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!"

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!

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.

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 High Line

I went to the High Line a few weeks ago to spend some time drawing the unique combination of people, city views, and flora. I really don't know of anywhere else where the three come together in quite the same way. I think it's one of the nicest places in the city to spend an afternoon, and judging from the crowds, a lot of people agree with me!

Below the High Line, the new Whitney Museum offers bright green chairs for people to hang out, check their phones, and take a break. It's a pretty stylish crowd.

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And when I saw this crowd of servers from the Whitney's restaurant Untitled having a meeting, I couldn't resist trying to capture the rhythm of their black pants, grey aprons, and red straps.

Summer in the City

You would think most people would head somewhere cooler in the summertime, but Times Square is packed at all times, all seasons, wall to wall! I went up there and made a few drawings last week and found everyone and their mother sitting at those red tables. Introduced a few years ago as a traffic calming feature, they've proven a popular place to sit and rest those aching tourist feet.

These two looked more like natives than tourists, but there's no reason locals can't enjoy the amenities too!

These two looked more like natives than tourists, but there's no reason locals can't enjoy the amenities too!

This family had a stripes/solids thing going on. Pool-lovers or just a coincidence?

This family had a stripes/solids thing going on. Pool-lovers or just a coincidence?

The Corwith Cramer

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 5 had a visit from the Sea Education Association's (SEA) ship, the Corwith Cramer, from Woods Hole, MA. SEA is an educational institution that takes undergraduates to sea for a semester to study and explore the ocean alongside professional researchers. What an opportunity! The ship was only in Brooklyn for the day, so I made sure not to miss it. I took the afternoon to get down there to make a few drawings!

Tulips!

Spring has finally sprung for real, and I know because the cherry blossoms have come and gone, and the tulips are finally here. New Yorkers love cherry blossoms, but I think we must have a soft spot for tulips too because they're all over the city. I found these at Madison Square Park.

And what is this, you ask? Beats me! It's from the Eternal Flagstaff Memorial in the park, which "...honors those victorious forces of the United States Army and Navy who were officially received at this site following the armistice and the conclusion of World War I." According to the NYC Park website, it was designed by Thomas Hastings (1860-1929), from a famous architectural firm that also did the New York Public Library. The website goes on to say that this is one of four "rams heads, and was sculpted by Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925). " A ram's head with wings? I love it!  It's always fun when scupltors let loose with grotesques and chimeras. It's a treasure hunt to see if you can find them on even the most serious buildings and monuments.

Early Spring at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

It's finally starting to warm up here in New York, but it was still a little chilly when I went out a couple of weeks ago to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with Carly LarssonEvan Turk, and Siyeon Lee. We still managed to find *something* in bloom: crocuses!

They're supposed to be the first flowers to poke their buds up out of the cold, cold ground in early spring and there they were! There was even a bee rooting around in one of them, picking up as much pollen as he could. Go little bee! Pollinate!!

I'm sure it was pretty hilarious to see three illustrators (before Siyeon joined us) clustered around the little spot where the crocuses were blooming.

We headed to the Japanese garden next. While it's too early for cherry blossoms, the Japanese understand the beauty of evergreens, bare branches, and the texture of rocks.

I have it on good authority from a friend studying horticulture that spring is going to hit fast and hard in the next week or two. She claimed everything would shoot out into bloom! Be ready, she said. I am!

Macy's Flower Show

Here's a drawing I did when I went to see Macy's Flower Show with Siyeon on Monday. I was so excited to finally see some flowers. It's *almost* like spring is really here! Almost.

After I got home, I organized my thoughts a bit more and did one with perhaps less detail, but more coherence.

And here's the thumbnail I created way back before I went. In my head, it was more about giant flowers, and less about all the black makeup kiosks and shiny surfaces. Such is life.

The New York City 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade

I went out with Evan and Siyeon to draw the St. Patrick's Day parade on Tuesday. Here in New York, we have a very robust celebration, with a big parade and a lot of onlookers cheering it on. It's always fun to draw all those bagpipers in their plaids.

 

Looking down Fifth Avenue, it just looked a like a giant crowd advancing with giant flags waving, which I guess is what it was.

