Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category


Griffith Observatory

September 13, 2018

Last weekend I visited my little brother in LA. Turns out he lives within walking distance to the Griffith Observatory, which is a place that I have been wanting to visit for many years. It’s a steep little hike to get up there, but totally worth it.

Unfortunately the observatory didn’t open until noon and I was there at about 10AM, so I didn’t get to see inside. But while I was up there I did some pencil sketches.

After I got back from the trip I inked and shaded.

This is a bit out of my comfort zone. I mostly draw people, and I get really impatient when it comes to architecture and nature. I did kind of a sloppy hasty job here, but I still had a lot of fun.

I recently bought some brush pens and I have enjoyed experimenting with line quality. I think the brush pen is a great tool for drawing foliage and stuff, but I am definitely going to need more practice.

After I finished I remembered that my pal — rad artist, and lover of sharks– Jessica Hickman proclaimed September to be Sharktember, a drawing challenge where you draw a shark everyday. So I decided to put a hidden shark or two into everything I draw this month.

Here is the new and improved Sharktember version. See if you can find the sharks.


Bus People

August 25, 2018

A loooong time ago I posted about a trip I took to NYC where I did a bunch of little caricatures of people on the subway and it was really fun and definitely a lightbulb experience. It was sort of the kick off of a new style for me, drawing these little portraits of people with big heads.

Recently on our trip to San Francisco we took the Big Bus Tour where you can get a pass to ride these cool double decker buses and you can hop on and off whenever you want. It was the perfect opportunity to do little portraits of other riders.

First of all, shout out our tour guide, Sparkle, who was so damn funny she made the rides such a blast. We actually got a 2-day pass for the big bus, and on the second day when we were waiting at the stop Richard said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Sparkle was the tour guide again?” And then got on and there she was! We were thrilled. With so many buses going around at once, the chances that we would get on her bus two days in a row seemed pretty low. We were so lucky! I’m pretty sure she moonlights as a stand up comedian because she was cracking us up constantly.


The coolest thing about doing these little portraits is that it forces me to really look at  strangers. And when I do that I start noticing things.


Like if the person has a nervous little tick, or fantastic eye make up, or a really methodical way that they take things out of their bag, or they are reading something really unusual, or they’re wearing shoes that look like they decorated them by hand.


I see all these little things that make them suddenly seem so vulnerable and beautiful and interesting, stuff I never would have seen that if I wasn’t paying so close attention to them. In those moments I feel lucky that I got to see them in that way.


When I am drawing people out in public I try to be as discreet as possible because there is nothing more awkward than that moment when I get caught.

“Hey what are you doing? Are you.. drawing me?”

“Uh, yeah. Sorry. Please don’t be creeped out, I’m not obsessed with you or anything, this is just what I do. And you happened to be in my line of vision which made you the most convenient person to sketch, but as I was looking at you and noticed how beautiful and human you are and I really wanted to document it.”

“Okay, I’m leaving now.”


I carry a small notebook that keep half hidden in my lap and I wear sunglasses so that people are less likely to notice me staring at them.

I only had a few minutes to draw each person on the bus. I started with pencil, quickly sketching their face and the most interesting details about their clothing and stuff.


Then later, like back at the hotel, or on the plane ride home, I went back over the lines in ink. And sometimes I added a background. Since we were on a city tour, I threw in major San Francisco landmarks.


After that I colored them with colored pencil. I did most of these back in Phoenix, after the trip was over, which is sort of a nice way to extend a vacation. Working on the drawings allowed me to relive those moments on the tour.


It was also a good chance to experiment with color theory. Since I didn’t make any notes on what colors people were wearing, I just made it up, and played around with combinations.


I had so much fun doing these little portraits.


Hiking vs Drawing. HatMan vs the Elk

June 19, 2016

A couple weeks ago I went to Estes Park, Colorado with my husband and his awesome family. Estes Park—which is within minutes of the RMNP—is basically paradise. The place we stayed—a bunch of cabins at the edge of town called Idlewilde—is a paradise within paradise. The Big Thompson river raged right outside our porch. Snow covered mountains continually took my breath away. And beautiful wildlife roamed the town freely, undisturbed by dorky humans gawking at them.

The average high while we were there was 60 degrees, which happens to be one of my favorite degrees. (And half what we are experiencing right now in Phx).

A couple days before the trip, I hit up AZ Art Supply for some new pens. I probably didn’t need knew pens, I could have scavenged my art supply drawers and made due with what I have. But I guess it’s like buying a new dress for an upcoming wedding. I could wear one of my old ones and I probably wouldn’t look much different too everyone else. But in a new dress I would feel better and newer, and subconsciously I would be more excited to attend the event. With new pens I would be more excited to draw.

Or so I thought.

But as frequently happens, my soul’s desire to be creative went head-to-head with my body’s need to be active. This seems to be one of the major struggles of my life. And I admit, in the universe of struggles, this is NOT something to complain about. It’s definitely preferable to say, having to choose between feeding your family vs putting a roof over their head. Or going to work vs going to Urgent Care.

Hiking vs drawing is not exactly a Sophie’s Choice situation. It’s a wanting my cake and eating it too situation. But I will say that for me, being active and being creative are both necessary components to my mental health. I am at my best when I do both. I am in trouble when I do neither. And when I have to pick between either/or… well, I’ll be fine, but it’s just hard to know which way to go.

Anyhow, when I got to paradise and saw all that beautiful nature, I was torn between sitting down to capture it on paper, or walking in and becoming a part of it. In the end, the mountains called, and I had to go. I know that John Muir would understand. Michael Petry probably would not.  😉


So here’s how a typical day went. Wake up, drink coffee, and head into the RMNP for a challenging hike. Return to cabin, scoop up Richard, and head back out for a shorter, more leisurely hike. Return to cabin to shower, nap, and read. Take lawn chairs out to sit by the Big Thompson river. Spend the evening hanging outside with the rest of the family, eating dinner, drinking beer, occasionally running back into the cabin to check basketball scores, and maybe taking a nighttime walk up the road to the YMCA of the Rockies to look for deer and elk.

Pretty damn great, right?

To quote my little brother at age nine: There IS such a thing as too much paradise.”

Anyhow, I did manage to do a little sketching here and there. Not as much as I wanted, but there was just so much effing paradise going on.

I did one pretty cool sketch of Richard as he was sitting on the couch in our cabin reading. Richard has a lot of unusual hats, and he was wearing one that night. That hat made for a fun sketch. I spent a lot of time on the inking, but I never got around to putting in the background or colors.

Another night, while we were in the cabin, winding down for bed, Richard suddenly shouted, “HOLY SHIT!!!”

I said, “What? Is there a bee?”

(He’d found a bee in our enclosed porch earlier and his frustration with it had been a little over dramatic, IMHO.)

“No! Antlers!”


“Out the window!”


“Just put down that drink and come outside!”

And so out we go, and right there in front of our cabin is the biggest most beautiful elk I had ever seen. We spent the next hour stalking the poor thing like paparazzi as it strolled the grounds, snacking on grass. To the elk’s credit he did not seem to mind us at all. In fact, sometimes he would stand a certain way, turning his head, as if posing for a picture.

elk by river

If Richard hadn’t spotted it, that elk would have walked circles around our cabin all night and I never would have known.

Yesterday I was looking at that unfinished drawing and trying to figure out what to do with the background. Then I remembered that cool experience with the elk. That’s it! Instead of adding the background that was actually behind him when I did the sketch – a boring old wall and TV – I drew a window with the grazing elk, and the river beside him. Then I colored it with colored pencils.

So here it is. My one and only completed drawing from Estes Park. But at least it captures my favorite moment from the trip. And that goofy hat.

HatMan vs the Elk

Happy Accident: In the drawing, Richard is holding a book, but he isn’t looking at the book. That was an error. I didn’t draw his eyes pointing in the right direction. I make that mistake a lot. The effect here is that it looks like Richard is distracted by a thought or something, which is preventing him from reading.

Now with the background added in, it looks like Richard is sensing the elk standing outside the window and he is about to turn his head. And that is pretty cool because he is always spotting things that I seem oblivious to. Like in our house, he has found dozens of scorpions, and I never find any. It’s almost as if he has a sixth sense for that kind of stuff.

Hey! Maybe that’s his super power! And if so, maybe his hats are what give him that power! Look out world. Here comes HatMan!



Street Performers

July 10, 2013

Sketches of New York: Now vs Then

One the cool things about New York is the abundance of talented performers. Everywhere you look there is some dancer, singer, mime, banjo player, or acrobat putting on an awesome show. Here is a guy I came across in the subway station back in 2000.



(Back then I drew on both sides of the page, so that’s the shadow of the flip side in the background there. )

These guys (below) were part of an acapella group that performed on front steps at the Met. There always seem to be a ton of people loitering on the steps of the Met, so that must be prime real estate. I wonder if performers ever get into hair-pulling territorial street fights the way hookers often do.*

(*Everything I know about hookers I learned from TV.)



Looks like after 13 years I’d grown too lazy to quote the actual song they were singing, and have opted instead to slap on a few of those universal symbols of music.

But wait! See the baseball cap on that guy on the left? That is without a doubt the best baseball hat I have EVER drawn. And before you scoff and say “It’s a hat, big whoop” please ask yourself if you have ever drawn someone in a baseball cap before.

No? Okay take a moment to attempt that now…

Pretty damn hard huh?

Now let’s go back a look at my drawing again with this fresh new perspective…

You: Nice job on the hat.

Me: Thank you.

By the way, the name of that group was Acapella Soul and they were great. Here’s another super-toony one of them.

Acapella Soul 2013

Acapella Soul 2013

Check it out, they have a website.


NYC circa 1999

July 8, 2013

As promised, here are some cringe-worthy sketches from my Fall of 1999 sketchbook. These are all from the first time I ever visited New York City. I was 22 years old, an art student at ASU, and had been carrying a sketchbook for less than a year. I was traveling with my friends Satin and Kevin. We only had 24 hours in the city and were determined to cram every single NYC experience into that time.

Now it’s time to play… “What the heck is that???”

Ah, the perfunctory interior airplane sketch. The first of many that I would do over the years. I still have a hell of a time getting those seats right. I see that I’ve made sure to note that “Cookies Fortune” was the inflight movie. Obviously I felt that was an important detail and feared that the image I drew on the video screen would not make this clear.


Next up we’ve got another scene from inside the plane. What, this doesn’t look like the inside of an airplane to you? Please note the carefully rendered tray tables on the right. That heap of scribbles in the middle is my college pal Satin sleeping under a blanket. And to help capture the essence of the moment, I’ve skillfully added some “ZZZ” above what is quite clearly the top of her head peeking out of the blanket. IMG_0315

Okay now it is approximately 11:50 PM on Friday night. We have arrived in New York and are at the rental car place where we’ve just learned that we are 3 years shy of being able to legally rent a car. Which means that we have no way of getting to the hotel we had reserved in New Jersey.

That big scribble on the left is Satin. I was a big fan of the cross-out method in the early days. My pre-2K sketchbooks are full of X-heads. In the middle is Kevin at the counter talking to the Hertz employee. And over on the right side of the page we’ve got Satin using an ancient relic we called a “phone booth”.


Eventually we got a cab and wound up at a no-tell motel in Queens somewhere around 2 AM. We had to BEG the manager to let us rent a room for the entire night because this was normally a rent by the hour type of establishment. We crashed out for a few hours, then took another cab to Manhattan. When the driver asked us where, specifically, in Manhattan we wanted to go we just shrugged and said, “wherever.”

So he dropped us at the Empire State Building. We went to the top and I sketched pigeons while Kevin took pics with his new camera and chatted up the ladies.



Then we went to Central Park where we said, “I can’t believe we’re in New York” over and over again. As you can see, the sketch below is something of a montage of the Central Park experience. We’ve got Kev using one of those new-fangled cell phones at the top, a homeless person on a bench in the middle, and some light reflecting on the pond in the lower left there.

Actually, that was the first time I had ever (somewhat) successfully rendered the surface of water. Also, according to my notes at the bottom, the quote of the day was when Satin pondered, “I wonder if there is such a thing as a genius duck.”


Here is another scene from Central Park. A mom and some kids yelling at the (possibly) genius ducks. Across the pond we’ve got some painstakingly rendered foliage.

From there we ventured into the subway. Here is Satin on the subway platform singing “On broadway!” It’s hard to tell from my sketch whether she is crouching, or sitting, or if her legs are just broken.

Next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was way too busy talking Satin and Kev’s heads off about 19th century European paintings to do any sketching.

(Side note: that crash course in art history later proved useful when Kevin used his new found knowledge to impress a woman he met on the plane ride home. You’re welcome Kev.)

After the Met closed we found this cool-looking restaurant called “Jekyll and Hyde.” We decided to go because we like monsters. And also because we were starving and exhausted. I did this sketch of the building as we waited in line to get in. What? This doesn’t look like a building to you? Come on people, use your imagination.


