Coastal Perspective

One of the many things I love about the Oregon Coast is the mist or light that settles where the shore meets the sea.  The farther the distance, the whiter the light. I know this is atmospheric perspective.  It has to do with the way our eyes see light as it recedes in distance.   Along the coast in Oregon it is accentuated more than any other place I’ve seen.  I’m guessing it has to do with the moisture in the air.  However it happens, it makes for a gorgeous scene.

The problem is that it’s very hard to draw.  I confess I have not yet figured out how to draw mist, fog, even clouds for that matter, with ink.   Even though I can get some subtle values with my vertical lines, that softness eludes me.  I tried a quick drawing in ink – it’s such a disaster you don’t get to see it.  Then I tried a small pencil drawing.  Better. Pencil is perfect for soft gradations.


I also love the colors of coastal scenes so just for fun I tried a watercolor version. My watercolor skills are a little rusty.  Its still not the end result I’m looking for.  I’ll keep at it.  It’s good to have a goal and I want to figure out how to express this wonderful atmospheric condition.


I was hoping to have many more drawings of the Oregon Coast to share, unfortunately vehicle problems ended my trip early.   I will be back as there is much more to see and draw.

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About Drawing Locations

Finding something to draw is no problem on the Oregon Coast.  In every direction there are wonderful subjects.  But finding the right place to sit and draw these fabulous views can sometimes be a challenge. I like to find places where I blend in to the surroundings, where it’s fairly quiet so that I can concentrate, and where I will be comfortable for the duration of the drawing.

The small village of Nehalem offers charming store fronts painted in bright colors and decorated with lovely flower baskets.  After taking a walk around this one block town, I found a great place to sit opposite the grocery store.  It was in the shade, quiet and  nestled between some planter boxes.   Although I was sitting on Highway 101, it was easy to ignore the traffic and focus on the lines and shapes.  I had worked through the proportions and was adding in the details when a large white pickup truck pulled up and parked directly in front of me, completely blocking my view.  There were so few people in town it never occurred to me that someone would  park there. A woman got out of the passenger side and I asked her if they planned to be there long.  But just as the words left my mouth  a semi roared by.  She never heard me and kept walking. Sigh.  I went to a nearby porch to finish adding the important aspects of the drawing. One more lesson learned – never sit down in front of an empty parking space!


Later in the day I wandered around the marina in Garibaldi.   The backside of the main dock with its many colored buildings, bins, hoists and fishing gear was my kind of subject.  I looked at my viewpoint options.  There was a handy bench where I could sit along the boardwalk facing the view. It was a quiet spot with only the occasional fisherman wandering past.  The parking lot and road were behind me.  I sat peacefully for a couple hours to complete this drawing:


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Picking Up Where I Left Off

Some  may remember that I did a trip to the Oregon Coast in the Spring.  I didn’t have time to get very far.  In fact I only went from Astoria to Cannon Beach, a distance of about 30 miles.   Thirty miles with so much to see and draw!  The entire Oregon Coast is equally impressive and it’s my intention to eventually draw it all.

I’m back.  I’m continuing down the coast to see what wonders I can find.  Just south of Cannon Beach is Hug Beach.  I had been here before.  In fact, I remember doing an oil painting just the left of the stairs to the beach.    This time I came equipped with only a sketchbook, a pencil and a pen.   I did a simple drawing of the very scene I  painted.



Because the tide was out I decided to venture further and go north past a rocky outcropping.  I’m so glad I did!   I found a beautiful beach nestled up against sculpted rock formations, complete with a small waterfall cascading down a rock.  Best of all I had the whole place to myself!  I let my dog run on the beach and I sat down to draw.  Inevitably, people, and dogs, came along and my attention was diverted to the mischief my dog was getting into.   I managed to complete a good portion of the drawing and finished it up back at camp.    I was hesitant to put color on it because I rather liked the drawing by itself. So I held my breath and added the first splashes of watercolor.   As usual, once the color goes on, I always like it better.


Can’t wait to see what further wonders await on this journey!


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Tacoma Sketches

As I mentioned in the previous post, the premise of Urban Sketching is to drawn within an allotted time frame then meet up to share drawings.   There’s not a lot of time to pick the perfect drawing location.  With the temperature in the 90’s on the first day of last weekend’s Urban Sketchers West Coast Sketch Crawl, my primary consideration was a place in the shade.  After wandering for a bit midst a mix of old and new architecture, I finally found a  cool spot with an interesting building beyond a small park.

Tacoma 1

I loved the designs on the building but with a time limit  and only a 7 x 9 piece of hot press watercolor paper, I knew I couldn’t focus on the details.  This had to be about placing the building in it’s setting and coming away with a reasonable representation.

In the afternoon I did two quick drawings in my sketchbook.  Again, looking for a cool spot, I perched on a concrete bulkhead above Foss Waterway with a handy tree to block the sun.  In the shade and with a slight breeze of the water, it was a delightful place to be.  First, looking across the marina to the far bank,


then looking back up toward the Glass Museum.   Those white things are supposed to be the lovely glass sculpture that arises out of a pool.   I’m going to have work on depicting glass with more definition.


On Sunday morning, the weather had changed completely, it was overcast, breezy and  barely 60 degrees.  My kind of weather.  I wanted to do a detailed perspective study and I quickly found my subject.  Sitting in front of a triangular building, I drew the sidewalk, trees and buildings receding into the distance.  Fairly early on, I decided this would just be an ink study.  Sometimes I think they’re more powerful that way.  Yes, it was a bit tedious drawing all those vertical lines, but I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours I put into it.  My Stillman and Birn Epsilon Sketchbook is 7 x 10 inches.  I don’t usually fill up so much of the page, but there it is.


This is my favorite of the four drawings.   It feels like Tacoma to me.  It’s always a challenge to express a sense of place in art.  A topic to explore in future blogs!

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Sketch Crawl!

This past weekend was the Urban Sketchers West Coast Sketch Crawl in Tacoma, Washington.  What a blast! More than 150 lovers of drawing gathered to sketch and share their work. We had three designated drawing sessions, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning.  After each session, sketchers came together to show their work.  I don’t know if other Urban Sketcher groups use this term, but this group calls sharing the drawings, the “Throw Down” because the drawings are usually lined up on the ground, but not actually thrown down.  Once on the ground, the group tours around them, admiring each and every one.


It’s so much fun to see the drawings.  With a group that included children to seniors, beginners to experts, there was a wide variety of subjects, styles and techniques.

A note about the photos that follow:  We all snapped pictures indiscriminately of drawings that generally weren’t signed or identified.  While it would be ideal to give credit to each of the artists, in nearly all cases below I don’t know who the artists are. The pictures that are shared here are simply a sampling of hundreds of wonderful drawings that resulted from the weekend.  For more information see the Urban Sketchers Tacoma website.


There were line drawings to value studies,




and panoramas to details.




I was intrigued by several artists who used accordion fold sketchbooks.  Doing a drawing that large in the two and a half hours allotted for each session was impressive. All of the results were spectacular.  One of the reasons I enjoy doing Urban Sketcher outings is that I always come away inspired.



I can’t finish this post without expressing my appreciation to the many selfless people who organized this event. It was a friendly and casual gathering that flowed well through the weekend.  I just wish it would have lasted longer.



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Sketching at the Marina

This week our sketching group went to a nearby marina.  Boats are such interesting subjects.   Putting curved hulls in perspective, adding masts, pilot houses and all sorts of marine gear,  drawing each boat to look like they’re floating on moving water, all adds up to a worthy challenge.   Everyone did a great job.



What I love is that everyone has their own unique approach.  John works carefully in pencil,


Allison enjoys ink and and wash,


And Susan likes to work in watercolor.


With a variety of styles and mediums we always have a great time seeing what everyone has done at our show and tell at the end of the session.  It’s inspiring to see everyone’s vision as well as the progress they are making by drawing weekly.

This weekend I’m off to the Urban Sketchers’ West Coast Sketchcrawl in Tacoma.  Fun. Fun Fun!!


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Olympic Perseverence

“From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs, but all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokosai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.”

Hokusai, The Drawings of Hokusai


I love this quote!  Hokusai didn’t make it to 110, but he did live a good long life and his art is legendary.  With the Olympics going on in Rio right now, we are inspired by the effort and determination of the  world’s best athletes.  Great artists have worked equally hard.  Those who excel do so because they dedicate hours, months, years to their craft.   I find this motivating when I struggle to achieve the results I’m striving for.

