The Healdsburg Art Festival is one of the most beautiful art festivals around and it’s right in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. I’ve often participated as an exhibiting artist but since the economy has been so bad lately, I decided to take a year off. Even though I wasn’t showing my artwork, I found it difficult to stay away from the festivities and decided to hang out with my sketchbook under a shade tree. While sketching, I attracted a few passersby and I even sold a couple of my books The Artist on the Road that I had luckily tucked away in my messenger bag.
Last Sunday it was hot (almost as hot as last years 105° burn out) at The Great Hand Car Regatta in Santa Rosa, but the heat didn’t keep my wife and me away from this stylish feast of fashion. The event is best described as steam punk meets the wild west or Victorian science fiction a la Jules Verne. Either way, the Hand Car Regatta is this generation’s version of a Renaissance faire and it’s a blast. Many people were dressed in Victorian era fashion with Corsets, bowlers and top hats, pocket watches, and loads of aviator glasses. In other words, plenty to draw for those with an artistic eye and a sketchbook in hand.
Scattered throughout the event were large kinetic sculptures that were also shown at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert. I spent nearly an hour hiding from the sun in a rare shady spot and drew this large 30-40 foot tall butterfly sculpture (last year in 2009). It was a tough draw too because the butterfly wings, along with other parts of this kinetic sculpture, rotated slowly in separate directions with the afternoon breeze.
With the sculpture drawing now done and my shade diminishing, I decided to braved the sun and gather with the crowds to watch the hand car races. These uniquely designed, hand made vehicles are powered along 700 yards of train track to the finish line by the passengers feet, hands or both. For the last two years I’ve come equipped with my sketchbook and recorded a few scenes from the event for as long as I can stand the heat. But regardless of how hot it is, every year I enjoy this whimsical, mechanical time warp.
Yesterday, I was out with the Sonoma Sketchers at Judith Lange’s ranch east of Sebastopol to draw some farm animals. She has quite a collection of grazing horses, chickens scratching in the dirt, sheep, goats, and of course barns, houses, and the like. But I was fascinated with three beautiful Angora Goats and chose to spend the morning drawing them. They weren’t the easiest subject to draw because they never stood still for long. But after a while, I learned to start one drawing and when the goat moved, start a new one. When the goat returned to a similar position I had already sketched, I would go back and continue the previous drawing.
All the rumors about goats having a strong oder are true, but the smell didn’t bother me too much. In fact, after a full morning of drawing, I headed home and on the way, picked up some Cypress Grove Chevre. Goat cheese anyone?
A big thanks to Judith for allowing us to sketch on her beautiful Sonoma County ranch.
Heavy Equipment moved into Healdsburg this past week to level the remaining walls of the Healdsburg post office that was destroyed in an electrical fire on August 14. It didn’t take long for the wrecking crew to demolish the structure using this clawed monster.
The presence of a downtown post office is much valued by residents but the cost of maintaining the pricy location might be prohibitive for the USPS. Mail is currently being accepted at the Foss Creek location.
To see my drawing of the post office just after the fire, click here.
Over Labor day weekend, I sat on the patio of the Apple Box Cafe in Petaluma and watched sailboats and small yachts motor up the river and park side by side like cars along the river bank. I’m guessing there was some type of social event going on because with temperatures in the mid 80’s, I’d have been heading the other way — towards the San Francisco Bay. But the situation was to my advantage because the boats provided excellent subjects to draw. Between the river and where I was sitting, a fenced off railroad track sign warned “No Trespassing.”
My wife Marilyn loves to swim, especially on warm summer days like today. She’s often said how much she enjoys the exercise and the simple pleasure of being out of doors, breathing in the fresh coastal air. Most days she swims at the club but today she was taking care of a friend’s cat in Alexander Valley and the owners offered the use of their pool as an added bonus. I tagged along for the company and since we’ve both been so busy lately, it was nice for us to have some time to catch up with each other and enjoy a little afternoon sun.
While Marilyn kicked her way back and forth across the pool, I lounged under a patio umbrella hiding from the stinging rays of the afternoon sun. While relaxing, I became entranced with the sun light as it danced on the surface of the water. The delicate, rhythmic motion of light had a calming effect and reminded me once again what life is about.
Dripping wet, my wife exited the pool and laid down on the deck to warm up. With my attention now shifted, I drew a foreshortened view of Marilyn as she soaked up the sun and immortalized her in my sketchbook. It was nice to have a change of scenery for a couple of hours and a pool all to ourselves.
I’ve driven over the D Street bridge that crosses the Petaluma River many times and I always made a mental note to draw the tugboats anchored along the river bank someday. Finally, over this past Labor Day weekend, I found the time. I arrived early in the morning while the sun was still obscured by fog and parked myself in the middle of the walkway along the D street bridge looking southeast. About a half an hour into the drawing, I heard the bells of a railroad crossing but didn’t pay much attention to it. After a minute or two, a man on the other side of the bridge called out to me to get off the bridge. That’s when it dawned on me that I was standing on a draw bridge! I grabbed my art supplies and ran to the river bank. Sure enough, two large gears attached to the side of the bridge rotated it upward. Shortly thereafter, three sailboats with their tall, sail-less masts motored under the bridge and down the river. When the bridge lowered, I resumed my location on the bridge and continued drawing. Durring the hour and a half it took to sketch this drawing, the bridge was raised three times for boats to pass.
Sunday, I drove my dad to see Tippi Hedron at The Tides Wharf in Bodega Bay California. Tippi was full of life and holding up very well on her second full day of autograph signings. I could still see a touch of elegance and sophistication in her that I remember so well from her movies.
We arrived early in the day and still there were about twenty people in line holding all kinds of memorabilia, including photographs, movie stills, and Time magazines with Tippi on the cover. I stood back from the crowd and sketched a quick drawing of her in my Moleskine sketchbook. Although she didn’t look quite as young as I drew her here, she still looked great and I could tell from her laughter she was having a good time meeting with her fans.
While I had a few minutes to spare before meeting a friend for coffee at the Flying Goat, I drew Healdsburg’s Raven Theater, just around the corner. The Raven Theater was built in 1949 as a movie theater and was named the “Aven,” after the owner’s wife’s name spelled backwards. Sometime later the “R” was added giving it the current cool name Raven Theater. Today, the theater has performances ranging from jazz (Jean Luc Ponty) to blues (Bo Diddley), comedy and variety shows like Healdsburg’s home grown “Mr. Healdsburg” competition. The Raven Players, Healdsburg’s Resident theater group, also performe here with ambitious productions like Cats, Miss Saigon, and Our Town. Although I drew this when Seussical the Musical was playing, the current theater production is RENT. I hear its great. Be sure to check it out.
More information can be found at the Raven Players website: http://www.ravenplayers.org/
and the Raven Theater: http://www.raventheater.org
A trip to the coast is always a welcome escape from my busy life at home. The hustle and bustle of dogs, emails, and work, recedes from my thoughts and allows a gentle peacefulness to set in. While walking along the beach, I often feel that my life is about to change in some profound way, however small. That’s why I take two journals with me, one for drawing and the other to record my thoughts. After finding a comfortable place to sit, I watch the waves gently roll on the sand for hours at a time. My mind drifts in and out with the tide, leaving me with a sense of peace that lasts the rest of the day.
Recently, my sketch pal Phil and I drove down to Healdsburg’s plaza to find something to sketch. We didn’t feel like driving out of town and that’s OK because Healdsburg has some of the best sketching opportunities in the area. This time we chose to draw the Bear Republic Brewery and set up shop in the walk way between the brewery and Hotel Healdsburg. I’ve always liked the industrial look of the fermenting tank siting out on the patio and its a great place to hang out and have a burger and a beer. The Bear’s brewmaster Richard G. Norgrove has won numerous awards including gold medals at the Great American Beer festival. My personal favorite is Red Rocket Ale and coincidentally, it goes great with pizza too. Recently, the owner Richard R. Norgrove expanded their beer operation to a facility in Cloverdale, fifteen minutes up the road where they handle additional beer production, shipping, and have a brand new tasting room.
I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it. Good thing today is pizza Friday. Beer Bad? No, beer good! Buffy anyone?
Out drawing again with the Sonoma Sketchers, this time in Cotati, California. After grabbing a big cup of coffee at a local cafe, I meet with several other sketchers to invade yet another Somona County town with sketch artists.
It’s interesting to watch the reactions of passersby as we draw along city streets. Most people speed on by to get to their next appointment. But some are curious enough to stop and appreciate, at least for a moment, the everyday world around them. I had one person say, “wow, I never even knew that tree existed before.” Comments like that are one of plein air sketching’s biggest pleasures.
Today, I chose to draw John Allred’s Pro Framing Services shop that looks like a storybook house. I love the large tree that protects it from the afternoon sun. A while back I got a call from John asking me to stop by the frame shop and resign a print of my watercolor. Seems the buyer had a different idea of where to mat the print than I did and wanted me to resign it in another location. It’s an unusual request, but I obliged, making the customer happy.