Archive for July, 2013



July 27, 2013

For inspirational books geared toward creatives: Steal Like an Artist is the best one of all.


It’s basically a creative manifesto that every artist/ writer/ musician/ performer/ whatever needs to read because every single word in it is true.


It’s also short and fun and has lots of little visual things, so it’s great for us ADD types.

steal life

The author, Austin Kleon, also did a Ted Talk that gives a general overview of the ideas he presents in the book. Just watch it, okay? It’s only eleven minutes.



Street Performers

July 10, 2013

Sketches of New York: Now vs Then

One the cool things about New York is the abundance of talented performers. Everywhere you look there is some dancer, singer, mime, banjo player, or acrobat putting on an awesome show. Here is a guy I came across in the subway station back in 2000.



(Back then I drew on both sides of the page, so that’s the shadow of the flip side in the background there. )

These guys (below) were part of an acapella group that performed on front steps at the Met. There always seem to be a ton of people loitering on the steps of the Met, so that must be prime real estate. I wonder if performers ever get into hair-pulling territorial street fights the way hookers often do.*

(*Everything I know about hookers I learned from TV.)



Looks like after 13 years I’d grown too lazy to quote the actual song they were singing, and have opted instead to slap on a few of those universal symbols of music.

But wait! See the baseball cap on that guy on the left? That is without a doubt the best baseball hat I have EVER drawn. And before you scoff and say “It’s a hat, big whoop” please ask yourself if you have ever drawn someone in a baseball cap before.

No? Okay take a moment to attempt that now…

Pretty damn hard huh?

Now let’s go back a look at my drawing again with this fresh new perspective…

You: Nice job on the hat.

Me: Thank you.

By the way, the name of that group was Acapella Soul and they were great. Here’s another super-toony one of them.

Acapella Soul 2013

Acapella Soul 2013

Check it out, they have a website.


NYC circa 1999

July 8, 2013

As promised, here are some cringe-worthy sketches from my Fall of 1999 sketchbook. These are all from the first time I ever visited New York City. I was 22 years old, an art student at ASU, and had been carrying a sketchbook for less than a year. I was traveling with my friends Satin and Kevin. We only had 24 hours in the city and were determined to cram every single NYC experience into that time.

Now it’s time to play… “What the heck is that???”

Ah, the perfunctory interior airplane sketch. The first of many that I would do over the years. I still have a hell of a time getting those seats right. I see that I’ve made sure to note that “Cookies Fortune” was the inflight movie. Obviously I felt that was an important detail and feared that the image I drew on the video screen would not make this clear.


Next up we’ve got another scene from inside the plane. What, this doesn’t look like the inside of an airplane to you? Please note the carefully rendered tray tables on the right. That heap of scribbles in the middle is my college pal Satin sleeping under a blanket. And to help capture the essence of the moment, I’ve skillfully added some “ZZZ” above what is quite clearly the top of her head peeking out of the blanket. IMG_0315

Okay now it is approximately 11:50 PM on Friday night. We have arrived in New York and are at the rental car place where we’ve just learned that we are 3 years shy of being able to legally rent a car. Which means that we have no way of getting to the hotel we had reserved in New Jersey.

That big scribble on the left is Satin. I was a big fan of the cross-out method in the early days. My pre-2K sketchbooks are full of X-heads. In the middle is Kevin at the counter talking to the Hertz employee. And over on the right side of the page we’ve got Satin using an ancient relic we called a “phone booth”.


Eventually we got a cab and wound up at a no-tell motel in Queens somewhere around 2 AM. We had to BEG the manager to let us rent a room for the entire night because this was normally a rent by the hour type of establishment. We crashed out for a few hours, then took another cab to Manhattan. When the driver asked us where, specifically, in Manhattan we wanted to go we just shrugged and said, “wherever.”

So he dropped us at the Empire State Building. We went to the top and I sketched pigeons while Kevin took pics with his new camera and chatted up the ladies.



Then we went to Central Park where we said, “I can’t believe we’re in New York” over and over again. As you can see, the sketch below is something of a montage of the Central Park experience. We’ve got Kev using one of those new-fangled cell phones at the top, a homeless person on a bench in the middle, and some light reflecting on the pond in the lower left there.

Actually, that was the first time I had ever (somewhat) successfully rendered the surface of water. Also, according to my notes at the bottom, the quote of the day was when Satin pondered, “I wonder if there is such a thing as a genius duck.”


