Saturday, June 23, 2018

10x10 Urban Sketching Workshops

The International Urban Sketchers organization and San Francisco Bay Area Urban Sketchers
are bringing back the popular series of on-location sketching workshops, starting April 2018.

Each workshop will be 3 hours long and will take place on either Saturday or Sunday.
Check the schedule for exact times and days.

Workshops are designed for all levels of participants, but check class details to see if it’s a
good fit for you. Class size is limited to 15 participants.

Here is a link to all 10 workshop descriptions with links to sign-ups:…/1TpZC6xlsFGI9GzhblaC678DbSf…/view

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Virtual Reality as an Educational Tool (A Reportage Sketch)

I went to a virtual reality event held at the Oakland Museum garden featuring not only a virtual reality narrative but also live music, and speakers. I had never worn that type of headset before and was pretty flabbergasted at what I saw and felt. It truly is a 3-d experience!
At the event you could also engage with avatars that were programmed with AI (artificial intelligence.) The avatars were students in a classroom setting. They were having a disagreement and it was your job to facilitate a discussion. Simply amazing. I definitely can see this being of value in an educational setting but I still find it kind of spooky too. --Vivian Aldridge

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Steamy Stuff at the Autodesk Gallery

Sketched a few of the items on display at the Autodesk Gallery in downtown San Francisco. This gallery showcases the creative process and shows how people are using new technology to imagine and design innovated products.

While we there the customer engagement rep took great interest in us an exclaimed, "In the three years that I have been working here I have never seen artists come in here to sketch."  She was delighted! I told her the best things happen when art meets science.
--Vivian Aldridge

Monday, June 11, 2018

Macramé Makes A Comeback

I went to Sebastopol this weekend to sketch with Somona County sketchers at The Barlow an area that has repurposed a former Applesauce Plant. This area is home to Gravenstein Apples and this plant used to process the crop. It is now a collection of shops, restaurants, wineries and breweries. I posted a sketch on Instagram of a florist shop and their giant Macramé hangings. Wow! People have some strong feelings about macramé as I found out in the comments!

In addition to the "controversial" knots I also sketched some of the colorful buildings in The Barlow. Nice day with warm weather and friendly sketchers. – Cathy McAuliffe

Monday, June 4, 2018

Ice Cream and Behind the Curtain

This ice cream shop in Oakland offers a visual and audio feast. You can watch your ingredients being stirred and frozen before your eyes. Nothing is hidden from view. As you watch you will be entertained by lively music with driving beats. And if you are lucky, or unlucky depending up on your state of mind, you will hear the loud shrieks of delight from visiting children.: -P  -- Vivian Aldridge : -)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Emeryville waterfront

I have missed Snoopy and the little biplane plane he flew at the edge of the bay for many years, so when I came across this Red Baron along the Emeryville waterfront, I just had to stop and paint it. It took two tries, and even then it didn't fit on one piece of paper, so I had to continue on the next sheet. Added a view of the bay with three-masted ship model which "rides the waves" (and probably disappears with high tide). There really was a "Red Baron".

smitten with Smitten could I not say it?! Love their ice cream, it's really fresh, really tasty. The corner building they occupy in Rockridge is pretty unique too. As I was leaving, I saw a smart car (I think) with a painting of a smart car on it–pretty cute– and just had to stop, sketch, and enjoy it and the lovely warm evening.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Smitten Ice Cream

A team of engineers and ice cream makers combined liquid nitrogen, small ice crystals and organic ingredients to create churned-to-order ice cream.  Initially peddled from a red wagon at a farmer's market, the ice cream's now available at this popular Rockridge destination. Nitrogen clouds escape shiny steel machinery. Top volume alternative rap competes with hyperactive tots screaming in sugar-fueled delight. The sweet aroma of ice cream and sugar cones adds to the sensory overload. ~Susan Ford

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sketching With a Visiting Sketcher

Last weekend Tina Koyama and husband Greg made a stop in the Bay Area on their way to Yosemite. So of course we had to go sketching! We spent the day exploring Alameda: sketching some of  the many victorians, the restored movie theater and we tried for the USS Hornet but it was way too windy. Greg was our official photographer for the day. My sketches are below (including the one I did in SF the day before and held up by mistake in the photo!) See Tina's sketches plus more from Yosemite at Urban Sketchers Seattle Group. —Cathy McAuliffe

Saturday, May 12, 2018

South African Section, UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Watercolor, InkJoy colored ink ballpoint pens  

I'm always game for a return visit to the Berkeley Botanical Garden in Tilden Park. It never disappoints. There's lots to see and paint.

The South African section, at its best in late winter was still a-pop with bright colors.  I sat with the sun at my back as hummingbirds dive-bombed these bright red Watsonias in a nectarian target practice.

Brought a few more variably-sized brushes than I usually carry in my portable kit. Enjoyed playing with the different marks I can make with these old friends.

--Susan Ford

Monday, May 7, 2018

Alice in BlakeGardensLand

Last week I met up with a few of my urban sketch buddies for a day at Blake Gardens in Kensington. The property is owned by the University of California and the garden managed by the school of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. To say it's a spectacular setting is an understatement. Indeed I felt like Alice in Wonderland walking through the gardens, and then there was the panoramic view of the S.F. Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Sigh. Choosing one place to start sketching was a challenge.
I anchored myself with the "scarecrow" figure, a girl I think?

