Sunday, October 19, 2014

45th Worldwide Sketchcrawl - Los Angeles: Union Station

The Los Angeles Sketchcrawl group decided to revisit our favorite sketching location: Union Station. This sketchcrawl was also a part of Big Draw LA events (http://thebigdrawla.org/), so I'm glad to meet new people that found out about this event through Big Draw LA event calendar. I could only stay for about an hour and was busy chatting with other sketchers, so I did a quick sketch in about 5 minutes, and added the colors with watercolor later. I chose to focus on the iconic lighting hanging inside the lobby area, and I love how morning light was filtering through the high ceiling and frosted glass.

shiho nakaza "Los Angeles" "Union Station" watercolor sketch sketchcrawl



Monday, October 13, 2014

Sketching Space Science Stuff

Going to public open house event at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena was on my list of "things to do in Los Angeles", so I jumped at the chance when I found that it was happening. What I didn't expect was the sheer amount of people that showed up.

It's heartening to see so many people interested in aerospace science, but it made for difficult sketching conditions. The crowd made it a challenge to find a place to draw without bumping into anyone or being my view blocked, so I colored these sketches at home. I tucked myself in an alcove between a fire hydrant and a display shelf to draw this giant vacuum chamber and an emergency shower inside the microdevices lab. There were many more fascinating-looking machines in clean rooms throughout the campus.

Shiho Nakaza JPL "Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Pasadena "Los Angeles" California sketching watercolor watercolour machine "vacuum chamber" shower


I went outside to escape the thickening crowd and jostled with another set of crowds to see some Mars rovers. I have learned from one of the many helpful JPL employees that that one on the top is a cousin of Curiosity rover that is currently on Mars, but it doesn't have a computer "brain" - hence, it's called the "Scarecrow".
The bottom one is an egress rover called "Bubba". I have multiple views of it because it was lumbering along over the rocks, just like it would on Mars, while its six wheels on levers help keep the solar panel flat and continuously facing up to the sun.

Shiho Nakaza JPL "Jet Propulsion Laboratory" Pasadena "Los Angeles" California sketching watercolor watercolour "Mars Rover" spacecraft

There were so many more I missed due to the long wait times to see them, but it's still exciting to learn that this is where the technology of the future is already happening today!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Taste of San Diego

I went on a quick day trip to San Diego a few weeks back. Coronado Beach at sunset was absolutely beautiful, and it makes me want to go back for a proper plein air painting day.

Shiho Nakaza "San Diego" beach watercolor sketch Coronado

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two years after the final flight

It's been two years since I sketched the space shuttle, Endeavor, on its way to California Science Center (while it was riding piggyback on a plane and also when it was parked). I finally had the chance to see Endeavor in its final home before the exhibit closes intermittently for payload installation. It's quite amazing to see it up close with scratches and dirt - a well-earned proof that it flew 25 times into outer space and back to earth.

shiho nakaza "space shuttle" endeavor exhibit space shuttle "los angeles" sketch watercolor

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Urban Sketching Symposium, Part 4: Views from Sugarloaf Mountain

One of the highlights of my trip to Brazil was the chance to sketch together with other artists, each with their own unique take on the world. A group of eight sketchers + one photographer visited Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) in Rio de Janeiro, and we were there for a good chunk of the day, capturing the view as best as we can. Being among talented peers inspired me to take on new approaches - using Moleskine watercolor book (which I usually don't like), working across the spread (which I normally don't do), and painting directly with watercolors (which I should do more of!) For a group post on what we did, take a look at the post on Urban Sketchers blog.

Even before the climb, you can see the mountain from all around the city. This is a sketch from Santa Teresa neighborhood, with Sugarloaf rising on the left side beyond hillside favelas. We will be taking the cable car seen in the sketch up to the top!

Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" "Pao de Acucar" "Sugarloaf mountain" sugarloaf

The cable car takes us to the lower part of the mountain. The view of the city from here is spectacular - Corcovado with Christ the Redeemer statue can be seen in the distance, overlooking the highrises by the bay with sailboats dotted throughout the sea. Turkey vultures were soaring in the wind, and occasional helicopter and planes passed through. I tried to capture them all.

Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" "Pao de Acucar" "Sugarloaf mountain" sugarloaf

The morning mist started to lift, so I can now see the long bridge across the water, beyond the tip of the city shown to the right side on the sketch above.

Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" "Pao de Acucar" "Sugarloaf mountain" sugarloaf

We'll take one more cable car to go to the very very top....

Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" "Pao de Acucar" "Sugarloaf mountain" sugarloaf

This is a view from the higher part of the mountain. It was neat to see wispy clouds gliding below my view - we're literally above the clouds! I don't like how the paint pooled in the folds of the accordion-fold sketchbook, but I did get to capture the shape of the bay more clearly from this vantage point.

Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" "Pao de Acucar" "Sugarloaf mountain" sugarloaf


Another bonus view of the mountains: I did a quick sketch from the plane at Santos Dumont airport as I began my journey back home. Goodbye, Rio. Hope to come visit again soon.
Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching "Rio de Janeiro" airport "Santos Dumont"


So many great memories, so much inspiration! I'll keep on sketching to prepare for the next Symposium.
Shiho Nakaza Brazil watercolor sketch sketching airplane window sky clouds


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Urban Sketching Symposium, Part 3: Rio de Janeiro

After the Urban Sketching Symposium in Paraty, I went to Rio de Janeiro for 3 1/2 days, and I'm glad I did. I heard that this city is very beautiful, and I saw it with my own eyes that this city indeed deserves the nickname "Cidade Maravilhosa" (Marvelous City).

First, there are the famous beaches. I live by the beach back home and watching the ocean waves makes me feel peaceful, so this was a must-visit on my list. Our group of sketchers went to Copacabana for sketching and snacking. I left this sketch unfinished to give myself time to dip my feet in the Atlantic.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" beach Copacabana

The crowd started to thin because winter sun was about to set - but the long curving coastline was a sight to behold.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" beach Copacabana


Forte de Copacabana is seen in the background of this sketch done while the sun was sinking and waves were lapping around my feet.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" beach Copacabana

I even had a chance to do a nighttime sketch when I first arrived - the colors on this sketch are whacked because I was working in the dark under a dim streetlamp, but the beach is lit up and cast gorgeous reflections in the water.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" beach Copacabana


Rio is also filled with colonial-era buildings, some in various stages of decay, especially around Santa Teresa neighborhood. We head out to Teatro Municipal in Centro, which is modeled after Opera House in Paris. I tried to aim for a sense of space.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" Centro


I also sketched Igreja Nossa Senhora de Candelária nearby - and included the coconut vendor cart in front of me.
Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" Centro

As you may be able to tell, I like to include small slices of everyday life in my sketch. I found it interesting that the military personnel was using VW vans.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" people

We also had a chance to sketch our cakes and eat it, too - at Confeitaria Colombo, which has a gorgeous Art Nouveau interior with guilt ornaments reflected in mirrors. My yellow paints are dirty, so I couldn't quite get the golden tone I wanted, but it was still fun to sketch the opulent scenery. (The caipirinha tart I ate is in the sketch above.)

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching"

On the final day I was in Rio, I opted to visit the Botanical Garden to relax before the flight instead of trying to jam-pack another sketching marathon. There was a fountain with a good view of Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain. I checked the compass to find that he has his arms pointing directly north and south, facing east to welcome those who come by sea.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" "Jardim de Botanico" "Botanical Garden" nature

While I'm used to seeing palm trees in Los Angeles, there are a lot more varieties here (including some with coconuts), and many that are quite tall. This is when I discover that having a spread with sketchbook that opens flat comes in handy.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio watercolor sketch sketching "travel sketching" "Jardim de Botanico" "Botanical Garden" nature

...and my sketching session turned into spontaneous gesture drawings of monkeys! There were a colony of wild monkeys literally "monkeying around" the grounds in addition to marmosets. It was such a treat to see wild animals within the city.

Shiho Nakaza "Rio de Janeiro" Rio pen sketch sketching "travel sketching" "Jardim de Botanico" "Botanical Garden" nature animal monkey "gesture drawing"

I also had a good chunk of time to sketch together with other artists at Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain), which is coming up in the next post....