Tagged: Philly

After a family reunion in Charlottesville, I rode Amtrak to Philadelphia. I think I drew the City Hall tower once before but no idea where that drawing is.

Got in a brief neck-craning sketch of the Philadelphia City Hall tower. The largest city hall in the country btw. And then as I walked through the outside passageway, I took up a position behind a young man playing the violin. Samuel noticed I was sketching him and told me he is learning on his own as he is no longer taking lessons. He also stated he was delightedly surprised to see I in fact got him playing southpaw, which he is. Normally, he has been drawn as a righty. Whaa…? Play on brother.

Pitt Pens in a Stillman & Birn Gamma series sketchbook.

I moved from Philadelphia to Chicago 12 years ago. However, I took many trips back to Philly and visited as many friends as time allowed. About 10 years ago I started going to open life drawing sessions again so when I’d drop in on Matt, it became a shared activity to head off to draw at one of his regular life drawing venues. Six years ago, I started dating my current girlfriend , Jennifer, who was living in a bucolic, northwest section of Philly called Chestnut Hill. Jenny has since moved to Chicago, but for 2 years, I traveled back East frequently to visit with her, occasionally staying for weeks at a time. During those visits and extended stays I got to knock around with several of my long standing chums in town, most of whom lived in the center of the city. Philadelphia had an incredible infrastructure of public transit, possessing at one time the most mileage of rail lines of any city in the world. Many of those rails have been paved over but the commuter lines that head out to the suburbs and connect up with lines to cities such as New York, still operate and have magnificent 19th century train stations. I’ve always loved riding the trains and developed my work habits of writing and drawing in sketch/note books while in transit as a graduate art student in Philadelphia as far back as 1981. It was a pure delight when on days or nights that Jenny had to work, I’d hop a train in Chestnut Hill and ride in to join Matt for drawing, jawbonin’ and a little drinkin’ maybe. I’d have the train ride in to warm up by drawing train stations and fellow passengers. The above drawing was done while waiting for the R 7 line out of Chestnut Hill East.

My trips back East were getting to be so long, 5 week stays on 2 different visits, that I had to scrounge up a bit of employment. It was Mr. McGoff, bartending Friday night Jazz events at the Art Museum at the time, who vouched for me when an extra bartender was needed and helped defray the cost of killing time in Philly.

Below are some of the sketches I did en route to, during, and from those sessions.

Now the purpose of this website/blog was to have a place to display drawings in my sketch books, which are challenging enough to show in galleries though I have done so. And, since I have dealers and galleries where I hang shows of paintings and prints, such as those you’ll see here at BND under the heading “My Other Work”, to have a place to exhibit life drawings that my dealers have shown little interest or initiative in exhibiting.

So, for 30 years I’ve knocked on doors, entered juried shows, spent the sum of a couple hip replacements in photographers fees, shipping and framing costs, tried to hoard as many hours a week for studio time as a part time salary would permit, and discouraged relationships that believed things like health care, televisions, high end sound systems, $300 juicers, stylish furniture, safe neighborhoods, proper showers with shiny fixtures, vacations to places where you swim up to a bar for drinks called Mojitos, Caipirhinas, Sex on the Beach, and Fuzzy Navels, closets filled with clothes, and shoes, and a Christmas present for every relative, friend and business associate within 850 miles were necessities of modern life.

While Matt worked hard to support maintaining a studio, buy materials, and pay models, he spent nothing on promoting himself and threw the towel in after very few attempts at garnering representation. As with a great many artists I’ve known, he had no taste nor tolerance for the business side of the craft.


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