Sunday, July 14, 2013

West Coast Urban Sketch Crawl

Yesterday, I ventured down to San Francisco for a day of sketching fun.  I met up with a bunch of other sketchers from all over the place, and we took part in the first annual West Coast Urban Sketchers' sketch crawl.  Actually, July 13 was World Wide Sketch Crawl Day, so there were sketchers meeting up in cities all over the world yesterday.  It was a very fun way to meet other sketchers and participate in something that felt bigger than what was going on in my own journal.

We met at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, which is a beautiful old building that has been revitalized into an active market with food stalls and shops.  On the weekends, a busy farmer's market lines the outdoor areas and more tents with arts and crafts are set up in the plaza across the street.  It's a lively, colorful spectacle.  Yesterday was remarkable as the typical morning fog had burned off early, so it was unexpectedly sunny.  Most everyone had come prepared with long sleeved shirts and jackets for the usual SF summer weather (the coldest winter I've ever spent, to paraphrase Mark Twain).  So there was a bright blue sky and fresh sea breeze.  In the midst of all of that is an ever present drummer whose lively beat feels like part of the natural rhythm of the place.

The organizers of this event (Jana, Jim, Laurie, and others) not only had a schedule and maps for everyone, but also had "swag" bags from Blick Art Supplies with charcoal, sketchbook, and acrylic paints.  Everyone scattered to draw.  I first settled across the street from the ferry building with two other sketchers, and that's where I drew the scene up above.

From there, I moved to our original meeting place in the big island plaza in front of the building, and turned away from the ferry building to paint the craft stalls across the street.  I am intimidated about adding people to scenes, but I added just a few here.  In reality the place was swarming with people. I watched as a sketcher next to me did a gorgeous loose sketch of the crosswalk and the stream of people flowing through.  It was inspiring and something I'd never have thought to even try.

From there, I wandered into the ferry building to find lunch.  It's gorgeous in there, and would have been a great place to draw if it weren't for the crowds of people.

I had a delicious mozzarella, salami and arugula sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery, and then was fortified to continue.  I wandered through the building to the back side which faces the bay.  I found a sunny bench, enjoyed my sandwich, and then set to work painting.  I bravely added some people-ish blobs, and used my artistic license to eliminate the terminal port which actually blocked most of the view of the bay bridge.  

While I was working on this sketch, a mom and an adorable little girl sat down next to me.  They were interested in what I was doing, and the little girl -- Nikko was her name -- told me shyly that she liked to draw.  I pulled out my notebook and she made this lovely princess for me:

They left, with her mother promising to buy her a child's set of watercolors so she could paint like I was.  That was a very happy encounter!

By then the back of my neck was feeling uncomfortably sunburned, so I went inside to find a cold drink.  I braved the long line at Blue Bottle Coffee and ordered a New Orleans Style Iced Coffee.  I'd never had that -- hadn't even heard of it, actually.  Here's how they describe it: "A sweet and thick iced coffee, cold-brewed with roasted chicory, then cut with whole milk and organic cane sugar."  It was delicious. 

Having an hour before our final meet-up, I wandered around the side of the building, found a patch of shade and sketched the little pier for the Tiburon ferry.  While I was sitting and sketching, I heard the most intriguing snatches of conversation as people walked by.  "But you know, that's what happens when someone dies..."  "and now that I am aware of my inner child..." "no way, I said..." It's one of the things about sitting somewhere and drawing I like best, how you hear bits and pieces of people's  conversations streaming by.

By then, it was time to meet at the Gandhi statute behind the ferry building.  We laid our sketchbooks out on the ground and had fun seeing what everyone did.  There was lots of oohing and aahing and general admiration.  

 All in all, it was a fabulous and inspiring day. 


  1. wonderful, wonderful!! So excited to see you doing this, Diane. You are so talented!!

  2. Sounds like such a fabulous time! (and great sketches)My husband and I spent a few days in SF this spring and the ferry building was one of my favorite spots.

  3. I've been having this wild desire to call in sick one day and go sit on the wooden chaise lounge area of The High Line in the city and just sketch. They have a Blue Bottle Coffee vendor there and reading your post made me REALLY want to do it! Unfortunattely, once we go on vacation I'll only have a handful of days left, so maybe I'll just go down early next weekend and do it.

    So when are you coming to the East Coast to sketch with me??

  4. Wow, how fun! I had no idea you take your watercolors along, figured you sketched with pencil and painted in later. Learn something new everyday... Thanks for sharing!

  5. AlaskaBerninaGirl, I think people do it all sorts of different ways. I tend to do a really rough outlines-only sketch in pencil (usually to get the perspective stuff), then draw in pen, then paint. I have learned to take a quick picture with my Iphone before I start painting so that if I run out of time, I'll have a reference for adding the color later. But I like painting on site. It's a whole different experience!

  6. What fun! The "Gate B" painting is wonderful!

    I love those little snatches of conversation you overhear on the street too. I collect them in my head. One favorite, also overheard on the street in San Francisco was between two construction workers taking a break, leaning on their jackhammers -- " Y'know that Claire de Lune? That there's a lovely little tune..."

  7. Love seeing your work from the sketch crawl Diane... especially with your photos. They really give a sense of the ambiance. I really wish I could have been there. Someday I hope!