Surprising Santa Fe: Meow Wolf

We spent an entire day at Meow Wolf‘s House of Eternal Return. Maybe this New York Times piece might explain a little bit of what it is about. But I think not. There aren’t words for it.

Here’s one sketch I made from the parking lot of the giant wolf sculpture outside.

And here, without comment, are vignettes I sketched inside, under black light for the most part, wondering what I was capturing in my book…

If you’ve never been to Santa Fe. Or if you’ve been before Meow Wolf had this exhibit… its time to visit again, just for this experience.

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Inktober 2017, Part 2

Week 2 of #inktober was pretty patchy. A few quick sketches, a lot of them of Walter the skull. (more on that later it the post)

Here’s my son, reading a new book.

And my daughter, doing her homework. Ink and Inktense Pencils.

More portraits from the week.



One last summer tomato got recorded in my sketchbook. This granular black ink is Noodler’s ink.

And then there are lots and lots of sketches of Walter.




You might notice a lot of both the skulls and the violet ink. It’s a bit repetitive and boring, I know. But I’m doing it anyways, and here’s why:

October a super busy month this year: lots of work deadlines and travel. I’ll be posting my sketches from Santa Fe over this week and next, but I’ll also be away traveling again on a super-exciting assignment. I figured the most important part of inktober was to practice inking more. While it would have been lovely to choose and explore more diverse subjects , having my purple ink and this skull on my work table means I can do a quick study in the time I would agonize over “What should I draw? And what ink should I draw it in?

How has your inktober been? Are you following prompts? Working on anything in particular (besides inking skills)? Keeping it loose? Setting up additional challenges for yourself?? I’d love to know.

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New Mexico, land of surprises

I’m just back from a week in New Mexico. Most of the time I was in Santa Fe, but we did a bunch of day trips outside the city too. I have so many images in my head and things to say about my time in the area, but here’s some things that stood out for me about this trip.

So much of what I saw surprised me.
I guess you could say that about any place you visit, but New Mexico felt special and truly surprising. In the very best way. VLA was a perfect example: it’s one of those places that needs to be experienced. If you just read about it, you might say “How exciting can it be to go see a bunch of huge dishes in the middle of nowhere?”. 
VLA is magical. To be standing among 27 gigantic dishes at dusk, on an ancient and now-dry lake bed, knowing that all those dishes are listening (looking?) into deep space. It’s the sort of magic you have to experience in person.


One moment I was standing there, drawing those still dishes as the sun went down and I looked up from my sketchbook for another glance at them… as the sun disappeared all the dishes, in unison, turned to face the setting sun. It was beautiful.

I couldn’t have had a better start to the trip. That magic, that sense of surprise, it was everywhere we went for the rest of that week.

My other, unrelated observation:
The older your kids get, the harder it is to sketch when you travel.
This seems counterintuitive: Shouldn’t it get easier? Over the last few trips I’ve been surprised by how hard it is to draw. (And I draw pretty quick) It’s all for a good reason: My kids are 10 and 12 and can travel and do stuff at an adult pace. So we don’t do long snack breaks and ‘run around in the park between museum visits’ breaks anymore. We see a lot more stuff, squeeze in a lot more into our trips. That just means there’s just less time to sketch.

I guess I’m just going to have to learn to sketch-note a lot more for the next few years and count on working on less watercolor sketches.

Among the many, many incredible places and things I didn’t sketch were:
Tinkertown Museum, a totally amazing, hard to describe place.
Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience that defies definition. (and the highlight of Santa Fe for our whole family) I did a wee bit of sketching inside, but not anything that captured the feel of the place.
The vegetation and rocks at Bandelier National Monument.
The skies in New Mexico (they’re something else!)
The fall colors, especially the aspens.
The Taos Pueblo.

Still, I did draw lots of other stuff we visited, and you’ll see some of the stuff I loved over the next few posts.

Posted in new mexico, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grace Cathedral

Laurie Wigham arranged a wonderful sketchcrawl in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. Jane Blundell and Liz Steel were both in San Francisco that day and it was a wonderful way for San Francisco Bay Area Sketchers to sketch with our usk friends that live just a short hop away across the Pacific. And we had Shiho Nakaza join us from Los Angeles for the weekend too!

We started at Grace Cathedral. Facing the huge rose window, I wanted to capture that feeling that I’d end up with a crick in my neck if I looked up at those vaulted ceilings.

One more sketch inside, this time looking across from one side of the church to the other, admiring the stained glass.

My kids sketched with me that day, which is always fun. One drew the rose window, the other a complicated view of the labyrinth on the floor , with the stained glass throwing colors onto it.

