the Zenaida Vineyards from spring 2003. I vowed to look for a copy of that art when I got home. (When I first started painting in Paso Robles there was a guy in my neighborhood who had converted the back of his house into a photography studio. He photographed all of my canvases. As for my watercolors I used a printer on Spring Street—Poor Richard’s Press—for my copies of finished art. And when color copy machines got better, I made the color copies myself. I knew I should have a copy of the Zenaida vineyards that Poor Richard’s had made me, circa 2003, somewhere. Now I just take a picture of my art with my phone.) As you can see here, I found one. Funny, I didn’t think to look for illustration board at the same time I was hunting for the “old” Zenaida. I guess I will just have to wait for another moment of madness or obsession to hunt down any of that paper. 

Anyway, once I had decided I was going to write about the Zenaida Vineyards, and Highway 46, as I remembered it in 2003, I wanted to include a photo of their great “painterly” sign. When I looked them up on the internet I realized that they were somehow now called Zenaida Cellars. I thought that OK because in 2003 I don’t think there was a tasting room as yet because they didn’t have any product to taste and then sell. But guess what? They have changed their logo and now there is no sign of that sign anywhere on the internet. Now they have a giant Z for Zenaida instead of that wonderfully colorful sign that signaled the beginning of our journey to the beach and reminded me on my return trip that we were almost to 101 and home again. As you might imagine, I obsessed over finding just one picture of that sign, but found nothing. I should probably contact them directly to see if there was an image of it somewhere about.

I have calmed down since my first manic attack of looking for and finding a copy of this art, but not a picture of the original Zenaida sign. I have calmed down because I decided I should be glad that I stopped to take another look at this watercolor that had reminded me of so much. In the past I have written about the changes I have seen in my California, and I have tried hard not to lament over things I could not change. I mean, who really cares about that stupid sign. Right? This whole line of sign thinking reminds me of some other signs from that time and place. In the early 2000s I did a couple hand stenciled red and white signs for Linne Calodo, which is down the road from Zenaida on Vineyard Drive. Back then their tasting room didn’t even open onto Vineyard Drive, but was actually on Oakdale Drive. It was just a tasting room and some left over cattle fencing from an earlier time. I wonder what happened to those signs? All and all I have photos and art of both vineyards before they grew up and that’s pretty great. I’m glad I saw that area when the hills were still covered with golden safflower, deep pink vetch and just dirt brown nothingness. I’m glad I saw those hills before the Central Coast winery obsession surpassed the farmland it covered over in more ways than one. Thank God the oaks are still there. As I have said before, if those trees were gone, that would be a change I’m not sure I could handle.

May 4, 2019

Walking Man3
South Pasadena Gold Line Metro Station with public art “Astride-Aside”, 4/27/2019 (ink and colored pencil on Bristol Board)

You may have noticed that there are two connected sketches here, one on top of the other. For last week’s post I promised to record the fifth and final stop of our band of sketchers contribution to Sketchcrawl 63 on April 20th. (Even though I don’t think it actually counts for the actual Sketchcrawl.) And here is way more than I had originally planned. After participating in that very fun event I was so taken with the idea of speedily sketching everything you see in a given time on a given day that I started imagining how I could make such an endeavor a little more special the next time I was so inclined to chronicle places One CA Girl might go. So, I started thinking of how to present the day’s work in a slightly special way. Maybe I could start with the paper I use. I chose a couple different kinds, each 9 by 12 inches, and I folded and cut each sheet into the different rectangular sections you see here. I planned to take these ready made sketching windows with me to sketch at the South Pasadena Gold Line Metro station on the 27th. I was intrigued to see if having such ready made sketching windows would inspire different views for my work. Maybe something would be suited for a small rectangle? Or maybe a long narrow space would inspire a different idea for a sketch? And of course the rectangles I saw in my imagination could be in either portrait or landscape positions, it all depended on what looked best to me on the spot. And sure enough, when I sat down on the bench next to “The Walking Man” (it’s actually called Astride-Aside) I knew I wanted the long narrow rectangle (in landscape position) for the pen and ink view you see at the bottom. I thought that shape captured all of the hustle bustle of a busy train station with this sort of large bronze man barging through the station and across the street. I was now set to draw many more views from the South Pasadena Gold Line station, all I had to do was fold the paper into the rectangular shape I wanted. This particular station is a pretty lively place—with lots of trains coming and going, assorted bike riders and cars passing through the nearby intersection. A nearby parked car had a car alarm that went off every time a northbound train stopped at the station. But everyone kept moving around and no one came to silence his or her car. Just another busy Sunday noontime in South Pasadena.