Here is another scene from Central Park. A mom and some kids yelling at the (possibly) genius ducks. Across the pond we’ve got some painstakingly rendered foliage.

From there we ventured into the subway. Here is Satin on the subway platform singing “On broadway!” It’s hard to tell from my sketch whether she is crouching, or sitting, or if her legs are just broken.

Next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was way too busy talking Satin and Kev’s heads off about 19th century European paintings to do any sketching.

(Side note: that crash course in art history later proved useful when Kevin used his new found knowledge to impress a woman he met on the plane ride home. You’re welcome Kev.)

After the Met closed we found this cool-looking restaurant called “Jekyll and Hyde.” We decided to go because we like monsters. And also because we were starving and exhausted. I did this sketch of the building as we waited in line to get in. What? This doesn’t look like a building to you? Come on people, use your imagination.


Here’s my attempt at sketching the interior of the restaurant. It had this awesome haunted house theme and I really wanted to capture all the cool details. I may have overdone it just a tad. When I showed this sketch to Richard the other day he said, “Oh my god.” As in “oh my god, my eyes, they’ve been over-loaded, they cannot take in all this information at once, remove this from my view.”


Here is another attempt. This place was so neat I really wanted to remember it. And I totally do. That’s one of the reasons sketching is better than photos. It really forces you to take time to look at things and notice details. So even though I was unable to convey the awesomeness of this place through my sketch, the act of sketching it imprinted those details into my memory. And when I look at this scribbly mess I can remember everything.


Check out these pics on the restaurant’s website to see what it’s really like.

After dinner we hung out at a bar in Times Square for a while, then headed downtown. We had a bit of a snafu with the subway, hence Satin’s confusion re: the E train.


Somehow we managed to get down to Battery Park and then took a midnight ride on the Staten Island Ferry, where I did this final sketch. Hey check out the reflection on the water. Look familiar? I learned how to do that at Central Park.


When the ferry landed in Staten Island we got off, then turned around and got right back on. The three of us stood at the front of the boat as it skimmed across the water toward Manhattan. I can still remember the cold October air on our faces, the city lights twinkling as we approached, and Satin calling out “I’m flying Jack, I’m flying” as our amazing 24-hour adventure came to a close.

Epilogue: A few months later Kevin’s nifty new camera–which contained ALL the pictures from our trip–was stolen. Which leads me to reason #2 of why sketches are better than pictures. Without my sketchbook, there would be no evidence of the trip at all. Without my sketchbook I would have completely forgotten about the eyes that moved behind the portrait at Jekyll and Hyde’s, and the reflections on the pond at Central Park, and the E train, and the pigeons and the genius duck. All the details of one of the greatest days of my life would have eventually disappeared, and I would have never EVER remembered that Cookies Fortune was the movie on the plane. And that would have been a damn shame.


NYC Flashback

July 6, 2013

Back in 2000 I went to NYC for a second time.

By this point I had been carrying a sketchbook consistently for about two years. You’d think I’d have gotten really good by that point, but alas, I had not. One of the most frustrating things about sketching in public is that strangers always want to take a look at your drawing. And when that drawing sucks, it’s really embarrassing.

Back then my drawings sucked 100% of the time, so I was very self-conscious. But I was also determined to get better, and I knew that the only way to get better was to draw ALL THE TIME, and that meant even in public. Especially in public.

The trip to NYC in 2000 was significant to me because for the first time I was starting to produce sketches that I was proud of.

This guy was playing some sort of weird stringed instrument under a bridge near the Central Park Zoo. It was around this time that I finally started to learn how to hold back and not flood every page with a chaotic mess of lines.

Central Park 2000

Central Park 2000

This is a lightbulb sketch. Compared to what I can do now, it’s not a great drawing, but it represents a moment when I learned something big and stepped up a level.

When I did this sketch I realized that I could avoid a lot of messy confusion by letting the background details trail off before they intersect with the person in the foreground.

At some point a family of tourists came along and videotaped me as I did this sketch. I was so incredibly flattered. And for the first time ever, I was not ashamed to have them see what I was drawing.

By the way, the music this guy played was awesome, and after I did this sketch I bought his CD and have listened to it many times. It was the least I could do after the awesome moment he had given to me.