Summer Lemonade Stand ( and the photo versus sketch debate)

My kids and their friends built a lemonade stand a couple of days ago. It was great fun (for them and their parents): Making sugary lemonade from backyard lemons, poster making, setting up a stand, and very enthusiastic shouts to passing cars to stop by for lemonade.

Of course I sketched them. And I also took a few photographs. Which made me think of a discussion that comes up often: photo versus sketch and the merits of each.

Here’s what I think. There isn’t a better/worse medium. But I am a better sketcher than I am a photographer. Here is what I noticed when I looked at the kids selling lemonade:  a bunch of super-enthusiastic kids, all wearing lemon-yellow visors, holding up lemon-yellow posters, selling lemonade.

Here is what my photographs look like:

And here are the sketches.
lemonade_stand1 lemonade_stand2

In the sketch versus photo debate, there may be no clear winner, but I do have a medium that’s a clear winner for me .

Posted in california, Close to home, Costa Rica, Doodles, Portrait, Summer | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Packing for Singapore: what’s in my sketchbag?

Here’s what’s traveling to Singapore where I’m teaching a workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium.

My compact Winsor and Newton paint box, refilled with a mix of tube colors. . The tubes come along for when I need to refill my colors ( every couple of days for the ones I use the most).

A sunhat, a pencil and pen case, an Escoda Reserva Kolinsky travel brush and Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbooks. 4 of them because I’m always worried I’ll run out!


In the pencil case,( left to right):
Graphite pencils , white pastel pencil, white gel pen, piece of a water-soluble white crayon, yellow Lamy Safari pen, blue pastel pencil, 2 waterbrushes with diluted brown and diluted blue DeAtramentis Document ink ( these are a new addition), Sharpie, Pentel brush pen, Kuretake brush pen and 2 Sailor bent nib pens ( my favorite pens just now: this green one and this blue one.).


Not shown, but coming along too: water containers, a folding stool, a set of brushes, deAtramentis and Carbon Black inks, a syringe to refill my pens and my notes and handouts for my workshop.

And just like I posted a downloadable pdf  of of my workshop handouts last year, I promise to post one from this year’s workshop when I’m back.

Until then, happy sketching, and I’ll report back from Singapore soon!

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Swim season comes to an end

No, the summer’s not over, but swim-meet season just ended this weekend with one final big meet. I blogged some of my swim sketches from the start of the season here.  Here are more sketches from the end of the season.

I got a lot of diving sketches in my sketchbook, that’s for sure.

And then there were sketches at the starting blocks…



And sketches from the far end of the pool where I hung out with a towel on towel on cold (yes, in the summer!) mornings.
And lifeguard sketches…


And the swim meet lineup, a whole bunch of little kids, all eager swimmers.

For the final big meet called ‘Champs’ .the girls all braided each others hair.braiding_hair1 braiding_hair2 The meet itself felt like a big market, with pop-up tents everywhere.         champs_swim2

I didn’t get much sketched that day, this was my very last sketch from swim meet season.

Posted in california, Close to home, Collage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

Posted in california, Close to home, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

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!

Posted in california, Close to home, people, Silicon Valley | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments