Monday, 20 November 2017

In Celebration of USk 10 Year Anniversary!

Joined the SF Sketchers in Union Square for the USk 24 hr Global Sketchwalk for the 10th anniversary of Urban Sketchers organization. As always, I arrived more than 1 hour late, so I started straight into painting after I got off the Bart station. It was an unusually warm autumn/winter day in SF... I remember I was huddling indoors about the same time last year. Also thanks to the low angle of the sunlight, a few buildings that are usually in shadows had some very nice sunlit surfaces.

What first caught my eyes were the crowded signs on the right, but the building in the background (Humboldt Bank Building, 1908, more info here:  The dome in the sunlight looked very impressive!

After the group meet at the Apple Store, I hopped back down to Union Square (instead of getting some proper lunch) because there were so many interesting shadows criss-crossing the narrow streets there! I liked this one in particular because the shadow came down halfway on the "Hotel Stratford" sign. (I would like the red to be a little brighter, but it was too late when I realized...oh well) The tracks on the road are for the Powell Street Cable Cars.

Fall colours, at Forbes Flour Mill Museum

Stopped for a cycling break at the Forbes Flour Mill Museum. There was one shiny SUV parked right at the focal point of this piece, but it pulled away even before I finished with the pencil outlines... :(

Glad the other two cars cooperated until the end!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Autumn at the Piers

Followed the SF sketchers to the Embarcadero again over the weekend. Even though I was praying for rain (so I don't need to worry about washing my car anymore), having a perfect sunny day at the end of October felt nothing short of a privilege. Unlike summer months when I need to wait for hours until the sun start casting some shadows, the sun is noticeably slanted throughout the entire day, illuminating buildings that usually are shrouded in shadows. 

It was almost noon when I arrived at the Ferry building and the shadow was already stunning despite its being the middle of the day. I picked a spot perched above the sidewalk. There were quite a few homeless people lying on the grass around that area, but I found myself a spot right next to a bike rental stand. (I usually take Caltrain and bike whenever the meetup is along the bike path at the coast, but I am getting lazier by the day now that I have a car and could park conveniently at Daly City) 

I decided to add the streetcar that came in halfway through the painting, but it was a little hard to notice in the sea of warm colors lol. The sun did felt really warm though!

Second piece was done facing the Golden Gate Ferry Terminal and the Bay Bridge in the background. There was still a little bit of haze from the wild fire up north, so the East Bay is a little blurred from the view.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Crashing waves and warm sun: Lands End

Again, joined the weekend outing with the SF Sketchers to Lands End. I have walked along this area before and always wanted to come back for a full sketch session. There is just an unending combination of cliffs, rocks, water, and interesting structures (namely the ruins of Sutro Baths, which really burned down just ~50 years ago, but the weathering makes it look very ancient and dignified)

 I really had to pull myself away from the Corgi-con on the beaches, on one side I wanted to watch the Corgi costume contest, on the other the shadows underneath the bridge (center) is disappearing fast, and I really want to draw the road leading up to the cliff!

Thanks to the slanting autumn sun, even at midday there is some shadow behind the Cliff House (white building in the top picture).  I am still struggling to capture the dynamic of the crashing waves and how they spread out and foam up on the sand... step-by-step I guess~ I have to fight my inner urge to place the horizon somewhere in the bottom half, but I'm glad the composition worked out this way!

And finally, the Sutro Baths itself. (I once did a digital version of a full-on sunset, but not onsite) The subtle undulation on the grassy field is really a pleasure to draw! Plus the Lands End visitor centre has a nice viewing area perched on top with plenty of seating area. Normally SF gets very cold in the late afternoon, but the western exposure keeps Lands End very nice and warm. So other than my getting very hungry from standing/walking 4 hrs on only 1 rice ball, the session went much better than expected!

The tourists were also very nice here and gave encouraging comments :D

Monday, 16 October 2017

Another fine afternoon in Campbell - Heritage Village Offices

I accidentally biked past this building on my way home a few weeks ago and remembered to come back this time for a sketch. It is right next to the Campbell Heritage Theatre I drew last time, except that this one does not show up in google searches for nearby points of interest... (maybe it doesn't serve any cultural functions anymore?) 

Anyway, save for a few people gathering at the entrance of the building (mostly looking down at their phones, so I assume it might be Pokemon Go related activities?), I had the sunset to myself. The tree in front of the roundabout was also quite formidable and had some nice textures.

On to discover more neighbourhood oddities!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

California's Sunset Coast, Pismo Beach

This is the fruit of begging my boss to re-arrange my travel so I can meet up with my primary school buddy in Pismo Beach. We had no particular reason in meeting up in this particular location (and I certainly haven't heard about this town before). But since neither of us have 7 hr to spare to drive (me from the Bay Area, my buddy from LA) we decided that meeting somewhere in the middle would be the most time-efficient way. Unfortunately all the places I know are clustered towards either one of the regions, like Monterey, Carmel, Santa Barbara, etc. So I just went ahead and google-searched "Where best to meet between SF and LA" and there were definitely people who shared the same dilemma. The answer they received included Pismo Beach, situated ~3.5 hrs away from both cities. The southmost I've been on the Californian coastline was Hearst Castle (other than flying directly into LA) and driving to Pismo definitely set another record! We then promptly booked a seaside hotel (most of them in town are!)

The drive South for me was relatively smooth save for some congestion merging into 101. Unfortunately my buddy ran into traffic in Santa Barbara, so while waiting for her to come I got some snacks and settled down to do some sketches. The hotel offers a semi-private courtyard that extends a bit into the sea (apparently it is designed to be used as a wedding venue). The pavilion at the end of it offers good views to both sides of the coast and some good shade!

I threw in a quick one since there were so many pelicans resting on that particular rock face (maybe because it was warm?)

After being told the sunset time no less than three times during check-in, we presumed that it would be impolite to miss it. So we lounged around at the hotel room (despite starving for a few hours) and waited for sunset. This is the said pavilion (top) from which I sketched the previous two pieces. Now I've observed this in great detail, I realized that I have never closely watch a sun completely set into the ocean... it really does appear that the sun is sinking beneath the waves! (as in the horizon seems to be behind the sun!)

Friday, 13 October 2017

Follow up visit: Ise Grand Shrine - Inner Shrine

With only half a day to spare last trip, I was only able to loiter around the outer shrine (the inner shrine is a bit farther from public transportation). After working 8 days straight, I was granted a precious day off to recuperate. Since I usually have overly optimistic shopping goals for my day flying out of NRT (which is usually in the afternoon, but after sleeping in a bit, I only have max 1 hr to shop at Tokyo station...), I decided to venture away from the big city and complete the Ise Shrine tour. Plus I really wanted to see the sacred Isuzu River and Uji-Bridge that separates the 2 worlds.

The day started off great with brilliant sunshine. But alas, I spent those precious sunny hours rolling around in bed, refusing to get up. By the time I finished breakfast, the sky has already turned into an ominous grey. Unfortunately the all-too-chirpy me was oblivious to the change and bounced my way to the train station (finally heading to a different direction this time!) Since I was already staying in the suburbs in Mie Prefecture, Ise Shrine itself is within 1 hr traveling time (the hotel I was staying at also hosts plenty of Shrine-goers on the weekend) This time I skipped Ise-city and got off at Isuzugawa station. The sacred river follows the pathway to the Shrine (about 30-min walk away)

I bumped into this classical looking house against the backdrop of a green misty mountain. As I started working on it though, raindrops started falling unmercifully. I had to quickly scribble while the rain eases slightly, but most of the time I was just dodging rain drops by angling my sketchbook upright. I was not caught by the owner of the house...but I did anger some passing motorists, because I was taking space away from an already narrow road.

As I was walking aside Isuzu-River towards the Shrine ground, the rain started picking up so I decided to rest under the bridge (Thank you, bridge) to dry myself up a bit. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) the rain went on for a long time, so I expanded my drawing from just a few buildings, to more buildings on the right, and finally the bridge also. (while I observe families running for cover and dads scrambling to drive the cars around to pick up their families under the bridge) By the time I was putting on finishing touches, the rain still hasn't let up, so I ended up just walking in the rain with no umbrella or hood (not a wise idea since my throat started itching by the evening even after soaking in the hot spring)

The bridge looked impressive even in the dreadful weather. I really hoped that I had time to dot in the details, but with the uncertainty of the weather I went ahead full speed getting the picture together as fast as I could. I'm glad the Shrine cut open a viewing spot for the bridge, because the lower grounds on the other sides were all off limits. When I walked into the area there was just a tourist group heading in for a group photo and one gentleman promptly handed me the camera. I was glad to help out, but as I held up the camera I came to the horrific realization that I have no idea what the Japanese usually say when taking pictures!!? I remember it is something to do with "Cheese", but had no idea how the rhythm works... so I awkwardly started counting down with "Three, Two, One" Fortunately everyone just went with the flow and nobody questioned my weird countdown. It was also super awkward when I say I'd go for a second take and the digital camera took a long time to load up again. The point-and-shoot camera is truly a relic only available in Japan nowadays.

At long last (at least a 15 min walk from the bridge) I arrived at the Main Shrine of the Inner Shrine of the Ise Grand Shrine (believe me it sounded simpler in Japanese). The long flight of stone stairs leading up the Shrine was truly impressive. Most of the people are crowding on top of stairs so it is still possible to enjoy the view from down below. By this time the rain has (strangely) let up, so I did another quick piece while taking a rest from all the walking.