Little Sketches

It’s been a week of little sketches for me: teacups and biscuits, and the first harvest from my backyard garden: 2 miniscule radishes.

Orange Cinnamon Spice Tea, all the way from Seattle. In a Georges Briard Peony teacup. My friend Gail brought me the tea when she visited. And when I need beautiful cups and saucers to sketch, I borrow them from Bruce and Brenda who sell them on Ebay. 
My morning chai and biscuit. In a Homer Laughlin Admiral Cup & Saucer.

And these brilliantly colored radishes I pulled out a little too early from my backyard vegetable patch. They are Early Scarlet Globe radishes. I think I grow radishes JUST for their color. It’s great to see their ruby bulbs pushing out of the dark dirt.


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Winter Beach Weekend

A winter weekend at the beach. Pismo , California.

There’s the food:
People line up for the fish tacos and clam chowder at Splash Cafe. They’re worth the wait.


My kids and I polished off a rack of ribs at Mo’s Barbeque. I loved the sign, though it’s not really as ‘vintage’ as it looks…


Then, there’s the beach. Warm and sunny one day, cold and foggy the next. But always full of people to draw: kids building sandcastles, joggers, dog walkers and surfers. I love drawing them, they make a sketch come alive.pismo_pier2


And when it gets really foggy and the crowds move indoors, it’s just the birds and me.

pismo_pigeons pismo_seagulls pismo_seagulls2

More sketches from my weekend here on my flickr stream.

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A little bit of everything

Sometimes I look at what I’ve been sketching for a while, and there’s a thread that holds it together. This isn’t one of those times. So here’s a post of random sketches from the last couple of weeks.
School is closed this week, so it’s lots of time making and building stuff. This is my son, Nishant , making dinosaurs with his favorite building toy, Zoobs. Graphite and watercolor.

Waterbirds at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, from a weekend trip. I love that the tanks at the Aquarium let you see above and below the water. It is quite surreal to watch the waterbirds swim underwater: they seem to fly through it.

My new favorite creature at the aquarium is the giant octopus. How incredibly fluid his movements are and how quickly he changes shape and form as he moves. It is such a challenge to draw things in motion, to capture them in a single image, yet convey that they are ever-moving.

And one last sketch, this time an old sign from the South Bay: Mr. T’s Liquor Locker. Another sign that I can’t seem to dig up too much information about, other than that it’s “from the 60s”. Know more about it? Let me know.

ImageMore recent sketches here on flickr.

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Of Dry Cleaners and Felafel Joints

When you sketch a place – a view, a street, a monument – you get to know it so well. The light, the textures, the colors, all the stuff you would miss if you weren’t looking so deeply. So it’s a bittersweet feeling when it no longer exists: I am glad I got to sketch it and know it before it was gone, but it’s gone forever…

Few things are disappearing as quickly as neon signs. It used to be that every proud business owner would put up as flashy a sign as they could. Glowing neon, flashing arrows illuminated by bulbs, all with beautiful typography…Todays backlit vinyl signs do a poor job of matching up to those gorgeous signs.

Elite Cleaners in Willow Glen, San Jose. They move away to a new location very soon. And the sign? They’re not taking it with them. I tried digging up how old the sign was and got a vague “from the 50s” reply. I loved the serpentine arrow that wraps down the sign.

A second look at the sign, from up close.

This sketch is of a sign by Felafel’s Drive-In, a popular felafel joint with a classic American drive-in sign. The good news? This place is thriving and they’re not going anywhere soon. I sketched this sign on what was possibly our ONLY really rainy day this year ( Northern California has it’s WORST drought ever this year.)

ImageNext up? I’m looking for suggestions. Know of a Bay Area location with a great vintage sign? A theater marquee? Or a handpainted storefront sign? Let me know, I’d love to sketch it.

To see more vintage sign sketches, check out this set on flickr.

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Pinewood Derby Day

My son is a Tiger Scout this year, so we built our very first Pinewood Derby car and took it to the races today. It was a really fun, high energy event, which made it perfect for sketching.
There’s so many categories and races, but the BIG one is the main pinewood derby race, where you race your car down a high-tech ramp that measures your time to fractions of a second. Every kid wants to win the prize for the fastest car!

Besides the fastest car race, there’s one for different categories like “Go the distance” where you roll your car down a slight incline and then see how far it goes along a flat plain. Vehicle Escort Officials, Recording Officials and Security Personnel, all older scouts , help with measuring and recording distances.

“To The Line” measures how close you can roll your car to a target marked on the floor.  And for when you’re hungry there’s tons of snacks. My kids had more then their fair share of cookies and brownies.

And this is Nishant, my proud Tiger Scout and his car “Death Stalker” ( don’t ask where the name came from!). I wasn’t the only one sketching. Kavya, my daughter sketched Nishant’s car.

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Desert Landscapes

Until last week, the word ‘desert’ conjured up for me a huge barren landscape with not much to see. My week in Joshua Tree National Park, Sedona and Tuscon wiped that image out of my mind completely. What a strange, magical landscape there was to see, everywhere I went. Here are some sketches of rock formations and cacti that fascinated me.

Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park. Scrambling up boulders and finding little passageways and ‘caves’ was as much fun for me as it was for my kids.

I just love the Seuss-ian Joshua Trees. (A Joshua Tree is not a cactus, it’s a part of the Yucca family). Each one is so different, I could have sketched every one of them.


From Sedona, Arizona: sketches of the red rocks, all done on hikes.
Bell Rock, as we scrambled up Upper Bell Rock Trail. (Next time I will sketch on the way DOWN, so I don’t end up scrambling up with an open, wet sketchbook in hand)


Cathedral Rock, from a nearby mesa. cathedral_rock

And Coffepot Rock, sketched from Teacup Trail. ( yes those are real names, look them up!)


And this really quick sketch of the desert landscape as it looks anywhere in Sedona. Red rocks, cacti, and bright ochre on the ground.

I started the sketch below at the Grand Canyon. It was freezing. It’s hard to capture scale, and I was just starting to draw in the little people on the rock to the left- see those tiny ant like figures standing dangerously close to the edge?- when I knocked my water container into the canyon :(

And the cacti in Southern Arizona? You can tell from my sketches I went pretty crazy drawing them. The Giant Saguaro were my favorite, but there were so many other fascinating kinds too.


If you know what the kind in the sketch below is, let me know.

Here’s a whole bunch of fascinating ones at the Sonoran Desert Museum.

Another one of my favorite Giants with Prickly Pear.


I made this last one very, very quickly just as the sun was setting at Saguaro National Park. For a very short time, the landscape was dotted with tall golden rods of cacti and the hills were purple in the distance.


Lots more sketches from my road trip through the desert in this flickr set. 

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Talking shop on

When I need my fix of ‘talking shop’, I head over to Parkablogs to drool over artists’s tools: their nib pens and their obsessions with a particular color of ink, their favorite papers and sketchbooks. Parka takes a look into artist’s sketchkits and has the definitive review of almost any drawing and painting tool I’ve thought to try. So it was fun to be asked by Parka himself to talk about my tools and the contents of my sketchbag.

Thanks, Parka, that was fun!
Head over here for the complete piece.

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