The Year of the Dog

2018 is the Year of the Dog in the Lunar Calendar, and I am so ready to turn the page on the Year of the Rooster. I was a little too exhausted and overwhelmed this past holiday season to send out holiday cards like I usually do. I just couldn't get into the holiday spirit. So I promised myself I wouldn't let the Lunar New Year go by without sending out some cards to my friends.

I started out doodling some dogs on a old throwaway piece of 18x24 paper because I thought it would make me happy to draw them kind of big, on paper I didn't care about, just for fun. I didn't really mean for it to become anything that I would send out or show anyone. If anything, I thought they would be practice dogs for a *real* piece that would come later. And then I let some of them be really silly and derpy because that's why we love them, right? They get so excited, jumping around, and they just can't hide that they love you, they love rolling in the dirt, and running fast. They love the world. I put in the words in any spaces that didn't have dogs, and decided they wouldn't be fancy script, but just straight-forward all caps. It seemed to suit the dogs I had drawn the best. I patched a few places where the ink had run or dripped, and then used up a whole marker (ha!) making them a yellow field to play in. By then, I had fallen a little in love with how silly they were, and I didn't want to draw them more accurately or "better." I felt it would take away some of their joy.

The rest of the story is Photoshop and Moo. By now, most of the people I've sent them to have received them. My friend Alex was kind enough to share on his Instagram, so you can see the finished postcard here. I still have a couple left, so if you didn't get one, leave me a comment or send me an email with your address and I'll send one to you!

People born in the Year of the Dog are supposed to have something of the dog's friendly, generous spirit, with a deep sense of right and wrong. Those traits are supposed to carry over to characterize the year, with people fighting for causes they believe in, according to one site I read.  Happy Year of the Dog, everyone! May you have health, wealth, and prosperity in 2018!

 

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!"

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.

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.

Happy Holidays

This year, I went a little cosmic with my holiday card. These are two experiments that didn't make the cut since I went a slightly different direction, but I thought I would share them here. 

Like a lot of people, I've been saddened by the violence I've seen on the news lately in the US and abroad, and by the extreme political rhetoric it's prompted. So I wanted my card to be a reminder that the universe is a big place, and we're just a tiny piece of it. We're all from different places, and believe different things, but we're all made up of star stuff, here for a short time. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson so eloquently says: 

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

We're all connected. Peace on Earth, good will towards men.

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?

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.

24th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade

I went to the Halloween Dog Parade in the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run yesterday to check out all the adorable dogs in costumes. I should have guessed when I saw that they've been doing it for 24 (!) years that it would be crazy, but I was completely overwhelmed by the crush of people and dogs.

Of course, since it's New York City, most of the dogs were pretty small. There were many, many chihuahuas. There was only one little ram, but he was so cute, I drew him from a few different angles, until Mr. Bumblebee there got in the way.


I loved this dog's costume because it was so understated. The guy clearly had to go out and buy some dog shoes, but the rest of it was just kids clothes and beats headphones. And he looked great!

Again, this golden retriever's costume was simple, but made great use of a transparent cone. Bonus points for involving booze.

Disney princesses and Pixar characters were popular.




Of course, superheroes are perennial favorites.
These two were having some kind of conversation.


Wonder Woman, from the back, and taking a load off.

A few miscellaneous ones. What is this first one? A handsome fellow with a leather jacket and a white scarf. Anyone out there have any ideas?


A lot of people dressed up with their dogs, and this seemed to be one way to get into the honorable mentions or to show or place. The other way was to build a whole set for your dog(s). Gomez and Morticia Addams were there, with Thing perched on Gomez's shoulder. You could barely see their dog under his long wig and hat because he was Cousin It.

This Princess Leia and Jedi had built a whole Ewok village for their little Ewok.


Another dog you could barely see under her costume: a blue dress and blonde wig. The give away were the dragons perched on her (and the big dragon carrying her). Khaleesi!

There was another Khaleesi there with Khal Drogo, carried by one of his bloodriders. Unfortunately, I couldn't get around to the other side, so you only get the bloodrider holding his little Khal Drogo.



This one was the runner up, and I have to say, I thought it was one of the best. Full makeup, props, and a lot of skulls.

The winner was the Titanic complete with, well, the Titanic! Three dogs dressed to the nines pushed by a very proud captain.

