I ❤️ Blackwing Pencils & Sailor Fude Pens

I love these pencils and this pen. Put them together, and they’re my current most-favorite-supplies combo.

Here, they’re combined with a touch of colored pencil.

And a bit more than a touch here, but still, mostly pen and pencil. The color brings some focus: here it highlights the delicious baked goods at Greenlee’s Bakery.

And sometimes, I leave out all color, like in the sketch below.

Do you have a favorite supply? Or a combination of supplies that you’re loving currently? Has it changed over time? I’d love to hear what that must-have stuff in your sketch kit is…

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Meditative Sketching

This piece falls in the “chat and sketch” category. It’s created at home, relatively slowly. I find this meditative to do: there’s no time pressure, I can keep layering, make small marks and shift things imperceptibly over time.

This was done while chatting with Liz Steel and comparing our very different uses of very similar mixed media. It always helps me to use photos I took myself, since there’s a personal connection and an actual experience of place attached to them. This scene is from the southern end of Point Lobos State Park.

And this is a closeup of what I used (besides watercolor).

Do I like this as much as drawing on location? No, but I find it useful to mix in some at-home drawing and painting into my practice.

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Nola’s Irises

Most years I’m alerted by my friends Nina and Steve when Nola’s Iris garden is in bloom. And then it’s time to make the trek up the Eastside foothills to Nola’s garden.

The trouble with a morning at Nola’s is that the views and the varieties of iris are endless and each time you think you found that “most unusual colored one” you turn around and there’s an even more fascinating one behind you. Here is my collection from a wonderful morning spent there with Nina.

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California Poppies

Spring always means California Poppies. But this year is special. After years of drought, we had exceptional rainfall, making it a superbloom year in California. So I headed to the Fortini Trail, just 10 minutes south of home with Nina Khashchina.

Just look at the bounty of flowers we sat among that day!

The day called for mixed media, so I just went at it, layering crayon and gouache over watercolor and ink.

And then I did this quick little piece where I started off by using the cast shadow of the poppies as my composition.

There are probably a few more weeks when I can catch these orange fields before it gets too hot for them, and then it will be time for the true summer poppies, the Matilija Poppy.

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Everyday Views, Everyday Tools

With little time to sketch, what and where do you sketch? This is what turns up in my sketchbook (besides sketches of my chai cup and backyard flowers): Sketches from the car, when I get to a meeting a couple of minutes early, or from a cafe before/after a meeting- all done quickly, in very simple dry media.

I enjoy the “no composing” aspect of these views, awkward juxtapositions and all. And, I’m especially enjoying working mostly with just a single black ink pen and a pencil.
Above: I add a blue ballpoint pen to the mix. Below:A bit of colored pencil.

This last sketch isn’t in simple media for lack of time. It’s because I’m really enjoying working like this.

I sketched this view of Roy’s Station in San Jose’s Japantown with Nishant Jain (aka The Sneaky Artist). It was fun to try to see it through his eyes. And while I wasn’t watching him draw, I know he’d see the strong framing and structure he would find in this building. Here are his (top) and my (bottom) sketches of the view.

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Painting India From Across the Globe

It certainly was a little strange to be sitting at home in California and painting scenes from India. But that’s what happened—twice—very recently. Both these pieces were sketched from photos I took during my travels and were done in live online sessions.

This first one is of fruit stand. The red bananas are what drew me to this scene.

And in this next one, it was the woman’s pink sari.

I love drawing in India. But I miss it when I’m away and I’m finding that pulling up a photograph from a recent visit every once in a while and sketching it is not a bad way to bring back memories. It’s not the same as being there, which is why I’m headed back in Jan 2024. Join me?

Last two seats left (for you and a friend?) on our “A Gateway to India 2024″ workshop. Read the description at the link and write in now if you want to grab those spots.

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A New Sketchbook

It’s true that supplies don’t make a sketch. But they can certainly encourage you to work in a different direction, which is always fun. This lovely-looking sketchbook was a gift, a book I’ve never used and I didn’t sketch in for a few months after I got it. So I decided that the best way to break it in was to leave my usual sketchbook at home and take it along on a driving trip.

Stifflex ArtWORK Sketchbook, Sunglasses, and Bananagrams.

It turned out to be the perfect book for the occasion. Its smooth, not-too-thick paper really encourages quick sketches and my fude pen just flies across the page. Here are some sketches from my road trip, which consisted of a week of driving from Arizona, across to San Diego, and then up the coast of California all the way home to San Jose, mostly stopping at college campuses.

Charcoal Pencil, Pen, and Graphite

I’m back home now and still loving using this book for my daily sketchbook. I’ll post more pages from the book soon!

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Two Museums

This monumental piece is part of Kehinde Wiley’s show “An Archaeology of Silence” at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. There is so much to say about the power of the pieces and what they are about. But I think it’s a show to be experienced, not dissected into lengthy explanations. So this sketch is just about the work’s scale and vibrancy. Watching people look at art in museums is always fascinating, and I have rarely seen people pause in front of a piece for as long as they did in front of this one.

Here are a few shots I took as I worked on it that let you peek into how it was created. (full-color version finished at home after initial line and wash at the museum)

These two quick sketches of a Koons and a Lichtenstein are at The Broad in Los Angeles. Pen and colored pencil are all it took to walk around and sketch.

What I love about seeing art in museums (besides the obvious “it’s much better in real life” bit) is that I get to look at it in two ways: as an art piece in itself and as a part of an interaction with museum goers.

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My kids are mad about their robotics team. They’re both a part of this amazing, volunteer-led club at high school, and they spend about as much time in shop, building a robot every year as they do at school. So I finally went to one of the competitions they took part in this year in Monterey, California, to see what it was all about.

Here is the “pit” where the robot returns to between 3-minute long matches. It’s where quick fixes and last-minute adjustments happen before it heads back to another match.

Below is a mid-game capture. I’d explain what’s going on, but I suspect it’s the kind of thing that’s only interesting to the participants and (maybe) their parents.

A quick waiting-in-the-wings sketch of teams queueing up for their match.

And one last sketch from @firstrobotics, Monterey Bay regionals. This is just a small subset of volunteers at the event. Judges, referees, queuers, and more all volunteer their time. It took 76 volunteers to hold an event with 36 teams (and that’s not counting all the mentors that volunteer with each team!)
It makes my head spin to think of how many volunteers it takes to run the Worlds Championships in Houston, which was a couple of weeks after this event and had 800 teams competing!

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An Afternoon at Stanford

When Jenny Adams, from Hamburg, visited San Francisco, we met up in the middle to sketch. “The middle” is usually Stanford University in Palo Alto. ( Here are a few posts with sketches from the area, often done with a visiting sketcher)

It took me a pretty long time to get this first sketch of Hoover Tower done.

And then almost no time to do this second one of the same view. I’ll do two back-to-back ones sometimes if I’m with someone who is still sketching.

Here are the group’s sketches from this stop.

And then we had 10 minutes in the Papua New Guinea Gardens to finish up our day. So this quick impression of the totem poles happened.

If you don’t know Jenny Adams’ work, you’re in for a treat. I love her mixing of media, sense of color, and composition. Check out her work here.

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