Hard to believe that it is already April, it seems like the year just got started. With spring in the air and a sense of hope regarding COVID things are looking up. This break in all of our lives will certainly have a ripple effect on the plans we have and had for the future. Sketching is one way that I appreciate the present, reminisce about the past, and dream of the future.
The deck at Sage & Cinder was perfect for a spring day. I had the leek and mushroom pastie, Irish for March. Getting back to Sage & Cinder is a reminder of some happy times there pre-COVID, more to come I am sure.
With the nice weather I can start frequenting South Lake Union again, especially The Center for Wooden Boats. Jen, the director of CWB, let me wander the docks to take some photos. My first nautical sketch was of Pirate, a restored sloop that I first sketched last year while she was docked, this one is a sketch of her maiden outing now that the restoration is complete.
CWB rents sailboats, canoes, and rowboats, this is the shack where you rent and pick up your oars, paddles and flotation devices.
Then of course I have to end up in Europe one way or another.
I hope you have a good week, keep dreaming of travel and sketching your dreams.
This week started and ended with some actual, not virtual, urban sketching. There was the last of the Nature Obscura sketches, some remembering of past travels, and dreams of future destinations when the skies and countries are open once again.
A sunny, but cool, Friday morning at Cafe Louvre in Edmonds, nice to get out in the sun.
A domestic house spider, they are amazing creatures with a history of misunderstanding, myths, and phobia.
In 2017 Tricia and I spent five weeks in Europe, we have posted about that trip in both of our blogs. Our friends Tim and Lisa joined us for two of those weeks. We met up with them in Edinburgh. The first sketch here is of the building that our Airbnb was in, next to Edinburgh Castle. We drove through southern Scotland, through a bit of England, then flew from Bristol to Nice, rented a car, then drove to Robion, a small village in Provence. The second sketch is Tim and me walking back to our gite, Le Chat Rouge, from coffee at Le Cafe de la Poste.
Thursday I checked out a new place in Mukilteo, Tapped Mukilteo. This proves to be a needed addition to the restaurant scene in the Harbour Pointe area of the city.
Hope you are getting your vaccine soon, I had my second shot Sunday. There is a feeling of hope in the air, and we anticipate getting out more soon. Keep traveling and sketching…
Tricia asked me the same question that I have asked so many people over the years, but I was stumped, I did not have a ready answer. We of course talk about travel often, that is like breathing and eating for us, but she asked specifically, “Where do you most want to travel when things open up?” I babbled on about loving to travel and would go anyplace, but realized I did not have a top-ten sort of list.
It is true that I would go most anyplace and would throughly enjoy it. We of course are serious francophiles so France is most always on our itineraries, and there is the North Coast 500 trip in the north of Scotland that I have wanted to take ever since learning of it, but beyond that I drew a blank. She suggested places: Portugal, Greece, Spain. Yes they all sounded great but did not fit the Bucket List kind of thing. So she got me thinking, what is it that makes me want to travel?
What I realize is that it is not specific countries, it is three things: Villages, Castles, and Cuisine. Any country that produces two of the three and I am in, all three and it is high on the list. (Though for some reason Germany and Russia are low on the list, go figure.)
Yes I do love the big towns, Paris, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Melbourne, etc., but after a day or two in them I am ready to hit the countryside and visit Gordes, Bonnieux, Golspie – the small villages with a history, and the countrysides that surround them – mountains more desirable than oceans.
Castles, and their close relative chateaux, captivate my sketchers eye, cathedrals would also fit well into this grouping. The tiny chapel in Gordes is the best part of that popular village.
And of course cuisine – food. We live to eat, the highlight of most everyday at home is cooking and eating, and the highlight of every day of traveling is finding an intriguing place to eat, then lingering over the meal – we reminisce about meals long after we have returned home.
So I think I have an answer to Tricia’s question: “I want villages, castles, and cuisine.” Anyplace that has all three, put it on my bucket list. So the places she mentioned do have a place on my list: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Viet Nam, Tokyo, all those places in The Alps… BUT now I know why.
So with that in mind I found a good place to start, or at least hit early: The Castle of Almourol in Portugal. Located on the islet of Almourol in the middle of the Tagus River in a mountainous part of Portugal. This one hits all three, so lets get packing.
This week I continued the theme I started a week or so ago with Tricia in front of Mount Saint Michael. In 2017 we went to Florence in Tuscany. The Piatti estate and gardens are on a hill overlooking the town, with the Duomo in the distance. It is still the highest building in Florence so it is visible from most everyplace.
On that same trip we visited San Gimignano, just over a one hour drive southwest on the A1 tollway. It is famous for its towers, some of which are like todays multistoried townhouses, with kitchen on one level, salons on another level and bedrooms on yet another level. The only tower currently open to the public is the Torre Grossa, with 218 steps and of course no elevator. Thankfully there are landings along the way with horizon-stretching views that make the rest worthwhile.
Fresh flowers on the coffee table always make for a morning sketch with un café. This week for my Nature Obscura sketch I did one of Magnusun Park and of the dragonflies that live there.
Another place that we have enjoyed is a lot closer to home, Joshua Tree National Park. These delicate trees need our protection as they are endangered. What is it about climbing? Towers, rocks, hills, trees we never seem to outgrow the desire to get higher, so of course Tricia climbed on one rock after another. Check out her blog on Joshua Tree, and San Gimignano.
I finished off the week with a sketch of a Wine Window, buchette del vino, from Florence. According the Wine Window Association these were first built during the plague in 1532 as a way of dispensing wine without coming in contact with people. There is currently a resurgence in there use, some good ideas just come back around.
I get my second shot this Sunday, I hope you have had or are on the list soon for yours. It gives me hope that more getting out will come as the weather gets better for outdoor sketching. So keep on traveling, even if only around the neighborhood, and of course keep on sketching.
Château de Lavardin, is one of the plethora of chateau in the Loire Valley – some pristine, some derelict.
Then, motivated by a travel show about the lochs of Scotland, I virtually visited Loch Maree in western Scotland. My reading group of Nature Obscura brought me back to Puget Sound for a sketch of a Barn Swallow – both on paper with fude pen and watercolor.
Then it was back to France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Thanks to @C_pax_photographies (Instagram) for the reference photo.
This week’s travels ended with a vision of the Cascade Mountains and a memory from our last trip to Tokyo. We were staying in the Iidiabashi area, one morning I got up to go for a matcha, the subways are packed with commuters in the morning, who stride down the streets toward their offices, I felt like I was going the wrong way on a one-way street.
I hope your week was good. The news is encouraging that we may be able to actually travel again one day. In the meantime keep traveling, in your neighborhood or virtually, sketching and sharing your adventures.
This week I pretty much went all in sketching on iPad, finding that I really enjoy it and it is a legitimate medium. However, I also discovered that actual ink, paper, and paint is probably my go to medium, with a lot of digital thrown in. Digital has storage benefits, convenience aspects, and for complicated subjects some of the helps in Procreate are pretty amazing. So my travels will be captured in whatever medium seems right at the moment.
Moss was a topic from our Nature Obscura reading and sketching group so a sketch of an old moss covered shack near Taylor’s Shellfish Farm on Chuckanut drive seemed perfect.
Experimented with a new style, and a bit of lettering.
A year ago this week we visited one of the most iconic of locations in France, Mount-Saint-Michele in Normandy. Under normal circumstances it is one of those places I long to visit yet often forgo visiting due to the crowds – thus my ambivalent feelings toward ever revisiting the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to the weather, and sadly, COVID already slowing travel, it was almost empty. An amazing place. This is from a photo I took on the walkway across the tide flats, Tricia of Travels Through My Lensfame taking it all in from a distance.
For some reason my thoughts took a detour to Tokyo and the wonderful Nezu Museum.
Then back to places that we visited in France last year at this time. First a digital sketch of the Château d’Angers, then a sketch using my fude pen and watercolors of Place du Ralliement in Angers. This sketch in just one day has drawn more “likes” on Instagram than any other sketch I have ever posted, go figure???
Keep traveling, even if only on a walk in the neighborhood, and share your sketches for us all to enjoy.
This week I delved into a new world of art. One of the challenges of art is the art; or specifically, what to do with the art we produce. Thankfully I sell a few pieces, but the pile of sketchbooks grows, and the canvas collection from acrylic painting takes up a lot of space. Artists often lean toward eccentric, I am no exception, so I cut back on acrylic painting in response to the internal voice, “Where will you store it all?” And, regarding sketching, “Who is ever going to look at your sketchbooks anyway?” I know it’s nuts.
This week I started to do travel sketching on my iPad, something I had resisted as it was “not genuine art.” Quickly I found that many urban sketchers do use their iPad, like Rob Sketcherman, it is all he has sketched on for years. Their blogs pointed out the convenience, the versatility, and the enjoyment of using their iPad – and of course the ease of storage component. So I downloaded Procreate, the apparent leader for urban sketchers, bought a cheap stylus and jumped in. I have since upgraded to an Apple Pencil for good reason. The experience has been a delight, a challenge, a learning curve – BUT it has ended the boredom I was struggling with, and my storage space is a big as the cloud.
So here are the results of this week, along with a couple of ink-watercolor-paper sketches. My first digital was of a junco. Not bad considering the technical learning that was taking place.
The next two are landscapes, one is at Brix Restaurant in Napa, the other is the Upper Klamath National Reserve with Mt McLoughlin in the distance.
My sketchbook and fude pen were feeling a bit ignored so I revisited a ghost town farm from a trip we went on a few years back to Yellowstone and Montana.
And then, as is so often the case, I ended up in France. Exactly one year ago today we ate dinner at the Brasserie Bellanger in Paris – so much has happened since then, it is still hard to process at times.
I trust you are well, getting a vaccine soon, and traveling as you can and as is safe. Keep sketching,
The highlight of this week was the delightful snowstorm over the weekend – a bit of snow is a nice diversion yet I am glad that it is not long-term here in the Puget Sound region. Next week I am looking forward to:
Nature Obscura Sketching & Reading Group
Six of us will be reading Kelly Brenner’s wonderful book on urban nature, then sketching whatever the reading inspires. We plan on four Zoom meetings, with one in-person, outside, if it is permissible – a nature workshop.
BTW – it is not too late to join if this sounds interesting, just send me an email for details – it’s free.
The snow inspired the first and second sketches of the week. The first was a view out of our window. I did the dark background of silhouetted trees at sunrise first, after the paint was dry – mostly darkened Perylene Green – I used a Kuretake brush pen for the trees, then a white Uni Posca acrylic pen for the snow and highlights. The second sketch was an imagined mountain snow scene. Every other sketch this week was with my new Fude Fountain pen, they really are my first choice for most sketches.
If art is at all an expression of ourselves, then the mountains must be heavy on my mind these days as the next two sketches are of more mountain scenes, the first is an alpine lake, the second is the kind of trail I used to hike so frequently in the Mt. Hood Wilderness area. These days I fear my knees would protest, but my heart is still in the mountains.
Then of course my thoughts do not stay away from Europe for long. At this stage of life we had plans to visit so many places, starting of course with France, then on to Portugal, back to Spain and Scotland, then on to who know where. We have not given up hope, in the meantime we dream and plan.
Capturing the moment is what travel sketching is all about, I have many travel memories from the time I was not sketching, I know a sketchbook would have made them even better.
The Dog & Doublet Inn was the scenario for one of my most cherished travel memories, stumbled on by chance and fortuitous travel challenges. It is a “Grade 2 Country Pub” in Sutton Coldfield, UK. Grade 2 is a distinction of its historic importance, Grade 1 is highest, Westminster Abbey is a Grade 1, so its distinction as a classic historic pub speaks to its construction not the quality of service, which was perfect. When your stereotype image of a British Pub kicks in, this place is it.
In my early years as a seminar speaker I went to the UK frequently; this trip was at least my third. On this particular trip I arrived in London on Saturday to allow for some time-zone adjustment before a Monday seminar for Fred Pryor Seminars. Their travel department contacted me on Monday to tell me she was having trouble finding a hotel for me in Birmingham, where I would be later that week. Birmingham is a big convention center for the UK and there was some huge event going on that week. One thing I learned a long time ago is not to panic over such things, they have a way of working out, this one worked out better than imagined.
Most often over the years when there are shortages of hotel rooms it just means you end up staying at a more dumpy place, or a place further away. My call the next day, remember this was before international cell phones were the norm, informed me that she had found me a place, with multiple apologies for its location, twelve miles out of town. Not a worry, that is why they have taxis.
When I arrived at the Marston Farm Hotel, on Bodymoor Heath, I was already thrilled. The place lived up to its name, it is actually in the middle of a huge farm. This was quite a few steps up in quality, not down, Marston Farm is listed in Johansens, only premier inns make the cut.
After checking in it was time for food. There is a white-tablecloth restaurant on premises but I am usually a pub sort of guy so I inquired as to what was nearby. He told me, “Just go across this path about a 100 yards and you will come to a canal, turn right and walk about a quarter of a mile and you will come to a pub – The Dog & Doublet. It was a delightful ramble on the pathway beside the canal passing narrow canalboats tied up to the side of the canal.
There were plenty of locals, a good sign, with quite a group of us international travelers mixed in. I ended up with some wonderful folks in a small anteroom next to the bar, we talked, drank, and ate all evening. The room was cozy so we took turns moving to the edge of the bar to eat. I remember Germans, French, Brits, and Americans laughing and talking – a night I will never forget, I must get back one day.
Why do we travel? Jimmy Buffet said, “We do it for the stories we can tell.” My experience is that most of the best stories are serendipitous, they defy planning. Over-planning a trip diminishes the spontaneity that is necessary for wonderful surprises to happen. So travel light, plan just enough to get you by, and always carry a sketchpad.
What a week – Tampa Bay/Brady win the Super Bowl and another impeachment trial is underway. BUT the really big news is that I got a new fude pen and travel brush set, now that is newsworthy.
Started off the week remembering that last year at this time we were in final preparations for a trip to France. The purpose of the trip was to find a place to live when we moved there in July of 2020, well… we all know how that worked out. Bien sur! we still had a wonderful time. A sketch of cherry trees and the Loire River seemed right.
Sunday watched the Super Bowl, ate nachos, black-bean dip, and Tricia’s guacamole – her guac is so good, almost as good as her photos. My new fude pen arrived that morning so a quick try was in order. Then a few flowers to test both the pen and the brush.
Friday we took a drive up north, we stopped for a quick (outside, COVID style) visit with my mother, then headed up to Chuckanut Drive and the Oyster Bar, one of our favorite places in the world. Here is a view from there on a foggy day, done with a limited pallet of only ultramarine blue and sepia.
My current read is The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley, full of amazing info about our world – I now know about “roche moutonée” and “thigmomorphogenesis.”
Finished the week with John Muir and dreaming of mountains.
Hope you are well, and sketching. Looking forward to the virtual workshop and book club that is starting on 24 February. Stay safe,