A Week of Daffodils

This series of daffodil sketches is inspired by Nina Khaschina’s sketches of her hyacinth bulb. Nina is a real inspiration for anyone who wants to build a sketching practice. She not only sketches numerous times in a day, in little pockets of time, she also manages to make it into an adventure.

Here is my week with the daffodils:

And here’s a link to a short video where I use pencil over watercolor. Because there are no rules to how you sketch!

It’s springtime in San Jose, a perfect time to watch things grow. I’m joining Nina in tagging my online posts of these flowers #SketchitGrow. Tag yours too, it’ll be fun to see everyone’s fabulous sketches!

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, flowers, studies | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Rhododendron or Azalea?

I tried looking up rhododendron and azaleas to figure what I sketched. But between my loose sketch and the similarity of the two flowers, I can’t tell.

What I do know is that it’s lovely to sketch with friends. I stole these three images from Iva’s instagram feed. That’s Iva, Nina and me, sketching that day.
Rhododendrons_azaleaWhen I draw like this, without pausing to think and plan, my compositions are chockablock with stuff. Maximalist. Messy. Bursting at the seams. Or maybe it’s just that I’m happy to sketch with friends. And happy it’s getting warmer and spring is here.

So are those rhododendrons or azalea that we painted?

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, san jose, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

One Week 100 People 2020: The Challenge

Who’s up for #OneWeek100People2020?oneweek100people_2020-banner
If you’ve never done it before, #OneWeek100People is a challenge hosted by Marc Holmes and Liz Steel. This year it runs from March 9-13th. It’s a work week, Monday to Friday, during which you draw 100 people. That’s 20 quick people sketches a day.

The point is a week-long sustained practice, focussing on an aspect of people drawing you want to work on: it could just be that you want to draw people for a week because you don’t draw them enough, or that you want to practice drawing from life, or drawing from photos, capturing faces, or action…it all works. The focus is on putting hand to paper; practice, not perfection. And there’s a facebook group you can join and post to, or just follow to stay motivated.

The thought of a hundred people in a week can be overwhelming. I always wonder how I will find the time. So today I went through my sketches from this last week, a week in which I drew in bits of time in my day, by turning up a half hour early for a meeting at the coffee shop a couple of times, and just drawing where I was… and I found I got (almost) halfway there.

These cafe sketches are done in watersoluble graphite and pen & ink.

This guy came to repair the fridge when it died.

Waiting room sketches from when my daughter visited the orthodontist.

And from when my son (finally!) got a haircut.
I did these two selfies one day just by turning my phone to selfie mode. You can do these anywhere you are if your phone and sketchkit are with you.
And I sketched a friend as we chatted.
These two sketches are at Recovery Cafe, where I sketched two portraits stories last week. I did these between portrait sessions.

And because that barely gets to 40 people sketches, I could count in my cat sketches because cats are people too? (I’m joking, I don’t think drawing Samson the cat will pass muster.)

But I’m thinking that if I can get to 40ish without thinking about it, I could get to a 100 with a little bit of planning?

I’ll give it a shot: Will you? 
I’ll try and add a few hour-long sessions to my week, around a lunch break: a coffee shop one day, the nearest mall another day. Maybe I’ll attend a figure drawing session that week. If I run out of time and don’t get out of the house, I’ll draw my husband and kids, or I’ll work from photos. (It’s all allowed, this isn’t an urban sketching challenge.)

If you live near San Jose and feel like you might want to sketch together, I’m happy to share a schedule of where I’ll sketch and you can join me. Wherever you sketch, hashtag your work #OneWeek100People2020 when you post it. In yet? 


Posted in california, challenge, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Faces of Recovery: Linda and Dean

Stories and portraits from Recovery Cafe.

Linda Rogers paints with her words. She told me the most painful things in her life in the most beautiful imagery.  “My life was like the shattered bits in a kaleidoscope.“, she said. “You can’t put them back together but you can take the shattered bits and make a mosaic of them.

Dean Chen is legally blind. He has never been addicted or homeless but Recovery Cafe helps him find his way through life with a disability.  “At Recovery Cafe everyone is here to improve themselves I like that.

Find every story recorded so far here. Or read more about the cafe, it’s members and programs here

Posted in Activism, california, Close to home, Faces Of Recovery, people, Portrait, reportage | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ink, Palette, Watercolor and Taxidermy

taxidermy1I stopped at the sports bar at Granzella’s on my drive up to Chico, California. The whole place is a temple to taxidermy. A wall of African animals, another of local ones. I chatted with the guy at the next table who was a duck and deer hunter and a conservationist. I don’t think of the two together, but time and again on this trip through the Sacramento River wetlands I heard of how hunting licenses support the wetlands and how hunters are often the most vocal supporters for protecting this delicate environment. Those conversations reminded me that my views and opinions are often simplistic when most issues are far more nuanced.

I’ve been enjoying my pen filled with brown ink a good bit. Sometimes the ink I use is DeAtramentis Document Ink Brown with a little bit of blue added to it to darken it. (I find the original ink to be redder/lighter than the ink sample shown on the link) But sometimes my brown ink is just a mix of random little ink samples I never seem to use on their own. It all works as long as I can mix up a warmish neutral. 


When I work more slowly, like I did on this one (lunch and sketch were a whole hour) it’s fun to slowly build up darks and juxtapose them against lights. The bison and the deer in front of it were particularly fun to pull together. I added some line in black ink only in this area since it was the focus of my sketch.


I painted this with my little demi palette from Expeditionary Art (the large one above is is my regular one, for scale). I’ve refilled it twice so far. The left corner, (a neutral mixed from the two colors next to it, an ultramarine to push it cooler and a red oxide to push it warmer) stay the same every time. But I plan to change out the triad every time I refill this little palette. It lets me play with different triads, one at a time. And, it’s a good way to work through a lot of colors I don’t use too often.

Posted in Animals, california, Sketch Journal, tools, watercolor | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Time Quick Sketches

Sketching people-at-work is one of my favorite things to do. Luckily I have kids who need to practice music pretty regularly for school 🙂

When I literally sit at my model’s feet and sketch, proportions are hard, and my sketches get longer and longer as I draw from head to toe…

These next few sketches are from a school concert. Sitting in a hall, crowded between strangers, not wanting to make a lot of noise or to have a big book open in my lap and spilling into theirs, I chose to draw with super-simple tools and on little sheets of tinted paper.

In this first sketch, I’m thinking and seeing in just big silhouettes. A bit of white marker at the end helps add some details.

And in this piece I’m going the other way, literally taking a line for a walk. The solid darks come later.

More sketches from the evening. Portraits of the really generous educators and professionals who come and play with our middle schoolers every year.

And of our amazing orchestra teacher, who I’ve captured a good likeness of sometimes. This was not one of those times, but gestures are always fun to draw.
For anyone that doesn’t draw people because they wonder what they’ll say and think when they see your sketches, here what I’ve learnt: when you sketch someone and it doesn’t look at all like them, (or worse, totally messes up how they look) and they see it, I bet they think: “he/she can’t draw so well.” and not “oh, I look so bad.” And I’m quite okay with someone thinking I’m a no-good artist, it’s never stopped me from drawing. Except once, for a long time, about 30 years ago But that’s a story for another time.


Posted in people, san jose | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Getting back in the everyday sketching groove

Sketching when traveling is easy. Everything is new and exciting, and you want to sketch it. Coming back home and keeping up the practice takes work.
I revert to my go-to subjects, and while they are pretty critical of the results, (That might be why I’m so thick-skinned about drawing in public: “Mama, really, those lips?” and ” You really can’t draw me , can you?” are often-heard remarks) my kids are still okay with being sketched. Note my sand-filled palette. I really made a big mess when I dropped it at the beach.

My transition to back-at-home was eased by a visit from Marc Holmes. I had a fun day sketching and hiking with Uma Kelkar, Marc and Laurel in the hills of Almaden in South San Jose.

We continued the little drawings and chatting at Almaden Lake Park, where the Canada Geese are permanent residents, and over coffee at our local coffeeshop.

Brush pen people drawing while chatting. I just love the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Such a handy and versatile tool.

Posted in Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments