Mar 012016

A few weeks ago, Julia and I went back to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, for another free day of relaxing and sketching.


On our previous visit, I sat in the mezzanine (and sketching a dodo bird) and this time I visited that exact same place, but sketched instead a view of the T-REX skeleton in the lobby. It’s a quiet spot with chair & table where I could work undisturbed, and I was able to apply most of the watercolour on site. After a short break for lunch, we returned to that old fave sketch are, the diorama room. Julia sketched the BONGO on her new iPad (and Apple Pencil) while I sketched the LION diorama.


When the Academy closed we met our pals Bosco & Steve at nearby San Tung restaurant for their yummy signature dish of dry fried chicken for our dinner!

Oct 012015

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.

Feb 282015

Here are some watercolor sketches done on location around San Francisco in this past month.


The first was done in Union Square while Julia and I sat prior to our dinner reservation on Valentines day. It was gloriously warm and sunny, with many people out enjoying themselves, and I managed to get a scribbly sketch down, before the pleasant evening swerved and collided with a typically bizarre San Francisco moment, involving an urban wild man and his high-strung pitbull. I finished the rest of the sketch and the watercolor washes later at home.


The next sketch, of a monument to Francis Scott Key, was done in Golden Gate Park, and represents a mini-breakthrough in my lefty sketches, as it was ALL done on location. For the past two years, my location-sketching has had watercolor washes finished at home. Lately, my mobility, dexterity and balance are impaired, and it’s impossible to sketch while holding the sketchbook in one hand while I draw with the other, or balance the watercolours and sketchbook on my knees as I draw while sitting on a park bench. Now that I’m so physically unstable myself, I need a stable drawing surface to work at, even when drawing outside.

sketch_rigLast Christmas, Julia bought me a wonderful new sketching rig, including a tripod and drawing easel,  watercolor supplies and a bag to carry it all in. It was partly inspired by the setups seen in some great location sketching videos posted by Matt Jones, and blog posts by plein aire watercolourist, Mark Taro Holmes. This was my first time using it all, (borrowing Julia’s folding chair) and the rig worked very well, though I realised I need to bring extra supplies next time; paper towels to soak up excess water, clips and elastic bands to secure sketchbooks and loose paper to the drawing board, and fingerless gloves (those Bob Cratchett specials) to keep fingers my warm but still free enough to work. When I get my own lightweight and stable drawing chair, I’ll have the full kit and kaboodle.

Unfortunately, we chose a very blustery day to try this new drawing rig out for the first time. It was very sunny, but the wind was gusting so hard that even heavy obects, such as my jar of water, were blown across my drawing board. When one particularly strong gust lifted the entire drawing rig off the ground, I figured it was time to call it a day. I would have liked more time to finesse the sketch on location, but I’ll post it anyway, as I’d like to get into the habit of posting drawings done as much as possible on site.


To round-off this past weekend of sketching, Julia and I went to the Ferry Building. Julia painted a close-up of the clock Tower on her iPad while I sketched this overview of the entire building. I was using a new watercolour sketchbook that Julia had given me last Christmas, and although it is perhaps a little too small for my current dexterity I really really like the paper. Most watercolour sketches that I post are done on sketchbook drawing paper, which tends to buckle when watercolor is applied, so it was really nice to use proper watercolor paper for a change.

SF_ferry_bldg_collageWe were not assaulted by wind this time, and both had a very productive day. I set up my easel in the open space by the bayside (where the farmer’s market is held) with a good vantage point of the ferry building and skyline, with the aim of drawing the entire scene. It is challenging to cram that much detail into a tiny drawing at the best of times, but especially hard now that I’m using my clumsy left-hand. I’m still getting used to drawing on the easel, with the drawing surface vertical rather than horizontal, but hope to get better in time. I’m aware that I have a lot to learn about working in watercolour, and need to develop the ability to think in terms of blocks of shadow and light, rather than composing with lines, but I enjoy this challenge.

After we’d finished our drawings, we went into the ferry building for an early dinner and sat outside in the warm sun. Just as we were finishing our meal our table fell into shadow and suddenly it became dramatically cooler (the San Francisco air does not hold heat at all) but we were ready to go home anyway after a very satisfying weekend of painting and sketching.

Aug 222012
De Young

Last weekend I did some sketching with MATT JONES at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, where, along with my pals Bosco and Steve, we saw the FANTASTIC Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, FROM THE SIDEWALK TO THE CATWALK.

Seeing a 30 year retrospective of his work made it clear how much of the visual style of the past few decades can be attributed to Gaultier, and not just in the field of fashion itself. He has done extensive design work in iconic films and styled many videos and album covers in the music business too. His cross-cultural fashion mash-ups are astonishingly witty. I was very impressed with the exhibit, though it was almost impossible to do any drawing due to the Disneyand-scale crowds that had shown up on the last weekend of the show. I only was able to do one sketch from the ONE dead-space within the swirling maelstrom of onlookers, which sadly gave a vantage point BEHIND one of the mannequins. When the crowds got to be too much, we went to the MASKS area of the permanent collection upstairs, where there is always something great to draw.

After a quick bite to eat, we did some more sketching outside the museum and called it a day. These sketches allowed me to FINALLY fill the little watercolour sketchbook I have been using for the past 10 months. Unlike all those before, I had resolved to fill this one ONLY with observational sketches (rather than doodles) and it has been a great exercise that I want to continue, though hopefully filling the NEXT one rather more quickly.

Jul 102011

Today I went sketching at the DE YOUNG museum, with MATT JONES and his pal Scott. For fantastic drawing subjects, we didn’t need to go any further than the “Art of New Guinea” room, where there is an incredible array of fantastic masks on permanent display. So much so that I had a hard time deciding what to draw!

Being a lightening-quick gesture sketcher, Matt didn’t have to choose; he pretty much drew everything in there in about an hour! Whereas I, in my own plodding way, found two that interested me and tried to study them somewhat in depth.

We then had a tasty lunch at a nearby Burmese Restaurant, followed by a visit to GREEN APPLE BOOKS, and ended the outing with a drink at THE BITTER END. After parting ways, I then had a pleasant hike home, as the sun went down.

Yes indeed, my Sunday was a very Fun day.