Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The New Nordic Museum

11/18/18 the new Nordic Museum

Back in 2013 in the early days of the Friday sketchers, we met at the old Nordic Heritage Museum. A bit dark and dingy, the old building in Ballard had a small selection of traditional artifacts and historic exhibits. In fact, the brightest spot was a large hallway display of architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower showing what the new Nordic Museum building would look like when it was completed in 2018.

11/18/18 Looking down on the main floor
That seemed like a long way off, but on Sunday we completed that circle when USk Seattle met at the newly reopened Nordic Museum near Salmon Bay. A far cry from the old one, the new building is large, modern and bright. Although brilliantly sunny that morning, the temperature was only in the high 30s, but Michele and I decided to bundle up for a sketch of the back of the building from the parking lot. Sketching dark glass and steel that met at sharp angles, I experienced strong déjà vu of last August when I sketched the newly reopened Bell Museum in St. Paul, which had also started out in a dark, dingy building.

In addition to the usual museum visitors crowd, many people were there for Julefest, a holiday tradition in its 41st year. Enjoying traditional music wafting out from the auditorium tent as we sketched, Michele and I were going to make that our next stop. Just as we found seats and pulled out our pens, though, the musicians stopped and took a break. We began wandering among the Julefest vendors and got distracted by all manner of cashmere scarves (which we bought!), grog, handcrafted ornaments and Viking horns, not to mention the museum exhibits themselves.

Whew! With all of that grabbing for my attention, it’s amazing that I got a second sketch done at all! Walkway bridges on the upper level connect opposite sides of the building. I picked one to peer over and sketched people queued up for food and shopping for scarves and hats.

I barely skimmed the surface of all that the Nordic Museum has to offer, so I’m definitely planning to return later for a more thorough look.

Architectural renderings by Stephanie Bower in the old Nordic Museum, April 2013.
(Photo by Carleen Zimmerman)

Interior of the new Nordic Museum

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rejuvenation at Cannon Beach

11/13/18 Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park

We’ve been returning to Cannon Beach, Oregon, nearly every year since we discovered it three decades ago. A small beach town that’s crowded in the summer, it’s deserted once the weather turns cold and stormy – which is our favorite time to go. February, May, October, November and even December are the months we choose, and the weather can change from sunny and chilly one moment to stormy and windy the next and back to sunny again. It’s best not to check the weather report – just pack a range of jackets and layers and see what you get.

11/13/18 The Needles through a rain-spattered window.
Last week we got the full range – sunshine, a little rain, a lot of rain, high winds, deep fog, overcast skies. During the pleasant weather, we walked on the beach for miles. During the less pleasant weather, we stayed in our hotel room, where Greg photographed from the deck and I sketched through the wide windows. That’s really all there is to do in Cannon Beach – and that’s all we need. A few days of that, and we return home with our spirits rejuvenated.

Sketching from our room, I pulled out the full arsenal of sketch supplies – even larger papers that I never take on location. When we walked on the beach, I stuck only a Field Notes and a couple of pens into my jacket pockets. It’s a nice balance between maximalism and minimalism.
 One goal for the trip was to make at least one 9-by-12-inch full-color sketch, possibly to frame if I liked it enough. A second goal was to take lots of photos to use for reference sometime during the long winter months. As you know, I’m not a fan of drawing from photos, but I would like to make one of Cannon Beach and practice the techniques I learned in class last year. 

I did make one sketch that might qualify for a frame, but it’s not my favorite of the visit. My favorite is the graphite-only sketch at the top of the post that I made in my usual DIY sketchbook signature. Because we always stay right on the beach in front of iconic Haystack Rock (and the smaller Needles surrounding it), I tend to focus on that up-close-and-personal view. But a mile or two north at Ecola State Park, the view of the same rocks takes on an entirely different dimension. From that distance, I realize that those ancient mammoth boulders are only tiny pebbles next to the mighty Pacific. And if we were walking next to Haystack, we would be smaller than grains of sand.

That’s how tiny we are in the grand picture. It’s reassuring.






11/15/18 On our last morning before we left for home, the sun was finally bright enough to make a full-color sketch with
plenty of light and shadows. I finished this hastily, even as housekeeping was knocking on our door (we were a bit late
for checkout).

11/14/18 sunset (9"x12" watercolor paper)

11/13/18 Sunset from Ecola State Park

11/14/18 beach dwellers

In the sunshine . . . 

. . . under overcast skies. . . 

. . . in the foggy cold. . . 

. . . Cannon Beach will always be one of our favorite places on earth.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


11/12/18 Workers cutting cheese blocks
11/12/18 A worker inspecting the wrapping process.

After staying a night in Astoria, we continued down the coast on Highway 101 to Tillamook. Although it’s only an hour or so south of Cannon Beach, we hadn’t been to Tillamook in years – certainly not since I started sketching. The Tillamook Cheese Factory, the city’s main attraction, was completely remodeled earlier this year, so it was a good time to revisit.

Following the excellent self-guided tour, we learned all about the cheesemaking process from cow to grocery store. Visitors can view the entire factory from the floor above, looking down onto the workers through ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall windows. I was impressed by the free, well-designed tour. The workers wear blue uniforms that complement so well with all that yellow and orange cheese!

