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Stillman & Birn sketchbooks

La-BoulangeI had the opportunity to work with several sketchbooks provided by Stillman & Birn company, to prepare for demonstrations at Riley Street Art Supply stores in both San Rafael and Santa Rosa yesterday. The paper in these premium sketchbooks is either heavy or extra-heavy, white or ivory, and with a range of surface textures. Several handy sizes are available, either book-bound or wire-bound. I will do another demo tomorrow, Saturday March 2nd at Lenz Arts in Santa Cruz.


See the for more info on this excellent line of sketchbooks.

Accuracy? Fuggedaboudit!

At a recent demonstration of quick sketching techniques I was asked how I handle the challenges of accurately drawing such things as complex architecture. My reply was that I do not concern myself much with being accurate. I freely change the relative sizes and positions of items in the sketch, to simplify a scene or create a focal point. I usually sacrifice accuracy for speed.

In this recent sketch at a market day I included a tall tower and really messed up the geometry at the top. Not a problem, as the center of attention is much lower.


Sketching people


Several of the students in my Quick Sketch workshop are interested in sketching people. There are different approaches, depending on whether the people are very small, in a crowd, or an important element of the foreground. These two sketches were made yesterday on a pier in Sausalito, CA. I picked a spot about 40 feet from several young men seated on a bench. They all had very different “poses” making for a nice variety of gestures. I started the group of four people (plus one bird) on tan paper with graphite pencil, then switched to a Fine point black ink pen. Some of the pencil strokes are still visible. The brightest areas in the scene was the water, and I made several horizontal scribbles with a white Prismacolor pencil.


I moved to a different spot for a sketch with two of the original people. They are young Asian men with very different body types—one is stocky and the other very thin. I began with a very thin line ink pen (Micron.02). These lines were so thin they could easily be “corrected” with the Fine line Faber Castell pen. A quick impression of the San Francisco skyline and a waterfront restaurant in the background provides an environment for these fellows. Neither of them had any idea that I was drawing them.

Jenny X2 Q9

“Naked, naked, naked!”

Five of my 16×20 nude acrylic paintings have been selected for two exhibitions in Astoria, OR in March. One of them, Jenny x2-Q9, will be displayed in a frame shop during the “Nudes Downtown” event that runs concurrently with the Au Naturel juried show at Clatsop Community College. (My 36×36 painting Big Sarah with Graffiti #2 was accepted for the Au Naturel show.) The other four paintings will be part of the VDAY (“V” as in Vagina Monologues!) events at Clatsop College Performing Art Center.

two female nudes in similar poses, arms up and shootidng out past the upoper edge of the canvas.
Two Women, arms up

Colorful Market Sketching


It was a lovely day for outdoor sketching, and I took advantage of the Wednesday Farmers Market in Corte Madera Town Center. The bright orange tent and the magenta table cloth of the gourmet Indian foods attracted my attention. Photo shows my view.

first stage: water-soluble pencil layout
first stage: water-soluble pencil layout

I squeezed the scene a bit to accommodate a nearly square format. Dark purple aquarelle (water-soluble) pencil established the layout and some of the darkest areas.

second stage: quick color and tone added with side of pencil point
stage 2: quick color and tone added with side of pencil point

Using the side grip on each pencil, I filled shapes with color quickly. Notice the direction of the  strokes

stage 3: water appliled to pencil strokes. Intensify some areas and dissolve others.
stage 3: water applied to pencil strokes.

The water brush was used to intensify some areas and blend others. I left some areas dry for a variety of textures.

Final: thicker black strokes added with Brush-tip pen.
Final: thicker black strokes added with Brush-tip pen.

A few details are added with fine line ink strokes. The darkest edges and shadows are accented with a brush-tip (B) pen.

The fellow doing business under the orange tent came over while I was working…that rarely happens when I am doing “stealth sketching!” After I showed him the finished result, he gave me a dollar off on a package of spinach besan pura.




Sketching while-U-wait

While waiting for repairs on my car this morning, I spent a half hour at La Crossant Cafe in the canal district of San Rafael. When I enter any cafe or resturant, I look for a spot that has the best point of view (POV) for observation.

La-Croissant,-San-RafaelI began on the right side of my 5 x 8″ tan paper sketchbook, using a a fine point black ink pen, and white Prismacolor pencil for highlights. The guys sitting at the counter were back lit and almost completely in shadow. I used some “smart scribbling” to create the cross-hatching shading and textures. The big rectangle of white behind them represents the window filled with bright light.

I still had some time, and about half of my scone left, so I turned to another area and sketched the fellow holding his smart phone. I actually messed up drawing his hand (hands are a challenge!), so I filled it in to make a silhouette. Additional ink scribbles going up his arm help make sense of that shadow. It was fun showing the sugar and condiment containers as they appear on three tables, getting closer to my position.

Quick Sketching workshop schedule

Schedule for my next Quick Sketch sessions at
Riley Street Art Supplies,
1138 4th Street, San Rafael:

Saturday, January 26 
Saturday, February 2
Saturday, March 23
     from 2 to 5 pm
 Fee: $50 per session
Quick sketch techniques help you develop more confidence in drawing, and enable you to “loosen up”. We’ll do some warm-ups, then go out as a group and sketch in nearby locations. Continuing and first-time students are welcome. In cold or wet weather, we’ll sketch in local cafes or other indoor venues. To sign up and get materials list, please contact me.
Quickk Sketch Of Delft, Holland Market Square

Rhoda Draws Europe! Exhibition

Six of my travel sketches, created on recent trips to central Europe will be on display at Gallery 305, 305 Bell Lane, Mill Valley, CA. Exhibit runs January 15 through April 15, 2013. Gallery hours Mon-Fri. 11am-4pm.

These sketches were created in ink and aquarelle pencil on location in Belgium, Germany, Holland and the Czech Republic. They are 6×9″, mounted in 11×14″ floater frames and priced @ $150 each.
Rhoda In The Rhineland, Licking A Life-size Ice Cream Sundae

Year in review

Looking back on the events in my artistic life for 2012, I will count taking another bite out of Europe as a high point! It was a concert tour with i Cantori, a choral group based in Carmel, CA. In additional to the thrill of singing in some of the most awesome venues in Poland, Germany, Belgium and Holland I also produced some satisfying sketches of street scenes and town squares. Those drawings led directly to offering sketching workshops in San Rafael.

I added a few items to my art resume, including online representation by Xanadu gallery of Scottsdale, AZ. One of my Big Sarah paintings was accepted for “Au Naturel”,  the annual nude art show in Astoria (Oregon) scheduled for early March. Even more exciting, and closer to home, is an invitation to prepare a solo show (my first!) in Pacific Grove, CA. That is set for May.

So, 2013 is already looking like an excellent year for exhibitions. I will continue to look for more opportunities to show (and sell) my artwork. The sketching workshops are beginning to develop a following, and might lead to a book project. I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution, but I intend to work on paintings, sketches or other art projects at least 4 or 5 days a week. As for Rhoda Draws A Crowd, I plan to generate more caricature gigs and follow up on convention and event leads once a week or more. Did I mention losing another 20 pounds?

I wish all who are reading this a very happy New Year.


Quick Sketching and improvising

Thanks to those who attended our workshop on Sunday, November 18th. It was a lively session. We began at Riley Street Art with some demos, a slide show and exploration of materials, focusing on water-soluble pencils used with a water brush.

Our first location, as usual, was at the Mission San Rafael Archangel. Shortly after our arrival about 100 people spilled out of the church and gathered for socializing and snacks provided by vendors. This was a delightful bonus! We had a chance to include some “generic people” in a crowd scene as part of our sketches of the church building and grounds.

Next, we headed for City Plaza, and by then a chill was in the air. We went into the Lighthouse cafe for some hot coffee and decided to stay there for sketching. Several choices there, including shelves full of various liquor bottles, people at the bar, tables and chairs.

The next workshop: Saturday December 22, from 2 to 5pm. Fee: $50.
Ongoing and returning students: you will be given challenges for developing skills at your own pace.

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