Thursday, September 29, 2011

where I eat and draw a watermelon

More from my trip to Austria a while back:

In Vienna I enjoyed a day at a public swimming pool where I found time to draw some locals folks.




I find watermelon to be a quintessential summer companion. This juicy slice was perfect for my day at the pool! And as I sunk my teeth into the wedge, the lady’s reflections on her position in the universe did not fail to entertain me.




What is she saying?

‘… sharing a flat also sucks. You exchange fake smiles yet every other day you think: I hate you all…’


Take care,

Your visual flaneur

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to Save Money at Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market, Oakland. Ink & watercolor, 5x7"

It's easy to save money at Whole Foods (otherwise known as "Whole Paycheck")! Just draw the food, don't buy it!

We met at the fancy Oakland Whole Foods for Tuesday night sketching and I had trouble settling down from a challenging day at work. After a couple of false starts outdoors on the patio I moved indoors and found a table with an interesting view. I was still drawing when everyone wanted to meetup for our show and tell, which I ended up missing. Although I always prefer to paint onsite, I didn't want to miss a ride home, so I added the paint the next day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

K9 Unit and Fire Truck at El Cerrito Plaza

K9 Unit, Paramedics and Fire Truck at El Cerrito Plaza

The parking lot at El Cerrito Plaza was filled with police cars, fire trucks, hazmat vans and other emergency responders when I walked up there to do errands Saturday. Contrary to my sketch above, which looks like a police car crashed into an ambulance, it turned out to be the annual Tri-City Safety Day.
I sat on the curb and sketched while cops, firemen and other public safety people handed out fire hats, pencils and buttons to kids who got to climb on police motorcycles and fire trucks, and explore the DUI checkpoint trailer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spoke Folk

This past Saturday, I loaded my bike into the car and drove down to Spoke Folk Bike Shop in Healdsburg for a tune-up. A young woman named Kimberly welcomed me in from her place behind the counter. We discussed details of the tune-up package, she estimated the cost, and we scheduled a pickup time for Tuesday afternoon.
Lately I’ve been padding extra time around appointments to allow more time for sketching. So with the afternoon clear, I set up a folding chair across the street to study the building’s domed, corrugated-steel roof. Pulling out my sketchpad, I draw its overall structure, and then dive in with paint. In reality, the building is beige and forest green, but I chose to liven up the colors with orange-yellow for the sunlit areas and purple for the shadows.
Back at the bike shop Tuesday afternoon, I paid and happily wheeled my bike out the door. Another customer just outside commented “nice vintage bike.” I thanked him, but thought “vintage?” It’s hard to believe, but it’s been twenty years since I bought my Cannondale mountain bike. At the time of purchase, I was planning a ride in the Tour de San Francisco, a challenging and hilly 24 mile race through Golden Gate Park that wound its way up the Pacific coast to Chrissy Field, just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. I participated in the race for two years in a row and it’s one of the most beautiful rides around.
Outside the bike shop, I admired how clean the Cannondale was now, especially when compared to the way it looked in my garage just a few days ago. Stepping my right foot onto the pedal and pushing myself up, I coasted down the street. It felt great to be back on my bike, just like old times. Making my way through the downtown area, I felt the bike humming along with me. What a smooth and invigorating ride!
Now, after having gotten reacquainted with my rusty bicycling muscles, I realize it’s time to get back into shape. I’m looking forward to riding through this picturesque Sonoma County wine country, discovering it up close, and sketching it along the way.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Bicycle in the Garage

Recently I read an article in Bicycle Magazine listing Healdsburg as one of the U.S.’s six best places for a bicycling vacation. That’s great news. So why do I only explore this beautiful area by car? How much am I overlooking while driving at 45 miles per hour from Point A to Point B instead of discovering the undiscovered along the way? At that speed, I must be missing out on so much cool stuff to sketch. Something’s gotta change.
The truth is, I haven’t ridden my bike in years. It currently hangs where it’s been for as long as I can remember, on my garage wall collecting dust. It’s surrounded by a variety of items: partially inflated soccer balls, a dented croquet set, various brooms, a rusty space heater, and boxes full of, well, I don’t know what. Even the old toy robot that scared the crap out of me at four years old is among the clutter . . . somewhere.
My dad likes to tell the story of him giving me the toy. He set it down, flipped its switch on, and “The Ugly One” as we called it, lit up and began making mechanical grinding sounds as it marched toward me. Then the top of it whirled around (like Linda Blair in The Exorcist) while guns shot out of its chest (not like The Exorcist). I ran screaming from the room, “Turn it off, turn it off!” Fortunately, over the years I’ve come to terms with my fear of the little metal monster. It gets the garage, I get the house. It works out nicely for both of us. But I wonder if The Ugly One will let me have my bike back.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sunset at Sunset View Cemetery