A bit of nitty gritty arty information about the paper I used…if you’re interested…

As I said, I prepared and cut up two different kinds so paper. This is Bristol board, a good paper for ink and colored pencil as it has a smooth finish. In my experience it is not generally good for a wet medium. (It’s made by Strathmore and it says on the tablet cover that it’s “ideal” for airbrush experimentation—who knew?) I also similarly folded and cut 9 by 12 inch cold press watercolor paper. I had brought my watercolor and Inktense pencils in case I wanted to get the paper wet later. (It’s made by Canson and the outside tablet cover says it has a “durable” surface—sounds like a great kind of paper for an urban sketcher.) Once I decided on the long narrow view of Astride-Aside, I used a couple clips to hold the Bristol board in the horizontal position on the sturdy cardboard backing of a drawing pad I had also brought along. 

Walking Man2
“Astride-Aside” public art (2003), South Pasadena

I thought you might like to see what the bronze statue actually looked like from a different angle. The whole statue is made up of bands of bronze that look like they have been stretched and woven together over a larger than life form of a walking person and then welded in place. It kind of made me think of making a paper mache shape with a balloon form underneath. If you have never done this kind paper mache it’s kind of a mess, so do it outside.  First you blow up a balloon. Then you cover it with strips of paper that have been dragged through a wet and gluey mixture (flour and water). Then, once the paper strips have dried and hardened into place, you pop the balloon with a pin. And you should then have a great orb shape that is hollow to make into a huge Easter egg, a mask, or anything else you think could go on your head. (Of course, for the Astride-Aside man, I am guess there were no balloons used with hot strips of welded together pieces of bronze.) But I still kind of like the idea of the artist first making a model with balloons and paper mache…This has probably gone far enough, right?

Walking man1
Views from bench beside the public art at South Pasadena Metro Gold Line station, 4/27/2019 (ink, colored pencil and graphite on Bristol Board)

Here are the other vignettes I did from the same bench. The top one is of a clocktower with lovely greenery below. I think this view fascinated me because the clock was working, but the time was way off. I was trying to think of some clever reason for this clock. Was it meant to art rather than a time piece? I mean, there is some kind of irony in having a clock with the wrong time at a train station, yes?

The bottom pencil sketch, just to the right of the strange clock tower, had a nice plaque that told all about what you and I are looking at with this sketch. And here is what the plaque says of this South Pasadena Landmark: “Watering Trough” —Erected in 1906 by Woman’s Improvement Association as a rest stop for horses and men as they traveled between Los Angeles and Pasadena. Restored by Woman’s Club of South Pasadena Jrs. 1968.” (Oh, and I wrote all this information right on my handy dandy Sketching Card, another great use for this little piece of art.)

I think this little vignette is pretty cool. You can’t see it, but under the roof behind the pile of rocks is an area where a large stone trough was constructed. It’s filled in with concrete now, but it doesn’t take much imagination to imagine a horse drinking from that water-filled trough as the rider sat nearby in the shade. There’s a huge and beautiful oak nearby that I’m sure added to the comfort of this tiny oasis. (Note from me: I wonder who was in charge of filling the trough? Someone from the the Woman’s Improvement Association? Also, do you wonder like I do, why the group was called a Woman’s Improvement Association? And there appeared to be a similar club of  Junior “Woman’s” in 1968. Just wondering…

So, when I was all done, I had three quick sketches that I had completed while sitting on a bench in South Pasadena. I turned the art over in my hands and realized I might have something special here. Not only did I sketch things, but I added notes. Between today’s stories and the art, I think I really did what Enrique Casarosa suggested on his Sketchcrawl website—to draw or record what’s around you in a few hours, a day or whatever time frame you have to spare. Maybe this could work as a kind of card you send to someone. When completely folded it’s 4.5 by 6 inches and should fit nicely in an envelope. I send a lot of my sketches/watercolors to my son this way. And as long as I take a picture of the art I made, I don’t really need to keep it all. You could send it to someone with a note like…Greetings from South Pasadena…Thinking of you…Wish you were here…Look what I did today…If kids had to make such a little card at school every now and then, describing what he or she did at school on a given day, then parents wouldn’t have to anticipate a non-answer to the question, “What did you do at school today?” Almost anything’s better than having your kid say, “Nothing.” Right? 

Happy Birthday Michael, 5/4 at 10:42PM

April 27, 2019

Speed sketching, 2nd stop, Chinatown, 4/20/2019 (ink and graphite on mixed media paper)

Last Saturday I participated in an event called “Speed Sketching at the Gold Line of the Metro for SketchCrawl 63.” For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, here is how that event went down. First, I will describe the speed sketching part on the Gold Line and then I will fill you in about SketchCrawl 63. A gang of sketchers agreed to meet at the downtown Los Angeles Union Station at the entrance to the Metro’s Gold Line. About 15 of us found ourselves assembled at that very spot at the appointed time. We then looked to the leader of the group to explain what we were going to do first. She said that we were first going to sketch whatever we liked at the “Union Station” Gold Line platform until a train going north came into the station. Then we were to get on that train, hopefully together, and travel along to the next stop she had posted online. (Of course I had no idea about any such online list and was just glad that I had gotten to step one.) She said we were headed for South Pasadena and we would stop along the way to sketch at other Gold Line Metro platforms. She also said that the trains going north would be coming by every 14 to 24 minutes. And now I bet you are getting the idea of the “speedy” part of this speed sketching outing. So, we went upstairs to the downtown platform and all took out our various materials and began sketching a kind of cool downtown LA skyline. Seven minutes later our first train pulled in. (Hey what happened to the 14 to 24 minutes, right?) Anyway, we all quickly stuffed our sketching materials into pockets and bags and got on the train for the next sketching stop—Chinatown. 

As you may have noticed the first sketch you see here is a view from the Chinatown platform of the Metro Gold Line. I didn’t start my story with that first skyline sketch as it was pretty rough and a kind of “warm up” really. (I am never sure how people find my blog and didn’t want anyone to blow off this post because my 7 minute sketch of the LA downtown skyline looked like chicken scratching instead of actual human sketching.)  So, this second sketch was done at the Chinatown platform and our fearless leader let one train go by so those of us who had brought watercolors would have a few more minutes to get down some color. When I packed my bag that morning it seemed like speediness would be important so I brought only dry materials—ink pens, graphite pencils, some colored pencils and my trusty sheet of bubble wrap to sit on should the need arise. I don’t like to do anything wet unless I have more time to let things dry in between my bits of indecision of what to do next. And as I have said before, I hate carrying heavy sloshing things, like water, if I plan to be out sketching for any length of time.

Southwest Museum
Speed sketching, 3rd stop, 4/20/2019 (ink and colored pencil on mixed media paper)

This wasn’t actually the next Gold Line stop after Chinatown. We whizzed past the Lincoln/Cypress and Heritage Square stops, and then got out at the Southwest Museum platform. For this one, I was drawn to a view of some uniquely planted solar panels that covered a hill surrounded by swaths of bright yellow mustard. I was actually intrigued with the symmetry of the panels as they kind of reminded me of rows and rows of grape plant stakes you might see in a new vineyard. I say new vineyard because there are no bright green leaves on vine stems in the beginning, but it reminded me of a newly planted vineyard as the plants are just slender grey cuttings with no visible life. Because of the bright yellow flowers I knew I wanted to use my colored pencils for this one. I rolled out my sheet of bubble wrap on a concrete cube that looked like a giant die that was melting into the concrete platform and sat down to work. The concrete was cold and the bubble wrap provided just the right amount of insulation, with some comic relief as some of the bubbles popped as I moved around. Most of the other sketchers looked up for inspiration while speedily sketching away at this stop. And here is why. Close to where I was sitting was a 13 foot tall white column with a winged creature on top. The column sat atop two dice and the “guardian” on top had an ornate crown and was covered with sparkly mosaics. The arms of this guardian seemed to be pointing in the directions of where we had just came from and where we were headed next, up and down the line. If you are interested, Google art on the Metro Gold Line and you will be treated to all of the Metro art that you can see along this line of public transportation. Thank goodness our leader suggested we let another train go by while we were there. By now, it seemed we had each figured out some kind of routine for packing up in a hurry. And for some that meant carefully carrying around something wet—they were much braver than I.

