At the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society with the Marcus Shelby Orchestra.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have never heard of (or been to) the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, look them up and go! They’re located in a gorgeous beach house in Half Moon Bay. There’s always fantastic music, food and wine. And sketching at a live performance is one of my favorite things to do: it’s fun to capture the music, the atmosphere and the action.

The Marcus Shelby Orchestra featuring Tiffany Austin performed last Sunday, and we went. And I sketched.


bach1It’s a challenge to be mostly in one spot and do a series of sketches: your angle doesn’t change, you can sometimes ‘zoom in’ on a performer, but for the most part, your view remains the same. So you get to focus on things other than composition : capturing the feel of the music, the energy of the musicians, the atmosphere of the place…I’ve posted all my sketches I did, in the order in which I sketched them. ( I sketch in two books, and if I’m mid-sketch and see something I just must capture, it either finds it’s way into what I’m drawing, or I set aside what I’m working on midway, switch books, do a quick capture before I return to my earlier piece, so some of these might be sketched in parallel.)





It’s interesting to see how the pieces become more a capture of the music and less like portraits of the musicians as they progress. My brush pen and gelpen replaced the sharpie and fountain pen as I progressed.

What was in my kit?
L to R: Sailor Bent Nib, Sharpie Ultra Fine Point, General’s Sketch and Wash Pencil, Stabilo CarbOthello: blue and white pencils, Pentel and Kuretake Brush Pens, Uniball Signo Gel pen, Escoda Travel Brush, various brands of artists’ watercolors in a Winsor and Newton Travel Kit, 1 Stillman  and Birn Beta sketchbook and 1 moleskine watercolor book.

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Pass the Journal

Pass the Journal is an art project organized by Strathmore. Artists from all over the globe fill a spread of one of 12 journals and then pass it along to another artist of their choice.

My friend Nina sent the journal along to me. This is her beautiful spread of everyday treasures she collects over the day. In keeping with the spirit of Nina’s everyday stuff, I decided to just carry the journal around one day instead of my regular sketchbook and draw in it: Nothing out of the ordinary, just my day right now.

But then the everyday in summer in California is pretty amazing: warm weather, long evenings of sunlight, dinner in the backyard by the orange tree…

I’ve passed on the journal to my friend Marcia in Cedar Falls, and I’m looking forward to seeing what ends up on her spread. You can see where each of the books travels to and what it contains on the Pass the Journal website. Here’s where the journal I drew in, the Rockwell Journal, has been to. If you click on a pin, you can see the spread and find out more about the artist that created it. Like my spread below.
Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 5.28.26 PM

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Working big

I rarely post about the commissioned pieces I work on. But this triptych was so much fun, and I learnt so much from it, that I had to share it.

I usually work small: an 8×10 or 11×14 inch piece is as large as I work. So when I got asked to work on a set of 3 18×24 inch pieces, I did wonder about what it would take to work that large yet keep the loose lines and mixed-on-paper washes of my smaller works. But I was also excited at the possibility of working outside my comfort zone, trying something I wouldn’t normally try.
sky_test On the left are the colors I decided to use for my twilight sky. On the right, my first piece, edged with frisket, just before I painted in the sky.

It’s hard to see the detail on pieces this big, but I’ve tried to compare bits of the image I shot as I went along so you can see how I built it up. The two images in each of these sets aren’t an exact match, but they’re from (sort of) the same area of the painting, shot at different stages along the process.

I started with a pretty strong first wash of color over my linework. Usually, all my color goes in in one wet-in-wet wash with very little added later, but with a piece this big, I did add in a second wash for depth. I tried to work wet-in-wet as much as possible and did as much of my mixing on paper as I could, which was quite challenging at this scale. Why? Because allowing colors to mix on paper allows for happy accidents, surprises and granulated puddles of color, all of which I love. At the very end, I added highlights with a white pencil (for subtler bits) and gel pen for stronger lines.

