Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Brief Visit to the Magnuson P-Patch

Last year I did a number of sketches over several weeks at the Magnuson Park P-Patch community garden, starting in late July.  I loved the spot--it's large, it's on a terraced hillside, it has pergolas, and it backs up against an outdoor theater--tons of great drawing possibilities.  So this year I wanted to start going there early in the season and record the gardeners' progress month by month.

There wasn't a lot in bloom at this time of year, of course.  So I drew mostly structures instead.

It got a little cool and breezy, so I headed out -- and naturally, that's when I spotted a lovely sketch subject:

Too late -- the weather just did not cooperate, so I had to settle for photos of the tulips.

I hope to get back there if the weather ever improves.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three Hundred Stairs

On Sunday the Seattle Urban Sketcher group met in the lobby of the Seattle Art Museum for its monthly sketch outing. Tina and I decided to join in the fun, and because she had a parking pass at Seattle Center, we drove there with the idea of taking the monorail to downtown.

The parking garage had a flight of stairs to street level.  Fine, no problem.  We took the monorail to Westlake Center, where it was too early for the mall with its escalators to be open, so we took three flights of stairs down to street level.  Down is always harder on my knees than up, but I survived.

We arrived at the museum's upper level, and took another two flights of stairs down to the lower entry level, where we met the other sketchers.  Some went into the galleries to draw, but at $22.95 (senior rate!), I declined, and tried to draw the sculpture in the lobby -- a huge sculptured tree hanging from the ceiling.

I wasn't happy with that sketch, so I looked around the large (and free!) public space of the museum, and spotted a camel statue -- which stood at the top of two flights of stairs.  Argh.

With another hour to kill, I decided to wander down to the Pike Place Market in search of inspiration.  I didn't find anything there to draw (or rather, I did, but there were way too many people milling about, getting in the way).  During my explorations, I went up and down at least four more flights of stairs.

I returned to the museum, where we shared sketches.

Photo credit: fellow sketcher Michele Cooper

Then we did a group photo -- standing on a flight of stairs.  Gah!

Tina and I made our way back to the monorail, where thankfully the escalators were available, and returned to the Seattle Center where the Japanese cherry blossom festival was in full swing.  We wanted to draw the taiko drummers -- but there was a huge crowd in front of the stage.  There was a better view from the balcony -- another flight of STAIRS.  The drummers were just finishing their performance, though, and after only a minute or two, they were done.  So we went back down the stairs and outside to the food court where another flight of stairs greeted us.  We ate lunch and returned to the center in time for the next group of taiko drummers, and luckily found a spot on the main level to do our sketching.

By then we were well and truly pooped.  We made our way back to the parking garage, down that flight of stairs, and headed home.

The next day my legs were a little sore.  I did not go up or down any more stairs other than the five porch steps at home.  I am DONE with stairs!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A little bit of Fill, plus a commission

On Saturday morning I went to the Fill where I found Connie Who Practically Lives There sitting on her camp stool by the lake front.  As I set up my stool beside her, I saw this swimming past:

Beaver!  (They have a lodge over by Yesler Swamp.)

As we sat and chatted, two birders arrived to tell us a Yellow-headed Blackbird had been seen earlier in a meadow.  These birds are common in eastern Washington, and uncommon here, though certainly not rare.  Still, a very nice bird for the Fill -- and Connie was unhappy that she had missed it.

The birders were going to continue their walk, so she said, "Wave and do jumping jacks if you spot it."

They walked on, and twenty-five feet down the path, they both waved at us.  (No jumping jacks -- darn!)  That was quick -- the bird was perched on some reeds behind construction fencing.  It flew before I could get close enough for a sharp photo, but here's the unsharp version:

Connie and I stayed mostly along the lake shore and had a lovely time birding and talking.  There are still a few winter birds about -- my favorites were these Common Merganser females looking for food under the water:

And here is the male:

On to the second subject of this post:  I got a commission of sorts, to do a watercolor landscape depicting "scenic Wyoming" for a former coworker who is retiring this September and who loves the state.  When I typed "Wyoming landscape" on Google, I got a whole lot of the Grand Tetons, and many of the photos showed an old barn in front of the mountains.  So I tried to paint that.

I thought it turned out pretty nice.  But when I sent it to the other coworker who had asked me to do the commission, she replied, "That's nice, but it's missing the 'wow' factor.  Perhaps something more colorful?"

Well!  Honestly.  Some people!  Of course, after a few days of staring at the painting, I began to think that perhaps it did need something.  However, you can't really change watercolor once it's done, so I went looking for a more colorful photo reference.  I found one taken in Grand Teton National Park, and had another go.

I showed this to another friend first, and she took one look and said, "Oh, wow!"  So I'm pretty sure it has the "wow factor".  And indeed, when I showed it to the coworker, she said it was great.  Whew!

And this is why I have had a longstanding policy of not doing commissions.  Don't even ask.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday with Ospreys and More

On Monday Truman and I went to the Montlake Fill where I intended to do what I'd wanted to do a week ago Sunday -- walk around the loop trail in about an hour, and then go up to the UW campus to sketch.  I didn't do it that Sunday because Connie was at the Fill and we wound up having a lovely three-hour walk-and-bird-and-chat session instead.

Connie's car was not in the parking lot, so my plan panned out this time.  I did pause to do a quick sketch at the Fill itself when I spotted the fallen logs in the photo above.

As we resumed our stroll, I heard the call of an Osprey, and looked up to see this:

 The crows were not pleased about the Osprey's return to the Fill.

A second Osprey hovered nearby.  Eventually both birds flew off and all was quiet.

We neared the Southwest Pond, where the male Red-winged Blackbirds were busy announcing their territories to all who passed.

Suddenly I heard an Osprey call again, and looked up just in time to see the pair fly onto the nesting platform.


These birds look like the same pair that successfully raised three young last summer.  They were given the names Chester (left, for his pure-white chest) and Lacey (for her brown "lacey" collar).

After a couple of minutes they both flew off.  I do hope they return and raise another family this year.

Meanwhile, a bit farther along, I spotted two coyotes:


We successfully navigated the Fill in one hour, and then I went up to the UW campus, where Truman admired some cherry trees.

I decided to practice drawing arches, and the Suzzallo Library seemed like a good subject for that:

 I didn't get very far with this sketch, as there were two skateboarders in the square, and the constant banging and yelling disturbed both me and Truman.  Oh, well.

I'm sure I can find arches to practice on somewhere quieter some day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sunday Sketching

On Sunday the Northend Urban Sketchers ventured southwards and westwards all the way to the hinterlands of West Seattle to the Chinese Garden that graces the north end (see -- we still got "northend" in there!) of the South Seattle College grounds.

This is a truly lovely little gem that we first visited last summer.  It's small but full of delights, like this giant koi statue:

And these terracotta warriors:

It was a warm day as well, with very light clouds.  It felt, at last, like Spring.

I found a pond to sketch:

Truman tried to wander off at one point--in search of Nicole who had moved off down the path to draw elsewhere--but I quickly corralled him.

Then we sat inside those pagoda buildings, where, through a doorway, you can see the koi statue in the distance.

At one point, Tru discovered another pond which he could not resist.

Next we headed for a drive along Alki, and we stopped at a quiet stretch of beach with a view of the Olympics.

There were hundreds of Brant geese there -- these are winter visitors who ought to be heading north again any day now.

Truman is always concerned about where Tina and Nicole have gone -- they stayed on a bench by the car to sketch, while I tootled down a winding path to get a closer view of the beach.  As I sat there sketching, Truman kept looking back up to check on his friends.

We didn't stay here very long and I drew quickly.

It was so nice to have a rain-free weekend with warmer temperatures.  Hoorah for Spring!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Saturday Sketching

On Saturday the Northend Urban Sketchers (me, Tina, Nicole, and Truman)  hung out on Capitol Hill.  My first sketch was of the reservoir building at Cal Anderson Park.

Our second stop was the Lakeview Cemetery which abuts Volunteer Park.  I found a view from which I could see the back side of the Volunteer Park conservatory.

I made an artistic decision to sketch the conservatory and the trees around it while completely ignoring the cemetery itself.

It was a bit colder than we wanted it to be -- there were blue skies, but there were also a ton of clouds which kept obscuring the warmth of the sun.  Happily, the weather was warmer on Sunday -- which I will post about tomorrow.

Saturday was also Truman's fifth birthday!   I am so blessed to have him in my life.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Between the Showers

Yesterday was one of those days we get here when it will be sunny for twenty minutes and then showery for a bit and then partly cloudy for a while and then it will rinse and repeat.  The weather changed so often and so quickly that it was difficult to plan anything, but I took a chance on going out anyway.

As I headed out the door, there were patchy clouds with blue holes.  As I drove towards Magnuson Park, raindrops fell on the windshield.  By the time we arrived ten minutes later, the rain stopped.

I heard a knocking sound and tracked it down to a tree where a Downy Woodpecker was hacking away:

Out on the lake, there were still a few wintering birds about, like this Common Goldeneye:

We walked for about half an hour, and did not get rained on.

It was quite birdy.  Here is a Bewick's Wren:

And this lovely eagle kept an eye on us:

Here is Truman by the submarine fin sculpture:

On our way back to the car, I spotted this Cooper's Hawk:

I decided to drive around through the old naval base buildings, looking for something to sketch.  It started to sprinkle again, and I was happy to find a parking spot directly across from this nice building:

We drove home in the rain.  A few minutes after we got home, the sun came out again.  For the rest of the day, Truman and I ran out back to sit on the lawn chairs during the sun breaks, and ran back inside during the showers.  What larks!