I had my personal favorites, though. I think Barking Bad was pretty genius. The big dog was the RV and the little dog was Walter White. Their human was dressed in the yellow hoodie, so I guess he was Jesse Pinkman.

This couple went all out also. They were dressed as mushrooms and were carting their little caterpillar around in a little garden. When it came time for their presentation to the judges, the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly!

And there was even a sneaky cat (!!) disguised as, guess what? A dog!

And, last but in no way least, a little Yorkie chia pet. The owner told me that his wife and her mother had made the costume themselves. I love a DIY costume!

Mostly, I was impressed by how patient all the dogs were. They don't care about dressing up, or winning a contest. They just want to make us happy. And if we tell them they have to put on something uncomfortable, or perch on a toy horse (I missed that one, but he was there), they're willing to do it for us. I mean, look at how happy this
dog is:

If you can't get enough dogs in costume, go check out my friend Carly Larsson's hilarious blogpost on the Fort Greene Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest.

Color Study

While I was at Disney this summer doing a Dalvero class, I did an exercise that forced me to separate lines, marks, and color and only work with one at a time. Sounds annoying, right? I thought so too, until I started drawing and I remembered that, paradoxically, imposing some limits really helps me work. Otherwise, there's just so many directions to go, it can be overwhelming, baffling. So, I'm sharing a drawing I did during that exercise, all blocks of color. I may have added a line or two later (although a persnickity classmate pointed out that a line *is* a shape!), but mostly just blocks of color! This was a brother and sister. The little brother was getting restless over a leisurely lunch and it looked like it was big sister's job to look out for him, keep him quiet and entertained while the rest of the family finished their meal.


Trees

Before I came to New York for the first time, I imagined it was full of skyscrapers and cars and roads, huge sidewalks crowded with people, but I never thought about trees. Truth is, there are so many trees around New York — giant plane trees, maples, and magnolias — almost every street is lined with them. On top of that, they are great to draw. Their limbs move every which way as they grow, but they're standing still, giving you all the time in the world to draw them!

It's been a rainy spring here in New York, which is not so much fun for people, but makes the trees very happy. So here's a little grouping of drawings: trees making their way from bare winter limbs to budding spring greenery. Happy spring!







For the locals, here's a handy New York City tree guide, if you're interested. And, training to become a citizen pruner!

So Percussion and Dan Deacon at the Ecstatic Music Festival

Thursday night I went to Merkin Concert Hall to hear So Percussion and Dan Deacon play the first concert in the Ecstatic Music Festival. I'd never heard Dan Deacon play, although I've been to several So Percussion shows (see here and here). Their shows have never failed to surprise and delight. Beginning when you walk in and see something unexpected on stage - a cactus, like last time I saw them - or in this case, a stand holding several two liter bottles of soda. Turns out, if you wire it up right, you can percuss just about anything. But more about that later. Jason Treuting was absent, but he gets a free pass because his wife had just given birth two hours before! Josh Quillen called him on his cell phone from the stage so that we could all sing happy birthday to little Elsie. Sweet!

The first drawing is actually a conflation of a couple of the first So Percussion pieces, from Imaginary City and Amid the Noise. The video screen behind the band was playing a clip of Jason Treuting's baby niece playing with an orange balloon, so of course, music was made with an orange balloon. Of course! And just for fun, several orange balloons were tossed out to the audience. In another selection, DJ Schmidt of Matmos was featured, playing various...objects? I'm no musician, but I'm pretty sure there was a kazoo or two. His is the face that looms large over the band.


If you are wondering how there are five people in this drawing with with only three members of So Percussion, Eric Rosenbaum was filling in and Greg McMurray was accompanying on guitar.

For Dan Deacon's piece, entitled Take a Deep Breath, he explained that we were all going to create the piece together. A guide was passed out for the audience consisting of twenty four instructions for the audience to follow. Deep breaths were taken. Also there was a lot of humming, oooing, aaaahing, clapping, shuffling, calling friends on cell phones and having them sing on speakerphone, and many many blood-curdling screams. It was rousing and fun, although perhaps a tad long? Still, when's the last time I helped create a musical piece in a concert hall performance...um, never? Everybody wins!

