Thursday, February 12, 2015

Palace Dome, From the Presidio

The Presidio is a large area of parkland on the northwest side San Francisco. It used to be a military base, but now it's occupied by a mixture of residential and commercial buildings. I woke up early today to try painting from a coffee shop there, which turned out to be filled with employees of Intel, ILM, and other Presidio corporate tenants.

The place was packed and hectic, but the tables outside in the cold were empty. I opened up a hand warmer packet, slipped it into my sleeve to keep my wrist warm, and got my watercolors and paper out.

In the distance was the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts dome. From where I was sitting, I could see only the upper half and part of a colonnade. Trees and other buildings obscured the rest. I thought that the combination of the palace in the distance and the nature and buildings in front would make for an interesting composition.

Painting here was very different from painting by the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a lot of stress in the air. I heard one conversation about some very serious "strictly confidential" matters involving bad management decisions. Another table had a guy on a cell phone talking about some social media company with a wacky, arbitrary-sounding name. Yet another table seemed to have an interview going on. I wished I had brought earplugs.

I had trouble getting this painting to come together at first. It improved when I started consciously tuning out my auditory surroundings.

I spent the most time on the architectural detail of the dome. When I paint architectural subjects, I get very absorbed into every little detail of each facade. I don't know how to paint them loosely with just a few brushstrokes and still capture their essence. I think part of it is that it becomes an excuse for me to study the details and figure out how they work as a composition. It's kind of fun to look at an intricate building and break it down into parts in my mind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge II

The other day, while I was painting the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, I kept thinking about how I wanted to get closer to it and then do another painting.

Well, I got much closer. I walked from our Airbnb apartment all the way to the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. I discovered that it was more than just a place where the railing began. It's a nice spot for welcoming tourists with interactive bridge exhibits, a gift shop, relatively clean restrooms, and Bridge Cafe (more of a convenience store than a cafe, but full of tasty goodies).

I found a relatively comfortable spot on a concrete bench next to Bridge Cafe and painted this watercolor. When I first sat down, I thought I was going to paint for half an hour, then power walk across the bridge and back. That didn't happen. I ended up painting until dusk.

This is a very happy painting. I enjoyed working on this very much. It felt like the painting painted itself. The bridge was so majestic from up close. There was a hill at the tourist center that was covered in beautiful native plant landscaping. You can tell from this that I loved everything that I was painting.

The area was also full of excited tourists. Seeing an architectural work of beauty like the Golden Gate Bridge often inspires people to notice all the beauty in their surroundings. I often saw people take photos of the bridge and then start taking photos of the plants on the hill. Normally those plants would go unnoticed, but the bridge awakens something in visitors' minds.

Likewise, tourists noticed me painting and stopped to watch. I've had this happen a number of times, but not like this time. The bridge really does something to awaken the senses. Visitors were very curious and asked me a lot of questions.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge I

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those landmarks that's irresistible to watercolor painters, especially me. Even with all the other closer, brighter scenery around, the bridge and hills of in the far distance lured me to paint them.

I painted this while sitting on the large cement steps of SF Maritime National Historic Park in Fisherman's Wharf, in front of Ghirardelli Square. It was a lot of fun to paint.

It was rather chilly. I wore a thick jacket and used my thick wool sweater as a blanket. My hands got pretty cold and shaky toward the end. I started in pencil, then added watercolor.

As I was painting, an elderly Chinese gentleman came up to me and started a conversation. He said that we were in the same location where the SF Commercial Artists group used to have annual shows of small paintings. I looked online but couldn't find any information about those shows; it must have been decades ago.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Boatyard

Last year, Danny and I spent almost a month in Split, Croatia. It was the end of the summer, so it was pretty quiet.

Split is a popular vacation destination in July and August for Italian tourists. We were told that during that time, Split is so packed with vacationing Italians that you hear more Italian than Croatian spoken in the streets. But by September, the city gets quiet again.

On one of our random exploration walks, Danny and I found a boatyard. There was a large metal T-shaped post that was used to raise and lower boats. Two men were using it to raise and clean the bottom of a boat.

This is a painting of that boatyard. It's a semi-abstract painting. The abstract brush strokes evoke the feelings I had of breathing in the cool marine air and seeing the reflections off the surface of the water. The shapes of the scenery are outlined in black. I used a Chinese watercolor set which has beautiful, deep black and blue paints.

There was a cafe overlooking the boatyard. We sat there for awhile, chatted, and had espressos. The views were beautiful, but the cafe was oddly empty. We were the only patrons when we walked in. Later, three men came in for beer and took a table on the far end of the cafe in a dark corner, not even overlooking the view. They must have been locals.

This painting was very much inspired by the video "Abstract Fine Art Painting with Mixed Media - Part 3 - Robert Joyner" from Strathmore Artist Papers' 2013 Online Workshop Series.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ceramic Bird

This bird was half of a pair of two, an engagement gift from Aunt Lois in October of 2011. She gave them to us when we visited her in Florida.

They now sit on the ledge in our dining room. One bird kisses the other on the cheek. This one is the kisser, with its beak pointed straight out.

When I look at them, they remind me of the early days of our relationship. They remind me of that trip to Florida, when we last saw Aunt Lois and Uncle Bill, and when we met cousin Mitch who took us to a swamp where we saw a mother alligator with her babies.

That was the same trip where Danny heroically ran into the ocean to save a girl who turned out not to be drowning, and his glasses remained in the ocean. He had a spare pair with him, thankfully. I took this all as a sign that he'd be a good father to our children one day.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Hi! This will be where I post my art: paintings, sculpture, mixed media, woodworking, etc. Enjoy!