Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Animals, animals, animals!

Our local zoo, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, in San Jose brought some wild animals to the library. We just HAD to go! Here are a few of our furry ( and scaly and feathered) friends:
Happy Hollow comes to Almaden Library

Happy Hollow comes to Almaden Library

And, we went to San Diego Wild Animal Park over Presidents Day weekend. More sketches, made as we walked around the Park.
Strange striped beasts:
Wild Animal Safari, San Diego

I love the flamingoes. If there is a sketching equivalent of 'photogenic' they are just that.
Wild Animal Safari, San Diego

Lots more sketches on my blog or my flickr stream

Sunday, February 26, 2012

UC Berkeley Stadium

Memorial Stadium on the UC Berkeley campus opened in 1923. It is being remodeled and retrofitted and is reopening this fall. The Hayward earthquake fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault runs through the stadium. At the top of section KK the stadium wall has split about 30 cm.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christopher Creek Winery

Climbing the steep hill to visit a friend at Christopher Creek Winery, I stood up on my bike pedals to get the leverage needed to reach the top. Once the road leveled off, I stopped to rest and enjoy the view of the Russian River Valley.
A head-pruned vineyard sloped downward toward the valley floor with leafless vines creating a chaotic thicket of sticks. Between the rows grew yellow mustard flowers, reminding me that even though the sun is shining now, we are still in the midst of our rainy season. At the bottom of the hill, vineyards, oak trees and farm houses blanketed the valley floor until the coastal range on the far side pushed skyward. There is so much to see here in Sonoma County that I wondered if I’d ever experience it all.
With my breath now even, I set my bike down near a picnic table with its folded patio umbrella standing guard. Walking around the grounds, I noticed zig-zagging vineyards on a far hill that, from this distance, reminded me of a Zen sand garden. As I stepped back from the view, I found a good spot to sketch the winery, rolling hills off to the left. I pulled out my drawing pad and travel stool and began to paint.

After packing my art supplies, I entered the tasting room, expecting to see my friend Al. Instead, Jerry and Carry warmly greeted me. I asked how Al was doing, and Jerry said Al had called in sick. Sorry to hear this, I made a mental note to check on him later.
Jerry asked if I was interested in tasting. I’d come not only to say hi to Al, but to find a bottle of Zinfandel for an upcoming tasting party in Napa, so my answer was yes. Even though I had Zinfandel on my mind, I couldn’t help starting off with Catie’s Corner Viognier. The grapes are grown here in the Russian River Valley and I love the wine’s crisp pear, lemon and floral aromas.
Then I asked to try some of their Zinfandel, and Jerry set down a second glass in order to taste two wines side by side, one from the Dry Creek Valley and the other from the Russian River Valley. In simply swirling each one by one, my nose noticed differences. Jerry pointed to the importance of terroir as factor differentiating the wines. I found the Dry Creek Zin tasted of raspberries and cherry jam, tobacco, vanilla, and spices of black pepper and clove. The Russian River Zin showed darker fruits like blackberries and plum, and had a long finish. This is a good food wine, I thought, especially with pasta. I enjoyed both wines but chose to purchase a bottle of the Dry Creek Zin for my tasting party.
Then I asked permission to sketch the tasting room and got the okay. I drew Jerry and Carry while they worked on taking inventory. After finishing my drawing but too tired to add watercolor, I took a couple of pictures so I could finish in my studio.
After thanking my hosts for the tasting, I packed the wine in my backpack and stepped out into the cooler outdoors. The sun was inching closer to the horizon, hinting it was time to get back before sunset. Hopping on my bike, I coasted downhill and toward home.

Foppiano Vineyard’s Frost Fan

While biking to visit a friend employed at Christopher Creek Winery, I abruptly turned off Limerick Lane at the railroad tracks and kicked up a cloud of dust behind me. A towering fan above Foppiano’s sauvignon blanc vineyard had caught my eye and I wanted to get a quick drawing of it. Once the dust settled, I swung myself off the bike, leaned it against a eucalyptus tree and pulled out my sketchbook. This morning was a little warmer than most because dense morning fog had held in the previous day’s warmth. But now the sun had broken through the mist, and the coastal range of mountains was visible in the distance.
Healdsburg averages over forty inches of rain a year, but this year may be an exception since we’ve only received half our average. Without clouds and the rains that accompany them, nights get extra cold and frost dusts the landscape in a blanket of powdery white. Although beautiful in the early morning, the frost doesn’t bode well for plants, especially early-budding grape vines. To protect the delicate buds from frostbite, many farmers use tall fans above the vineyards to capture the warmer air hovering just above the cold.
One problem with the fans is that they are incredibly noisy and so are unpopular among neighbors. They’re said to sound like a loud lawn mower or even worse, an airplane taking off. Averaging 70 to 80 decibels each, one can understand why they wouldn’t please those living nearby. Closer into town, the use of much quieter, traditional overhead sprinklers is often used as a frost deterrent.
After putting the finishing touches on my sketch, I gathered my drawing supplies in my backpack and rode up the hill toward Christopher Creek tasting room.

Spenger's Seafood Grotto, Berkeley

Sketching in Spenger's "High Room" named for the high ceilings, 5x7", ink & watercolor 
We met Tuesday night at the historic, oldest restaurant in Berkeley, Spenger's Fish Grotto. I had called the day before to see if we could sketch in the room whose walls are covered with taxidermy animals and fish. When I arrived a bit late I found our group of six already sitting at a big table in the middle of  the room, which the manager had opened and designated just for us. 

We are delighted that Berlin Urban Sketcher and illustrator Olga Prudnikova joined us Tuesday night and will be coming along on our sketch outings while she is in Berkeley the next couple months.

Thank you Spenger's general manager Richard, for your support and hospitality. We had a great time sketching and snacking on the famous creamy, thick clam chowder. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


We sketched at Spenger's in Berkeley. They were nice enough to give us a room to ourselves that was full of stuffed fish and deer heads. Lots to sketch. See Micaela's post below. Also joining us last night was Olga a USK from Berlin.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spenger's – the taxidermy room

I've never been in this room before. There are many rooms with different themes in Spenger's. This one has a giant elk (?), deer, pronghorn antelope, marlin, swordfish, tuna, and smaller fish besides. There are also model ships, bridges, and paintings and photos. Lots to look at, lots to sketch! The fish are fascinating. We don't always think about the fish we are eating as living breathing(??) creatures, but they were, and they often have beautiful multi-colored skin. Most of these looked pretty much like they'd been done quite a long time ago, but you get a sense of their former beauty anyway.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Road Construction Bulldozer

Road Still Under Construction, 5x7", ink & watercolor
I was sitting on the curb just finishing up my sketch when a guy in a truck pulled over and politely asked me to move so he could park in front of his house, where I was sitting. I added the watercolor standing up.

This bulldozer is the last of the equipment from the one mile long road construction project in my neighborhood that took two years to complete. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Opening of Magnes Collection in Berkeley

The Cal band played at the opening, including the Hava Nagila.

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the Bancroft Library is a museum of Jewish history, art, and culture.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Squid and Ale at Elevation 66

Esther Vanilla Stout: A milkshake of a beer!
Here are my additions to the wonderful sketches that Micaela, Cathy, and Beth posted below from our night at Elevation 66 (click their names or scroll down a few days to see sketches below).
Strange but yummy dinner: squid, avocado, grapefruit and fritters

Beer vat and wine on shelf with hose and pipes

Cathy and Micaela sketching at the bar
Elevation 66 is a fun, small lively, neighborhood place with lots of sketching opportunities and good beer. More about the evening on my blog

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sketching at Stanford

About a year ago, I spent an afternoon at a South Bay Sketchcrawl at Stanford University. I wasn't very happy with the sketches I produced then and have been wanting to go back. I finally did on a sunny winter afternoon last week. Here are some sketches from that day.
Hoover tower and bicyclists:
Hoover Tower, Stanford, Palo Alto, California

And Stanford Memorial Church.
Memorial Church, Stanford, Palo Alto, California

YOU can see more sketches on my blog or my flickr stream.

Diesel Books, Oakland

Postcards display at Diesel Books.

Behind the counter display of books with numbers in the titles. Everything from Counting 1-2-3 to Playground by 50 Cent.
A great independent Bookstore on College Avenue in the Rockridge district of Oakland. Very welcoming to our sketch group.

Diesel Books, Oakland

Keeping warm in front of the gas fireplace at Diesel Books on a chilly Tuesday night,
contemplating that strange painting of a man milking a giant fish(?). They color-coordinate the books on the shelves here; love that!