Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Playland Not At the Beach is

filled with so many colors and lights and sounds, I'm still reeling. This self-proclaimed "Museum of Fun" in El Cerrito more than lives up to its billing. Some of the artifacts and memorabilia, like the pinball machines, can be touched, not just looked at and admired. I caught this guy in an epic battle of human vs machine.

I found a jukebox at Playland!

Well I hope that is what it is called. I wish I could have done it justice because this was a beautiful machine in sparkling condition. And it still plays music.

Playland Not At the Beach

I wished I could have stayed longer. Esmeralda the Fortune Teller, just told me that I will return and sketch again.

Serrahna Boutique

The sculpture of Quan Yin, Buddhist goddess of compassion, is a captivating presence in this colorful Oakland boutique.


A nearly-lifesize plaster clown stood frozen in mid-juggle, as mechanical gap-toothed Laughing Sal chortled and jerked in an adjacent display case.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pinball and other delights at Playland-not-at-the-Beach

The decorative art from this period of time was so fun, it reminds me of the carousels and other imaginative, theatrical pieces. Very lush!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Playland Not At The Beach

Detail of Playland Diarama, ink & watercolor
Detail from Playland Diorama, ink & watercolor, by Jana Bouc
Playland Not At The Beach Museum of Fun is an amazing place created by a group of volunteers and artists who are passionate about the circus, history, carnivals, and a San Francisco amusement park (now long gone) called Playland at the Beach.

Laughing Sal, ink, gouache & watercolor
Laughing Sal who laughs non-stop
Hidden away behind a nondescript storefront in El Cerrito, Playland Not At The Beach is both a museum  and a place to play, with room after room of visual delights, each surpassing the next.

Circus Diorama Detail, ink & watercolor
Detail from one of the Circus Dioramas, ink & watercolor
The circus dioramas contain 300,000 hand-carved and hand-painted realistic figures of every kind of person, animal and behind-the-scenes activity. The creativity and dedication to follow one's passion that went into making the circus dioramas brought tears to my eyes and left me intensely inspired.

For more about our sketching night at Playland, please visit my blog, (and scroll down  for more Playland sketches from our group.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grotesque Garbage

There are about a million different things to see at Playland Not-at-the-Beach. Here is a weird and creepy trash can that I kept noticing as I walked by. Such a grotesque figure on top of the wooden barrel, yet I couldn't look away.

The Alpine Racer at Playland

The Alpine Racer is poised to take a petrified passenger into the trompe l' oeil tunnel at Playland.

Playland in El Cerrito

Playland At The Beach was an amusement park in San Francisco. It was open from 1928 to 1972. In El Cerrito is Playland-Not-At-The-Beach, that has exhibits and artifacts from the original park. It also houses the Marcks Miniature Circus a hand-carved model of the Sells-Floto circus with over 300,000 pieces depicting everything that went on at the circus on June 30, 1930.

There is an original bumper car from Playland and many, many more ehhibits.

One of over 30 vintage pinball machines and other arcade games.

Self portrait in the fun house mirror!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thanks, Sonia for your help with my first posting. This time I'm going it alone with another drawing I did at Serrahna. There was so much to sketch there that I did part of a display of fabrics and baskets.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland

The Cemetery is known for their Tulip Display. On the day I went they were not up yet, but the Tulip tree was in full bloom.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shoes at Serrahna's Last Week by Carrie McClish

Please visit Carries blog Oaktown Sketcher and CarrieLeesArt for more of Carrie's work.

Union Officer's Kepi

Civil War Washerwoman and Commander

There were actually dozens of people, re-enacters and visitors, in between these two characters, but I was struck by their demeanor.

Civil War Living History in Moraga

This Sharp Shooter image is from a previous re-enactment at Moraga on January 30, 2011.

Civil War 2.0

The group of reenactors came back to St, Mary's College in Moraga. This time they were able to fire the cannon and do some drilling outside.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sketching at Spenger's in Berkeley

The back of the bar was as interesting as the front of the bar.

Spenger's has a great collection of ship models and old photos on the walls. The photos are shots of local history and gatherings at the restaurant. I combined a photo of Frank Spenger from an old menu and a group of guys from the 40's or 50's in their big boxy suits.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Serrahna was a colorful port during a grey stormy night last week. Owner Andrea Serrahn welcomed us to her store which celebrates her collaboration with the Gujarati community in India. This jewel box of a boutique is filled with exceptionally beautiful textiles and crafts whose sales help support numerous artisans.

Watercolor pencil and pigment sketch of dressing rooms
by Sonia Tamez

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spengers St. Patrick's Day Decor

Spengers Bar, ink & watercolor
Cellphone kept him entranced and posing
Spengers was decorated with green shamrocks when our Urban Sketchers group met there on a Tuesday before St. Patrick's Day. Other than all the green, it was business as usual. I love the way cellphones keep people engaged and posing like this guy at the bar, even when drinking.

Sea Witch Ship Model, ink & watercolor
One of Spengers' many model ships
Spengers has a huge collection of ship models and other sea-themed objects on every wall, ceiling and in every corner. I drew this standing in front of the display case, trying to stay out of the waiters' path. 

March 2011: Park

March 2011: Park
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

Last bits of sun before this rain soaked us all ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quinn's Harbor

Along the Oakland Harbor and Embarcadero lies Quinn's Lighthouse, now renovated into a restaurant and pub. On the grounds one can see a mini statue of Liberty. I created these two sketches during a recent painting session with David Savellano.

Quinn's Harbor Boats

These boats are like beached whales that landed behind Quinn's Lighthouse.

Emeryville Public Market Gum Ball Machine Redux

I spent a couple of hours sketching and resketching this amusing machine.

Gum Ball Machine at Emeryville Public Market

I loved this gum ball machine and so did a number of
visitors who deposited their money and watched the ball
spiral down.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Feb. 2011: Mitchell Park, Palo Alto

Feb. 2011: Park
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

I love sculptures in local parks - the way kids accept it as a part of a play structures, the way kids imagine and play wildest things around them and as a good thing to have in your sketch :)