Rodin’s Thinker

I sketched this gigantic Thinker by Auguste Rodin at the Cantor Museum on the campus of Stanford University. This little gem of a museum has loads of pieces by Rodin, including many of the small studies for his Gates of Hell sculpture.
Initially I wanted to sketch this piece from a more classic side angle, but the museum guards wouldn’t let me stand there ( I never figured why). But I’m glad I had to stand where I did, sort of in the back: it was quite a dramatic sight with this monumental piece looking down on the museum goers.
I really enjoyed contrasting the size, solidity and permanence of this sculpture with the relatively small and fleeting viewers.


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Drawing Pears, Pondering People.

I’m usually out and about sketching at the busiest street corner I can find. So drawing little objects at home is a change of pace for me. The nice thing about drawing like this is that it forces me to slow down. I can’t explain why: maybe it’s that I usually draw big scenes scaled down to little pages in my sketchbook? And here I’m drawing small objects with simple shapes?  Or maybe it’s just that I don’t think the pears are going to get up and walk away like the people in my urban sketches?

Notice how no pear ever looks like the classic shape we imagine pears to be. Drawing each pear as it is: bumps, blemishes and all, and not the ‘symbol’ of a pear is what makes it believable. When I drew these I was thinking about how the same principle applies to drawing people: I like to draw people from observation and not draw from what I “know”. It’s my way of always drawing a particular person and never a symbol.

But back to the pears. Here they are in graphite:

pears-greyAnd again in watercolor.

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Sketching Dinner

Something about the purple of an eggplant makes it so worth painting, even if that means dinner is late.

These are the ingredients for on of my favorite recipes my mom makes. Chopped coriander leaves, along with the peanuts I’m pulverizing in the suribachi, get mixed in with spices from my spice box and stuffed into the eggplants before they’re sautéed.


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An afternoon of sketching in Los Gatos

An afternoon of sketching in Los Gatos that began and ended with people sketching.  A few pages of quick sketches of people crossing the street (or waiting for the ‘walk’ light). And my notes on drawing people. Drawing pages of moving people is a great way to warm up: quick blind contour movement captures with no expectation of them turning into larger pieces or complete sketches.


Then, a couple of quick sketches from the intersection, (I was checking out the location for a workshop) both with the historic La Cañada Building in the background , but drawn from different sides of the intersection.


After a couple of sketches at the intersection I decided I  was happy with my location and was ready for coffee at the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company. What I really like about this coffee shop is that people actually come here to meet up and chat: there was not one cellphone in sight the afternoon I was there. So I managed to capture a few people deep in conversation.


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Where’s the color?

If you’ve seen my sketches before, you know I love color. But lately, I’ve been deliberately putting aside color every once in a while. I’m hoping it’ll help me focus more on value, something that often gets lost in my play with color.  (For a great exploration of value in sketches, I highly recommend Matthem Brehm’s book ‘Sketching on Location‘. )

Here are some of my recent sketches.

At the mechanic’s, waiting for my car.

Bananas in Noodler’s Bulletproof Ink.
inktober_bananasMy kids, reading ‘Captain Underpants’.
Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ at the Cantor Museum, Stanford.
Natural Bridges Beach,Santa Cruz, California. Ink and Brush.
natural7I’ve even tried doing a ‘value study’ before diving into a color sketch-except I don’t seem to use the first study when I dive into my color palette.
Palm trees and Mount Umunhum.


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A few quick sketches at Runnymede Sculpture Farm

Isn’t it amazing how you can live someplace for years and not know of incredible places right in your backyard? I discovered one of those a couple of weeks ago in Runnymede Sculpture Farm when Cathy McAuliffe  invited the local sketchers group to sketch.

I couldn’t stay long, but managed a few quick sketches while I was there. Runnymede is acre after acre of oak-covered rolling hills covered in outdoor sculptures by famous artists.

