What is a true eclectic to do when her passions lead her in different directions?
This is a blog for the unfocused, the round pegs in the square holes, the short-attention span types, and all those who just can't bring themselves to join the ranks and adhere to a single category of activities or interests...whether sketches, drawings and comics, fixing an old farmhouse in Oregon, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stranded at the Rural Auction (03-29-11)

I was at the rural auction, killing time while waiting to be picked up by my husband and... (Ahem... a long story...).

Inside the big building where they have the household goods auctions, I surveyed the scene. At the auction, week after week, one sees the same people, the junk and the antique dealers, the occasional curious, farmers, field workers, and many Hispanic, Ukrainian or Russian immigrants. It's a large loose group of people, some one says hello to, some one avoids, some one hands off unwanted purchases to... But everyone is there with the same purpose: to make a deal, to find the perfect, -or almost perfect- item, something to fix, to re-use, or to re-sell.
Inside the auction building
There is something heartbreaking about the sorry possessions strewn around, the scratched furniture, dented appliances, faded clothing, ribbons and threads, used toiletries, greasy pots and pans, chipped plates, broken toys, and other junk, sold off by the box, the sad remnants of torn, displaced lives.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Matthew Brehm Workshop (03-27-11)

Matthew Brehm was an instructor at the Urban Sketchers Symposium last year. He came back to Portland to teach a workshop for the benefit of the Portland Urban Sketchers group and others who were interested in learning Sketching techniques from an architectural standpoint.

The workshop was held in the community room at People's Coop, in our old neighborhood. I was running a few minutes late, as always, but first had made a stop at St Jack's, the new bakery/restaurant on Clinton and 21st to pick up a hot chocolate and a (superb) ham and cheese croissant.

It was pretty interesting! I usually have difficulties sitting for long periods of time without getting distracted, but this was an excellent presentation, with photos, examples, suggestions... Where the presenter focuses on buildings foremost, and sees people as incidental to the setting, I favor people vs. surroundings. It's just a different approach to the same problems.

We had some time for lunch (I took the opportunity to pay a visit to I've Been Framed; they have great prices on art supplies), then we met downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square (and I was late again...) to work on some sketches.
Pioneer Courthouse

While I was drawing Pioneer Courthouse, I was thinking of the days when the first floor was a charmingly old-fashioned post office, austere and cavernous, and when the decision was made, against the wishes of many and despite the heroic efforts of a few, to close the post office and, in effect, to turn the old courthouse into a quasi-private legal bastion, retrofitted with parking spaces under the building for the benefit of some federal judges. Alas, it has happened...

In rain and in cold...
The weather was wretched and cold, so it was quite startling to see a wedding group taking photos on the square. The bride was pretty, but, wearing a bare-shouldered dress in pouring rain, I can't imagine she was comfortable. The bridesmaids also wearing bare-shouldered, short satin dresses almost looked blue from the cold... It started raining pretty hard, and a few drops of rain fell on my sketchbook.

We then went to Central Library, and spent some time sketching inside.

An interesting collection of old papers and photographs from one of the early prominent families was displayed in the glass cases on the third floor, with some nice editorial sketches, all done in a quill pen dipped in ink...

Then, when we were done, we met again and looked at each other's sketchbook.

It was a fine day.

All the sketchbooks...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Simpatica Dining Hall (03-26-11)

Gary got a new job after an anxious period of unemployment, so we really had to celebrate the event.

We went to Simpatica Dining Hall, for a menu that featured barbecued meats. But, ah... Let me tell you, we had a regal time! I can get lyrical about food, but the deviled egg with smoked tuna topped with crispy shallots were a perfection, with this slight smokey flavor mixing with the whites of the eggs...

The concept centers around an-ever changing weekly menu, and seating is by reservation only. The setting is a narrow room in the basement of an old building in SE Portland. The food, consisting of a three-course dinner, is served at common tables, so people can talk with each other. It's a fun place, alternating between noisy animated conversations and reverential awe whenever a new course is brought out.
Some of our table companions
From the corner where I was sitting at the back corner of the room, I had a great view of everything, and enjoyed engaging in small talk with Gary, meeting new people, and leisurely drawing in my sketchbook.

We may try to go back for our anniversary, to celebrate our 30 years together...

80s Video Dance Party at the Crystal Ballroom (03-26-11)

Party on! This time, my friend Sian A. and I went to a late dance party at the Crystal Ballroom, consisting of old music videos from the 80s (they apparently do these dances every week).

I had lots of fun! But it was a challenge to watch the screen, dance on the famous bouncing wooden floor, and draw in my sketchbook, all at the same time.

I was wearing a black skirt and a ruffled green and black blouse and my (mostly) comfortable black high heel mary janes. I was felling pretty cool, and not the worse looking of the aging baby boomers present. But after a while, I had to take my shoes off because I couldn't feel my toes anymore... Yikes! They were totally numb!

So I danced in my stockings, holding the shoes and the sketchbook in one hand, drawing with the other hand... The crowd was super-enthusiastic, shouting away the words of the songs and jumping at the beat in unison. I could feel myself bounce up in the air without any effort, on a floor set on springs that was increasingly getting wet from the dorks who were nonchalantly holding their drink in hand. When some idiot finally spilled his cup on my feet, I decided to put the shoes back on, pain or no pain.

A challenge: to sketch while dancing!
Sian danced the whole night away; she was obviously having a good time, and she knew all the songs. It's funny how Michael Jackson has become popular again; every song of his that was played was met with an unreserved roar of approval from all, especially Thriller. Dying, even in a stupid manner, is obviously a great marketing tool.

At some point, I took a break to look at my sketch close to a light. Not bad. I added some shadows here and there and the colors of the lights later on, but it is pretty much the way it was.

Sian dancing on the right

I did this sketch while standing under one of the two large Murano glass chandeliers that hand over the ballroom.
A different view of the same thing...
While I was sitting down, some guy came to ask me to dance; I politely refused and thanked him. I had to suppress a laugh when he reappeared twice afterward, talking away like I knew him. When I pointed at my ears, to show I couldn't understand anything, he looked irritated with me and left (good riddance).

The blog author and her friend
We left after the last song was played (at 1:30 a.m.). To get the beer or whatever that was off my feet, I took a shower as soon as I got home and finally went to be at 3:00 a.m., exhausted but exhilarated because this was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Felix the Kitten (03-22-11)

Here is a quick sketch of Felix, my daughter's kitten, caught in a very rare calm moment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie: The Big Lebowski (03-20-11)

A quick sketch done while watching The Big Lebowski, a hilarious movie, which, I must admit, I hated the first time I saw it (just like Animal House).

The Dude Abides!
Anyway, what can I say? I am not going to go into an analysis explaining why and make apologies for now liking this buddy movie about bowling losers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Art Spark at the Nines (03-17-11)

I made it to the Art Spark meeting, held at the Nines this month.

Refresher: the old, elegant, beloved Meier & Frank department store in downtown Portland was bought a few years ago, gutted out, and reopened as a state-of-the-art Macy's. Despite clearly expressed hopes for a res-to-ra-ti-on, what we got in fact is a black and white plastic horror reminiscent of those modernist scenes in A Clockwork Orange. After the heartbreak of my one trip to the store after the remodel, I stopped going there altogether, because the jarring decor is too painful to see, and to know what it was like... (No more slow-moving old-fashioned rickety escalators, no more 12-days of Christmas window displays, and no more kiddie Monorail.)

As for the hotel above-mentioned, the decor is equally horrid. Where elegance and luxury could have been brought back to life, in homage to the building's history, with velvets drapes, gorgeous glass chandeliers, golds, to even give it that gaudy 60s opulence, we got more modernist crap. A spartan entrance that has the personality of an airport check-in desk. Stainless steel elevators. All around, plastic, geometric shapes, long swooping expanses of minimalist drapes, and psychedelic flowery shapes hanging down from the cavernous open ceilings, medusa-like. Add a few neo-classic armchairs painted white, black, or pinkish-purple, with that 50s teal one sees everywhere nowadays, and the usual putty or taupe colors on the walls, and you got it. Oh, and I forgot to mention the painted mannequins set in edgy poses, a "friendly nod," I suppose, to the department store origins of the place.

But I digress. The focus for this month's meeting was to feature the Northwest Jewish Artists organization. So, aside from the run-of-the-mill Art types dressed in all black waving their hands around and spilling their drinks on the floor while loudly pontificating about the sorry turn Art was taking in this city, there were crowds of nice white-haired older ladies in pantsuits, talking about what inspired their artistic expression...
That lime green satin dress had to have been painted on...
I took in the space around me, a vast, spacious open area in the center of the building starting with the 8th floor all the way to the glass roof high above, the setting for a posh restaurant pretentiously named Urban Farmer. To quote them: "The ambiance is at once a tribute to the quaintness of a restored farmhouse and the aesthetic audacity of mid-20th century modernism." A restored farmhouse? Where? With the plastic disks handing from the ceiling?! Or the square chairs with metal feet?!

I took advantage of the Happy Hour to order an "urban" beef slider from the stunning cocktail waitress who was working the crowd; she was wearing the tightest dress I had ever seen on anyone. At $5, the slider was no bargain, consisting of a big hunk of hamburger patty dripping cheese, precariously held inside a greasy muffin with a bamboo stick, and this did not even include a napkin to hold it. I had to lick my fingers clean. And I had to chase the waitress down, after reminding her, not once, but twice, that I was waiting for change for my $20 bill.

Since I am at it, I will also mention the trip I made to visit the restrooms, a most pleasant surprise (aside from the plastic bag someone had tried to flush in one of the toilets), with eggplant colored walls and, instead of the ubiquitous paper towels, single rolled up cloth napkins to be placed in laundry hampers after used. Now, that was pretty cool!

In conclusion, the best thing about the visit were the great views of the Pioneer Courthouse cupola from the windows by the elevators, and the restrooms. On my way down, I shared the ride with sunglass-wearing creative types dressed in black and tourists in name-brand sweatsuits. It figures.

On the Milwaukie bus line (03-16-11 and 03-17-11)

I had to go work on a QA localizations downtown for a few days (Yours Truly occasionally uses her left brain to do French translation, interpretation and editing work), and I made the effort of taking TriMet to get home. In this case, it means the # 33 bus, the McLoughlin Blvd. to Oregon City line.

this guy was laughing to himself...
It's pretty clear, from the very few times I have taken this bus, that the passenger are the type that take no s...: working class people, women who look like 50s diner waitresses, hard-core skaters, or sort-of scuzzy types with tattoos and/or those ear things that give me bad shivers just to think of it. In fact, the demographics of the old suburbs are pretty different from the passengers who ride the # 4 bus, in our old neighborhood: sustainably-dressed people getting off at New Seasons on Division, trendy hipsters, and the occasional bum.

When I draw on the bus, I have to be discreet about it. I don't want someone to come up to me and challenge me to show my sketchbook. So I draw a snippet here, take a glance there, and rely on my memory to fill in the blanks. I like this drawings, because it means working around a few core sketches, and adding details that will be meaningful but not detract from the whole.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Emergency Preparedness with the OGGs (03-20-11)

A friend, Laurie Sonnenfeld, suggested I go to meet the OGGs, the Oak Grove Gals, who meet once a month. The meeting was at the home of Jean Chapin, a clay artist (see her work at Greenware Pottery).

The meeting theme was, ahem, earthquake preparedness, pretty pertinent given the recent natural events in Japan. We discussed creating small self-sustained neighborhood groups, with knowledge shared of resources and abilities. I decided to refresh our 72-hour kits, by replacing the food items I threw out a while back. The idea is still a great one, which is to fill wide mouthed gallon containers with everything that may be useful and necessary (snacks, wipes, multi-use knife, gum, pre-packed small portion meals, etc.)
A sketch reworked with Photoshop
As for the sketch, since these portraits spilled over two pages of my sketchbook, I copy/pasted the two portraits from the second page onto the first one, after moving three of the portraits of the first page to make some room (I couldn't quite figure out how to re-orient that drawing on the bottom, though).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stan Ridgway Concert! (03-08-11)

Last night, Gary and I went to the Stan Ridgway concert at Mississsippi Studios.

It was a small, almost intimate affair with some old die-hard fans. But what a concert! We all had an absolutely great time hearing old Wall of Voodoo favorites ("The Factory," "Lost Weekend," "Camouflage," etc.), a couple of Drywall numbers, as well as new songs from the Neon Mirage album. There is nothing like hearing this live. I love the stories told in the songs, and the the music is still so very, very cool...
From left to right, Pietra Wexstun, Bruce Zelesnik, Stan Ridgway and Rick King.

And, as after every concert, the band was available for small talk and signing CDs, posters...and my sketchbook.Call
The signatures were removed, but this is the sketch I spent most of my time on.

And, as after every concert, the band was available for small talk and signing CDs, posters (and my sketchbook).
Thrilled fan meets favorite songwriter.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Portrait: Wendy B. (03-06-11)

I did this sketch of Wendy B. at Church.

Wendy is an amazing woman: with the help of her husband Ron, she runs Vintage Market, a classy vintage business equal to any featured in Where Women Create or other such type of magazine. She has great taste, is a great cook, and organizes the best parties. I love going to her house; it has been redone in a lovely way, with a large kitchen where people can gather around a huge table. And there is that sleeping porch that has been converted into a sewing studio, a quasi magical space...

Andaz at Rotture (03-05-11)

As it may become evident, I like drawing crowds in motion.

I went to Rotture with my daughter Moso (a nickname) for Andaz with DJ Anjali. As these things go in nightclubs, there was a lot of loud music with great beats, with people dancing everywhere.

An interesting touch was the belly dancers who took to the stage...

I tried to get the movements, but it was pretty difficult.

And it was interesting to catch the expression on the faces of some...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gotta Mark the Date (03-04-11)

Today, it's been one year since the house has been in our name.

And what a year it has been! We have lived through unforeseen problems and break-downs, many repairs, but also through too many family-related upheavals... Here we are now, one year later, broke, beat, battered and bruised.

Would we do it again? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What drawing means to me (03-02-11)

As I've slowly been organizing my new studio, I finally got to the boxes that had been packed up since September 2009, when we sold our house in SE Portland. Obviously, life went on without these things, and it was manageable. Yet, I've always disliked the thought that if you haven't worn an item of clothing for a year, you need to discard it. It's not that I am a collector, but I need the familiarity of objects I like to feel grounded.

So, I embarked on my box opening project with some anxiety. What if everything inside was now meaningless? What if the images, the art supplies, the small objects just turned out to be junk? More pointedly, if the things I once liked had become irrelevant, would I in turn feel irrelevant?

Opening box after box of art supplies, paints, markers, pencils, I found some treasures: the box of watercolors my grand-father sent me when I was 23, the metal tubes twisted and mangled, the paints hardened to chunks, and another box my mother sent me around the same time, still pristine, still unused, and still evoking the same feelings of wonder when I carefully open it.

I found my journals, the oldest one from when I was about 17 years old, full of goody-girly nonsense, and its existence brings out feelings of regrets over the solemn sacrificial burning at age 16, of two previous journals whose every page was filled with rage and anger, expressed in a rainbow of red, blue, or green fountain pen ink.

I found my sketchbooks, all of them, and placed them pell-mell on a bookcase shelf, and this is the first time I can see all of them side by side, and the real space they take. The first sketchbook I bought in 1997 was small and black, filled with timid and hesitant drawings of people, followed by an unimaginative series of more identical black sketchbooks.

My sketchbooks of choice now are my reliable hand-bound sketchbooks my dad buys in Budapest and sends in an occasional package, along with dark chocolate, sweet licorice or violet candy, and Speculoos cookies or spread from Belgium. (A side note here about the cover patterns: my dad clearly favors historical Hungarian motifs, while I prefer colorful images, like flowers or objects, but I can't complain since these are the best sketchbooks ever.)
My present sketchbook

I've been more impatient with drawing lately, ready to move on to another page, taking less time to work on individual pages. I also use less color, while I would actually prefer more color in my books. But in the case of fashion sketches, I find that a few lines say it all, the place has been visited, it's time to do something else, like another sketch...so turning the page is getting easier.

Movie: "Carlos" (2010) (03-02-11)

We watched "Carlos," a three-part mini-series about terrorist Carlos The Jackal, a totally fascinating story that left me wondering why anyone would engage in terrorist activities.

When I watch a movie, the action is sometime too engrossing and I will put down my pen, and leave the page as is, or pick the pen up again later on, if I see a face or a detail that catches my attention. The pages below from my sketchbook reflect our watching the movie over three nights, as I stopped drawing after the end of each episode of the movie. As you can see, on each subsequent session, I try to fill the space on the page, and to add some new details to some of the previous sketches.

Part one: Basic structure; lay things on the page

Part two: Add details, filler images

Part three: Finish off, more filler and touch-ups

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Paper Fashions (03-01-11)

Shortly after I posted my fashion sketches Linda Daily, a fellow sketch artist, recommended I look up Isabelle de Borchgrave, an artist whose name I had never heard before.

Doing some research, I was intrigued to find out that:
1.) like me, she was born in Belgium
2.) she makes accurate-looking, full-size reproductions of historical costumes out of PAPER!

I located a book about her and made the trip all the way to Powell's in Beaverton. I spent one hour looking at every image, absolutely mesmerized by the colors, the shapes, the textures, and to think it was all made of paper... I drew some quick sketches of the dresses I liked best, just be able to take a little something of these fabulous fashions home with me...but my sketches don't do the work justice.

Paper shoes!
Beautiful 17th century clothing
The hair was made of twisted paper

First Tuesday at Walters Cultural Arts Center (03-01-11)

My Sketching class at the Walters Cultural Arts Center tonight happened to coincide with First Tuesday, and that meant the opening night for an art show. A perfect opportunity for the students in the class to look at original artwork and to practice sketching people in public. Baptism by fire...

A local high schooler was exhibiting her drawings. I drew her while she was talking to some people. She had the fragile grace of youth, not quite an adult yet, but not a child anymore.
Five musicians from the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra were playing in the lobby; a couple of pieces were original enough to make me wish for Christopher were there to enjoy them.