Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sketching at the Cantor

I love visiting the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford University campus. Instead of my usual hit-and-run sketching, last month  I luxuriated in spending the whole day there. Here are two of my sketches of my favorite sculptures. Above, is a drawing of Deborah Butterfield's horse (untitled 1999) installed in the main lobby. It is at once monumental, yet delicate with its weaving of bronze casts of driftwood.

Below is Richard Serra's Sequence (2006) installed outside in the courtyard. I rarely encounter anyone else in it as I wander its slot canyons. I enjoy the way it carves up space and sky and how it looks during different times of they day and throughout the seasons here.  But just for another year!  I've been told that this sculpture is destined to go into a new wing of SFMOMA in 2016. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

More from the Dickens Fair

After seeing Cathy's great Dickens post I thought I'd better put up my sketches from the day too. The Dickens Fair really is an amazing visual feast for sketchers. In addition to all the roaming characters, there is the Pre-Raphaelite Salon, where Dante Gabriel Rosetti reads his poems as Oscar Wilde and other characters from the period pose in tableaux from the poems.


In the windows of the Dark Garden corset shop, live models pretend to be wax dummies, holding poses long enough for quick sketches.

Here are some musicians and costumed spectators from the show in Mad Sal's Alehouse.

"Fanny" was one of a collection of women calling out bawdy remarks to passersby. She was settled down on the barrel long enough for me to get off a more detailed sketch.

There was a long wait for the ladies bathrooms, so I was able to sketch this woman ahead of me in the line.

A Victorian Christmas Card Come to Life!

I went with the SF Sketchers Meetup group to the Dickens Fair in San Francisco. What a great place to sketch! Hundreds of people dressed in beautiful costumes. As the website says: "Enter the world of Charles Dickens and revel in a Victorian London where it's always Christmas Eve. To recreate old London town, we transform over three acres of vintage exhibition halls into lamplit lanes, pubs and theatres, dance floors and music halls, tearooms and shops. Hundreds of costumed characters from genteel to boisterous bring the town to life and interact with patrons."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shop-window Sketching, Fourth Street, Berkeley

No, it's not Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, silly!

It's a glamorous mannequin from the creatively quirky window designer, Nina Taylor for Molly B. Boutique.

I'm always drawn to Nina's incomparable style.

Sketching at Tacubaya

I love sketching with friends at Tacubaya. While most fellow sketchers were outside sketching the lights and sights of 4th Street, Ann and I decided to dine and sketch in the warm atmosphere inside. It is so fun to see how different sketchers portray the same place. My sketch is above, Ann Patterson's is in the middle and Tacubaya's card is below. (Please also see Cathy's holiday lights sketch elsewhere in this blog).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


We went to Playland-Not-At-The-Beach on their monthly adult night. I loved the rows of pinball machines. I drew while a couple of serious players racked up really high scores! The other thing I really like there is the miniature circus, built to scale of half inch to a foot. There are over 300,000 hand carved figures! Scroll down and see what the other sketchers liked.

Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, Too

Playland-Not-at-the-Beach contains many artifacts from the original Whitney's Playland-at-the-Beach, a popular attraction at San Francisco's Ocean Beach from 1928 to 1972.

I was immediately drawn to Walking Charley, a life-sized composite of original parts from hand-carved wooden characters that decorated the original Playland Funhouse in the company of Laughing Sal.

Check out the documentary Remembering Playland at the Beach, rich with archival footage of thrilling, sexist and sometimes dangerous rides and attractions at Playland.

For more on Playland and the documentary:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More Playland-not-at-the-Beach

Playland-not-at-the-Beach is stuffed with 30+pinball machines, arcade games, a hand-carved miniature circus, multiple artifacts from the Sutro Baths and the original Playland in San Francisco, etc., etc., etc.

There are many "Laughing Sal" mannequins.  The one I drew (below) was created for Playland-not-at-the-Beach and is called "Sinister Sal."  One history of Playland describes Sal's continuous laugh as "a drunken yelping guffaw, an evil cackle, the uninhibited outburst of someone going out of her mind."  After sitting in the same room as Sal to sketch for the evening, I'd agree with that description! 

