Friday, December 31, 2010

A FUN Game for the New Year

If this were a New Year's Card, here are some of the possible captions it could have:
Have a bang-up New Years! (for the revelers)
Give your dog something to bark about in the New Year! (for the dog owners)
May you stay above the fray in the New Year! (for the blimp pilots)
And so on..

And, of course, I wish you all of the above and more for your New Year.

But this is not a new year's card. It's much more fun than that.

In my December 20th post, here, I said that a partner and I were engaged in a game involving art, and showed you my first panel. If you know of my opponent (and most of you EDM'ers do), then there are clues in the picture above as to who she is. So see if you can guess (of course she let the cats out of the bag in her latest blog post).
[Insert Jeopardy music here.]
Give up? One of the arms and legs in the cloud of contention above is PAMO'S! And the barking dog is, of course, her dog. You can visit Pamo's Blog here.

Pam aka Pamo is a cartoonist of course. She let me know about some books she was reading on cartooning, and in checking out the author's works online I found myself at a blog that described a tic-tac-toe game. The blogger, Matt Madden, and his friend Tom Hart drew a tic-tac-toe grid on an 8-1/2" x 11" paper - one chose "x" and the other chose "o" - and they each drew panels of a 9-part cartoon in their respective squares, passing the page back and forth across a table. Each would incorporate their "x" or "o" in the panel, try to make that panel a part of what would become a coherent (or at least semi-coherent) full-page cartoon, and attempt to win of course!. You can visit Matt Madden's blog, see a full description of his Tic-Tac-Toe Jam, and pictures of what they accomplished here.

Now I have no time for any of this - too many other projects that I have in mind and have no time for either. Still, to do this would not be that different than a story board for a picture book (which I want to do) and besides it sounded fun, so I figured why not, and e-mailed Pam and asked, "Well?"

Of course Pam is in Tennessee and I am in Florida, so our virtual table is large. We are e-mailing each other our panels, identifying the places on the grids (e.g., Queen to Kings 4), and when we are done, Pam will assemble the 9 panels into a grid that we will show you all.

So I ask - HOW FUN IS THAT?!

Thank you Matt Madden!

I have done a lot of sketches this year in my sketch book, but very few are colored. So I have some catching up to do early in the new year. I have some definite thoughts about how to "kick it up a notch" in my art in the coming year, but don't want to jinx it by talking about it.

"Do or do not. There is no try," says Yoda, the wise. And talking about it is even worse.

So here is a rather raw page of floating heads from life from my Moleskine. For the bottom two there was a wall blocking the bottom halves of their heads for rather interesting effect, don't you think?

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many of you for being so generous in sharing of yourselves, your art, and your techniques and ideas. So it is with an earnest nod of my virtual hat that I wish you and yours a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Illustration Friday: Mail

For this week's Illustration Friday topic, "mail", I had a simple idea which I thought would best be illustrated simply. So I drew it rather quickly in ink on a large sheet with a Sharpie.

* * *

A: (Wide-eyed) Is that IT? Is that the whole post? That couldn't be all there is - not in Dan Kent's blog! He always has something to say!

B: (Frowning) Too much to say if you ask me. The man doesn't know when to shut up!

A: (With derision) So, who asked you?

* * *

Well, it does seem like a rather short post, and I do happen to have a true story about the mail that springs to mind.

* * *

A: (Delighted) See?

B: (Throwing up his hands) Oh Brother.

* * *

I remember a sunny day a few years ago when a letter arrived in the mail at our home. The letter was scented with perfume and my name and address were written with beautiful penmanship on the envelope, as only a lady could write it.

"What's this?" my wife demanded. She handed me the letter.

I inhaled the sweet scent and examined the envelope. It was addressed to Fr. Daniel Kent. A small bead of sweat rolled down my forehead, although I knew I was innocent - really I did.

I opened the letter. My wife leaned toward me. I leaned back and cupped my hands over the paper as I read the long handwritten letter. It turns out that the woman was hoping I was the Daniel Kent she had known. She was depressed and wanted help. She was writing to the man that had been her priest.