Having to blow on those bagpipes for so many blocks must be pretty intense. We were all the way uptown by the end of the parade. I can only imagine from this guy's face how tired he was of blowing on those pipes!

These three were directly across from me. They must have been early in the parade and then stood by the finish to watch all their compatriots with obvious enjoyment and pride. I felt like they had such Irish faces, and in their dress blues, they were such an Irish-American New York story all by themselves.

St. Patrick's brought to mind some work I recently saw at the AFA Gallery in Scranton, PA where my teacher Veronica Lawlor currently has a show. Kevin McCloskey, one of the other artists featured in the show, created a series of prints about the lesser known miracles of St. Patrick. To me, their humor and storytelling embody defining traits of the Irish character. If you're in Scranton, stop by the gallery. Definitely also check out Ronnie's reportage of the parade as well.

Not Spring Yet

This week, the temperatures actually breached the 50 degree mark in New York. We haven't had the weather that Boston has had, but we've had a lot of cold, cold days here. So perhaps I was overly optimistic when I headed out to Central Park. I was hoping for something—anything—in bloom, but of course, the park was all bare branches and snow still melting everywhere. Sigh. So here's Bethesda Fountain in the middle of Central Park, bare branches and all.

Millions March Reportage

I started the day a little after 2 at Washington Square Park. The crowd was so massive, it was hard to get any distance on it. I was at the park until 3 or so, and people were still streaming up Fifth Avenue even though the march had started an hour ago.

As people marched around and through the triumphal arch, I wanted to make sure I included the statue of George Washington that stands against the north side of the arch. More on him, later, though.

At Union Square, the festive red and white striped booths of the holiday market made an incongruous backdrop to the protest. I'm not sure what the shopping tourists made of the protest, but I saw plenty of onlookers taking photos. The march took place on the same day as SantaCon, and I saw at least one Santa taking part.

There were a *lot* of cops lining the route of the march. These three were pretty jolly considering the chants marchers were directing their way. I guess I'd rather they be indulgent than aggressive, but their confident, even arrogant, body language said it all.

The march ended near Foley Square in front of police headquarters. The police had set up a dead end, so everyone was packed into a really tiny space. There was a constant stream of people moving in and out of the plaza as people were deciding to go home, to stay and protest some more, or to march to the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the bottom of the page there is a quote from George Washington inscribed on the pediment of the New York State Supreme Court Building in Foley Square, which I saw as I was leaving the march: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." To me, it was a perfect summary of the point of the march, and since I'd started with a drawing of George Washington, it seemed apt to end with him as well.

If you want to see more reportage of the march, check out my friend Alex Charner's powerful work on his blog.

Eric Garner Protest Reportage

I went out to Foley Square last night with Carly Larsson, Evan Turk, and Chris Brody to reportage the protest surrounding the decision not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner. The first thing I noticed was how many people came out. I've seen estimates in the thousands, and that's just at Foley Square (here's a photo from above from Gothamist). It was heartening to see so many New Yorkers come out to protest, and I was especially glad to see how diverse the crowd was. Especially at the beginning of the protest, many of the protesters were very young, possibly college or even high school students.



Unlike the Occupy protest, some people had amplification, although to communicate with the whole crowd, the human microphone was in full effect.



The protest moved down to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge (which is only a few blocks from Foley Square). Since I was hanging back a bit from the main protest group to draw, the cops formed their line right in front of me. They made an intimidating barrier. Their commanding officer was telling them "shoulder to shoulder!" as they lined up.



Since the protesters were denied access to the bridge, they started marching back to Foley Square. A lot of people carried signs saying "Black lives matter" and "End police brutality," but I found these paper cutouts really haunting. Each one had the name of a black man killed by the police: Sean Bell, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, among others.



The protest left Foley Square so quickly, I actually lost them for a bit. I found them again down on Canal Street, at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The protesters had moved to try to block the tunnel, but again had been turned back by the police. If I was intimidated by the uniforms and the numbers at Foley Square, it's nothing compared to how I felt seeing riot helmets and batons.



After that, the protest moved on without me. I went down there feeling pretty down about the state of our democracy, but going home I felt buoyed by the turnout of so many people who care about what goes on. I don't know if there are more protests planned, but if you're upset, even just a little, by police brutality and the lack of accountability, I encourage you to go and see or participate.