These are Celeste Roberge’s Rising Cairn and beyond it, Walking Cairn, both made from stone encased in wire.runnymede1

Charles Ginnever’s Kitsune, a large piece in steel set at the edge of a hill.runnymede2Kitsune again, with David Anderson’s Turbine in the foreground.
runnymede3And this is Hana and Jan Exnar’s – you guessed it- Horse, looking out towards my favorite sculpture from that daya majestic Mark di Suvero piece called Symbiosis.runnymede4

I had to sketch the Symbiosis next, it is really a majestic piece. I often get asked if I do line first or color, and until recently my answer was always “line first, then color” but I’ve been trying to vary my approach and go in with color first when I can. It helps me see masses before contours and gives me a chance to decide how much linework the final piece requires.

This was a pretty fast sketch- about 10 minutes- but I took some photographs while I did it, so here it is.
1: A photograph of the piece
2: I started by ‘building’ the piece in shades of orange: from deep orange red to egg yolk orange .
3: I did debate painting in a sky versus not, but I couldn’t resist playing the orange against the blue, so in went some sky: for contrast, and to carve out some of those inside spaces.
4: Line next to add dimension and depth to the beams on the structure.
5: Foliage to help define the horizon and unify the barn and the sculpture. And a wee bit of color on the sculpture itself to deepen the shadows on it.


I didn’t make it around even an acre of Runnymede and from looking at the map, I’m guessing the Farm is about a hundred acres. It would be wonderful to go back there again, to wander around and to sketch. Many thanks to Cathy and her friend Sam Perry, an artist and conservator at Runnymede, for making this trip possible.

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One last post from Brazil

One last post from Brazil. This one’s a little bit of a hodge-podge. Remembered bits and pieces, single-image memories, one long, sketch-filled day in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio and well, more bits and pieces…

Coming to Rio after a week in quiet Paraty is like taking the 6 train to Canal Street and getting spat out of the subway into the madness that is Chinatown. Rio was chaotic, frenzied and disorienting. I loved it.

This is the Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria, Centro, Rio. Sketched barely an hour after we arrived in Rio. The wobbly-lined, slightly crazy looking church sketch reflects how it felt to be in the city center after a week in Paraty.
Even crazier (if that is possible) was the Confeiteria Colombo, a pastry and tea shop near Centro. Packed with people, with an intricately patterned tiled floor and over-the-top architectural detailing, a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and liveried waiters. Oh, and with a million choices of pastries and cakes. Here we are, a table full of sketchers supposedly eating. I have to be super tired to sketch like I did, with the wire binding of my book on right (wrong?) side of the page.
tea_cake4Copacabana Beach. Big beaches with white sand have never held my attention much, so after a quick beach sketch, I sketched the sidewalk along the beach with it’s lovely wave-patterned mosaic.

The next day was spent around the neighborhood of Santa Barbara. We started by climbing the Escadaria Selarón, created by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón. They are a riot of color, and crazily difficult to draw because all that color flattens every sketch out into an abstract collage-like mess.

So after one attempt at the steps, I turned around and sketched the view looking down from the steps.ST_stepscombine

Climbing up to Santa Teresa, we paused to draw a view of the favelas spilling down the hillside with Sugarloaf mountain in the background.
ST_favella1Santa Teresa is a neighborhood packed with beautifully decrepit buildings on sloping streets. I drew a few over the course of the afternoon.
ST_hoes-combineA little sketch next, this one of the public phones around Rio. Funny shaped things in pairs around the city, designed to stick your head into and stand under while you use the phone.
rio_telephoneMore sketches, this time from a market I’ve forgotten the name to. These women held up signs saying “We buy Gold”: Old gold ornaments, family treasures to be resold or melted down.
More sketches near the market. More charmingly decrepit buildings.
rio_marketcombineAnd one last sketch of the beach, from my last afternoon in Rio. It was windy and the beach was almost deserted. I did a little sketch, but mostly I watched Stephanie Bower capture this vista so effortlessly in her moleskine sketchbook.
rio_beachTime to go home. Goodbye Rio. Goodbye Brazil. What a trip it was!

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