11/12/18 Small thumbnail of dairy exterior
Of course we sampled all the cheeses (and dined on grilled cheese sandwiches in the Creamery café), and they were delicious. I recommend the Cape Meares variety, which I’ve never seen in local stores, so we bought a loaf. In the gift shop, many unusual types of cheeses are available, including some that have been aged for several years and, like wine, are priced accordingly.

Cheesy decorations

Saturday, November 17, 2018


11/11/18 Flavel House

Although we visit Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast nearly every year, this week we tried something new by stopping first in Astoria. A port city on the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria has several historic attractions, and at the top of our list to visit was the Flavel House Museum. (I haven’t seen the 1985 film The Goonies, but apparently this museum was featured in it.) I had just enough late-afternoon light dipping below the trees to sketch the house itself, which is in the Queen Anne architectural style.

I didn’t sketch much inside (small lamp inset in sketch above), but we enjoyed seeing the period furnishings, especially the beautiful woodcased tub.

11/11/18 Astoria Column
The sun was going down by the time we got to the 125-foot Astoria Column, which was built in 1926. Huffing and puffing up the spiral staircase, Greg and I had déjà vu of our climb to the top of the clock tower in Coimbra, Portugal. (We met a local man on the staircase who goes up and down the column six times a day as part of his workout routine!) Once we got out to the viewing platform, however, our workout was rewarded with a sunset and spectacular view of Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia and even a bit of the Pacific.

A long climb up this spiral staircase!

11/11/18 The view from the Baked Alaska cafe where we had lunch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My Basic Caran d’Ache Palette

My basic color palette

As most sketchers eventually discover, one’s color palette is a very personal thing. Like a favorite pen, paper or bag, which are very specific to the way we draw, the other media we use, whether we sit or stand, and other personal habits, the colors we use most often depend entirely on our preferred subject matter and – even more idiosyncratic – how we perceive hues. One’s palette is something that gets refined over time. In addition, my palette tends to change seasonally and, if I’m traveling, with the location.

That said, as is obvious from all the many paint and colored pencil sets available to buy off the shelf, it helps to have a set to start with. The problem I’ve discovered is that most basic sets of 12 colored pencils are not the 12 I use most. Last year I gave a deep think about how many colored pencils a person really needs and which 12 (or 25) would be in my ideal set. Not surprisingly, that ideal set has already changed for me! And so it goes.

Recently two sketchers asked me for the color numbers of what I consider my basic Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle palette, and it occurred to me that while I listed the hues I picked out for Portugal last summer, it’s been a while since I showed my basic palette.

Shown above is the part of my basic palette that I recommended to those two sketchers who asked. I think these 10 hues would be useful to most urban sketchers. (Only color numbers are given because Caran d’Ache began using names on pencil colors only recently, and most of my older pencils have numbers only.)

The idiosyncratic part of my basic palette
Another four colors are also included in my idiosyncratic basic palette, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to others. These difficult-to-mix colors are very much based on subject matter I tend to favor. Here’s how I use them:
  • Faber Castell’s Middle Cadmium Red (217): The only non-Caran d’Ache color in my current palette, this dark, subdued red is not available in Caran d’Ache’s line, but I like it for brick buildings.
  • Gold cadmium yellow (530): This is my “heavy equipment yellow,” and I can’t leave the house without it.
  • Green (220): This unnatural shade of green is ideal for recycle bins and Seattle street signs.
  • Blue (660): This is the blue I use for the sky with my “licking” technique (please see my demo before you gag at that description). One thing I appreciate about Caran d’Ache is that all of its pigment hues are consistent across various product lines. Up until recently, I had been using 660 in a Museum Aquarelle pencil, but I switched to the same hue in the Neocolor II line, which is Caran d’Ache’s water-soluble crayon collection. The hue is identical, but I find it faster to lick a rich swipe of pigment from the crayon than from a pencil tip. I consider this blue somewhat idiosyncratic because in its dry state, it looks way too dark for the sky, but when “licked,” it dilutes significantly.

 Since the photos above didn’t reproduce the colors as accurately, I’ve also included scanned images below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Master of the Foreshortened Pose

11/8/18 10-min. pose
11/8/18 2-min. poses

After Randy finished a series of five-minute poses, many of which included challenging foreshortened limbs (challenging for me, not him), I quipped to our model that he was the master of the foreshortened pose. (I was complaining as much as complimenting him.) He obliged by giving me several more.

11/8/18 2-min. poses

11/8/18 5-min. poses

11/8/18 5-min. poses

11/8/18 10-min. pose

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pinehurst Pea Soup

11/8/18 Pinehurst neighborhood

It was another pea soup morning, but the weather report said that the fog would lift by noon. Fog often seems thicker further north, so I head out to the Pinehurst neighborhood, where tall firs fringe the sky even in residential areas. On a quiet street with no sidewalks, I parked in a spot that may not have been legal, but I saw very few cars going by.

Even as I sketched, the fog had started to lift; for a while, I could barely see those trees.

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