Sketch in the Time of Covid

It was the weekend and it was time to get out and bird and sketch. Both activities are paragons for social distancing.

Birding is done out in the open away from crowds of people. And for sketching, I sketched and painted in my car, to avoid people peering over my shoulder and breathing on my ear and asking, “Whadaya doing?”

After my humble breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee, I headed down the coast on Highway 1 into San Mateo County. I planned to sketch and bird my way down the coast as far at Gazos Creek.

Most of the parking lots were closed and traffic was light. My first stop was at Devil’s Slide and I sketched the coastline with the ruined World War II bunker. I worked quickly, finishing the pencil sketch, line work, and painting in 15 minutes. I was able to do this because I worked wet-on-wet (not waiting for the paint to dry before adding another tone or color) and painted the scene just in sepia. In the end I was not trilled with the sketch. It was too standard and didn’t really leap off the page. So I looked at it as a warm up to get my sketching muscles moving!

I drove south through Pillar Point and Half Moon Bay and pulled off Highway 1 at Pigeon Point. I pulled off the road on a dirt shoulder. Through the windshield was Pigeon Point Lighthouse and the sprawling buildings at it’s base. Now it was time to sketch.

I started with purpose. I wanted to be freer and looser in my line work and painting. I first loosely sketched in the scene in pencil and then I wet the sky with clean water. I laid in Payne’s gray and purple clouds with no regard for the actual color or if paint crossed the line work into the lighthouse. I boldly painted one side of the tower in purple. I was not going for a realistic color palette but painting from a place of emotion and playfulness. I guess that what happens when you are cooped up at home for the last three days, peering at screens. I painted wet-on-wet, not caring if the color ran together or if I created blooms. There was a true sense of improvisation in this painting and I loved it! I flicked a loaded brush on the paper creating emotive paint splatter. I was painting like a kindergartner!

I after laying down the paint, I did a brief seawatch through the passenger side window. No northern fulmars or kittiwakes. I returned to the painting, which was still wet. I chose to use a Micron 005 (a very fine line) to loosely sketch in the forms, leaving broken lines and child-like scribbles. I completed the sketch in about 15 minutes. Done!

After a proper seawatch with my scope, where I did see a dark morph northern fulmar, about 300 yards from shore. I headed south to Gazos Creek, took a left at Gazos Creek Road and did some bucolic driving towards Butano State Park and Pescadero.

I drove through Pescadero and headed north on Stage Road. At the intersection of San Gregorio Road I found my next subject to sketch: the San Gregorio General Store. The store was opened in 1889 and was across the rode from the stage coach stop.

This buidling, which also houses the tiny post office, is literally a general store where they sell everything: books, brooms, beer, hats, gloves, scarves, groceries, seeds, rakes, hoes, pottery, glassware, cast iron skillets, postcards, posters, and the kitchen sink. Today the store was closed and would not reopen again until April 7 (hopefully). Apparently the San Gregorio General Store is considered a “non-essential” business. That could have fooled me!

I again used a very loose and free style while painted the store. The sketch to no more than 20 minutes.
Sketching in the Time of Covid-19. Say in you vehicle and don’t talk to strangers!

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