After intermission, we heard the collaborative piece by Dan Deacon and So Percussion. The piece is called (I kid you not) Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler. And it featured the soda bottles being percussed - finally! It's like Chekhov's gun - I'm all atwitter since the beginning of the show to see how they'll come into play. The bottles were wired up to Dan Deacon's rig to make some surprisingly beautiful sounds, at least when played by very talented people. And just when I thought the possibilities of the soda bottles had been exhausted, the bottoms of a few were pierced and the escaping liquid hit a plastic bin underneath to make a sound like rain. Using everyday mundane objects is the surprise. But the delight happens when that everyday thing makes a sound that is so unexpectedly beautiful, even sublime. And then, when the liquid ran out, I never listened to soda bubbles so long and attentively in my life. Surprise and delight.




Here's Dan Deacon making the magic happen with his magic machine.





And the percussive finale!



My friend Julia has posted her review and her amazing drawings of the show on her blog. Be sure to check them out here!

Happy Holidays

I've been resisting a holiday post, not because I don't love the holidays, but I resent the Christmas creep that has holiday music playing in October. The best thing about the holidays are that they are a special day or two, or *maybe* a week. Not a special month, or help me!, two months. The thing that makes something special, by definition, is that it is not incessant. Not to be a grinch. Here are the angels.







They are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Christmas tree. A visit to the tree is a staple of the holiday for me. This year, I went to meet up with my Dalverian friends who make it an annual tradition. You can see some other takes on the tree here, here, and here. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

La Tour Eiffel

What could be more iconic than the Eiffel Tower? As a symbol, it's ideal: beautiful, instantly recognizable, unique. As an experience, it leaves a little something to be desired. The sheer number of the tourists make the lines to visit the top an hours-long ordeal. Add to that the aggressive souvenir hawkers and the even-more aggressive beggars ("Speak English?! Speak English?!"), and I can skip it, thanks. But I love to draw it. From afar, it looks elegant, so tall and clean-lined. Up close, it changes. Looking up the open middle, it somehow becomes squat and awkward. And there are all these curliques on the arches that seem out of place on this utilitarian, steel paean to clean-lined modernism. It turns out that the arches (and the attendant curlicues) were added afterward to assuage visitors' fears that the tower was going to come crashing down on their heads any second. They weren't part of Gustav Eiffel's original plan and are completely extraneous. They are fun to study, though.








But the surrounding parks are my preferred spot from which to contemplate Paris' most famous landmark, by the picnickers and playing children, and, of course, tourists tired from all those stairs.



Le Tour de France

The peloton finally made it to the last stretch of the Tour, the Champs Elysées, around four in the afternoon. They came tearing down the boulevard, made a turn right in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and then went right back up the boulevard. Eight times. It's lucky for me they came by eight times, because they go faaaast! I'd have been hard pressed to draw them if they only came by once. The gendarmes, of course, looked less than impressed.





One of the cool things about the spot I'd picked is that after the race, the bikers all came down to have their team picture in front of the Arc. Before they made their tired way back to the bus, they came over to the crowd to shake hands and sign autographs. Since I was standing in a very, ahem, vocal section of the crowd, several bikers came by to soak up some love, which was my chance to make a few portraits.

Alberto Contador was the overall winner, and the proud wearer of the coveted yellow jersey. He looked exhausted, but found a smile for the crowd.



This is Andy Charteau, the King of the Mountains, in his polka-dot jersey.



And here's Andy Schleck in the white jersey that signifies him as the best young rider. He was favored to win through much of the race, until his brother and racing partner Frank broke his collarbone and had to pull out. Without Frank on his team, pushing him, Andy just couldn't get it done. Here's an interview (it's in English, so just keep watching past the introduction) from the middle of the 2009 tour. The circumstances of their near-win and Frank's accident earned my sympathy, but their fraternal devotion and charm made me a fan. Better luck next year, guys!


And here's an interview with the ultimate team player and my favorite biker ever, Jens Voigt. Around the 1:27 mark, you can hear what he says to his body when he's in the middle of a race. Hysterical!

