More Sketch Journaling

More pages from my sketch journal. Can you tell I’m really enjoying this?

Here is the day I saw the red hourglass mark so clearly on a black widow spider. Which was also the same day my sister gave me a little blue and white sugar pot she made.

Or this page that records some gourds I bought as well as my son’s critique of yet another sketch of him. And yes, he reads at breakfast pretty often. Bonus point if you can guess what he’s reading here…

This spread records a current favorite book in our household: Jonathan Crow’s Veeptopus: Vice-Presidents with Octopuses on Their Heads.

Some journal pages are inspired by artists whose work I admire. I don’t set out to do them this way, it just works out like that. Like this sketch inspired by Cathy Johnson. My daughter sketched with me that day, which always doubles the fun.

And then there’s this spread which started out with a whole lot of separate pencil and pen sketches that didn’t really hold together… so I decided to tie them together in a wash inspired by the lovely work of Lynda Gray.

Here’s a piece about journaling that I read in the New York Times today. And while it doesn’t refer in particular to sketch journaling, I think it’s still relevant.

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Sketch Journaling

I’ve always loved sketch journals. Besides the sketches themselves, there’s a wealth of other stuff on the page to consider and enjoy: The writing often expresses personal viewpoints and feelings. Even mundane stuff comes alive just from the act of recording it. Sketch-collaging pages creates rhythm and emphasis that makes each page unique in flavor and in layout.

So why don’t I sketch-journal more? I think it’s because I’ve come to think of journaling as requiring the kind of patience I don’t have and to be about carefully built up pages, with exquisite calligraphy.

But then I did this page to record a big boo-boo last month and thought “that’s a journal page”. And I’m so glad it lives in my sketchbook and holds memories of that pretty disastrous and almost funny event. ( And maybe it’s funny only to me, because I wasn’t the one who spent 3 hours on cleanup!)


And that kinda changed what I thought of the process: there’s no fancy calligraphy on the page, just my regular writing. It was super quick to do. Plus, I got to record a whole bunch of stuff in little bits: my husband cleaning up the mess, and a closeup of the beautiful beets I was roasting, before I threw away the shard-covered beauties. Plus. some very important information and advice for all of you. (See the double-underlined DO NOT?)

So I’ve been doing more of these journal-style spreads and finding that they fit very well into my current schedule where I can work on the pages in little breaks throughout my day. I’m also finding that I am relooking at everyday stuff and recording it. And doing this makes me pay more attention to it.

Here’s a spread that started with a little vignette at San Jose State University with visiting urban sketcher, Joel Winstead. I then added my cup of chai and a mail in election ballot ( Please, please vote on November 6th!) later in the day. And then some thoughts on color choices in my current palette.

Here are some more pages…



I’m hoping to keep doing more of this and record more everyday stuff in my sketchbooks. And I have lots to look at for inspiration.

Among my favorite keepers of journals are Cathy Johnson, Brenda Swenson, Liz Steel, Nina Khaschina and Gay Kraeger. Some of them call what they do journaling, some don’t. But the all share the idea of recording information in both words and sketches on a page.


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Pictures and Words

Lately, I’ve been doing more of these sketches where the picture and words come together to tell the whole story. I used to do more of it and then somewhere along the way the words dropped off. But working with Laurie Wigham on Sketching Climate Stories brought back to me the power of these word-and-image pieces as stand-alone reportage.

Throw in some food with words and pictures and it’s perfect. Also, if you have never had mangonada, Yelp it today and go have some.


This confusing little piece is me randomly sketching bits and pieces of my view out of the window at Heartbeat Cafe in Cambrian Park Plaza. The samovars were in the window, the rest of what you see is outside. Also, the crepes at Heartbeat Cafe are delicious.

San Jose Flea Market is a pretty crazy place, full of eclectic wares. And food.

You can see that the mangonada obsession continues.The agua fresca is good too.

From another day, but in the same there, this is Boudin’s Bakery in San Francisco. Tourists stream by and bakers work behind this glass window. You can watch them make their famous sourdough breads in fanciful animal shapes.

Posted in california, Close to home, Drink, Everyday Sketches, Food, people, san franciso, san jose, Silicon Valley, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Baby Food and Watercolor

Not too much work that I do in my other life, as a freelance illustrator, make it to this blog. But this assignment I just had to post because it was so much fun to work on and the original inspiration for this whole set of work was this sketch of radishes from my garden, done a long time ago.


