Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Plankton a go go

Original drawing

 I decided that to go with the apex predator prints of sharks (a Great White and a Blacktip), I'd like to have some images of the opposite end of the spectrum - plankton!

Started with the black and white drawing.  Transferred this (flipped) onto linoleum and carved so that most of the images would be white (or "not printed") and then did that again and carved a second one to do the reverse.

I love the abstract qualities of the plankton!

Dark plankton print on origami paper

Light plankton print on purple plain origami paper

Monday, August 24, 2015

When you love your subject, it shows

"Bonded" Uniball and Schmincke watercolor on paper - for Shelley
I remember feeling so worried about focusing my art on things like dogs - that this somehow would not be "real" or "important" art.  Now, I'm so relieved I didn't pursue that worry but just stuck to what interests and sparks me  I believe that if you have a strong connection with your subject, it always shows up as energy in the finished art piece.

This latest thing (not sure whether to call it a drawing with watercolor or a painting with ink drawing) was a great reminder of that for me.  My lovely cousin Shelley just finished a very difficult program of study and I am feeling very proud of her for pursuing her dream so vigorously.

So I stole a very sweet photo of her two rescue dogs off her Facebook album and based this surprise piece for her on the photo.  She'd written that she'd "waited 20 years for dogs bonded like this" - and I knew exactly what she meant.  There was resonance on this subject on many levels.  I felt nothing but joy and flow while working on it.

It's great to know this is all possible.  I've long since decided that the guidance of "do what you love and the money will follow" isn't for everyone.

However, I do think I believe in this: Do what you love, and the work you love will follow.  It may not be the work that pays your bills (in my case, it's work I do in my non-paid time), but it'll be there for you to lift your soul.  Not too shabby, in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tank greets you from a distant land

This year's print exchange (sponsored by the Brooklyn Art Library) is on the theme of "Greetings from a distant land."  I made a print of an assemblage robot named "Tank", and that is also the title of the print.

Tank is from a distant land in a few ways.  He has that aura of outer space just by virtue of being a robot, plus his parts all served another purpose before he was created as this sculpture.  His bottom half, for example, is part of a former espresso pot.

Here are my 12 prints ready to mail back to them for the big swap!  I've come to learn this is called a "Varied Edition" since I used different ink colors and papers.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sharks in progress

I usually wait until I'm all done with something and then share on this blog, but I'm going to try out blogging more often and showing stuff in progress and how things connect.

Today I'm thinking about sharks and bears.  After I took part in the awesome printmaking class at 3 Fish Studios (see yesterday's post), I started noodling on what would make a next good subject for printing.

Firstly, I have sharks on the brain.  Here are some sketching I've started.

Last week, my boss Matt was talking about a friend of his who was about to attempt the (rather insane) feat of swimming from the Golden Gate to the Farallon Islands.  Rather insane because, sharks.  Namely Great White Sharks, or Carcharodon carcharias.  Matt asked me if I was familiar with the islands and knew about the sharks.  He mentioned a book written about it, which I bought and devoured (rather shark-like) in one night.

The book is "The Devil's Teeth" by Susan Casey. I really felt torn about this book. Way back when, I worked with Peter Pyle at PRBO and coordinated the shopping and such for the Farallon Patrol.  (So, yes, I definitely know about the islands!)  The radio to the scientists' house on Southeast Farallon Island lived on my desk in Stinson Beach office. 

Later Peter was my landlord when I rented his house in Bolinas, just steps away from the beach (so glorious.)  He was always such a solid, smart and personable guy.

So I was thrilled with how well Casey captured him and described the value of the research he and Scot did on Great Whites but very bummed at how things played out - all of which was unknown to me since I'd been out of touch and Peter's not really the type to gush all his personal details! However, this book renewed and deepened my gratitude that I was able to work at PRBO (now Point Blue) and get to work with these biologists while learning so much about birds and marine life. What a treasure, loved every second of it.

And while I can't be a researcher myself, I can use what I do to explore and enjoy sharkies - and that's drawing them.  I think they'll be good strong subjects to print too, can't wait to try that.
I'm also thinking about bears because of this tragic situation with the mama grizzly in Yellowstone who idiotic humans are threatening to kill.  I'm in the camp of "if the hiker ventured into Grizzly turf when she has babies nearby, then Grizzly allowed to eat human."  It's heartbreaking and angering to me.

I've signed the online petition but it might do my soul some good to draw and print up some bears.  I don't know if I'm just spitting in the wind, but it's what I can think to do now.

I also renewed my effort to volunteer for Beach Watch again.  I was bummed last year when I didn't get into their training.  I thought a returning volunteer would be top of the list.  It's possible that when I told them how excited I was to do some sketching, they got the idea that the sketching would interrupt survey protocol, but I assured them it would not.  We'll see if I get any response from them this year.

