Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who ARE you people?

As those of you in my class know, one of the assignments we did was to use line to capture the feel of various types of music -- classical, blue grass, hip hop, death metal, jazz, etc. Since much of my career has focused on reading people rather than music, I thought it would be fun to capture my perception of the members of my GDS class through line. Here's what I came up with. These include everyone in the class, including Paul (the instructor). I also did one of myself at the last minute. If you want to know which one is yours, just let me know and I'll tell you. They're all positive, by the way. I enjoyed thinking about my impression of the good qualities I've seen in this short time we've had class together and then trying to translate those qualities into lines. I hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Sketches

Ok. I know I'm wordy a lot of the time and always trying to process everything and read meaning into everything. And, no, you wouldn't be the first person to tease me about it., I just sketched things I
saw without analyzing anything. I was driving home this afternoon and was behind a man and woman riding a motorcycle. He was driving and she was riding. I just thought it was an interesting perspective because all I could see from behind was her! I thought it would be a challenge to try to draw what I saw. I even tried to take a reference picture with my cell phone, frantically dumping the contents of my cavernous purse onto the passenger seat since my phone had disappeared into it. I only just now uploaded it. Looks like it would have helped as a reference. They looked a lot smaller on my cell phone! Duh. Too late now for this sketch, I guess.

I just played around with the shapes a little. As you might notice, she wasn't headless. I just seem to have trouble when I start a sketch, not really having a sense of how much space I'm going to need so I often seem to draw right off the page.

Later this evening, I spent some time sketching a vase that was a gift from a very close friend, Molly. I've always liked the curvy shape and interesting shadows (of the vase, not Molly, although she is quite attractive). I need to learn to be more bold with the pencil. My sketch makes the vase look pretty timid but the vase itself is actually very self-assured.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Just Want to Be OK

From the song "I Just Want to Be OK" by Ingrid Michaelson:

Open me up and you will see
I'm a gallery of broken hearts

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

See a penny...

Ok. I'm better now. It usually takes me a couple of days to get back to normal (normal for me, anyway) after a long trip. I'm getting there.

I'm reading a book called Open to desire: Embracing a lust for life: Insights from Buddhism and psychotherapy. It starts with an interesting concept that I'm already finding helpful and that inspired my latest sketch.

As part of my midlife crisis, I've been struggling with the feeling that time is slipping out of my hands and I'm frantically trying to grasp and hold tightly to the things I desire or feel I might lose or have lost. Reminds me of one time several years ago when I was water skiing and I fell. I hadn't been water skiing in a long time so I was a little rusty. Instead of just letting go of the tow rope and gently sliding back down into the water, I tightly clung on for dear life while the boat proceeded to pull me, bouncing painfully on the water, skis up in every direction for several yards before I realized that I just had to let go! I was sore for a couple of days after that in some places on my body I didn't even know existed. Lesson learned.

Well...the author of Open to Desire talks about two concepts in Buddhism: one is the concept of desire and one is the concept of tanha (thirst, craving, clinging). If you're familiar with Buddhism at all, you'll know that Buddhists believe that life is about suffering and that the cause of suffering is attachment or desire. The goal of many Buddhist practices is to learn how to let go; how not to be so attached to things, people, etc. Very oversimplified summary by a non-Buddhist (me).

This author argues that Buddhism is about learning to let go of tanha. Here's the story he uses to explain the concept and I really like it:

A Buddist speaker was asked about the concept of non-attachment and that it makes sense in some ways (e.g., not getting overly attached to material posessions) but not in others (e.g., attaching to family and friends). The speaker said, "It's like holding a coin." and he held out one arm with his palm up and his fist closed. "We can hold it like this," and he emphasized the closed nature of his fist, "or we can hold it like this," and he opened his hand to show the coin sitting in the center of his palm. "The closed fist is like clinging (tanha) but with my hand open, I still hold the coin."

The author says that " a vehicle for personal transformation. Rather than treating it as the cause of suffering, desire is embraced as a valuable and precious resource, an emotion that, if harnessed correctly, can awaken and liberate the mind."