 I think I was overawed by these violet beauties towering over. Some of the other sketchers managed to capture their essence better than I could. (Check out Cathy's!)

I expected a Lepracaun or other enchanted character to jump out at any moment!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Taking Sketchers to Blake Garden

Blake Garden In Kensington is a few minutes drive from my house. So when my sketching buddies from the South Bay, the North Bay and the City came over, that's where we went. The property has something for everyone: views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge, a formal garden and a cutting garden and the Blake family house and grounds from the1920s. The garden is owned by the University of California and has a collection of plants assembled by the Blake family between 1922 and 1962.

We had a good time and everyone did wonderful sketches. We then stopped at Payne's an old-school stationary store on our way to dinner. Great day! — Cathy McAuliffe

Friday, May 4, 2018

"It's Not Always About the Restaurant."

Met our urban sketching group at CHOW in Oakland. But instead of drawing something
at the restaurant I looked across the street and challenged myself to sketch a mundane
set of stairs leading to a parking garage. I also made myself embrace my wonky perspective.
Love creating fantasies out of odd places. -- Vivian Aldridge 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Watercolors, Brush pen, InkJoy ballpoint pens

A visit to the University of California Botanical Garden in the Berkeley hills is a joyful experience, especially this spring, in a banner year for blooms.

I didn't get much further into the garden than the entry kiosk, where a riot of color and form drew my attention.

A sucker for the ol' nature/urban interface, I added the utility pole to the sketch. The pole's a sunny perch for hummingbirds and it's covered in a tangle of dead vines. I had a giggle when a passing garden visitor said she liked the drawing but she "would've left the pole out."

Splash and Scribble, Too

Splash and Scribble is a technique that Laurie Wigham learned at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester, England and demonstrated for a Jack Laws' Nature Journal Workshop, viewable on YouTube:

To paraphrase Laurie: Working with wet watercolor and watercolor pencils makes your journal sketching more lively and spontaneous. Instead of carefully drawing lines and then coloring them in, Splash and Scribble inverts that process. In this forgiving approach, you splash down loose watercolor shapes and then draw into those shapes to define the subject matter. You can feel your way gradually into a drawing, discovering the scene as you build it up.

We had lots of fun when Cathy brought Splash and Scribble to us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Splash & Scribble at Cathy's House

We brought scraps of watercolor paper, water colors, water color pencils and fresh flowers to Cathy's house and had so much fun.  I cut out my sketches and made a collage. - Judith Heller

Friday, April 6, 2018

Saturday, March 31, 2018


Enjoyed German food at a restaurant called Gaumenkitzel in Berkeley. I could hardly pronounce anything on the menu beyond two syllables so I did a lot of pointing. Made me want to hop on a plane and do some traveling! -- Vivian Aldridge

Thursday, March 29, 2018

An opportunity for Showing Your Work: Los Altos

Los Altos History Museum will be hosting a "Paint the Town - Echoes of our Past" exhibit this summer. Artists interested in participating are encouraged to visit:
and submit applications (I visited the museum today and they are still accepting applications).

Museum organized a list of buildings they want to see painted in the following groups:
  • Pre World War I sites (1890-1910) 
  • World War I era buildings/sites (1910-1930) 
  • World War II era (1930-1950) 
  • Population boom years (1950 – 1970) 
  •  Silicon Valley (1970 – 1990)

and they are accepting all sorts of sketches, paintings etc.
Here is a link to the map they created to see all locations:

(I am going to take a leaf form their book and make a map for my "100 Views of Silicon Valley" series - which I started a few weeks ago - without knowledge about this opportunity :) I am at about 40 mini gouache paintings at the moment - and below you can see the Google "quartet".

100 Views of Silicon Valley: Mountain View - Google


Visited Annie's Annuals today in Richmond. They specialize in rare and unusual annual & perennial plants, including cottage garden heirlooms & hard to find California native wildflowers.
While the plants (hundreds of them) are not quite ready to bloom they promise quite a show in the next few weeks! The weather was perfect and the sketching was good.  — Cathy McAuliffe

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018

The re-sized, re-sort-of-upped Spenger's

I was a little anxious to see what they had done to Spenger's Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Berkeley, since it was halved to make way for yet another upscale shopping experience. I needn't have worried, they kept all of what made it feel like Spenger's, but just cleaner, and at least some change on the menu. The deep-sea-diving suit is still there, the great fishing boat models, the fish both fiberglass and real, and more. An addition of live music in the bar room was fun, and I had to add that guitarist to my drawing collage.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

San Francisco Bay Area Sketches From Here and There

From old Oakland,  Pt. Reyes, to the rooftops of San Francisco, there are so many beautiful urban and natural landscapes! 

Pt. Reyes

From a rooftop garden in San Francisco

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Chinese New Year Parade

The San Francisco is one of the few remaining night illuminated Parades in North America and the biggest parade celebrating the lunar new year outside of Asia. Started in the 1860's a the Parade and Festival have grown to be the largest celebration of Asian culture outside of Asia. 

It has also become a tradition for us to sketch the pre-parade as it is forming up on Market Street. The staging area is full of bands, lion and dragon dancers, giant puppets and floats. Maybe next year we will stay until dark and try sketching the parade when it is illuminated!– Cathy McAuliffe