My daughter-in-law’s birthday was yesterday, so I painted a portrait of Christopher and Angela’s cat Katie Rae (which they adopted from a shelter) as a present. Although I finished it awhile ago, I couldn’t send it out until after her birthday.
After 20 years of watercolors, I decided to try my hand at acrylics, so I took a class. Acrylics look a lot like oils but are water-based. Advantages: you can keep changing and correcting and revising. Unlike oil, there are no fumes and no messy cleanup. Disadvantages: You use a lot more paint than watercolors do, they are less portable, and if you get them on something they can harden. And when you can keep changing things forever, how do you know you’re finished? For me, there is nothing to match the convenience, lightness and transparency of watercolors. Which is why I’m still in love with watercolors, adorable cats notwithstanding.
Here is a sketch of Lombard Street, one of the more famous hilly streets of San Francisco. In order to get an overview of the city, I took a city tour with a guide who took seven of us in his VW bus. His VW had manual transmission, and we got a sense (audio and visual) of how profitable it must be to run a transmission repair business in the Bay area.
During my trip to San Francisco last week, my step-sister Elizabeth and I visited Muir Woods. Here’s what we learned from a lecture by a volunteer: Giant redwood trees can grow up to 320′ and live up to 2,000 years. They once covered the entire Northern Hemisphere worldwide. The climate changed and many of them gave way to other species, but there were still millions of acres of redwoods, especially on the West Coast. When white men came west, they discovered that the wood from these trees was resistant to insects and fire, so redwoods became the preferred building material. Finally, in 1909, there remained a small stand near San Francisco on land owned by William Kent. After the 1906 devastating earthquake and fire in San Francisco, the stand of trees was about to taken by eminent domain to rebuild the city. Through his Yale connections, Kent appealed to Teddy Roosevelt, who, with a stroke of the pen, and within days of the clearcutting, proclaimed Muir Woods a National Monument. It’s within an hour of the city and is a popular place to visit and see the world as it once was.
Last week I spent a week in San Francisco, visiting my friend Becky and my step-sister Elizabeth. What a beautiful city! I did this little sketch while sitting on the 9th floor observatory of the deYoung Museum. The museum is in Golden Gate Park, which is why the trees are in the foreground. I have a small Moleskine sketchbook which is “landscape format” (as opposed to “portrait format”) so it was perfect for this horizontal view.
I returned from a week in San Francisco on Wednesday night to find a foot of snow on the ground in Boston. I can’t say I was sorry to be away for the two snowstorms we’ve had in a week! Bruce kindly stayed home and made sure no more of our trees fell around or on our house.
While I work on a couple of sketches of San Francisco, which I will post next week, here are a few poppies to remind us that spring is really, actually, eventually coming!
A semi-abstract painting, like this one, evokes a realistic scene, but has fun with color and shape. This is one of my favorites. You can see I used a variety of techniques , including painting on a section of wet paper, which flows, and painting on dry paper, which stays where it’s put.
Since the invention of the smartphone, we no longer feel we have the time to be bored and stare into space. There’s always email, news and Facebook to be checked. This time, as I waited for my order, I resisted the temptation to grab my smartphone and instead took out my sketchbook to draw the other people waiting to order or pick up their food. Sketching has much in common with meditation, because it brings you back to the present moment.
Our suburban Boston neighborhood is blessed with many trees, including nine 60-80 foot tall white pines within ten feet of our house. On Friday, during the height of the Northeaster which hit the East coast, one of the trees uprooted and fell across our yard, snapping a telephone pole, blocking the street and cutting power to our neighborhood. Miraculously, it did not hit our house or our neighbors. On Saturday the tree men concluded that a second pine tree, about 150 years old, was unsafe, and that too was taken down. For a tree hugger like me, this is very sad, but we feel blessed that no people or houses were harmed.
Here is my watercolor of a stand of beautiful white pines.
“Steal Like an Artist” is a book title which conveys a basic truth: much art is only partly original. We are inspired by the work of other artists, photographers, and more. When I saw the work of Louis Turpin I was especially delighted by his monochromes of the farmland of England, and I decided to try my own version. How many groups of sheep can you see? How many ponds? Do you see a barn?
A reminder that Sunday is the deadline to let me know if you’d like a copy a 124 page book of my 2017 Watercolors. At cost, it’s $36 plus $10 shipping. I’ll place the order on Monday.