Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sketches from Venice, Italy

Doge's Palace–standing in the river of tourists

Last August I traveled to Venice to visit a close friend of mine. Plans changed and she could no longer come to the city. The trip suddenly turned into a unique chance to spend one week alone with my sketchbook undistracted, with no other obligations but to draw. I was in heaven!

To celebrate I headed to a quaint trattoria in Sant' Elena and set out to sketch the local clientele over a glass of house wine and an appetizing plate of Spaghetti alle vongole.

First dinner in Sant' Elena–a quiet neighborhood bordered by a pleasant park and away from the flood of tourists

Sketching the clientele on the outdoor terrace

As with many Italian dishes I am not sure what I enjoy more–the food or its name. In this case the name "vongole" is onomatopoeic with the sound small clam shells make against your fork as you try to twist the fork in the heap of spaghetti. The chef was watching me impatiently as I drew, desperately signaling that the dish is going to get cold if I don't put down my pen and pick up my fork.

Spaghetti alle vongole

I spent the next few days roaming the city with my sketchbook, dodging aggressive pigeons and selfie sticks. Even in August there are plenty of peaceful corners like this one on Rielo dei Furlani.

Rielo dei Furlani

My small but lovely room in the Venice neighborhood of Dorsoduro

An obligatory sketch of the Piazza San Marco. Found a quiet spot with a great vantage point from the Museo Correr second floor café

Basilica San Marco
St. Mark's Clocktower with its winged lion 
Going out to dance tango in Venice I get distracted by the amazing setting—the decadent architecture of the Hotel Hungaria on Lido island. It is hot and humid. Dancers fan themselves on the gorgeous outdoor terrace.

Tango Dancing at Hotel Hungaria

San Marco neighborhood
Cute café called Osteria de Baba café. The lady in pink sat there and ranted into space over her espresso for over 30 minutes

On my last day in Venice I decided to challenge myself  to create a continuous unfolding spread of Grand Canal only giving myself 30 minutes per two panels. I used the spiffy Navigator sketchbook that was one of the give-aways at the Manchester Urban Sketchers Symposium. See the final result.

Here is the beginning starting with the east side

Better hurry—only 7.5 hours of day light left to go. Stopping for a quick espresso
 I ended up sketching continuously for 12 hours and completed the stretch of the canal between Ponte di Rialto and Ca' Rezzonico in the course of one very long day.

See the final result.

Last sweet drops of Portland's Summer 2016

Other sketchers successfully demonstrate that you could produce amazing work even in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of Minnesota or Stockholm winter. I am not so brave, which is why I was truly savoring the last few dry sunny days of the beautiful Portland summer.

Downtown Portland from the Burnside bridge
Portland in scaffolding. For better or worse the city is being demolished, rebuilt,and gentrified even more

"If you don't like my CD, send it back, and I will send you one I don't like..." advertises Bob in his raspy voice as the duo poses between their blue grass songs. They sing about having problems with IRS and wanting to pay more taxes if it means having decent education and medical care for everyone. The lovely, low key farmer's market in the waning hours of the summer in Portland.

King Market Live Band

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sketches from British Columbia

Scraggily hemlock against the muted hues of the Tonquin beach. 30 minutes.

A photo posted by Rita Sabler (@ritasabler) on

12 Hours on Grand Canal

Complete book (now with the West side) of sketches created over 12 hours of sketching the Grand canal between Ca'Rezzonico and Ponte di Rialto. On the last day of my visit to Venezia I gave myself a fun challenge to fill the entire Laloran accordion sketchbook with the facades of the beautiful palazzos lining the canal. With roughly 15 minutes per panel the entire project took 12 hours of pretty much non-stop sketching.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Biking and sketching the Pacific Coast from Coos Bay to Arcata in 5 days (with one morning of unintentional cyclocross)

Here is a day by day map of the biking tour along with the food we consumed to power us up the coastal hills.

Day 1: North Bend, OR to Port Orford, OR

The Pacific coast cycling and sketching adventure started at this sleepy Southwest Oregon regional airport. As I am sketching the airport building and the bridge behind it the gusts of wind are so strong I let the wind move my hand and watch it draw lines on paper.

Of course I could not help myself and not a do a super quick sketch of my neighbor on the airplane–flying from Portland to North Bend, OR–the whole 40 minutes in the air!

Loading on raw fish protein in Coos Bay before 60 miles of riding. This is a cyclist equivalent of pouring premium fuel in the tank.

Only about 3 miles away from our final destination for Day 1, when the anticipation of food, rest, hot bath, and other creature's comforts grew all the more incessant I get my first (and luckily last) flat of the trip. Here is a "Fixing a flat tire in 7 easy steps tutorial". Biking along highway 101 one has to ride over tons of shattered glass, gravel, truck parts, animal corpses, and nails. Getting a flat is pretty inevitable.

Redfish Marine Reserve

This view and a glass of wine is a fantastic reward after 60 miles of biking the coastal hills.

Day 2: Port Orford to Harris Beach Camp Ground

First time trying tayberries (from the local Co-op)—more tart and softer than marionberries. I used their own juice to draw them.

Off to bike another 57 miles but first we are grabbing some lunch and doing a quick sketch of this couple from Mendocino–both retired public school teachers–who are here for some kite surfing.