Highland Park
Speed sketching, 4th stop, 4/20/2019 (ink and graphite on mixed media paper)

This was the next stop after the Southwest Museum, Highland Park. It was here I decided to embrace all the power lines and other man made stuff that you might find at a typical public transportation platform. In fact, I put in as many lines both vertical and horizontal that I could see in the direction we would soon be headed. I can’t remember if we let another train go by or not, but it was actually fun to attempt a speedy sketch of lines going every which way—not at all my comfort zone. We were even treated to the musical stylings of a lone mocking bird. All of this somehow worked for me. But of course, before I could really relax and actually add all the parts I had intended to include for this one, another northbound train came along. We all dutifully packed up and got on. Pretty soon we found ourselves at the next station in South Pasadena.  We all got out and stood next to “The Walking Man” sculpture that towered over us at the South Pasadena platform. Our leader said that this was to be our final stop and we were to make one more speedy sketch here. But with no impending train to catch and most, if not all of us, feeling a might peckish we stopped for lunch with every intention of doing a quick sketch after eating. Once we had finished lunch we gathered again for a “throw down” of all the work we had done that morning while standing nearby the looming “Walking Man” metal sculpture. Then photos were taken and we were to stay and do a final sketch. By then there were only a few sketchers left who did just that. I was ready to go home and bailed. I decided I would come back another time to finish our marathon speed sketching of the north bound Gold Line of the Metro. (In fact, if all goes to plan I will go back tomorrow.) 

Remember I promised to tell you about the other part of our event—the WW SketchCrawl? If you are interested, read on. If not, no worries and good bye for now. Even though I did not sketch our final stop last Saturday, I hope to share the South Pasadena Gold Line Metro Station next time… I don’t know if it still counts as part of the 63rd WW SketchCrawl, but that’s fine with me.

What is the WW Sketch crawl?

According to our fearless leader, and a bit of my sleuthing on the internet, the World Wide Sketchcrawl was started in in 2004 in San Francisco by Enrico Casarosa (storyboard artist and director who works at Pixar). It seems that he and some of his buddies had gotten on an SF N Judah Muni line street car with the intent of going on a pub crawl. (I have ridden on the N Judah. I used to take that streetcar when I worked at the CA Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.) Mr. Casarosa said they had planned to go to 10 pubs/bars, but only made it to 7. But I guess this somehow gave him the idea of a sketch crawl, where the intent was to spend the whole day intensely drawing everything he saw around the city. He said he wanted a nonstop recording of everything within sight. Mr. Casarosa said he took his journal, watercolors and a pencil, and filled it with SF city details. I read about this now world wide phenomenon at sketchcrawl.com. He said he filled his journal with a variety of things, such as: all the coffee he drank and all the different buses he took that first day. He turned that day into a marathon of drawing and has kept this idea alive and well since then. Mr. Casarosa has taken his idea globally and invites groups of people to get together for a marathon day of speedy sketching around his or her city on specified days. And the 63rd Sketchcrawl happened on April 20th, and we were all part of it! I don’t know when the next one will take place, but I may not wait until then to do some speedy sketches. Some of you may want to see what a huge “Walking Man” metal sculpture looks like. Right? Stay tuned…

Happy Birthday dad, April 25. I miss you!


