Comstock House Historic Home Tour

Over the weekend, I had the occasion to tour Comstock House, the historic 106 year old home of Jeff and Candice Elliott. We were a small group of artists, who were offered not only a tour but also time to sketch and paint. The house was designed by locally well known architect, Brainerd Jones, and the property is currently being restored and scheduled for completion in 2012.

As I drove past the address on a hunt for parking, it was difficult to see the house as it is mostly obscured by trees. But when I walked onto the property, I saw the Craftsman style house with its unusually asymmetrical roof and facade covered in shingles. Full-blooming dogwood trees and shrubs were scattered about and colorful flowers surrounded the porch area, guarded by two small stone lions stoically protecting the entryway.


When I entered the old house I felt time slip back a century. Redwood beams and paneling fill the house. Leaded glass decorates the windows along the staircase. Art deco chandeliers with gas candlesticks, and grape-shaped glass housing electric bulbs adorn the stairs landing. I was completely taken by the warm wooden consoles of vintage radios and TV’s scattered throughout the house. At 10 am, Jeff and Candice greeted us in the foyer and began telling stories. The open floor plan let us all gather around our two hosts to listen.

The original owner James Wyatt Oats was a murderer who fled the east coast from his crime, settling in Santa Rosa. He was later acquitted as his older brother William bribed the prosecutor who just happened to be the victim’s father. William was also a commander in the confederate army at Gettysburg. He most famously led the 15th Alabama regiment that lost the Battle of Little Round Top.

Nellie Comstock purchased the house in 1916 for $10,000 and members of her family lived there over the next 74 years. In a complete reversal from the house’s previous owners, Nellie’s father was the head of the anti-slavery group that funded famed abolitionist John Brown.

After the tour, I stood beside the piano and drew a cozy corner of the room with its vintage console radio. I just love the streamlined art deco design. While I was drawing, Jeff told me the history of the mirror hanging above the radio, which turned out to be a picture frame engraved with the artist’s name and painting title. The frame, Jeff said, is from a missing painting by the British artist J. B. Payne titled “In the Village of Cheddar”, which no one has ever heard of nor seen the original. Now there’s an important mystery to be solved!

A warm thanks goes to Jeff and Candice Elliott for the tour and allowing us to sketch and paint their delightful, historic home.


Doctor’s Office


While siting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, I had a chance to do a quick sketch. I found the room amusing because it looks like a typical, old fashioned doctor’s office. All the furniture is wicker, including the magazine rack on the floor. A poinsettia left over from Christmas graces the business card table while enjoying the afternoon sun through the blinds. The only thing missing was macramé hanging on the wall.


The Pacific Coast Air Museum

The H-34 Choctaw Helicopter on the field at the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

A few days before Halloween, the Sonoma Sketches met at the Pacific Coast Air Museum for a morning of sketching. The museum is located right next to the Charles M. Schulz Airport. One of the old planes had been converted in to a haunted house, errr haunted plane and terrible halloween music filled the air.

I was a little disappointed to find mostly military air crafts and hardly any old prop planes in the mix but there was plenty to draw so over all I was happy.

Drawing of the HU-16E Albatross along with a fire engine.

Bus to SFO/Airplane to London

On the bus to the San Francisco airport, I finally relaxed and did a drawing along the way. I chose not to listen to music because I wanted to be immersed in real sounds, real time. Headphones create a barrier, keeping the world at a distance and I wanted to escape into the sites and sounds of my trip as much as possible.

From San Francisco International Airport, we flew British Airways to London, our only stop on our way to Athens, Greece. While the flight attendants were serving drinks, I drew this sketch of the interior of the airplane.

The Great Hand Car Regatta in Santa Rosa

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.

’57 Chevy

Friday afternoon while doing a few errands, I stopped by the local grease monkey to get my oil changed. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was disappointed to see about six cars already queued up and the unfortunate thought of having to wait an hour entered in my mind. But then to my right, I saw a bright red, 57 Chevy Bel Air in the Autobaun Detail Shop next door and my mood lifted. After checking in with the technician, I parked myself on a shady curb and began to draw. I’ve never had the pleasure of driving in one of these old classic cars but it sure looks fun. Back in the ‘50s, my dad’s parents owned a ’57 Chevy and he use to borrow it while in High School to take girls out on dates. I bet this car would still work well on dates today.

Anatomy Lab at Santa Rosa Junior College

Yesterday I gave a presentation at Santa Rosa Junior College about illustration. My only hope was to keep the interest of the students for the scheduled hour but they managed to keep me talking for almost two an a half hours. The subject I emphasized most was the importance of learning to draw in a sketchbook. Sketching I told them, will bring more life to their finished illustrations, giving them more depth, accuracy, and interest. The students responded well to my talk and spent a good amount of time looking through several of my sketchbooks and my published book, The Artist on the Road. It was a pleasure talking to this group of students and I hope I lit a fire in them get off the computer at some point during their week and sketch from life. (my illustration work can be seen here: )

After my presentation I went over to the anatomy lab where my wife Marilyn was studying for an exam coming up. Although Marilyn graduated from college with a degree in English, she’s going back to school to get a medical assistant certificate. While hanging out with her for a few minutes in the lab, I drew a student studying a human skeleton.

“Emerging Visual Artists”- Sonoma County Artists Awards – Finalists exhibition

I was selected as a finalist for the Emerging Visual Arists Award and have three etchings in this show. These etchings are VERY different from my sketches. More moody and conceptual.
“emerging visual artists”- Sonoma County Artists Awards – Finalists exhibition
Show runs July 23-August 21
Hours: Mon – Sat / 12pm – 4pm
Opening reception July 23 from 5 – 7 pm.
Arts Council of Sonoma County
404 Mendocino Avenue Suite C
Santa Rosa, CA 9540
Press release:
Artspace404 is showcasing the work of the following emerging visual artists finalists: Brian Anderson, Gordon Beebe, Joey Castor, Angie Crabtree, Devon Doss, David Farish, Itzul Gutierrez, Gene McClelland, Andrew Merriss, Alissa Polan, Richard Sheppard, Alexander Treu and Agneta Viklund. Finalists in the Sonoma County Awards, these artists are expected to have a significant impact on art in the future. The annual Sonoma County Arts Awards program directly recognizes and supports artists and their contribution to our community. It is designed to encourage, reward, recognize and reinforce creative excellence. Not to be missed!