Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


A too-busy weekend kept me away from the drawing and my project, but fate treated me with an opportunity today. Felt good.

Friday, January 26, 2007

As far as I know

As far as I know, there has been no "Draw tulips" challenge from the Every Day Matters sketching group (which issues such prompts weekly, and which I am bad at following anyway), but several of the members have been drawing them anyway. If you never hit the links on the right side of my page, consider checking out those by Nina Johannson (who did tulips and other wonderful things recently) and Jana. I think Jana did tulips, though maybe it was someone else, in which case I apologize for forgetting. But you won't regret visits to either of those sites, or to any of the others, for that matter.

I actually BOUGHT these tulips because Nina's tulips were so great and made me want to try my own. I don't do houseplants, because I tend to kill them. Cut flowers are another matter. This I did in my Canson watercolor sketchbook with pen first, then the washes.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

All sides

This is the first sketch I did during the State of the Union address, on our newly fixed bed. He's a Republican.

This was the second sketch, of Nancy Pelosi. She's a Democrat.

This is my cat, nicknamed Twee. He's an independent.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Home Improvement

After three weeks of dual marital backaches, Carlo finally said - for the 13th time - "we gotta fix the bed," and for the first time, I said, "Sigh. OK."

It's not that I liked waking up with lower back pain. It's not that I didn't believe him when he said that the supports for the bed had completely collapsed and were responsible for our aching backs.
It's that I'm always wary about projects that involve taking things apart. And we have one of those "Sleep Number" mattresses that connects with a plastic tube to a pump, which means taking apart the bed isn't as simple as simply whipping the mattress off.

But on Sunday night, I could resist the call to improvement no longer. We flipped the mattress up vertically (as you see here) and rumbled around with Sleep Number's version of a box spring (which isn't a box spring at all) until we could get at the supports on the wooden, Amish-made frame of the bed. The east-west boards are supposed to be supported in the middle by little wooden legs connected to the supports with screws. There are four east-west support boards and four corresponding legs, all of which were either sitting at bad angles or just lying on the floor. (There was an incident several weeks ago in which one of our kids flung herself onto the bed, which made a cracking noise; not good.)

OK, so all we have to do is take the supports boards and their legs out and screw them back together. Except that, upon examination, the screws in our wonderfully made Amish bedframe are clearly not long enough. Even if we put it back together, it'll fall apart again.

Carlo heads off to Home Depot and returns with longer screws.
Which are also wider.
Which means the original screw holes don't do us much good.
Which means we need the electric drill. The new electric drill. Which has not been charged, and needs a 5-hour charge.

So we put the bed back together as best we could, but of course it was very unstable, and that night I dreamed I was circling a drain.

Monday night we retrieved the newly charged power driver and I began to attempt to drill new holes into the legs. Only our new power drill was not NEARLY up to the task of drilling into oak. Oh. Is THAT why they call it a "hardwood"?
It's 10 at night when this is going on, but Carlo valiantly calls our handy neighbor, who says he'd love to help, and Carlo heads over there with two of the four support beams and corresponding legs. An hour later, he returns, explaining how this guy's got a great basement shop with vices and all kinds of stuff, and that it would have been hopeless without that equipment, and oh, by the way, he'll have to go back the next night to do the other two beams.

So we take the bed apart again to put in the two new support beams with their solidly attached legs. Then we put the bed back together, and make the bed, and this time I do not dream of sinking or swirling.

Tuesday night, Carlo takes the other two beams down the street, with their legs, and returns an hour later. And we take the bed apart again, but this time - remember our mattress problem? - we need the kids to lift the mattress, vertically, while we put the beams in place. This comes out so easily in words, but let me tell you. As a family, we do not necessarily accomplish these things smoothly. None of us are very good at such projects, and some of us are less good at it than others. I'll leave it at that.

By the time the State of the Union Address was beginning, however, we had put the bed back together for the third time, and made the bed for the third time, and I was able to sit on the bed and draw pictures of the President and the Speaker of the House.

And I woke up today without a backache.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The beast

Perhaps you yourself are acquainted with someone like Smedley.
The best I can do so far is make fun of him because he carries a purse. Other than that, he's got me. (Click on the image to get a better read.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007


This face belongs to Ishmael Beah, who appears on the cover of last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. The magazine published a first-person story by him about being a child soldier.
The stunning cover photo, by a photographer whose name I should have handy but don't, revealed a face I was dying to paint. I knew I didn't want any pen lines. I was aiming for pools of clear color, and there are aspects to the portrait that make me happy. Others show signs of serious overworking. I will say that expression and likeness are fairly good.

I might try to re-do Ishmael's face using ONLY line this time. And if you get the NYT and still have Sunday's issue lying about, you sketchers out there might want to steal that photo and see how Ishmael inspires you. Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Here it is

Last night I posted this.
This morning I took it down.
Now it's up again, with less of a story this time: Essentially, this is a memory drawing from a scene in a play by Neil LaBute called "Fat Pig," about a slim, attractive young guy who falls in something like love with a well-upholstered gal but has to face - or not - his fear of being judged and ostracized.
There was an incredibly daring scene in which the two main characters are getting somewhat intimate, and the actress playing the role had to take off her shirt. I found it to be a teeth-clenching moment.

But it stuck in my head in a transformed way, and as I said on the original version of this post, I think I wanted to make a drawing that looked like an R.C. Gorman watercolor, reflecting how lovers in a passionate clinch feel, which is to say sexier and more attractive than perhaps they would otherwise feel.
What I got was a cartoon. Oh well. The good news is that the whole thing made me go chasing Gorman on the web, which wasn't a bad exercise.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


The fact that I haven't been posting often is not evidence that I haven't been sketching. I've been sketching - badly. (And working on a project, which isn't bad.) My last four sketches, two of which are posted here for your amusement, were things I would have preferred to keep under wraps, but I'm just not hitting the groove with the quick sketches. Which means I've had nothing better to post.

