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Friday, November 30, 2007

Sketch Crawl Tomorrow

Hey, everyone -
It's time for our monthly Cleveland Sketchcrawl.
Meet tomorrow in the marketing office of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance inside the old Arcade at E. 4th and Superior Ave. (across from Cleveland Public Library.)
There's usually street parking to be found in the neighborhood.

We gather at 10 a.m., wait a few minutes for stragglers, then put a sign on the door of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance telling folks where we've gone. Tomorrow we'll hoof it over to Public Square/Tower City for a couple hours of sketching.

Afterward, those who are interested upload their sketches to the website.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just visiting

It's early morning. I'm sleeping but I sense it's time to wake up, when suddenly there's a floppy, furry presence bounding around me. My basset hound Ramona - Momo, as we call her - is jumping around, doing her little happy-dance that she does in the morning when she's trying to wake you up and I reach over and feel my hand on her fur, and ruffle it.

And then I remember: Oh, that's right. She's no longer here. This must be a dream, then.

But I woke up happy for the dream or maybe even the visit, and I wanted to catch the spirit of it on paper.

I drew these across two pages of the WC Moleskine book and as you can see it didn't quite all fit on my scanner. Consequently you're missing part of my favorite image, which is of Momo carrying a branch. Guess she really bought into that adage, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Invisible carbs

You could show me this sketch a year from now and, sadly, what I will remember from the time I sat making it is that I was eating a pumpkin scone in little bits I broke off by reaching inside the paper bag so as not to give the young woman sitting next to me (not pictured) the satisfaction of knowing what I was eating. She was a skinny, scowling, scrutinizer sort.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday afternoon

The hard part is to remember to stop looking for something pretty to draw and just draw.
The other hard part is to remember to stop trying so hard with the drawing. Let the eye see, and let the hand do its job.
The other hard part is to remember that a sketch made in 30 minutes while sitting outside will probably not, and should not, look like a finished illustration, and that the more you try to turn it into one, the more it's likely to look like a bad illustration rather than a cool, freely done sketch made in a few minutes.

All these are good reasons to sketch from life every single day - especially when you don't have time to sketch. In fact, not having time to sketch should be a big flashing red sign that says, "No Time to Sketch! Good! Get Out Your Sketchbook!"

This is not really my advice to you, of course. It's my advice to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Click on the pic if you want to read it. Special thanks to Maureen for the Inktense pencils used here.
And hey - thanks to you, too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sketcher's nightmare

Woke up this morning from a dream of tremendous frustration. A friend and I, out with our sketchbooks, had come across this demonstration in which several artists would be creating something very quickly out of giant vats of paint. They were doing this in front of huge, colorful curtains, and when they found out we were there, willing to document it in our sketchbooks, they made a big deal out of it. We were all excited.

But then the action began, and everything was moving so quickly I couldn't get anything down. The artists were moving quickly, they'd bring things on and off the staging area for their art. I was frantic. The place was also very cluttered and at one point I laid my sketchbook down, and then I couldn't find it. I picked up a pad of white paper, thinking to record SOMETHING on SOME kind of paper, but all the paper in the pad had been used on at least one side, and the writing was showing through. Now I was frantically looking for my sketchbook and watching the painting demonstration, and other artists had shown up to do gesture sketches of these very dramatic painters with their giant vats. They were actually using brooms as brushes. It was terrific - but I couldn't capture any of it.

At the end of the dream, the whole performance was done, and all there was for me to do was to try to find my sketchbook. I asked someone who worked there if he'd found a Moleskine lying around and he said, "Oh, yes, here it is." But it was someone's datebook.

The quick sketches on this page were maybe 5 minutes each, done on the fly on a busy weekend that allowed me no time to do a nice leisurely page.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wouldn't it be nice

I'll bet he enjoyed a nice cheese plate with some grapes and a good wine.

On another note, watercolor enthusiasts should visit Jeff's Blog of the Back Run.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Early present

The sketch here speaks for itself. Try the recipe if you are a fan of sweet potatoes. It's a fave in my house.

OK, so before dinner:

I am at Starbucks buying coffee and hot chocolate to take home. I'm fumbling with my change, trying to get my wallet put away so the clerk can help the person behind me.

I look out of the corner of my eye and see the person behind me is a child - a little clean-cut boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, big eyes, by himself. The clerk looks past me as if to ask for the kid's order, but the kid apologizes. It turns out he doesn't want to order coffee or hot chocolate. He wants to pay for what's in his hands, which he can't do till I'm out of his way.

I look down and see that in his hands are a little red Starbucks teddy bear and a coordinating red travel mug. The boy is wearing this expression of complete self-consciousness, like at any moment he might be arrested. It dawns on me: He's buying a present for a girl.

No - for A Girl.

I go around to gather up my drinks, and he puts the bear and the travel mug on the counter and the clerk rings up the sale, and the kid spills his money onto the counter to pay. He is paying with his own money. He is hoping she likes the gifts. He is hoping they're not stupid. By the time he leaves, he will have convinced himself the gifts are stupid, and he won't feel good again until she gets them, and of course there isn't a sixth-grade girl on the planet who has received a red teddy bear from a boy and not thought it was the best thing she'd ever gotten. You'll just have to trust me on this.

This boy at the Starbucks counter presents an image of almost unbearable sweetness, and I am alone with no one to share it with.

So now it is your moment, too. Feel free to set the image to your favorite holiday music.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This is almost a good sketch of Lylah reading her celebrity magazines.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

There are several stands of trees around the nearby shopping center - correction, "lifestyle center" - that I've lusted to sketch recently. This morning I went over early and got out my little sketcher's stool and did that. The schmearing on the lower right can be attributed to the fact that after about 5 minutes, my hands were largely numb. The sketch I imagined doing was less sketchy than this, but frankly I just got darned cold. Pretty place, though.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wednesday Night Illustration class

"The assignment was to create a cover illustration for a business magazine. I looked at old issues of Fortune and found an article they did last year on how Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was pushing the company toward better environmental policies, first as a way to counter-act all the anti-Wal-Mart stuff and then because they saw that it made business sense. The headline was something like "Can Wal-Mart Save the Planet?" (not quite that, but close enough).

The assignment also was to work in pen and ink, my favorite. See all that gray in the background? Yes, well astute viewers will recognize that as cross hatching and it took a very long time. But all in all I liked how this came out, and while I was going for a caricature approach, I have to tell you that if Lee Scott himself saw this drawing, he'd think it looked like him.

By the way, the world there is supposed to be in a box - a box being a bit bent under the constraints of its contents. I realize that it reads more like a bag, and if Lee Scott himself were to see this drawing he'd say, "Yeah, the face looks like me, but we don't have paper bags at Wal-Mart."
And I'd say, "Right, but it's a box, not a bag."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Well children

It was what they used to call a "well-child" visit, back when she was someone to whom you'd apply the word "child." Now she's 15. The pediatrician's practice recently moved from a place with a small slide set up in the waiting area to a bigger office with an elaborate, tree-fort slide and fool-the-eye mural paintings and a separate "flu clinic."

And, as I suspected, I was escorted back with her for the initial greetings, then booted out for the checkup. They booted me (nicely, of course) to a little area with a sink and chairs and, as I mention on the page here, magazines all aimed at parents who don't have to leave the room for the doctor's visit because the children are still babies or toddlers or elementary aged.

And of course you know why they have to kick Mom out, right? To give the well-teen a chance to say something to her health-care provider that she doesn't want Mom to hear. Which is, I know, ultimately good and right, since the point is the well-teen's continued wellness, which can be affected by things she doesn't want Mom to know.

But it's still sort of bracing, I have to tell you. It's hard not to think of bringing her to the pediatrician's office in a little plastic baby carrier long before the pediatrician had his "and associates," and before there was a giant elaborate tree fort in his waiting room. It's hard not to be a little breathless at the ways kids pull away, and not to feel diminished when you're shown to a tiny waiting room with nothing but magazines for parents of babies while your kid is back there saying or not saying whatever it is the doc is giving her a chance to say or not say now that you are out of the room.

Fortunately, I had my sketchbook and a better purse than I used to carry when she was little. And after her well-teen visit, we went and had coffee and talked and laughed like we didn't when she was a very small girl. Sometimes you just have to smile and keep breathing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sketching in the theaters

Yesterday's second monthly Cleveland Sketchcrawl was a delight, which might or might not be evident from these pics. I could have stayed another two hours. The theaters of the Playhouse Square district are one of the wonders of our sometimes beleaguered town. It was good to be there at a time when I wasn't seeing a show, and really look around and think about what it took to save and restore these historic houses.

Next month's crawl is 10 a.m. to noon December 1 at Tower City Center, which should be perfectly festooned for Christmas. Join us is you can.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Page One

Familiar to many sketchers is the excitement/anxiety combo platter of having a brand-spanking-new sketchbook, unmarked by the artist's pen. It represents pure potential. Whenever I buy a new sketchbook I have a tremendous urge to get something down on the first page as soon as possible. It's like I've gotta rein in all that potential somehow and make it mine.

Often the closest thing at hand is a car in the driveway, so I probably have several sketchbooks where the first page is a car. Yesterday the most interesting thing was the new Bruce Springsteen CD, with a wonderful chiarascuro photo on it. It proved a fine way to break in a new sketchbook.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Can you tell I'd love you to come to the Cleveland Sketchcrawl tomorrow from 10 to noon? We meet at the marketing office of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which is in the Arcade off Superior Ave., one or two blocks east of Public Square.

You can't miss us. Tomorrow (Saturday Nov. 3) we will stroll over to the beautiful theaters of Playhouse Square. Such a feast for the eyes. Please: If you're in the neighborhood or can BE in the neighborhood, and you'd like to sketch, join us. We do it on the first Saturday of every month. I would go so far as to say that if you live in Erie, Pittsburgh or places such as that it will be worth your while to make the drive. The weather should be pretty nice and the neighborhood is lovely.

You don't have to be an artist, though last month we sure had some accomplished ones. Draw buildings as boxes. Draw stick figures. Pretend you're a high school sophomore again, expressing yourself on the cover of your ring binder. This kind of sketching is a way to see the world differently, as we see it differently when we walk our neighborhoods versus driving through them.

This page here is legible if you click on the picture.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Come sketch with us Saturday morning from 10 to noon. We get to go inside the theaters of Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.
Email me if you want more information. We had a great time last month.