Yesterday, I woke early to a gorgeous, sunny, blue-sky day, and decided that instead of staying home and doing the household chores I'd been thinking about, I'd head to San Francisco to give myself an art date. I packed up my art supplies and off I went.
My first stop was the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco's Presidio. It's a wonderful place, all about Walt Disney's life and career and contributions to animation and film-making. But my reason for going yesterday was that I've been wanting to see the special exhibit about Mary Blair, the artist who did so much work for Disney from 1940 to the mid-1960's. She's probably most well-known for designing the look for It's a Small World, but she did a lot of other modern abstract/stylized stuff and was influential in art directing the look of various Disney productions such as Alice in Wonderland and Song of the South. You can find out more about her and see more of her art here.
I loved seeing the exhibit, but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed seeing her sketchbooks. They had the originals (one was a moleskine!) under glass, but they had digitized all of the pages and put them on an Ipad so you could page through them, one by one. I was especially fascinated by the sketches she made on a trip with Walt Disney and other artists to South America, which they made for the purpose of researching and collecting imagery and designs to inspire future projects. It was kind of reassuring to see that even though Mary Blair was a classically trained artist, her sketches -- especially the ones of people -- looked, well, SKETCHY. Not perfect. Weird faces, strange proportions. Sort of like what I might do! That was sort of eye-opening.
While at the museum, I did a quick sketch of the case holding some of Disney's Oscars -- the special award he won for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is quite eye-catching and I wanted to do that. I sketched fast and then used watercolor pencils to add color, with some water from a waterbrush quickly over that. I enjoyed sitting there and doing it (and listening to all of the conversational bits as people flowed by) more than the result, but for me that's the joy of sketching. Seeing this will always bring me back to the memory of being there.
By then, I was hungry so I went exploring around the Presidio to find lunch. (The cafe at the Disney Museum looks surprisingly dire, with very unappealing looking plastic wrapped food.) I found the Transit Cafe, where I sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed a great caesar salad and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Perfect.
The Presidio is part of the Golden Gate National Park system, but was a long-time army base. The buildings are beautiful and the grounds and views are stunning -- expanses of green lawn bordered by white clapboard buildings, views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, groves of eucalyptus and cyprus trees. I spent a while walking all around and exploring, and then settled myself in front of a former officer's house to sketch.
Many of the homes are available to lease and are occupied and lovingly cared for. It'd be a fabulous place to live, I'm guessing, if you could afford the very steep rent. But I love these little Queen Anne style houses -- they date back to the 1840s.
By then, I was in need of a pick-me-up, so I headed over to another favorite spot in the area, the Warming Hut at Crissy Field. It's also part of the national park and is a little hut/shop/cafe almost under the Golden Gate Bridge. I got a coffee and sat outside, enjoying the sea breeze and the crystal clear view of the city skyline and the great people watching.
Sitting there, I realized that heading home just then would put me in the thick of rush hour traffic heading out of the city across the bridge. What to do? I decided to spend a bit more time sketching before I headed north. So I hopped back in the car and went over to the Palace of Fine Arts, another amazing, gorgeous San Francisco landmark.
I love this place. It was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, and is the only structure still existing on its original site. It looks pretty in this photo, but it's hard to convey how huge and grand it is when you're standing next to those columns. And, I might add, it is quite the sketching challenge.
I kind of lost control of the perspective and proportion, but I had a good old time, and I had some nice conversations with tourists who stopped as they passed by.
All in all, it was a lovely day. Sometimes going to San Francisco feels like a big trek from where I live (it's a bit over an hour into the city, more depending on traffic) but going on the spur of the moment was just the thing.