Early this year I created these watercolor illustrations for a new line of organic baby food. Here is a small sampling from the literally hundreds of veges and fruits I painted.

While it was a ton of fun to paint them, it is even more exciting to see the product finally appear on the shelves of stores…

Many thanks to the wonderful creative team I worked with: I had a blast working with you!


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Pigeon Point Lighthouse

A little over a week ago, my kids and I spent a night at Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel, on the coast of California, not far from home. We could’ve driven there and back for the day, but there’s something lovely about staying the night at a magical location and waking up to it in the early morning. Our hostel room was right by the lighthouse: if we looked out the front window, we saw the lighthouse. Out the back window were cliffs and the ocean.

I had my morning chai with this view and the sound of crashing waves.pigeon_point_lighthouse0

Pigeon Point Lighthouse was built in 1871. At 115 feet, it was the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. The hostel we stayed in was originally the lighthouse keepers quarters.pigeon_point_lighthouse1

I’d love to go back there and paint again, perhaps when it’s spring , and there are migrating whales out in the ocean to spot…


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Lake Shasta in Early September

Every couple of years, we head to Lake Shasta for a weekend of house boating with a bunch of friends. With 10 adults and 10 kids involved, it’s a bit like being at a crazy house party all weekend long. Still, once you’re out on the lake, if you’re not the one steering the boat, there’s not much to do. So it’s painting time!

We arrive at late night and one of my favorite things to do is wake up early the next morning before the sun comes over the mountains and sketch the sunrise from the top deck of the houseboat.
This need to be quickly executed because there are only minutes between when it looks magical and when the sun breaks past that silhouette of the mountain.

I worked pretty quick on #1.
So there was time for a #2.shasta2

Both these pieces are in a Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book that I received at the Usk Porto Symposium. The paper is lovely and while it’s thinner than I’m used to, it holds up to my super-wet washes really well.

On the left is Randy, and even though we’ve done this year after year, his job every time we do this, is to give instructions on how to maneuver the boat. This sketch is in the softcover Alpha 8×10 sketchbook from Stillman and Birn, a book I am using more and more: it’s my smaller book, perfect for a quick sketch and some notes.

Random bits and pieces…

This sketch is done from the back deck of the boat while we were at the dock filling up on gas.

The devastating Carr fire was contained but still burning in the area when we were in Shasta and the air was full of ash.

The landscape looked surreal.shasta6.jpg

And the sky was often an unreal color.

The sun sometimes looked like a bright red ball pasted in the sky.

I did these four pieces all one evening as the sun set. When you’re on a roll, it’s easy to just keep going on until the light fades.

And then, it’s happy hour.



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Snatched Sketches

Travel sketching is always exciting. But most of my sketching (and learning) happens in  little windows of time in my everyday schedule: snatched moments really, often time between things. It’s in these sketches that I’m most likely to experiment and improvise, take notes and think about stuff…

This quick sketch was done on the first day back to school. A school evening without homework? Yay! reading_time.jpg

An early sketch, done one day as I thought “I really should study hands more”. That led to the Hands Project.hand

A few moments in downtown Willow Glen, waiting to pick up my niece. Playing with brushpens filled with grey ink and my rainbow pencil, drawing the couple on the bench in the distance.

Getting a haircut. Yes, a stroke of serendipity that this guy was sharpening scissors right by where I sat. But it did help that I always have my sketchbook with me.  haircutting_scissors

And every once in a while, I build in a break at my local coffee shop into my day just so I can catch a sketch. This is Blvd. Coffee in San Jose. Cafe sketching is about as easy as people sketching gets: it’s amazing how long someone will hold a pose while they look at a cellphone. Also, sitting in the back of the cafe makes for a wonderful opportunity for silhouette-sketching (see bottom left of the spread below).

There’s really something to be learnt from artists with a regular drawing and painting practice. Like Shari Blaukopf, who even manages a blogpost almost everyday! Or Nina Khashchina who squeezes in a zillion projects into tiny windows of time in her day.

I’ve toyed with a more structured plan of adding a sketch everyday to a book that sits at my work desk. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Do you have a daily (or close to daily) sketching practice? Is it structured and planned into your day or a more as-I-find-time kinda thing? What works for you and what doesn’t? I’d love to know.

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