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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cartagena - Museo Naval del Caribe

It was just me, my backpack and South American adventures. A string of unique experiences, of which I will share one major episode in an illustrated book. Good stuff, I recommend signing up at for updates!

Celebrating Lincoln's Birthday at the Laundromat

Actually it was a coincidence that his birthday fell on the same day as our sketch outing but I kind of like the sound of it. We met at the Albany Cleaning Center on Solano Avenue. Lots of opportunity to practice drawing ovals! See Ceiny's sketch of the evening below. She took advantage of the location and dried a load of laundry while she sketched.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Colombia's caribbean Cartagena

In 2014 I had the opportunity to take an extended trip to South America. I am excited to announce that the core part of the location drawings are getting assembled into a book(let) at the moment! More soon. Right away, I’d like to start sharing drawings that did not make it into the final story. This is a drawing from Cartagena, a tropical, colonial town on the caribbean coast of Colombia.

Oliver, as visual flaneur

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Zazu Kitchen, located in the Barlow section of Sebastopol, CA., is an authentic farm to table restaurant. They grow much of their own produce and put together the menu after hunting through the gardens to see what’s ripe. A great place for lunch or dinner.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sketchcrawl 46: Bernal Heights, San Francisco

SF Bernal Heights Sketchcrawl, ink, watercolor, gouache, 7.5 x 11"

It was great seeing old friends and my regular sketching buddies on a beautiful day in San Francisco for Sketchcrawl 46. I got there late (as usual) so I sketched in one spot and drew what I could see from a bench in the shade on the porch in front of the Bernal Heights library. More about the day on my blog JanasJournal.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Solano Cleaning Center

We sketched at a laundromat in Albany tonight.  I guess this proves that urban sketchers will draw anything!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pauline's Vineyard

Vince Tofanelli and I walked his mother's vineyard this morning while he told me wistful stories of growing up. Afterward, I sat for a couple of hours sketching the property located in Calistoga (north end of the Napa Valley). The mustard was in full bloom and with the help of the warm sun, the air smelled sweet.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Night at the OMCA

The Oakland Museum of California is open every Friday night 5-9 p.m. with food trucks, music, family art projects, and half-price admission to the galleries for adults (under 18 free).  Working in black and white seemed to fit this rainy night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

San Francisco SPCA

I sketched at the Adoption Center on Sunday with the SF Sketchers Group as you can see we and the dogs (and cats) had a good time. It's a great facility full of volunteers and staff who were busy helping folks with adoptions, socializing the animals and walking the 150 dogs who were there on Sunday.

Winter Mustard

With the help of December rains, mustard is in full bloom all across Sonoma County. After three years of putting off painting this scene, today I finally took the time to sketch it with my good friend Phil McDonel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gaumenkitzel, Berkeley

We always enjoy sketching at Gaumenkitzel. The restaurant is attractive, the wait staff kind and accommodating, and the German pop songs are a kick.

The highlight of my snack was definitely the German draft beer sampler. However, the Brezel with Wiener Knackwurst proved to be a good still life subject.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Whole Foods, Too

It was good fun sketching with the usual suspects and all of our guest sketchers at the spankin' new Whole Foods Market on Gilman in Berkeley.

I enjoyed toodling around the store with my sketch gear in the child's seat of the shopping cart. When that creative urge hits, just prop open that sketchbook, stand behind the cart and sketch away.

The impediments to sketching in a store are deciding what to draw amidst all the distractions -- and the urge to do a little shopping.

Allegro Coffee Roasters has a long wooden counter which was the ideal place to share our drawings at the end of the night.

Thanks for joining us, everyone! Hope to see you (and your sketches) next month on FRIDAY, February 6th at The Oakland Museum.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Whole Foods

We had a great sketch night at the new Whole Foods store on Gilman in Berkeley. 16 sketchers were there including three who were in town from Oahu (check out their Urban Sketchers Oahu at The staff at the store was very nice and interested in our sketches-the security guard, bakery person, fish department guys, assistant manager,  everyone made us feel welcome.

