Brennan’s Bar Backsides and Balding

Brennan's Bar Backsides, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

Brennan’s Bar Backsides, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

The nice thing about sketching in bars, especially one that is also a cafeteria a frequented by an older crowd on a quiet Tuesday night, is that people tend to sit still long enough to draw them.

Balding at Brennan's Bar: trying and trying to capture him. Ink, 6x8

Balding at Brennan’s Bar: trying and trying to capture him. Ink, 6×8

I kept trying to capture this guy who sat a few tables away eating his dinner and reading but never really got him. My sketch buddy Micaela perfectly captured him, which you can see on our Urban Sketchers blog here.

I’m still playing catch up: these are from November. But now that things have settled down in my world, I intend to be caught up by the end of the month, including my 2012 year-end review and a whole week of sunflower paintings.

Puck: A Dog Portrait in Oils (delivered with tears and hugs)

Puck, a dog portrait in oil on linen panel, 8x10"

Puck, a dog portrait in oil on linen panel, 8×10″

This was a first: when I delivered the painting it made its owner cry! And hug me. And make me cry!  I know how much Puck, who is getting there up in dog years, means to his owner so I really wanted the painting to turn out well. And I got lucky; this one just seemed to paint itself. Of course I know that saying, “The more I practice, the luckier I get” which I think was true in this case. I put thought into the painting before I put any paint on the canvas and have certainly been putting in lots of practice time in the studio.

Puck, a warm up sketch, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

Puck, a warm-up sketch, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

I always start my paintings with at least one preliminary sketch to get to know the subject. I don’t try to do a perfect rendering, just a visual exploration and attempt to understand what I see.

Today was a big day for delivering commissioned and gift paintings. I delivered five: two watercolors (a large painting of a corporate headquarters commissioned for a gift to a retiring CEO, and a double portrait of two little sisters) and three oils (this and another dog portrait and a portrait of a woman as a gift for her husband).

I can’t post the others until they’ve been gifted. And I have two more dog portraits in progress. I love it!

PiQ Cafe Sketches

PiQ Cafe Counter, ink & watercolor, 6x8"

PiQ Cafe Counter, ink & watercolor, 6×8″

PiQ Cafe (Pane Italiano Qualita) serves espresso and bakes pizza and Italian pastries near U. C. Berkeley. It’s a busy place in the evening with lots of sketching opportunities. I got a fabulous Decaf Americano coffee and drew the pastries instead of eating them.

Half Price Books from Inside PiQ Cafe, ink, 8x6"

Half Price Books from Inside PiQ Cafe, ink, 8×6″

My sketch buddies sat at the outdoor sidewalk tables and drew the bookstore across the street but it was too cold and dark out there for me (Cathy’s sketch and Cristina’s sketch). I drew the bookstore too, but from inside the café.

PiQ has a unique restroom arrangement: you carry a metal pitcher attached to a key card into their elevator, take it down to the basement and follow signs around a corridor to the bathroom and then repeat the trip.

Brown Delivers…in the Dark (portrait in oil with steps in the process)

UPS Delivers at Night, Oil on Canvas, 20×16

(Update 12/2012: This painting is shortlisted for Portrait of the Year on Making a Mark where you can vote for your favorite until December 30, 6 a.m. PST). One night last winter two UPS guys arrived in the dark to deliver a dozen boxes of the flooring materials for my studio. I had started a series of paintings of people at work (still in progress) and asked if I could take their photo to use for a painting. They agreed and were great models!

A couple of months ago he called, asking about the painting, inspiring me to finally finish it. There were some magic moments along the way (see process photos below), such as the one where I did a quick first pass on his hand and then stepped back and said “Wow! That works and I’m not touching it again.”

Since I took the photos at night without flash outside lit only by the fluorescent lights from inside the studio, the photo was dark and the colors were, well, mostly brown. But the UPS slogan is right, BROWN really does deliver! Who knew there were so many shades of brown? I must have mixed a hundred different browns.

Below are photos showing the process of drawing and painting this portrait. Read More

The Voice: Top Ten Finalists Sketched

The Voice: Sylvia, Terry & Melanie, drawn in ink from TV on pause, 5x8"

The Voice: Sylvia Yacoub, Terry McDermott & Melanie Martinez, drawn from TV, in Moleskine watercolor notebook, 5×8″

Faced with a Tuesday night at home instead of out with the Urban Sketchers (nobody could go) I turned on the TV. Boring. But wait, those performers on The Voice (a singing competition show) are all so interesting looking. Why not sketch them?

