Petaluma’s Iron Front Building and Classic Coca-Cola Sign

Petaluma CocaCola_s

Back in the last century, it was believed that buildings made with cast iron fronts were more fire resistant. It turns out to not be true, but the practice proliferated anyway. This building is one of several along Western Avenue referred to as Iron Front Row. The classic Coca-Cola sign painted on the back of the building features a young chicken since Petaluma was once known as the “Egg Basket of the World.”

Boats Parked like Cars along the Petaluma River

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.”

Tugboat on the Petaluma River

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.

Mystic Theatre and McNears Restaurant

While preparing for a trip to Greece last summer, I spent as many hours as possible sketching and painting out-of-doors. One of those days I was in Petaluma, California drawing the Mystic Theatre, a well known music venue. Built in 1911, the theater originally hosted live Vaudeville entertainment, but today it hosts a plethora of modern music with a focus on rock and blues bands. McNears Irish Pub next door helps keep people’s whistles wet before and after the shows next door.

The city of Petaluma has an eclectic selection of architecture ranging from brand new to early twentieth century, making it a great destination for drawing. But most often I find myself here for the pizza at Old Chicago. They serve up a mean deep dish pizza piled high with ingredients and oozing with cheese. I find it especially hard to resist after a day of drawing, like today.  In between the McNears Restaurant and Old Chicago, there is a vacant lot where a scene from the movie American Graffiti (directed by George Lucas) was filmed.

Foot Bridge Crossing the Petaluma River

Recently, I met with a few friends at the Apple Box café in downtown Petaluma, CA for some sketching, coffee, and light conversation. For the last several years, Petaluma has been regentrifying the downtown area along the river, with many new outdoor cafes and walkways. The place looks great but thankfully, there are still a few industrial buildings left to make it eclectic and interesting. I brought my landscape Moleskine watercolor sketchbook in hopes of finding a good place to draw. I chose the foot bridge crossing the Petaluma river as my subject. While I was painting, a small dog tried to crawl through the metal fence I was leaning on and stuck it’s self half way through. Its owner pushed and pulled trying to loosen the dog but eventually had to climb over the fence and pull the poor dog through. People sitting at the cafe laughed and cheered as they watched the event unfold.

Last night I discovered the First Annual Rivertown Revival in Petaluma got underway not long after we left. There were apparently swarms of people boating and dressed up in vintage costumes. Had I’d know beforehand, I’d have stuck around for the opportunity to draw the event.