Sunday, May 19, 2013
I once knew a woman whose fear of cats teetered on the edge of phobia. She quaked in fear during her one visit to my house where, at the time, the cats numbered three. I know lots of people who don't like cats. She was the only one I've known who feared them, and I'll admit it: I judged her for it.
Occasionally you'll come across a person who was bitten by a dog as a kid and has put all dogs on the "out" list. Almost everyone else seems to fall somewhere in the range of "I like a nice dog" to "If it came down to my kids or my dog, I'd have to think long and hard ... ."
And then there are birds, in all their winged strangeness. Birds, in their inscrutable bird-brainedness. Their unpredictability. Their Hitchcockian fluttering. They are beautiful and unknowable, and oh, by the way -- they fly. They do this thing we cannot do without heavy machinery.
I spend more time around birds than the average person -- more time up-close with birds of all kinds, but especially birds of prey. Up close they become more beautiful and more strange. Up close, the communication between bird and human seems both more vivid and more elusive. That they try to communicate with us seems undeniable. What they mean is often another question, though they can be deliberate and clear when they dislike something.
Mostly, I think, they'd like us to leave them alone, and yet those of us who can't really can't. I might've mentioned here that I've been known to visit the caged birds at the pet store just to get summa whatever that is. We can't have a bird at our house. Wouldn't last long with the cats and dog, and to be honest the cage aspect of captive birds makes me anxious. What good is having a bird if you keep picturing the better life it might've had outdoors, where it could put those wings to good use?
And still, their beautiful strangeness is intoxicating. I cannot say why. Can you?
By the way, we had a whippoorwill in our backyard for a couple of nights recently. Whippoorwills are extra strange because they're super-camouflaged, thus much more often heard than seen. I was happy to have heard him or her. It's reassuring to be visited by something other than a robin or a finch.
Monday, May 13, 2013
This great little building in University Circle has been on my sketching wish-list for a long time. What finally moved me to move on that was a bit of sadness: Sergio's, the restaurant that occupied the space, closed suddenly, if not unexpectedly, a while back.
Sergio Abramof was one of Cleveland's wonderfully talented restaurateurs. I didn't really know him, though I'd been at a table or two when he had stopped by to say hello to someone I was dining with. He seemed like a sweet, gregarious guy. Sergio died a while ago, and though his family was keeping his restaurants going for a while (there was a second one at Shaker Square), it wasn't a shock that this couldn't go on forever.
With Sergio gone, and Sergio's closed, it seemed smart to sketch the cool building while it's still there. It has a slate roof, which I love. Wish I knew more about its background.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Two years ago, we adopted Roscoe after meeting him at a fund-raising event by an organization called PAWS. It was a beautiful spring day outside at the polo fields in eastern Cuyahoga County, and there were dogs all around. Adoptable dogs, dogs with their humans. Lylah and I took our sweetie, Pearl, and walked around for hours, saying hello and taking pictures.
That day, I started a collection of dog pictures with an eye toward such occasions as last week, when I couldn't get dogs off my mind and needed to draw one. I might've exaggerated her mouth just a tad (on purpose). I see, too, that the eyes look a bit close together (unintentional). But anyway, it was nice to have a new dog face to draw.
Incidentally, the dog on the blog header here is an Italian greyhound named Maurice, who is my favorite internet dog. I know his parents, but have never had the pleasure of meeting him in person -- a situation that must be remedied.
Perhaps on another day, we will discuss why some people feel closer kinship with animals than with other humans. But not today.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
If you are just learning to draw, or just starting to keep a sketchbook journal, draw organic things. Practice drawing them accurately, of course. But organic shapes are more forgiving if you screw something up. Architecture and cars -- not so much.
That's it for Sunday advice.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I have a brother who has to run regularly to feel like himself and another who has to play guitar. They have both done these things long enough that, I believe, without access to these activities, they are not fully themselves. Not that they've ever said this, exactly, but I'm extrapolating because the pen in the hand serves a similar place in my life. Doing art of one kind or another can get me out of bed at 5 in the morning or keep me up till midnight, and this is true whether or not I'm getting paid for them. Projects have been known to occupy my dreams. I do not feel at all casual about art or writing.
If you have some activity or pursuit like this in your life, you are lucky. The downside is that when you can't do your thing, you feel a little unhinged, and perhaps less alive. The upside is that by doing your thing, even in the midst of temporary chaos, you have a route to some measure of sanity.
All of this is to explain my allergy to the word "hobby." Useful as it is to separate vocational work from that done for non-vocational pursuits, it's often used by people who don't do stuff to trivialize the stuff other people do. Whereas I find that the runners and musicians and sketchbook-keepers of the world, many of whom do other things to make money, bring startling passion to these non-paid efforts. They are not likely to stop these activities on a Friday and take up stamp-collecting on Monday. (Nor, I assume, would the fervent stamp enthusiast stop collecting stamps to take up jogging as a replacement time filler.)
If you meet someone who needs direction in life -- a young person, perhaps, or someone at loose ends after a breakup with a mate or a job -- don't suggest they find a hobby. Use the p-word. Help them locate their passion.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
True Story: Soon after I finished art school, another illustrator said to me, in a not-so-friendly way, "So. Congratulations. You're an artist."
The half-concealed sarcasm meant that it's stupid to think that doing art school makes one an artist (and perhaps he felt I was too dumb to figure that out for myself).
Despite the tone, the comment raised a good question that makes me wonder now then: When IS a person an artist? When they make a living off their art? When they sell their work? When someone else calls them "artist"?
Maybe it's when they:
a) just keep making art and
b) give no thought to labeling one way or another.