Here’s my attempt at sketching the interior of the restaurant. It had this awesome haunted house theme and I really wanted to capture all the cool details. I may have overdone it just a tad. When I showed this sketch to Richard the other day he said, “Oh my god.” As in “oh my god, my eyes, they’ve been over-loaded, they cannot take in all this information at once, remove this from my view.”


Here is another attempt. This place was so neat I really wanted to remember it. And I totally do. That’s one of the reasons sketching is better than photos. It really forces you to take time to look at things and notice details. So even though I was unable to convey the awesomeness of this place through my sketch, the act of sketching it imprinted those details into my memory. And when I look at this scribbly mess I can remember everything.


Check out these pics on the restaurant’s website to see what it’s really like.

After dinner we hung out at a bar in Times Square for a while, then headed downtown. We had a bit of a snafu with the subway, hence Satin’s confusion re: the E train.


Somehow we managed to get down to Battery Park and then took a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry, where I did this final sketch. Hey check out the reflection on the water. Look familiar? I learned how to do that at Central Park.


When the ferry landed in Staten Island we got off, then turned around and got right back on. The three of us stood at the front of the boat as it skimmed across the water toward Manhattan. I can still remember the cold October air on our faces, the city lights twinkling as we approached, and Satin calling out “I’m flying Jack, I’m flying” as our amazing 24-hour adventure came to a close.

Epilogue: A few months later Kevin’s nifty new camera–which contained ALL the pictures from our trip–was stolen. Which leads me to reason #2 of why sketches are better than pictures. Without my sketchbook, there would be no evidence of the trip at all. Without my sketchbook I would have completely forgotten about the eyes that moved behind the portrait at Jekyll and Hyde’s, and the reflections on the pond at Central Park, and the E train, and the pigeons and the genius duck. All the details of one of the greatest days of my life would have eventually disappeared, and I would have never EVER remembered that Cookies Fortune was the movie on the plane. And that would have been a damn shame.


NYC Flashback

July 6, 2013

Back in 2000 I went to NYC for a second time.

By this point I had been carrying a sketchbook consistently for about two years. You’d think I’d have gotten really good by that point, but alas, I had not. One of the most frustrating things about sketching in public is that strangers always want to take a look at your drawing. And when that drawing sucks, it’s really embarrassing.

Back then my drawings sucked 100% of the time, so I was very self-conscious. But I was also determined to get better, and I knew that the only way to get better was to draw ALL THE TIME, and that meant even in public. Especially in public.

The trip to NYC in 2000 was significant to me because for the first time I was starting to produce sketches that I was proud of.

This guy was playing some sort of weird stringed instrument under a bridge near the Central Park Zoo. It was around this time that I finally started to learn how to hold back and not flood every page with a chaotic mess of lines.

Central Park 2000

Central Park 2000

This is a lightbulb sketch. Compared to what I can do now, it’s not a great drawing, but it represents a moment when I learned something big and stepped up a level.

When I did this sketch I realized that I could avoid a lot of messy confusion by letting the background details trail off before they intersect with the person in the foreground.

At some point a family of tourists came along and videotaped me as I did this sketch. I was so incredibly flattered. And for the first time ever, I was not ashamed to have them see what I was drawing.

By the way, the music this guy played was awesome, and after I did this sketch I bought his CD and have listened to it many times. It was the least I could do after the awesome moment he had given to me.


Lady Liberty Lineup

June 30, 2013

I’ve been to NYC four times, and on each trip I’ve taken a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry and sketched the Statue of Liberty. The first time was in 1999 when I had just started carrying a sketchbook. As bad as this sketch looks, it was actually the gem of the trip. All the others I did back then were atrocious. I’ll put them in the next post, just for laughs.



The second one was from a year later. A lot less ink on this page which means I had gained some confidence in my line.



The third trip was in 2005, but I can’t find the Statue of Liberty sketch from that year. I think I may have given it away.

And here is number four, June of 2013. I often use a couple different gray markers as a quick and dirty way to give the effect of a wash. On this occasion the markers were running dry, which is why I didn’t do anything with the background to indicate that it was night.



If I could go back in time I would eliminate or diminish the black outline on that island in the lower left. That line confuses the background and makes me wince every time I look at it. I’m also not so crazy about the “windows” on her podium thing. Not so much because they are misshapen, but because there are no shadows in there, so it makes it look totally empty or something. The reason I didn’t put any shadow in there was because there was actually a bright light coming from inside, but since this drawing doesn’t indicate that it is nighttime, that part looks weird.

Anyway, I guess my point is that even after 14 years of carrying a sketchbook, I still have a lot to learn. I guess I’ll just have to keep going back to NYC.


Train People

June 28, 2013

I went to NYC a couple weeks ago and brought along two sketchbooks. A 10×10 – for museums, the airplane, and other places where it’s not totally inconvenient – and one small purse-sized notepad for when I want to be inconspicuous.

The small notepad was perfect for the subway, which is often crowded, and which you have to get in and out of quickly.

The sketches I did on the train started out pretty disappointing. The same old quick gesture sketches I always do in those kind of situations. A quick couple of circles, lines, and squares to lay out the basic shapes, and then whatever details I had time to add before the person (or myself) had to exit the train. Bor-ring.

Boring gesture

Boring gesture

Then I suddenly had a flashback from 2005, the last time I visited NYC. I remembered being on the train, being disappointed by the way I was drawing, and feeling almost as if I was trying to draw one way, but my hand and pen were going for a totally different style. I remember thinking, “just go with it.” And so I did, and suddenly these sort of cool little drawings started to occur.

So I found myself having that same battle with my hand/pen and I remembered that moment from eight years ago, and decided to just go with it once again. Instead of laying out the basic shapes and gestures, I switched to a point-to-point method.

TP Gospel

Bible, now on Kindle

I’d start with one detail, generally the person’s nose, and then let the drawing grow from there using that initial point to guide me to the next, and then from that point gage the next point, and so on.

TP cosby

Back to school

For example, on the guy below, the line of his nose extends up into the left eyebrow. From there his forehead line is just a tiny bit longer than the nose and eyebrow combined. Then jump over to the other eye, which is about yey distance from the first, and then onto the ear which is always going to be farther away from the nose than you initially think, and should be no higher than the eyebrow…

TP Ho Hum

Consternation = constipation

Drawing this way can often lead to distorted-looking faces, which is why art teachers generally teach you to begin all drawings with the laying out of basic shapes. But I was just going with it. After I finished the head I would draw add a tiny little body, so that I could work in the details of their clothes and accessories. I did this all in pencil, then inked them later at restaurants or the hotel.

Here are my three favorites…

TP Scruffy


TP Plat Blonde

Legend of Billie Jean continues

TP Mellow


The sketches that came out of this experiment didn’t usually look that much like their real-life counterpart, but they had way more character than my typical gestures drawings, and they made the whole trip a lot more fun. I named them “Train People” and started giving them their own back-stories.

Like this lady, who is French and just wants to be left alone.

TP Frenchy


And this guy who means well, but always screws everything up.

TP Screw Up


You don’t even want to know what this man just got back from doing.

TP Business

Cancer Man

Because I was using this small notebook, they kind of looked like trading cards. Each day as I drew new characters it felt like I was adding to my collection. When we’d get off a train, Richard would say, “How’d you do?” And I’d be like great, “I got two more train people.”

TP studious girl

Bad news text

TP angry asian


Richard is incredibly difficult to impress, but even he liked the Train People. In fact, when were in the airport waiting to fly home, he had me make one of him. So technically, this one is an airport guy.

TP Richard

“Not For Tourists”

Yeah yeah I know it looks nothing like him.


Take that, bucket list!

January 30, 2013

I did a quick sketch of this lighthouse in Buffalo, and then colored it digitally once we got back to AZ, thus fulfilling my lifelong dream of drawing a lighthouse.



January 28, 2013

With that Lincoln movie up for an Oscar this year, it got me thinking about all the sketches I’ve done of Lincoln over the years. He was kind of an odd looking guy with that long gaunt face and weird beard, which makes him very fun to draw.  Lucky for me, there seems to be more statues of him around than anyone else in history. So whenever I come across one, I sketch it.

bust of lincoln

Disneyland art gallery, 2011

Rushmore 2

Mount Rushmore, 2003



Abe Mem 1

Lincoln Memorial, 2009


Abe Mem 2

Lincoln Memorial, 2nd attempt, 2009

Mount Rushmore, 2012

abe statue

A park in Portland, 2004

Great Moments with Abe

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Disneyland, 2012 (I did this one in the dark)