Saturday, November 24, 2018

Mannequinn Madness, Oakland

Mannequin Madness: "the one stop shop for all things mannequin." Owner Judi Townsend repairs, recycles, rents and sells mannequins, torsos, heads, hands, feet and more.

It was fun overhearing customers' plans for their purchases. Creative examples on display that day were a mannequin with a computer screen head and a torso covered with silk leaves and flowers.

Thanks, Judi for the opportunity to sketch some of the Mannequin Madness.

The Madness of Mannequins

There are more interesting locations to sketch than you would sometimes think existed. Mannequin Madness in Oakland is a small busy place with a variety of whole- and partial-mannequins. Though I didn't get to them, the bins of arms were amusing!

More Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos Festival, Oakland

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Day of The Dead Festival, Fruitvale in Oakland

Some of us met up at the Fruitvale BART station for the Dia de Los Muertos Festival last Sunday (see Vivian's sketch in following post). Wonderful event! Very colorful and heartfelt displays, many people in costume, great cars and lots of food. Join us next year for some good sketching! — Cathy McAuliffe

Day of the Dead Festival at Fruitvale, Oakland

This drawing got away from me but truly when I stepped off BART at the Fruitvale station I was greeted by this colorful onslaught. -- Vivian Aldridge

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Is there Dignity in Housing Tomato Sauce?

Built in 1915 this building was a store but later it was converted as office space for tomato sauce (Heinz.) Now it is a French American school which I think is much more dignified for such a beautiful building. This building was designed by a noted local architect, John Hudson Thomas and is located at 1009 Heinz Street in Berkeley near Berkeley Bowl -- Vivian Aldridge

Friday, November 2, 2018


Hot press 4" x 7" 
One more small watercolor from my South Lake Tahoe getaway. Is it still an urban sketch if the location is two miles from the nearest store?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Fort Baker

It seems to be all about the Golden Gate Bridge this week. Spent yesterday with sketchers Susan Cornelius at Fort Baker which is a 335 acre former 1905 U.S. Army post located immediately north of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are over 25 historic army buildings clustered around a main parade ground, a sheltered harbor protected by a jetty, vies of San Francisco, the Bay and of course the Bridge. Everywhere you looked there was something to sketch! – Cathy McAuliffe

Fort Point Lighthouse Below the Golden Gate Bridge

Before last weekend, I had never sketched Fort Point Lighthouse, located just below the towering Golden Gate Bridge. The iron lighthouse was built in 1863, but once work began on the bridge in 1933, the lighthouse was obscured from view and soon decommissioned. A fog signal and navigational light were then placed at the base of the bridge’s south tower. It became a National Historic Site in 1970 cementing its perch overlooking the bay.
If you haven't experienced the bridge from below, you’d probably be impressed by the energy surrounding it. The structure's enormous size, the sounds of non-stop traffic, the tide moving in out of the bay in conjunction with the weather swirling around the span all provide an electrifying experience that crackles with energy.
I sketched atop the fort for a couple of hours, before strong winds, fog and cold drove me to seek shelter in the fort below.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Autumn in South Lake Tahoe and beyond

Dangberg Ranch, Minden, NV
Made a visit to South Lake Tahoe and Nevada with like-minded friends to admire the autumn sights and try to capture the colors.

Abandoned cyanide mill outbuilding, Virginia City

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Redwood Hill Farms

Great day out sketching at Redwood Hill Farms. The Bice family started the farm 50 years ago and although the goat cheese operations were sold a few years back, the farm remains in family hands. It's a gorgeous place to sketch! I chose this small cottage thinking it was a fairly easy subject to paint but quickly found out to the contrary. My biggest problem is still not going dark enough and having to do multiple layers. I'll have to work on that! For those who would like to visit the farm (highly recommended) it will be open again to the public later this month. You can find out more here on Facebook at:

Friday, October 5, 2018

Flowerland on a Lazy Afternoon

How enjoyable to sketch at Flowerland on a Fall afternoon with a delicious cappuccino at my side, two other Urban Sketchers present and lovely plants all around.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


An actual bed of succulents at Flowerland in Albany. Wonderful place to sketch and to shop. A neighborhood favorite since 1947. (Scroll down to see Susan Ford's sketch.)—Cathy McAuliffe

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Flowerland Nursery, Albany

Flowerland Nursery opened in 1947. When I was a landscaper in the '90s and aughts, Flowerland was the place to buy sod---those pregrown rolls of grass that provide instant garden greenification.

My, how things have changed, at least on this side of the Caldecott Tunnel. Garden designers I know would be abashed to spec a lawn today.

