Hello blog followers and passerbyers. I am moving my blog to www.machinesandhumans.com/blog. For the time being I will cross post images here, but will only post my actual stories over there. If you like my work please begin checking out the new site (which looks exactly the same) and follow me from that address. I’ll post here for a while longer but eventually will only use the new address.
It’s the New Year, a full week and a half into it even. Time to start up the pencil and brush again. I think about the sketches I posted last year at this time, some marker images of the Tukwilla light rail station, and how my intention was to post once a week for the entire year. It didn’t quite work out like that, but I have to say I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made in one year. There were three significant artistic high points.
1. Watercolor class with Tom Hoffman at Gage Academy. This class really opened a big door for me, with new tools to render my images in color on site in a medium that I enjoyed and respected. Previously for color I had been using either markers or digital tools such as Photoshop, but both of these mediums had limitations (or unlimitations) that I wasn’t happy with for the purposes of observational sketching and rendering. Taking the class for me was much like buying my first laptop, or finally upgrading from my well worn flip phone to an Iphone. I see all of these as keys to mobility and each of them has allowed me some considerable degrees of freedom that I didn’t previously have. Before watercolor I felt like I really didn’t have an effective tool for recording the world in a manner that I could feel…was accurate to how I viewed it.
2. Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Wow, a life changing trip, and so completely inspiring every day that I was constantly compelled to sketch and paint my experiences. I had taken the watercolor class with the intention of utilizing the paints as a travel tool. The two were somewhat entwined in my mind, and maybe even necessary to coexist. I might have taken the painting class if I hadn’t planned on travelling the following month, and I might have actually gotten off my rear end to go travel had I not been learning watercolor, but somehow I needed both of them together for me to move forward. The watercolor and drawings were as much used to express what I was seeing as they were to communicate with people I met. They undoubtedly opened doors to conversations and interactions I would have never had otherwise. I think on this trip I viewed art for the first time as a true tool for making connection, and that really changes how I value it and look forward to what I can do with it.
3. Show at Cafe Lulu. Karen had been pushing me for sometime (years) to have a show at her coffee shop. It was always my intention to do this, but I had never felt like I had the combination of images that was worth putting up. I wanted to showcase some of my pen sketches but I also really wanted to have a lot of color up as well, which was now possible with the watercolor work. It’s possible that without some really assertive prodding I never would have put a show up no matter what I created, but I’m very happy that I did. It was a great experience to be able to share my work with people and to see how different pieces were received. I got some really good feedback, and it was intriguing for me to see what people were drawn to. For me trucks are still my go to subject, and I was thrilled that people were able to enjoy the same subject matter. When someone else also responds by really liking say…a cement mixer, I’m like “Yah! Cement Mixers! The’re sweet! And they chew on rocks all day!” Joy.
With all that said I plan on continuing this year with more work that depicts the places I appreciate and travel to, and also pieces that showcase just trucks with nothing else to distract from their purposeful and utility driven aesthetic. I won’t promise myself that I’ll get up a new piece every week, instead I promise 3 pieces a week…ok, that’s a lie.
Waaaaaay back in October, (back when the sun still had the decency to grace us with it’s light past 6pm, remember those days?) I traveled to Bend Oregon for the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. This is the third year I’ve attended, but I believe the first year that the event has been held outside of Portland. I recall back on that mid fall day that the weather was superb; it was sunny, and the Oregon high desert environment was in peak form. At least that’s what I was told, because I spent the entire day inside at the Goodlife Brewing Company building forsaking sun and snowcapped mountains to look at the mobile artistry that is bicycle frame building. My guess is that 20-30 framebuilders and associated artisans showed up. I talked to many of them and came away even more intrigued by the craft. It’s true that on the surface most bicycle frames are fairly similar, at least in terms of basic function and geometry. A dominant form has emerged that works great, and this was on display at the event. Since most of the these bikes were made of steel, a few key techniques are employed, either brazing or welding. A honed handcrafted bike is not about the surface however; it’s about a builders specific intention, technique, artistry, and unique voice that comes through. It’s also often about the customer and their specific needs. From custom geometry, to ornate racks, filigree cut lugs, and lustrous paint, the world of custom bike building is akin to the world of high end jewelry. You could buy at Fred Meyers, or you could hire a trained jeweler. At a glance not many could tell the difference, but it’s not about the glance. Its about everything else. As always, it was my intention to draw and paint a lot of the event, but in this case I found myself enjoying the conversations I had with many different craftspeople. The one bike I did draw was this unique machine by Rob Tsunehiro collaborating with industrial designer Silas Beebe.(www.tsunehirocycles.com). This was their entry into the annual Oregon Manifest Competition (www.oregonmanifest.com), which is fast becoming a major national event in mixing the best of engineering/design/and transportation. Rob’s bike is a city bike with a lot of very unique features such as a built in (hand stitched) second saddle over the rear wheel, reflective paint, and an integrated cargo net. Below are some links to the other builders I had the pleasure of talking with. If you like cycling, craftsmanship, or Oregon I highly recommend going next year!
