Sunday, September 6, 2015

San Francisco, Part 3: Golden Gate Park

9/2/15 ink, watercolor
To call it a “park” is the understatement of the year. To me, a “park” is a grassy square with a few benches and trees. Golden Gate Park is more of a small city within a city. Home to several museums, a flower conservatory, an arboretum, a Japanese garden, buffalo (!), windmills and the terrific California Academy of Sciences, the whole park would have taken at least a week to experience sufficiently. All we had was one day, so we made the most of it without feeling compelled to see it all.

Our first stop was the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden, which felt serene even with the relatively large number of people walking through it while we were there. I could have sketched there all day, but I settled for a small slice of a lantern and trees on either side of a pond.

We spent the majority of our time inside the California Academy of Sciences’ spectacular Osher Rainforest, a multi-floor exhibit filled with free-flying birds and butterflies and thousands of other (non-free but definitely living) species of animals and other critters. Too busy trying to take it all in, I didn’t sketch much there, but I did fill a couple pages in my sketchbook with small studies of macaws, amphibians and butterflies that stayed still long enough for me to put down a few lines.

9/2/15 ink, colored pencils
9/2/15 ink, colored pencils
(Technical note: I’ve mentioned before that colored pencils come in handy in certain situations when watercolors aren’t practical. The Rainforest was an ideal example. I couldn’t sketch the macaws and butterflies without color, but pulling out paints in the crowd would have been unwieldy. Instead, I whipped out my small selection of water-soluble colored pencils mainly to remind myself of the brilliant hues. Later, back at our rented cottage, I gave the pencil strokes a few swipes of the waterbrush to intensify and blend colors. For example, I didn’t have an orange pencil, but I made a fairly accurate orange on the butterfly’s wings by mixing red and yellow pencils.)

After spending most of the day exploring the CAS, I was feeling frustrated that I still hadn’t sketched a dinosaur skeleton – and we’d passed several! It was nearly closing time when we finished viewing a planetarium show (the excellent and timely program, “Habitat Earth”). As we exited the theater, I found myself on a walkway bridge standing right over the T. Rex’s head! It was an irresistibly unusual perspective and an ideal last sketch of our San Francisco adventures.

9/2/15 ink, colored pencil


  1. Love those pops of color on the macaw and butterfly...great idea to use the wc pencils. I was in Golden Gate Park eons ago and remember it being so huge. I did get to the Japanese Tea Garden. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

  2. You're right about those watercolor pencils. They are very handy. I sometimes wonder why I use watercolors. Then I need to paint a sky and it's clear :-) The dinosaur point of view was an amazing opportunity, though my penchant for vertigo just might make it a different subject for me. You've captured it really well. --- Larry


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