Random Little Moleskine Sketches


Here are some random sketches from hikes and walks with my dog, sitting in meetings, a movie shown in a library and at the dog park. These are all in my pocket Moleskine that I carry with me all the time. Hover over images to read captions or click on them to see them larger.

Sketchcrawl #44, UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5x8 in

UC Berkeley Center Street Entrance, ink and watercolor, 5×8 in

I had a great time at Sketchcrawl 44 on the University of California, Berkeley campus. I missed the starting meet up at 11:00 because I stopped at the entrance to do the sketch above (and to be honest, because I arrived an hour late due to my seeming inability to get out of the house on time in the morning no matter how hard I try). Most of the students are gone for the summer but there were hundreds of visitors from all over the world and families doing campus tours with their high school students and large groups of teens in summer programs on campus.

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8x5 in

UC Berkeley Sather Tower Campanile, ink and watercolor 8×5 in

At lunchtime I met up with Cathy and some other sketchers, and had lunch sitting on white chairs set up for a wedding in front of the Faculty Club. Then I sketched at our meet up spot, Sather Tower, aka “the Campanile,” a tall clock tower in the center of campus. I rode the elevator up to the top and was going to sketch the panoramic view when I noticed someone looking up at the huge bells just over my head. I would have totally missed that sight (until the bells sounded excruciatingly loudly at 2:00 as I was drawing the one bell above). I skipped drawing the panorama since it took so long to understand and draw the bell. Then I took the slow elevator back down and sketched the tower. I only got the top 3/4 in the sketch on the right so added the base with a statue and stairs on the left.

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

Gary Amaro, Pete Scully and Me

At our 3:00 meet up time I was delighted to spot my friends and fellow Urban Sketchers Pete Scully and Gary Amaro. It was such a treat to see them again and get a chance to look through their amazing sketchbooks. I told Pete I wish I could live in the world he draws. I so love the light and depth and detail in his sketches! Gary’s gouache and ink sketch of a campus building is really gorgeous in person.

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels

Living Room with 2 Rolls of Shredded Paper Towels (my couch isn’t really that yellow…ick)

I’ve missed going out sketching all the time like I used to. 2014 so far has been the year of the dog. Unfortunately, having been rescued from the streets of Taiwan, Millie is not fond of urban environments, making urban sketching with her rather difficult. She shivers and shakes on busy streets so much that her teeth chatter. Even though she did get into trouble while I was out (see above) in the hour before the dog sitter came to take her to the park, I’ve really enjoyed the time I spend with her and she’s becoming a great studio dog (see below).

Studio Pup Millie

Studio Pup Millie

Sketching North Berkeley with Carole Baker

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carol holding my Earthly Goods sketch

Carole Baker is an amazing painter in remote northern Alaska who I’ve known through our blogs and correspondence for years. When she was in Berkeley for a visit we met in North Berkeley to sketch. Above is a photo of my wonky sketch (held by Carole so that I could photograph it) of Earthly Goods, the store on one corner of Vine and Shattuck.

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

Carol holding her sketch of the corner of Shattuck and Vine

We sat on the same bench but looked in opposite directions. Here is Carole and her sketch of the produce market on the opposite corner of Shattuck and Vine.

I was so inspired by Carole and her art on the beautiful greeting cards she gave me as a gift. You can see Carole’s art on her blog Carole Baker’s Art Journal.

Spring Things and not so Spring-y Things (Self-Portrait)

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8x5.5 in

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8×5.5 in

This little fig tree has survived so much: being transplanted, then a killer frost, and then transplanting again after sewer line work. As soon as leaves sprouted this year so did two figs. Sadly the crows or squirrels (or the toddler next door?) took them before I could even post this.

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5x5.5 in

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5×5.5 in

I sat in the driveway and quickly sketched some roses but had to stop when the shadow of the house took away the light.

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5x7.5 in

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5×7.5 in

And then there’s my not so spring-y self, frowning into the mirror, with hat-head and something wrong with the mouth. And yes, it’s intentionally buried at the bottom of this post. It feels good to be drawing again, after what seems like months away from it. It’s also a little frustrating feeling rusty at it. But the only fix for that is more drawing!

NYC Part 3: Society of Illustrators and Hopper, Magritte, Calder at The Whitney and MoMA

Model and Artists at Society of Illustrators, NY, ink and watercolor 5.5x7.5"

Model and Artists at Society of Illustrators, NY, ink and watercolor 5.5×7.5″

My second day in New York started with visiting art museums (more about that in a minute) and ended upstairs at the Society of Illustrators for costumed figure drawing from 6:30 to 9:30.

Society of Illustrators Staircase

Society of Illustrators Staircase

Just walking through the red door, up the stairs and seeing the portraits of all the famous illustrator/members was awe-inspiring.

Models at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5"x5.5"

Models at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5″x5.5″

I didn’t find the models to be very inspiring; they repeated the same few poses and the thin one wore a strange headdress with a little floral jumpsuit; the voluptuous model wore painful looking bondage gear. Or maybe it was just me: I’d started getting a migraine before dinner and had taken migraine meds so was a little off kilter.

Upstairs Bar at the Society of Illustrators

Upstairs Bar at the Society of Illustrators

I would have been intimidated going to the Society of Illustrators by myself but Shirley is a regular, which helped newcomers Pat and I feel comfortable. According to Shirley there was a world-famous fashion illustrator at the bar (above) that evening. We sketched to a soundtrack of loud rock music from the 70s, including favorites from Led Zeppelin, the Eagles and John Lennon.

Model at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5"x5.5"

Model at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5″x5.5″

Please see Pat’s iPad drawings and her amusing story about the day and Shirley’s sketches here.

Hopper, Magritte, Calder

Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists so I was excited to start NYC day 2  at the Whitney with Pat visiting the show of Hopper paintings and his preliminary drawings for them. What really struck me was how his drawings showed great skill in drawing and perspective and yet many of his paintings have awkward angles, wrong perspective and bodies in unnatural positions.

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A avorite Hopper painting on his homemade easel

I thought this note beside a painting might help to explain that dichotomy:

Hopper was a lifelong realist, committed to deriving his pictorial ideas from observed reality. His aim, however, was not to record outward appearances but to use his observations…as vehicles…to portray his inner life. Asked once what he was trying to achieve in a painting, he answered, “I’m after ME.”

Some favorite Hopper sketches in the show (click to enlarge):

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While at the Whitney we also visited American Legends: From Calder to O’Keefe (more Hopper…Yay! and some wonderfully whimsical Calder circus sculptures made of wire and miscellaneous detritus), then we went quickly through Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE (meh).

Next we walked to MoMA where we met Shirley and went to the member’s preview day for Magritte: Mystery of the Ordinary.  None of us loved the Magritte. My favorite work in the show referenced painters painting, especially Clairvoyance where the artist’s still life setup is an egg but he’s painting a bird. While Shirley and Pat went off to sketch from paintings in the shows they’d already seen, I enjoyed American Modern: Hopper to O’Keefe show (Yay! even more Hopper!)

Sleeping Guy at MoMa, NY, pencil and watercolor, 7x5.5"

Sleeping Guy at MoMa, NY, pencil and watercolor, 7×5.5″

Finally, exhausted, I found Shirley sketching in a comfy chair beside the man above who was sound asleep. I drew him while she finished her sketch. Then we had dinner at a diner and walked to the Society of Illustrators for figure drawing.

New York City Part 2: Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Figures al Fresco

Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5x7.5"

View from Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5×7.5″

My first morning in Manhattan I woke to sun streaming through the trees and hurried to get ready for a day of sketching in Battery Park with Shirley Levine and Pat Gaignat. Above is my first sketch of the day: the view from Battery Park of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where my grandfathers first arrived in the U.S. from Russia. It seemed like a perfect way to mark my arrival too.

Pat had created a multi-media iBook titled “Way to Go, Jana!” with directions for finding my way to the park at the other end of Manhattan. I downloaded it to my iPhone and headed out the door.

At my first intersection I stepped off the curb at a green light and BAM! a truck hit a motorcycle right in front of me. The bike went down but the rider didn’t seem injured. The drivers began their negotiations and I scurried across the street.

Below are a couple of screenshots from Pat’s e-book that I literally would have been lost without!

Pat's guide map page

Pat’s guide map page

Pat's guide  featuring Shirley with video and audio instructions

Pat’s guide starring Shirley

In the afternoon we joined a dozen artists on benches around a small plaza for the start of “Figures al Fresco,” a weekly, free, clothed figure-drawing session sponsored by the city, complete with teacher. She drove up in an electric cart filled with art supplies to use during the session, including drawing boards, paper pads, watercolors, charcoal and pencils. I did most of my figure drawings on a newsprint pad from the cart. The last one (below) I did in my journal with my new Pentel Tradio Stylo water-soluble pen and a water brush.

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5x5.5"

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5×5.5″

John, the model was excellent, with many interesting poses that simulated working in fields and other kinds of manual labor. The teacher requested he remove his shoes so we could draw his feet. He took off the shoes, but wouldn’t remove his socks.

Me sketching in Battery Park

Pat’s photo of me sketching in Battery Park

When the session ended at 4:30,  in a hurry I returned my drawing pad to the cart, forgetting to remove my sketches. Then I joined Pat to walk the High Line, a public park built on a former elevated railroad line, as part of our journey back uptown.

You can see Shirley’s drawings here and Pat’s here. Shirley’s figure drawings show such sensitivity for the human form and Pat’s work is strong and unique. She draws on an iPad using a digital tool meant for drawing and filling shapes, not making lines. It seems extra challenging to me, but gives her line work a really dynamic look.

One funny thing about Pat who I only knew through our blogs…I didn’t realize until I saw her gentle face that I had pictured her looking the way she draws people, with thick, edgy, sharp, black outlines!

To be continued….

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