11 February 2019

Pan Asian Museum

Yesterday, I met the Los Angeles Urban Sketchers' group at the Pan Asian Museum in Pasadena. Our entire sketchcrawl was intended to include the decorative courtyard as well as the interior, plus (one short block over) the outward aspect of City Hall; but because it was raining fairly steadily, we instead opted to draw only inside the museum and then walk two blocks to a coffee house.

It was a lovely afternoon; but a physical problem made it a little difficult for me. My lower back tends to lock up when I stand still; walking, it gradually loosens itself and does okay, but standing for long periods just doesn't work. I entered the museum through the gift shop and start wandering through, looking for a display room with a bench. Alas, this museum doesn't seem to believe that people will want to linger long enough to sit, and doesn't feature a single bench in the entire permanent collection. There are benches in the one section dedicated to current displays, but I didn't discover that room until the end of my stay, because it was at the other end of the building.

I found just two rooms where I could sit; one was showing a looping documentary about the making of fine porcelain, and had a few cabinets with examples and exhibits of porcelain to go with the narrative. I stopped there to watch the interesting film from the comfort of a small wooden stool, and stayed to sketch a vase on one of the shelves; but soon after that, a whole flock of museum-goers came in and obviously coveted the stool, in order to enjoy the movie for themselves, so I moved on.

Down the way and across the hall, I came upon a room with a convenient shelf where I could perch, and I hastily drew a pottery camel, before the security guard could show up and shoo me off the ledge (so hastily that I misjudged proportions and had to leave out his feet!).

I left there and moved one door down, which turned out to be a combination of demonstration and children's playroom. Around three of the walls were baskets containing various examples of fabrics made by various Asian peoples for the curious to take out and examine; along the fourth was a velvet-covered bench where children and their parents could read books together. In the center of the room the museum had pitched an open-ended tent made from all kinds of colorful fabrics and lined with pillows, in the manner of a seraglio or Ali Baba's lair, beautifully backlit from the light coming through the door behind it. This was so colorful and inviting that I sat down and tried to capture all the details of the many fabrics attached to its framework with magenta ties.

After our sojourn at the museum, we went to our intended coffee place, only to find it jammed with late-afternoon lunchers, so we made our way a couple of blocks down and across the street to Tender Greens, which was blessedly half empty and could accommodate our entire group of 16, umbrellas, sketchpads and all. So we got either lunch or dessert and sat, showed what we accomplished at the museum, did some watercolor, drew our food, and caught up with or got acquainted with each other, depending. I ate half my falafel wrap, and then drew the other half:

I think I liked this last drawing the best of the day, because I was able to use my pen to draw it with; the museum only allows pencils, so all my other drawings felt a bit pallid to me, used as I am to the pen outline for my contour style of working. I must someday learn to draw more ably with a pencil, utilizing its shading capabilities!

09 February 2019


I hadn't mentioned it here yet, but I dropped the class at Moorpark College. The only thing I was really interested in learning was linoleum block printing, but in order to get to that, I had to go through six weeks of intaglio printing. Sanding and incising the metal plates aggravated my lungs, and I didn't enjoy either the process or the results. Also, I found out the teacher was going out on pregnancy leave before the lino-cutting part of the class was due to begin, and knew nothing about the substitute, so I decided to bail. I figured that sooner or later a class or workshop would come along, and two weeks later, I was rewarded with one!

There is a "book arts" track for the library masters degree at UCLA, and one of the things the Horn Press student group does is offer workshops throughout the year to MLIS students. One of these popped up on the UCLA listserv last Monday, and what do you know, it was a linoleum block printing workshop! I didn't know that staff weren't technically invited, so I signed up and went; fortunately for me, the president of Horn Press this year is one of my Readers' Advisory students, and Yoonha was gracious about including me. So I got to make my first linocut.

We each were given a piece of gray lino material and a tool, we had a short safety lecture about the best way to use the tool without cutting ourselves, and then Yoonha said "Think of an image or find one on Google, and give it a try!" I opened up my phone and googled "raven," because I'm always and ever fascinated with the mighty corvid, and drew an image in pencil on the lino.

Here is my "plate" that I carved. It's a hot mess: I carved out things I shouldn't have (like the feet); I didn't know at what angle to hold the tool, so some of it is gouged almost to the lining while other parts aren't deep enough; I carved out the background at various angles, thinking none of it would show (but it all did); and because we were running out of time, I was unable to empty out the entire background (shoulda made the bird bigger, I kept thinking) and had to leave a "vignette" with some of the lino untouched.

And here is my one and only print I made from it. It is likewise kind of a mess: I got the plate crooked on the paper, I smutched a couple of times out in the margin, and the dark gray ink I used makes it seem a bit faded and maybe not inked enough.

But you know what? For all of that, I am inordinately proud of it! It was a really fun experience, one that I hope to repeat soon. It makes absolutely no sense to spend hours gouging something out of rubber that I could easily paint better and faster in another medium; but I loved it. Yoonha nicely complimented it by saying it looked like original woodcuts from the 16th century, which I understood as "primitive and amateur," but I still didn't care. I had fun!

01 February 2019

People reading

I haven't gotten too far with my "real people reading" series; I'm having trouble finding models. When I go to the library looking for surreptitious opportunities to shoot photos, most of the people are either on a computer, scrolling through their phones, or, if they are reading, it's a newspaper, which is not what I have in mind. (I guess all the real readers come to the library, check out their books, and take them home to read.)

This past week, I decided that if I couldn't find real-life readers to paint, I would look at Google Images and see if I could find some photos of people reading. I did...but the problem with most of them is that they were taken by modeling agencies, so the readers are all young, all pretty, most of them are white, and they are smiling (yes, sometimes books are amusing, but do you typically smile at your book when you're sitting alone reading? I think not). And even if they're not smiling, they have that self-conscious look that screams "I know someone is taking my picture." Also not what I had in mind.

Although it's a bit extreme to paint someone without their head in order to lose that self-conscious look, that's exactly what I did here. The focus becomes the book, the relaxed pose sitting on the bed, and the cup of something hot she's holding in her hand.

I guess I'm going to have to get some friends and family to pose for me, and adjure them sternly not to smirk while I'm clicking away.

29 January 2019


After enjoying making Yule cards and sending them to five strangers so I could get five back from strangers (members of Sketchbook Skool), I somehow found myself agreeing to repeat the process with Valentine greetings. I haven't been quite as inspired this go-round because, let's face it, it's kinda weird to send lovey-dovey cards to people you don't know. So I pondered for a while, and I thought of one card with a pun, which I made. Then, baffled for other ideas, I Googled "Valentine puns" and hit the jackpot. So while the illustrations for my postcards are original, the puns are already out there in the world, the inspiration of others more quick or clever than myself. Here they are, on their way to the Netherlands, Montreal, Oregon, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio.

The backsides of the postcards (which I mailed in envelopes because of the varying postage) all had some take on "My Punny Valentine."

Yes, sometimes when you are semi-retired, you spend an entire day doing, well, THIS.

27 January 2019

Worldwide Sketchcrawl

Yesterday was the Worldwide Sketchcrawl, for which urban sketchers all over the globe turned out singly and in groups to sketch their surroundings "en plein air" in their sketchbooks. The Los Angeles division of Urban Sketchers met up at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel (when did Millennium become part of the name? it's the old Biltmore) downtown on Grand Ave., to immortalize all of its very fancy bits and pieces. We usually have 10 or 15 people show up, but added about 10 or 15 new people this time (perhaps because it was the worldwide date), so we had around 30 of us spread out in the lobbies, hallways, and façades.

I managed to make three sketches. The first was a doorway from one of the Biltmore's many hallways to the street, with a little ceiling detail thrown in. My proportions were incredibly wonky for this one, and I misjudged size so that only the top half of the doors were included.

I had found a good place to roost for this drawing, on some carpeted stairs going up to a ballroom, so for my second painting, I simply glanced upward and decided to draw part of one of the fancy wrought iron hanging lamps backed by the even more elaborate ceiling "rosette" surrounding it. I clearly didn't know what I had got myself into with the sheer detail featured in the concentric circles!

I'm kind of sorry that I introduced any kind of color at all into the lampshades; they were such a pure white, both in color and in illumination, and I wanted them to really pop against the relative darks of the lamp frame and the rest of the background, but I thought the lemon yellow would give them a little more clarity as light sources. Instead, it tended to make them blend in too much.

My third painting, a quickie in the last 10 minutes, was back in the lobby. I found a place on a sofa, and this man was sitting near me, at the end of the coffee table. I managed it by pretending to paint the room's scenery and then taking surreptitious glances. Every time he looked suspiciously my way, I was innocently studying the wall behind him. (Some people don't wish to be drawn!) I liked his frowny-faced concentration on his phone.

Traffic was horrible from the Valley to the Biltmore, and as usual, I got lost on the way back trying to find a freeway onramp from downtown (those one-way streets!), and finally managed to get on the 101 at Temple and Alvarado, far from where I had started. But it was really fun to go out with others, see what they did, show them my work, and feel more comfortable drawing and painting as part of a group, instead of being the lone person within eyesight who is drawing. Here's a photo of our group:

The guy standing next to me in the photo, in the black and red plaid shirt, was in Los Angeles on vacation from (I think he said) Malaysia, and just decided to show up for our sketchcrawl. They have a huge, active group where he lives. Nice to know you can show up in almost any city in the world and find urban sketchers to hang with!

22 January 2019

Bits and pieces

Here are a few bits and pieces from the end of the week and the weekend; some class work and class goofing off, and an "urban sketch" from a Monday play date with a tardy friend.

Another, slightly better (but not final) take on my "Persephone" parts-and-whole project for class.

A doodley grid of items in case I decided to do the "Honey" project instead (but I think I'm sticking with Persephone).

I ran out of things to sketch and was waiting to use the grinder to bevel the edges of my zinc plates, so I filled the time by sketching my earnestly laboring classmates in front of me.

And from Monday, a new café discovery in Eagle Rock, with some tasty veg and vegan fare. My friend Erica got lost and showed up late, so I had the time to sketch this fellow, looking at his phone while his partner ordered their breakfast at the counter. It's a cheery little place—I love yellow.

And that's it for now! 

17 January 2019

A new art form

I decided life would be better with some structure. It seems like the more I have to do, the more I get done; but only when it is outwardly imposed. The truth is, this is the year I'm supposed to go from Miss Havisham to Marie Kondo, but every day I find a blog post to write, a meme to create, a book to read, an errand to do, that keeps me from starting that gargantuan household project. So what am I doing about it? Signing up for a class, of course!

I've been following a Facebook page called Linocut Friends for quite a while now. I have always been fascinated by all kinds of print-making (and used to be into making my own rubber stamps), but have never learned how to do any of it; but all these carvers inspired me to look for a local class. I found one out at Moorpark College, which is actually a four-semester program covering all types of print-making, but since I'm not interested in the kinds that use chemicals, I'm sticking with semester one, which is intaglio followed by linoleum cutting, and then I will branch off on my own. Class started last week, and our assignment for this week was to go buy all our supplies (ouch), and then come up with some ideas and maybe some sketches for our first project.

We will be incising two 5x7-inch plates for our first project, and the theme is "Parts > Whole." So the first plate is supposed to be all the elements that build up to something final on the second plate. The teacher used the example of an apple, by depicting seeds, blossoms, bark, etc. on the first plate and the whole apple on the second; or including the apple on the first along with butter and bags of flour and sugar, and making the second plate a PIE.

I have two ideas, one of which came to me because I've been reading Circe, by Madeline Miller (see my review here), and the other from doing a little illustration project for my cousin's blog.

The first idea is the legend of Persephone, so the Plate One would include a narcissus (because that's the flower Persephone was out picking in the field when she was kidnapped by Hades), and a pomegranate (and seeds) because that's how he trapped her into staying with him for half the year. The second plate, if I can pull it off (this drawing is pretty bad) is a copy of a fragment of a sculpture featuring Hades and Persephone, and perhaps some symbols for the four seasons.


Kirsten bought a book for me at Christmas, and wanted to feature it on her blog, The Swoon Society, so she asked me to make an illustration for her. (Not putting that up here until after she has used it for HER blog.) It made me think about bee-keeping, which is something else I have always wanted to do, and in the process of looking for images online to help me with the illustration, I came up with some ideas for Parts > Whole for my own project:


These are all, of course, just sketches, and not unified in style, but they gave me some ideas. We will see what my teacher has to say about these. New art form, here I come!