Summer is… Fruit from the Farmers’ Market

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.

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Summer Fruit

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.
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And when I bring home bags and bags of stuff from the market? I sketch it :)

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Summer is… Kayaking with the kids

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.
Summer is... Kayaking with the kids

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.
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And another one from onshore, looking down at the lake with it’s sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats.
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Summer is….

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.

Summer is....
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.
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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.

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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.everyone_sketch

More summer adventures, coming soon!

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Drawing People

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.

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Oak Trees. 3 takes.

3 sketches of old oak trees, sketched over 2 days in Templeton Gap wine country near Paso Robles. All but one tree was hung thick with curtains of Spanish moss.

This first tree was a perfect climbing tree. I enjoyed drawing the scraggly tree with a bamboo nib. The rough, textured line lent itself well to the tree’s character. The kids among the branches provided great pops of color. And scale.

Oak Trees. 3 takesThis second tree was surprisingly free of moss. It stood at the edge of a slope with a lookout point under it.
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And this third grove of trees had everything going for it: a thick canopy of criss-crossing branches, veils of Spanish Moss, and even a tiny cabin under it to complete the picture.
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Cars

For someone who can’t tell one make of car from another, it’s surprising how many cars I draw. When I drive a car, it’s something that takes me from point A to point B. Hopefully it has low gas mileage, and if I’m lucky both the air conditioning and the radio work.

But when I draw cars, they are characters: some happy, some sad and battered, a few tiny, many monstrous. And they’re all very much a part of the American landscape.

Like these cars parked at a local shopping mall lot.
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Or this monstrous SUV with it’s menacing grill.
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And then there’s this firetruck that looks like a giant kids toy: all bells and whistles and shiny bright colors.
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California Theater and the Green Cow, San Jose

The California Theater in downtown San Jose is one of those happy-endings stories: an ornate little building from the 1920s that was shuttered for years, and then renovated in the early 2ooos and is now the shared home of Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley.

Looking at its grand vertical marquee facing south, I had a clear, unobstructed view of it. But it seemed a lot more fun and challenging to draw it facing north, where it was partially obstructed by the crisscross of the branches of a nearby tree.  I even remembered to take a couple of pictures of the sketch as I worked, so here it is in 4 steps:

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The ‘Green Cow’, as Sherwood Inn in San Jose is known as, actually has a green bull on its sign. From the little I gleaned from my research, the bull dates back to the 70s and was originally black. Know anything more about this sign? I’d love to know.

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