Family Ride, ink and watercolor in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, 11 x 8.5 in.
We had an excellent weekend of bike rides, donuts, sushi, and kids-staying-with-grandparents. Somehow, though, I only got a couple quick sketches in. This is our family bike set up from early in the morning while the kids played ‘Bank Robber’ at an otherwise deserted playground. This was just after second breakfast at Blue Star donuts, so the sugar energy was high. I should’ve sketched the donut, but I know that if I take my hands off my scrumptious treat for one moment, it will be snatched right off my napkin with such stealth that before my eyelids can lift up to zero in on the thief, my kid will be licking his fingers.
On Saturday morning, I loaded up my bike basket with art supplies and rode over the Tilikum Crossing down to the South Waterfront. There, I met the Portland Urban Sketchers for this month’s sketchcrawl. The intention was to draw everyone’s favorite new bridge, the shiny white Tilikum, but a very short ride from our meeting place was a sunny viewpoint showing the full expanse of the Ross Island Bridge- Portland’s most underrated of bridges. From the top, the RIB is not very fancy. Pedestrian traffic is not allowed or is at least dangerous and, while car passengers can enjoy striking views of the city, drivers best keep their eyes on the road to avoid head-on collisions or a lengthy drop down to the Willamette. Below the road, though, the bridge is as pretty as any of the other bridges in town. The steel supports are going to be repainted this year. In real life, the bridge is a much lighter faded color, but this here is me urging the city to go for a nice bright green.
As I finished up the ink of this painting, the sun shone and the air got warm enough for me to take off my coat. A sailboat floated by with 4 pirates on deck singing, “What will we do with a drunken sailor? What will we do with a drunken sailor? What will we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?” It was a bit late to be considered early in the morning, but by the sounds of it they had the drunken sailor part just right.
It turned out better than I expected, but I won’t say I’m happy with this. What makes me really dislike this sketch is that I drove all the way up to St. John’s bridge to paint it and realized I forgot my water jar just when I got settled into a great parking spot. All I had was a little tiny crappy water brush. So, I painted angrily.
I love Urban Sketching. Whether with an official group or on my own, I love spending 2-3 hours out of my house drawing from life. I leave a place with a much more complete sense of it. Not only do I have the visual ‘snapshot’ I’ve captured on my page, but looking at the complete sketch conjures the whole experience: the day’s weather, music or radio shows I listened to while sketching, people I saw walking by, and conversations I overheard.
For example, with this sketch, I recall an episode of Car Talk and an OPB show discussing David Bowie’s death. Which makes me sad. And I remember that buses came and went while I sketched, blocking and freeing my view. A man walked by wearing official-looking clothes, who I thought might tell me I needed to pay for parking if I was going to sit there all day (but didn’t). Which makes me feel a little anxious. Bus drivers took cigarette breaks and a woman wearing a coat over a very short skirt ran through the rain looking very cold.
The everyday moments of life are not usually interesting enough for people to document. A group of women returning to their car after getting off a train isn’t unusual or funny or touching. It’s nothing. But it’s a moment in time like a million others. Each Urban Sketch contains these moments like an invisible catalogue.
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Here’s the latest from my “Weekly” Drawing Night Out project. This time I went to the nearby Peet’s Coffee because it is 5-7 minutes closer to my house than the library and we’re counting minutes, man.
Compared with the library as a drawing location, I will say that despite being closer, it is slightly less desirable due to the sociable atmosphere of most coffee shops. Everybody knows that if you go to the library, you want to be left alone. If someone shush-es you there, you would quickly shut your yap and be apologetic. At the coffee shop, however, folks get all chatty. What’s the nice way to tell a stranger, who’s just being nice, to get lost?
Last weekend we needed to go grocery shopping, so naturally, we started out at the park. My baby slept while I drew and painted this tree. Some old lady came by with her 1 and a half year old charge to oogle at the baby. Then the 1 and half year old hit my baby in the face with a sandy hand… “No, no, child! You can’t talk to the baby if you hit!” She then allowed the kid to come back by (all the while, INTERRUPTING my brief moment of silent sustained drawing, SSD) so that the girl could whack my baby several more times*. She also had a dog tied to a tree that barked and snarled at all canine passersby. The dog got similar smiling, soft-toned scoldings. “No, no, Freckles! You silly animal, that dog is twice your size!”
*My baby was not harmed in the making of this drawing. If he had been in real danger I would surely have stopped drawing and laid a smack down on the old lady.
I decided to pick up Randy from work last Friday in San Francisco so that we could all enjoy a lovely afternoon in the City together. Then I realized as I crossed the beautiful brand new Bay Bridge that it is Friday and we will have to leave in 30 minutes if we want to avoid the hellscape that is Friday afternoon traffic heading out of San Francisco.
So, we hung out at Chrissy Field for five minutes then loaded everybody back into the van to at least cross the Golden Gate before it got real bad. We got out again at Fort Baker and delighted at the views of the bridge, the bay and the city. I drew this picture of what you see if you turn your back on all those iconic subjects and face North. Then a pack of some 20 something girls parked their car in front of me and, while commenting how “beauts” the day/scenery was, went for a nice walk down by the marina. “Whatevs,” I said. “I was almost done anyway.”
I spend at least 60 minutes per day breastfeeding. Excluding nighttime breastfeeding, which is totally unproductive due to zombie brain sleep. This 60 minutes seems like prime time for doing something because it is guaranteed to be cry-free time*. Unfortunately, due to the nature of breastfeeding, I have between one and zero hands available during this time.
Anyway, sometimes when I’m breastfeeding I’m looking at something I’d like to be drawing and I draw it in my mind. Then flush it right out of there because I will not be able to reproduce something from my mind’s eye. Imposible. (That was in Spanish, it is not misspelled.) Yesterday I tried to draw something later that I spent several minutes looking at earlier in the day. This is that thing:
I was sitting in a car on a street in Oakland looking at this. Actually, this is the only part I specifically remember.
The rest I sort of made up.
*One might suggest that I spend this time “bonding” with my baby, but I assure you, I also spend at least 60 other minutes a day changing diapers, and diaper changing time is always spent gazing into the eyes of my beautiful child blasting him with lovingkindness from my face while my hands work at an inhuman speed tossing soiled diaper into the bin and wrangling a new clean one on before he WIGS out. So, we totally bond.
I didn’t lose interest in art. I swear. I just lost my motivation during a brief two-month period of feeling the morning sickness misérables. I’m not saying my motivation is back. But it WILL be. I’m thinking about arting. And that’s a start. But you know how they say that it takes a month of doing something regularly before it becomes habit? I need to commit.
Here’s the first drawing I did for several weeks. I spent a couple hours one very nice day in January and sat up at the Tilden Park Botanical Garden and sketched some pretty bleak looking winter foliage. Then didn’t sketch again for some time.
Last night I met up with the Urban Sketchers of the Bay Area for the first time. We met at the Tilden Park Carousel Christmas Extravaganza. After a very dark and spooky drive through the woods I came up to the old carousel building decked out with thousands of lights, Christmas village decorations and nice little hut where the kids can talk with Santa and the Elves.
We were there for just 2 hours and I didn’t get a whole lot done. I sat outside and sketched one of the 6-foot tall nutcrackers. The fella working there was kind enough to leave it out for me to finish even though it was closing time.
I also sketched a view of the carousel from a picnic table just outside. It’s tough sketching things that come in and out of view at such speed!