April, 2013 Archives

lunch crowd

Woodstock duo hair

Working in a Stillman & Birn Delta series spiral watercolor pad and combining fountain pens ( Graf von Faber-Castell Guilloche Chevron and Pelikan M215, both broad nibs) juiced with Platinum Carbon ink and Faber-Castell Aquarelle graphite pencils and Pitt Artist Pens.

Clybourne Station

I grew up in pretty suburbs and the bucolic residential neighborhoods of places like Phoenix. Arizona, Lakewood, Washington, Ridgewood, N.J., Monterey, California,Camp Springs, Md.,  Austin, Texas. And I do like trees and gardens and sweet bungalows and St. Augustine grass. But man, something about the grit , scale, and muscularity of large urban environments has always held magnetic appeal for me. There’s the dynamic, move over and make room way that cities evolve. Some subs just have a plow-it-under and drop-it- down- from-the-sky development, that plans from the outset to organize and control everything. The excitement of seeing a grand scheme have to yield to new needs while hanging on to previous requirements and cherished attributes, creates a scenario that realizes in concrete, steel, asphalt, glass, and landscapes the dynamic influx on new arrivals and migratory populations that are our life blood as a society.

The scene  above was drawn up on the loading platform at Ashland, Cortland, and Clybourne, while I waited for a Metra commuter train to  Rockford College, and the variety of architectural texture that is offered from the 360 degree view up on that platform is one big reason I live in a rust belt behemoth of a city.

wow bao two tuned in snooze and wait ride home

These were drawn in a Stillman & Birn watercolor spiral sketch pad with fountain pen filled with Platinum Carbon Ink, Pitt Artist Pens, and F-C water soluble graphite pencils.

das barrista

Spent Sunday afternoon doodling in the Loop.

snoozing on the Red Line

mess o' heads

Sunday in The Loop

watching the horror in Boston

April 15 came around and I had already taken care of my tax burden, so I determined to tend to long neglected house keeping and to cobble some order on my financial records. But the dreary light of a day  that drizzled on and off, and nothing of interest in my kitchen, gave me the overwhelming excuse I hoped for to grab the sketchbook and head to a local eatery and bar. I began the drawing by trying to quickly capture two young women eating with impatient mission and surround them with some scale references before they scurried back to whatever was hurrying them through the meal I was trying my best to prolong.

I had just finished the pony-tailed woman in baseball cap and was working on the row of beer taps when events on the TV over the bar took our attention as the city of Boston repeatedly exploded knocking an old runner to the ground with each rising forkful of food. The Fox News commentary pouring out of the screen exhausted my patience, as well as the bartender’s, but a switch to the speculation and repeated decking of the same old man on MSNBC was hardly an improvement. I knew my desire to know the who,whats and why in Hell would have to wait till a lot more info came in. In the meantime I’d had it with the pundits ratings push with what my friend Tony calls the Media’s pornography of grief, and their clumsy attempts to try and make real time horror into a who done it game show.

I left and went to a coffee shop where I knew there wouldn’t be a TV. But sitting there, a joint frequented by cops & loads of students from the college just down the block, there was the erie lack of discussion about the fresh mayhem. There was still conversation about sports. But no fatal  explosions. I knew those coming and going had to be aware of it. As I’ve been documenting for years, damn near everybody is wired up to something frequently interrupted by text, e-message, Facebook feed, links, or cell phone calls. The Police in major cities went on the alert right after it happened and they share the what’s up with the barristas, keeping each other in touch with the neighborhood pulse and personal dramas. I knew they had to know. But it was as if after the events from the last time their country got rocked, they knew to wait for the other shoe to drop and the unforeseen turn of events that could balloon beyond anyone’s wildest speculation. That even after all this time and all the coverage since 9-11, the nagging suspicion hangs that we didn’t get it all. The flood of coverage overlooked something. We saw that man’s head in that convertible limo snap from the impact of something. We saw that over and over too. But the questions won’t get put to bed. This age of information has yet to lift The Veil of Maya.

sketching together

It’s now the 19th, and after a crazy 24 hours where events in Boston just went haywire, the second of the 2 principle, if only 2, suspects has been captured alive after a shoot out in a Watertown back yard where he had taken refuge in a recreational boat. Earlier in the day, I was having lunch and watching the news of the pursuit of the remaining suspect, his brother having been killed in a shoot out the previous night. The large format flat-screen TV on the wall was frantically trying to send as much info to the viewer as possible. The screen was subdivided to show the police stake out and search of Watertown, the interviewed reporter on the scene, image on the suspect from surveillance video, one panel just announcing “Breaking News…”, while streaming 3 different bars at the top and bottom of the screen covering stock market figures from the NASDAC and NYSE and the Dow Jones Ave, plus, the time, and logo for the network. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that they didn’t manage a panel with a rotating array of commercials. Or in lieu of that, they could have done some product placement by having the on scene reporter and whom ever they were interviewing hold bottles of pop, or detergent, or a bag of potato chips, a Gecko, some sneakers, a couple cans of beer, well, alright then, an energy drink instead of the brew. And I guess to provide the human element, the network correspondents had to repeatedly tell the audience how they were holding up, or what a frightening start they received upon hearing some bangs go off 3-4 blocks away. Well you could hear them if you didn’t have your earpiece in and you listened closely. After all, the sound did get a little muffled by the 1,500 police officers between them and the cornered suspect.

But just below all this, was the scene I drew above, of a table of diners, two youngish adult women and a trio of kids. One of the women, a cool and peppy gal sporting an enhanced and lustrous blond do, robin’s egg blue sneakers, and quite an assortment of tats, was drawing with the young lad to her right. During the entire lunch, and for the rest of the afternoon, the massive search party had temporarily lost track of the suspect. It would be another few hours before they picked up his whereabouts, outside their cordon,  thanks to an observant and inquisitive citizen. The news organizations just couldn’t cut away till some new, significant development occurred. But neither could they let go of the day trading. And the assortment of stale updates, and all the other messages such as “Updates” and “Breaking” and “Live Coverage” simultaneously crowding the screen. The experience was akin to driving down those horrible, congested strips of car dealerships, gas stations, fast food joints, and bargain furniture outlets all bristling with billboards, neon and painted signs, traffic lights, flapping pendants, large commercial sculptures of rearing cowboys and golden palominos or some cutely chubby fellow in checkered cover-alls hoisting an enormous burger.  The lazy PBS version was to just leave the camera on, no commentary, pointed in the direction of the nucleus of activity.Which, for all anyone could tell, was a three block long parking lot brimming with police, SWAT, and emergency vehicles and a display of flashing lights that would have been the envy of any major metropolitan mayor who wanted to pull out all the stops on next year’s downtown Christmas decorations. I dunno, maybe the hope is, some eagle eyed homebody glued to the tube and nervously working their way thru box after box of Cheez Puffs and pack after pack of cigarettes, would notice something of importance that the thousands present had overlooked. I mean, the bombers had just sauntered thru the crowd at the Boston Marathon but days before, right?

the Coffee??

Okay, I spent a butt load of time in coffee shops. I rarely drink the stuff. Have in the past. That and horse troughs full of hot chocolate. More so the later. But I’m largely a tea tipper now, and the green and herbal stuff at that. It got to where I was downing dairy farms of milk and wheel barrels of sugar. Now I sip my tea, draw, and watch others come in for the fix and to work on their spread. I’m already a touch hype so the heart just had too much fuel at a time where the only body part getting any exercise was my wrist.

Just making use of the Pitt Artist Pens and fountain pens w/ Platinum Carbon. Just a couple pages to go in this ledger book which has been an absolute gas to draw in.

study time

I’ve been making observational drawings, urban sketches as some would describe them, for two plus decades. In the past, the practice served to cull ideas for paintings, or to record things of note as a way of keeping my own picture files. To grab an image because with my poor memory I knew I couldn’t depend on the ability to just recall something, even if I felt it was arresting at the time. I drew to study people, their anatomy and movement. To work on problems, i.e. the way hair behaves and catches light. Or the ability to quickly observe and record fleeting scenes and postures. I dread going to life drawing sessions and opening up with scads of the rapid poses. The 20, 40,and 60 second stuff; yet I give myself over quite happily to doing just that in public as I commute about the city or loiter in a cafe. Sometimes it’s for the reasons given above, but as often as not, it’s just because I love doing that. Looking, and drawing, and thinking.

I am going to have my work featured on The Scream On Line if I can ever make myself write a bio/statement. I’ve been dawdling and procrastinating about doing it for, I dunno, maybe a few months by now. It’s been 4 years since I’ve painted and tho I have worked on prints that are of a narrative nature, the bulk of what I’ve done with my time has been drawing out and about in public. Now a bit of that has been during my treks back and forth to work and on extended trips across the country during which I give demonstrations and lectures about drawing. So, many pages serve as journaling, and I have captured spontaneous events such as on-the-street police interrogations and was present on a fresh crime scene where a water main was geysering alongside a building after some perp had made off with the pipe cap. Drew that. I’ve drawn people at work, as I did in Tampa, of the gentleman who gave me a straight razor shave and the fellow who made my pizza. Many of my friends, collectors, and fellow artist know me as a guy who’ll mount a soapbox even when there’s no crowd to harangue. Suffering in silence doesn’t seem to be part of my DNA and venting, (with dependable frequency) almost seems as much an outcome of my parasympathetic system as peristalsis. Quite therapeutic to me at times and quite insufferable to those around me most times. All the “clown” paintings, drawings, and prints fell under this genre. That of venting. Thinking out loud if I can be fair to myself. Observations of my times and reflections on those observations as they may relate to other times. These came out as narrative like imagery and were quite different from the bulk of what I draw now. Gone are the 19th and 15th century references. Gone are the carnies and their bloody scrums with townies and brutal internecine wars. Gone for now are all the notes of financial mishugganuh and the portraits and caricatures of the public and political rogues who’ve played high profiled roles in the undoing of so many lives and fortunes.

But are they?  Gone that is. All that grist I’d been milling for twenty  some years. Six years ago the art market tanked after years where sales had buoyed my career among others. A couple years later, the banks started tottering and the housing market split it’s gut wide open. Huge layoffs saw scores people the very libraries and cafes I’d been loitering in, pouring down hot cocoa and pouring over the news and financial sections of the Wall Street Journal and The NYT. The unemployed found their way to the cafes and libraries where they worked on resumes, looked for jobs, encouraged and consoled each other, had interviews, talked to financial advisors about resolving mounting debt issues, read, slept, and drank coffee. Others took to airing out favorite beefs with no less restraint than the grouch writing this post. Bailing out the pirates who shocked the economy was a Siren song  heard in just about any public haunt  I could stumble into. The tug of war over immigration and hot button issues left and right could be heard gusting about  any city I visited. Energy prices, mineral extraction, perpetual war, perpetual political campaigns….Jeez, I even got into it over Tea Party positions and striking Teachers Unions, standing track side, waiting for a train in a damn near empty town in northern New Mexico. I’ve managed to dodge many mud fights over the Arab uprisings, Gay marriage, class warfare, sequestration, presidential retreats on campaign assurances, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mack, North Korea,…..I’ll stop. Contentious times. Sitting in these cafes, restaurants, libraries, riding so much public transportation I do get wind of a lot of peoples issues. But I haven’t distilled all this journaling and drawing into resolved paintings or resolute images that encapsulate any zeitgeist. I’m just drawing them. My fellow citizens. Their woes and rewards in tack, they go about their days and I draw them.  And I look to see if the drawings say anything in themselves about these citizens, most strangers, about how they’re bearing up under the times. I think that is an important and tricky thing to capture. Their bearing.

Miss Steerioso need the bean

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Tags

  • blog links