Shadows at the Cemetery
 The ridges and shadows in the grass are what first grabbed my attention, and then the tombstones.
The chapel and bay beyond viewed from a hill at the cemetery
The sunset was spectacular so I stopped to watch it. With the days getting shorter, the time for drawing and painting outdoors in the evening is getting shorter too. Soon we'll be going back indoors for our Tuesday night painting. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Whole Foods Market, Oakland

As the sun was going down, the sky became a delicate shade of barely blue with just a tinge of pinky-orange at the horizon - so hard to capture but inspiring. Even the tumbled-chunk old buildings look natural...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer in Maine

Sketching 4th Street Berkeley at New Apple Store Opening

This Old Band on 4th Street, 7x5", ink & watercolor
This Old Band performing on 4th Street, 7x5", ink & watercolor

Waiting in Line at Apple, Waiting to Play in Front of Peets, 2 page spread
Waiting in Line at Apple, Waiting to Play in Front of Peet's, 2 page spread
A new Apple Store opened in Berkeley so I went down to 4th Street in pursuit of sketching opportunities and one of the free t-shirts Apple was giving out to the first 1,000 customers.

The line was barely one block long and moving quickly so by the time I sketched a few people and balloons (above) I was in the store. I got my shirt, bought a gizmo for my gadget and went across the street to Peet's Coffee.

I enjoyed an iced coffee at a sunny table on their front patio, sketching "This Old Band" as they set up to play (above). There were some interesting (?) conversations going on around me.

Peet's Patio People, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Peet's Patio People, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
This guy was actually sitting at a table with another woman beside him on his right blabbing away, but he seemed more interested in this one. A dorky-looking, baby-boomer guy sitting behind me pompously prattled non-stop about his former life as a rock star and the book he was writing about it. After dropping dozens of stars' names, he admitted it was "Better to be a Has Been than a Never Been."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Monterey Market and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery

Monterey Market Sunflowers, ink & watercolor, 5x7"
Monterey Market Sunflowers, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

We met at North Berkeley's Monterey Market to sketch just before the produce store was closing. While the rest of the group sketched inside the market, I stood in the parking lot and sketched the buckets of sunflowers, using a handy shopping cart as my table.

Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Then I walked around the block to the entrance of Berkeley Horticultural Nursery where I saw this crazy Dr. Seuss-like plant along their fence and had to sketch it. Each fuzzy orange-red flower grows out of a stalk that comes up from the flower below it. I called them the next day and found out it is a Leonitus Lenorius or "Lion's Tail," a drought-resistant, sun-loving plant.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Over the weekend my wife Marilyn and I headed to a birthday party in the coastal town of Inverness. After a beautiful drive through the Sonoma countryside, we met with company on the patio of Priscilla’s Cafe. After greetings and birthday wishes, lunch began with a round of raw oysters, pints of ale and fresh squeezed lemonade. Afterward, I dove into fish tacos made with fresh local snapper and stacked high with avocado, salsa fresca and crunchy lettuce. What a treat.

After lunch, we drove out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse on the tip of the nearby peninsula. On a previous drive some years ago, Marilyn and I had almost made it to the lighthouse at sunset, only to end up turning back to make our dinner reservations.

This time we were determined to see the lighthouse. After a forty-five minute drive and one wrong turn, we arrived at the gate. From here, a foot path led to the visitor’s center located a half mile away. Stoically, we decided to hoof it.

Unlike the sunny skies of Inverness, here a cold wind blew thick fog that dampened my glasses, limiting vision to about 20 feet. I wondered if we would see the lighthouse or just bump into it. The wind whistled through twisted, windblown cypress trees lining the path.

At the visitor’s center we learned to get to the lighthouse itself, we had to descend a 308 step staircase, and that closing time was 10 minutes away. Racing down the first 200 steps, we finally saw the lighthouse come into view. Marilyn stopped, saying she’d rather wait for another time to go on, another day when we’d have time to explore. I felt disappointed, but had to agree. This turn of events gives us a great excuse to continue the adventure soon.

With only a few minutes to spare, I decided to do a quick sketch from my place on the stairs. Since the lighthouse was partially covered in fog, I chose not to use pen and ink, reasoning that the softness of watercolor would better represent this moody weather.

Running out of time, I walked back up the stairs and found Marilyn at the visitor’s center looking at guidebooks. Together, we headed home where I put the finishing touches on the painting.