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.

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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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.

Or this monstrous SUV with it’s menacing grill.

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:



























































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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More vintage signs in San Jose

To those of you that wrote in and told me about signs I must sketch in the South Bay, thank you! Here are a few recent sketches, most from your suggestions.

Cambrian Park Plaza with it’s charming carousel. The Plaza is up for sale. Will they leave the carousel where it is or will it be torn down?

In that very same plaza is Cambrian Bowl.


This is Babe, the Muffler Man, at 808 The Alameda in San Jose. He’s huge and scary looking at first: maybe it’s those really bushy eyebrows and just how large he is? But as I drew him, he looked more and more benign. Which might be why he looks like he does in this sketch. Besides, it was an overcast day so I got no strong shadows: it’s just a lot more fun to draw something big and scary when there’s strong light and sharp shadows.


So I went back to draw Babe all over again. This time I chose a more dramatic angle, and I got some shadows, which helped. The muffler Babe holds, though, was gone. It had been taken down for repairs.

Another old sign. This one for a business that has long since disappeared. The sign for Stephen’s Meat Products stands near the Diridon Station in San Jose. It now marks the edge of a parking lot by the train station.

To see a collection of my vintage signage sketches, click here.
And if you know of more old signs in the San Francisco Bay Area, signs I can sketch, old theater marquees, drop me a line and let me know.

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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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