1st Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers’ Sketchcrawl

This weekend, 1st Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers’ Sketchcrawl – Bay Area, was held in San Francisco (on Saturday) and Oakland (on Sunday). It was a huge success with upwards of 75 people participating in the event. After a 10am meet-up in front of the Ferry Building, we dispersed to sketch the beautiful city. Most people were Bay Area reidents but some traveled from as far as LA and Seattle to participate. Newbies and seasoned sketchers alike captured the City by the Bay in their sketchbooks.


At noon-thirty, we rendezvoused at a fountain across the street from the ferry building to share our morning sketches.


My first sketch of the building was not as successful as I would have liked. In an effort to avoid direct sun, I chose a shady spot under a row of palm trees, but the view proved to be without dimension and vegetation.


My second sketch was more successful since I chose a more dimensional view of the ferry building and included trees and other greenery that added life to the architecture. Over all, the finished composition is more dynamic and colorful. At 4pm we met behind the ferry building for a second sketch-share that closed out the day.

Game Time! The San Francisco Giants

Yesterday, my family (Marilyn my wife, my dad, and I) went to see the San Francisco Giants play in AT&T Park for the first time in a while. Attending a live game is so much better than watching it on TV and it’s nice to get a reminder of the incredible energy that accompanies the live action game.

For this trip, I set out to change my usual sketching routine by creating smaller, looser sketches so I could complete as many as I could. I often feel like I don’t have time to do a sketch and so I set out to prove myself wrong.

Since we live in the North Bay, we decided to take the Larkspur Ferry that goes from Larkspur directly to the Giant’s ball park. (10 minutes sketch while waiting for the ferry to depart)


We purchased tickets to and from the ball park at Larkspur Landing. (5 minute sketch)



The Ferry arrived and after a twenty minute wait, we departed. (3-4minute sketch)



We sailed past San Quintin Penitentiary. I sketched the buildings as we moved passed so the angles were changing as I drew but somehow it still came together, however inaccurate. Famous inmates include Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams. (5-7 minute sketch)


Off in the distance, sail boats floated around the bay with fog rolling in behind them. (2 minute sketch, wind blowing through my hair)



Bouys used as markers help ship captains navigate the San Francisco Bay. (2 minute sketch)



The island of Alcatraz was barely visible through the fog (2 minute sketch)


We cruised under the Bay Bridge shrouded in fog. (4-5 minute sketch)

We arrived at AT&T Park and validated out tickets and asked an usher to help us locate our seats. I commented that they were in the nose bleed section. He replied, “oh no, we don’t have Nose Bleed seats in this ball park, we have View Reserved seats.” And he was right, we walked around the ball park and climbed the stairs to the tippy top of the park and had a great view of the Bay beyond the stadium. (30 minute sketch)



We enjoyed watching the game even though we lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-2. It was great to see Posey, Lincecum, Panda, and the rest of the gang play ball. Since the Giants had already clinched the National League Title, they were probably taking it easy since this game wasn’t going to help them advance. I can’t wait till the playoffs begin! (Drawn over the course of the game, sometimes with greasy chicken and french fry coated fingers.)

So I proved myself wrong and now I’ve learned that I almost always have time for a quick sketch.

Queen Wilhelmina Garden

Thirteen years ago today, my wife Marilyn and I were married in the Queen Wilhelmina Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. With the Dutch Windmill towering above, the Pacific Ocean only a few steps away, and flowers covering the landscape, the location couldn’t have been better for a wedding.

The garden is named after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who donated the windmill to the city of San Francisco in 1902. The windmill was originally used to pump water to nearby flowers, shrubs, and trees, but today is no longer in use. In the spring, tulips, a Dutch symbol of peace, cover the garden in many colors.

Although San Francisco is famous for its cold, foggy summers, our wedding day was perfect. The fog lifted early in the day, giving us blue skies, warm temperatures, and a gentle sea breeze that made the flowers dance. After the wedding ceremony and several rounds of pictures, friends, family, and relatives headed up the beach to the Cliff House Restaurant, for the lunch and Champagne reception.

With thirteen years now behind us, this past weekend we drove down to San Francisco to visit this special place once again and to celebrate our anniversary. The weather, again, was beautiful, much like our wedding day. We mused at the price we’d paid to have our wedding in this special location back in 1999. Seventy-five dollars, including the flowers!

