Not Batman’s House

Well this will teach me to repeat something I’ve heard before vetting it through Google. I was told that this shell of a house was the house featured as the Bruce Wayne manor on the late 60s TV series Batman. However, a little searching reveals that Batman’s house was actually down the block and was, in fact, purchased a little while ago by Sir Paul McCartney (and is perfectly intact, thank you very much.) This house was owned by another unfortunate family and it was undergoing renovation when the blaze occurred. Thankfully they were not home, nor had they moved their possessions into it. I do hope they will continue renovating it and will have many happy years there.

I painted this view yesterday, looking across the arroyo in a different direction 90 degrees to the previous view. Although it was done within an hour or so of the other sketch, the color of the sky is decidedly different. The hillside was a jumble of chapparal natives and dry grass, making an interesting patchwork pattern. This sketch, like yesterday’s, is approx 4.5″ x 6″ and painted with a Niji waterbrush and tube paints.

Vista del Arroyo One

It was another hot one today, but under the oaks on the edge of the arroyo it was downright tolerable. Three of us set up our gear facing this sweeping view – the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is on the right, and the Colorado Street Bridge (Arroyo Seco Bridge) is to the left. The Courthouse has an interesting history, having been originally the site of a boarding house, then a grand hotel which was converted to a veteran’s hospital in the 40s before its present incarnation. It’s a wonderful piece of architecture, and I’d like to paint it again, closer up. Maybe on a cooler day.

In the distance you can see the San Gabriel Mountains. Now, you may not know them by name, but I’m guessing that if you ever watch the Rose Parade on TV, when the camera pans up to those craggy peaks towering over Pasadena, that’s what you see. Today, with incredibly high humidity from a Mexican monsoon (so we’re told) the air was thick with haze which cast the whole scene in a yellowish-pink light and turned the mountains to a bluish mauve. Kind of interesting, really.

This was a half page in my journal sketchbook. Tomorrow I’ll be posting another watercolor sketch, of the famous “Batman house” (Bruce Wayne manor) which burned last year. It’s now a roofless ruin and looks somewhat less than eerie in midsummer midday light. Still, it’s a bit of history and close by. See you tomorrow, same bat blog, same bat site.

Baby elephant walk

At the Wild Animal Park in San Diego we road a tram around a wide open savannah styled area, and at one point passed by the elephant territory where this baby was tossing hay into his mouth. Due to a tram breakdown in front of us we paused for a little while there, but not long enough to get a detailed drawing, so this was drawn later from a photo my husband took for me. I prefer to draw animals from life if they hold still, but that’s just not always possible. Still, I learned something from this experience that will help me the next time I encounter a live elephant and am not passing by at 10 miles an hour.

More often than not these days I’m trying to match the paper and art tool to the subject matter rather than drawing in one journal consistently. That’s why I have so many different books going, I suppose. For example, yesterday’s Hollywood and Highland jazz concert was drawn in a very smooth paper Moleskine with a brush pen. Using a brush pen on coarse recycled paper would have made it difficult to get fine detail. Trying to draw an elephant with charcoal on the “toothless” Moleskine would have been equally challenging. The native palms I posted a few days ago was done in a journal with white paper that accepts wet media. So I always have to remember to date the drawings to provide some sort of chronology. I don’t have one journal, I have a journal group or cluster that move forward like a mooing herd . It’s an odd system, but it works. And the variety of paper and media keeps me challenged and experimenting. And what’s more fun than that?

Hollywood Nights

At the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Avenue, there’s a big shopping complex where jazz concerts are held on warm summer evenings. You can buy a glass of wine and listen to great music, and then stroll around the shops. I didn’t draw it in this view, but the whole center court has a Babylonian motif. No, I’m not kidding …. take a look at: Hollywood and Highland. I think my favorite “faux sculptures” are the two bas-relief Mesopotamian winged creatures that flank the facade of the Victoria’s Secret store. They both have purses or shopping bags in their hands. Gotta love it.

Anyway, while others were facing the musicians, I listened with delight and found a seat behind a potted “kangaroo’s paw” plant and drew the crowd.

Descanso Koi

At the end of a great weekend, with everyone safely back home, or en route, I took a few minutes to paint these koi from a photo reference. In real life, they don’t hold still very well. This study will help me draw them when I encounter them again in the gardens.

These koi are from Mulberry Pond at Descanso, where they swim lazily all day in an idyllic setting. The pond got a total makeover this year, complete with a waterfall and other deluxe features like a special ledge that the koi can hide under if herons or raccoons come around. One of the days we were there we saw many small koi, less than an inch long, swimming in the water, proving that the koi are reproducing. Sadly, they will be eaten by the larger fish. If not, the pond would probably become overrun. I would have liked to have saved one of the small fry but I’d probably get caught for poaching. And I’ve never poached anything but a salmon.

