Coffee, again. Two sketches.

I recorded this little snippet of my first sketch as I started it. But my phone, balanced on my coffee cup, and hovering over my sketch became too much of a distraction. So I took it away. But you can see how I build it up, going back and forth between drawing in different media, and adding tone with pencil or by smudging the ink lines while they’re wet. When I am not pressed for time, I like working like this, back and forth, one little bit at a time, building the sketch up from my focal point to all the stuff I want to add to support my story. It gives me time to think, along the way of what to add, and what to leave out.

Lots of different supplies (seen in this photo), and a bunch of smudging, scraping, and general mushing around went into this leisurely sketch. I love seeing parking lots turn into meeting places like this. We have too any parking lots and not enough public places to sit and chat.

I did a second two-minute, almost-continuous-line version sketch after this first one, with just the two ladies in the foreground.

I often do this super-quick second take. Sometimes it’s because I now see more clearly what I wanted to capture in a sketch. At other times it is just for the joy of letting my pen (or pencil) fly with a subject I am now more familiar with. Take 2 is not always a better sketch, but it is often a really fun sketching experience.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | 3 Comments

Inspired by Chard

Playing around with pattern, line, mark-making and abstraction, inspired by these lovely rainbow chard leaves.

Here’s that piece.

When creating abstract pattern, I often work with a square format. It’s the easiest shape to turn around and look at from a different direction: Sometimes I’ll work a whole piece one way and then find it so much more interesting when turned upside down. Other times, I turn the piece 90 degrees ever so often as I work on it. It keep me looking at the piece with fresh eyes and keeps the process interesting.


Speaking of abstraction and mark-making, Sketching PlayLab has a new session starting this week, where we play with just those concepts: line, marks and the emotive power of line in abstract compositions. Never joined us for a session? Find out more about us and how to join in these donation-based sessions here.

Posted in composition, experiments, teaching | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Faces of Recovery: PRIDE Month Stories

I am really happy to be back to working on a project that had to take a backseat during Covid. The “Faces of Recovery” Project. If you are unfamiliar with it, the first paragraph on this page tells you about it and the rest of it is a collection of stories so far.

Last week, I was back after a long break to capture new stories. To mark PRIDE month, they are stories with a focus on the LGBTQ community.

This is a portrait of Marianne, the Volunteer Coordinator at Recovery Cafe. She shares her story as an ally and a nurse supporting those living with HIV/AIDS in San Jose.

Through this month, I will share more stories that were shared with me. I continue to be humbled by the willingness of members of the cafe to sit down and share their most vulnerable stories. I hope they put a face and story to what we often turn our heads away from, or deal with as just facts and figures.

You can see more stories in this series here.

Posted in Activism, Faces Of Recovery, people, Portrait, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Maskless Faces

One day soon this will seem normal and I’ll stop sketching everyone I see sitting outside maskless and chatting with a friend. But for now I just want to draw them all.

Here are friends in the sun sharing a coffee and a conversation. 

And this man pulled up a chair at the coffeeshop that was too little for his tall frame and sat and read his book in the sun. A real book.

The only people I have drawn maskless through this last year is my family so here is one for that set.

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Yellow Tulips

Here are some yellow tulips sketched between May 15th and May 24th when they were composted.

I noticed I only sketched them one day when they were classically tulip-shaped.

And then I got back to them again towards the end of their life. I find tulips most interesting as they fade and drop their petals. Perhaps because they seem to have personalities: there’s the one that holds its upright stance even as it loses petals, and there’s the one that withers and droops and develops a gorgeous dried texture. There’s the mangled dog eared one and then… you get the idea.

And maybe it’s just that I like my flowers wild-looking. Like the sweet peas, sage flowers and coriander flowers that I collected form the backyard into a Armagnac bottle to add to this spread.

And here’s one last sketch of those flowers before they turn into compost.

Posted in Close to home, Everyday Sketches, flowers, studies | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

New Every Time

Yet another Farmer’s Market post. But it’s new for me every time, this experience of drawing on location, especially when it involves people. You never know who will be there and what will catch your eye. You turn up, you listen, you see, you smell, you find this week’s story and you respond: you decide how to capture it best.

Standing and drawing means I can choose the viewpoint that lets me best sketch what i want to. Sun and shade don’t matter and I don’t need a place to sit. (I don’t much like sitting to draw in the market anyways, because that’s an unnatural viewpoint for how most of us experience this place.)

So what caught my eye this week? Stone fruit is finally here. It’s early in the season and it will get more abundant and juicier over the coming weeks, but it is here! Yellow, white and donut peaches. Yellow and white nectaries. Apricots and cherries. (No plums or pluots yet.)

I sketched with a bamboo dip pen, holding a little vial of ink. Finger-smudging the ink got me those big, dark shapes. Graphite pencil added the last details.

And then I added color with a few wax crayons when I got home. I find it easiest to do this as soon as possible and at the same pace as my work on location. It keeps the additions from being too fussy.

Wax crayons are such a versatile medium. Simple, bright, and easy to layer. They do their bit, adding focus with color without calling attention to themselves.

Are you out drawing on location yet? And are you seeing other people outside? Is it strange stepping back into the world? Different? Do you feel rusty?

I’m a “yes” on all those questions but I’d love to hear your experience.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sketching Near Home

When I’m not sketching at home, I’m sketching near home. Doing this not only helps with a regular sketching practice, it reminds me that the everyday is worth recording.

My walks in my neighborhood pretty much look like this. Not stop-in-your-tracks stunning, but pleasant, well-paved and safely distanced. Most importantly, it’s been possible to walk everyday: the suburbs have enough space to be safely distanced outside and the weather lets you step out all year round in San Jose.

And if that weren’t enough to be thankful for, we hit a new milestone today: Santa Clara County has moved to yellow tier (which is one step better than orange tier, two better than red tier and three better than purple tire where we were in the winter) with more people vaccinated and covid cases dropping. I joined some happy people at my awesome local coffeeshop, sitting outside and drawing them.

This has been a strange year. In many ways I’ve felt cocooned off from the world. But it’s also hit home how connected the world is and how vulnerable we all are. It’s complicated to post upbeat posts like this one, knowing that not everyone is lucky to have access to vaccines and have covid cases under control. I’m hoping these posts come across as something to brighten up your day and inspire you, and as hope that we will all see things get better and better this year.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Sketching at Home

Here are recent sketches, all done at home.

I caught Samson on a super hot day, sprawled out on the tile floor to try and cool down. He’s still shedding his cool weather coat but the temperature hit the high 80s and that was tough on him.

I haven’t been sketching my kids that often lately. Here’s a rare one of my daughter. Like the cat, she came and hung out with me for a bit because it was hot in her room. I took the chance and sketched her.

And, a sketch of the mess on my desk before I cleared it for today’s Sketching PlayLab session.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Nola’s Iris Garden

Nola’s Iris Garden is far up winding roads in the hills on the east side of San Jose. So far up and out of the city, it feel like you are in another world. Nina and I spent a couple of hours there, immersed in field of iris trying to decide what to draw and paint from the bounty around us.

I started with a little accordion fold book (really, just a piece of BFK Reeves Printmaking Paper folded in mountain and valley folds) and drew in a couple of specimens from the over 2500 varieties of iris in the gardens.

I plan to draw more varieties into the book on my next visit, but I wanted my next couple of sketches to capture the sense of surprise and overwhelm of this first visit. So I followed it up with these two piece.

You can see why these look like they do when you look at these photographs. Nina and I literally sat among a sea of flowers.

If you’d live in the area, there’s still a couple of weeks in which you can catch the late-blooming flowers. Check out Nola’s Iris Garden here. Not local? Nola’s can ship iris bulbs to you.

Posted in california, Close to home, flowers, san jose, Silicon Valley, studies | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunday in Chinatown

I spent all of Mother’s Day with Laurie and Uma, sketching, visiting art stores and galleries, and eating around San Francisco. You can see both of their sketches from that day on their instagram feeds.

I’ll say this first because I can’t get over how bizarre it was: a good bit of Chinatown has streets blocked off for cars, so we sat in the middle of what used to be one of the busiest streets and sketched.

Uma took this photo of me in the middle of the street
And I took this hard-to-tell-it’s-Uma picture of her.
This was our viewpoint.

And here is that sketch.

From a different viewpoint, over dim-sum a little later in the day, a second little piece.

And for one last sketch, I stood outside a little shop and sketched it’s small dark interior and a hint of all that it contained. It has been so long since I stood close to action and sketched. (I was still 8 or 10 feet away. Usually, I like to draw super-closeup when capturing small, crowded spaces)

Still, it felt like a big deal, to be able to do the sort of sketching I miss so much. And while I say that, I’m keenly aware that not all sketchers around the world are in the same place as I am. Not everyone has access to the vaccine yet nor are covid cases on the decline. We’re not done with this crisis until we solve it for everyone, everywhere.

Thank you to everyone who sent donations to Khalsa Aid in India to help get oxygen and food to the most needy. I sent these postcards out to the first 15 of you that responded. Wish I had more to send out.

Posted in california, Close to home, people, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments