View from Santa Rosa Mall

Rainy (yet again!) here in northern California so my sketch group (Ready, Set, Sketch) met at the Santa Rosa mall. I’m always surprised at just how much there is to sketch there. I’d gladly go back on another rainy day. This quick sketch was done from the food court (located on the second floor) overlooking 3rd St., Santa Rosa.

A Day at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Skate Rink

schultz museum _s

One of my favorite Illustrators/Cartoonists is Charles M. Schulz. I learned months back that the Schulz Museum, normally closed on Tuesdays during the slower part of the year, would be open on Tuesday November 26th in observance of Schulz’s birthday. I joined the celebration that morning with a sketch of the museum in Santa Rosa. The current exhibit, entitled “Starry, Starry, Night,” was a joy, and it warmed my heart to see a grouping of comics featuring the lovable Peanuts characters pondering the universe.

Redwood Ice Rink_s

Schulz’s Redwood Empire Ice Arena, situated across the street, opened 28 April, 1969 with a grand opening ceremony starring Peggy Fleming and the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The building mimics an Alpine village with faithful reproductions of Swiss chalet facades and giant redwood trees that tower over the property. I bundled up and enjoyed the chilly temperatures while sketching the skaters. Their perpetual motion as the music thumped was mesmerizing but difficult to capture on paper. I’d like to return sometime soon and give it another try. The chilly temperature was a nice contrast to the abnormally warm weather we’ve been having this late in November and was a reminder that the Christmas holidays are fast approaching.

schultz table Warm Pupy Cafe_s

Unbeknownst to most who visited Snoopy’s Home Ice, Charles M. Schulz (Sparky) was often seen in its Warm Puppy Café, watching skaters zip across the rink. An avid hockey player himself, Schulz built the arena in 1969 as a multi-use facility. At the time, the only ice arena in Santa Rosa had recently closed and he felt that a comfortable gathering spot was important for the community.

Each day before answering correspondence or working on his comic strip, Sparky would start his morning at the Warm Puppy Cafe having an English muffin with grape jelly and a cup of coffee. There he watched skaters practice their patch and freestyle exercises before returning to his studio a few steps down the street. He often returned to the café midday for a tuna salad sandwich and to engage in conversation with friends and the general public.

Today, a table near the front door of the café is reserved in Sparky’s honor. Pictures of Schulz and Peanuts comic strips can be seen through the table’s glass top. Jean Schulz keeps her late husband’s table fresh with seasonal flower arrangements and a balloon for his birthday. It’s a perfect tribute to Sparky; reserving the table where he collected his thoughts and undoubtedly captured ideas for his beloved comic strip.


South A Street Santa Rosa

South A Street SR_sLooking for a little creative lift? Look no farther than South A Street (SOFA) in Santa Rosa. This quirky, burgeoning arts and culture district is home to a number of art galleries, artist studios, bakeries, and artisan restaurants. Check out Spinster Sisters for brunch and have a Croque Monsieur or Rancho Gordo Bean Tostadas. Then head over to Undercover Baking Agency for a sweet treat and americano coffee. Art galleries round out the afternoon with local artists satisfying most art lover’s appetite.

Pliny the Younger

Russian River Brewing_s

Each February, Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa releases their award winning beer, Pliny the Younger. In 2009, Beer Advocate magazine declared it one of the best beers in the world, and the buzz has been growing ever since. Beer lovers line up for hours to get their hands on a 10oz glass of this gold colored bliss. But to my thinking, “it’s just a beer, isn’t it?”

Well, yesterday my friend Phil and I decided to taste the beer for ourselves and made the 10 mile trek to the brewery. We drove up at 1 pm to find a block-long crowd, so I got in line while Phil found parking. The aroma of malt drifted in the air. I had a flashback then of high school days, and the excitement of standing in line for rock concert tickets.

We took turns waiting and sketching. During my shift, I chose to capture the action at the pub’s entrance.

An hour later, a group of hula hooping women arrived to entertain the patient crowd, boom box thumping hip hop as they twisted and rolled to the beat. Two hours later we arrived at the patio gate entrance, each patron’s ID carefully scrutinized, even grey haired men. After receiving our bright yellow wrist band, hand scrawled with the word Pliny, we entered to find yet another checkpoint just inside. “Would you like to put your name on the list for a table?” The hostess asked us. We had come seeking beer and lunch; now, approaching dinner time, we decided to go with the flow.

“There should be about a 45 minute wait,” the hostess informed us. At this point, we figured, what the heck?

At first the crowd and noise overwhelmed, but we soon settled into the rhythm of the place. The bar was surrounded two people deep, but somehow we made it up to order two coveted Plinys. Raising chilled glasses, we toasted our diligence and each took a sip of the golden liquid. “Delicious!” I proclaimed and Phil agreed. Pliny the Younger is a triple hopped pale ale with a creamy head and the freshest hops I’ve ever tasted with none of the bitterness I expected, but instead balanced and silky smooth with citrus notes and a bright, flowery nose and the hint of a caramel finish.


A woman, introducing herself as Merry (“as in Christmas”) Sue, asked if she could set down her glass on the counter beside us. We all traded notes on the beer and on what we’d experienced to taste it, agreeing that it was worth it.

Thirty minutes later we ordered a pizza, a plate of spicy wings, and another round of Pliny. The first bite of pepperoni and sausage dotted pizza revealed perfectly fused crust, sauce, and cheese. The hot and tangy wings left my mouth watering, and we devoured these too, using Pliny to cool our mouths.

As afternoon turned into evening, we paid the bill knowing it was time to head home. But considering the time it took to get in the brewery and how much fun we had while here, it seemed a shame to leave so soon.

