Friday, March 27, 2015

Claremont Diner, Too

Shame on me . . . . I've lived in Oakland since '85 and never stepped inside this little corner diner until last night. It's a '50s throwback time machine with brightly colored wooden booths, counter seating, interior neon signage and a train running circles high above the customers' heads.

I'll be back for a BLT and a vanilla shake.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Claremont Diner

Today's Claremont Diner at the intersection of College and Claremont Avenues in Oakland sits on the site of a one-time Baskin-Robbins ice cream store.  The owner purchased that business, remodeled it to a diner and opened in 1989.  One of the unusual features is the model train running on tracks close to the ceiling.  The vintage radios also make you feel like you are in a '60s diner anywhere in America.  (excerpted from "Long Time on the Avenue for Many Merchants" from the Rockridge Community Planning Council website)

From across the street as the light faded

The open doorway of the diner with the art deco booths inside

Monday, March 23, 2015

Urban Sketchers 2015 Symposium: Singapore!

Early bird registration for the July 22-25, 2015 Singapore Symposium is now open! 
Here's the LINK for more information!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

More views of Le Bateau Ivre

See Ceiny's sketches below of our sketch group's evening at the Berkeley restaurant Le Bateau Ivre. I moved around a little (as usual) and got a sketch of the kitchen, the patio and the dining room.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brides of March

This is too good to skip. The Brides of March performed their annual event in the heart of San Francisco. Full grown men (and women, true, but that's less spectacular) gather in wedding dresses, parade through the streets and pose for onlookers - such as me. There is a bit of a rational for all of this to be found at Seasoned SF residents don't even raise an eyebrow at all this. More at

Oliver, as visual flaneur

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Le Bateau Ivre

Le Bateau Ivre ("The Drunken Boat") Restaurant, named after the poem by Rimbaud, is located on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue in a renovated French home built in 1898.  It opened as a cafe/restaurant in 1972, a year after I moved to the Elmwood neighborhood nearby.  I can't count how many cups of coffee and intimate conversations I had there before I moved away in 1980.

Susan's Dinner at Gaumenkitzel

Susan's Dinner, graphite and gouache,7x9 inches
When we met a Gaumentkitzel for sketch night I'd already had dinner so just ordered a decaf and sketched Susan's dinner instead. I added gouache at home. Here is Susan's sketch and photo of the same meal and here are a bunch of sketches from this charming and friendly Berkeley restaurant.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SF MOMA has been closed while a new wing is being built. The anchor piece of the new space will be a Richard Serra sculpture. The interlocking steel spirals - which are 13 feet tall and together weigh a whopping 235 tons. And since the addition's ground floor will be clad in glass, the much-praised "Sequence" should be visible even when the museum is closed.

I went to the museum last month to watch the last of the 12 parts being moved into the space. After it is placed inside the rest of the building facade can be installed. While I was sketching a photographer from the SF Chronicle took photos of me sketching. So in the both Richard Serra and I were featured in the paper's article!

Saturday, March 14, 2015


The itinerary for my set of posts is all scrambled, but it doesn't matter. Suffice it to say that I arrived in Popayan, a town in the South of Colombia, in the middle of the night after a bus ride up from Ecuador. Colonial architecture, churches and a laid back atmosphere. Geographically closer, yet very different from the places covered in my upcoming travelogue.
Oliver, as visual flaneur

Hotel La Rose, Santa Rosa

A quick 20 minute sketch today while out with my sketch group "Ready, Set, Sketch!"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wurster Hall, U.C. Berkeley

Tonight our group went to the College of Environmental Design at U.C. Berkeley to sketch and to see an exhibit in the Wurster Hall Library called "Designing People"--a display of the ways different architects over the last century have included homeowners, children, pets, shoppers, and condo-dwellers in their architectural renderings to convey the scale and functionality of a proposed design.

In a corner of the library, incongruously underneath a set of paper lanterns and amidst groups of students studying on their laptops, is an eight foot tall cast of the Smiling Angel on the north portal of Reims Cathedral, probably sculpted around 1240, left over from the French exhibit at the Panama Pacific Exposition.

Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe

Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe is named for a common mode of transport in many developing countries -- the tuk tuk -- a three-wheeled auto rickshaw. There's a tuk tuk parked in the restaurant, much to the delight of the kids who'd rather play in the tuk tuk than sit down and eat with their parents.

I was charmed by the hand-carved wooden column in the center of the room and all the indispensable bottles of Sriracha sauce lined up on the table nearby.

Vietnamese refugee and entrepreneur, David Tran   created and successfully marketed the red hot Sriracha pepper sauce here in California. Sriracha was once named Bon Appetit Magazine's ingredient of the year.

Unfortunately, Tran never obtained a trademark for his famous sauce. Food conglomerates Heinz, Frito-Lay, Subway and Jack-in-the-Box are all jumping on the Sriracha tuk tuk and can market their own Sriracha products without paying David Tran a royalty dime. Tran says he doesn't regret it because it's all free advertising for his company.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jo-Ann's, Too

Sketching at Jo-Ann's Fabrics and Crafts was a learning experience .  . . I was challenged (and failed) to accurately communicate the size of the objects I drew. These anti-pill fleece solids are richly colored bolts of cloth but without context, they could just as easily be fruit roll-ups!

