Friday, July 29, 2011

Saying Good Bye to Palo Alto Borders Store

Saying Good Bye to Palo Alto Borders Store
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

It used to be a Theater - and then a nice Borders store.
Here is a link with some historic shots:
I visited it today to say good bye and get some books on sale. It's sad to see Borders go. I wonder what will happen to this building and sign now - in any case I'll keep my eye on it and sketch a new face.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Healdsburg's Water Carnival

A couple of months ago, I was invited to include my watercolor sketch of Healdsburg’s Memorial Bridge in the Healdsburg’s Museum’s exhibit, “Russian River Good Old Days.” At first I was reluctant to tear it out of my spiral bound sketchbook, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

I drove downtown to the museum with the framed watercolor in hand and met with the curator of the show, Holly Hoods. After I gave her my painting and signed all the necessary documentation, she showed me around the exhibit. One of the more striking images I saw was a photo of a huge swan boat floating underneath Memorial Bridge. Holly explained that the photo was of a water carnival that happened here in 1908, and that this summer, the City of Healdsburg was reviving the carnival at Memorial Beach, swan and all.

Fast forward to this past weekend, the Water Carnival of 2011 took place at Memorial Beach. I arrived with friends and family, all with picnic baskets in hand, and set up on the beach. While awaiting the start of the float parade, I sketched the bridge and the surrounding area of plants, trees and people. Then the crowded beach erupted in cheers as the floats came into view, and I filled in the swan as it made its way down the Russian River just like in the old photo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meet the Sketchers - Oliver the visual flaneur

Hello fellow sketchers and thanks for having me on this platform!

Let me start with my pen name - visual flaneur. What is that about?

F l a n e u r describes someone who wanders and observes aimlessly, who roams, who travels at a lounging pace.

The figure of the flaneur emerged at the beginning of 19th century Paris. As a detached observer he found inspiration by walking and observing city life.

I embrace both mindset and approach of the flaneur when I go for a walk with my eyes open, ready to draw what catches my attention. I am sure many of you can relate to that!

Sketching relaxes me. It focuses my mind on one thing and connects me to the moment.
I am inspired by people, everyday objects and situations that I encounter. Sometimes I go for larger visual reportages,

For me sketching is a way of capturing life as it happens in front of me. I may include writing in my sketches: a fragment of a conversation, a quote or a description that can turn a sketch into a little story. I am Austrian so the captions can be in English or German - I hope you don't mind. ;-)

These are some of my recent attempts. If you like what you see It'd be lovely if you said 'Hi' at

Thanks for your time!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

View from Cafe Aquatica in Jenner

The Sonoma coast is a beautiful place to visit any time of year even with its unpredictable weather of driving rain in the winter and wind-whipped fog in the summer. Today, as I drove up Highway One, it was cloudy but at least the wind was calm, a good-enough day for a sketch outing.

When I pulled into the tiny town of Jenner, I stopped at a small snack shop in search of a bag of nuts to hold me over till lunch. That’s when I noticed Cafe Aquatica across the street bustling with customers and with an acoustic guitarist strumming away on a bench. I walked over and checked out the menu posted beside the entrance. Lavish descriptions of soups, sandwiches, coffees, and teas, made my bag of nuts seem just like, well, peanuts.

I walked through the busy cafe looking for a good place to sit and found an outdoor patio with a terrific view of the bay. After sitting myself down, the view was so good, I completely forgot my hunger and pulled out some watercolors to sketch. A salty ocean breeze kept me cool as the sun started to break up the morning fog and warm my skin. Even though I was sketching alone today, I felt in good company overhearing the conversations of diners who were traveling along Highway One, discovering the California coast for the first time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 2011: Gilroy Gardens

July 2011: Gilroy Gardens
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

Lovely, shady place with lots of kids and ducks ;)

North Street Looking East, Healdsburg

This sketch of Healdsburg's North Street was drawn from a vantage point near city hall looking east. I chose to stay in my car while drawing because I liked the angle and sometimes its nice to have good back support and a radio for company.

Using a Moleskine and a Pigma Micron pen, I fleshed out the drawing and then added a little watercolor. Although I like Moleskine sketchbooks, I find that watercolor often beads up on the page, so I usually only add spot colors instead of washes.

In my drawing, the old, abandoned Purity Products building is on the left. The building was originally called Cerri Brothers Produce Warehouse and was used for packing fruit before sending it on its way along the railroad.

Over the next few years, the railroad tracks will be upgraded to make way for the new passenger train called SMART that will run from Cloverdale all the way down to Larkspur, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. From there passengers can take the bus or ferry to San Francisco.

Located at the far end of the street is the Les Mars Hotel which also houses the critically acclaimed restaurant, Cyrus.