I handed my wife the letter. "How could you ever have doubted me?" I asked, wondering all the while what would have happened had the contents of the letter been different.

I located Father Kent through the local archdiocese, and forwarded him the letter. He said he'd call the woman. We spoke on the phone and exchanged holiday cards for a few years. And that was that.

Sometimes, even now, on sunny days when the postal worker is walking up our steps, I feel a cold breeze carrying a sweet scent. At those times I shutter, wondering what is about to be delivered.

* * *

B: (Pretending to gag) Shmaltzy. I hope he's done.

A: (Indignant, with hands on hips) Aw come on, that was a great story and you know it!

B: (Brows furrowing, crossing his arms) Hmmmph.

* * *

Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Feel the Beat.


It's morning. My hot tea is next to me. I am in my car in a parking space across the street from a Publix supermarket. My radio is on. Two employees stroll outside, lean back, and talk. They are satisfied - I can tell - to be there at that place in that moment, enjoying the cool air and warm conversation. Despite what the newsman says, all is right with the world. I pull out my pen, and smile.

Two days later I return. Once again I am in my car in the parking space across the street from the supermarket. I sip my hot tea. I pull out my watercolors and dampen the brush. Again the radio is on, but despite what the newsman says, all is right with the world. Again, I smile.

2. A new game. A chance to be creative. Collaboration with a worthy opponent who is enthusiastic and full of ideas. An opportunity to stretch reality, to laugh, to feel joy at the challenge. It feels so good to stretch.

In this game my opponent/collaborator will have an idea, and then it will be my turn to respond. Idea births idea, and neither of us knows how in nine moves it will end. I will tell you more another day and explain the game, but there have been three moves in this game so far. I went first, and this was the first move in our game:

3. Charcoal. My sketchbook. Thinking, an obstacle. Planning, unnecessary. I follow my instincts into the wild. I bury myself in a verdant jungle. But I do not think "verdant", I do not think "jungle", I do not think. I am a wild animal - untrained, unrestrained, and dangerous. An artist. When the charcoal is done, I grab my pen, but it is too late. There is no control in the grand cacophony. Spirited, vibrant, quivering with excitement, the chaos cannot be tamed. It is art, I think. It must be art.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scattered, but Happy. Serious, but Cartoony.

Psst..I've had an idea. (Shocking, isn't it?) More than an idea, really. I've had an idea for a picture book and I've written the first draft.

I would like to pursue this idea. So I need to plan the book, prepare thumbnails, and then draw illustrations. The illustrations will require characters that are somewhat more cartoony than my usual moleskine fare, and also more active. The characters will need to be almost theatrical in their poses. I consider this an opportunity to improve any number of skills. I am going to study bodies and their poses, and perhaps this will get me to buckle down and master the ever elusive hand. It seems to me that I need to know how to draw realistically first; then I can be as cartoony as I want to be.

Every now and then while sketching a target individual in my moleskine, a well-meaning person would lean over me and tell me with great enthusiasm that I was good, and ask have I ever thought of drawing cartoons. I would accept the compliment and then mutter under my breath that I am not a cartoonist. That was not my goal. Not at all. The sketches were to improve my "serious" drawing and painting skills.

But now I've seen that I have improved enough to potentially illustrate, and that means, maybe, in a cartoony manner since that seems to suit best what I have in mind.

How interesting.

Never say never.

And if I never do the book, that's okay. I'll be a better artist for the exploration.

I am scattered but happy. I am also continuing my ink and watercolor sketches, at least one larger watercolor painting, and an even larger acrylic work. I want to paint much more in acrylic.

And I have many more ideas than I have time.

So I am returning to Illustration Friday, a website that provides a weekly topic for illustration. And I'm going to try various styles/ideas. Some will work, and some will not, I guess. My first effort is to illustrate this week's topic of "Prehistoric". You will be proud that it is larger than my pocket-sized moleskine (6-1/2" x 10") In fact, the quote Illustration Friday gave as an example suits my illustration just fine: "Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic." (Keith Haring.)

