Here’s a recent bunch of sunflowers, rendered in mixed media.
You can see some of the supplies I used in this closeup: I use a mix of colored pencils across different brands, most but not all of them water-soluble. A China marker, ink added with a dip nib and watercolor make up the rest of what I used.
Here are some sunflowers from last year, for comparison. These include crayons and colored pencils over watercolor.
My work has definitely gotten more “mixed-media” over the years. For comparison, here are two sunflower pieces, from way back in 2009. The first one is in pencil, the second one is with markers.
Before you read the rest of this post: My dad is back home in India now, recovering well, and getting stronger every day. Also, there’s no explicit medical details here but if hospital sketches bring back tough memories, skip this post.
Last month, my parents became to visit me from India. 5 days later my dad ended up in an ambulance that took him to Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose. First to the Emergency Room, then to Intensive Care, then through a pretty significant surgery (especially for 86 year old), and recovery. In the week that he spent in hospital I sketched in the long stretches of time I sat there. These are a record of that week, in the order in which they were sketched.
It takes a lot of stuff: tubes, wires, and machines I don’t know the names to, (Also, blood transfusions, saline, and medication in drips.) to keep a patient alive. My dad, in his hospital bed (not a big man but always a big personality) was dwarfed by it all.
Below is the only sketch I did of my parents when they came back home. Only a walker my dad used for a few days and yellow non-skid socks give away what transpired before this.
Two weeks later, the surgeon gave my dad the go-ahead to fly and my parents headed back home to Goa, India. It wasn’t the trip they envisioned, but they got back home safe.
Through the time, I sketched: it wasn’t something I gave thought to doing. I did it because it’s what I do. But I didn’t have it in me to post these then.
It was a week from hell. That bit might show in my sketches. It was also a week in which some incredible people in the medical system made things happen for us that pulled my dad through. That, sadly, isn’t in my sketches. I feel like we all held our breath for a while, fumbled through, and people we will never know navigated us through it all. In the fog of the process, I tried thanking who I saw, but there were so many more.
So the next time you deal with a doctor, nurse, the technician who draws blood, the person who cleans a room you’re in, or the case worker who helps you through a medical maze, please say a little thank you. For you, and for me. And to all my friends who brought coffee, meals and had long phone calls with us sharing advice, I cannot thank you enough❤️
I’m finally getting down to doing what I should have done ages ago: dramatically reduce the amount of lawn space in my backyard. With California in a permanent drought situation, it’s time for thirsty grass to give way to hardscaping and native low-water vegetation. Given that I’m not one bit handy with anything other than art tools, I’m glad Russell is here to do what he does.
Here he is replacing the cracked concrete patio with pavers. I’m learning the names of the tools he uses. My favorite name so far? The Paver Persuader, a tool that helps nudge pavers into their exact position.
Here, Russ cuts pavers on the diamond-edged saw while Julio carefully fits them together.
It’s a slow process, but I’m looking forward to a backyard we can use again later this summer and a lower water bill from here on. Most of all, I’m looking forward to a trip to Annie’s Annuals to pick my native low-water plants. I’ll be adding some stuff for local pollinators too, so if you know of natives and pollinators you recommend for hot South San Jose, let me know!
And this next one, a little sketch made while waiting, in San Francisco, of a skyline I no longer recognize. And while I’m nostalgic for the Transamerica building-dominated view I remember well, newer and taller buildings are inevitable. I’ll get used to this one day. Colored pencil and ink.
Sketching in museums means using only dry media. But with my Neocolor II crayons, I can get the rich color and blending I want without water. (and if I wanted to blend things in a bit further I’d run a wet brush or spritz over a part of my sketch after my visit)
I sketched Diego Rivera’s incredible fresco, Pan American Unity, at the Roberts Family Gallery, (which is always free), at SFMoMA. I didn’t try to literally draw the mural. Instead, I captured the swirl of color and shape in the monumental piece before me and watched people looking at the art. Go see the mural if you are in the city. Sit on a bench, gaze at it and feel its power.
The graphic power of Robert Indiana‘s “LOVE” piece is amazing. What I find incredible is that it translates across media and sizes: it works as a little 2-dimensional stamp design and as a large sculpture. Sketched over a coffee break after having spent a good amount of time with the Rivera fresco.
I love people-watching anywhere and museums aren’t an exception. Olafur Eliasson’s “One-Way Color Tunnel” had people queuing up to walk on the bridge through the tunnel.
Here are some more sketches from later in the concert.
And here is a set of vignettes of the 5 musicians.
It’s super important to me to know the colors in my palette and have a feel for what is where. You can see in the photo below why: I sat, through the concert at this spot by a stained glass window, with my sketchbook page flooded in red, mixing color and painting by feel, not knowing what I had actually put on the page until after the concert.
The mountain range just south of me is the Santa Cruz mountains and Mount Umunhum is one of its highest peaks is Mount Umunhum. But that’s not what makes it stand out. The Box does.
The mountain is topped by an eight and a half story (84.5 feet tall) concrete radar tower (5 floors interior), known locally as “the Cube” or “the Box”. The tower was part of Almaden Air Force Station, a radar surveillance post which operated from 1958 to 1980. (from this Wikipedia link)
The Box appears in all these views, sketched from different parts of Almaden Valley. Every time I sketch a view with it, I try doing at least something different: new media, new way to start, new way to think…anything that isn’t exactly what I did before. It’s a good way to keep what’s familiar to me fresh in my sketches. Here are three recent takes.
Notes and sketches go together in my sketchbooks. Sometimes, my idea of notes is as simple as this: just a couple of words to note what I sketch. This spread is an exploration of ways to render water, and my references were a bunch of photographs from different locations.
More often, I’ll record a conversation that goes with a sketch. Here, I sketch Dan at the Farmers’ Market while he tells me about his family’s long connection to corn growing.
“What does a good day look like?” I ask at the shave ice stall. The answer comes back quickly: “85 degrees”.
Here’s a sketch of Russ working on laying pavers in the backyard, I quiz him on all the fascinating tools he uses. My favorite of the day is the “Paver Persuader”. You can see I not only drew it in, I also made sure to label it in my sketch, so I remember this fabulously-named tool.
And then there’s the page of random little drawings in my book where the sketch itself may not mean much but the notes do.
As I sit in the waiting room while my daughter has her annual medical checkup, it strikes me that she’s been with Dr. Silverman since she was born and at her next checkup, she’ll be an adult! Where did the years go??
I used to draw my kids. A lot. Because they were always around. Now, they’re so much busier doing their own thing that it’s rarer to have an opportunity to sketch them.
Here they are, at our local “Paint Your Own Pottery” store last month. We go every year at the start of summer. It’s one of those things they’ve enjoyed since they were little.
I’m so glad I started drawing my kids when I first got back to a drawing practice: about 14 years ago. Because if I’d waited until I felt my drawing was “good enough” they’d be grown ups and I’d miss having all those early years captured in my sketches.
San Jose has a rich history, a good bit of which is tied to immigrant stories. I joined Recovery Cafe’s members on a short guided tour of Japantown by historian Tom Izu. There were once over 40 Japantowns in the state at one time. The awful Immigration Act of 1924 changed all that, leaving only three standing today.
This second sketch is of two homes in History Park, San Jose. Like all the structures in this park, they were moved here from their original location.
Knowing the story of a building truly makes a difference. If I knew nothing, I might have just picked one building to sketch this afternoon. But these two homes are (on the left) Hill House, home of local photographer artist and savior of what is now Big Basin State Park, Andrew Hill, and (on the right) Markham House, home of poet Edwin Markham. When the homes were moved to History Park, they were placed side by side because the two men were friends. Knowing that, I had to sketch them both, sitting quietly side by side, like old friends who don’t feel the need to keep up a polite stream of conversation.