Peanuts Statues at Charles M Schulz Airport

Bronze statues of Charlie Brown and Linus. I added the kite in the kite eating tree just for fun.

The Snoopy sculpture was part of the Peanuts on Parade fundraising event.

The Sonoma County Airport is located on the northwest side of Santa Rosa, and is named after one of the city’s most famous residents, Charles M. Schulz, creator of the long-running Peanuts comic strip. Although the airport is small, it has popular direct flights to and from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle.

Schulz was born and raised in Minnesota, but in 1969 moved to Santa Rosa and lived there until his death February 12, 2000. Bronze statues of Charlie Brown and Linus were dedicated to the airport in 2007 and funded through Peanuts on Parade Sculpture Auctions. I was lucky enough to paint one of the five foot tall Charlie Brown sculptures for display as well as for the fundraising event. The Auction raked in about $300,000, with my entry fetching $15,000. The bulk of proceeds were used to fund artistic scholarships.

Wings Over Wine Country Air Show takes place adjacent to the airport, each year in late August. While attending last weekend’s event, I chose to paint this red Stearman biplane. It was the closest thing I could find resembling the triplane of Snoopy’s arch enemy, the Red Baron.

Wings Over Wine Country

Sunday was my first time watching the annual Wings over Wine Country event in Santa Rosa. I was excited to see a large number of planes that were on display and the one that impressed me the most was the C-17 Globemaster III. This enormous machine towers above all the planes parked on the field. We queued up for a tour and as we entered the aircraft, Master Sargent Christopher Whittely, who is a Loadmaster, gave us a few particulars: the weight of the loaded aircraft can reach almost 600,000 pounds; its cruising altitude is ~33,000 feet, its cruising speed ~500 mph and it can also be refueled in flight. It’s difficult to imagine this airplane landing and taking off right here at Sonoma County Airport.



Then we climbed a ladder into the cockpit. I was impressed with the number of controls required to fly the plane. Switches, dials, and monitors line the interior. In the cabin, Amy, a Major in the Air Force Reserves, fielded our questions. The plane is primarily used to bring medical supplies and humanitarian aid to both Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s also used for returning wounded soldiers to the US for medical attention. But the aircraft has also been used for non military purposes, such as transporting Keiko the killer whale (from the movie Free Willy) to its new home in the Icelandic waters of Klettsvik Bay.

Tucked away in the back of the cabin is a narrow bed where one pilot can get some shut eye while the other pilot flies. As Amy spoke, I imagined what it would be like to sleep on this giant airship in the pitch black night, cruising at an altitude of 33,000 feet, listening to the hum of the engine making its way across the Pacific, and into the middle of an Afghani war zone.

Taylor’s Plot at Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery

Last Saturday, I met with some local artists to tour and sketch Santa Rosa’s Rural Cemetery. The name Rural Cemetery is a kind of a misnomer because if it were located any closer to town, it would be downtown. The cemetery is situated on a small hill covered with live oak and eucalyptus trees that, in the evening, cast long, dark shadows across the grave sites.

Our knowledgeable and funny tour guide, Ray Owen, has written two booklets on the history of the cemetery and easily answered our questions. Since the cemetery’s founding in 1854, many locally well-known people have been buried there, including Winfield S. M. Wright who died in 1892. Wright’s Beach, Wright Road and Wright School were all named after him. Sarah Wright, his wife, was the granddaughter of the famous American explorer and folk hero Daniel Boone. James Armstrong’s grave is on the south side of the cemetery. He’s best known for donating 490 acres of old growth redwood that later became the beautiful Armstrong Woods State Preserve.

For about an hour, Ray led us around the cemetery telling stories, some funny, some sad. But once we reached the top of the hill, he showed us the most visually interesting grave in the cemetery, the Taylor plot. Over the years, an oak tree rested on the grave stone for support for so long that it grew into the stone monument. This is where I chose to park myself for about an hour to sketch and watercolor.

On September 16 and 17 (2011) there will be Lamplight Tours from 7:30pm through 9:50pm, when visitors can walk through the cemetery at night and hear dramatic portrayals of some of Santa Rosa’s early settlers. No doubt ghost stories will be on the agenda!

For more information on the cemetery and Lamplight Tours, click here:



Taylor’s Plot tree fell this wast weekend 04/06/13. It’ll probably have to be removed from the cemetery.

The Press Democrat Newspaper has the story.

Diverging Paths

Last Saturday wasn’t the only time I’ve sketched at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. Several years ago I created a soft ground etching of two diverging pathways as they snake their way along the hillside. Creating etchings plein-air is surprisingly easy with some planning. I prepared all my materials before hand, including my metal plate and acid bath.

When I arrived at the cemetery, I spend a good half hour walking around admiring the beauty of the twisted oak trees and the paths that weave through them. After finding a good place to sketch, I sat at the path’s edge and sketched directly on a piece of paper covering a soft ground etching plate. With the pressure of my conté crayon on the paper, my sketch was transferred through the ground to the plate below. Once the drawing was finished, I removed the paper and put the plate directly into an acid bath I had prepared in a plastic container. After a few minutes, the acid etched my drawing into the plate, creating indentations into the metal that ink would stick to when printed.

The Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place, almost park-like. My etching, Diverging Paths, shows the afternoon sun casting lengthy shadows across the paths and grave sites. I feel as though I’ve adopted this area as a place to visit my mom who died a few years ago. Since her ashes were spread in the desert botanical gardens of Arizona, I don’t have a local place to visit her. My mom loved the morning sunshine and I like to think of her resting among the violet colored sweet-pea flowers that populate this hillside.