Sign and prizes for one of the old carnival games of skill.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Playland-not-at-the-beach is slightly hard-to-find — on San Pablo Ave just over the border into Richmond going North. The warren of rooms meandering around leads you from one set of marvels to another. Hard core pin-ball players can be found in one of the several rooms filled with interesting antique machines from the mid-1900's and beyond.
See some more features of Playland not at the beach: 1 minute video
between two pinball games from the 1940's.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mrs. Dalloway's and why I draw what I draw.

I got to thinking about how I pick a subject for my sketches. Often I find a good place to sit and then look for a subject. Last week at Mrs. Dalloway's all of us sat out on the sidewalk and drew the window display. It was a mild November evening and lots of people came by and chatted as we drew. Perfect all around. I thought I wanted to sketch the vintage mannequin but as I got to sketching and painting it became obvious that what really interested me were the wonderful paper flower sculptures in the background. I didn't know that at the start, but looking at the finished sketch I can see it. So no matter what you pick as a subject, the things that are really interesting to you will show in the end.

Mrs. Dalloway's (re-posted)

I couldn't sketch with the group last week but wanted to join in spririt, so I'm reposting a sketch of the mannequin in the window of Mrs. Dalloway's from our previous visit to College Avenue in August of this year.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, Berkeley

Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore derives its name from the first line of Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

The warm and welcoming bookstore is celebrating its tenth year on College Avenue in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley.

Four of us sat down at curbside last week and sketched the mannequin in their window. I hope we'll post all four sketches here. Ladies?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sue Johnson Lamps, Too

Details or elements from six different lamps 
These are all lamp bases or lamp base details. I'm attracted to anything avian, so there's definitely a theme here. I purposely left out the lamp parts and concentrated on the fun elements.

I especially like visiting Sue Johnson and her lamps because every lamp has an interesting story about the origin of the elements or their original purpose.

Spent the next few days looking around the house trying to figure out what could be made into a lamp.

Carved bamboo root Eagle, table lamp base
Carved wooden Pelican, floor lamp base

Sue Johnson Lamps

As Micaela said (below) we had a light-filled evening sketching the wonderful lamps at Sue Johnson Lamps on Solano Avenue in Berkeley.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Return to Sue Johnson Lamps

Sue is in the store late while her annual sale is on, and so we were able to drop in with our sketchbooks to capture some of her beautiful hand-designed, and made lamps. There is something wonderful everywhere you look. I loved this bear lamp, which strongly reminded me of the Northwest Indian art of British Columbia. It is a ceramic lamp with an experimental "snowflake" glaze making unusual patterns. I tried to capture the evening feel with the African mask lamps, modifying it a little on the computer to get the lamps to really "glow".

the bear lamp

my co-sketchers thought this was fine as a line-drawing.

constellation of lamps

Monday, October 27, 2014


This year the fish that humpback whales feed on in Monterey Bay are much closer to the shore. So the humpbacks are also much closer! This fall was a good time to go whale watching. I went on a cruise out of Moss Landing and we saw over 30 whales in the four hours we were out on the Sanctuary Cruise boat. It was a little hard to sketch on the rocking boat, but a fun challenge!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

By Hand, Too

Now that cooler weather and shorter days are upon us, we sketchers retreat to the warmth of indoor spaces.  By Hand was a colorful location. I also enjoyed the music selection at the store. Singing while you paint is not unlike whistling while you work, except that it's more fun!

BY•HAND Berkeley

You can see by the other posts below that we had a very good time sketching in this clothing store in Berkeley. Beautiful clothes that are displayed beautifully, along with a selection of interesting jewelery.

Friday, October 24, 2014

By Hand

It was so great to be able to sketch in the lovely peace and quiet of the store after-hours - Thank you Paula! I was happy to hear she is not closing the store out of duress, but because it's time to have fun! I'm trying out some new watercolor pencils, actually called "Inktense" pencils.
 I changed up the colors of this umbrella collection a bit,
as many are basic black, evidently preferred by most!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

By Hand Clothing Store

Paula Zurowski, co-owner of By Hand, was kind enough to stay open after hours for our sketching group on the eve of a weekend sale.  Founded in 1974, the store started in South Berkeley, moved to Walnut Square and then to Solano Avenue.  By Hand will close next year and will be sorely missed by the many Berkeleyites for whom it is an essential shopping place.  Thanks, Paula!