Today, we cry together. Tomorrow, we draw together.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


In the wake of Friday's tragedy -- less than an hour away from here -- there are a lot of unanswered questions. There will never be an adequate answer as to why the families of 20 children will be facing a new year without them. But there is one question to which there are a lot of answers -- urgent answers: "What can we do?"

We should of course be redoubling efforts to make it harder for people to get a gun, make them harder to load and use, and get those assault weapons and semiautomatics out of the public's hands altogether. These things are very, very important.

But we can do other things, too.

Let's fund and encourage and celebrate other ways of expressing our emotions, of coping with life. Everyone knows about our lack of competitiveness in math and science, and there's a nationwide conversation about fitness, but we don't do nearly enough to promote the other stuff: Art. Theater. Music. Dance. Cooking. Writing.

Let's give our children safe environments for self-expression and dispel the notion that art is the rarefied realm of a special, talented bunch. Let's press pause on the electronics for a minute and arm our kids with pencils and violins and tap shoes and pottery wheels and whisks and knitting needles.

These are not nice-to-have programs that can be cut when budgets get tight. They are necessary. They are crucial.

This season, I know what I'll be doing. I'll be watching to see if our local and national legislators translate the gun control outrage into actions. But I'll also be giving to arts programs in classrooms. I'll be volunteering at our local school so that someone else's holiday will be a little bit better. And I'll be drawing my heart out, in public.—You come too.

Let's look forward to a time when mass shooting is replaced by mass drawing. Mass dancing. Mass music-making. We can never have enough of that.

Evening at the bar, Dolce Cubano, Stamford, CT


Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Buzz Lightyear balloon, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, NY

Yes, I lived in New York for several years, but this was a first for me! Couldn't have chosen a better day. We had a fairly prime vantage point, near 72nd Street and Central Park West. Couldn't really see what was happening at the street level, but the balloons looked fabulous.

Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, NY


Wandering Cleveland, Again

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spent a chilly week in Cleveland since I had to be there for a work meeting (and, conveniently, there was a holiday bazaar being held at the office, so I got to sell some of my paintings and cards). Still managed to do a little sketching on the weekend.

The James A. Garfield Monument at Lake View Cemetery is an interesting place. Makes me want to read Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic to find out more about the president's assassination.

James Garfield Monument, Cleveland, Ohio

As the wind whipped the trees, I sat in the car to do this quick sketch of the West Side Market:

West Side Market, Cleveland, Ohio

Next time, I think, we'll drive there when it's a bit warmer!


Before and After Hurricane Sandy

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The weekend before the superstorm, I was in Atlanta visiting my college roommate. We went to the Country Living Fair at Stone Mountain, lunched at Bocado, had a lovely dinner at Watershed, and saw the scarecrows at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

A jacket that my friend bought at the fair led us to Roswell, a city just north of Atlanta with a cute downtown full of restaurants and shops. We wandered the length of Canton Street, peeked into the little boutiques, and paused at Roswell Provisions for tea and a cookie. I was smitten with their kraft-paper shopping bags (they're stamped with a bicycle image!), so I picked one up to draw on as we sat in the window seat with our snack.

Roswell Provisions, Roswell, Georgia

After completing the sketch on location, I added some color using my new Holbein gouache paints. I'm reasonably satisfied with it, but it will definitely take some time to get used to working with such pigmented, opaque paint.

Amazingly I was able to fly back Sunday night as planned (all the New York City flights were being cancelled, but thankfully I'd booked my trip to White Plains). Monday was a day of waiting. The winds kicked up; a dry pillar of a tree in our backyard fell gracefully, damaging nothing but the ancient deck.

The power blinked off just after 6 pm. We ate spicy turnip soup by candlelight, put the leftovers on ice in the cooler, and sat in bed with the blue glow of our phones for company. The police drove in blaring a sudden evacuation order at 10 o'clock, but we chose to stay -- we felt we were on high enough ground and trusted (blindly?) that the surge wouldn't overtop Stamford's hurricane barrier. (It didn't.)

Tuesday we emerged and looked at the smashed poles and twisted wires and flooded roads. Through Twitter we learned that Barcelona was open and operating downtown. (Light, heat, tapas!) They were encouraging people to come in, recharge, drink wine, savor a meal, swap stories. And so we, and many others, flocked in.

