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

Picante, Waitress at Work

Picante Service Area, ink and watercolor, 5.5x8 in

Picante Service Area, ink and watercolor, 5.5×8 in

I used a Pentel Tradio Pulaman Fountain Pen for drawing at Picante Mexican restaurant. I love this pen with its smooth chisel tip. Since it isn’t waterproof I could add washes of water to make the gray areas. But Picante is such a colorful place I had to add a little color too. I ordered delicious fish tacos but was too hungry to draw them.

 

Cato’s Ale House, Oakland

Catos Ale House, ink and watercolor 7.5x10 in

Cato’s Ale House, ink and watercolor 7.5 x 10 in

When we planned the Urban Sketching evening for Cato’s, a great old pub, little did we know that a large group of Kaiser doctors were also planning a happy hour event that night too. The place was totally packed but a large group of urban sketchers made it work anyway. We gathered around several tables and sketched eaters, drinkers and sketchers (and in my case, dinner).

My hamburger was delicious but I ate it too quickly, anxious to get sketching and a bit overwhelmed by the noise and crowds. That was my first night out sketching since adopting my pup, who was waiting patiently and not all that happily in her bed in my car in the parking lot of the PetFood Express store across the street from the pub.

My Art in a Book, a Field Guide and a New Commission

I am happy to say that the excellent new book Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken, includes this “Urban Animals” page (above) featuring my sketches of cats. When the publisher contacted me to request the use of the images, I was delighted. I was even happier when they sent my complimentary copies of the book and I saw all the really useful information and wonderful sketches it contains.

Field Guide to San Francisco

Field Guide Cover

Field Guide Cover

Then I got an email from an art director from the San Francisco office of the national advertising agency, Ogilvy. They were moving and she was designing a “Field Guide” to the new SF neighborhood for their employees. When searching for sketches of the area she found mine, and as she looked through my blog she found sketches to illustrate most of the pages in the guide.

(This would be a good time to point out to fellow art bloggers how important it is to tag or attach categories to your images and your posts. WordPress makes it easy; the feature is a little hidden in Blogger but it really helps to find posts or images with specific content.)

In the end, they licensed 18 of my sketches for use in the printed field guide. Above are a few of the pages, brilliantly composed by the art director.

What I’m working on now

I am honored to be working on a commissioned large watercolor painting for a couple who live in Europe now, but were married in a lovely building in a Bay Area park. The wife wants to give her husband the painting for their anniversary. I visited the venue and took photos and we agreed on a composition. The painting is underway and so far is going well, but because it is large and has many details, it is keeping me very busy (and happy) in the studio.

(I’m leaving out any identifying details about the locations to make sure there’s no way her husband will find out. I know that seems unlikely, but when working on a previous commissioned painting of a house for a surprise anniversary present for the husband, their daughter found the work-in-progress painting I’d posted of her parents’ house when she Googled “Oakland Federal Building,” landed on my sketch of the building, scrolled down and the next post was her home. She was so surprised to see it she called her parents!)

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.

Endless Summer #1: Clark Kerr Campus, World News Box

World Journal News Box at Clark Kerr Campus,  ink and watercolor, 7x5x5.5 in

World Journal News Box at Clark Kerr, ink/watercolor, 7x5x5.5 in

Although cold autumn weather and even snow already arrived in much of the western hemisphere, always radical Berkeley begs to differ. We had an unusually unfoggy and warm summer, a toasty fall, and now, with temperatures in the 70s we’re back to summer again. So far 2013 is the driest year in Bay Area history with less rain than any year in recorded history, all the way back to the Gold Rush.

After a delay posting work from the summer due to various health issues, at least it doesn’t feel awkward to be posting them now, thanks to our seemingly endless summer.

In the sketch above, this bright red Chinese newspaper box on the Clark Kerr Campus immediately drew my attention. Clark Kerr was built in the 1930s as a residential school for the blind. When blind students began mainstreaming into regular public schools, the University of California Berkeley bought the complex for student housing. Clark Kerr’s beautiful, serene grounds and Spanish style buildings provide an oasis of sketching opportunities in the middle of a busy urban area.  

Emergency Response: Propane Tanker Overturns

Emergency response vehicles after double tanker truck overturned. Ink and watercolor, 7x5 in

Emergency response vehicles. Ink and watercolor, 7×5 in

A propane double tanker truck lost control and turned over at a freeway entrance/exit near my home around 3:00 in the morning. The emergency response teams evacuated people from nearby homes and businesses, including a nursery school, and then cordoned off two blocks on either side of the freeway. Oddly, they allowed traffic to continue flowing on the overpass right above the truck.

I didn’t realize any of this was going on until I tried to drive somewhere and couldn’t get on the freeway. I figured out another route, did my errands, and when I got home walked down to the scene with my sketchbook, paints and stool.

When I finished my sketch and headed home at 5:00 p.m. the fleet of emergency vehicles (including police, fire, utilities, and the Red Cross) and the small army of responders were just beginning to leave. Some of the evacuated residents were sitting on the curb, still waiting to be allowed back home. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the propane tanker didn’t leak. I’m so glad I live outside the evacuation area; I don’t know where I would have gone at 3:00 in the morning!

Jack London Square: Sketchcrawl 41

Jack London Cabin and Wolf Statue, ink and watercolor,  10x7 in

Jack London Cabin and Wolf Statue, ink and watercolor, 10×7 in

Despite the transit strike, intrepid Urban Sketchers braved the traffic for Sketchcrawl 41 at Jack London Square.  We enjoyed fantastic sunny, warm weather, blues bands and a classic car show.