Waiting for le Tour

It's taken me a little while to get back into the blogging groove, but I am back with a couple of drawings from the Tour de France, or more specifically, the looooong wait for the Tour de France. My friend April and I staked out our spot by the Arc de Triomphe pretty early, around 8 am. The bikers don't actually get there until around 4, so most of the day was spent drawing the people who were waiting with us, a small crowd of people waiting by the barricades. We traded stories about how far we'd come to see the last laps of the Tour. Next post, I promise, there will be some bikers, but for now, this post is for all those dedicated fans whose enthusiasm isn't dimmed by long waits, dense crowds, or even doping accusations leveled at their favorites.



I'm not a huge sports fan, but I did enjoy getting to know the Tour fans. Their passion for the Tour was infectious, and even made me a little excited for the bikers. This was the littlest fan I saw that day. He was maybe three years old and was having a great time playing on the barricades and making friends.



Like my little friend there, we mainly had to amuse ourselves. Luckily, we had the gendarmes there, who must have some kind of attractiveness requirement. They were so happy to be drawn, they were practically preening. If only the NYPD looked this good! Go and see my friend April's hilarious write up and drawings!



This is the crowd as it got later in the day. More dense, definitely ready to see some bikers.

Shakespeare in the Park: Richard III

Sunday night, I had another drawing outing with friends to see the New York Classical Theatre's production of Richard III. This event had many things to recommend itself to us, chief among them that it's free (!), that it's outside in gorgeous Central Park, and that it's Shakespeare. As a New Yorker, summer to me means Shakespeare in the Park, but I'm tired of the Public Theater's productions at the Delacorte Theater, where you wait in that giant line to see the latest Hollywood defector try their hand at mangling the Bard (here's lookin' at you, Julia Stiles. But I don't mean you, Jamey Sheridan! You, I totally heart). Last time, I got in line at 3 am (yes, in the morning!) only to *not* get a ticket! Outrageous! I shook my fist at Joe Papp and said never again! The NYCT's production is outdoors for reals, as in, no amphitheater, no seats, no concessions, no line to wait in. There are no biggie stars, but I like that better, 'cause then, in my mind, that actor can completely be villainous King Richard III. The actors are good (and are good at projecting), and for fun, the action and the audience picks up and moves every 10 minutes or so. It can be a little distracting, but it can also be a little fun.

It was a mild, balmy June late afternoon, and you could barely hear the car horns of Central Park West, when Richard made his power-grab.


I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them -
Why I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.




The Queen and Buckingham making up, though not for real, and not for long.


Richard slaughters pretty much his entire family, but comes off with the big prize.

And he'd have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those pesky ghosts. And Richmond.

Matmos and So Percussion at (Le) Poisson Rouge

I went with some friends to hear Matmos and So Percussion play a show at (Le) Poisson Rouge this week. Lichens opened for them. I've never heard of him, but he played an interesting set consisting of only one song. Although perhaps when a song passes the ten minute mark, you make some allowances. It was just one guy, whom the interweb tells me is named Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. I'd like to tell you more about how he made music, but all I can say is that it seemed to come from a box with a lot of wires coming out, which he would manipulate to different effects. And his incredible voice. It was an ambient swirl of sound with his otherworldly vocals on top. His visuals were extra trippy too, with brightly colored shapes dripping into each other.



I've seen So Percussion a couple of times (see my earlier post about them here), but never Matmos. While waiting for them to come on, my friends and I discussed the cactus sitting on a stool. It seemed to be wired up, but just how would it be "played" or "percussed?" Our only answer: very carefully.

So Percussion did not disappoint. They did indeed "play" the cactus, coming out one at a time, and gathering around it, plucking the spines in playful counterpoint. The cactus is a good example of the unexpectedness and the humor that I've come to associate with So Percussion. They seem like pretty quiet guys. They don't do a lot of stage theatrics and hardly any talking, but they always provide some surprises and a lot of their humor comes through in the music.







So Percussion moves around a bit onstage, but the duo who are Matmos pretty much stay put behind tables. From where I was standing, I had a hard time seeing them. Now that I've been introduced to their music, I'd love to hear more. Matmos makes music out of everything from pouring water to samples of heart murmurs. And it's not just an exercise in musical idiosyncrasy, they actually make it tuneful and exciting to listen to. They also seem like the Gilbert and George of the experimental music world and how can you not like that? Also, I read that Drew Daniel teaches at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins! Charm City, indeed. Despite my obstructed view, I managed one drawing of MC Schmidt as he told a ridiculously funny story.