Flowerland has been redesigned, too. Under new ownership since 2008, sod has long disappeared from the inventory. Outside, the old marquee sign still amuses pedestrians with pithy horticultural puns. Inside, Flowerland's become an East Bay nursery destination offering Highwire Coffee from an airstream trailer, Fermob French modern garden furniture, and the most beautiful pots and plants. You can also expect the best garden advice from professional plant experts like Griff Hulsey.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Brennan's threw in the (bar) towel

May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past. 
I've never seen as many patrons enjoying supper and a pint as I did at Brennan's nine days before they closed their doors forever.

In a quirky article in Eater, co-owner Margaret Wade, granddaughter of founder John Brennan claimed that rising rent, climate change and cocaine use in the '70s are contributing factors to Brennan's closure after a 60-year run.

Berkeley City Club

An historic hotel in downtown Berkeley, the Berkeley City Club is an architectural gem constructed in 1927 and designed by California architect Julia Morgan.

In 1890, young girls typically married after high school. Not Julia Morgan. She attended UC Berkeley, which had just begun enrolling women, studied Civil Engineering under the tutelage of architect Bernard Maybeck and was the only woman in the graduating class of 1894 with a degree in Civil Engineering. She was also the first woman to enroll in Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1898, where she received her Master's degree in architecture in 1901. Julia, you do us proud.

On this courtyard, surrounded by the Club on four sides and open to the darkening sky, this fountain nymph which resembled a small laughing boy was transformed under my hand into an approximation of Mark Twain in a loincloth.

Transit Center Desert

One day before the transit center closed down due to a crack in a supporting beam I painted this desert garden in the park. If this transit center and park remains closed for a very long time perhaps I should add a tumbleweed to this scene.--Vivian Aldridge

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Transit Center Rooftop Garden

So very pleasant to sketch on the Rooftop Garden at the new Transbay Transit Center with worker bees having picnic lunches before returning to work, I loved the palm trees

Monday, September 24, 2018

Transbay Transit Center Rooftop Park

The three-block-long Transbay Transit Center is envisioned as the Grand Central Station of the West, with buses and high-speed rail pumping 100,000 visitors in and out of the city.

With no high-speed rail connection as yet, what we have is a glorious LEED-certified bus station serving 14,000 daily AC Transit commuters -- and no one's sure who to bill for the $20M in yearly maintenance costs.

Details, details. For now, let's go up on the roof. There are fantastic vistas and sketching opportunities everywhere you turn. Everyone enjoys getting out of the office, catching some sun, a walk and maybe some lunch on the grass.  There are exercise classes, live music, games and art supplies.

I always enjoy snippets of overheard conversation. A young woman in a Salesforce vest asked her friend, "Oh, you must mean the guy that just started Monday? There's like, some new person every day!" One of my favorites was from a young guy recounting what he'd accomplished (at work?) that day: "Oh yeah. Dude. I love it. I watched Netflix all morning." Awesome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Transit Center and Salesforce Park

I made a return visit to the new San Francisco Transit Center. The first time I was there were 20,00 other people in the rooftop park for the grand opening! Yesterday there was the "normal" lunchtime crowd. It was great both times. It is nice to have different views of the city and the park itself is lovely. – Cathy McAuliffe

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Underneath it all at the New Transbay Terminal

Underneath the transbay terminal exists another world...not a world of trees and grass like the park on the top level but a world of massive beams and metal lattice. Feels like the year 2060. --Vivian Aldridge

Friday, September 7, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Brennans

My first time at this hofbrau that included an old fashioned bar. Then I heard it was closing for good. Darn! I had the best roast beef sandwich there. Loved how they had converted this old train station and turned it into a restaurant for the last 60 years. 
--Vivian Aldridge

Friday, August 24, 2018

Nothing like a chunky boat

Went to an event called  "Festival of the Sea" at Hyde Pier in San Francisco, and drew this chunky tug boat. I was so captivated by its shape I did not mind sitting in a fierce wind and turning into an ice cube :-) -- Vivian Aldridge

Thursday, August 23, 2018

U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden

watercolor and colored pencil
U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden is one of my favorite places to sketch. The cactus garden had special appeal this time with crazy colors, forms and adaptations.  The sun was hot but wisps of cold fog snuck in from the Bay. There were descending whistles of the hummingbirds diving again and again from dizzying heights and the scratchy sound of gardeners' rakes on gravel paths. The occasional group of schoolkids wandered the narrow paths and stairs in animated, boisterous conversation.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Albion River Bridge

The Albion River Bridge, located where the Albion River meets the sea, is the last timber trestle bridge on the California Coast. Caltrans wants to replace it with a concrete bridge but the local Mendocino residents want to save their beloved landmark.

Because of WWII concrete and steel shortages,  the bridge was constructed in 1944 of salvaged wood and a steel center truss that was salvaged from an older bridge.

In 2014, Caltrans determined that the bridge, "is reaching the end of its service life and becoming too expensive to maintain." Preservationists, distrustful of Caltran's assessment, successfully added the bridge to the National Register of Historic Places. The debate continues . . . .