I recently took a very quick trip to New York City to see art & sketch. I attended the John Singer Sargent show at the Brooklyn Museum, and learned a thing or two about value and color from his examples. While I didn’t try to sketch his pieces, I did sketch from other objects at the museum…
The following day I met up with the New York urban sketchers, which turns out to include more familiar faces than I’d realized; that was a real joy. We started in Four Freedoms Park (Roosevelt Island) for a great view of Manhattan, then found our way to Union Square.
I met up with a friend at Tom’s Restaurant, and stopped in at the World Science Fair.
I visited the Metropolitan Museum and wished for many more hours than I had, and ended up sketching a few more street scenes that day before finding my way home.
I walked the High Line.
I’m really hoping for another opportunity to meet up with the New York urban sketchers, and highly recommend any visiting sketchers check their website for their regular Saturday crawl.
The last Dr. Sketchy session happened to fall on Oscars Night, and Dr. Sketchy celebrated with a model glammed up Audrey Hepburn style.
I have now finished up that Strathmore toned paper sketchbook. Thinking back to the first few pages, I had a hard time transitioning to working on a toned base since I was so used to working with watercolor… but now, at the beginning of a Stillman & Birn sketchbook, the white paper feels intimidating! Probably this’ll work itself out and watercolors will feel like home again in no time. It’s funny how quickly a new material can go from awkward to comfortingly familiar in just a few short months.
While planning a trip to the Bay Area recently, I noticed the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain would be in town the exact weekend of my visit. Ever since experiencing a 3-hour “battle sail” on board the Lady Washington almost six years ago (some photos here), I’d been wanting to sketch under sail – this was finally my chance! I booked a short passage from San Francisco to Oakland. (A few days later I also signed on for a battle sail, so the photos in this post come from both excursions.)
I stayed the night at my friend’s house just 20 minutes’ walk from the Embarcadero, so it was a brief and pleasant morning walk to the ships. It’s always a wonderful moment, when you first spy the masts camouflaged among the other various masts and poles and lights of an urban dock.
Only a few other passengers had signed on for this passage, so there was a lot of space to move around and the crew sometimes had time to chat. The captain used the opportunity to perform a series of safety drills, so I got to see a lot of examples of what it takes to run this complex machine. The weather was blessedly cooperative.
Sketching was a real challenge, as you might imagine, since not only were the crew in nearly constant motion (as you’d expect), everything that isn’t nailed down is likely to move or change shape in some manner, and the shadows were coming from different directions from moment to moment!
Tonight I attended the museum’s dance party event associated with this exhibit: Bacchanal Ballroom.
The evening started off with dancers posing in costume atop column-like platforms as living statues. Perfect for sketchers, right? Right, but the poses were often very fast and there was no knowing how long they’d last – going gestural was the only way!
At some point in the evening, the dancers leapt down from the columns and assembled on the floor for a steamy dance number – which was, incidentally, choreographed by my friend Jessica Wallenfels! As soon as that piece finished, the crowd spilled forward and danced among the dancers. It was actually quite a sight, all the regular folks shimmying up next to these scantily clad paragons of beauty. And yes, eventually I put down the sketchbook and joined them as well.
Afterwards I used the photobooth as a means to display my great heroism in sketching in challenging scenarios…
I didn’t take any photos, but there are some good ones available courtesy of Byron Beck on Flickr. Kudos to the Portland Art Museum for putting on a truly unusual event that provided a lot of visual stimulation for me as a sketcher! Um, not to mention as a fan of beautiful bodies. I’m planning to attend a second time, hopefully with some fellow Portland Urban Sketchers.
Had a great time at Dr. Sketchy once again, this time with the awesome visiting urban sketcher Pete Scully as well as a few of the Portland urban sketchers. I could draw PDXYAR all day every day – they did a great job hitting fun poses in great costumes, and held some difficult poses for long beyond the call of duty. Thanks to all involved!
I’ve often heard bad news from a friend and felt utterly useless and powerless. I’ve thought, “what could I possibly say that wouldn’t sound trite or pointless?” and “surely they need their very closest friends right now, not me” and “they might want space, I’d like to help but should probably wait to see if they contact me, wouldn’t want to be an unwanted intrusion.”
Well, my community is thankfully much better at this work than I have ever been, and they are teaching me a lot. Things like, even saying “I’m so sorry” means something. Concerned messages asking how I’m doing are hard to answer, but they help me to feel like I still exist, and that means something. Hearing testimonials that it gets easier doesn’t make it get easier now, but I’m storing acorns for the winter here and those testimonials mean something. Offers for crash space give me a sense of having choice in my future, even if my cat’s comfort makes me choose to stay put; that means a lot. Invitations to come out into the world for food or talk or a movie or a beer: that’s the shit that is saving my shit right now. That’s everything.