April 20, 2019

Canadian geese pair, Norton Simon, 4/5/2019 (graphite sketch)

When I went to the Norton Simon the first Friday of this month, I first went to the back garden (as is my usual). For two previous springs a pair of Canadian geese have settled by the Monet pond to lay their eggs. I had hopes to see them a third spring time. As I walked out the door I heard them, but there was no fenced off part of the pond with a nest and no sign of either bird. I walked around to the side of the pond they had nested in the past, again to make sure there was nothing there, even though the honking continued. (That’s a funny thing we do. Why do we attempt to look for something we know isn’t there? I mean, if your car is not where you left it, why would you look around for it? It’s not there!) Guess what? They were on the roof of the museum nearest the spot they had nested two previous springs. So, I walked back inside the museum and asked one of the guards about them. He said that they had probably laid their nest somewhere else and were just hanging around at the pond. I thought that sounded a little weird, but didn’t question his thoughts on the subject as he seemed certain that they had done exactly that. (I have had run ins with the guards at this museum and decided there would be no point in telling him that none of that made any sense.) I told him how I thought it kind of great that the museum folks would just put up a temporary bit of fencing to keep people away from the eggs and the eventual goslings. He said that some people got upset with the temporary plastic fencing because it ruined the effect of the pond. Of course I thought that even weirder than the geese laying their eggs somewhere else, and then just coming to the Norton Simon to visit…

So, I sat on a rock beside their previous nesting place and looked up to the roof, thinking I could get a couple of good sketches of the birds anyway. The rock was covered with geese poop, but it didn’t smell so I sat down. Thank goodness I had my trusty sheet of bubble wrap to sit on. (I never go sketching anywhere without it.) As I started to draw, it became clear that this was all I was going to get. In fact, it seemed the longer I sat there, the further they inched away from view. But I persisted and started the next sketch you see here, hoping they would think I was ignoring them and would come out a little more. And oh, there weren’t three birds on the roof. I sketched the bird on the left a couple times—as he moved from the flat rooftop next to his mate up to a higher bit of roof—further away from me. And you may have noticed the bird on the right shared only her backside. (Not sure how I came up with the idea of which one was the male and which one the female.) Hmmm…

Looking for geese
Back garden of Norton Simon, 4/5/2019 (pen and ink and graphite)

My plan was to aim my body toward the pond, sketching away at this view. I planned to occasionally look over my shoulder, hoping they would come out so I could draw them in different positions. But they were too smart for me and eventually, when I looked over my shoulder to the rooftop in their direction, you couldn’t even see a feather blowing in the breeze.

But this sketch was fun to do anyway as I wanted to capture the bronze of the three nymphs just inside the museum. I had this kind of funny idea to make sure that your eye was drawn along the edge of the pond to the back entrance to the garden, but the sun was coming in at a crazy angle and their heads were in complete shadow. And since I couldn’t see their heads I decided to focus on another part of their anatomy that could be clearly seen, even from across the pond. You can definitely make out a couple booties, right? If you have read many of my previous blog posts, you may have noticed that I often include bits and pieces of things I see just to amuse me. I actually did a story of the bronze ladies from the front in August 19, 2017. It was a hot August day and I sat inside looking at the shrubbery of the outside garden between their thighs, torsos, arms and heads. 

Not quite sure why I am always drawn to be outside to paint or sketch. So many of my urban sketching brethren draw in places that just don’t appeal to me—laundromats, coffee houses, airports etc. I think I just like the natural light outside better than what can be generated inside. I remember going with a gang of Urban Sketchers to draw people at Union Station in downtown LA a couple years ago. It was kind of a cool day where various groups and/or individuals had brought musical instruments and were playing Bach. I mean, there was one guy in front of a ticket area with a harpsichord. Anyway, I tried to draw the musicians. But finally I went outside, ordered a cappuccino and sketched the people I saw out there. However, it was a very satisfactory experience as the live music came out of the open doors and windows and I could hear and enjoy it in my peculiarly particular way.

This morning, I participated in something called a World Wide Sketchcrawl. In fact it was the 63rd WW Sketchcrawl. We met at Union Station in downtown and road the Gold Line metro north, getting off at certain stops to engage in a bit of speed sketching—very fun. Our final stop was South Pasadena, where we had lunch and shared our artwork. There are a couple I might share in next week’s blog post. It was overcast today, but it was lovely to be outside sketching. It’s pretty amazing here in SoCal, no matter what the LA haters say!