And finally, here they are, the set of 3 pieces that shipped off yesterday to their new home.
finished-3_smallIf you are interested in an original piece of art, I’m always happy to talk to you. You can always contact me at

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Summer is here!

It’s summer vacation when my flickr stream of sketches starts to look like this.
Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.43.31 AM

Long, lazy afternoons of reading.

Lots of people sketches, done at our community pool while the kids swim.
swim_kundama swim_people



And. (expect to see a lot of these over the next few weeks) sketches from Saturday morning swim meets.

Happy Summer!

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WORKSHOP: Capturing Chaos: Drawing a Crowd

singapore-uskI’m excited to be teaching a workshop again at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore. Last year I taughtone called Never Fear the People in Paraty, Brazil. This year I’m teaching yet another people-related workshop called Capturing Chaos: Drawing a Crowd. You can read about it in detail here on the Symposium website.

I love the challenge of drawing crowds. It is such an exciting balancing act: to capture motion and chaos and yet maintain the sense of order and direction that a crowd has; to capture a mass of people yet never lose the idea of them all being individuals. And then there’s the challenge of actually drawing so much stuff in a short time!

Here are some of my favorite crowd sketches I’ve done recently:





For anyone that’s never been, Urban Sketcher Symposiums are incredible. Check out the range of programming at this year’s Symposium! Besides the Workshops, just sketching with other sketchers who share your passion, exchanging ideas and watching them do what they love is inspiring. I’ve always come back home with a mind brimming with new ideas and exciting possibilities.

Hope to see you in Singapore. Online registration ends June 15th. Go here to register now.

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Sketching Goa: Part 6

One last post from Goa, India. Bits and pieces, little vignettes, my family, and a tree I love.

Clothes hanging on a line to dry. On one side, a barbed wire fence holds up the line. On the other, a banana tree.goa_clothes_drying

The corner store anywhere in India is an amazing thing: tiny, but packed full of stuff. You can walk in and request almost anything, and the storekeeper will magically find it for you.

Wires crisscross the sky like someone took an exacto knife and slashed across the expanse of grey-blue. Radio towers, cellphone towers, bamboo scaffolding, crumbling buildings. This could be anywhere in urban India.

Food. Batatavada and garlic chutney, maharashtrian-style. Yum. With one special chai.

And malai kulfi for dessert.

Sketches of my family. My mom making chai in the morning.

And my dad doing his morning exercises. For 40+ years I’ve watched him do this same routine set, never skipping a day.

Quick little sketches: a woman washing clothes by beating them against a large, flat stone.
Lighting a wood fire to start the day’s cooking. A dried palm frond is the kindling.

A hot Sunday afternoon spent with a bottle of ice cold Kingfisher Beer.

And my very last sketch from India. A gulmohar tree in bloom. The flowers range from egg yolk yellow, to California poppy orange to fiery red. Those strange things under it? Giant spools of electric cables to be laid underground.

I’ve been back from India for a long time now, but posting my sketches over the weeks is a little like extending my trip and reliving the experience. Thanks for coming along for the trip. All my sketches form the trip, including many that didn’t make it to the blog, here on flickr.

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Sketching Goa: Part 5

Next up: Churches, temples and forts.

Old Goa has two grand structures that are so different to sketch: The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a massive baroque structure. It’s warm colored stone is beautiful in the evening light. old_goa_bom_jesusThe Se Cathedral nearby, a large whitewashed complex begged to be drawn without my usual black pen lines.

The temples of Goa are nowhere as massive as the churches. This is my father’s ancestral temple in Mulgao, Goa. I’ve visited on and off since I was a little kid, and the same priest has always presided over it.
This is the lamp tower, outside the temple, a structure that can hold oil lamps and looks lovely all lit up at night.

Here is a man, sitting on a wooden seat that is only barely raised off the ground, in prayer. The couple behind him prepare fruit and flowers for a ceremony to follow in a short while.

Besides temples and churches, there are little shrines all over.
This is a small orange-domed shrine in the shadow of a huge fort.

And this little chapel is wedged on the side of a road near the main post office in Panjim.

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