This entry is called "intermediate" because I was thinking about how when one is just starting to draw - or starting again after an absence - improvement comes quickly and satisfaction comes rather easily. But after a while, you start developing habits, some good, some bad, and producing the same kind of sketches that don't really advance anything.

The lady here was waiting for her husband, I think, when I was at Starbucks the other day. There was actually a window between us, but I know she knew I was sketching her. I think maybe she was amused by it.

The street scene represents about 20 found minutes when an appointment was pushed back. The little tentlike thing on the left should have been edited out; it was a protection device used by utility workers.

Today I did a little pen and watercolor sketch based on a scene from a play I saw last night. Two of my family members got very quizzical looks on their faces when I showed it to them. They didn't know what to make of it. It is a little weird. So now I don't know whether to post or not.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Red car and paralysis

Telling this story means I have to admit that I was in McDonald's again - the second time in less than two weeks. Well, I admit that in some respects I LIKE MCDONALD'S. Not every day, of course, and not as much as I like a nice filet or the risotto from Moxie. But you can't beat their old-fashioned, modestly size, leathery cheeseburger patty in a bun with the pickles and everything, And if you order one of those and a plain ice cream in a cup, you can actually get away without doing terrible caloric damage. Oh, my friend Maureen over at No Feeling of Falling is probably chewing her knuckles if she's reading this, because she's a wonderful, adventurous cook (as well as person), and I'm guessing that the entire idea of McDonald's probably makes her break out in hives.

But anyway, I was at McDonald's recently at lunch, because I wanted to eat by myself and draw. I drew this car, which was parked outside the window next to which I ate my cheeseburger. And every time I look at this car, and more importantly the utility pole, which was what I really liked here, I will think about what happened when I was buying my cheeseburger and my little plastic cup of ice cream.

I'm standing there in line, placing my order, when I felt someone come up behind me.
Then I smelled them.
Whoo-doggies. At first I thought it was some unfortunate old person who had been a chain smoker so long that even if he or she quit smoking immediately, he or she would never, ever be rid of the stench. But then I took another whiff and realized it was a scent I hadn't inhaled in a long while. This wasn't just a faint hint of dope, this was like I-bought-the-grow-lights-at-the-nursery-to-raise-my-own-crop smell. Mixed with something else. Sweat, perhaps. Yes, that was it. Two day old sweat.

I turned slowly and came face to face with two pimply teenagers - one of each sex - wearing sweatclothes and bloodshot eyes and the grease of several showerless days. They were studying the menu board like Bible scholars parsing scripture.

But that was not the bad part. It would have been funny, actually, except that in the arms of the teenage boy was . . . that's right, a BABY.
Maybe a year old. Perhaps 18 months.
Looked happy as could be, probably from the inevitable contact high.

I stepped aside to await my cheeseburger, and Mom and Dad approached the cashier and began ordering their big burgers and fries while Junior squirmed in Dad's arms. These two ordered food with the rabid intensity known only to habitual pot-smokers.

I don't really car what you smoke or swallow or shoot when you're on your own and all grown up, but I have pretty strong feelings about exposing kids to illegal substances. At minimum, a toddler deserves to be cared for by someone who isn't so ripped that they walk around with a cloud of bong-vapor gathered about the head.

So this scene all made me mad, and made me want to snatch the child away. But I didn't.

I sat down with my food, which I ate, and drew the pole and the car, and I thought about what a damn dice roll it is, who you end up with as parents. I fretted in my own head, and drew the wheels. I thought about the pros and cons of narking out these stupid young things, but in the end all I did was darken the wires in the utility pole and congratulate myself for being so much smarter than the rest of the world.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Winter sky

For several days last week the morning drive to get the kids to school was decorated by a full moon hanging low and pale but clear in a brightening sky. In some places, tree branches would be kind of silhouetted against it. I sketched a quick composition in pencil one day, then got around to painting it over the weekend. There's nothing prettier than a clear winter sky.

Friday, January 05, 2007

And now a word from our sponsor

I never posted this drawing I did of my (as they say) better half for his website, but I'd like now to take the opportunity to not only publish the sketch but also mention why I drew it. His book, "Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories" -- in which current and former Clevelanders of all ilks recall their fave days from a time when the city actually had something to say about rock music -- prompted the creation of a web site. The web site prompted a request for an image, which prompted a brief photo session, which prompted the sketch, which almost gets at his essential Carlo-ness without completely looking like him.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Day

I began the year with a new notebook and a few ideas on where it might take me. I'm interested in getting more proficient at quick sketching and public sketching, at capturing a scene economically. That's very different from sitting down with a bowl of fruit to draw or paint at the kitchen table - thought that's fine, too, and I expect I'll be doing that as well. Do you like the illustrated interviews? I like doing them, and I hope to branch out and do a few with people I don't know as well as I've known my subjects so far. But more cityscapes, more nature, more on-the-spot stuff is on the horizon. I also have a project going which won't see blogtime for a while, but will require regular work. I hope to do a sketchcrawl with a few other people, and to move ahead with some watercolor. Most importantly, I want to draw daily, so the plan is to always have the new sketchbook or a watercolor field book with me, and to resist the urge to be precious or fussy. Everyone says that, right? It's so hard to do.

McDonald's was open today, and in the spirit of sketching out in the world, I took out the new notebook and captured this guy who was lingering over the newspaper with a cup of coffee. I added colored pencil after I came home. I liked the vase of cheery, fake blooms on the shelf by his head.