An afternoon at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is like swapping between the past, present and future all within a few feet of each other.
My hands-down favorite bit of my afternoon was a demonstration of the Babbage Engine at work. This 5-ton machine is reproduced from drawings done by Charles Babbage. He started these original drawings in 1821, but never got to building a complete machine. This machine, the Difference Engine #2, is built with almost no changes from the original drawings. How amazing that is, to design on paper something that has never been conceived of before and to get it so right without ever getting to build a complete prototype!
Another really popular exhibit was the self-driven Google car. People posed by it and sat in the front seat and had their pictures taken. I made little notes from the exhibit on how it worked, and like everything google does, they just made it sound do simple! If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and drive on I 280 between Palo Alto and San Francisco, you can often spot one of these driverless cars zipping along, with someone sitting in the passenger seat.
And here is my final sketch from the afternoon: This is my kids playing a game where you program frogs to jump around lilypads and eat insects. It uses the popular kids programming language, Scratch. ( if you know little kids, this is a fun language to introduce them to. Even I can build in it, it’s that simple!) They had a ton of fun getting their frogs to zoot around , eat bugs and even multiply.
Posted in california, Close to home, Silicon Valley
Tagged babbage engine, california, Computer history museum, computers, family, google car, location drawings, museum, programming, scratch, silicon valley, Travel, urban sketchers, watercolor sketch
At Capitola beach on what turned out to be a super hot Saturday. Perfect people sketching weather with lots of sunbathers.
Little people studies are my warm-up. It’s amazing how many of these sunbathers were on their phones.
Its not always possible to start with a page of people studies, but when I can, I do: I don’t always draw the same people or poses into my sketches, so I’m not sure what it is: maybe it just takes a little while to ‘see’ well enough to compose a sketch?
This next sketch is done standing at the water’s edge, looking down the beach. Feet in cold water, and the sun on my back. A good place to draw.
On the pier, where people spend hours casting their lines. These guys caught a couple of small mackerel.
And this guy caught a really big halibut but didn’t know how to clean it…
Posted in california, Close to home, people, Silicon Valley
Tagged beach, california, capitola, family, kids, location drawings, people, summer, Travel, urban sketchers, watercolor sketch
This might just turn into a summer of sketching the Farmers’ Market every Sunday.
Here are this week’s sketches. Usually I choose what to focus on: is it the produce that’s the focus of the sketch? Or is it the people? But today it was both those and more. It was color and texture, rhythm and pattern.
With this first sketch, I wanted to capture the alternating layers of produce and people without losing the different textures of all the vegetable. Or the individual people in the sketch. I started by drawing at the bottom of the paper, at the bin of produce nearest me. One of the keys to capturing depth and perspective is realizing HOW MUCH LARGER things in the foreground look than those far away: those foreground bins of vegetable are about half the height of this composition. All the activity that is layered in behind them only occupies the top half of the page.
This second sketch is a simpler composition. As my fellow sketcher Virginia said ( if you’ve never seen her sketches, they are gorgeous and you can see them here ), I “get right in” with my composition. I do this by literally standing right at the stall , probably in the way of the shoppers. It helped me capture that figure I needed right in the foreground to make this piece work. Luckily for me, the guy wanted 16 ears of corn, so it took a couple of minutes to select them all and I had time to capture him.
Posted in california, Close to home, people, Silicon Valley
Tagged almaden, california, family, farmers market, fruit, location drawings, people, san jose, sketch, summer, urban sketchers, vegetable, watercolor sketch
We’re lucky to have year-round farmers’ markets in California, but in the summer, the market REALLY comes alive. It’s summer fruit that I really enjoy painting: the peaches and nectaries, strawberries and melons, all in big, colorful, messy piles on tables across the market.
And I love watching people carefully pick over and choose their vegetables. It’s something you never see at the grocery store. It can take quite a while to examine and choose every okra and eggplant, which works really well for me because it gives me time to sketch people before they move on.
And when I bring home bags and bags of stuff from the market? I sketch it :)
June 19, 2014
Tagged almaden, california, family, farmers market, fruit, fruit stand, fruit vegetable, location drawings, people, urban sketchers, vegetable, watercolor sketch
Last weekend, we kayaked with the kids at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View. I was really surprised by how easy it was to get around in a kayak. Which made me wonder: could I sketch from one? (I’d brought my sketchbag onboard, just in case) But sketching and paddling proved too much to do ( I tried), so after we kayaked, I jumped into a paddle boat with my son, and he got to paddle and steer while I sketched the kayakers from aboard the paddleboat. I had to keep it quick and almost calligraphic. A bobbing boat doesn’t make for smooth, flowing lines. Neocolor watersoluble crayon for dashes of color. Added a little later from ashore.
Once we were done, I did two more sketches: one from the pier, watching the action on shore as kayaks and canoes were pulled ashore and stored away. I left the figures uncolored in this sketch: the boats are such bright primary colors that the people looked almost drained of color by contrast.
And another one from onshore, looking down at the lake with it’s sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats.
June 18, 2014
Tagged california, family, kayak, location drawings, people, summer, summer activity, Travel, urban sketchers, watercolor sketch
Summer is my favorite season in California.
Summer is when school is out and I get to hang out with my kids a whole lot of the time.
Summer is all the things we’ll do and explore over the next few weeks.
Last week it was Snap Circuits and Cal Academy, San Francisco.
Snap Circuits have really colorful components that let you build all sorts of circuits. These are my kids, with hundreds of little parts scattered around. For once, I was sure they would stay where they were long enough for me to sketch them. So I sketched this piece really large: 24″x18″ (my sketches are usually about 8×10 inches). It was fun to work the line with a bamboo pen, but hard to move freely around such a big sketch. I don’t think I took a longer time over this piece, even though it was much larger: it’s just that a line that would have taken a flick of the wrist in my sketchbook took a big sweeping arc of my arm at this scale.
We spent the first day of summer vacation at the Cal Academy Skulls exhibit. The exhibit is dominated by a wall with over 400 sea lion skulls. Most of these skulls are collected and cleaned by a biologist called Ray Bandar.
There are skulls of large and small animals at the exhibit. I loved the really strange skulls: those of the spoonbill, the hummingbird, the curlew and the sailfish. The little boy in the sketch below spent a lot of time making a very detailed sketch of the skull of a white-tailed deer.
My kids and I all sketched the fish at the aquarium, and we guesstimated their sizes and discussed their colors, but forgot to note down their names. So there you have it: A bunch of colorful but nameless fish that we drew.
More summer adventures, coming soon!
June 17, 2014
Tagged animal, Cal Academy of Sciences, family, fish, kids, location drawings, san francisco, snap circuits, summer, urban sketchers, watercolor sketch
I’m working on putting together my workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty this year. It’s called ‘Never Fear the People!’. We’ll discuss tips and tricks to capturing people, and ways to get over being afraid to draw them, but nothing will substitute for loads and loads of practice. So I’m taking my own advice and filling my sketchbooks with pages of people sketches, whenever I can. Here are some recent ones.