Day 3: Harris Beach to Crescent City, CA

Clifford Kamph Memorial Park, CA

Cycling Pacific coast adventure continues. Some "helpful" people at this camp site decided we were carrying way too much weight on our bikes and decided to take our tire pump to make our load lighter.

Staying with Patree in Crescent City, CA

She made us a raisin pizza for dinner and fed us lots of home made bread for breakfast Patree is a tattooed 50 something year old liberal leaning retiree in predominantly conservative Crescent city, California. The main employers here is Pelican Bay State Prison and a giant Wallmart. Patree rents out a room in her house, listens to NPR, commands Alexa (the Amazon voice robot), and collects giant red lips and other brick a bracks.

Day 4: Crescent City to Prairie Creek Redwood Park

Tallest, some of the oldest, and most graceful living beings on earth–the majestic redwoods. Biking through these beauties made biking up the highest hill of the trip (1250 feet) almost pleasant.

Prairie Creek Redwood/Murrelet State Parks

Camping surrounded by elk, mosquito swarms, and bears, drinking water out of the creek, and eating half raw noodles with a knife because we didn't pack any utensils.

Day 5: Prairie Creek to Arcata

The day started out with some unintentional cyclocross–the path that was supposed to get us in and out of the coastal edge of the Prarie Creek park was really not that bike friendly. We had to carry our bikes over the giant fallen trees had blocked the path in 4-5 places. Additionally, crossing multiple creeks, steep and dusty gravel roads that had to be shared with giant SUVs all made for a long and tiresome trip out of the beautiful wilderness area where we spent the night.

Fortunately, the rest of the trip that day was incredibly scenic–passing Humboldt lagoons, sweeping vistas of the ocean and the cliffs, and finally the last 11 miles of mostly off road trail (Hammond trail) that took us straight to Arcata.

Final point on the Pacific coast cycling and sketching tour—the funky and sweet town of Arcata, CA with its hippy feel and old houses like this one.

Windy sketching conditions

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Another Fantastic International Womens' Day in Hood River

Friends have gathered in the famous Pooley house kitchen to chat and make pasta.

Michael Vincera strumming away...
Chris Perkins playing Tchaikovsky and a game of Balderdash follows.

Jeff is starting on a batch of fresh home made scones for the high tea ceremony.

Bonus addition to the weekend–impromptu theatrical performances and Caitlyn as an evil step-mother Harriet Cotton.

Manda in one of her spectacular vintage dresses.

The Art and Habit of Travel Sketching Lecture in Manchester

I am preparing some great travel-sketching tips, inspiration, and tool ideas for my lecture in Manchester. Happy to report that I will be pulling from the experiences from yet one more amazing sketching expedition of 2016. In a few weeks I will be heading to Cuba. These last few months the US government has been gradually easing the restrictions on travel to the forbidden island. I have been extremely curious about the country and can't wait to draw the Trinidad's colonial architecture, street musicians of Old Havana, and all of the colorful characters that I would meet there.

As usual, when going on a sketching adventure I am making a new sketchbook. I typically use colorful fabric prints or old maps for my covers and commercial book cloth for the spines. For this book about a very special place I decided to try out new material– leather. A friend of mine is a shoe maker and I am heading to his shop to rummage through a pile of leather scraps that might work.

A new sketchbook is in progress. The signatures are sewn together and ready for the next step
My time-tested DIY sketching gadget is an elastic pen and watercolor holder that fits snugly around my sketchbook and keeps everything organized. It has an added benefit of protecting the pages of my sketchbook by keeping the book tightly shut. The holder is super easy to make out of an extra wide elastic.

Elastic holder/organizer is easy to make on your own fitting precisely the size of your book and the shape of your tools
I am also taking a make-up artist tool-belt with me. Designed for use by makeup artists is clips around the waist and allows for easy access to your water colors, pens and pencils while your hands are busy holding a sketchbook. It is especially useful for those of us who do a lot of sketching standing up. Not having to hold your pen in your mouth while you are switching between that and your brush frees you up for conversations with the locals.

Makeup artists use this belt for painting faces–I think it makes for a perfect sketcher's belt

I am only hoping this would not look too much like a dreadful fanny pack when I travel
Happy sketching and see you in Manchester!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pick your poison: Presidential Candidates as Pharmaceutical Products

After the unbearably long and absurd circus that has become the US presidential elections the first votes are finally being cast in Iowa today. With only a few days before the first presidential primary I started working on a series called "Pick your Poison" looking at each presidential candidate as a pharmaceutical product with his or her own set of active ingredients and side effects. Here are the results of this investigation.

Donald Trump

Bernie Sanders

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Hillary Clinton

Ted Cruz

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

End of the Summer 2015 Highlights

Beach sketch
Scenic protected beach, South of Battle Rock

Haunted House
The house that looked a bit haunted and deserted

Dave, the Kayaking Guide
Sandwiches and beer with our sweet kayaking guide Dave on his Birthday

Moon Eclipse
Waiting for the lunar eclipse from the overlook of University of Portland campus

St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Sketchcrawl near the Immaculate Heart Catholic Church on N.Williams
King Farmer's Market
Portland Parks and Farmer Market Characters

Adrian Jost
Adrian Jost and his bandoneon

Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club Adios Tour at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall 

Mio Sushi
Dinner at Mio Sushi