While traveling in Greece, I discovered it can rain a fair amount in October. My dad and I drove around the mainland and visited several islands for a total of three weeks last year and experienced 4-5 days with showers. Although there were a couple of times I had to hide my sketchbook from the wet weather, It generally wasn’t a problem. The best part was the crystal clear views the rain provided, especially on Santorini were I could see for miles looking out over the Aegean from on top of the caldera.
A friend of Mine, Kristina got married last year to her fiance Jeff. He plays in a bluegrass band in Petaluma on Thursdays nights. The day before their wedding, they had a party at the bar and I went to visit with her and to see him play. My old friend Narda from high school was there too. I brought my sketchbook of course, and drew the band playing. The bar was pretty dark and the band was moving around on stage quite a bit, but I still tried to I capture them on paper. When I got home, I finished off the piece with some watercolors while the evening was still fresh in my mind. In this drawing, Jeff is the one playing the double base.
This etching is a copy of a sketchbook drawing I did on location in October 2009 on the Island of Mykonos, Greece. I’ve added a few more details than the original drawing since this will be printed at a larger size.
For the first state of this print (which I didn’t print) I used a deep bite etch on a zinc plate. This worked better than I thought it would and created an interesting fuzzy edge that separates the foreground from the back ground. For the second state, I used a hard ground line etch in two different timed stages. The darker lines had a twenty minute etch time and the lighter lines (mostly the lines in the distance) were ten minutes. It was rolled up in blue black ink and printed on yellow proof paper.
I received an invitation from Sebastopol artist Susan Cornelis to sketch, along with several other artists, in Freestone (near Sebastopol, CA). Freestone is a tiny country town, with enough sheep, cows, and goats to outnumber the residents. I had never sketched in Freestone before but knew it had creative possibilities. I met Susan at a figure drawing workshop a number of years ago and discovered she is a terrific sketchbook artist. She also teaches art classes at her studio and today, I’ll get to meet some of her students.
I took advantage of the sunny weather and headed out early. While sipping freshly brewed coffee along the 45 minute trip from Healdsburg, I took the longer, but prettier route along East Side Road, a wooded, windy road, among vineyard-covered hills. The apple I had for breakfast was not quite enough to satisfy but I was holding out for the Wild Flour Bread, a well loved bakery in Freestone. This bakery has all kinds of tasty treats from cheese fougasse, and Egyptian pear bread, to ginger pear scones, all baked in a wood fired brick oven. Their breads are all risen with organic sour dough (fermented flour and water) and wildly popular here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The place was packed with people but after a short wait, I was able to buy a sweet smelling sticky bun, all coiled up like a snake.
Back outside in the crisp morning air, I located Susan with a group of other artists all ready to sketch. We spread out around town on fences, car hoods, and folding chairs, catching the attention of people as they passed by. I choose a place in the grass across from the bakery, set up my chair, and pulled out my art supplies. I drew the bakery and the shop next door, called Enduring Comforts, that sells vintage furniture, linens, and jewelry. Feeling hungry, I reached into my bag and pulled out my sticky bun still warm and smelling of cinnamon.
Deborah, (A friend of a friend) has a ranch called “Joy Springs Ranch” out on Old Skaggs Spring Road just outside of town here in Healdsburg. A few friends of mine gathered there a while back for sketching, barbecuing, and good conversation. After driving an hour up a winding road to the property (located west of Lake Sonoma), the artists of the group headed out into the semi-wilderness for creative inspiration. A creek running through the property caught my eye and I danced along its edge until I came upon this bend and set up shop to draw. Luckily, my Moleskin sketchbook held up nicely with watercolor because often times the paint just beads up on the page. Back at the ranch in the late afternoon, it was cold while prepping the food, but the fire on the grill helped keep us warm. As the day turned into night, we retreated indoors for dinner and warmth. I served a special treat, Scharffenberger chocolate brownies for dessert.
This drawing was created on location on the Island of Mykonos, Greece. I’m currently working on an etching of this piece and I’ll post the progress in the coming days.
The following is an excerpt from my forcoming book The Artist on the Road, Impressions of Greece:
To keep my artistic momentum going, I head out to draw. One of the first things I notice is an old windmill situated on a nearby hill, overlooking the city. It’s been converted to a museum, so I go inside. A workroom fills most of the area, with a spiraling stone stairway on the left. Curious, I climb the steps to the second floor. The space is cramped, with several large wooden gears used for grinding grain, and on the far side, a small window illuminates the room and reveals sweeping views of the city below. I walk back down and exit into the fresh air. It’s here that I do one of my favorite drawings and interestingly, it has a similar feeling to the drawing I did on santorini this morning. Thankfully, I didn’t over burden the page with detail leaving open space for the work to breathe. The composition keeps the eye moving, and I like the way it seems to roll across the page. The windmill looks powerful with its kaleidoscope arms spiraling outward over the city.
Every year in February I attend a print show at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Print dealers from all over the world showcase etchings, mezzotints, and other types prints for purchase. It truly is a great place not only to see, but to buy work from up and coming artists, established artists, and the famous (Renoir and Goya et al.). Prices for prints are a fraction of the cost of oil paintings and leaves the possibility open for most anyone to become a collector. On the way to the show, I pulled off Highway One to paint the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve crossed this bridge hundreds of times over the years, and it always demands my attention. This is not the first time I’ve painted the bridge and its not likely to be the last.
The Russian River snakes its way through the town of Healdsburg on its way to the Pacific Ocean. On the south side of town, the old Healdsburg Avenue auto bridge, built in 1921, still carries people across the river to this day. But next to it, the old train bridge, has not shared the same fate. It still stands tall but with signs that read Danger Keep Out. My sketchcrawl friend Phil and I spent a morning drawing the area including the old train bridge. Despite the signs and our better judgment, we stepped on to the bridge and walked about halfway across to get a better view. The structure is made mostly of steel with railroad ties holding the tracks in place. From this vantage point we could see up the river a ways until it disappeared, bending to the right behind some trees. Chinook salmon migrate along here to spawn in the fall each year. Their numbers have decrease enormously over the last few years do to, at least in part, the near drought like conditions we’ve been experiencing. But this year we are receiving slightly above normal rainfall and hopefully this will increase their numbers. After a few minutes of enjoying the view, I remember the signs warning to keep off, so we walk back to the safety of hard ground. All that fear and danger has caused my stomach to growl so we head off to my favorite local Tanqueria, Guadalajara for some tasty chicken enchiladas with mole sauce.