I knew my community was amazing, but I’m pretty much stunned by how much support they are providing. And so fucking grateful. And I’m learning from this so I can hopefully pay it forward in the future, as much as I ever can.
Last night Dr. Sketchy’s figure drawing sessions featured actors from Trek in the Park, whom I have previously sketched here and here. It was fun, they were *great*. I also received praise from no less than Uhura <3 <3 <3 (I wish I hadn't frozen like a rabbit in headlights when she spoke to me, OMG Uhura spoke to me) and a couple of other people which, given the personal challenges I'm facing right now, felt particularly good. Bless you, kind strangers.
If Trek in the Park actors were posing every night this week, I would go each night. Trek in the Park is the best thing ever.
My flight started off with a bang – well, hundreds of inaudible bangs. As we took off, a huge full moon lit the sky (that’s it over the plane wing) and early Independence Day fireworks bubbled up from so many backyards below, in such an even spread across all of Portland and Vancouver, it looked orchestrated. Magic.
Not much airplane/airport sketching this time, due to attempts at getting some kind of “night” of “sleep”.
I stayed in the dorm portion of a hotel in Old San Juan, Posada San Francisco. It was central, way cheaper than anything else, and quite decent – with a wonderful balcony view.
Despite the other hostel residents being quite nice, I had a rough first night – I was paranoid that I would snore, and had stress dreams about snoring as the result of bad programming. A lovely cappuccino with a flower in the foam at Cafecultura (conveniently located next door to the hostel) made me feel better, and I started to loosen up the drawing hand.
Literally half a block from the hotel was the base of Fuerte San Cristobal, a very dramatic fortification built towards the end of the 18th century to protect against other European powers attacking by land. As I first walked to it to sketch, I got distracted by these metal plates in the sidewalk.
Fuerte San Cristobal was a good place to shelter as the tropical storm rains came and went.
While working on that last sketch, Puerto Rican sketcher Luis E. Aparicio joined me! He was enthusiastic about sketching, an instant friend, and an exceedingly gracious host for his city. We sketched in San Cristobal for a while and then took a walk around the city, stopping to sketch along the way, while Luis gave me some insights into different areas, buildings, and food options.
At the end of the afternoon, we retreated to a bar of Luis’ choosing: El Batey, a favorite of his with graffiti-covered walls.
I ended that day hanging out with people from the hostel – folks from the US and Canada for the most part, with the occasional European. Most of them – in about three different rental car expeditions – had spent the day being lost on the roads of Puerto Rico attempting to reach some tourist destination or another, endlessly taking the wrong turn and ending up back on the same bridge they’d just come over. But they all seemed in good spirits about it. Good travelers are fine with spending some time being lost.
There will be one more post about Puerto Rico, and then on to Santo Domingo and the Urban Sketching Symposium!
I’m still working on scanning in all my symposium sketches, so for now I’ll skip to this weekend’s activities. Yesterday, four of the Portland Urban Sketchers (myself included) took the train to Tacoma to participate in a Pacific Northwest Regional SketchCrawl. Over 30 sketchers attended! What a great way to spend the first Saturday back from the Symposium – a reminder of how much we can do and how much there is to see in our own local area.
When we gathered to look at sketchbooks, a great variety of styles was represented and I was inspired by what I saw. Tacoma was a great location for sketching as well – gorgeous and unusual buildings, cafes on every corner, more intriguing museums than you could shake a stick at. Just a 3 hour train ride from Portland! I did this sketch of Tacoma’s old Union Station building, a truly vast structure, seen from the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
Then I tried to get impressionistic with the Chihuly “Seaforms” structure – all these beautiful glass pieces are on display above our heads on the bridge, so they are illuminated by sunlight. (Thanks to Vicky for the photo!) I was wishing there were some colorful marker pens in my bag.
Here was the original – thanks to Vicky for taking the photo at my request
We had a wonderful lunch at The Swiss Pub, then had a second sketch session. While neither of my sketches today shows a lot of forethought in terms of composition or limitation, I was thinking about those things a lot. Ideas from the symposium are in my head but putting them into practice is taking trial and error, as I push back against existing bad habits. Here I couldn’t decide what to focus on, so there is no focus – yet I still feel like a lot was learned from the process of making this sketch.
Check out the Seattle Urban Sketchers blog for some of their reports & sketches of the day, including one group shot. Also see Tina’s blog post about the day, in which she mentions me and my post-symposium high Thanks Tina, and thanks sketchers! It was a memorable sketchcrawl.