Wednesday, 13 December 2017

View from the Top: Lafayette Park

Today I had one of my firsts! Driving into SF city proper by myself... in my manual car. I somehow came to this otherwise unthinkable decision owing to a few factors. Time of the day: 10AM on a Saturday (minimum risk for other cars) Location: A park at top of hill in Pacific Heights (probably nobody will show up at 10 AM (minimum risk for other cars) Almost impossible to reach by public transportation in a timely manner (so I can get up later in the morning) And so I ventured gingerly towards town on a bright Saturday morning after downing a few Onigiri's.

My hearts started pounding even before I got off the 101. As I was approaching the exit into town, I could feel my eardrum thumping rapidly and my palms started sweating. Thankfully as I approach the first major uphill road (with multiple intersections in between), I realized that if the cars keep a certain pace, the green lights up one after another as if leading us onto the top smoothly. So I followed the pace of the cars in front of me, and successfully made it to level ground with no incident! (I did have to keep in 2nd gear, because I was paranoid of having to brake for cars trying to cut into my lane) Anyhow, as I was approaching within one block of the park, I was asked to turn left by GoogleMaps, I signaled and glanced left and saw a big incline... along with several cars lined up for the traffic light.... so I immediately drove straight ahead. The 2nd intersection was the same, even with anti-slipping markings on the pavement! Now I fully grasp why the description said sweeping views of the the city and alcatraz...it is on top of the hill alright. In the end I parked my car on level ground the just walked up the hill so I don't put any unsuspecting cars/people at risk. 


The view was indeed splendid! Although I did need a few moment to calm myself down after the intense drive. It was also my first time hearing and seeing a woodpecker for real! I heard this knock knock sound when I just started working on my first piece, and the sketchers beside me chatted, "Oh, look at that woodpecker working, always so busy". And then when I asked, they kindly pointed out its location to me the uninitiated. I did try to contain my excitement ;P
(Alcatraz is hidden just behind the building on the right hand side)

Then I decided to find a sunny spot to work on a more city-focused view. And man was it sunny. It got so hot I took off my coat, rolled up my sleeves and still was wiping sweat off my forehead! That's California Winter for you... and I thought I was crazy when I considered bring the sunscreen along.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Quickies in Shanghai

Being kindly offered by my boss to embark on a quick 2-day business trip in China before the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to join my family in Shanghai 3 days earlier than schedule (Thursday night instead of Sunday night) I originally meant for the trip to visit my ailing grandpa, who had been hospitalized for several months. Unfortunately he passed away one day before my scheduled departure, and by the time I touched down, all the proceedings have been completed. (My family has been prepared for this for a while now, but the thoughts of the upcoming business trip did not let me fully react to the news emotionally... I'm still struggling to come to terms with my own reaction (did I under-react during the phone call? Was the right call to drop the business trip and head to our hometown first? In reality, I was afraid to call my mother directly for some weeks now in fear of hearing her breakdown after picking up the call


Anyway, here are some quickies (using a brush pen) I did while in Shanghai during the TG holiday. It was unbelievably cold (even though I've been through Canadian winters wearing my uniform skirt). You could feel the freezing damp air pierce into you.

 While resting after shopping for some books. Haikou Rd

The backstreet of Jin'An with the Shanghai Exhibition Center (formerly Sino-Soviet Friendship Building) looming in the background. It is already very rare to see a non-high rise old neighbourhood in the high-end Jin'An district, let alone one with such a dramatic backdrop! Worth braving the cold for this one

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: https://untappedcities.com/2012/03/30/architecture-spotlight-the-humboldt-bank-building/)  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!