Sunday, 23 April 2017

Town inside Town, Alviso

I have contemplated going to a nearby park on the coast to paint for a few months now. The reason why I never made it there is because the horrible experience I’ve had at the park nearby, where I was swarmed by flies as I biked down the trail filled with stagnant air. The coastline was nowhere to be seen, it was taken over by salt ponds and water treatment plants. Since I had plenty of time to spare that afternoon, I headed to Alviso Marina County Park. The way to the park did not bode well, it was basically an extension from my usual commuting route. The air is hot and dry and the sceneries are the same as usual, trees, cars, boring town houses, and more trees. As I got over the highway however, cars disappear suddenly and before I knew I was the only one on the road. As I crossed a bridge, I saw a brick warehouse on the left of the road. Normally there is nothing surprising, but this is Silicon Valley, and I don’t recall seeing a proper red brick building in a long time. 


So I braked immediately and parked my car on the side of the road. Other than a few cyclist riding by, there were hardly any foot or car traffic. Right about when I finished though, there was indeed one Caltrain heading South that came by (that was when I realized the dyke behind the warehouse is actually a train track.

The town of Alviso is actually much more interesting than I expected. Many old houses / warehouses from back when it was a major port for both ferry and railway traffic. The coastal park also looks new and well-maintained. I’ll definitely be back for more!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hey that's something on the way home!

I was scouting for afterwork sketch locations as usual when I noticed the nice shadows casted by the tree. Since the building in question is an apartment complex, I felt more confident about standing in front of it without drawing too much attention. So I turned right and parked my car at an inconspicuous dead end, walked back and took up my place in the shade. There were a few people walking by after work, and a few families heading out for a stroll, but there were very few foot traffic so I had the sidewalk to myself! There was also an interesting guy who, after confirming that I am Chinese, started telling me that he knows 2 Chinese who were studying biochemistry, and that one of them he knew since he was 5 and that he had perfect teeth even though he never went to the dentist. To which I could only reply...lol ehmmm, but sorry I don't think I know them...


Monday, 10 April 2017

Painting spree continues in...Golden Gate Park!

I continued my painting spree the next day in a beautiful Spring in SF's Golden Gate Park. Our meetup group's real reason was to sketch the blooming rhododendrons (that have big magenta pink flowers cluttered together) However, there were so many things going on in the park (radio-controlled steam boat racing, biking, people walking their dogs, etc) that our group all got distracted and scattered around the park. I remembered bring some snacks for lunch so I didn't end up starving to death in the park this time!

I parked my car in the nearby neighbourhoods of Ocean Beach and then biked to Golden Gate Park after saying to my friend who lives nearby. I was so wrong about the parking situation in the park, thinking it was going to be very crowded on a pleasant Sunday noon. Actually there are a lot of places to park along the roads, especially that I have a bike to roam around. 


People watching the radio-controller model boat race. I intended to draw the dog enjoying the sun with its owner, but by the time I got back to colouring it, the pair was long gone....oh well. Apparently the tree whose trunk I sat on when doing this piece is called a tea tree. (Still named so even though nobody uses its leaves to make tea anymore) It has a very twisted and worn trunk and a nice shade, perfect for sitting and sketching!


Next I got around to the rhododendrons groves. But the big tree in the middle of the grove was so elegant and eye-catching I ended up sketching that instead. (A fellow sketcher's bike was parked next to it) I tried to use more raw colours than mixing neutral grays this time


After finishing the piece in the grove, I was feeling really cold (because it was damp and shaded between the trees) so I got on my bike and took a small tour through the park. Just as I rode into the no-car zone, I saw a small fall spilling into a pond. I never noticed it before (maybe because of the draught last few years) and really liked the green colour of the pond. I quickly pulled this piece together in 15 mins before I need to rush to the nearby cafe to share sketches with fellow sketchers.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Coyote Point revisited

Time was ripe for another visit to Coyote Point, a nice little corner out in the bay in San Mateo that has a beautiful coastline and nice breeze. Plus it is very easy to find parking in the surrounding neighbourhoods and take a stroll along the bay trail to the park itself. Double plus it lies under SFO's approach path, so it never gets boring with planes coming and going all day long. 


Sunlight really brings out the shape of the roof, this one was done on the bay trail before entering the park proper. I was far away enough that nobody in the house got suspicious of me...maybe


The long grasses and marsh, with the San Mateo bridge and Foster City in the background. You know the grasses are long when I forgot to pick up my palette when I finished, and then spent 10 minutes looking for it in the grass when I came back looking for it...


Last year I challenged myself to paint the yacht to a less-than-satisfying result. This time I came back armed with opaque white ready to give another try. Okay I lied, I searched everywhere for my precious Titanium White gouache tube but couldn't find it, so I brought my next best hope, Naples Yellow instead. It is far from white, but enough to stand out against the darks (as seen in the first boat) Oh, the twisted shapes on the left was the shade casted by the tree out of the frame.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bringing a much-traveled book home

This weekend I had a very important mission, to return a book (Runaway horses by Mishima Yukio) that has stayed and traveled with me for the past 8 months back to the East Asian Library. My progress through the book was so slow so I insisted on taking it with me on every trip because of the guilt. In the end, I estimate that it has clocked up 6 round trips to Asia with me. 4 of them to China, 1 to Taiwan, and 1 to its homeland in Japan. The book probably has never returned to Japan since it was published in the Showa period...so it is always interesting to think how the book might end up after this.


I picked my previous spot along the slopes of Hearst Avenue. Even though I walk pass this location every day on my way from between my apartment and the lecture halls, the way the streets split up and curve up never fails to captivate me. The shadows casted by the greens and colours of the retro apartment buildings are also fun to watch.


After my emotional farewell with the book, I noticed the long shadows behind the East Asian Library itself (the dark shape to the left) and the building behind it. The Sunday is quiet at Berkeley because it was the last day of Spring Break and students usually don't come back until late evening. As I had the walkway and warm sun to myself, it was truly an enjoyable moment...except that I am starving (it was close to 1pm and I didn't really have breakfast) So I was glad when the sun helped out and dried the paints for me with extra swiftness! Then there was the long walk downhill to where I parked my car (I was still recovering from my trauma the day before venturing into the hills of San Francisco downtown)