I started by sketching (above) Jack London’s sod-roofed cabin above (moved to Oakland from the Klondike where it was discovered), Heinolds’ Last Stand (where Jack London started writing The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild), and the bronze statue of a wolf.

1936 Auburn Supercharged, Jack London Car Show, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

1936 Auburn Supercharged, Jack London Car Show, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

The classic car show was the best I’ve ever seen, with cars from Model A’s to Camaros and everything in between,  spread out along the waterfront for blocks. This one had hydraulics that let it sit right on the ground when parked and then pop up for driving. It was hard to choose which one to sketch until I spotted a bench in the shade, right in front of this one.

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….

Elmwood Theater, Berkeley

Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8x5"

Elmwood Theater, Ink & Watercolor, 8×5″

The Elmwood Theater was originally named The Strand and was built in 1914 in an Art Nouveau architectural style. Admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for kids. It closed in 1941 and reopened as the Elmwood in 1947 with a new “zigzag Moderne” decor.

All the zigzags and neon made for a fun drawing challenge. I sat on my stool on College Avenue, sheltered from the wind in the doorway of a shop closed for the evening, while people went in and out of the Korean restaurant next door carrying their fragrant food to go.

Halfway through the drawing a man climbed up a ladder and started changing the movie titles. I considered including him in the sketch but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. By the time I finished drawing it was time to meet up so I added color at home. My favorite part of the sketch is the pigeons.

Seeing Is Believing or Drawing Is Seeing? Zach’s Snacks on Berkeley’s North Side

Zach's Snacks on Berkeley's Northside, ink & watercolor sketch, 5x7"

Zach’s Snacks on Berkeley’s North Side, ink & watercolor, 5×7″

They say, “Seeing is believing.” I say, “Going through life without drawing is like being nearly blind. Only when I stop to look in order to draw, do I really see!”

Berkeley’s Euclid Avenue ends at the north side of University of California’s Berkeley campus (the greenery on the right, above). This block has everything you’d expect for a street abutting a college: shops with pizza, beer, coffee, burgers, snacks, and oh yeah, books.

There is some great architecture in this neighborhood too, including this apartment building with a snack shop tucked away in a little basement room. I’ve probably walked past here a hundred times and never noticed the interesting features of this building, with porches, pillars, carved wood decorations, fancy brickwork, and cool old lanterns.

Only when I stopped to draw and started really looking did I see what was there all along.

Happy Face? Donuts?

Dream Fluff Donuts, ink and watercolor, 5x7.5"

Dream Fluff Donuts, ink and watercolor, 5×7.5″

Do you have a happy face right this moment? I didn’t until I received a blog comment/email from a German blogger whose email and blog name is happyface313. It made me wonder what it would be like to be that committed to a happy outlook.

She inspired me to lose the grumpyface I’ve had the past few days while working on helping a loved one with difficult challenges, and to try out being Ms. HappyFace instead. I put on a smile, made the mental shift from grumpy to grateful, and surprise! It worked!

Happy Donuts, watercolor painting (sold)

Happy Donuts, watercolor painting, 15×22″ (sold)

What does all that have to do with donuts? Well, “Happy Face” made me think of Happy Donuts and my old painting of their shop (above), which reminded me I needed to post my recent sketch of Dream Fluff Donuts (at top). And donuts used to be my shortcut to happiness but I stay far away from those deep-fried, greasy sugar bombs now.

Top of the Top of Solano Avenue, Berkeley

Top of Solano Ave, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 5x7.5"

Top of the Top of Solano Ave, Berkeley, Ink & watercolor, 5×7.5″When we

When Cathy said, “Let’s sketch at the top of Solano Avenue Tuesday night” I chose to  literally sketch the top of Solano: looking up and drawing the tops of streetlights, buildings and trees.

It’s common here to refer to the “top” and “bottom” of streets when they’re on a hill, and 2-mile long Solano is on a slight incline as it runs from the start of the Berkeley Hills at The Alameda (just a street, but for some reason called “The Alameda”), down almost to the bay. I sat at a table outside a café and sketched the view at sunset. There are so many beautiful trees in Berkeley!

 

Oakland’s Lake Chalet Plus Drawing Rocks and Milk Cartons

Lake Chalet on Lake Merritt, Oakland. Ink & watercolor, 5x7.5"

Lake Chalet (and Plumbing) on Lake Merritt, Oakland. Ink & watercolor, 5×7.5″

Lake Chalet was originally built over 100 years ago as a high-pressure salt water pumping station for the Oakland Fire Department. In 1913, two wings were added to serve as boathouses. In 2009 the building was transformed into a lively restaurant and bar with outdoor seating on the docks behind it on the lake.

What attracted me to draw this scene wasn’t the lovely building; it was the multiple plumbing features on the grass that slopes down to the restaurant from the sidewalk where I sat to draw. And of course the antique street lights that circle the lake.

Milk at Picante, ink & watercolor, 5x5"

Milk Carton at Picante, ink & watercolor, 5×5″

I struggled trying to draw these two milk cartons so issued a challenge to the other sketchers at my table to draw them too. We all had different views of the cartons set in the middle of the table so it was fun to see the variety of approaches and points of view.

Drawing Rocks Practice on Sculpture at Oakland Museum, ink & watercolor, 5x7x5"

Drawing Rocks Practice on Sculpture at Oakland Museum, ink & watercolor, 5x7x5″

After a workshop on drawing rocks (part of John Muir Laws’ Bay Area Nature Journal Club) Susan and I walked down to the Oakland Museum’s sculpture garden, looking for rocks to practice on. The only rock-like object we could find was this clay sculpture. It’s so helpful to practice new concepts before they slip from my mind, as most things do these days.

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