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Amsterdam to Italy

I did another bicycle trip this summer, riding from Amsterdam to Italy. Fun times. I started in Dutch canal and windmill country, rode down through Belgium, bits of France, Luxembourg and Germany, then to Basel, Zurich, and Innsbruck, and then down through the Dolomites to just outside Venice. I went through 9 countries all told, though that includes just 20 minutes crossing Liechtenstein. I took lots of photos of gardens and stone along the way which I’ll be showing in the future. For now, these are my drawings from the trip.
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Italy Drawings

Bolgona, Via Rizzoli

These are my drawings from Italy. Mostly piazzas. I found it very pleasant to sit at a cafe or on some steps and draw a lovely Italian piazza. Towards the end are a bunch of bridges in Venice. Drawing saved Venice for me. I was shocked by the onslaught and felt bad to be a part of it, but eventually I found a bench to sit and draw Piazza San Marcos, and it felt like catching my breath. Later I drew a bunch of the bridges and ignored the crowds taking selfies on them. I missed a lot of the famous sites, but I felt good about what I did see and glad I got to see the city. Venice is amazing, Italy is amazing, I hope to go back as soon as next summer. (more…)

Switzerland Drawings

These are my drawings from Switzerland. They loosely track my progress across the country. The furthest west is from Lausanne on Lake Geneva. The last is a view from Guarda, a town in the lower Engadine near the Austrian border. The interior view and the pool are from Therme Vals, Peter Zumthor’s phenomenal thermal baths.

Foothill Watercolors

Anyone want to buy some beef? The two cows that wander our property have outgrown the space and are heading to the butcher as soon as we have enough orders for the meat. It’s time. They’re full size, they’ve eaten pretty much everything there is to eat on the property, and recently they learned how to break through the fence to get to our neighbor’s literally greener pastures. I’ve had to track them down and drive them back onto our property half a dozen times in the past month. So as soon as the meat is spoken for, they’re going off to the abattoir.

Our landlord has found takers for quite a bit of it but not all. Two full-sized cows is a lot of meat. Anita and I will take some, though it will be strange to eat animals we’ve known by name. I don’t really want to, but I feel like I have to eat them on principal, either embrace the reality of meat or become vegetarian. We’ve bought shares of free-range, grassfed cows like this in the past. The flavor was good, but it was leaner than supermarket beef and we found we needed to cook all of the cuts like game, almost always braising even when that was not the traditional way to cook the cut. The ground beef made great burgers. Our landlord wants five dollars per pound. I’m not sure how the logistics would work but anyone interested should comment or email me at ryan at buenoluna dot com and we can figure it out. (more…)

Oaxaca Watercolors

While I was in Oaxaca I tried to do a watercolor every day. I didn’t quite manage that, but I was quite prolific by my standards. Kind of fun, I’m hoping to continue maybe once a week throughout the year. This isn’t every single watercolor I did — I did a few others that I’ll mix into my upcoming posts — but it gives a decent overview of my trip while I work on my more targeted posts. The first one is from the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden in the center of town inside the walls of the historic cathedral complex. It’s a fantastic garden; I’ll do a post about it soon. The others show the main cathedral and a booth selling clothing near a side entrance. I painted a lot of agaves and palms while I was down there. Gotta like agaves and palms if you’re going to watercolor in Oaxaca.

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The Sea Ranch Bluff Trail

I was up in Sea Ranch with my family for Thanksgiving. I’d stopped there before and explored a little, and I once posted about the chapel, but this was my first time staying there. I loved it, of course; there’s a reason why it’s beloved and iconic. The landscape is dramatic, the houses are sited wonderfully in the landscape, and the hiking trail along the bluff has some great moments as it moves through the tunnel-like cypress windbreaks and the open bluffs.

While I was there I experimented with using an ipad for drawings. I didn’t save the ones that were entirely digital, but I liked the results when I hand drew a little thumbnail, photographed it with the ipad, then colored it digitally. The result is not all that different from coloring a drawing with markers, but it was quick and it let me erase or adjust the color and there’s something nice about the flatness of the digital color under the quick line work. I’ll probably experiment some more with entirely digital drawings in the future, but this method seemed like a good addition to my bag of tricks, allowing me to make two dozen sketches during a single hike.

I also did some watercolors, my first since our trip to Baja in February. I played with a few different kinds of paper and styles, getting a little more ambitious as I went. My focus was on the hiking trail. As far as I know, Halprin didn’t lay out the trail, but it highlights many of the ideas from his master plan: cluster the houses, keep them back behind or against the trees, and keep the meadows and coast open as common space. Some of the newer houses, including the one where I was staying, have pushed out into the meadows, but overall the plan has held up with remarkable integrity. It’s a tribute to the quality of the planning and architecture that the hiking is as pleasant as the hiking down the road in Salt Point State Park.

This last one isn’t really part of the hiking trail, but it’s one of Sea Ranch’s most iconic elements and I love things like this where the design is based on grading. Halprin used the soil excavated for the swimming pool to create these exaggerated berms to keep out the wind and make a sheltered space around the pool. It’s one of California’s most unique swimming pools. After hiking on the open bluff trail, the enclosed space feels like a grotto or cenote.

Thanksgiving weekend marked eight years of this blog. Posting has slowed for me and just about every other garden blog I follow, and commenting has faded away, but I still prefer the blog over all of the other online formats. It remains a great tool for organizing thoughts, images, and links, and I often find myself going back into my archives or sidebar. I intend to keep posting, my thanks to everyone who keeps reading.

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