Yessie at 15: Quinceañera Portrait

Yessie's Quinceanera Portrait, Watercolor, 15x20 in

Yessie All Grown Up; Quinceanera Portrait, Watercolor, 15×20 in

My next door neighbors are like family so I was delighted when they asked me to participate in Yessie’s Quinceanera, a very special and elaborate traditional celebration for Mexican girls on their 15th birthday, that marks the transition from childhood to womanhood. They asked me to paint a portrait of her to be on display at the party for 200 people where the girls dress in evening gowns and the birthday girl and her “court” go from Mass to the event hall in a limo.

To prepare for the big event Yessie went to a salon for a trial makeover and then came over for me to take photos of her all made up, with false eyelashes and all. The photos weren’t easy to paint from because of the challenging light conditions that afternoon (and because I’m not a photographer!), but were better than the little cellphone snaps they originally gave me.

Here is a painting I made of Yessie back when she was just a tot, at her baby brother’s christening.

Yessie at her brother's baptism when she was just little, watercolor

Yessie at her brother’s christening when she was just little, watercolor

I painted her brothers back then too; you can see big brother here and my favorite portrait I’ve ever done: her little brother here.

My first attempt at the painting went well until it was almost done and then I had a problem that I couldn’t fix so I started over. Here are a couple of steps from the first attempt.

If I wasn’t running out of time I’d make another attempt. I was rusty at watercolor portrait painting when I started the project. Now I feel like I’ve got the hang of it again and could do it better. But they’re happy with version two and it’s framed and ready to go. I still might give it another try even if I can’t get it done in time for the big party, just because.

Lilly Pond at Ruth Bancroft Gardens


Water Lilies at Bancroft Gardens, sepia ink and watercolor, 5x8 in

Water Lilies at Bancroft Gardens, sepia ink and watercolor, 5×8 in

It was a gorgeous day at Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek when my plein air group visited. I walked around looking at all the beautiful plants, sculpture exhibit (and buildings in the private area we were given access to, where the 105 year-old Mrs. Bancroft still lives). With less than an hour before our session end I finally settled on sketching at the lily pond.

I painted the old barn the last time I was there and that barn sketch is one of my favorites ever.

Here is my sketch with the scene behind it and artist Catherine Fasciato painting a lily with oil paint. I sat right between her and the sculpture, choosing shade first and subject matter second on this very hot, sunny day.

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

Oakland Aviation Museum Sketches

P-51 Mustang. Ink and watercolor, 5x15 inches

P-51 Mustang. Ink and watercolor, 5×15 inches

A visit to the Oakland Aviation Museum was a great opportunity to sketch. The museum was the site of the original Oakland Airport and is full of interesting history and planes. This one was a 3/4 scale replica of the P-51 Mustang, a World War II long-range, single-seat fighter plane. This is the plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen.

I recently read several books about World War II that had parts about fighter pilots including The Caine Mutiny and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (both brilliant and fascinating). Seeing these flying tin cans up close brought home how terrifying their flights must have been and how courageous those pilots were.

Hiller 1099 Helicopter and N45LE Plane. Ink and watercolor, 5x15.

Hiller 1099 Helicopter and Sea Plane. Ink and watercolor, 5×15 inches

The people who work/volunteer at the museum were really into old planes and their history. They were enthusiastic about sharing information with our group. I’d like to go back and sketch there again.

Change Is…

Stege Marsh, ink and colored pencils in pocket Moleskine

Stege Marsh, ink and colored pencils in pocket Moleskine

I started to title this post “Change is Good” and then I thought, yeah, but change can be difficult too. As I thought of all the things change is (hard, exciting, scary, growth) I realized that if nothing else, change is constant, it just IS; thus the title.

So what about change? Well, the most obvious change is my blog’s appearance. I’ve begun the process of converting it to a website that will host both this blog,, and my art portfolio website, now at It’s a work in progress so please, if you notice any bugs, let me know.

The sketch of Stege Marsh above reflects another change in my life; it’s one of the first sketches I did while out walking my pup. I waited until after we’d walked about 3 miles through the huge off-leash dog park at Pt. Isabel (well I walked 3 miles, she was off leash and probably ran 10 miles running off and coming back). By the time we got to this spot she was happy to rest while I sketched this view along the Bay Trail. I carry a little bag of colored pencils and a small Moleskine sketch book in my bag all the time as it’s lighter than my watercolor kit for long walks so that’s what I used to color in the ink drawing.

Hydrangeas and the Last of EDiM 2014 (Fan and Remote)

Hydrangeas in Glass, ink and watercolor, 7x5 in

Hydrangeas in Glass, ink and watercolor, 7×5 in

My hydrangea bush is doing great this year, probably because it’s on the side of the house that is now a dog run and every day I empty the dog’s water bowl on the bush. Also it’s no longer competing with its two siblings that I removed because one never blossomed and the other had annoying teensy flowers that shed all over the table.

EDim 22 Remote Control, ink and  watercolor, 5x7 in

EDiM 22 Remote Control, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

These remotes live in the studio and operate a little combo TV/VCR, a DVD player and the stereo. There are another half-dozen that live in the house. I’m glad remotes were invented but they are ugly and annoying. I so wish I had this remote (a brilliant sketch and concept!)

EDim 23 Fan, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

EDiM 23 Fan, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

As I noted in my journal above, drawing a fan seemed like it would be even more boring than drawing the remotes but in fact it was really fun. I was really surprised as I sketch to discover all kinds of interesting design features I’d never noticed before when just turning it on or off (without the using the remote that came with it, which I’ve lost).

So I didn’t make it to every day in May, just 75% of them. I went away for a 3 day retreat and when I came back had lost the momentum. Oh well.


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