One more quick sketch of the view outside the church, looking towards a street so steep it very suddenly disappears from your view. Can’t call it much of a sketch except that I enjoyed doing that zebra crossing.

Later that afternoon, many of us gathered at Lafayette Park for a little picnic (and more sketching, of course).sfo

Here’s my sketch of that view.

And then it was evening, and that gloriously warm day in San Francisco suddenly turned blustery and cold, so we packed up and headed home.

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Workshop Announcement

No that’s not the Golden Gate bridge. It’s the Cais das Colunas neighborhood in Lisboa, Portugal, the meeting point for my workshop coming up in just over two weeks, Registration opened today and there are 20 spots in the workshop.Cais_das_Colunas_(33282123433)
Photo By Maria Eklind (Cais das Colunas) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

No that’s not the Golden Gate bridge, this is Cais das Colunas in Lisboa, Portugal, the meeting point for my workshop coming up in just over two weeks, Registration opened today and there are 20 spots in the workshop.

Here’s some information about the workshop.

Title: People Tell Tales: Telling stories through people


Instructor: Suhita Shirodkar

Location: Lisboa, Portugal. Cais das Colunas (meeting point)
Date: October 25th, 2017, 6:30 pm to 9pm

Workshop Cost 30€/person
Special student price: 20€/person for students with valid ID

For more details and registration, go here:


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Inktober 2017, Part 1

How’s inktober been so far? If you haven’t started yet, just jump on board and start today! Here’s a roundup of my little inked pieces.

Many use an Iron Gall ink I bought from Goulet Pens last year. I really love  the ink but it can’t be put into fountain pens (unless you will clean the pens thoroughly very often). I’m using either a glass nib or dip pens  with it.


Colored pencil and ink.

Brushpen & ink and then watercolor and white pastel. Los Alamos, New Mexico.

More iron gall ink. Some colored pencil. The clouds in New Mexico are something else.

At the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. There was so much color here, it actually helped to switch to just black and white and look at just shape and form.

A drawing based on an exquisite painting of a bone by Georgia O’Keefe.

Georgia O’Keefe’s abstract work was highly influenced by the teachings of Arthur Wesley Dow who wrote this book.

Back to brushpen for this simple study of a man in a restaurant. Those colorful hot air balloons hung everywhere in New Mexico this week to celebrate the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. That reddish adobe-colored wall is from smearing chapstick on paper. Anything works as an art tool!

Heading home. Sketch on the plane. Dip pen on a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (all of these sketches are in that book)

Back home. My afternoon chai. inktober_day8b

And one last inktober sketch for the week, Big, brushed-in ink shape. Details with a glass dip pen.

If you’re doing the inktober challenge, remember to tag your sketches with #inktober and #inktober2017. Until next week, happy inking!

Posted in Everyday Sketches, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The trouble with Painted Ladies

The trouble with San Francisco’s Painted Ladies is that they are just so hard to sketch! I sketched a few over a couple of days with Laurie Wigham and Liz Steel. It was a hit and miss process for sure, and my sketches were more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’. But you can see that between drawing things a few times over and all the ideas we were bouncing around between us, the later sketches start to have a glimmer of hope…

This first one I drew stands on a corner near Alamo Park. It wasn’t so hard to draw but I didn’t know it until I tried some other homes: darker-colored victorians are not that hard to draw, because the overload of detail and the too-much-fiddly-line just makes them look heavy and dark, which they are…


But my next sketch of the more famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Square is one I felt really didn’t work. For one, it’s hard to bring something new to such a cliche of a view. But also, if you’ve seen photos of these houses, you’ll know that even though these Victorians are full of fussy detail, the overall impression all that light colored trim gives is of lightness- a bit of a frivolous air…and my Victorians looked pretty dour.

So I kinda gave up and did two quick sketches of the view to my right.

But that didn’t solve my problem with trying to draw Victorians.

When I’m stuck and can’t articulate what isn’t working for me, I’ll often think of the work of an artist who I imagine will do a wonderful job of the subject. The very first artist that came to mind was Andrea Joseph. There’s such a sense of whimsy in Andrea’s capture of even the solid-looking brick buildings of Manchester.

With Andrea’s buildings in mind, I made these next sketches a couple of days later in Laurie’s neighborhood in Bernal Heights.

That’s (left to right) a green house, a white house and a blue house. To keep it ‘light’ I left all the sunny sides of the houses in white and only indicated their color in the shaded side. That’s a bit tricky when one of the houses is white, but I think it worked here. Color came before penwork in this piece: another way to keep from overdoing the line and making a heavy sketch.

What really helped with this sketch is that both Laurie and Liz told me to stop working on it at this point. And knowing when to stop is one of the hardest bits of making art.

Posted in california, Close to home, How to, san franciso | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments