Category Archives: Seattle

Good Grades

Motograder, dexter, seattle, urban sketch, yellow, construction machine, mark selander, location drawing, truckI 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.

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Vectored Thrust

About a month ago I was at the Seattle Museum of Flight and drew this Harrier. Years ago my uncle Alan worked on some of the electronic components the aircraft. I remember the day that my family was invited to the Oregon Air National Guard base in Portland and along with a few other families viewed a demonstration of a hovering Harrier. I don’t remember if this was a demonstration for us or if there was a Harrier that was taking off at a specific time, but it was a lot of fun and made a lasting impact. My uncle worked on or around aircraft for much of his career and as a kid, I used to ask him a lot of questions about planes. I think as much as anyone his influence on my artistic and mechanical artistic interests was very significant. If I had built a Lego airplane and placed the engines in a structurally unsound, or inefficient location, he would let me know. Although I don’t consider myself by any means an engineer, I do strive in my work to visualize mechanically sound machinery, even if it is for a fanciful project. One year for my birthday Uncle Alan game me a large-scale Harrier model kit as a gift. I’m sure it was his intention that I build it, paint it, and then display it. The fact is I never did built “it” as it was intended. Instead I used the pieces to create my own flights of fancy. I still have the kit actually and scavenge it for plastic parts when I get the itch to build something. The best part of this kit is the engine. A better way to say this is that the coolest part of the Harrier is the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine which is designed to output thrust to nozzles on the side of the aircraft that allow it to hover like a helicopter. I’ve drawn a sketch of one of the nozzles in the upper left of the image. In the kit, the actual engine body was shaped something like a cylinder with two smaller cylinders on each side. I would often stare at this piece and use it to match different shapes and forms as I decided on what I would make. I don’t think I ever actually built this piece into any model because I could never find the right place for it. The nozzles however have found their way onto some of my models. One of those is here.
You can see the front cowling that holds the wheel in place on this vehicle is actually this same nozzle repurposed for my futurist monowheeled F-1 car.
I’ve always hoped my Uncle was not disappointed that I never built the kit from its original instructions. He passed away a number of years ago, and I’m sure the last thing on his mind was why I never finished it, but to me it was kind of the central point of our relationship. I deeply appreciate those odds and ends of plastic parts as a distinct memory of a man who inspired me early on, and this drawing is dedicated to that memory.

Sugarwater

Wales, painted from a photo from my friend Sue Gosellin who will be moving to this house!

I was just watching an old documentary about Apple computers. In it John Sculley who was CEO from 1983-1993 talked about being hired by Steve Jobs. Sculley had previously been CEO of Pepsico and Jobs felt that he would be a good fit for Apple. Sculley was skeptical about the position. Why would he want to move from being CEO of the biggest brand in the world (this was 1980’s Pepsi remember) to head up a fledgling company making…computers? Jobs said to Sculley. “(Would you rather) sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” The answer was obvious, Sculley took the position, shortly thereafter ousted Steve Jobs from the company and with his carbonated pop culture vision effectively spent the next 10 steering Apple in the wrong direction before he was forced out to make way for Job’s return. I’m sure I have some of my facts wrong, BUT the truth is, had Sculley had been painting with watercolor rather than making money off of sugarwater he would have never left for Apple, because watercolor is so satisfyingly undigital. One almost forgets what the world of computation feels like. I’m taking a class from Tom Hoffman (website http://www.hoffmannwatercolors.com/) at the Gage Academy. He’s a great instructor and has a definite philosophy of looking at the world that I am not only appreciating, but absorbing. He teaches a way of reducing information, of honing observation to the essentials, and a decidedly strategic approach to fluid imprecision. There is a lot I could say, but I’m still learning and will just paint instead. Here are some images from the last few weeks.

Looking west towards the Cruise Ship Terminal on Elliot Bay


Tuscany, Painted from the book Earth From Above 365 Days

Memory in Perpetuity

Soviet Mig-21 and tail of the Lockheed M-21 Blackbird in the foreground

I recall that the first time I visited The Museum of Flight in Seattle was on a family trip to the city at the age of 14. I remember quite vividly the open floor with dozens of planes sitting under the cast shadows of the many more suspended overhead. Apart from the obvious draw of the planes, the most striking aspect of the museum is how bright it is. Huge extended windows allow natural light across the airframes and a permanent view of the sky to frame them all. Since my first visit the museum has expanded significantly both in it’s physical space and the scope and quality of it’s exhibits, but like good childhood memories, my feelings for the place remain rooted in my own personal nostalgia. Visiting today I experienced the same feeling of awe and possibility that I knew 22 years ago. The Museum is in some ways my first memory of Seattle. On our family trip we visited the Space Needle and Gasworks; we even stayed at the old Four Seasons hotel (A MAJOR coup of luxury for our family, believe me). So I remember seeing the city as a tourist should, the great sites checked off of a list and the beginning of an appetite to know more that directly led to me moving here after college. Having lived here for years now, it’s very easy to take Seattle for granted. My days are filled with routine drives, commutes, trips to the same stores, and activities. I’ve figured out the most efficient routes to get from point here to point there and although I still love to explore it’s usually easier not to. I think it’s an important question to ask how we can make a new experience out of an old one. My thought for the day is that the key might lie in retracing your daily steps back to their origin and to actually look again at your oldest memory of your common places. My family trip had many highlights and maybe I’ll revisit them all again in years to come, but the mixture of machinery, and architecture, and the outright coolness of aviation history at the Museum of Flight still remains as a a creatively rejuvenating destination.