The New Guinea Gardens at Stanford

As my friend and fellow sketcher Marcia Milner-Brage said to me, it took an Iowan to show me this fantastic local garden I have never been to before: The New Guinea Gardens at Stanford. If you’re a local , or a frequent visitor at the Stanford campus and don’t know of it, then we were in the same boat until very recently: but you need to go fix that because the Gardens are beautiful, the sculpture is amazing and it is a joy to sit amongst it and sketch.

I started on this first piece before Marcia arrived, and I got a couple of ‘in process’ shots of the piece so you can see how this came together: very little pencil line, just enough to know I got everything I wanted on the page, and for me to place the sculpture on the page, so I could paint the foliage around it.Line came last, a combination of pencil and a little bit of pen.

Drawing art is a challenge: I rarely try to make a copy of what I see. I prefer to focus on what strikes me the most about it, or to use line and form to interpret the feel of the piece…because the actual piece can only be experienced by being there.

Once Marcia arrived, we sat around this ring of pieces and we just talked and sketched for a while. Marcia is one of the first urban sketchers I ever knew  of, and I have admired and followed her work for years, so even though we met in person for the very first time, it was like meeting an old friend.  You can see in the piece below (and the closeup of it) that I really enjoyed taking in all the detail on those sculptures and then translating it into abstract lines and shapes.

Here’s a photograph of the two of us- and of Marcia sketching amongst the sculptures: it gives you an idea of the scale and the sense of serenity of the place.

With every piece I worked on, I tried to switch up how I approached it atleast a little bit. iN this next one below I remembered something Fred Lynch talked about in a workshop I took with him last year: about silhouetting the whole sketch, not just coloring in to the edges of the page, about creating a dynamic shape and letting the white of the page interact with the sketch. The family in this sketch and the sketch above is the same: they really enjoyed hanging around the gardens while we were there.

And at that point, it was time to leave and head back to San Jose, just in time to beat the dreaded evening commute. But I’ll be back soon. And then next time someone suggests meeting up at Stanford to sketch, we’ll be meeting here so I can sketch this garden again. Thanks Marcia, for a lovely day and a new place for me to go revisit. Here’s to more sketching together, soon!

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in california, Close to home, san jose, Silicon Valley and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The New Guinea Gardens at Stanford

  1. Anindya says:

    Wonderful sketches……blends perfectly in the surroundings…..beautiful gardens…


  2. These are lovely, the last one is my favourite.
    What do you mean when you say ‘silhouetting the whole sketch’?


  3. grace says:

    Looks like you were working in a large sketch book or sheet of paper. Which?? love it.


  4. Nancy Bardos says:

    Yes, you’re right…..I have been there several times. And she did SUCH a wonderful sketch. I really really like her work.


    /Sent from my iPad



  5. Nancy Bardos says:

    Hi Suhita……I thought I was replying (above) to a friend who forwarded your post from today because she knew I had lived near Stanford and thought I might be familiar with the garden. But then I see it went to you! Well, I think your sketches are really something…….I didn’t sketch at all when I lived in Palo Alto, but even now after a couple of years, I would be completely daunted by trying to capture that garden. Looking forward to your return trip! BTW, have you seen the grieving angel statue on campus that Jane Stanford commissioned for her brother’s memorial? You would create some powerful sketches of it, I just know it.


  6. When we were together I was only able to see your sketches out of the corner of my eye–I was so busy just being together and doing my own sketching. Your depiction of the sculptures and this sheltering, serene place is so alive. I do believe you captured the spirit of the carvers and the animistic power of the carvings. Our time together there was such an elevating experience. Thank you, dear friend.


  7. You capture so much when you sketch. You must work at lightning speed.


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