Saturday, September 20, 2014

Seattle Busker Week Finale

9/20/14 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Zig marker,
Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencil,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper (Jim Yun)
After a week of special events around the downtown area, local buskers turned out for a grand finale performance this afternoon outside EMP. Seattle Busker Week was the 40th anniversary celebration of an ordinance that made busking legal in Seattle. In 1974, busker Jim Page became a local hero when he took on the city prohibition that made performing in the streets for money illegal.

“Busking is based on the principle that if you can talk, you can sing,” Page said, giving anyone an opportunity to perform for an audience. An original song he performed today was a lampoon of Bertha, the expensive tunnel-boring machine which has been stuck for months.

Ukulele player and singer Jim Yun, a Seattle busker who had been in Chicago for a while, began his performance by complaining about that Midwest city’s highly restrictive busking laws. “This is an awesome city for creativity and creative expression,” Yun said, praising Seattle and its liberal busking policies.

Since I’m a frequent sketcher of buskers at farmers markets and street fairs, and it’s my personal policy to put money in the hat of any busker I sketch, it was a surprising change to see today’s buskers performing without their hats out. But as a celebration of Seattle’s liberal ordinance, it made sense: They gave back to an appreciative city with a free show.

9/20/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao ink, Zig marker
(Bob Crosby and Jim Page)
9/20/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink, Zig marker (Katy Keenan)
9/20/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao ink, Zig marker, Museum pencil
(didn't catch this guy's name)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Greenwood

9/19/14 Platinum Carbon and Diamine Grey inks, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

I know nothing about the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, which is on the corner of North 83rd and First Avenue Northwest in the Greenwood neighborhood. Sketching it today, however, taught me two things: Bright yellow and red must be symbolic, reverent colors for this Buddhist sect, so although I usually don’t pay much attention to getting the colors of buildings exactly right, I tried my best for accuracy in this case. The second thing I learned is that animals and nature must be important; two lions flank the stairway leading up to the ornate fa├žade and doorway, and two deer are atop the front overhang.

9/17/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi ink
When I first spotted this monastery on my way to an appointment a few days ago, I had only five minutes to spare, so I quickly hopped out of the car to sketch one of the lions. Today on a sunny afternoon, I took my time with the colorful front.

Not shown in my sketch is the whole right side of the building, where an elaborate percussion system stands exposed. At first I thought the cylindrical objects were bells, and I wondered how the monks kept neighborhood children (or adults) from ringing them at all hours. (I figured the clappers must be removable.) Today after school let out, a few kids walked by, and right on cue, they made a swing past the cylindrical objects. Instead of gonging them, however, the kids knew to spin the cylinders, which made a soft rattly sound, like they were filled with seeds or pebbles. I have to come back another day to sketch them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Brazil Sketchbook: Completing a Cycle

My Brazil travel sketchbook is bound.
This rainy morning was a good opportunity to finish binding my Brazil sketchbook. As with last year’s Spain/Germany sketchbook, I kept my symposium workshop and activities sketches in a separate collection from what I would call my “usual” travel sketches. In fact, the symposium sketches all went into the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook that I received in my goodie bag. Even though I would normally prefer the chronological continuity of keeping everything in one sketchbook, I liked putting all my workshop sketches in one self-contained volume peppered with class notes, related ephemera and cards I exchanged with other sketchers.

I bound the symposium program right into the sketchbook.
I ended up filling seven signatures with non-symposium-related sketches. Like last year, as a symbol of the initial impetus for the trip, I bound the symposium program right into the sketchbook. So the eight total signatures turned into my thickest handbound sketchbook yet, which gave me a little concern about how well the stitching would fare, but I needn’t have worried. Coptic stitch is stronger than it looks (or perhaps my technique is improving).

Creating the book covers was especially fun; it gave me a sense of closure on the trip (and also took care of a potential packratting issue). I pulled out all the maps, brochures and other ephemera collected during the two weeks. This is the kind of stuff I used to haul home, shove into a box, store in the attic and never look at again (until I throw it out a couple decades later). Now, after carefully selecting and preserving the most meaningful images on the covers, the rest goes into the recycle bin (right away!). The front cover is a collage of images of Paraty and the symposium logo. The back cover is made of map scraps and brochures of Rio, plus an image of the spectacular Cristo Redentor cut from a postcard.

My July - August sketchbook covers remind me of a lovely summer.
Since I had all my bookbinding supplies out, I also finished binding my July – August sketchbook. On the covers are the Smith Tower sketched on Kate’s birthday and L.A.’s Marina del Rey – both redolent of the peak of summer (now a fond memory – sigh.)

Last year’s symposium and related travels were my impetus for developing a flexible, portable sketchbook system that led to handbinding. Now, 14 handbound sketchbooks later (in as many months), I feel like I’ve completed one cycle – and look forward to the next one. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Triple Color

9/17/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Zig marker, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
When I first spotted the maple growing in this Greenwood neighborhood traffic circle from a few blocks away, I thought it was curious that one side was still completely green, while the other side was turning. Then I drove up closer and realized there were actually three maples (another curiosity: that’s a lot of trees for one traffic circle). Perhaps the arborist or gardener who planted this circle planned the varieties carefully to lengthen the time that the intersection of North 83rd and Dayton North would be glowing with color. I might come back in a month or so and see what it looks like then.

(I do a lot of whining and lamenting at this time of year, sad to see the prime outdoor sketching season nearing its end. But despite that, I do love fall.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Chicago

I just read an excellent, inspiring blog post by Alex Zonis of Urban Sketchers Chicago. Every word could have been stated by me (uh, well, except the part about having reached 10,000 hours)! After three years of sketching, I probably still have about 9,000 hours of practice to go, and I’m looking forward to every one. 

Still Green

9/16/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Pitt Artist Pen, Zig marker,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Since many of the maples near Green Lake are beginning to show color, I walked up to Maple Leaf Park to check on the huge sugar maple I sketched last April, wondering if it had started coloring, too. Not at all – it’s still fully green. Since it enables me to hang onto the illusion that we still have some summer left, I sketched it anyway.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mug Bugs Coffee

9/15/14 Platinum Carbon ink, watercolor, Pitt Artist's Pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
The Chevron gas station at the corner of Northeast 85th and Fifth Northeast has had an independent espresso stand on one side of its property for years. The caffeine biz is a difficult, competitive one. (During the half-hour that I took to make this sketch, the stand had one customer besides me.) If I’m filling my gas tank there, I sometimes get a coffee, and I’ve seen a recurring cycle of mood swings: At first there’s high enthusiasm and optimism, lots of fun marketing ideas and perky, hand-lettered signs. Gradually the hours shorten, the signs and smiles fade, and the next time I drive by, the stand has a new name. These cycles rarely last longer than a year – sometimes as short as a few months.

I’ve occasionally considered sketching the stand whenever it changes hands, but the nondescript, shed-like structure hasn’t interested me much as a sketching subject. Until today.

The latest rendition, Mug Bugs Coffee, has been open for two months, but only yesterday put up an eye-catching display: the front half of an actual VW Bug perched on top of the stand. The barista told me that the owner has another store in Kent, and when I Googled it, I discovered that the Kent store is adorned with the rear half of what looks like the same Bug. I don’t know how long this one will last, but the iced mocha tasted fine, and I give them bonus points for the Bug.
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