The Voice: Cody, Bryan & Amanda

The Voice: Cody Balew, Bryan Keith & Amanda Brown

Each of the performers has been crafted into a carefully defined “package,” with extensive costuming to further exaggerate their type. If you click the images to make them bigger you can read my snarky comments. Some of the finalists are incredibly talented with beautiful voices (e.g. Amanda Brown is fantastic).

The Voice: Nicholas, Trevin & Cassadee

The Voice: Nicholas David, Trevin Hunte & Cassadee Pope

It amazed me how different each of their features were, especially noses. As I was drawing, using a Lamy Safari fountain pen with the nib upside down to get a finer ink line, I was getting nervous because they were turning out well and I wanted to do all 10 in a row with no do-overs.

The Voice: Casadee (again) and Dez

The Voice: Casadee (again) and Dez

I finally did mess up the last one, Dez (above, his mouth got too inky and it’s not a good likeness). I could have redone him but he doesn’t interest me much (I think he’s supposed to be the “teen idol”) and I was tired. He was on his own page but I let him hang out with his neighbor across the spread here so I don’t end the post with the one funky drawing.

It took about 2 1/2 hours for the project: to find a spot in the program to pause and then to draw each of them. It was really fun! It’s amazing how much more you see when you’re really looking, even when drawing from TV.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration (Day of the Dead) Oakland

Aztec Dancer wearing animal head, fur and feathers

Aztec Dancer waiting; wearing animal head (coyote? wolf?),  fur and feathers, ink & watercolor, 8×5″ (drawn from Micaela’s photo, not on site)

LOUD DRUMMING! Brilliant Colors! Aztec Dancers! Smoke from sage (and other “herbs”) and grilling meat! LOUD Bands! Dancers! LOUD Spanish radio stations broadcasting live! Sugar skulls! Costumes and painted faces! Marigolds everywhere!

I followed the man in the sketch above after he finished dancing, trying to get a photo or a sketch of him and failed, meanwhile losing my fellow sketchers in the crowd. Micaela managed to get a photo which she let me use for this sketch.

Blessing with sage smoke and feathers, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

People of all descriptions lined up to be blessed with sage smoke and feathers, (drawn from my photo, not onsite) ink & watercolor, 8×5″

It was the Dia de Los Muertos celebration in East Oakland and I felt like I was in Mexico. Spanish was the  language heard everywhere. Families came to celebrate and honor their loved ones who had passed on with beautiful altars filled with marigolds, fruit, religious imagery and mementos of loved ones.

1948 Chevy Decoto Fleetline,  ink & watercolor, 5x8" (drawn on site, painted at home)

1948 Chevy Fleetline, drawn in ink on site, painted at home (5×8″)

I was finding it difficult to sketch at the festival since it was so LOUD my ears hurt and so crowded we kept losing each other. Being tall, I didn’t want to stand in front of someone’s booth or altar and block the view. Then I found the wonderful old low rider car show at the edge of the event which was much quieter and less crowded. I set up my stool and started sketching directly with a Micron Pigma pen.

People stood behind me and watched me draw. They said nice things about my sketch, including the owners of the car, Jose and Denise, even though my sketch turned their meticulously restored, beautiful work of art into a jalopy.

My first car when I was in high school was a ’49 Plymouth (it was already an antique) and looked a lot like this sketch. To get to school in the morning my sister would have to push it until I could “pop the clutch” to start it. Then she’d run after me and hop in. I was afraid to tell my dad that it wouldn’t start on its own—I thought I’d broken something but it just needed a new battery. I was sad when the motor died.

Boy who likes to draw cartoons watched me sketch

Boy who likes to draw cartoons watched me (in blue hat) sketch

This young man stood behind me and watched me draw so I offered him a notebook to try his hand at sketching the car but he declined. He said he didn’t know how to draw cars but liked to draw cartoons. I said I didn’t know how to draw cars either, but just did it anyway.

There were booths selling decorated skulls made of sugar, beautiful little skeletons in fancy dress, paper cut-outs, hats, jewelry and even paintings on black velvet of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis as skeletons.

Aztec Dancers, brush pen ink

Aztec Dancers, brush pen ink

Sugar skulls, little skeleton ladies and a view looking down from BART tracks when we were departing

Sugar skulls, little skeleton ladies and a view looking down from BART tracks when we were departing

Painted faces everywhere

Painted faces everywhere

Sugar candy skulls

Sugar candy skulls; they added your name on top for free

Pretty skeleton dolls

Pretty skeleton dolls

Aztec Dancer

Aztec Dancer

One of the amazing altars at the festival

One of the many amazing altars at the festival

End of Journal Self-Portrait

End of Journal Watercolor Self Portrait of Jana Bouc, Artist, graphite and watercolor, 7.5x5"

End of Journal Self Portrait, graphite and watercolor, 7.5×5″

Just like my life, my blog and journal posts are all mixed up. I always save the last page in each journal for a self-portrait and this was in the Moleskine watercolor notebook that I finished last month.

I did the sketch standing at the big mirror in my studio which I just knew would be great for self portraits. The unlovely, but much-loved apparel in the sketch are a T-shirt my son made for me back when he was a teenage graffiti artist, and my favorite, funky, old grey sweatshirt that I wear all the time at home/in the studio.

The past month has been a bit of a wild ride, with a major transition in progress, which I’ll write about and celebrate here once it’s complete. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can catch up with more posting, painting and drawing!

Frankie Flathead Planes of the Head Study, oil on canvas panel, 11x14"

Frankie Flathead Finally Painted (Planes of the Head Grisaille Study)

Frankie Flathead Planes of the Head Study, oil on canvas panel, 11x14"

Planes of the Head, Grisaille study, oil on canvas panel, 11×14″

When I bought a “Planes of the Head” life-sized plaster cast two years ago I wanted to learn more about portrait painting. I put it on display in the studio and studied it. I knew I should be drawing and painting from the cast, but hoped learning would happen by osmosis since it didn’t really inspire me as a painting subject.

Planes of the Head Plaster Cast

Planes of the Head Plaster Cast

Then I got curious about grisaille techniques after seeing beautiful paintings that began with that approach. I watched the excellent video “How to Paint: The Grisaille Method” by Jon deMartin (in which he paints from a cast of Julius Caeser) and decided to try grisaille using homely Frankie Flathead, my Planes of the Head cast, as my model. See bottom of post for a clip of the deMartin video.

Planes of the Head Open Grisaille

Open Grisaille in which Frankie resembles a demented old perv

I was going to display all my steps along the way, but my photos weren’t good enough. Above is the first stage, the “open” grisaille, which means it’s painted thinly, using only transparent washes of grey (or in this case, burnt umber) and wiping paint off to achieve the lighter values. At the top of the post is the “closed” grisaille, made by mixing and applying a range of values opaquely, using white and the same burnt umber on top of the original “open” grisaille.

One of the most powerful things I discovered in the video is the way light changes across planes.

Gray scale and strip painted 50% gray

9-step Value Scale (white to black) on left and strip painted Value 4 Gray on right (screenshot from video)

Same Value 5 gray strip curved to show the range of values as it turns from light

Same Value as image to the left but the Value 4 Gray strip is curved to show the range of values as it turns away from light (screenshot from video)

When bent so planes are at different angles to the light, the gray strip on the right seems to have all the values in the 9-step value strip on the left. Isn’t this a powerful demonstration of the effects of light and shadow?

My first attempt at grisaille was  interesting. I made many mistakes and got lots of good practice.

My finished painting isn’t great, but doing the study helped prepare me for the next lesson I gave myself (and that I enjoyed more and will post soon): starting with a grisaille to set the value structure in a still life and then adding the color in the same values.

Below is a clip from the video. I was very curious about how grisaille works so it was worth the $35 to download the three-hour program, also available here to watch online and DVD.

(Disclaimer: I have no connection to or receive no benefit from writing about these products)

A Is for Anxious Guy

A is for Age, Avoiding, Annoying, Anxious…

In April my sketch group decided to sketch things starting with “A” but I kept going with it. I had a lot of fun finding things about the people I sketched that started with A. Click on any of the pictures to see them larger with my notes in slide show format. As you’ll see from the times in the notes, I was working some long hours the past couple months which is why I’m so behind on posting. When time is limited I always choose painting over posting.

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor

The Danger of Sketching While Tired

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor

El Cerrito Natural Grocery, sepia ink & watercolor, 8×5″

I was so tired I almost didn’t go to our Tuesday sketch night but our destination, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, was near home so I pushed myself out the door. I only managed the sketch above, made standing using a shopping cart as my table. Even the colors looked tired. Cathy focused on the meat department and entertained the butchers with her drawings of them. Her chicken sketch is a hoot.

We left at 8:00 when the store closed and then I sat in my car for a few minutes, checking my email on my phone while trying to talk myself out of a trip to the ice cream shop. My phone rang: “Hello, this is El Cerrito Natural and you left your little notebook in your shopping cart.”

Thank goodness I always put a note on the first page of every journal: “IF LOST PLEASE CALL…” with my phone number. I said I was still in the parking lot and ran back to the front door and gratefully took it home.

Outside Peets Coffee, Ink & watercolor

Outside Peet’s Coffee, Ink & watercolor

This was another drawing while tired. I tried taking a walk to Peet’s coffee to wake myself up. Since caffeine is no longer an option, the walking and an iced decaf had to do the trick. It didn’t. I was just more tired when I got home but at least I got to sketch a bit (and didn’t lose my sketchbook this time).

I watched the blind woman at the next table (in the sketch above) make a phone call by listening carefully to the tone as she pushed each number. Her friend arrived shortly afterwards, also blind, walking a large black poodle.

Two things I wondered:

  1. If you’re meeting someone and you can’t see them, how do you know they’re there or arriving without calling out “Susie are you here…” or phoning?
  2. Why don’t you ever see standard poodles as guide dogs? I live near a center for the blind and also often see people training guide dogs on our subway system. They’re never poodles. Though they do always wear very cute booties–I wonder why?
Lady in Red at Dr. Sketchy's, ink & water-color pencil, 8x5.5"

Sketching Burlesque Pin-Up Girls: International Sketchcrawl 35, Part II

Lady in Red at Dr. Sketchy's, ink & water-color pencil, 8x5.5"

Lady in Red, ink & watercolor pencil, 8″x5.5″

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was holding a free Tease-O-Rama drawing session during the afternoon of the Sketchcrawl at a Holiday Inn. The models, all burlesque artists, were beautiful, with surprisingly natural bodies from heavy to thin, and without any apparent enhancements except makeup and feathers (and maybe wigs; their hair was just a little too perfect).

They were in town for a burlesque convention so the hotel was filled with people from this interesting subculture. Some looked quite ordinary when they changed out of their costumes (I was in the restroom when two ladies did that). Others were extraordinary in a variety of ways, costume or not (head to toe tattoos for example).

First pose of the day, ink & colored pencil, 8x5.5"

First pose of the day, ink & colored pencil, 8×5.5″

They really knew how to pose like pin-up girls and hold that come-hither look. The poses were each 15 minutes which was perfect. There were about 50 artists in the plush conference room, sitting audience-style in chairs, so I couldn’t get out my watercolor set. I just had my pens and a red watercolor pencil I borrowed from Cathy.

Last pose, least favorite, ink & colored pencil, 8x5.5"

Least favorite model/sketch, ink & colored pencil

The model’s outfit above was actually white but so was her skinny body, which was kind of boring to draw. I used a Micron Pigma pen and black and yellow Pitt Artist Brush Pens and Cathy’s red pencil.

Miss Red, in Green, ink & watercolor, 8x5.5"

Miss Redd, in green, ink. (Watercolor added later) 8×5.5″

I was delighted to discover that I could to do a competent job at not only drawing the models, but also fitting them on the page. If you do any figure drawing, I’m sure you know how easy it is to end up with no room for the feet (or worse, the head)! Frequent drawing practice and study has led to my being able to better see the angles, shapes, negative space, and plumb lines within the subject, which makes drawing easier. Yay!

The next model was way too creepy for me: a guy wearing a rhinestone-studded gas mask, a sequined g-string and black leather body straps. My sketch buddy Cathy had left after the first model, wanting to be outdoors, and I decided this was a good time to join her.

More sketches from the beautiful outdoors in the next post.

Waiting with flowers at MacArthur BART Station

International Sketchcrawl 35: San Francisco, Part I

Waiting with flowers at MacArthur BART Station

Waiting with flowers at MacArthur BART Station (sketched standing on the platform and color added at home)

Sketchcrawl 35 was fantastic! The weather in San Francisco was unusually beautiful, warm and sunny and there was so much to see and do. I’m posting the sketches in three parts since what we saw in each part of the day was so different.  Part I covers the trip into the city through lunch.

Reading an Actual BOOK on BART

Reading an Actual BOOK on BART (paint added at home)

So rare to see someone reading a real book and not just fidgeting with their digital whatevers.

He reminded me of Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks

He reminded me of Jay from the movie Clerks

The guy in the sketch above reminded me so much of the slacker Jay from the movie Clerks I had to post this photo of him and Silent Bob below.

Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks

Jay and Silent Bob in Clerks

Thank goodness for the Internet or I would have been saying, “Doesn’t he look just like that guy in that movie….” and had no photo to show you.

Cathy and another sketcher at Caffe Trieste in North Beach

Cathy and another sketcher at Caffe Trieste in North Beach (sketched and painted on site)

Cathy was sitting at my sidewalk table sketching someone behind me so I sketched her while the group gathered at Caffe Trieste, the starting point for the sketchcrawl. There was scaffolding over the entryway, which provided an interesting drawing challenge.

Molinari's Deli where we bought lunch

Molinari’s Deli where we bought lunch (sketched in the store, painted at home)

Cathy and I bought lunch for later and then stood in opposite corners of the store to sketch the counter guys at Molinari’s Deli in North Beach. (Click the link to Molinari’s to see the picture prominently displayed in their store of their salame with the Pope). They turned up their radio for the end of the Barcelona vs. Madrid soccer finals. It was fun hearing the super-excited announcer yelling the play-by-play in Spanish as a player ran down the field, made a goal and won the game.

Part II will be my drawings from Dr. Sketchy’s Tease-O-Rama and Part III is more in North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Cathy Sketching at Le Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5

The Drunken Boat, Burlesque Convention, International Sketchcrawl Reminder

Cathy Sketching at Le Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5

Cathy Sketching at Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5"

We had a wonderful Tuesday evening sketching and dining at Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) in Berkeley. The ambiance and food are fantastic. We sat in the dining room with lovely brick walls and a fireplace. When we sketched there last year we sat in the café area which is equally charming.

International Sketchcrawl 35 is Saturday, April 21!

Here is a link to the Sketchcrawl website where you can find out if there is a group sketching near you (or start a location yourself).

San Francisco looks to be a particularly juicy sketchcrawl, starting in North Beach and ending at a free Burlesque Queens sketching marathon at a hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf, hosted by Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The  burlesque performers are in town for the Tease-O-Rama, a “showcase and convention dedicated to the thriving neo-burlesque revival.”

Unfinished sketch of stuff on table with bits of business card

Unfinished sketch of random stuff on table with bits of business card

Downton Abbey, Sketched from TV

Missing Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey, Sketched from TV

Downton Abbey, Sketched from TV

I loved Downton Abbey and I’m missing it now that it’s over but at least I have these sketches I made while watching the shown on TV.

Only Mr. Bates is semi-recognizable on the right

Only Mr. Bates is semi-recognizable on the right

Poor Mr. Bates. I hope he’s doing ok in prison. Do you think he really murdered his terrible wife?

Lord  Grantham, bottom right

Lord Grantham, bottom right

I was so fond of Lord Grantham. In looking him up on the Masterpiece Theater website, I noticed they have a character likability scale and chart of all the characters and the actors who played them, and full episodes available to watch online.

More Downton Doodles

More Downton Doodles

Anna Smith, Head Housemaid (R) and another maid

Anna Smith, Head Housemaid (R) and another maid

Poor Anna Smith. But wasn’t Mr. Bates rather too old for her anyway? I liked him in a sweet British series, Lark Rise to Candleford, where he played a similarly earnest and good man and every show has a happy ending.

Another good British series I enjoyed was Bramwell, starring Jemma Redgrave as Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a headstrong woman doctor during the late Victorian era who fights for the right to practice medicine and opens a free clinic for the poor.


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