Twisted Roots

Recently, I attended the Picasso exhibit in San Francisco, parking along John F. Kennedy Dr. to admire this beautiful tree across the street from the De Young Museum. It reminds me of when I first moved to San Francisco and used to mountain bike through Golden Gate Park every day after work, one of the more pleasurable things I remember about living in the city.

One day while riding past the Museum, I spotted this amazing tree at roadside. For months I rode past it and told myself that one day I would bring my sketchbook along to draw it. Back then, I hadn’t spent much time sketching in public places and was leery of trying. Finally one Sunday morning I got up the courage to set up a chair along the busy road and draw the tree. Passersby stopped to watch me as I drew, and some even thanked me for bringing their attention to the tree, which they had never noticed before.

Irving Street, San Francisco

Today I took advantage of a space between jobs and headed down to San Francisco to draw. I chose the Inner Sunset location for its street cars and eclectic buildings which are great subjects to sketch. But more importantly, I lived there for almost ten years before moving to Healdsburg in 2000 so it has a nostalgic feel to it.

The damp air from the morning’s residual fog and cold, enhanced by an on-shore breeze, kept my skin at attention. Yes, it’s June, but this is San Francisco. I chose to draw Irving St. looking east towards Ninth Ave. because my wife and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner at Villa Romana Italian Restaurant. I have fond memories of that dinner with a gathering of friends and family that rarely get a chance to see one another.

But halfway through my drawing I stopped because the cold was coming right through my jacket. I decided to pack up my gear and warm up in Art’s Cafe across the street. The cafe has counter seating for about twelve along a narrow corridor. I sat myself somewhere in the middle and ordered a short stack of pancakes and coffee.

While waiting for my order to arrive, I browsed the old postcards placed beneath the glass of the counter. That’s when a postcard of the Acropolis in Athens caught my eye. I pulled out a copy of my book, “The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece” from my messenger bag and compared a drawing I did of the Acropolis while in Greece. Both vantage points were almost identical. How cool it is that I should sit down in this spot!

After having been warmed with good food and coffee, I grabbed my messenger bag and headed back out into the cold.

The Golden Gate Bridge in the Rain

On Sunday I took a drive to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco to see an excellent show, Arthur Szyk: Miniature Paintings and Modern Illuminations. Arthur Szyk was an Early 20th Century illustrator from Poland and is best known for his highly detailed, miniature paintings that were created for books and medieval manuscripts, using transparent/opaque watercolors.

Also exhibiting at the Legion was Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave. De Borchgrave is known for using paper as a medium for recreating historic dresses worn by Elizabeth I, the Medici family, Marie-Antoinette, and many others. To construct these costumes, paper was delicately painted by hand and meticulously sewn together as if it were real fabric. The finished gowns were then posed on manikins in the same manner as the old master paintings that inspired them, recreating the painting and bringing it to life in three dimensions.

After viewing the exhibition, I felt my trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete unless I did some sketching, so I exited the museum and looked around for a good place to draw. After walking the grounds, I decided on the museum itself as my subject, with a lion statue in the foreground. But soon after I was settled, a soft rain from the greying sky above rendered my marking pen useless, and with my sketchbook getting wet, I decided to head back home.

Walking back to my car, I paused for a moment to admire an impressive view of the Golden Gate Bridge almost obscured by the rapidly changing weather. It would have been a shame to pass up an opportunity like this so I looked around for a place I could sketch without getting wet. Not far behind me, I saw a stump under a tree on which I could sit, paint, and be sheltered all at the same time. Pulling out my art supplies once again, I painted watercolors wet-into-wet in order to capture the mood of the hazy bridge. Although I stayed relatively dry under the canopy of trees, a breeze carried the little droplets of rain that dotted my drying painting and made it look like snow.


Marriott Marquis Hotel

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was built 1995 but is already expanding with a new wing along Howard street. Its a good thing too with its recent acquisition of the Fisher collection and some 175 other works by big name artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, Bacon and others.

While visiting the Museum I found a deck with a great view on one of the upper floors looking west along Mission st. I pulled out my sketchbook and drew the Marriott Marquis Hotel at 4th street, not far from the museum. When I first moved to San Francisco just over 20 years ago, this hotel was the newest addition to the San Francisco Skyline and I always appreciated the art deco style.