At Barcelona after Hurricane Sandy, Stamford, Connecticut

In our area, the power was back on Wednesday evening. But as we look at the devastation in places like Breezy Point, Hoboken, Staten Island and the Rockaways, we feel very lucky indeed to have escaped with a just a brief outage and a downed dead tree.


Fall Football: U Penn vs. Franklin Pierce

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Longtime blog followers know that I don't have a great track record of sketching sporting events (at least ones where the participants are predominantly human and not, say, equine). Certainly I've made some attempts (curling, the Olympics) but only sporadically, with varying success.

When M. and I found out that my alma mater was playing his in sprint football during Franklin Pierce University's 50th anniversary celebration in September, I jumped at the chance. At first I was disappointed that the game was being played at a high school in Ashburnham, Mass. (Pierce doesn't have a football field). But when we got there, school spirit seemed just as high, and we quickly got swept up in the action.

FPU sprint football players, UPenn vs. FPU, Ashburnham, Massachusetts

Sprint football - UPenn vs. Franklin Pierce, Ashburnham, Massachusetts

(Please ignore the fact that the huddle isn't quite parallel to the gridlines and that the players appear to be striking poses more suited to a music video than a football game. Artistic license, I say.)

Penn sprint football player, UPenn vs. FPU, Ashburnham, Massachusetts

Oh, and Penn won. :) Sorry, FP -- better luck next time!

Downtown Brooklyn

37th Worldwide Sketchcrawl - Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Met up yesterday with the NYC Urban Sketchers for the 37th Worldwide Sketchcrawl, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn, NY

The day started off chilly, but it soon warmed up. Began with sketches of the streets near the arena, and then moved on to Atlantic Center where we sketched some of the food trucks.

Food truck, Brooklyn, NY

Food & drink vendor, Brooklyn, NY

People in Brooklyn, NY

Then I met M. for lunch at Ganso, which serves Japanese comfort food. It was fun to draw the chefs bustling around the glassed-in kitchen.

Chefs at Ganso, Brooklyn NY


The Blu Parrot: A Supper Club with (He)art

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Gumbo band performers at Blu Parrot, Westport, Connecticut

My ink and watercolor sketch of Inakaya (now titled "Master Chefs") was rejected from Westport Arts Center's "Foodies" show but instead selected for their salon des refuses -- to grace the walls at The Blu Parrot, a fab new food-and-live-music joint across from the Westport train station. Owners Adam Lubarsky, Perry Cantor and Steve Alward have created a space where food, art and music all play well together. M. and I went on Sunday night for dinner. The food was eclectic and enjoyable -- especially liked the fresh-popped popcorn flavors (try the jalapeno-cheddar).

The moment I sat down and saw the musicians on stage, I regretted not toting along my sketchbook. However, Blu Parrot obliged with a four-pack of Crayola crayons, a beer menu, and a butcher-paper tablecloth.

I remembered the task Nina Johansson had set for us in the Challenge Through Limitations workshop at the Urban Sketching Symposium in Santo Domingo -- and I was determined to do a better job this time capturing values and shapes with less-than-optimal tools! Crayons only stay decently sharp for a few minutes -- they're soon just blunt wax sticks that you hope make a mark in the right place.

Singer at Blu Parrot, Westport, Connecticut

The highlight of the evening was definitely the music. The theme was gumbo - the performers played a little New Orleans, a little R&B, some Etta James -- you get the picture. And diners actually got up and danced! It's an infectious mood-lifter to clap and sway with your fellow patrons to sultry jazz beats.

But back to the visual arts -- the restaurant's walls are tastefully covered with paintings, mostly from local artists. My piece hangs right by the entrance, next to the host's station. If you're in town, please go! and eat! and dance! (and buy art!)


With the NYC Urban Sketchers

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Attended a Saturday sketch date with a few NYC Urban Sketchers a few weeks ago. We met at Frederick Douglass Circle in the morning. Here's my sketch of the street, looking south from the circle.

Looking south from Frederick Douglass Circle, New York, NY

We then proceeded toward the Cathedral of St. John the Divine but stopped to sketch a farmer's market along the way.

Farmers market, New York, NY

I wasn't very inspired at the cathedral, but I did like the next venue -- the walkway on the Columbia University campus.

Columbia University walkway, New York, NY

 Unfortunately I had to rush off to meet someone for lunch, so I couldn't stay very long. Hopefully I'll be able to join the group on future weekends when I'm in the city!

art supplies

Maine Sketchbook

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Custom House Wharf, Portland, Maine

Drove up to Maine for a glorious weather-perfect end to my birthday week. After a night in Portsmouth, NH, we proceeded to Portland to meet and sketch with the lovely Jennifer Lawson. Following lunch at The Grill Room, we drove to Artist & Craftsman Supply so I could browse the wares. They sell Daniel Smith watercolors, so on Jen's recommendation I bought a few new colors to add to the ones I already had.

Also picked up a block of Cartiera Magnani Italia Acquerello paper, which I used right away for the sketch of Portland's Custom House Wharf above. Yes, Jen and I did mean to spend more of the afternoon sketching, but at least we got *some* drawing time in! Update: See Jen's sketch of the scene here.

After the sketching session, M. and I spent an hour getting our feet pampered and savoring tea popsicles at Soakology. Dinner was outdoors at the Portland Regency Hotel's garden cafe, where I used my new Visconti Rembrandt Eco Roller (a birthday gift from M.) to sketch some fellow diners. The ink that came with it is water-soluble, so I had to be very careful when adding watercolor.

Garden Cafe, Portland Regency Hotel, Portland, Maine

The next morning we went to Cape Elizabeth to see the Two Lights lighthouse and the rocky coast. I can see the allure of living here -- it's positively rural and yet just 15 minutes from downtown Portland. Capturing the foggy, atmospheric scene was a challenge!

Figure in fog, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Fisherman in fog, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Our next stop was Rockland, where we visited the Farnsworth Museum, home to many Wyeth paintings (N.C., Andrew, and Jamie). And at The Loyal Biscuit Co. (a local pet supply store), I found the H2O4K9 water bottle I'd been looking for! It's a stainless steel bottle with a cap that serves as a water bowl -- perfect for plein air watercolor sketching. Now I won't have to carry along a separate water container.

On our last day we woke up early to walk along the nearly mile-long breakwater to the lighthouse:

Breakwater and lighthouse, Rockland, Maine

Along the way back home, we stopped in Prouts Neck -- Winslow Homer territory -- to eat lunch at the Black Point Inn and walk along the Cliff Walk. We ate on the deck, with a view of the beach beyond:

View from Black Point Inn, Prouts Neck, Maine

M. and I both felt a weekend in Maine just wasn't long enough -- next time we'll have to stay longer. And someday -- someday -- I will see that elusive moose!


A perfect day for painting

Friday, August 31, 2012

Same weekly haunts, different subjects. An old woman reading a magazine in the sunny triangular pedestrian plaza near Eataly:

Woman in the triangle near Madison Square Park, New York, NY

And the view looking south, as the light began to work its magic.
Looking south, 25th & Broadway, New York, NY


Summer Staycation

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A week off from work, just to enjoy the August sun and showers and splash paints about at the beach and read big hardback books in the porch.

Yesterday in class with Anne I had just enough time to capture this lovestruck couple in Madison Square Park before the threatening skies finally opened up and I had to rush off to dinner at Mas la Grillade.

Romantic couple at Madison Square Park, New York, NY

Today, on the other hand, was bright and clear and just begged for sand and flip-flops. I threw some supplies into a jute bag and spent an hour at West Beach drawing the sun-worshippers.

Woman on West Beach, Stamford, CT

Man on West Beach, Stamford, CT

I love this woman's hat, don't you? Way to rock that straw fedora!

Woman at West Beach, Stamford, CT

Off to sip a glass of lemonade and contemplate dinner...


New in Town: Harlan Social, near Fairway in Stamford

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sketch on the menu, Harlan Social, Stamford, Connecticut

So pleased that we now have yet another option for dining within a 2-mile radius of our house - Harlan Social, in the complex that already has Le Pain Quotidien and Fairway and Design Within Reach. Stopped there for dinner the other day and enjoyed everything we ordered. And they have paper menus! That they encourage you to take home! So naturally I sketched the hopping scene while waiting for my sublime velvety mango panna cotta.