Monday, January 12, 2015

S.F. Symphony Chamber Music

Quietly, inconspicuously, I can't resist sketching musicians during a performance. They sit or stand in one spot for awhile and pay absolutely no attention to me! My Pentel Brush Pen's broad, silent marks are easy to see in the near-darkness of the symphony hall. These drawings are a little crude but I had fun making them so thought I'd share them with you.

Especially like how the word "jazz" just happens  to appear on the sheet music atop the piano. The flutist was the mother of the young pianist. The cello player is missing from the drawing.

The audience, enthused by the jazzy performance of Kapustin, began applauding between the Dvorak pieces to the consternation of the performers. Ooops. Faux pas!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mo's Bike

While getting a coffee at Plank in Cloverdale this morning, I spotted this classic, blue bike parked next to a white picket fence. I couldn’t resist parking myself for the next couple of hours capturing it in my sketchbook.

Just as I finished the painting, I man in a cool black hat claimed his bike. After discussing my sketch, he acknowledged he too was an artist and used to teach Design at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Turns out he created the cover for Taj Mahal’s Mo’ Roots album back in 1974.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

"Non-violent people who have lost their freedom simply because they expressed their ideas. 

Every one of us is a potential convict." Ai Weiwei

Alcatraz Island -- historically a military fortress, federal penitentiary, Native American heritage site, national park, and now the site of seven installations about human rights and freedom of expression by Chinese architect, artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. Unable to leave China after imprisonment and passport confiscation by the Chinese government, he conceived and oversaw the creation of this exhibit in absentia.

In a cavernous empty building are 176 portraits of political prisoners from around the world. Their portraits are made of brightly colored LEGOs and stare up at you from the floor. Above are Reza Shahabi, serving six years in a Tehran prison and Shin Suk-ja, a South Korean woman indefinitely detained until her death from hepatitis.

In cell block A, visitors can listen to recordings of words and music by people imprisoned for their creative expression. My third image is a black hallway down a steep set of stairs in the center of cell block A, symbolizing for me the isolation and unknown future of the people immortalized by Weiwei.

In the final installation in the prison dining hall, we're invited to sit down and correspond directly to some of the prisoners on pre-addressed postcards . . . a very emotional experience.

The exhibit runs now through April 27, 2015.

More on Ai Weiwei:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ai Weiwei @ Large on Alcatraz

"With Wind"
I cannot stop thinking about this and the other installations and their messages of human rights.
Bravo to Artist Ai Weiwei for the art the speaks so eloquently, the FOR-SITE Foundation for their vision, and the National Park Service for providing the appropriate venue for this experience.  Please see Cathy's earlier post with more info.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
— Ai Weiwei

This exhibit/installation is incredible! The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned for work that defies the distinction between art and activism. In this exhibition of new works created specifically for Alcatraz, Ai responds to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition raises questions about freedom of expression and human rights that resonate far beyond this particular place.

Read more about it at:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some More Serrahna Sketches

The Serrahna boutique, in Oakland's Rockridge District, showcases the unique clothes crafted from the stunning fabrics of Indian. The boutique was created in 2002 by Andrea Serrahna who also designs the clothes. Andrea works with artisans and tailors to bring them to life in her store. This collaboration helps sustain the crafts people and their textile arts and skills. We appreciate Andrea's invitation to sketch and enjoyed her warm hospitality.  Please see the cards and website listed below to learn about Serrahna. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Serrahna Boutique

More from our evening at Serrahna, full of colorful apparel made from traditional Indian fabrics, as well as accessories  (jewelry, scarves, hats, etc).  The owner, Andrea, who designs the clothing, was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study textiles in India as an artist at large.

Bowl of small scarves

Parasol and jewelry display

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Serrahna in Oakland

We had a a good time sketching in Serrahna a colorful store on College Avenue in Oakland. It is full to bursting with clothing in beautiful colors. And a special addition was Isha the very well dressed store greeter!