To be sure drawing is a skill that takes a lifetime to perfect.  Yet  the wonderful thing about drawing is that you don’t have to be a Hokusai or a Rembrandt to enjoy it.  Simply putting pencil or pen to paper is a joy that everyone can experience.



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Serendipitous Scraps

When it comes to art supplies I admit to being a bit of a hoarder.  You never know when something will come in handy.  So when a printer offered me 500 small scraps of leftover watercolor paper, I gladly took them.   They sat on a shelf for a while until it dawned on me that the small sheets could  be a good way to introduce simple ink and watercolor techniques to one of my classes.   Because the pieces are quite small, 4 x 6 inches, it’s pretty hard to get carried away with detail.   We did some floral arrangements and I rather enjoyed the simplicity of the basic outline and wash.  Here’s a couple of my demos.












Recently I was invited to do an art demonstration. The goal was to do something easy that others could try themselves.  I thought it might be fun to do more with these flowers. Using a colorful bouquet of various types of flowers as my inspiration, I drew individual stems as well as arrangements.   Because I rarely draw flowers or still life, this was a nice change of pace.













Now I have a pile of mini watercolors, what should I do with them?  Make cards!  Selecting some brightly colored paper,  I glued the watercolors on top, and presto!  Lovely, one of a kind cards.  No more last minute runs to the card shop, I now have a supply of cards for any occasion.  You just never know what will come of a few scraps of paper.



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Summer Sketching Group

This summer I organized a weekly sketching group.   It’s easy to do.  Simply make a list of places to draw in  your local area and invite your drawing friends to join you once a week.  There are about ten of us who meet each Tuesday from 10 to 12.  We draw until 11:45, then come together to share our drawings and talk about the successes and challenges of our work.  Everyone’s approach is unique and it’s fun to see the results.  The best part is sharing the joy of drawing with others who love it too.

Sometimes we all draw the same thing, sometimes we split up and find very unique items. Last week we drew at  an interesting urban area of Tudor style buildings, outdoor eating areas, eclectic sculptures and lovely plantings.  We had everything from a drawing of one of the store windows, to people sitting at the umbrella tables, to a drawing of a boat parked in the parking lot.  It’s  fascinating to see a familiar area through another’s eyes.   I did a little perspective of the old theater and shop buildings.

108 lynwood

This week we went to a small park.  It’s a lovely spot on the edge of the forest with water views, boats, docks, houses and boat sheds in all directions.   Most everyone sat together and drew the same view – looking down the cove to the open water beyond.  I started with  this view too.

108 port mad

Then, because I knew the view from the end of the dock was interesting, I climbed down the rickety stairs and sat on the dock to draw.  I didn’t have time to finish this one, but was at least able to get the main composition and perspective roughed in.  I added the details later then sloshed a bit of watercolor on each drawing.  There’s a plan to replace this old dock with a modern, and safer, new one.  I’m glad I have a record of  this one.

108 dock

Tuesdays have become my favorite day of the week.  I get so excited about seeing everyone’s drawings that I forget to take pictures of their work.  I’m going to try to remember that next week.

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Quick Draw in Bannack

I’m walking down a dusty road early one morning.   On either side are  rough hewn buildings leaning this way and that.  Blank  windows dare me to step back in time.   I can imagine that the townsfolk have run for cover and at any moment  Marshall Dillon will burst through the swinging saloon doors for a show down with a notorious outlaw. I’m in Bannack, Montana  where vigilantes and road agents once ruled the day.  Now, the only quick draw that will take place is my desire to sketch as much as possible in a day.

106 bannack2

Bannack is a true ghost town.  It’s been deserted for nearly 50 years.     After flourishing briefly during the gold rush of the 1860’s, it gradually faded away, leaving 60 buildings as a testament to its colorful past.   Now a state park, on this sunny Saturday only a handful of visitors have come to explore.  It was, quite simply, a perfect place to draw.  Here’s a few samples.

106 bannack5

106 bannack4


106 bannack3

I would have loved to stay for several days.  Maybe another time.  I took a lot of photographs and am looking forward to using them to develop some larger drawings with color.   Even my dog enjoyed our day there.


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