Monterey: The Bay

The first trip that Julia and I ever took together was to see the Seahorse exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium back in 2009. There have been many dramatic changes in our lives in the interim (leaving me quite the worse for wear) but happily, Julia and I are still together, Monterey is as pleasant a destination as ever, and our recent trip there was just what we both needed.


The first time we ever went to Monterey, we stayed in a very nice B&B but this time, after driving down from the Bay Area, we checked into the Portola Hotel, a place Julia stayed in for a painting conference a while back. We slept late our first day, and had lunch at a crepe restaurant on Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf, very near our hotel. We decided to draw the view from the wharf, then went for a walk along the pleasant path along the waterfront that connects old Fisherman’s Wharf with the Aquarium area, where we ate dinner at VIVOLO’s, a restaurant that we’d had a memorable meal at 6 years earlier. While our meal this time was fine, it was nowhere near the flavour explosion we’d remembered from our first visit. Julia took out her frustrations by drawing some tasty sketches of me on the paper table cloth. The evening powerwalk back to our hotel was made more entertaining when we sat down by an outdoor fire pit near a posh hotel to warm ourselves, and made the acquaintance of some rather tipsy but very pleasant Brit honeymooners from Lancaster, who it turned out were staying in the same hotel as us.


The next day was bright and sunny, and we decided to draw the view along the waterfront, once again not far from Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Julia had recently bought me some proper watercolour paper, rather than the flimsy drawing paper that I usually use, and I set up my drawing rig; folding chair and easel, and sketched a sunny view of boats moored in the marina. Drawing an intricate view such as this is extra challenging for me with my left hand, but I gave it a good try, blocking in some of the colour on site with aquarelle pencils, to be embellished later at our hotel.


We were both taken with the charming sight of a bright red boat that clearly stood out from all the generic white and blue boats moored around it. I’m the least nautical person you’ll ever meet, but it appeared to me that it was a miniature Chinese Junk (it reminded me of boats I’d seen in Hong Kong, anyway). The characterful little boat was only tethered at one end and swung around from side to side in the afternoon breeze, which made it very difficult to draw on site, so most of this drawing was drawn and colored back in our hotel room using a photograph as reference.


That night we ate at a place called OLD FISHERMAN’S GROTTO and – you guessed it – it was on Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The next day, we finally woke up early enough to cash in our passes to the MONTEREY AQUARIUM. I will have the sketches I drew there in my NEXT post.

26 thoughts on “Monterey: The Bay”

  1. Lovely illustrated piece, thank you. This took me back to childhood vacations, and to a visit my husband and I made twenty years ago, to see the jellyfish. I wish we had known about the sea horses, too! Monterey Bay was my first foray into a world not suburban, an atmosphere imbued with seaside qualities intriguingly different the Southern California beaches.

    • The jellyfish exhibit at the aquarium is hands down my favourite. I’ll have some sketches from the aquarium in my next post, though none of the jellies. Too dark to DRAW in that exhibit, sadly.

    • Thanks, Lisa. I usually try an overview, and take a few minutes imagining the boundaries of what I want to draw (“from that tree over to that rock” etc)

  2. So lovely to come across this today James!
    I’m sitting here in my Wintery Sydney study staring at your beautiful impression of the marina. It’s evoking some wonderful memories of the 10 yrs Ross and I spent living in Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Nth Qld. . . I can smell the salt water. . . I can hear the gulls squabbling around the pier, and the lazy waves thudding against the hulls of the boats. I can see the radar/sonar thingy on top of the luxury yacht turning slowly, and the masts of the moored boats waving from side to side as if to invite us all to jump on board and head off to some island shimmering away in the distance . . .*sigh* . . .

  3. Hey James,

    Another great piece, brilliant sketches man!
    I like the monochrome sketch the best, I couldn’t do as well and I am left handed.
    Oh, and don’t be so harsh on yourself, the little red boat is not junk it’s beautiful.

    • I did not know (or had forgotten) you are a lefty, Arthur. It’s amazing to me how many great artists are, which gives me some encouragement now that I must be a lefty too.

  4. Love these! This is where I grew up and you totally capture the area to a tee!
    I’ve been showing Guilherme your left handed artwork and he was really impressed as well.
    You are very inspiring Baker!

    • I knew you were from SoCal but did not know you were from Monterey (thought you were from Santa Barbara for some reason). What a beautiful area to grow up in!

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