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: http://m.sfgate.com/movies/article/Review-Remembering-Playland-3191379.php

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!

Dry Creek Valley Sketch Tour

Owl house_s
Last weekend, the Ready, Set Sketch! group toured the Dry Creek Valley by bike. It's one of the most beautiful rides in Sonoma County. Resting on a hilltop along Chiquita road, I sketched an owl box standing high above the vineyard covered landscape.
Lambert bridge_s
Lambert Bridge crossing Dry Creek, located just outside of Healdsburg in the Dry Creek Valley.
Quivera view of Mnt. St. Helena_s
Quivira Vineyards, a beautiful winery located on the far end of the Dry Creek Valley has both, arresting views and great wine. This sketch shows a nearby barn, neck deep in vineyards.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The McElroy Fountain, Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt, Oakland

I frequently pass by the lovingly restored McElroy Fountain on Perkins and Grand on my way to walk around Lake Merritt, vowing to return to paint it. It took a visit by an artist friend up from LA to get me out to do a little sketching last Saturday and get back to the fountain. We timed ourselves: 1 1/2 hour painting.  

The elegant fountain, built in 1911, was dedicated to John E. McElroy, a four time city attorney after his death. In preparation for its 100 years anniversary, a group of volunteers cleaned and repaired the fountain. Volunteer efforts, partnering with the City's, continue to maintain this landmark.

Please see http://oaklandwiki.org/McElroy_Fountain for more information.

Sketching Musicians at Sahara's on Piedmont Ave, Oakland

Last Thursday night, I was captivated by the music flowing out of Sahara's, a Moroccan Home Decor import store on Piedmont Ave. Yassir Chadly (l) and  Bouchaib Abdelhadi (r) performed among the beautiful array of mosaic fountains, lanterns, and other home accessories from Morocco. I hope to attend their upcoming concert at La Pena on November 29th.  I definitely want to return to Sahara's on Piedmont to sketch heir sumptuous artifacts from afar!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Patterson's Pub, Windsor, CA

Sketch of downtown Windsor. I have yet to check out Patterson's Pub but I'm sure the inside is worthy of a sketch and a pint.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

More Piedmont Yarn

This cozy yarn shop has been owned since July by two longtime friends who met while working in the Berkeley Shakespeare Company costume shop.  In addition to all the colorful yarn and handmade sample garments, the place was decorated with knitted leaf garlands for fall.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yarn Yarn Yarn = Kinitting Knitting Knitting

Piedmont Yarn, a shop full of beautiful colors. Balls, skeins, hanks and cones of yarn!

Piedmont Yarn Shop

 We visited a sweet yarn shop on Piedmont! Their collection of yarns is lovely, samples of knitting and felting are beautiful, and they even have cones for weavers. They have classes, and will help you out with your knitting problems.
These Rabat yarns are so various in their variables that they look individually dyed.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More Trader Vic's

Trader Vic's in Emeryville is beautifully sited on a little cove on San Francisco Bay.  Inside, it's all tropical all the time with tiki gods and tribal masks galore.  Very friendly staff and an umbrella in every drink.

Masks and totem poles in the back room.

Flotsam and jetsam hanging from the ceiling of the bar.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trader Vic's

We sketched at the Emeryville Trader Vic's last week. Everyone was very welcoming to our sketch group. We had drinks and snacks in the bar with a view of the bay and the sunset, then sketched the wall of masks in another part of the restaurant. Trader Vic Bergeron was born in San Francisco and opened his first bar in Oakland, not far from this location. He invented the Mai Tai in Oakland in 1944. There are now Trader Vic's in countries around the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Anja's Yoga Retreat, Ukiah

Back from a three-day, rural yoga retreat at Shambhala Ranch outside Ukiah, Mendocino County. Yoga and meditation led by Anja Borgstrom. Three squares a day prepared by Tamara, professional organic chef. Hot sunny days, cool quiet nights. Some uninterrupted time to make little paintings. Heaven!

Experimented with an idea from book artist Andie Thrams: write down thoughts and then paint right on top of the the words -- clearing out extraneous brain chatter while focusing on the present and the subject at hand.

Waterproof Noodler's Dark Matter ink proved less than water-resistant, while the Polar Brown stayed fast.