Belladonna Cycles www.belladonnacycles.com/
Straight forward, clean, and traditional, with an emphasis on women’s bikes.
Vendetta Cycles. www.vendettacycles.com. Two engineers building bicycles on the side. Very high end craftsmanship with beautiful lugs and paint
DiNuncia Cycles. www.dinuccicycles.blogspot.com A long time builder with some of the trickest dropouts around (did I say trickest? Yep!)
Blaze Bicycles www.blazebicycles.com
A fairly new builder out of Utah. Had a good talk about transitioning from the digital world to the handcrafted world.
Ahearne Cycles. www.ahearnecycles.com
One of the best down in Portland. Unique utility bikes. Very impressive features and details worth seeing in person
Littleford Bicycles. www.littlefordbicycles.com
Neat paint jobs and a unique focus on rack integration.
I’ve never been terribly fond of yardwork. Raking leaves in particular seems like an endless task in futility. They are just going to keep falling, thousands more every day, getting wet and grimy from rain and road grit. After they’re all picked up, a year later, they’ll come down again. As I consider it, maybe the problem with raking isn’t the punitive task of repeatedly trying to coax nature into a more presentable state, maybe the problem is that I don’t have the right rake. I’m always having to pull the leaves out of the flimsy weakly springy tines. They are always getting bent as I drag them across the sidewalk, offering up a pathetic scratchy cry with every sweep of foliage. The plastic ones aren’t much better, it feels like I’m pulling a spatula across the lawn. I want something with strength, power, with true purpose, something that will teach those leaves and the ground they fall on a good lesson. I need a Caterpillar D-8 with a handy garden rake attachement like the one I drew here. I would never complain about raking again, and I’ll bet the leaves would never dare to fall down on the lawn again.
I went out Sunday with the Seattle Urban Sketchers group to Kenmore Air in Bothel. Kenmore is a seaplane air harbor, repair, and fabrication facility. Seattle of course is dotted with seaplanes flying overhead, more than likely if you look up, it’s a Kenmore plane. I spent most of the morning in the main hangar drawing a plane that was being refurbished (which is not the plane I’m showing here, although this plane is going through a repair to the pontoon during the drawing). The highlight of the morning was a tour of the shop space in the second hanger where a couple of planes are going through significant upgrades. I was very fortunate to get the tour from one of Kenmore’s pilots and main mechanics – Sam – who is passionate about these aircraft. He loves the industry and is really excited to talk about the construction and technology that went into the design of these machines. There are a number aircraft that Kenmore flies, but primarily they use the Dehavilland Beaver (seen in this image), and the Dehavilland Otter. Both the Beaver and Otter are older model planes that have been the long time standards of float plane travel. The Beaver is a smaller plane with a radial engine making for a squat workhorse look. The Otters are slightly larger with longer turboprop engines which give them a very sleek look. These aircraft are from the 60’s with modern upgrades, but the fact they are from a pre computer era, really means they are quite mechanically straightforward. The see them with their outer skin removed is a fascinating look into a visually complex but ultimately understandable set of mechanical interactions, cables connect directly from the throttle all the way up to the control surfaces on the wings and tail. It’s kind of like a bicycle, pull the cable to move the derailleur, to shift the gear. The magic is both in the elegance and organization. I like seeing things for what they are, and beyond the fascination with flight, I’ve come to realize it’s the purposeful combination of form and functional components wrapped in a package of both aerodynamics and visual complexity that make aircraft so compelling to look at and draw. Expect more in the future.
I guess a lot of construction equipment is painted quite similarly to school buses. I certainly would have rather gone to school in this Motograder. It’s probably air conditioned too which is more than I can say for those old buses.
Some cities have fairs, some have rodeos, some like Seattle have pagan festivals where naked bike riders decorated in bad body paint like to parade themselves around town during the longest day of the year. Fortunately there are other options for community festivities, and in the state of Washington the greatest one is hands down the annual Lind Washington Combine Demolition Derby. For those not in the know, a combine is a large tractor used for harvesting wheat. Over time they get old, and destined for the scrap heap as new models and technologies become standardized. This is not the case in Lind where they are resurrected year after year and then smashed together until they can’t smash any more. Last one moving wins and takes home bushels of glory (if not gold).
