Urban Avians and the Highway

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb 1, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

While I was having my car’s oil changed at Toyota Albany I took a hike down to the SF Bay Trail to sketch. I followed a confusing bike and walking path that goes up onto an overpass and then down under the freeway. It leads to the marsh on the way out to Albany Bulb, a spit of land homesteaded by the homeless that the city is constantly trying to reclaim. There were birds everywhere, including the beautiful, delicate white Snowy Egrets that always delight me (above).

Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Pigeons on the Freeway, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

I even spotted birds living right on the freeway walls; the family of pigeons above didn’t seem disturbed by the constant roar of cars. The hike was a bit isolated, and it felt spooky walking under the freeways, even on a sunny weekday morning. Fortunately the few people I saw along the way were polite bicyclists. No trolls living under these bridges like the Brothers Grimm fairytale I remember with horror from my childhood.

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5x7 in

Birdwatching at Albany Bulb, ink, 5×7 in

While I was sketching, a man was photographing birds nearby and he told me the names of the birds we were seeing, and how to differentiate them. I made notes on my sketch as I tried to figure out the basic shape of the birds.

The Pub on Solano: A Cozy Spot to Sketch

Cozy Evening at The Pub, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Cozy Evening at The Pub, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

The Pub on Solano near the border of Albany and Berkeley is a hidden-away, cozy place to sketch, play chess, or chat with friends or friendly strangers while sipping espresso, beer or wine and hang out as long as you want.

The Pub’s clientele tend to be colorful people who are interesting to eavesdrop on while sketching. The old guys I sketched above weren’t exactly firecrackers but the 40-something, rough-hewn guy in rainbow tie-dye and long blond hair sitting behind me kept me entertained with daring travel adventure stories of remote and distant lands told to his friend who was soon departing.

A bit of an anachronism, The Pub also sells tobacco and cigarettes from around the world and has an interesting display of old pipes. The indoor areas are smoke-free but they offer a front and back outdoor patio where smokers can enjoy their vice(s).

Sketchcrawl 38 and Urban Sketchers Show

Masonic & Solano, Albany, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Masonic & Solano, Albany, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

We had a fantastic time hosting sketchers from around the Bay Area at our sketching event last Saturday. There were at least 30 sketchers and a total of around 100 people who joined us at the reception for the show afterwards. It was great seeing so many local scenes captured in many different styles. You can see photos of the exhibit, the reception and tables of sketchbooks on the library’s blog here.

In the sketch above I enjoyed seeing and drawing all the details that normally go unnoticed. Then I  disregarded my plan to put the paint down and leave it alone. Instead I repainted the right side of the building several times and even removed the paint with a wet paper towel (in the restroom of the Sophia Cafe above, left) and then painted it again, finally getting the “right” color but ultimately ruining the paper surface.

Bart Tracks on Masonic, ink, 5x8"

Bart Tracks on Masonic, ink, 5×8″

I got in one last quick sketch of Masonic Ave. with the BART tracks and train before I had to zip down to the Albany library/community center at the end of the block for the reception. We made lots of new sketching friends and some will be joining us for our Tuesday night sketch outings we will be hosting the first Tuesday evening of each month.

If you’re interested in sketching with us, please visit our Urban Sketchers blog’s Event page or join our Urban Sketcher’s Facebook Events page.

Airstream Trailer Coffee Kiosk at Flowerland Nursery

Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6x8

Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6×8

Lately food trucks pop up all over the Bay Area; former roach coaches are the new gourmet dining spots. But this is the first vintage Airstream trailer food truck I’ve seen and it doesn’t travel. It’s set up on blocks inside Flowerland Nursery on Solano Avenue in Albany (California–next door to Berkeley) and run by Local 123 Cafe.

I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a good cup of coffee than in a lovely garden. The lovely folks at Flowerland Nursery put interesting chairs and tables throughout the nursery, turning the whole place into a sort of garden café. You can get your coffee and then sit among the palms, the native plants, fruit trees or climbing vines to enjoy it.

And when you finish your coffee, you can take home the chair you sat on or the plant you sat beside (for a price of course).

Sketch Rendezvous at the Rendez-Vous Cafe

Someone else feeling like me, ink & watercolor

Someone else feeling like me, ink & watercolor

I wasn’t feeling well the night we sketched at the newish Rendez-Vous Cafe-Bistro and it looks like I sketched my feelings onto my friend’s face. She was cheery and having fun but my pen gave her an expression reflecting how I felt instead.

Kid's Menu Spaghetti & Meatballs with my legs under table, ink & watercolor

Kid’s Menu Spaghetti & Meatballs with my legs under table, ink & watercolor

There was a guitar jazz duo playing lovely music and the waiter kindly let me order  spaghetti and meatballs from the kids’ menu since I just wanted a small portion. As you can see in the sketch above, after I sketched my food on the table I continued down the page, over the binding, and sketched my legs and feet under the table.

By the end of the evening I was feeling much better, as almost always happens when  I sketch, especially with such good friends.

Hotsy Totsy Club at Sunset, ink & watercolor 5x8"

Hotsy Totsy Club’s Hot Stewsdays

Hotsy Totsy Club at Sunset, ink & watercolor 5x8"

Hotsy Totsy Club at Sunset, ink & watercolor 5×8″

We started our Tuesday evening sketching outside the Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany. I had trouble with my watercolor Moleskine paper kind of pilling up when I tried to put another layer of paint on the shadow side of the funky building. Not sure why but that has happened to several pages so I’m glad to be finishing up the Moleskine and going back to binding my own sketchbooks.

Around sunset it got cold  so we moved inside.

Hotsy Totsy interior, ink & watercolor, 5x5"

Hotsy Totsy interior, ink & watercolor, 5×5″

We heard they had free hot stew on Tuesday nights (S’tewsday) and thought that would be a good way to warm up. It turned out they don’t serve it until 9:00 so Judith and I shared a hot toddy (as opposed to a Hot Totsy which the bartender explained was served on fire). It was pretty dark inside and hard to judge the colors we were painting.

I previously posted some snide comments about the Hotsy Totsy Club here, but it got new owners around that time who transformed it from a 72-year-old sleazy joint mostly populated by old drunks to a fun neighborhood retro saloon. Here’s an article about the club’s transformation.

We hung out and sketched until 9:00 when we were rewarded with the most delicious gumbo ever! Full of fat shrimp and all the other spicy goodness that is gumbo. Yum!

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