Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street protest in Liberty Square isn't far from where I live, so I took some time last Thursday to go down and see for myself what was going on. For the most part, I'm going to leave the discussion of the protest and its agenda for other forums. I'm all for people exercising democratic rights at all times, no matter what their message and that's all I'll say about that. As a reportage artist, I love to draw a protest, although it's not something I often do. People that are passionate, that are committed to what they're doing are interesting, and interesting to draw. They want to talk, to communicate, and that's something I understand.

One of the first things I noticed was the number of very fancy cameras around. The protest isn't really getting too much press, so I can only assume these are just people who came out to take pictures.

Here's someone taking a picture with their iPad. The guy didn't feel like a protester either (although statistically, the 99% does cast a wide net).

I'm not sure what to think about the high-end video cameras.

Here's a protester whose opinion is pretty clear.

And it wasn't all young people (although there did seem to be a lot of students). Here's a member of the Granny Peace Brigade.

And who's this fellow in his striped button-down, tie, and suit slacks? Possibly a Wall Streeter on his smoke break?

The protesters are prohibited from having any amplification system, so they've worked out a way to communicate without one. Someone in the center would make an announcement, just a few words at a time, and the message would be repeated by anyone who heard it in a rhythmic singsong that would ripple out towards the edges. It was interesting, if not always perfectly effective.

If you agreed with the point being made, you could put up your hands and wiggle your fingers. Jazz hands, everybody!

And no protest reportage is complete, in my opinion, without the cops. I know they've behaved abominably at times, and have now been accused of luring people onto the Brooklyn Bridge roadway only to arrest them. While I was there, though, the cops were standing around the perimeter of the square, making sure traffic wasn't obstructed, being pretty unobtrusive.

Let's hear it for democracy in action!

Gasworks Park

Last month, I took a trip with the Dalvero Academy to Seattle and San Francisco. I'm just starting to go through those drawings now, and I just knew the first thing I had to share was my favorite place in Seattle, Gasworks Park. As some of you may have seen in past posts (like here) I love drawing big, dirty machinery. Basically, if it's industrial, I love to draw it - bonus points if it's old. Gasworks Park is the site of a coal gasification plant that closed down in 1956. Then the city of Seattle bought it and said, "So what if tar still occasionally oozes from the ground? Let's make it a park!" And so they did, and it's awesome!

Frisbee-players and bike riders frolic amongst the hulking machinery of a past era. (Click on the drawing to see it larger)

They even built a kite-flying hill. I love Seattle!

I might post some other studies of Gasworks Park another time. In the meantime, check out my friends here and here to see some of their Seattle drawings!

A Year Ago: The Tuileries in Paris

I was thinking back to where I was a year ago - Paris! I realized as I was looking through at some old drawings, that I never posted any drawings from the Tuileries. I can't think how I overlooked one of my favorite parks in Paris. The proportions of the park's landscape are so perfect, you can't help but feel peaceful and relaxed when you're there. Besides being beautifully designed and landscaped, it's located right next to the Louvre. What excellent neighbors!

School for Husbands

A couple of weeks ago, I went with Julia and Kati to see New York Classical Theater's performance of Moliére's School for Husbands in Central Park. Now Shakespeare is the master—hey, I love Shakespeare—but I recently heard a lady on public radio saying that there are a lot of classic playwrights out there, and why should it be only Shakespeare in the New York free theater scene? And I think she's right! There are enough culture vultures here to support an expanded repertoire. So, it's a real treat to see New York Classical Theater do Aphra Behn (a *lady* playwright, thank you very much!) and Moliére. School for Husbands is on for another week, so be sure and see it if you're local!

And if you live in Portland, be sure and check out Atomic Arts' Trek in the Park, where they reenact a Star Trek episode! Those of us who won't be able to be there will have console ourselves with youtube videos. Sigh.


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!

Birds of a Feather

It's been a few weeks since I've posted — let's call it a spring break — but when I saw that today was the birthday of John James Audubon, I thought it would be a perfect time to post some drawings I made of Canada geese over the winter. It was up in Mystic, CT, and snow was on the ground. I guess snow is nothing for geese that range as far north as the Arctic Circle. They were scrabbling around with their bills in the snow, and generally standing around looking big and a little goofy.

Our feathered geese friends here in New York have to watch out for the Parks Department, since it's the season for the city to cull their population. For super cute goose news, click here.

Roomful of Teeth with William Brittelle, Caleb Burhans and Merrill Garbus

Saturday night, I went to the Ecstatic Music Festival with my friend Julia to see the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth singing compositions by William Brittelle, Caleb Burhans, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Roomful of Teeth filled the hall with throat singing, exhalations, yodeling, and more. This drawing was made over two of William Brittelle's compositions "High Done No Why To" and "Done No Why Say Do." Sometimes, their voices would hover in the air, melting all together into something striking and beautiful.

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs joined Roomful of Teeth onstage for the second half on the concert to play several compositions. I've heard a song or two from tUnE-yArDs from the first album, but the concert converted me into a fan. Garbus has a warm stage presence, and even invited people to get up and dance if they felt like it.

And here's Caleb Burhans playing his super cool violin. At least I think it was a violin. He joined Roomful of Teeth and Merrill Garbus for a few songs. This one was very moving, as you can probably tell from the title "why must you leave me now, when you're so far away?"

Last but not least is a drawing of Garbus and the ladies of Roomful of Teeth performing one of my favorite pieces of the night. Garbus cited the music of West Africa as her inspiration, and dedicated the song to the women of West Africa. The sound of the drum, her ukulele, and the swooping, yodeling voices of the women combined to create something kind of magical and joyous.

Be sure to check out Julia's beautiful drawings and her write-up here and special big ups to Judd Greenstein, the curator of the festival, for the tickets. You can see my other drawings from the Ecstatic Music Festival here.

Carousel Dreams

Lately, I find myself thinking back to some of those unfinished projects from years ago. I feel like the time might be right to try to finish them for reals. One of those projects was this story about a little girl who falls asleep in the car on the long drive to the amusement park. She has a dream, heavily influenced by medieval tapestries (that's just the kind of girl she is), about a magical day at the park. She gets to meet the knights and spend time with the ladies. I envisioned it as an accordion book and this scene is right in the middle, so it's really one part of a looooong illustration, but it's also made to stand alone. They're taking a break to pick some wild flowers while the carousel horses fly in the sky above. I mentioned it was a dream, right?

The Year of the Rabbit

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! I'm particularly looking forward to this year, because I was born in 1975, making me a rabbit in the lunar horoscope. This means it's gonna be *my* year! If you're a rabbit too, here's the deal. We are articulate (check), talented (*blush*), and ambitious (well, two out of three's not bad). We like to be comfortably at home, pursuing our quiet little bunny pursuits, but we are gregarious too and like to surround ourselves with friends and family - as long as there's no conflict. We are big conflict-avoiders. But enough about me. How about a few block prints?

Congratulations and be prosperous!

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 New Year

I am starting the new year with a drawing I made recently at the Japan pavilion at Epcot, just for myself, for study. Dictionary.com tells me that the definition of study is "a personal effort to gain knowledge." I thought it would be fitting because as an artist, I want everything I do to begin with a personal effort to gain knowledge.

And a hope for the future from the Japanese master of drawing, Hokusai:

"From the time I was six, I was in the habit of sketching things I saw around me, and around the age of fifty, I began to work in earnest, producing numerous designs. It was not until after my seventieth year, however, that I produced anything of significance. At the age of seventy-three, I began to grasp the underlying structure of birds and animals, insects and fish, and the way trees and plants grow. Thus, if I keep up my efforts, I will have an even better understanding when I am eighty, and by ninety will have penetrated to the heart of things. At one hundred, I may reach a level of divine understanding, and if I live a decade beyond that, everything I paint-every dot and line-will be alive. I ask the god of longevity to grant me a life long enough to prove this true." – Katsushika Hokusai, postscript to One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji [translated by Carol Morland].

Happy New Year, everyone!