Painting hasn't changed. The critics have even always been there.

Speaking of critics (of the discerning kind), I am honored to have received the 2010 Top Watercolor Painting Blog Award from a website designed to provide information for online graphic design degrees. In an e-mail they sent me, they say that they consider my blog to be "a resource that explores the art of sketching, or provides inspiration for your next painting..This is why we've featured your blog, as it is one of the best to teach our readers."

Aw shucks.

OK, I accept.

Tell me I'm good looking, and I'll accept that compliment too.

[P.S. - My apologies to the first few folks that commented, but I forgot (how could I?) to mention that if I had a creativity award I would give it this month to Raena for the amazingly creative and magical addition to the page in our joint sketchbook. So if you have a chance, and haven't visited already, please check out our shared blog at 2'nFro!]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Return of the Floating Heads

Wilfred at Carving Paper says, "When I am sitting, I am sketching." I've sort of adopted that as my motto as well.

But last month I decided to sketch while walking at the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Walk, and this is the result.

I have always thought of the awareness ribbons as symbols for causes. I have come to understand, though, that behind each ribbon - whether for breast cancer, soldiers abroad, autism awareness, or something else - there is a whisper of pain and of fear, but also a defiant shout. I admire all those who stride forward in the face of the frightening unknown.

People differ in their experiences and their reactions to them, but they are remarkably similar as well, of course. I don't know if it is because of their exotic differences or common humanity, but observing people is interesting to me, and I am compelled to draw their faces. So here is a sample from last month's sketches, recently colored with watercolors, in my new Strathmore watercolor journal.

Faces appear to be my "default". When I am too busy, or tired, or just lazy, faces are what I draw. At the beginning of this blog (before my discovery of the wonders of watercolors), faces were all I drew. I called them "floating heads". (You can click on the images for larger views).

If you have ever tried to figure me out, psychoanalyze me, or have just been plain curious about who I am, I offer you this glimpse into my subconscious, also sketched in the Strathmore journal. This, then, is my "bar code".

So after studying it a bit, or scanning it in a reader, I ask you: are we the same, you and I, or different? Or maybe, just maybe, you'd rather not think about it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Nowadays when I see a film portraying time travel, I laugh.

It is a knowing, arrogant laugh. Loud and annoying. This is because I am an expert in time travel.

I am an expert in time travel because I have drawn a two-page Moleskine spread outside Starbucks. (Double-click for larger views).

It's not the trip back in time that bothers me. It's the return trip. The return trip in any self-respecting sci-fi flick is imprecise. And I'm okay with this. The travelers return to a date and time a minute, an hour, or a week or two from their starting point. They return to the point of origin, and everything is as it should be. And this is when I laugh. This is when other moviegoers throw popcorn at me.

I didn't have much time to spend during each visit to Starbucks. I added to the pen drawing whenever I returned. But things moved. The first thing I noticed - the potted plants. Everything else the same - only the plants moved. Large plants in very heavy pots. Why on earth would anyone bother to move the &*%^*) plants? Then subtle changes - the tables rearranged, the bench gone. These I could handle. Finally when I returned one day everything had changed. The decals on the windows were gone, and the outside and inside tables and chairs were discarded in favor of entirely new furniture! Tall stilted uncomfortable table/chair combinations outside, and all of the cushy chairs removed inside. The modern definition of progress.

I will not be satisfied until a time traveler returns to find himself standing in a potted plant.

[Segue starts here.] We resist the inevitable changes and this is the source of much of our stress. 100 years from now we probably would not recognize much. 200 years, nothing at all. And xx years ago, my mother was born. On November 7th. Happy Birthday Mom!

Something compels my mom to create art. The same virus I've been infected with. And there is no cure. She will create even if a very few see her creation. Its something she returned to after her retirement. It brings her joy. But she has no blog. So on her birthday, I present her international debut! She works in acrylic, and here is a sampling. The flowers at the top of this blog were painted by her (yes, I am cheap - presenting her with her own flowers), and these. Feel free to let her know what you think in your comment.

And this beauty is hanging on my wall. I stop and look at it again and again.

:: Mom, to me your paintings are happy and beautiful. They portray your joy of life, your enthusiasm, your steady and uplifting encouragement, your compassion, and your love. But since I am your proud and very fortunate son - who loves you ever so much - I am biased, what can I say? Happy Birthday from all of us. And many more.. Keep painting.;) ::

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Tired.

I'm tired today - can't think of much of anything to say.
Not a single thing. Not even these words. The thoughts fly away
Like sound-startled birds. Like wind-blown balloons
That follow no path, that delight or confound, maybe usher a laugh.
The thoughts don't know when. They don't even know how.
I don't know what I'm saying so I think I'll stop now.

[Psst.. that's right. My poem has absolutely nothing to do with the ink and watercolor sketch of this poor, unsuspecting family above. It just goes to show - there is truth in poetry. .. Now, off to bed.]

Saturday, October 2, 2010


September trudged by and became this blog's first (and hopefully last) silent month. Blogs, as you know, should not be silent. Blogs should be boisterous.

So here I am - boisterous.

Although my September brain couldn't seem to wrap around blogging, I never stopped breathing or sketching or painting - this body's essential functions. See, for example, my contribution at my joint blog with Raena, 2'nFro, if you haven't been there already.

I was attracted to the above still life because of the challenge of the transparent and white objects. Most of the objects were painted on site, but since I didn't have time to finish I snapped a quick photo and completed it last week. Lucky for me, this week's Everyday Matters challenge is "Something Made of Glass".

This is how it went down. I was visiting family in Central Florida. At my brother's lively home, my nephew Jake and I planted ourselves in the kitchen. He set up a tomato to paint with his watercolors, and I put this complicated arrangement before me. In 10 minutes - poof - Jake was gone, painting done, and onto his computer, and I was still absorbed in the process of drawing the arrangement. During the ensuing hour or so, my brother Neil, my beautiful nieces Emma and Ashley, and my sister-in-law Denise all swirled around and about me, visiting, talking, eating, and occupying themselves in a flurry of other activities. Delightful.

About halfway through this little watercolor, there was a drip of purple stain in what was meant to be part of the uneventful background. It could not be removed, and I just kept painting. I'd worry about it later. There are no mistakes - only occurrences I can use. Concealing that stain ultimately resulted in the three frames outlining the still life, which makes the piece more interesting, I think.

As you know from the last post, I read the book "O'Keefe" by Britta Benke. I was struck by how she would create near-abstracts from reality. Georgia O'Keefe's magnification of familiar objects had made them almost abstract. I had never looked at her paintings in that way before. One sketch I did in my moleskine under the influence of her book, is this one. It is hardly abstract, but a closer perspective on the tree than I might have done otherwise:

In 1916 O'Keefe was told about a book just translated into English, and she was still referring back to the same book at age 97. So I just had to purchase it , and I found it on Amazon for 98 cents (yes, you read right). It is "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" by Wassily Kandinsky. I am not sure that I would recommend it. It is a lofty, egotistical, rambling, opinionated historical manifesto at the birth of abstractionism. Kandinsky discusses the "inner need" which I can relate to (as a "hunger", more like). Towards the end of the book, he said:

"The artist has a triple responsibility to the non-artists: (1) He must repay the talent which he has; (2) his deeds, feelings, and thoughts, as those of every man, create a spiritual atmosphere which is either pure or poisonous. (3) These deeds and thoughts are materials for his creations, which themselves exercise influence on the spiritual atmosphere. The artist is not only a king, as Peladan says, because he has great power, but also because he has great duties.

If the artist be priest of beauty, nevertheless this beauty is to be sought only according to the principle of the inner need, and can be measured only according to the size and intensity of that need.


Observing O'Keefe's works with some better understanding from the reading of this book did something to my head. I had taken the following photo for Shadow Shot Sunday:

I was attracted to the shapes and fields of color and felt compelled to paint it in my moleskine, the idea of abstract from reality and simplification floating around my mind. Nevertheless, at this point in my development I am a representational artist and couldn't resist molding the tree and adding texture.

My MVC ("Most Valuable Critic") had a visceral reaction to this one. She said it looked like it contained blobs, mistakes. That I could do better. In truth, I didn't want the words "Lab Tests" (I mean, who would?), and did exactly what I intended to do. My MVC is right, of course, it doesn't work. But experiments and explorations don't have to work. They can even be ugly.

I have spent the better part of September and into October reading a wonderful book that had been recommended and reviewed by Katherine Cartwright (my art philosophy guru), at her blog. It is "The Art Spirit" by what I imagine to be the most wonderful teacher of painters ever, Robert Henri. He is the opposite of Kandinsky in philosophy, but there are similarities too, and we can learn from both. He says:

"An artist's warehouse, full of experience, is not a store of successful phrases ready for use, but is a store of raw material. The successful phrases are there, but they have been broken down to be made over into new form. Those who have the will to create do not care to use old phrases. There is a great pleasure in the effort to invent the exact thing which is needed. Use it. Break it down. Begin again."

And off we go!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I did a two-page spread in my Moleskine. This one, folks, took a while. So long that I began wondering why on earth I would spend so much time on two pages of a Moleskine. ("Because!" I say defiantly.)

The front part was drawn in bits and pieces during several lunches at Qdoba in South Miami, except that the old man was snatched (kicking and screaming - and still he didn't wake up!) from Einstein's Bagels in Coral Gables, and the blond's legs were borrowed from another person in another restaurant altogether. This is because the blonde didn't cooperate and walked away before I was done drawing, inconveniently taking her legs with her! I had to find people sitting in the positions I needed to complete the drawing. More recently I decided to finish the sketch, adding the background scene and walkways. Everything, as usual for me, was done in pen on site. And this week I painted.

Since the two page spread doesn't display too well, I've split it up for you. (Of course you can always click on the pictures to see larger versions as well).

Rather than have broad fields of grey for the roads, I mixed the much more satisfying complimentary colors permanent magenta and permanent sap green. Even that would have been boring as a plain wash, so I added splashes of each color for interest.

I used pure colors rather than combinations for the front figures so they would stand out, and as always I try to be creative and a bit playful with color and to balance the colors throughout the picture.

I'm reading a great book on Georgia O'Keeffe by Britta Benke. I was surprised at how many of her thoughts about painting, and the thoughts of individuals who taught and influenced her, resonate with me even with regard to how I planned the humble spread above. For example, O'Keeffe said: "It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint."

To that I can only say, "YEAH!!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Infinite Game

I was introduced yesterday to an idea of James Carse, that there are finite games, and there are infinite games.

Finite games, by Carse's definition, are games that have a definite beginning and a definite end. There is a winner and a loser, like checkers or war.

Infinite games, on the other hand, never end. Play continues for play's sake. No loser, no winner.

I just learned about this concept and don't know the ins and outs. But Mr. Carse thinks that the only infinite game is "life".

Forgive me, Mr. Carse, I am not a philosopher. I am an artist. Z'Artist. And life seems to me quite finite. Especially now.

But within life's parameters, there is creativity and there is art. This is a game with no rules except to continue. There is no regard for winning or losing. A success at one endeavor only leads to the next. A failure the same. Art is the game where you can scan the horizon, or even a room, and find the game pieces. You can use them or not. Creativity is the game that will never end, unless you let it.

It is all in the way you look at it, Mr. Carse.

Unfortunately today's post is very different than it was going to be, some heartbreaking news about someone I know, and what that person and family must now face - the fear, the long road. It is a reminder to play the infinite game while we can, because that, Mr. Carse, is life.

The drawing at the top of this post has been lurking in my Moleskine for some time. I only just colored it. It is the waitresses' station in a a barbecue restaurant. This is what happens when a man does watercolors. What can I say?

The bookmark on the left was a bit of a surprise. I drew this a long time ago in an idle moment with a Pilot Precise V5 - a wonderful pen to draw with, but it is not waterproof. The other day I decided to color it and watch it smudge. What the heck. It didn't though, not one bit - go figure! This was also a very thin paper that took the watercolor beautifully and hardly buckled. The paper has a beautiful texture, so I will have to explore this further.

And my shadow shot of the day, for Shadow Shot Sunday..this is what it is all about I think. When you come across a scene like this that takes your breath away. And you stop. And see. This is a beautiful building with delightful colors and paintings on the side. And a tree that was planted there. I am sure this was all envisioned by some creative soul, an architect/designer, and I am the beneficiary. Now it becomes a photo. Later perhaps a painting. Or an inspiration. Or an idea. In the infinite game.

Let's play.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Painterly and Sketcherly and Shadowly (Sort of)

I felt "painterly" today (when don't I?). I caught Terry Madden on public television effortlessly laying down color after color with watercolors so that they would bleed into one another. It made me want to do it. So I pulled out a small sketch that I had done at the Miami Book Fair International last November and let the watercolors flow. I love how watercolors create patterns that I never could have planned.

This was done on 5" x 7" watercolor sheet that easily slips into the small carrying case that I use for on-site sketching. I should really use them more in the field - the size is better than Moleskine size, and I can choose whatever paper I want.

At the trip to Central Florida last month, I sat in the back seat as we drove up A-1-A through Cocoa Beach. I sketched snippets of what I saw along the way just for fun. The middle house is a composite, and, okay, I made up the boat and the water and the bird. I could start a new trend with this size: 7" x 1" - like a bookmark only skinnier. "Waste not, want not," right?

This week, for Shadow Shot Sunday, I cheat and provide a reflection. In justification of the shot, I refer you to here, and definition no. 9 of "shadow" which is "a reflected image". Hah!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Bald Truth

Welcome to the celebration! Come on in - grab some chips! So good to see you!

The plates are over there. The drinks are in the cooler.

What's the occasion, you ask? Of course, you wouldn't know - would you? Why, this is the first time that a painting on canvas has ever been featured at Dan's Canvas!

Yeah, go figure. After many years, I picked up the acrylic paints, and a small 8" x 8" canvas, and decided not to try too hard or take it too seriously, just get my brushes wet, grab a clock as a model, and see what happens. In the process I dripped some paint on the yellow border so rather than wipe it away, I decided to put some splashes of color around the clock. Then I wiped on some titanium white to soften the border area and they smeared a bit. The result is "Confetti Clock." Appropriate for the occasion, don't you think?

I'd like to introduce you to some other folks I've invited to the party. My most eminent guest is Richard Serra. Yeah, the sculptor. You can see one of his works behind him. I was watching an art documentary and his face was so interesting that I paused the documentary, and drew him in vine charcoal. The drawing is about 7" x 10".

Then later this week I was watching a good movie but grew restless anyway. My trusty Pigma Micron is never too far away, so I grabbed an envelope and began sketching from a photo that was on the cover of a magazine while I watched. The drawing on the right is the result.

Would you like another drink? There are some hors d'oeuvres over here.

It is definitely freeing to draw on an envelope and not worry about how it's going to come out. I also knew that there would never be watercolor added to this one, so I was able to really play with hatching to get the values. There is something to be said for grabbing loose sheets of paper, envelopes, whatever, to draw on - no pressure, all joy.

Once, a very long time ago, I snapped the picture of a crowd at Disney. In the crowd was this man on the left who has a very strong face, I think. He looks to me like a hero, a 9/11 firefighter. I had read about sketching in charcoal on canvas and spraying the charcoal drawing before painting and wanted to try it. This will be painted someday, but not until I feel somewhat competent in acrylics. He's waited this long. He can wait some more.

What's that? I can't hear you. Do you want to step outside?

Man, look at that that cool shadow on the wall! Let me just quickly snap this shot for Shadow Shot Sunday. Okay. Now what is it?

Oh, you notice that all the other guests at this party are bald? No worries - it is required that you be bald to attend this party, but I have the electric razor just over here. It shouldn't take more than a minute. Come with me.

Hey where are you going? Leaving so soon?!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Playing with the Dog, Playing with Shapes, Just Playing..

I had another 2-1/2" x 3-1/2" size sheet of Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. hard press paper and couldn't leave it blank. So I drew and painted a dog at play.

I loved exploring all the different values in this one. It was extraordinarily satisfying to do. A lot of joy in a small space.

This sketch is derived from a photograph at Morguefile that you can find here.

For Shadow Shot Sunday, I contribute a picnic table. I thought the circular shapes and shadows were interesting.

And because it has similar shapes, I throw in this photo. There is always construction here in Miami, whether we need it or not.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Birds You Can Hug

A Few Stories of My Visit with Family in Central Florida:

1. The Fourth of July Barbecue:

Unnamed Relative (I will call him U.R.) put a massive amount of chicken on the barbecue and closed the hood. He then went inside the house.

I was left outside with the kids, my nieces and nephew among them. As the the Responsible Adult, I sat at the picnic table examining U.R's new Droid cell phone. It was cool. I turned on an app and was trying to figure out how to turn it off, but couldn't for the life of me. I heard the children talking in worried tones. How cute.

"Is the barbecue supposed to be smoking like that?" one asked.
"Of course it is," said another.
"I've never seen so much smoke before," said a third.
"He knows what he's doing," came the response.

With a sigh I looked up from the Droid. Smoke was billowing from the barbecue.

As the Responsible Adult, I reluctantly laid the Droid down and walked to the barbecue and opened the hood. Flames the length and breadth of the barbecue whipped four feet into the air. All of the chicken was on fire!

I was at a loss. Turning off the burner might have been a good idea, but this has only just occurred to me now, during this writing. In college we all took turns riding a Moped. I got on, asked how to make it go, turned the handles all the way back and proceeded full speed towards a pedestrian and a car. At that time I forgot how to slow down and realized I had no idea how to stop, did not notice the hand brakes in front of me, and held onto the handle bars tight in full speed position. The pedestrian jumped out of the way just in time. Then the car passed by an instant before I crossed the road. Then came the tree and my abrupt stop.

This was like that.

At this point U.R. rushed passed me at a brisk walk and pronounced, "Don't worry. Everything's under control." At which point, oblivious of the flames, he began picking chicken off of the grill with tongs. The tongs would disappear into the orange flames and emerge with charred chicken.

"Is there anything I can do?" I asked.
"Well a little water might be helpful," he said.

I went inside U.R.'s kitchen and hurriedly looked inside some cabinets. I grabbed a large glass and filled it with water. Whatever I do I will not grab a small glass, I thought, pushing back a childhood memory.

I brought the large glass to U.R. U.R. laughed and said, "That's no good - I need a sprayer! It's like the time you tried to put out the fire with the paper cup!"

Suppressed childhood memory 40 years later brought to the surface by one of the few that knew. Family. When I was about 10 years old a fire had been set in our yard by a vandal and I ran inside the house, filled one of those small bathroom paper cups with water and ran to the fire in my effort to put it out. They will never forget.

Emergencies just aren't my thing. Never have been.

"Anyway," U.R. said, "I have it under control." And he did. After some "tweaking", the chicken emerged delicious.

And my 11-year-old niece, Emma, told me how to turn off the app.

2. The Fireworks:

The fireworks had already begun but U.R. enthusiastically insisted that we march to the perfect spot in the middle of the huge bridge to watch them. So we marched at a brisk pace, and we marched, and we marched, as fireworks crackled and splashed overhead, and before we reached the middle of the bridge the grand finale' boomed and exploded above, so we turned around and marched, and marched, and marched all of the way back.

Best exercise I've had in ages.

3. Ossorio Bakery and Cafe:

I strategically chose my best sketching seat at Ossorio, a quaint and comfortable cafe' in Cocoa Village that serves pastries, homemade ice cream, wood oven pizzas and sandwiches. Then I learned that we had to go to the counter to order. I lost my seat. But I could turn to the side just so to get the vantage point I wanted. Then another Unnamed Relative said, "You are always sketching - be with us for a change." So I got my homemade ice cream and I sulked. Then when I complained out loud, I was granted a tiny window of time to sketch and very quickly cranked out the sketch above, finishing to tune of "Are you done yet?". The sketch is more like a dream of Ossorio, only Ossorio is such a special place that it is Ossorio that is the dream. I colored most of this during the drive home with a waterbrush, then finished it with some regular brushes as well.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and a delight to be with the people I love.

Follow Up to My Last Post:

During my family visit, Ingrid of the Free Quark wrote a wonderful post here referring to this blog. She is the photographer whose pelican I drew. I overheard some ladies speaking today about pets. One woman said she needed dogs because you can hug dogs, but not cats, and certainly not birds. "You cannot hug a bird", she said definitively.

She was wrong, of course.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Diving Right In (Ripple and Shadow Shot Sunday)

The heartbreak of the Gulf oil gusher: as many as 2.5 million gallons per day rush into the Gulf in a giant plume. Four hundred wildlife species are threatened, to say nothing of the economic damage and harm to our coasts. The largest oil spill in United States history does not cease. It spills and spills and spills. Since April 20th, from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled. It is difficult to imagine such numbers.

But it is easy to imagine a brown pelican in the paradise of the blue sky diving unwittingly towards the spill.

At Ripple, artists are invited to portray a subject that "should pertain somehow to the Gulf - the oil spill - the oceans and the creatures that live in it and around it." According to Kelly Light, "It's about not feeling helpless in the face of an overwhelming disaster. We're illustrators. We don't lose touch with that kid inside who marvels at the creatures who swim below and fly above the sea. We draw them. We are inspired by them. We need to help them."

Her request is that the artist create "a small 2.5" x 3.5" sketchcard. The cards can be submitted to as a jpeg along with your links and a few sentences about you (ie: where you live, etc). .. These will be made available for a small donation of $10.00 to either The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies ( or The International Bird Rescue Research Center ( .. Every penny will go. When the cards sell, we ask for a donation confirmation and you will be asked to sign the back with a thank you. Then mail them to the address you are sent."

Kelly says that "we may be too small as individuals to do some grand gesture- but together our small gestures can be grand."

I am privileged to have found a beautiful photograph at flickr upon which to base my card. The photo is by Ingrid Taylar whose inspired photographs of wildlife and nature can also be found at her website, The Free Quark. I call my contribution, "Last Dive".

I've recently purchased a few books on drawing hands. I'd like to be able to form hands in many different positions, almost without thought. These sketches of the back of the hand are copied from The Book of a Hundred Hands by George B. Bridgman, a book originally published in 1920. The other book I purchased is Drawing Dynamic Hands by Burne Hogarth, first published almost 60 years after the first. I am only just beginning this study, and as I progress I will give you my thoughts on the usefulness of the books.

One day I carried the wrong Moleskine with me - my other Moleskine, the one with the thick yellow paper that can only be drawn in and that will not take watercolors. As with most errors in art, this was fortuitous. It had been some time since I'd sketched a person without anticipating the watercolor later. I tend to minimize the inking when I know I am going to color (although judging from Raena's recent amazing colored sketch of a turtle, this thinking may be wrong). I saw a man with a very interesting face, and drew with much more detail than I would have done otherwise, just like the old days. I really do love bare pen and ink.

Finally, I contribute a shadow shot for Shadow Shot Sunday. I was struck by these odd bushes with their elongated shadows. I like taking photographs as exercises in composition, and had an interesting time with this one. I had considered cropping lower on the trees to emphasize the foreground. But ultimately I decided that a relatively equal field of blue above the trees, and green below the bushes was the most visually pleasing view.

Well, that's got to be three serious posts in a row, I think - this blog is going to lose it's reputation for mindless frivolity. I hope to correct that in the next post.

UPDATE: The Ripple sketch sold..