This may be more than any of you want to know about me but I'm really interested in learning how to hold things, including the people in my life, in a more open way. To have them in my life without clinging or wanting to possess or forcing a particular kind of relationship. The image of the open hand holding the coin is perfect!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Before and After

Well...vacation time is winding down. I don't even want to think about trying to cram all my clothes into my suitcase again...I'm looking forward to home, though!

One of the things that I'm definitely feeling is the effect of all the eating out. I decided to do a before and after sketch. I think I've gained about 50 pounds in the past week. Here's what I look like now:

Here's what I looked like before:

Just jokin'. The first sketch is a weak copy of one of Botero's paintings. I like his paintings and sculptures a lot. He has some pretty intense social commentary pieces about Abu Ghraib, too. I don't know much about him except that I think he's kind of a rebel. I've always liked his figures -- very thick and hefty. No stick thin people here. It's nice to see images that look more like the other 80% of the population.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't Laugh

Last day in Boston. I think I was ready to go home a couple of days ago. I'm really just a homebody. I'm tired of living out of a suitcase. It's been a good trip, though. Boston's a great city.

One of the things I like to do when I'm in a city is ride the subway -- T, El, Metra, whatever it's called in a particular city. This time, when I got off the T here in Boston, it was so funny to see this flock of people exiting the subway and another flock of people moving toward the subway to get on it. So...I tried to sketch what I saw. This is where the post title comes in -- please don't laugh at my drawing! Or...if you do laugh, be gentle.

I conducted an informal poll and the 2 respondents couldn't really tell what it was supposed to be a sketch of. As I've mentioned before, I don't know how to draw people yet. So...instead of trying to draw people, I decided to draw something abstract to represent them. Brilliant idea, right? Apparently, what represents them is an image of a sail, an ivory tusk, or a talon - take your pick. I wanted to capture the movement. I'll keep trying! Surely someday I'll look back on these sketches and laugh my pants off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The person who looks outward dreams. The person who looks inward awakens.
-- Carl Jung

Monday, July 13, 2009

Well, THAT'S embarrassing

My wonderful friend and soulsister Susan gently corrected one of my previous posts. She pointed out that I had described the delicious treat I crave as a Moon Pie. In fact, the chocolaty goodness with icing in the middle is called a Whoopie Pie. Apparently, Moon Pies are more of a Southern thing. They consist of marshmallow filling between two graham crackers, with the whole thing dipped in chocolate. There's also a weird tradition of drinking RC Cola with your Moon Pie. I didn't even know they still made RC Cola!!

I have eaten a Moon Pie and there's no comparison. Whoopie Pies are hands down more tasty. According to Wikipedia, the official source of all information for high school students and lazy adults in the US, you should also be careful not to confuse Moon Pies with Mooncakes, the latter of which is a Chinese pastry with very different ingredients.

Now that we have that all cleared up, we can move on with our lives...

You Do Not Have to Be Good

Here's a poem by one of my favorite poets who happens to live in Provincetown, MA, which is where I spent the day today. Click on the poem to read it...

The line about the "brittle beauty of understanding" really stood out for me. Sometimes, having all the consciousness that we have as humans feels burdensome to me. While I value complexity, I also at times long for a life that doesn't involve understanding. A life that requires only that I eat, breathe, sleep. No thinking, analyzing, striving to understand. I g
uess this is what Buddhists strive for. I'm not sure I'm quite that enlightened. I wonder if insurance would cover a labotomy -- or do you think that would be an elective procedure? Hmmmm.....

Mary Oliver also has a poem called Wild Geese which I think may b
e my favorite. If you've ever felt isolated or questioned your value, read this poem. The poem starts by saying "You do not have to be good" and there's a later line that says "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." How much simpler can life be? I love being reminded that I don't have to be anything other than I am and even with the flaws, I have a place "in the family of things."

That's my philosophizing for the
evening. Back to The Sea poem - here's an image that came to mind as I read it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Little Piggies

What a great day! No bike riding but a very relaxed morning and then the afternoon at the beach. It was really wonderful.

Any time I've walked up and down a beach, I've just loved how the little kids play with the waves...running up to them,
then laughing and squealing as the waves play back and chase after them. I think the laugh of a small child is one of the best sounds in the world. The ocean just seems to have an effect on everyone. Wish I lived nearer to one...

Here's a sketch of my little piggies. I have to say that I think they look much more attractive in real life. You see my toes, the seaweed from
high tide, the surf and then the horizon. As I was sitting on the beach soaking up the ambiance and drawing my own toes, a family of 4 (a man, a woman, and two children) walked along the beach and then went to stand where the waves were coming in. They stood across the beach (child, dad, child, mom) right in front of where I was sitting and held hands while the waves came in. The kids were thrilled. I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of them. It was the sweetest family scene. I was a little worried they'd think I was a stalker but I approached them to see if they'd like me to email the photos to them. They were happy that I'd taken the pictures and said it was the first time the kids had been to the beach. It's so cool that I could give them pictures of part of their experience! Digital cameras and email have really changed the way the world works.

I also did some sketches of people. They were pissing me off, though, because
they wouldn't stand still! I'd just barely get their head drawn and then they'd start moving. :-/ I did not offer to send them pictures of the sketches I did. Especially not the seagull. Tracking him down would have been such a hassle.

I guess that's it for today! We'll hit Provincetown tomorrow and I'll be able to hang out with a good friend for the day. You may not hear from me tomorrow. I know, I know, it's disappointing but you'll survive. I'm loving this vacation thing! I should do it more often. If only I had the means...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Cape

I am now on?/in?/at? Cape Cod. Never been here before. Lots and lots of people. Made it to the beach to take a long walk. I took some time to make a sketch of the ocean. I really challenged myself to focus and try to capture the beauty of it all. Isn't it beautiful?!

Just jokin...I did sketch a few things today. Before leaving Providence, I went back to a cemetery we'd driven past a couple of times. It was just kind of in a field across the street from some houses and on the edge of the Naragansett River. We thought it might be a military cemetery because the tombstones were all so uniform. When I went back and read the information there, I found it to be really poignant and sad.

The graves were those of p
eople who had died in the Rhode Island state mental institution or the "almshouse" and didn't have any other family, friends or arrangements for themselves. The saddest part was that most of the tombstones didn't even have a name. Just a number. The time frame for the deaths was between 1933 and 1952.

Rows and rows of tombstones with no name, no family, no date of birth or death.

I haven't been hospitalized for mental health issues but I've certainly had my share of struggles and have worked with some wonderful people who needed to go to the hospital. I can't imagine what it would have been like to go through those times without sufficient financial resources or support to get better. It must have been a very difficult life. I can only hope that they were treated well and with some tenderness. Although, given the time frame, I doubt that a mental hospital was a very nice place to be.

It was a powerful reminder to be in the moment, to be true to myself and to take risks because life is very, very short. Eventually, I won't have any more moments or any more opportunities to feel alive. My heart broke for these people who were institutionalized or destitute and who died without knowing if there were people who cared. Perhaps even feeling like they were a number rather than a person. Very sad.

I found myself wishing I had time to do some research and find out if there is a record of names, etc. It would be interesting to pull a
ll of that together and acknowledge the lives of people who were so vulnerable and forgotten. Unfortunately, there are still people who are having the same experience today. I guess it helps me value the work that I do because I try to give the people I work with some sense of their worth which is often lacking in other places in their lives.

To entirely change gears and in the interest of living life to the fullest, though, I had to do a drawing of an image I had about moon pies. Have you ever had a moon pie? They're the most delicious, mouthwatering treat you can imagine. I think it's a northeast thing. A moon pie is basically an eight inch wide, two inch thick oreo only much, much, much better. The cakey outside is like a mix between rich, dark chocolate cake and a brownie because it's soft and moist but it holds together. Then on the inside, they put soft, fluffy white icing. Heaven.

I had an image of the skies raining moon pies down on me so that all I'd have to do is open my mouth and eat them up.
Maybe I'll find a recipe and bring some to class...

So that's my little trip report for the day. Bike riding and reading on the beach tomorrow...peaceful and reflective.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Providence Has Been Kind

Last day here in Providence. I didn't do much sketching today. Here's one little thing I tried. There were some interesting sculptures scattered throughout the downtown area or "downcity" as they like to call it here for some odd reason. Not as many as I might have expected, though, given that the Rhode Island School of Design is right up the street. I couldn't find a placard for this one but thought it was cool so I sketched it. It was made out of some kind of metal and was reddish with rust. I liked.

I also took some pictures. Couldn't believe how decorative some of the storm drains were...
Yes. I took a picture of a storm drain.

And, of course, here are me and my lovely daughter Maddy at Johnson & Wales. She's really a cool young woman. I'll miss her when she goes.

How's this photo for three point perspective? This is a picture I took of a Unitarian church in Providence. The sky was really that blue today. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon and evening.

Tomorrow...the ocean. Yay!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Drawing's Hard

Well, I'm in Providence, RI and will not be in GDS 108 next week. My daughter is going through orientation for college (she's going to Johnson & Wales to become a pastry chef) which is what brings me here. After orientation is done, we'll go to Cape Cod for a few days and then to Boston for a few days to visit with a good friend. I figured that I'd sketch throughout the trip and post the sketches (and other things) on this blog. I'm really going to miss you guys in Graphic Design class because I've really been enjoying it and think it's a great group! I know you'll miss me too, because all the times I don't know things make you look better.

So...we drove to Indy yesterday and then flew to Charlotte, NC and then flew to Providence, RI. Here are a couple of pages of sketches. My scanner was a little cumbersome to travel with so I'm taking photos and then uploading them -- that's why they're kinda fuzzy. Plus, I'm too exhausted right now to work very hard at getting them clearer. I'm not proud of the sketches. I can't wait to take the drawing class in the fall. Think I need it? Naaahhhhhh....

It rained some as we were driving to Indy and I noticed the shape of the raindrops and how the rain gathers in streams in certain places. I'm not doing it on purpose but my drawings really look like cartoons. Well, I guess I'm kinda doing it on purpose because I know I can't draw realistically! Of course, I had to sketch the very unhappy looking flight attendant demonstrating how to buckle a seat belt. I'd be unhappy too if I had to repeat such idiotic instructions several times a day while everyone ignored me. I always try to smile and nod and look interested just so they feel like at least one person was paying attention.

Perspective! Phew...Looks like this woman's seat is going to take off all on its own! She's practically levitating. I'm trying to get over my fears of drawing poorly so I figured if I put these very-less-than-perfect sketches out there for the world to see, I'll get used to everyone knowing I'm learning and I won't care so much.

I also wanted to share some photos of the "branding" done by the hotel I'm staying in. It's called Nylo and is probably one of the coolest places I've ever stayed. I thought they may have a "how hip are you" quiz before they would let me stay here. It's very mod and environmentally conscious. I thought GDS108 students would be interested in these:

Given what we've been talking about in class, I've really been noticing these things. It just seemed neat to me that these designers picked four letter words to work with the concept (the bag that says hair holds a hair dryer, not a bag to place your hair in when you shed. That would just be gross). There are a few four letter words that didn't show up (no, they did not have a wrapper designed for the toilet paper and no, they did not have a wrapper designed for the complimentary condom they left on the pillow).

I'm actually mixed about the design because I find it hard to read - my eyes are trying to figure out where to look and in what direction. A little bit of knowledge is dangerous. I'm looking at every visual composition critically now! Where's the emphasis? Where's the movement? Is it balanced? Is it unified? Does it have any rhythm? depth? What would you do to make this design better (if anything)?

That's it for today. One more day in Providence and then to the beach! More sketches to come...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ancient Art

Well...I seem to have misplaced the memory stick that has all my work on it!! I'm hoping it's in the computer lab. It's ok, I have backups. I just couldn't work on much this weekend! Bummer. Instead, I've put together this long post that will probably bore everyone but me. I had fun doing it, though!

In a loosely structur
ed art class that I took maybe 10 years ago, the instructor had a stack of magazines and asked that I go through them and tear out any images that struck me or that I liked on a gut level. We then spread out the 25 or so images to get a more holistic idea of my natural visual style. We noticed that I lean toward more organic shapes (curves rather than hard lines), abstract rather than highly representational, and that I like things within things within things. I like to think the latter is because I'm such a complex, "layered" person but it may just be that I remember playing with dolls in toy houses and with a little toy kitchen when I was a kid. I also love the miniature rooms at The Art Institute.

Anyway, one of the ways my t
endency to like big things made out of little things shows up is that I'm really fascinated with mosaics. As I explored this form, I found Byzantine art. There's a lot of complicated history of the time period (wars, emperors, etc., etc.) which I won't even pretend to know much about. I've also never been to Italy or Turkey where these pieces were made.

I'll just s
hare some images here that I think are beautiful. They're all from a book called Early Christian & Byzantine Art by John Lowden. This book is published by Phaidon. I could drool all day over the books this publishing company puts out. I will be honest and say with the Byzantine Art book, I just got it for the pictures. I don't look at the articles. I'm not ashamed to say it, either. I'll bring the book to class in case anyone wants to look more! If you just want to see my little sketch, it straggles in after all these stunning Byzantine mosaics. Click on any of the images for a closer look.

I scanned this one because it shows the detail of the l
ittle mosaic tiles.

Oooooooooo, shiny. Most of this art was made to glorify Christ or other Christian religious figures or to do so and also recognize some rich and/or powerful men. While I take issue with the ways these powerful men often used their power and religion to oppress others, I can really appreciate the imagery and technical expertise it must have taken to put these together and can understand how they would have inspired faith and belief in the common person.

I included the image below because of the color; the detail; the little scenes in different parts of the mosaic!

he next two images struck me as interesting because of how the folds of cloth were represented. I like how geometric they are. They're almost abstract. Neat. I especially like the way Mary's cloak was done (this one is a painting on panel rather than a mosaic).

Finally, for some unknown reason, I fell in love with this reliquary:

Reliquaries were designed to hold a sacred remnant (or relic) from a saint or some other holy person or place. I think they mostly tended to be body parts (e.g., the knuckle of a saint). How they were able to get the knuckle away from the rest of the body and determine who got which part is a mystery to me. From what I can gather (the text doesn't really explain a lot of the history of the specific piece), the cross in this reliquary was believed to contain slivers of the "true cross" -- the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Because I don't identify as Christian, the reason this reliquary was made doesn't particularly move me. It just dre
w me in with the precious jewels, the little pictures of different people, angels, etc. The use of various materials. I suppose that the artist's passion for his god infused the piece with particular reverence and I might be responding to that. It just occurred to me that these pieces had a very similar purpose as that of modern graphic designers -- persuade, convince, create interest in the focus of the piece.

In congruence with my much more secular beliefs, I created something that represents what I find precious, my beliefs and values. It was kind of hard to just pick 9 and even harder to figure out an image to represent each belief/value without being hokey (I didn't always succeed!). If you have ideas of other images for these things, let me know! Here's a sketch of what I came up with:


I've spent most of the weekend working on graphic design projects in one way or another so I'll have lots of posts. Since it rained all day on the fourth of July, what better way to spend the day!

One of our assignments includes learning about the creative process and the importance of stress and time-management. We're asked to set some specifi
c goals using a process described in the text. Here are the goals I've developed for myself. I haven't learned yet which colors translate well onto the web so the type is a little fuzzy. If you click on the image, it will get bigger and actually be mostly readable. I'm not much of a resolution-maker or goal-setter because I think I do a lot of that in my head automatically (a perk or burden of my trade, depending on the day) but this was a good exercise to help me be more mindful of what I'd like to be focusing on.