Sonoma California

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good Enough for Jazz

Randy Craig Jazz Band's guitarist, Terry at Caffe Trieste, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Randy Craig Trio at Caffe Trieste, Ink & Watercolor

On a rainy Tuesday night (it never rains in June here!) we met at Caffe Trieste, a small, very "North Beach" coffee house in Berkeley. The place was packed with fans of jazz and espresso. The wonderful Randy Craig Trio squeezed their equipment into a corner and started playing, accompanied by two terrific female singers.

Gelato at Trieste, ink & watercolor
Gelato at Caffe Trieste

Their music brought back memories of the records my dad used to play, including a great rendition of Twisted, made famous in the 50s by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (seen here playing with Count Basie at the Playboy Club) and later by Joni Mitchell. I loved getting to sketch with a live music accompaniment!

On the way to Morgan Hill

There are a lot of neat old building on the way to Gilroy on Santa Teresa Bvld. This was near Morgan Hill and had plenty of space to pull off and paint.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jazz in the Afternoon

It was a hot summer day in Healdsburg when my wife Marilyn and I walked over to Affronti for brunch. This semi-hidden restaurant is located down a long corridor beside La Crema winery’s tasting room, just south of the Plaza. Today the Christian Foley Jazz Duo was scheduled to perform and I’ve wanted to hear them play for some time.

When we arrived, the band was setting up in the corner and Marilyn went over to say hello to her friend Roz, whose husband Todd Smith plays bass in the duo. Together, the three of us sat down at a table and ordered some food. While sipping iced tea to keep cool, I pulled out my sketch pad and drew the musicians as they launched into an exclusive Pat Metheny set starting with the song, “Spring Ain’t Here.”

Christian Foley played acoustic and electric guitars, and used pedals to change the guitar’s sound to mimic a steel drum and other instruments. During a break between sets, I asked Todd about his unusual looking bass. He described it as an electric, fretless, six string bass. It’s tuned like a four-string bass with an additional low “B” string and a high “C” string. The guitar was custom made by well known local guitar maker Michael Dolan.

Once Todd and I finished talking, the food arrived. Mine was a sandwich of thinly sliced tri-tip on panini bread with roasted red bell peppers, gorgonzola, and caramelized onion. On the side were some pickled vegetables and a variety of green olives ranging from large to almost pea sized. It was delicious.

For the rest of the afternoon, I relaxed into the music. The sound reminded me of a watercolor painting with washes of shimmering hues accented by bold, improvisational strokes of color. Even though there are only two members of this group, I enjoyed the spareness of the duo’s music and appreciated their reinterpretation of the layered sound found on Metheny’s studio albums.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baylands: "Save The Bay" is Cleaning Invasive Plants

June 2011: Cleaning Invasive Plants
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

On the last weekend in June I saw a large group of people vigorously eliminating some invasive plants in the Baylands park. I spoke to some of them taking a break and found out that they were volunteering for "Save The Bay" helping to remove invasive pepperseed and wild mustard.

Marin County Fair

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Boring? Not!

Peet's Coffee Corner, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito looking north from Peet's Coffee
At first glance, the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Carlson in El Cerrito is boring, boring, boring: a wide busy avenue with boxy buildings. But when viewed on a lovely summer day from a cafe table outside Peet's Coffee with pen in hand, it transforms itself into a sketching delight full of fun details and color.

San Pablo Ave. Wells Fargo, El Cerrito, ink & watercolor, 5x7"
San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, looking south from Peet's Coffee
Looking the other way down San Pablo, the Wells Fargo Bank building holds little hope for drawing inspiration. But start sketching and it too transforms itself. There are trees of all kinds and colors. A cerulean sky with only a hint of clouds, a pink apartment building and a gold dentist office. Sun, shadows, banners.

Not boring! I don't think I've ever felt bored when I was sketching. Years ago a friend told me that when I was sketching I looked like I was roller-skating. Whee! Let's skate!

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki coming out of winter is glorious. When I visited in June, the sun persisted almost 20 hours a day (and night). I urban-hiked across the city, sketching examples of Jugend, Art Noveau, and Modernism.
On the Fredrikinkatu,  Helsinki 
On the Fredrikinkatu,  Helsinki 
I strolled the elegant promenades and parks with hundreds of people enjoying the long days. Here are a few selections of my sketches.
Interior of the glorious railway station in Helsinki

Friday, July 8, 2011

San Mateo Fourth of July

Satura Cakes in Los Altos

Satura Cakes
Originally uploaded by apple-pine

I was on a mission - to find a bakery with cakes good enough for a seasoned connoisseur. After about 6 attempts this one was a good match - we ordered some birthday cakes there and I even had a chance to taste some of them after my sketch was finished ;)