In the meantime, say prayers for our apex predators today, dear humans!!

Update August 14: I decided to try my hand at a submission to Illustration Friday.  The topic this week is "Heart."  The illustration at left is a good example of why I love challenges or assignments.  I never would have combined Mexican tin hearts and my love of sharks without stumbling on the "Heart" prompt. I first thought I might put a dog in the center but then thought it would be funny to put a shark in there and it grew from that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Learning linocut printing at 3 Fish Studios

First print of "Tank"
It felt like excellent and speedy karma.  I took a photo of a beautiful tote bag at the San Francisco Ferry Building and posted to Instagram, but had that nagging thing where I wanted to make sure to attribute the image to the artist if I could find out who it was.  That search led me to 3 Fish Studios, founded and operated by Annie Galvin (artist of the bear with poppies image) and hubby artist Eric Rewitzer.

So my reward for proper attribution was to discover this studio was right here in San Francisco and what's more - they give classes on how to do linoleum prints of your own!!  I signed up immediately.

The class goes over two Tuesday nights.  We learned how to transfer our image outline to the linoleum and how to carve on the first night.  Then last night, we had the real bang up fun of putting ink to those plates and creating images... I haven't had that much fun in ages.  I'm in love with this printing thing!

Big ups to our kind and knowledgeable teacher, Orlie Kapitulnik.  She kept it on track, encouraged the embrace of imperfection and was very generous with what she knows.  Here is one of my favorite tid-bits from last night's instruction.  She was describing how to listen for a certain sound quality of the ink and brayer rolling through it to know it was ready to put on the plate.  She said (paraphrasing from memory):

An example of the Chine-colle process we learned
"Now I have a very specific way of remembering this sound.  You know when you go to a bar and they haven't cleaned it for a long time and it's all sticky?  And then you set you arm down while wearing a thinnish cotton sweater.  Then after about an hour you lift your arm off the bar?  That's the sound."

We printed on clean white paper and then played with printing on various ephemera, which I just loved.

The bear painting by Annie on a tote bag.
I'd carved a robot based on a sketch I made of a found-object robot made by Will Wagenaar.  (I bought this robot a few years ago via his Etsy store and have been collecting his stuff slowly since then.)  Will named this little guy "Tank."  He's got a base made out of a stovetop espresso maker and forky hands.  Just love him.

Tank printed on typing manual page
Orlie also showed me how to create a print with a carving I'd done on a mounted linoleum block (which because of the wood attached would not find through the presses.)  This is the image you'll see here of my dog Lulu.

I will be submitting many of the Tank prints to a Print Exchange project I've signed up for via the Brooklyn Art Library.  This year's theme is "Greetings from a Distant Land" - we each send in eleven prints in an edition and get back 10 original prints from various other participants.  So fun.

I hope they like the Tank.

Lulu printed on white paper by hand (from mounted block)

Tank in red.  On left is first press, on right is the second, or "ghost" print.  Like them both!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Beach week sketching

Thanks to my very generous mom, our family had a week at a wonderful house near the Pacific Ocean and I had lots of time to relax and sketch.  I brought my full oil painting kit out but really enjoyed doing the ink and watercolor - plus it always seemed like family time was more important than "go off alone and do plein air" time (at least in this situation.)

Here are my pages from the week - all done from life (not photos).  The first photo is a view from the front porch, drawn in the owner's guest book as my thank you.  I loved the flags left over from the Fourth of July.

To see these bigger, click on the first one and keep clicking to page through them all.

This is a rough sketch of view from front porch.

View of egrets on the lagoon.

My dog Lulu in the big backyard.

I got tuned into the tide chart since Grayson was being fearful of waves.

Another view from the front porch, early morning.
Great day on Thursday when Mom's watercolor journal ladies came to visit.  They were fabulous.

Very quick sketch of Elsa carrying her surfboard.  She moves fast.  

Front porch again, with poodle and raven.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Nature calling!

Thanks both to my nature-geek parents and my recent interactions with John Muir Laws excellent Nature Journal Group, I've been drawn (literally) to subjects like native birds, trees, critters.  Some work I've done from life but with animals especially, it's been great to work from photographs.

Lately, I've been talking to some folks here in Point Richmond about an educational native plants garden they are creating and it looks like I'll be creating illustrations to display there.  Very exciting!

Here are a few examples of some of the "critters" I've been doing of late.

I was inspired to update my "About Me" page with the education I've been lucky to gain about natural science - and realized that I've dug in more than I remembered!