And lest you think I've been on a total sketching diet since the Urban Sketching Symposium in Santo Domingo -- here are some sketches I did a few weeks ago during our local production of "Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare on the Sound in Rowayton. The actors were superb, but we felt that this particular production with its added scenes and lines was a bit over the top. I don't mind when a director sets plays in modern times, but sometimes you just want the bard's words straight up.

In keeping with the pastiche, I used some antique liquor receipts (scored at a Vermont flea market) as a background for my drawings.

Sketches from "Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare on the Sound, Rowayton, CT

"Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare on the Sound,  Rowayton, CT

Dominican Republic

Final Sketches from Santo Domingo

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At the bar, Meson de Luis, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

After the Challenge Through Limitations workshop with Nina Johansson, our group went to lunch at Meson de Luis, where we sampled the local delicacies: sancocho (a stew) and mofongo (a plaintain mash). I couldn't resist sketching the little boy sitting at the bar, watching cartoons as he ate lunch!

In keeping with tradition, the last afternoon of the Urban Sketching Symposium coincided with the 36th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. We gathered once again at the Parque Colon to draw and to take a group picture.

USK: Scene at Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

USK: View from Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The next day, before leaving for the airport, M. and I went to the Fortaleza Ozama, the 16th century Spanish fortress at the entrance to Santo Domingo. It was too hot to sketch there, so I found some shade on a staircase overlooking a street. I was soon joined by fellow sketchers Lapin and Jason Das, so I did a quick drawing of Lapin as well!

Street view, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Lapin sketching in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

As a last memory, I made a rubbing of a manhole cover right outside the Hotel Frances where we stayed. Adios, Santo Domingo -- can't wait to hear where next year's symposium will be!

Manhole cover rubbing from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Urban Sketching Symposium - Santo Domingo: Day 3 Workshop

Monday, July 16, 2012

By this time, we were all used to emerging from the meat locker-coldness of our hotels into the oppressive soup that was the outside air. My morning session was the Challenge Through Limitations workshop at the ruins of the Hospital San Nicolas de Bari, where we were asked to draw with various constraints -- colored paper, only black and white, fat crayons, carpenter's pencils, and so forth. The first exercise was to "mess up" the pristine whiteness of the paper, using dirt, paint, and/or anything else at hand. We "ruined" two pieces of paper and then handed them to our partners, who had to sketch on top of whatever we'd done.

I chose to sketch on top of the scuffed paper with a black marker:

USK: Ruinas Nicolas de Bari using "pre-ruined" paper, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

USK: Ruinas Nicolas de Bari using "pre-ruined" paper, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Next, I attempted a green-on-green sketch, with blunt Neocolor I crayons on a piece of colored cardstock:

USK: View from near the Ruinas Nicolas de Bari, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Then I chose a carpenter's pencil and a white gel pen to create this sketch, in the Strathmore Toned Gray hardbound journal:

USK: Near Ruinas Nicolas de Bari, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

All this while attempting (unsuccessfully) to avoid getting tagged by pigeon droppings!

Dominican Republic

Urban Sketching Symposium - Santo Domingo Day 2

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Began the second day with the workshop "Improvising with Lines and Colors." We were given the task of playing with lines, colors, perspective and text.

Started off with a sketch of the Parque Colon using some distortion and limited colors.

USK: Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Then, I saw some men playing checkers (damas) so I sketched them with warm and cool colored pencils. Can you feel the heat of the game in the air?

USK: Checkers players at the Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

I also did a quick sketch of the square at the very end of the workshop:

USK: Parque Colon, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The afternoon session was "Color Games." We started off using a warm color line and cool color line to draw the same scene, paying attention to how the colors we chose to color them in varied:

USK: Near Plaza Espana, using warm colored line, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

USK: Near Plaza Espana, using cool colored line, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Next we were asked to sketch the same scene using regular and then unnatural colors (that threatening sky did open up for a few minutes, but the showers stopped pretty quickly):

USK: Near Plaza Espana, regular colors, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

USK: Near Plaza Espana, crazy colors, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

For the last exercise, we paired off, drew something, and handed it to our partner to color in!

Here's my drawing of BJ, colored by her:

USK: Portrait swap - BJ, drawn by Suma, painted by BJ, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

And here's BJ's drawing of me, colored by me:

USK: Portrait swap - Suma, drawn by BJ, painted by Suma, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic