California Academy of Sciences

Last weekend Julia and I took advantage of our Neighbourhood Free Weekend at The Academy of Sciences. After doing a full sweep of the museum to scope out our targets, we went to a room full of skeletons and taxidermy where I sketched a model of a Dodo bird. The area was quiet enough that I was able to sketch and watercolour this drawing on site.


We are both members of the nearby De Young, and visit it often, but only go to the Academy of Sciences infrequently, so it was a great to sketch at this wonderful museum on a relatively uncrowded weekend, for free. The Neighbourhood free weekends are for San Francisco residents of each specific zip code, and therefore are significantly less busy than the Academy’s quarterly free days, when anyone can enter for free and absolutely everyone wants to.


After I finished my drawing of the Dodo, and Julia sketched several bird displays, we had a break for some lunch at the Cafe. Next, Julia had wanted to draw in the downstairs aquarium, but unfortunately it was the one area of the Academy that was quite crowded that day, jam-packed with families and strollers, so instead we went to the diorama room, and I drew the oryx display.


When the Academy of Sciences began to close at 5pm, we walked to the nearby Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park to sit and relax. It was a very pleasant evening and I drew a scribbly sketch of a beautiful tree, later adding the watercolour washes at home.


After our fun day of drawing, we strolled through the park to the 9th & Irving area for a tasty dinner, before catching a cab home.

32 thoughts on “California Academy of Sciences”

    • Thank you, Steven. I’m giving my left hand a drawing crash-course to try and get it up to speed on the lifetime of drawing my right hand did. The knowledge of course transfers over for free but the dexterity is a question of practise. I Hope to get back to pro drawing someday soon.

    • Thanks, Deane. I am making progress, but it is still a very strange experience to have my drawing arm feel so ‘wrong’. There is a disconnect between what I intend to draw and what I actually draw, but sometimes I’m lucky that I like the accidents.

    • Quite often after we’ve spoken I have a go drawing with my right hand and the result usually looks like the pen has been possessed by some kind of insane witch who has chosen to vomit ink. My hat goes off to you.

  1. nice work James. watercolours are a difficult medium, but the softness gives your work a lot of atmosphere. and , you know if you keep this up, one day you will not be able to tell the difference between the work you did with your right or your left hand.

    Steve Lyons

    • Thanks Steve. Lately I’ve been trying to do some digital media as well. It’s tricky using Photoshop with one hand but I should have a blog post with some digital illustrations to post next week.

  2. Excellent work Jamie!

    As usual, great compo and tops colour, it’s not just that you’re improving but the rate at which your gaining is what blows me out.

    Keep it up mate.


  3. Thanks for your latest, dear boy. I admire your leftie work; your oryx seems to me a thing of greater beauty than the one in the display case, and the beautiful tree makes me smell gum-leaves. But most of all I’m full of admiration for your spirit, and of pride in you to bursting point. Love to you both from Wen and me, Dad

    • Hey Dad (& Wendy!) Not sure if they have gum trees in oryx country, but maybe. I know they have a lot here in California and I saw plenty in South America so who knows? I can tell you though that this particular tree, whatever its species, was made of plaster and plastic. Thanks very much for your encouraging words about my lefty watercolours. I hope that you and Wendy (and maybe Rob) still go out to paint some yourselves once in a while? Although it’s a struggle, I do find that it gives me comfort.

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