River otter in ink and coffee

California Quail in inks and watercolor pencil

Black-crowned Night Heron in ink

Quick sketch raccoon in watercolor pencil

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Puppy Dave

You've just got to love a couple who name their dog, Dave, don't you?  I was very fortunate that this new-to-San Francisco pair found out about my animal art via Bay Woof and contacted me to do a watercolor / pen & ink for them.

This is 9" x 12", Uniball pen, Derwent watercolor pencil and Schminke watercolor paint on watercolor paper.  Taken from a photo they received when they rescued Dave, I just loved that puppy tummy maybe most of all.  This guy has personality plus.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Baywoof "Beast of the Bay" awards

I was thrilled to discover that people entered me into the "Beast of the Bay" awards for Best Pet Artist and I was a finalist!  Thank you to whoever you are!!

The full list of winners is here - the artist award is number 41:

I found out about this because someone emailed me out of the blue to ask for a dog portrait and it turns out this is how they learned about me.

How cool is that?  Here is a little sketch of his dog - soon I'll do a full portrait of him and share that here also.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Strong hair

Jill Scott
Uzo Adoba
Recently, my sister, her daughter, a friend and I were out dining at a sunny, bay view restaurant when my niece semi-whispered to her mom,

"That lady over there has STRONG HAIR."  After a quick lesson in "not pointing at strangers", my sister snuck a glance at the lady and gladly proclaimed,

"Why, yes, she certainly does have strong hair!"

I had just discovered the term they privately use for African-American hair when it's styled naturally; something I would have called (back in my hippie days) an "afro."

When the adorable niece gets her hair taken out of braids to prep for the next hairdo, she and her mom love making it big and bold and taking amazing photos.  The niece completely ROCKS the Esperanza Spalding look, I must say.

Anyhow, that conversation got me doing some Google searching on "natural hair" and doing a few drawings inspired by this experience.  There may also be (ahem) just a tiny bit of hair envy going on here too.  I feel sort of sheepishly unqualified to draw these women, but as an artist, I just gravitate to certain things and right now, it's this hair.

Pam Grier

Traci Ellis Ross

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Melbourne is for coffee lovers

Oh man, did I love Melbourne!  Spent two weeks there largely on business but of course wedged quite a bit of sketching in whenever possible.

Here is my full album of photos on Flicker.

And a few examples posted here.  It was summer there and quite toasty.  The CBD (or Central Business District) was so beautifully designed and vibrant with a mix of business people, tourists, students, artists, shoppers and other locals.  I loved the lanes between the major avenues where you'd find people all day conducting business at cafes and bistros - as if the city planning gods somehow selected the best aspects of British, California and Italian street culture and plunked them all on this distant island.

And the coffee!  I am spoiled for anything else now.  But don't try ordering an Americano (as I did) and then worsen your blunder by asking for room so you can add cream.  Oh no.  The barista will do whatever needs to be done to that coffee, not you.  They explained this in the most warm, friendly Australian manner but it was not negotiable.  And, I learned, what I'd call an Americano is, down under, a "long black."  Cappuccinos, affogatos, lattes - I savored them all.

And I found it quite easy to find delicious vegan food everywhere.  The key to restaurant life as a vegan is to just make a great meal out of what the restaurant is going to call "sides."  And to ask a friendly server, "What's the best veggie thing you have here?"
Julio, (?), Angela, Kate, Janice, Kym - Urban Sketchers Melbourne

Another trip highlight was meeting up with the Urban Sketchers Melbourne group, which also included one of my Sketchbook Skool klassmates, Angela.  It's so heart-warming to finally meet people you've grown to like and admire online and find out they are even more fabulous in person.  We sketched the famous Flinders Street train station and then walked up Swanston to grab some Chinese food for dinner.  I'm so grateful for this group's hospitality!

You can find more of their work at the Urban Sketchers Australia blog.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Commissioned drawings that have now been gifted

Normally, I have the ability to delay gratification about THIS long (imagine my thumb and finger about one centimeter apart)... but when I do a commissioned drawing or painting that will be a gift, I need to put on my "big girl pants" and NOT SHARE for a while.  Oh the maturity.

Well, here are some drawings that made their way to their recipients from my generous patrons.  I hear they may have made people shed a tear.  Which is the best.

This first one was for a teen-aged daughter of the patron.  If you look carefully, you might find her name snuck onto a store sign.  This drawing now lives in Ohio.  I parked along Solano Avenue in Albany to do this with the live energy of the place, albeit from the comfort of my car - it was chilly!  My favorite person in this drawing is the kid who was having an awesome time just playing with a giant stick.  Who needs an iPhone?

 The two gatos here and their little canine friend went to a lovely couple here in California.  They are very cherished furry family members.