Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mama's Royal Cafe, Too

Huevos Rancheros lunch for Susan Ford
After 37 years, Mama's Royal Cafe in Oakland is closing.

The Urban Sketchers visited this Bay Area institution one more time and bid a sad farewell to the 1950s aprons and melamine teacup displays, the paper napkin art, the Huevos Rancheros!

While we were eating and sketching, one of the owners wandered about with a contractor, and in that moment, demise was palpable. If you love this place like we do, go NOW before you drive by one day and see an empty hole where Mama used to be! It's imminent and if you think someone's going to buy it and carry on Mama's fine and funky tradition, you misunderstand capitalism.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mama's Royal Cafe, Oakland

Lunch sketching today at the venerable Mama's Royal Cafe on 40th and Broadway, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch 7 days a week since 1974.  I think I have been a customer almost that long!  We hear it is being sold.  I hope the new owners keep the eclectic decor, including a large collection of radios, a wall of aprons-- and of course the display of "paper napkin art" from their annual contest.

Fourth Street Berkeley Christmas Lights

Lights strung around trees & light post, getting into the spirit

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sheffield Village, Oakland

During the last couple of weeks while walking down the block toward my house I
noticed how the whole street was cast in autumn colors. Even the houses glowed
with warmth. -- Vivian Aldridge

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mills College Thanksgiving Week

"The Campanil is the 72-foot Spanish-style clock across from Mills Hall, designed by architect Julia Morgan in 1904. The reinforced concrete bell tower survived the 1906 earthquake and was the first of six Morgan designs constructed at Mills. Its bells—named Faith, Hope, Peace, and Joy—can be heard across campus each hour" - although a rather tinny sound.  Flax plant behind the campanil below.

An afternoon at Mills College in Oakland

It was a quiet pre-Thanksgiving break afternoon of sketching at Mills College.
— Cathy McAuliffe

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tuesday at Mills College

A quiet afternoon on the Mills campus in Oakland as students were leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Mills, an independent liberal arts college for women with graduate programs for men and women, was founded in 1852, two years after California achieved statehood and the same year the city of Oakland was established.  Mills was the first women's college west of the Rockies (chartered 1855) and predates the University of California and Stanford.

In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, it was heartening to visit an historic center for the education of women.

Mills Hall (designed by S.C. Bugbee & Son) became the home of the college in 1871, when Mills moved from Benicia to Oakland.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Believed to be the first FREESTANDING bell tower on a US campus.  Unscathed in the 1906 earthquake.

Berkeley Half Marathon but Full-On Stretching

Last Sunday morning was the running of the 4th Annual Berkeley Half Marathon. I went over to see it start. Thousands of runners and thousands of different color running shoes! And lots and lots of stretching going on. All very sketchable and as close as I'm ever going to get to a marathon!
– Cathy McAuliffe

Monday, November 21, 2016

Christo's Wrapped Snoopy House

Back in 1972 Sonoma county was graced with Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Running fence. This fence, made of sheets of fabric supported by polls, stretched over hills, traveled through farms, and crossed roadways for 24.5 miles only to disappear into the ocean at Bodega Bay. Christo's drawings and photos can be seen here:
Charles Schulz, a local to this area, was also a fan of the fence installation and immortalized it in one of his Peanuts comic strips in 1978 (
Twenty-five years later, Christo returned the compliment by creating Wrapped Snoopy House, a life-sized doghouse wrapped in tarpaulin, polyethylene, and ropes, and presenting it to Jean Schulz for permanent display at the Charles Shultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
I recently visited the museum and sketched the sculpture.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hands and Hearts at Lake Merritt

What a gorgeous day for a gathering of thousands around Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, standing in solidarity against possible consequences of a Trump presidency.  I came down on a crowded BART car in a group with longtime Berkeley pals, book group members, neighbors and fellow urban sketchers then walked in the sunshine to the lake shore where we ran into other friends from all over the Bay Area.  Lots of families with signs like "Stronger Together" and "Love + Action--Not Hate" and one young woman holding high a banner saying "I Am Your Muslim Sister."  So renewing and heartwarming to see my community step up.

I sketched on an 8x39" accordian watercolor sheet, given to me by my Paris Sketcher friend, Helene Lemeunier.  It was difficult to scan as one piece, so here are the separate folds from left to right.

Hands Down the Best Circle Ever!

After experiencing such an awful week filled with anger and sadness, I was happy
to have the opportunity to take a major break from it today. It was so good for my spirit
 to sit here for a bit and capture it in my sketchbook. Onward! -- Vivian Aldridge

Hands and Hearts Around Lake Merritt

I also participated in the Hands Around Lake Merritt yesterday. Thousands came to hold hands around the 3.4 mile heart-shaped lake in Oakland. Folks sang protest songs from the 60's and more contemporary chants during the peaceful demonstration for equality, equity, diversity and peace. Please see the sketches from the others who were there.

Hands Around Lake Merritt

Nearly 10,000 people interlocked hands around the entire perimeter of Lake Merritt yesterday to protest Trump and hate crimes. The path around the lake in downtown Oakland is almost 4 miles long and in many places people were standing two or three deep. It was a very peaceful and hopeful afternoon event. Of the many signs I saw,  two of my favorites: MAKE AMERICA THINK AGAIN and SERIOUSLY AMERICA? SERIOUSLY? – Cathy McAuliffe

Friday, November 11, 2016

travel sketches

On a painting trip to the country-side in 馃嚠馃嚬 Italy i stopped to sketch the Agriturismo itself. This is part of a 400+ year old winery and olive oil farm, in the same family for that long.

The church of San Simeon Piccolo, built in 1718-1738, was our abode during our stay in Venice. This was one of the last churches built in Venice, and was in one of the poorer sestieri (one district of a six-district town). It was modeled on the Pantheon, but has many other influences as well. Our room, off to one side, had a view of a tiny courtyard and many buildings one behind the other, with the classic red-tiled roofs.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Took a pruning class a couple of days before the election. 
Even though pruning might be a bit scary at first, there is such clarity
and purpose once you know how to do it. The simple
act of working with plants in this way is a salve for 
anxiousness. -- Vivian Aldridge

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Opposites Attract

A warm November evening at Oakland Whole Foods Market. First a sketch of the Oakland skyline and another great sunset as seem from the top level of the parking lot. It was nice enough to sit outside and look into the checkout area of the store. Vivian and I sketched from there. We got to talking about choosing a subject to sketch and how some things were just too boring. I then turned around and saw a pretty boring 7-ll store directly across the street! And it struck me as such an odd combination of Whole Foods on one side and a 7-ll store (home of the 64 oz Slurpie) on the other. Scroll down to see sketches by Vivian and Susan. – Cathy McAuliffe

Whole Foods, Too

Whole Foods is a fun place to sketch -- if you keep a few things in mind.

Make the smallest impact in that narrow aisle -- this is not the place to whip out your largest Moleskine. Grab a small cart and set up your minimal supplies in the kiddy seat. Now off you go in search of inspiration!

Be patient with your fellow consumers -- like moths to a flame, shoppers develop a sudden urge to purchase whatever it is you're sketching.

Learn to banter while sketching -- employees may be interested in what the heck you're up to. Especially if they're in the picture. Thanks, Byron for entertaining me in the seafood department. And thanks to Whole Foods for the opportunity.  ---Susan Ford
Soaps with very creative names

Friday, November 4, 2016

Check out line at Whole Foods

I sat just outside of the Whole Foods window and had a great view of the
 customers. They never knew I was painting them ;-)  -- Vivian Aldridge

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Girl Meets Dirt!

GIRL meets DIRT at the Eastsound Farmer's Market
One of the highlights of my annual visit to Orcas was meeting and visiting with the folks from GIRL meets DIRT. This small enterprise located in Eastsound, Orcas Island, Washington State supports local orchards and heirloom produce. The jams reflect the "taste of place". Thank you Audra Query Lawlor for the work that you, your staff and local growers do. And thank you for letting me sketch!
The jam shop/tasting room/kitchen and crew on Enchanted Forest Road.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sketching between storms

We have had an unusually wet October in the Bay Area. Even though it looked like more rain Saturday I went out to sketch with the East Bay Sketchers Meetup group. It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon with wonderful clouds but no rain. We sketched at the Oakland Estuary looking across the water to Alameda. The spot was right between two bridges that were great subjects too.  —Cathy McAuliffe