A beautiful day with Gaye

Just what I needed at the end of last week: a wonderful, forget-everything-nasty ( if only for the day) kind of day at Gaye‘s place up in the Santa Cruz mountains with Nina. ( If you don’t know either of their work, you really should check it out by clicking on their names)

We chatted a lot, ate and sketched a little bit in Gaye’s daughter’s persimmon orchards. And we came home goodie-laden: 2 types of persimmon and a bag of dried persimmon each. So you’ll be seeing a lot of persimmon sketches over the next few weeks. This is just the start…


I plan to play with sketching these persimmon in pastels, in gouache and of course again in traditional watercolor. So you know what I’ll be posting about again next week…

Thank you Gaye, I might just be back sooner than you know: what a wonderfully magical place, breathtaking setting and best of all, fabulous company.

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Looking (very hard) for a silver lining

I’m looking very hard for a silver lining today. If this post is a bit jumbled and rambling, it’s because I feel that way. I volunteered to be clerk at the Presidential Elections yesterday. A day that started with leaving home at 5:45 am and getting back home at 9:45 pm. You’ve seen how the day turned out on news channels and social media everywhere.

But I looked at my sketchbook early this morning (Yes, I drew in every little bit of downtime. Drawing keeps me sane.) and it tells a very different story. Of people coming out to vote in a democracy. Of older people (our polling station was at a Senior Living Center) with really serious disabilities determined to vote.

Pictures are my first language, words don’t work so well, especially today. So here goes.


A voter remembers volunteering many years ago, stops to share a story and say thank you.voting-story_87


Carissa is 17. She volunteered all day as a part of the team. If enough 17 year olds care this much, it can’t be all bad.


Kennedy was his first president. He felt his vote made it happen then. He’s voted ever since.


Dorothy did her homework, and read up on every measure (on a 3-paged, double-sided ballot in Santa Clara county, we had a lot to vote on.). Then she lost her ballot and her glasses. So her assistant, standing by her wheelchair for almost an hour read her through every measure so she could vote.



His hands trembled so much I wondered if those lines he drew to connect the arrows even counted as lines. But he took his time and filled in his whole ballot. And then thanked us for I don’t know what.

That’s my silver lining for today. If you can articulate it better than I can, please leave a comment, because it helps.

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Beauty- Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

This show at the San Jose Museum of Art deserves a lot more than the hour and half I was there, so I’ll be back for more, But meanwhile, here’s a little peek at some the the Beauties in the show.
I was totally fascinated by these 3-D printed  and deceptively simple glass pieces that cast gorgeous shadows and reflections. By Neri Oxman who had other strangely beautiful work in the show.

Giambattista Vali‘s combination of a frothy pink tulle skirt with a pajama top made me stop and look.

And I want to go back and sketch all the Afreaks on display. By the Haas Brothers.

I’ll be back for another (longer!) visit soonso you’ll see more sketches from the show.

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What I learnt from Inktober

We’re well into November now, and with a few days between the 2016 Inktober challenge and me, I thought I’d share some thoughts (in no particular order of importance) on it.

But before that, from top left to bottom right, are most of my drawings from Inktober 2016 in the order in which they were made.


Here are my thoughts:

  1. Challenges are hard for me! By day 4, I so wanted to not do a ink drawing. Just because. This is the very first time (I’ve tried at least a couple of years before this) I actually made it past that, and it did get easier. Well, relatively. There were still days that I felt uninspired to draw. It shows in the sketches. Still I’m glad I drew.
  2. Did my inking skills get better? That’s a hard one to answer. I don’t think you can look at the sketches above and see any linear improvement. But that would be silly, to think that 31 days could look dramatically different. In fact, any changes you see are really inspired versus not-so-good days. But what I did see is that:
  3. Over the month, I became more comfortable with relying on less color. Or using only selective color. Or no color. If you know my work, you know I love color, and lots of it. So mostly inking in black/grey is a stretch for me. In a good way. Does it mean I’ll be doing less color work? I doubt it, I love color. Every once in a while last month, when I missed color, I switched to colored inks and used it like watercolors, like the persimmons below. Or just did a watercolor piece and fitted in a little ink sketch into my day. persimmon
  4. I did become surer with my ink lines. I think. They’re not always my best sketches, but I can see I did something I might not otherwise do.
    In this first piece during my last week, I was lost for a subject, so I turned on the camera on my computer and made this self portrait. No pencil lines underneath, and no fountain pen either. Ink and a brush.Some white pencil at the end.

    In this one below, a little throwaway sketch of some medicine bottles, I  avoided the temptation to add color or tone to support the linework, all done with brushpen. Again, rare for me.

  5. Picking a subject to draw This one was hard, not because there were any constrains, but just because it’s hard to decide what to draw everyday. Often I just drew the same little object over and over. ( Notice how many times Walter the skull and pumpkins featured in my sketches?)   I didn’t use the challenge words or build in an extra challenge to sketch a particular subject or make a ‘significant’ piece. Those would have upped the challenge for me, and made it harder to stick with it. Perhaps I’ll do that another year. Baby steps.

Will I do the challenge again? Yes. Maybe. I think so. I’ll find out. Next year. Did you do the challenge? Did you try? What was easy? Hard? Impossible? Share your thoughts.

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Reportage illustration with just 3 tools

Last weekend, my daughter’s middle school orchestra had a very special concert, where they met with orchestras from a whole bunch of schools in San Jose. They practiced together for a few hours in the morning and then played together in a concert, the Halloween MegaConcert.  I sat in a large gym at Lincoln High School on bleachers towards the back. I had a good view of the bases and cellos standing near us but a view of the back of the heads of most of the kids. The spread has kids waiting for the concert to begin. Middle school kids, surprisingly, can wait pretty patiently!concert_mega0

And here they are, finally, in action.
It was quite something to hear all 490 students play one final piece together.

For all these sketches I used a really minimalistic kit: one pen, one pencil and a smallish sketchbook. Much as I love watercolor, I’m finding that there are many places and situations in which dry media, as small a kit as possible, and a more note-taking approach mixed in with sketches makes for much better reportage. All I carried with me was a Handbook Journal, a Sailor bent Nib pen, and a Rainbow Pencil.

I may add a couple of tools or switch out the rainbow pencil sometime for something else, but I really like the idea of a kit that allows me to work with so little.

Posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, reportage, san jose, Silicon Valley, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One last halloween post

Nothing is more out-of-date than Halloween the day after Halloween. Still, it’s the soonest I could post these sketches, given that I did them yesterday.

I drove by Louise’s yard this weekend and got a quick glimpse of the awesome decorations. So I went back to see it while he put his final touches to it yesterday. It’s a work of art, and like many works of art, a labor of love. Louise does this really elaborate setup, adding motors and sound and all sorts of effects the zillions of things in his yard. All just for the fun of it, every year. Here are some vignettes of the stuff in his yard.


I sketched all three pages in black ink and then added color to all three, also on location. I think I often just add color by reflex, and with this one especially I wonder if I should have just left it in line. Here are the same three pages, when I was done.

If you’re wondering how it’s possible to add color to 3 spreads all together and not make a mess, here’s what I did: I did make a big mess, I turned over spreads while they were wet. Some pages stuck together and I unstuck them as best as I could.

I guess the question is: Does the color add anything? Does it take anything away? And could I have said what I said in these three spreads with no (or less) color?

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Walter!


Top: Walter on Arches Cold Press Watercolor paper.
Bottom: Walter on Arches Hot Press Watercolor paper.

And my week in sketches? Well Inktober is almost done, so I think I’ll wait until later in the week to post the very last of it.

Posted in Everyday Sketches | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments