This Is What America Looks Like!

It's been a busy few weeks since Inauguration Day. Every week brings a barrage of consternating news, and then a protest in reaction. From the Women's March, to the anti-Muslim Ban protests, to Resist Trump Tuesday, to a protest in support of the LGBTQ community, every week offers opportunities to voice our dissent.

This is from the Women's March. Unfortunately I was feeling a bit under the weather—which turned out to be flu later!

I was completely astounded by the size of the Women's March. I was apprehensive that it would be a one-off and then everyone would go back home and move on with their lives. "Oh well, we protested that one time, and it didn't do anything." But the opposite has happened. As the weeks go on, I continue to be impressed by the number of people who come to stand in the cold on a Saturday afternoon, but also the diversity of people and the diversity of issues that they care about. At the Women's March, there were people chanting that black lives matter. At the LGBTQ protest, there were signs in support of Muslim and refugee rights. This is heartening to see. The only way a resurgence of the left will work is if we are all here for each other. 

At JFK Airport the evening the Muslim Ban Executive Order was announced.

At Battery Park in late January.  The Muslim Ban was especially reviled here in New York. As a city made up of immigrants of every stripe, we took the ban personally.

Going to a protest is a great way to be invigorated and to take heart from other people that share your concerns. It's hard to feel scared and alone when you're chanting " No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" with a few thousand other people.

Also, it's fun! There are clever signs and people drumming and dancing and playing music. The LGBTQ protest was the best for fun signs. (Please note the sign that says "Never underestimate the power of a faggot with a tambourine.") The gay community is a politically active one that is not new to protesting, and it shows. 

For a week or two, I worried that all the protesting, while making me feel better, was just a sop to my feelings and was completely ineffectual outside my liberal New York bubble. But it seems that the protests have gained some traction, forcing the administration to walk back some of its crazier overreaches, hopefully giving comfort to the people that have been targeted by these Executive Orders, and putting our representatives on notice that we are paying attention. I hope that people stay engaged, reach out to others, and organize. We need to get in formation and then we need to VOTE!

I think my favorite chant was "Show me what America looks like! This is what America looks like!"

The Year of the Rooster

Happy Lunar New Year! When this website told me that the 2016 (the Year of the Monkey) was going to be the "wizard of the impossible" last year, little did I know how true that would turn out to be. I don't remember a year when every piece of conventional wisdom was turned on its head. This year, I am ready for the Rooster when it says "I am alert/ ready to take action" because that's exactly how I feel. "Never give up or in," the Rooster says.  If these first few days of the new administration are anything to go by, we have a long, hard road ahead of us in the next four years, and I, for one, am taking the Rooster's advice.

Chinatown Volleyball

During the summer and fall, the park downstairs from my house hosts a lot of volleyball games and tournaments. The teams are made up of local middle and high schoolers, and are co ed. They'll spend the whole day playing and cheering each other on, practicing their digging and their setting on the sidewalks of the park. I thought I would play around with watercolors, but after a few disasters, I packed up my bag and came home. I pulled it out a few weeks later and, thinking back to that day, added in the black ink to define the court and the trees, and the buildings from across the street. Finally, I made a few (tiny) volleyball players and collaged them in. Another good reminder that just because it didn't work out on location doesn't mean you can't salvage it at home!

Debate Night

Monday night, I watched the Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. At first, it seemed like we'd see a different Trump than the "tangerine trash can fire" that won the primaries. He sounded like maybe he had an argument about trade, rather than the word salad strewn with casual lies he usually employs when speaking publicly. For a second, I thought, maybe he did prepare, and I got a smidgen worried. Not for Hillary exactly, because she's had a lot of debate experience, but for America. I thought if he could make himself sound halfway plausible, he might be able to reach some voters that have so far been undecided.

Trump sounding halfway plausible for two seconds.

But then, as the debate went on, and Clinton needled him on some of his past comments, the old Trump emerged, the one who can't let anything pass, the one who keeps smearing people even after it'd be to his advantage to move on. He melted down like a CheezWhiz volcano, and Hillary Clinton got to look at America like the cat that got the cream.

Nevermind, CheezWhiz volcano in full effect.

You may not love our choices, but if you have to cross a chasm, do you go with the bridge that you don't totally trust, or do you just throw yourself off the precipice? The thing that makes me really sad is that even after this election, after Hillary wins (I really hope she wins), Trump and the ugliness he's brought out in our national discourse won't go away. He's legitimized conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, and alt right nuts and made a place for them in the mainstream conversation.

Whatever you think, please do register today, and VOTE on November 8th.

Bryant Park Birthday

I celebrated my birthday last week, and what better way to celebrate than to go out drawing with a friend? Evan Turk and I had a beautiful fall-like day, sunny and bright at Bryant Park. It's a great place to draw because it's a perfect mix of people, greenery, and buildings, and it even has a beautiful fountain and a mini-carousel. That day, I wanted to draw the fountain, and the people taking a little time out of the bustling midtown afternoon to enjoy the sound of the water and the breeze.

Corpse Flower 2016

This summer saw the blooming of the New York Botanical Garden's Corpse Flower! I went up to the garden with Evan Turk and Chris Brody, hoping to get a noseful of the infamous stinky flower, which only blooms once every ten years for about 24 hours, and is supposed to smell like rotting flesh (hence the name). The spike of the flower is supposed to reach around body temperature, both to help the scent travel, and to further mimic a decaying corpse. Eww! This is all in hopes of attracting carrion-eating flies and beetles which are the flower's main pollinators. The news of the flower's blooming had been well-publicized, so we had to wait in a long line of other corpse flower gawkers snaking outside the conservatory. Once we got in, we were a little underwhelmed by the smell. It was a bit garbagey, but maybe living so close to Chinatown—where the gutter in high summer develops a stench not for the faint of heart—has inured me to funkiness? In any case, while the smell was discernible here and there, we did not walk into the wall of stink we'd anticipated. I was surprised by the size of the flower's inflorescence (that big yellow spike that sticks up). It was about a foot and a half or two feet tall, with a giant cabbagey petal that wrapped around it. I went for some long, creepy shapes to further the deliciously grossed out feeling I got when I saw it.

Alas, it was hardly possible to view the flower like this. With as many enthusiasts as there were, my view was a little more like this:

So many Corpse Flower fans!
If your botanical garden doesn't have one, I highly recommend checking out this time lapse video of one blooming. You get to see the triumphant rise of the spike, and then the sad, sad wilting. Of course, you won't get the smell, but if you just watch it hovering over your kitchen trash, I think you'll get the idea. One last fun fact, the Bronx's official flower was the corpse flower, inspired by the garden's 1939 blooming. It was changed in 2000 to the day lily, which is much less exciting, to me.

Helen Keller at the Top of the Empire State Building

A little while ago, I read a Letters of Note post about Helen Keller's impressions at the top of the Empire State Building. I was so inspired by her imagery, that I had to make something. She wrote that, there, at the top of what was then the tallest building in the world, she had a vision of the universe.

There was the Hudson – more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars.

She goes on to write about the poetry of the Empire State Building, and the victory of the imagination, and sight and seeing if you want to read it here.

Charlotte Brontë

I read my first Victorian novel at the tender age of 14. It was Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and I was an immediate fan. I admired the titular character's independent cast of mind, even as she grew up under the thumb of cruel guardians, teachers, and punishing circumstances. The author's biography was another reason to love her. As an adolescent in the hinterlands myself, with mainly books and my imagination (and, ok, TV) to amuse me, I felt a kinship with Charlotte and her siblings. Tampa may not have been Haworth Parsonage exactly, but my 14 year old self wanted to believe we were kindred spirits. Back then, books had such a hold on my imagination, they were more real than my waking life; their characters and their creators walked the school halls with me, whispering commentary in my ear as I made my way to class or tried to concentrate on a lecture. I'm happy to say that even now, Jane Eyre still satisfies. I read it every couple of years, and I'm always impressed with Jane's insistence that she live her life according to her own ideas, and no one else's. So here's a portrait of one of my favorite writers, with the bleak and beautiful Yorkshire moors of her home. Couldn't you just see her sitting at the back of the classroom, whispering ironies in my ear?

Dalvero Life Drawing Weekend

This past weekend, I attended a life drawing class at the Dalvero Academy. Life drawing is always a jolt to the system, but this weekend, we had the chance to work with three fantastic, very different models with different ways of moving, different energy, and different graphics. And, as always, Ronnie and Margaret kept us off-balance, forcing us to abandon our comfort zones to push into new territory.

One of my favorite exercises is to make some super fast thumbnails. It forces you to come up with designs on the fly, with the understanding that you want to make each one different from the last, and different from what you usually do.

While I'm drawing, I'm usually annoyed that I never get to "finish" the drawing. It's only looking at it later that it's as finished as it needs to be. It's a good lesson in trusting your instincts.

Here's another where I was bummed to not get to "finish," but now, I like that I chose to spend my short time on this piece to emphasize how Samir's hips sat on the model stand, and how he tucked one foot under the other. I (now) like the way the rest of him is only a hazy outline.

Erica treated us to some fashionable dresses and fashionable poses.

Edwin brought his guitar and gave us a beautiful performance. Why is he playing the guitar naked? Shhhhhh, don't question it.

I could've gotten up and gone around to the other side, but sometimes it's fun to see what you can make of the back view.

Singles Appreciation Day

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. It's not that I'm against flowers and chocolate (never against chocolate!), it's more that I resent the push to buy them (or have them bought for me) once a year on a particular day. To me, something nice on any other day of the year would mean more for being unexpected. And as for a celebration of romantic love, that's nice, but what about all the other love that gets us through, from our friends, our families, even our pets? That kind of love is all around us, and I think that's just as worthy of being celebrated. To celebrate that love, here's Schopenhauer for Singles Appreciation Day. Schopenhauer had deeply pessimistic views on love and marriage, considering them simply the ways our instinct to procreate fools us into having children. Although he wasn't a believer in romantic love, he did have a succession of poodles, all named Atman (for the Sanskrit word for the essential self), that he adored. Love is all you need!

Year of the Monkey

Happy Lunar New Year! 2016 is the year of that wizard of the impossible, the monkey! Now is the time for creative energies and inventive minds to flourish: apparently, in the year of the monkey, all bets are off. According to this website, it's going to be a good year for my sign, the Rabbit. "Progress, finally!" it says. Sounds good to me.

I made a couple of collages for the Year of the Monkey. It seems to be all about experiments and new things, so it seemed appropriate for me to try to push forward in a new medium.

Planting Seeds

Reading around on the internet, I read that if you're a gardener (which I'm not), you have to plant bulbs before the winter if you want a nice display of flowers in the spring. It reminded me how much advance work goes into making things. How many drawings have I made to get to the drawings I make now? Last summer, a friend of mine said that it took him about half an hour to make a drawing, and I half-joked, "well, twenty years and half an hour," because every drawing is a direct result of all the drawings that came before. All those years, planting seeds!

I made this drawing last fall, from one of the beautiful reliefs on the staircase between Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Each relief, sculpted by Jacob Wrey Mould, depicts a different season, and I think must be spring because the tulip is blooming, but the lotus isn't yet.

The GOP Debate...and the Donald

Last night was the GOP debate, and as promised, here's a drawing I made while watching. The stage was still pretty crowded, with seven candidates debating, which made for a much more crowded picture than the Democratic Town Hall. Cruz and Rubio are doing the best, so they're the biggest, with Christie, Paul, and Jeb still there, all trying to stay relevant. Fading into the background are Kasich and Carson. More prominent are the moderators, especially Megyn Kelly. Her profile's a lot higher thanks to this kerfuffle with the Donald—who takes the center, because even in his absence, he's doing the best in the polls, a black hole sucking all the sense and most of the air out of this race.

Democratic Town Hall

I missed almost entirely all of the Democratic Town Hall the other night, but happily, in the internet age, that doesn't mean I missed it forever. I was able to go back and watch the whole thing (or most of it. It was long!), and sat down and did some drawings. I'm posting the one I like the best. I started with some big patches of color that I put down just because. Those stages are so sterile and always red, white, and blue. I get it, they're being patriotic, but I wanted to get away from the flag colors and just have some fun. It's mostly Bernie and Hillary, but there's Martin O'Malley in the middle, drawn to about the scale of his polling numbers.

I'm getting ready to draw the Republican debate Thursday night (but not the Donald).

New Beginnings

January is always a mixed bag. On one hand, I'm optimistic about all that I want to make happen in the new year. On the other, sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure! So today, I'm sharing a watercolor of Janus, Roman god of beginnings. Usually, he's interpreted as a man with two heads, one looking into the future and one into the past, but I made him into a lady, with some mixed feelings.

I'm not usually a resolution-maker, but this year, I'm taking a page out Samuel Beckett's Worstward Ho!: fail again. Fail better.