The morning the tree trimmers came

The tree trimmers arrived at 8am. They turned off the electricity and cut down a couple of large branches from the tree outside my home. That big white vehicle is a branch-muncher, it can grind up huge tree limbs in seconds.pge_1The blue Pacific Gas and Electric truck joined the branch-munching van.pge_2
More trucks arrived, lots of discussion, lots of setting out orange cones on the street…
Finally this guy got down on the ground, opened up a manhole and peered into it. Things were just hotting up.pge_4

And I was clean out of sketching time and had to leave for work.

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Farm Animals

These are my sketches from a ‘farm tour’ at Hidden Villa Farms in the Los Altos Hills today. I sketched these as I tagged along with a moving group. I started by using just a brushpen (I love my Kuretake Sable Hair brushpen, refilled with carbon platinum ink) but pulled out my watercolor kit and juggled it all as I walked along after my first page of sketches. Using a combo of color and line was a quicker way for me capture what I wanted than just working in pen. The brushpen captured shape and gesture, and a quick wash of color added volume, pattern and texture.


At the end of the tour, I went back to draw my favorites, the sheep and new lambs. It’s surprisingly hard to draw a convincing sheep. And it was interesting to see how many sheep I drew before I could simplify them into basic forms.

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Leaning? Not leaning? You decide.

Sketched at  my lifedrawing session this morning. The model was definitely leaning one way: her head rested in her hand and she leaned in that direction. Which is what I thought I was capturing. But when I was done, she just didn’t seem to lean enough.


Part of the problem is that other arm, straight down the middle of the composition: It tricks you into ‘untilting’ whatever subtle tilt I drew in… But maybe there’s more?

Someone suggested I look at my sketch in a mirror to see if I could find what was bothering me. I did, and while it didn’t fix my leaning problem, a whole bunch of new things came up. I’ve flipped the image in photoshop( below) to approximate what I saw. On the left: my original. On the right: the flipped image. I could swear the one on right has more depth in the dark areas, and more vibrant orange-reds in the skintone. Even a slightly different angle to the head.

Do the two images above look exactly the same to you? If you see differences, what ARE they? And if you understand why this happens, I’d love to know!

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Miller Red Barn

I saw an intriguing sign in Gilroy the other day. It said “Save Miller Red Barn” and listed this facebook page. Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a design project on the history of the City of Gilroy, so I know quite a bit about this barn ( but I had no idea it still stood).

The barn probably belonged to Henry Miller, also known as the Cattle King, a man thought to have been the largest land owner and cattleman in the American West, perhaps the largest landowner in the entire nation in the 1850s. People in this town say a cowboy could ride from Mexico all the way to Canada without leaving the Cattle King’s lands.

The barn is large, impressive, a beautiful red and dangerously dilapidated. I got quite carried away with capturing all the texture.
barn1_2stepRecording in steps really helps me look at my process. More often than not, I look back and find I should have stopped just a wee bit earlier than I did. With both these sketches, I really had fun with capturing all the texture, but it might have been a good idea to let a little more of the juicy watercolor wash show? The barn is, after all, a beautiful color, even in its dilapidated state. Here is a closeup of all that over-the-top texture:red_barn1c_closeup

And here is sketch#2, from the other side of the barn.
barn2_4stepAnd a closer look at the finished piece.red_barn2c

I hope they raise the funds they need to save that barn, it’s an important part of Gilroy’s history.

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Too little sketching

Too little sketching this past week. How did that happen? Most of these are done today. Got to remember: sketch everyday. or atleast almost everyday.

Palo Alto airport on a very grey day. Lots of planes, many with ‘For Sale” signs. And an Aviation Fuel truck. The truck driver came over to have a look at what I was doing. Turns out he sketches too, he showed me his work. One of my favorite bits of drawing in location is the people I meet and the conversations I have.palo_alto_airport1
A car I’ve been meaning to sketch for a while. Know anything about cars? Help me figure when this one is from.This is what is know:
Chrysler New Yorker. As big as a boat. The back of the car said “Markley Ft. Collins”. Looks like a 70s car to me, (it’s that strange chalky yellow that looks greenish in the shade, a color I associate with the 60s, though).car_chrysler_new_yorker

And finally a sketch that isn’t a vehicle. My son, playing lego.

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Impressions, Lake Tahoe

My friend Katy put it well: If I was looking for a ‘first impressions’ trip to Lake Tahoe, this was NOT the weekend to pick. Tahoe’s winter economy is powered by snow and snow sports. But right now, it’s really hard to find snow anywhere in the area.
On my first day there, the temperature in the middle of the day was 68 degrees on the ski slopes. There were people skiing in tanktops. The snow machines ran all day at Boreal Ski Resort. The light on the snow was blinding. I absolutely HATE sketching with sunglasses on, but this one time, there was no taking them off. tahoe_ski1

A sketch of the lunchroom. What a zoo! Snowboards, skis, beanies, bright ski jackets, and loads of junk food.tahoe_ski2

The upside of warm weather? Hiking. The lake was beautiful, the water and sky were ultramarine blue (no mixing, no diluting, straight out of my palette!).
This first sketch is at a little cove in the town of King’s Beach. My kids are far in the distance, on the rocks. Loving using a blue pencil to sketch with.
tahoe_kings_beachTwo impressions of Emerald Bay, on the Western side of the lake. This sketch is from Inspiration Point, high above the bay. tahoe_emeraldbay1And this one is at the end of a steep hike down to the shores of the bay. Looking past the pier towards Fannette Island, with a dilapidated little structure on it.
tahoe_emeraldbay2The downside of no snow? I spend winter oogling at Shari Blaukopf’s wonderful sketches of snow. And I take her book, “Mostly Montreal” along with me for inspiration. But aside from one blinding, flat, white ski slope? No snow.

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Documenting the process

I’ve been trying to take photographs of a piece as I work on it. Trouble is, I work very quickly and wet-in-wet, usually without a pause. So it’s easy to forget to stop and take a photograph. Still, I managed to get a few in-between shots this week. They’re really useful to me, to look at and see what I did, and often, when I should have stopped. I thought I’d share these process shots.

This is the front of the newly restored Los Gatos Theater. Originally the Strand Theater, it burnt down in a fire in 1929 and was rebuilt as the art deco Los Gatos Theater.

Sketch 1: brushpen and watercolor.
Sketch 2: watercolor over blue colored pencil



And a sketch of my kids. Pencil sketch under watercolor and Brushpen.

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