This pincushion is a three-dimensional wall decoration which was located high on the wall above my head and is perhaps four feet wide. I had to tell you this information because again, the sketch provides no context. Without sketching in the fluorescent light fixtures overhead or a weary shopper gazing up at the thing, it could just as easily be a pincushion held in the palm of my (invisible) hand.

It was still good fun sketching with new and old friends at Jo-Ann's.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lunar New Year Celebration

Tonight is the annual Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. It is often raining for the parade but tonight will be warm and clear so the crowds should be larger than the usual.  Started in the 1860's it is one of the few remaining night illuminated Parades in the country with over 100 units. In 2012 I posted sketches of the parade. A few weeks ago I went to the Lunar Flower Market, a fair in Chinatown that featured a smaller parade on Grant Avenue. The whole area was decorated for the celebration with red paper signs, banners and lanterns. These sketches are from that day.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store

Huge, brightly lit space in El Cerrito Plaza, stuffed to the gills with . . . colorful stuff.  Found myself gravitating to the whimsical and slightly fey. 

The large sign above the fabric cutting table.

Used a new sketching tool for me--a ballpoint pen--suggested by Andrea Joseph, last week's teacher in Danny Gregory's on-line Sketchbook Skool Klass.  But I ended up using watercolor pencil also.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Berkeley Ironworks

Hundreds of people pass through the doors of Berkeley Ironworks Indoor Rock Climbing and Fitness Club each day.  The place is colorful and teeming with activity.  Thanks to Lyn, Ben and the rest of the staff for welcoming us to have this sketching adventure.

Ironworks Climbing Gym, Berkeley

I haven't seen this many toned bodies in one place at one time since my last visit to Venice Beach. What an excellent way to get in shape, meet other active folks and test your acrophobia. A great place to learn that in my case, more figure drawing practice is needed. Fun evening. Thanks, Ironworks and thanks Ceiny for arranging our visit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pallet Space, Junk Shop

Sketching Miscellaneous Junk at the Pallet Space, ink and colored pencil
The Pallet Space is or was (I think it was going out of business when we were there) a sort of storefront flea market fully of "treasures and trash" where we had fun sketching random junk one evening. 

Climbing (or not) in Berkeley

Berkeley Ironworks Climbing & Fitness Gym is in a giant old industrial building. They have a 45 foot lead wall, 14,000 square feet of climbing terrain, 2,500 square feet of bouldering and 100 top & lead ropes. What that means for our sketch group is that there were hundreds of climbers all over the walls! It was a figure drawing paradise! The staff and climbers were very friendly and happy to explain techniques and equipment to us. It was great fun to watch and sketch but I think I will be staying on the ground.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Springtime, Bort Meadow, East Bay Regional Park, Oakland

Over the years, I've come to Bort Meadow in the springtime to admire the greening and the flowering trees. The place communicates something intangible . . . a sense of history . . . did the Ohlone people once hunt and fish here . . . before an early Spanish settler planted an orchard?

Malcolm Margolin, local author of The Ohlone Way and East Bay Out provides no definitive record of this quiet place.

So I listen to the meadow and try to communicate not just how it looks, but how it feels.

But my quiet revery is continually interrupted by my pesky companion who demands that I throw the tennis ball . . .  again.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Tacubaya on 4th Street, Berkeley

Sketching from under the awning in front of Tacubaya on 4th Street, Berkeley, ink and watercolor 5x7 inches

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Minca, just an hour and a half by bus from Santa Marta, yet a world away. I drove through the pouring rain up the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains. Getting out in the middle of the rainforest with a view all the way to the coast, I draw random dudes on a motorbike with cases of beer in the background. I am a hopeless case.

Oliver, as visual flaneur

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Santa Marta

Heat. Sweltering heat on Colombia's caribbean coast.
As I was traveling through Santa Marta I read 'The General in His Labyrinth'. In it, Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes the last days of Simon Bolivar, the great leader in the struggle of Latin America's independence. He died in Santa Marta. Not in battle and not of the heat either, but of tuberculosis.
Oliver, as visual flaneur

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cartagena's people

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia's inventor of magic realism, set several of his works in Cartagena. Not least for its people. He will also feature in my illustrated travelogue to come...

Oliver, as visual flaneur

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cartagena’s protection against pirates

This is a small part of Cartagena’s city wall.

In the 17th century Cartagena was in Spanish hands. Royalty decided to build a fortress with a wall around the city to protect it from pirates. It should take more than 208 (!) years to finish the 11km wall.  In 1756, while in Madrid, Charles III of Spain took his spyglass and allegedly said: ” This is outrageous! For this prize those castles should be seen from here!”

They are nice walls, though.

Oliver, your visual flaneur