Lind is an agricultural community about 3 and a half hours east of Seattle. The landscape is cross between rolling fields and rocky gullies and decidedly beautiful. For me part of the experience is the drive there and the drive back especially during sunset as the fields resolve into a set of cascading shadows and colors. We got there the night before the event and camped at Potholes State Park so that we could make it in time for the pre-derby parade. This is lead by the 20 some combines that will be competing, followed by marching bands, waving county beauty queens, and hot rods (like these amazing low-brow rat-rods (I prefer the term Ratalac) built by Rich from Pascoe.
Rich’s personal ride is diesel Tow Truck named Camel Toe-ing (check out the head badge), and he built the Buck’n Fitch for his sister Peggy. So cool.)
The parade is followed by a community barbecue before everyone heads up the road to the arena for the main event. 5 heats of full mechanical destruction interspersed with pickup truck speed trials and grain truck races. The top finishers from the first three heats make it to the main event, plus the survivors from a deadman’s heat. The amazing thing is that these things are torn up in each heat, axles and wheels ripped apart, bodies mangled, and then in a couple of hours they are rebuilt and ready to go for the final match. Pictured here is Jaws being rebuilt in the pits.
This combine has won the event on multiple occasions, though not this year. From an outside perspective it’s fun and games and mayhem, but two things are true. The guys (and one woman) who drive these vehicles and their crews take it very seriously; they put their all into it and their mechanical prowess is impressive. The other is that the event is really a community effort, from the drivers to the people working the concession carts and ticket booths. There is a lot of pride here and they put on a good show that brings in a lot of support for their town, with about 5000 spectators showing up (Lind’s population is around 400). I will return next year and you should too. It is better than whatever is going on in Seattle that weekend I promise.
Posted in location drawing, Uncategorized, urban sketch
Tagged combine, combine demolition derby, demo derby, demolition derby, eastern washington, harvester, jaws, keystalope, lind, low brow, prison break, rat rod, ratalac, watercolor
This was drawn at Touch-a-Truck, an event where about 15 machines were on display for the public to interact with at Magnussen Park. The event was big draw for families; (an estimated 2500 people showed up throughout the day). And why wouldn’t you go. If you are kid you could climb on a fire truck, a bulldozer, or get into an excavator, and honk the horn (over and over) while pretending to dig up pavement. For me it was perfect opportunity to capture another truck for my collection, the Concrete Pumper, which in the wild is unlikely to stay in this position for an hour and a half. This one is owned and operated by Ralph’s Concrete, and I must say thank you to Josh who very patiently waited for me to draw and paint this machine even long after most of the other vehicles had been loaded up and hauled out.
There are two things I want to say about this painting, no..three things. The first is that this isn’t the first time I’ve tried painting this scene. I drive by this site constantly and the scale of the project and the revisions to traffic and occasional long wait times to get onto the freeway can’t be ignored. Normally I might find myself getting impatient, but since I get a view of this site with it’s armada of construction equipment I always look forward to it (this is the second thing I wanted to say). Back in April when I last had been here, I recall it was a very nice and sunny day. I decided to actually stop into the site during lunch hours when it appeared to be less busy than usual. A few workers and machines were moving around, but it was fairly tame. I asked one of the workers if it would be alright if I stopped there for an hour. He was ok with it, so I parked my Honda Element on some gravel and did my best to make sure my car wouldn’t be in the way of any movement. I started to draw and everything was going fine, my drawing was coming together and I was about ready to put down some paint. At this point some of the construction work started to increase, there were dump trucks moving around and a few of the loaders were shuttling back and forth. I’m always sort of hyper aware of my presence in a place and the last thing I ever want to be is “in the way”, especially if people are working. I felt like it was time for me to move my car, even though I hadn’t finished the painting. I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and….nothing, just a gasping cough of my engine as it attempted to turn over. A sick feeling came over me. I moved my hand towards the headlight switch and realized it was in the “On” position. Again I tried the ignition, “No no no no!, Not now, PLEASE turn over!” I begged my car as the construction traffic began to increase. This went on for about a minute, and then as anybody who has ever killed their battery can tell you, I realized I had to get outside help. Let me put this in a little more context. I have the greatest respect for people that do physical labor for a living. In truth I look up to them. For work I draw, and I use a computer, and sometimes I talk. This can be very draining, challenging, difficult, and of course rewarding. It’s work and a working day is a working day, but sometimes, I question this. Lifting heavy objects, working out in the sun, (or rain), toiling, this is work. I’ve always viewed it as somehow purely valid as labor and demanding of respect. So here I am in my Honda Element stuck in the middle of a major construction site with a dead battery, a pile of paint brushes, and a drawing of a Bulldozer in my lap as worker dudes are driving massive machines around me lifting loads of gravel from pile to pile.
1.) Call AAA and ask for assistance. Could be an hour at least.
2.) Flag down a worker on the site, “Hey uh..sorry to bother you man, but uh…does that bulldozer by any chance have any jumper cables?”
3.) Call my friend Alex who works down the street.
I call Alex. He’s as reliable as they come, and of course he has cables in his car. In 5 minutes he’s there…driving a Honda Element. So even as I cringe at the embarrassment of killing my battery – while painting – in a Honda Element – on a site where the vehicle of choice is a muddy white Ford F-150 or a dirt embedded yellow 25 Ton Caterpillar D7, he drives up into the lot with his “Galapagos Green Metallic” Honda Element, and faces my “Eternal Blue Pearl” Honda Element. We go through the magical ritual of automotive resuscitation, the engine breathes again, and after talking for a few minutes in our “Rigs” he heads back to his office and I decide half heartedly to finish my painting. It was one of those things where I had lost energy and just wanted to get out of there. It’s certainly not worth showing here, but I knew I had to go back to the same spot.
So here’s the third thing I wanted to say. On Sunday, I finally made it out to a Seattle Urban Sketching Sketchcrawl. The group meets once a month, and this month everyone got together at Vivace across from REI. After pre-sketching niceties, everyone disperses to go draw for 2 hours and then makes plans to meet back up and share the work. I had no doubt what I would draw. I beelined (sort of) to the construction site on Mercer, but this time just had my backpack, and a folding stool. On a Sunday morning the site was active, so again I asked permission and was given the go ahead to draw. I spent about an hour and a half there and probably talked to 5 guys from the site that came up to see what I was doing. Everyone was supremely cool and friendly, even as I was again painting while they were in the middle of pouring cement and shoveling gravel. I got the lowdown on the project (much needed road widening and traffic revision from Dexter up to the freeway on ramp, and construction along 9th as it flows into Mercer). I sincerely hope this does help solve part of the traffic congestion in the area.
Now with all this said, I will continue to draw and paint construction machines, continue to meet-up with the fine folks I met at the Sketchcrawl, and no doubt continue to drive my blue Honda Element into and around industrial sites, and since this wasn’t the first time I’ve killed my battery in an inopportune location (yah), it will probably happen again. Maybe I should go draw some tow trucks.
Posted in location drawing, urban sketch
Tagged bulldozer, caterpillar, construction, construction equipment, construction machines, dead battery, drawing, element, honda, honda element, location drawing, mercer street, mercer street corridor, seattle, sketchcrawl, traffic, urban sketchers, water color, work, worker
Sometimes there is so much to write about a place that it seems better to say less than ignorantly talk beyond what you understand. This is my experience with Cambodia. In three and a half days I only caught a glimpse of something, and although I will recite their most basic history, I’m not by any means educated on the subject and don’t pretend to understand what happened or why. Cambodia is a place with a deep and turbulent past ranging from an empire and culture that surpassed European contemporary societies cities during it’s height, to a genocidal restructuring of the entire population during the 1970’s by a Marxist madman. I came to the city of Siem Reap to visit the temples of Angkor built during the height of the Khmer empire between the years of 802 and 1431. These have been repeatedly called the 8th wonder of the world, and I think it would be hard to argue against that after spending time here.
I almost immediately realized however that the contrast between my quick stop off tourism and the lives and history of the people was not something I could glance over. I was very affected by the glimpse I saw of people’s lives, and the conversations I had. The affects of the highs and lows are in full view here. The people exhibit a reserved pride. They are a young population with few elder mentors as the previous generation was greatly decimated along with many direct links to their cultural past, and clear pathways to an economic future. 30 years on and the country is recovering, but poverty is common, as are the effects of the wars and their devices (I saw many people with limbs missing presumably from landmines). Commerce and industry are returning to Cambodia, but far behind it’s neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, and China. What I observed were a lot of people who worked very hard to educate themselves and often were not able to afford the education they needed. Learning English seemed to be the primary first step in this process for many people. They are well aware of the progress of the world around them and want the same for themselves.
As for the temples, they were all they promised to be. Rather than attempt to see dozens (of the over 200) temples, I only visited 4 and spent many hours at each one, often sitting in one spot for an extended period and studying details. This was a great way to meet people as well. Tour groups would come through and then there would be periods of solitude. A lot of people said “hello” to see what I was doing stopping as groups or as individuals. I was continually reminded of how great of a tool that drawing can be to open doors to communication. I’m also learning how useful it is to be able to say “hello” and “thank you” in as many languages as possible. They are simple and appreciated gestures. I hope very much I can return here and spend more time in the country beyond the temples, but I was in awe of what I did see and humbled by the resolve of the Cambodian people.
Posted in Cool things, location drawing
Tagged angkor tom, angkor wat, banteay srei, bayon, cambodia, khmer, khmer rouge, location drawing, pol pot, siem reap, ta prohm, temple, travel, urban sketch, Vietnam