This quick sketch is watercolor and colored pencil in my large size Moleskine cachet journal. Now, back to work for me.

LACMA Courtyard

We went to the LA County Museum of Art yesterday, saw some exhibits (not Hockney, we didn’t have enough time for that) but the one on art glass was wonderful. At one point we took a break in the courtyard. Here are some of the people that were sitting close enough to see, but far enough away that I wasn’t caught drawing them. My objective was to see just how few marks I could make to suggest the person and their attitude.

Following this we went to the beach for dinner, then came back home and caught a 10 o clock showing of Disney’s “Cars.” In In spite of the fact that it’s marketed to a family audience (which all too often means witless and watered down) this was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in quite a while. There are so many sight gags that only people of a certain age would “get” that it was clearly intended as entertainment for all ages. Without giving away the plot, there’s a part of the story that involves a section of Route 66 … a road that I drove with my parents as a child. We will get this on DVD, no doubt, just to be able to see all the jokes we missed. A great movie with a Randy Newman score and CG as only Pixar can do it.


Yesterday we went to San Diego Wild Animal Park, and these are some quick sketches I did of some gibbons. Because they were in motion most of the time, there was not much opportunity for detail. A suggestion of posture and behavior was about all I got.

I’ll write more later when I scan some other sketches, but overall the place was a disappointment. A realistic habitat is fantastic for the animals and important for conservation, but when many of the animals are so far away that you can’t see them, it leaves a little bit to be desired. These gibbons were among the few that were close enough to a viewing area to be seen. If you wanted to get see the giraffes closer than the distance of a few football fields from a moving tram, you had to purchase a special pricey photo safari on top of your park admission. If you’d like to see a cheetah run (or see the cheetah at all, in fact) sorry, that’s another special event.

I know that the costs of admission go toward caring for the animals, but I felt that the park overpromised and under delivered. The commercial that showed how close you could get to see the lions only applied if the lions deigned to go up next to the plexiglass window. There were only two lions on display, perched on a hillside quite a distance away. I’ll try some drawing from photo references we took.

I’ll have more to say about the good parts later.

Mandus Tail

As well as doing portraits, I’ve been doing a series of sketches of Mandu’s features – her tail, her paws, her eyes. More will be posted later. I’m exploring using different media to see which represents the texture the best. The graphite pencil seemed best for the smooth fuzzy tail as well as her scruffy flank. A few additional strokes attempt to describe a corduroy cushion on an old pressed wood oak chair. Northern noonday light was coming in the window to the right.

Seriously addicted

Yes, I am seriously addicted to sketching. These are the sketchbooks I’ve used since March 03, when I returned to art after a 20 year hiatus and essentially started over from sketch, I mean, scratch.
The stack on the left is completed books. The stack on the right is books that are partially full – a little bit or a lot. Every one of these is precious to me for one reason or another. Like any place where practice is done, they are full of false starts, errors, bad perspective, wobbly lines, strange anatomy, half-baked ideas and more. But that’s what my creative journey is all about. The way I figure, the more mistakes I make the better chance I have of doing something right. So I try to make a lot of mistakes every day. The more the better, really.

I’ll be posting new Mandu drawings later today if you want to check back. She’s drinking her half and half with enthusiasm again, and that’s a good sign. Yesterday I did a whole series of “cat part” drawings – ears, eyes, tail, etc. But I need time to scan them and it’s midnight now.

Thank you everyone for your supportive comments during this emotionally stressful time. Some people might say “get over it, it’s just a cat,” but animal lovers know it’s not that simple at all and that relationships come in all shapes, sizes and species. Feeling your kindness helps ease the impending loss, whether it comes in days, weeks or longer. My husband reads your comments, too, and I know that it means a lot to him as well.

Dog on the run

Click for larger

My friend Katherine Tyrell is teaching a wet canvas class in drawing and sketching in public, so it thought it would be fun to participate in some of her assignments and challenges. It sort of takes all the surprise out of it when I come up with my own challenges and it’s nice to let someone else throw a curve for a change. And I know her lessons wil be quite good. One of the first assignments was to do a series of 5, 10 and 15 minute sketches, and to try to do them as quickly as possible to loosen up. I don’t know any model who is looser than Ripley, and she obliged me with a few sittings, er, lyings. I’ll have to pay off in Milk Bones later.