On Saturday I gave a talk at the IDSA (Industrial Designer Society of America) Western Conference with the intention of adding some levity and honesty to the expectations of what a career should be. I am thankful for the positive response I received. I really enjoyed myself and met a ton of great people. My plan is to do more of this. (At least enjoying myself and meeting great people, but also hopefully more public speaking.)
The conference was at Bell Harbor slightly north of Pier 66 in Seattle. I decided on Sunday to return to the venue to draw one of the Grove Cranes that were sitting on the pier. It’s rare that I find a good vantage point above a crane since I’m usually at street level. At Bell Harbor there were a number of them on the pier and from the 3rd floor conference space I could sit out on the balcony on a sunny day and draw to my hearts content.
There is an interesting dimension to event spaces. They are by definition places that exist for the gathering of different organizations, groups, and individuals. The IDSA conference was made up of a mix of design students and professionals networking, seeking work, and communicating about the design profession. Conversations naturally turn towards the topic of design and design work and are informed by a particular thought process if not personality type. In marked contrast to this is the group of individuals that were attending the Seattle Chocolate Salon convention that held the space on Sunday. Drawing in public requires a high degree of active observation and by proxy an equally high degree of passive listening. I never try to hide the fact I’m drawing or disappear into a space, but I can sit quietly for hours as groups of people come an go around me bringing and taking their ideas and conversations. It turns out that a Chocolate convention draws a diverse crowd. Between the table of aging sorority sisters who placated their bleach blonde leader’s relentless tales of beer keg tribulations, and the conversation of an aspiring geek writer who’s fantasy novel focused on the intrigue and innuendo of a society that he referred to as Darwin’s Fist, I was never bored. In all truth I can only sit passively for a short time and I did turn to the writer to reward him with the complement that he had the most interesting idea of the afternoon. He was wearing a camouflage surplus outfit and smiled at the acknowledgment of his genius and then thanked me by offering a formal hand to forehead salute.
Seeing that I was at a chocolate convention it would have been highly inappropriate for me to have not sampled the goods. I did just that and have three favorites.
Pacari Chocolates out of Ecuador. I meant to buy their Raw 70% Cacao bar which was so smooth I almost slipped into a chocolatey coma but I accidentally bought their Raw 70% Sea Salt chocolate bar. Also very tasty, I was still slightly disappointed that I came home with the wrong treat. Worth the checking out.
Intrigue Chocolates from Seattle. They had a Saint Basil Chocolate Truffle that I thought was just about perfect. I would have purchased this as well but I’d already spent my allotted weekly chocolate budget on the Pacari bar.
Monterey Chocolate Company. Olallieberry Chocolate bar. What’s an Olallieberry? I don’t know, but it’s a tasty treat when mixed with dark chocolate.
So there you have it, Dynamic Cranes, Public Speaking, Decaying Sororities Sisters, and the Power of Chocolate. A good weekend indeed and LONG LIVE DARWIN’S FIST!
Posted in location drawing, Seattle, urban sketch
Tagged bell harbor, construction machines, cranes, darwin's fist, grove cranes, idsa, industrial design, intrigue chocolate, monterey chocolate, Olallieberry, pacari chocolate, painting, public speaking, seattle, sketching, urban sketch, watercolor
Some cities have fairs, some have rodeos, some like Seattle have pagan festivals where naked bike riders decorated in bad body paint like to parade themselves around town during the longest day of the year. Fortunately there are other options for community festivities, and in the state of Washington the greatest one is hands down the annual Lind Washington Combine Demolition Derby. For those not in the know, a combine is a large tractor used for harvesting wheat. Over time they get old, and destined for the scrap heap as new models and technologies become standardized. This is not the case in Lind where they are resurrected year after year and then smashed together until they can’t smash any more. Last one moving wins and takes home bushels of glory (if not gold).
Lind is an agricultural community about 3 and a half hours east of Seattle. The landscape is cross between rolling fields and rocky gullies and decidedly beautiful. For me part of the experience is the drive there and the drive back especially during sunset as the fields resolve into a set of cascading shadows and colors. We got there the night before the event and camped at Potholes State Park so that we could make it in time for the pre-derby parade. This is lead by the 20 some combines that will be competing, followed by marching bands, waving county beauty queens, and hot rods (like these amazing low-brow rat-rods (I prefer the term Ratalac) built by Rich from Pascoe.
Rich’s personal ride is diesel Tow Truck named Camel Toe-ing (check out the head badge), and he built the Buck’n Fitch for his sister Peggy. So cool.)
The parade is followed by a community barbecue before everyone heads up the road to the arena for the main event. 5 heats of full mechanical destruction interspersed with pickup truck speed trials and grain truck races. The top finishers from the first three heats make it to the main event, plus the survivors from a deadman’s heat. The amazing thing is that these things are torn up in each heat, axles and wheels ripped apart, bodies mangled, and then in a couple of hours they are rebuilt and ready to go for the final match. Pictured here is Jaws being rebuilt in the pits.
This combine has won the event on multiple occasions, though not this year. From an outside perspective it’s fun and games and mayhem, but two things are true. The guys (and one woman) who drive these vehicles and their crews take it very seriously; they put their all into it and their mechanical prowess is impressive. The other is that the event is really a community effort, from the drivers to the people working the concession carts and ticket booths. There is a lot of pride here and they put on a good show that brings in a lot of support for their town, with about 5000 spectators showing up (Lind’s population is around 400). I will return next year and you should too. It is better than whatever is going on in Seattle that weekend I promise.
Posted in location drawing, Uncategorized, urban sketch
Tagged combine, combine demolition derby, demo derby, demolition derby, eastern washington, harvester, jaws, keystalope, lind, low brow, prison break, rat rod, ratalac, watercolor
This was drawn at Touch-a-Truck, an event where about 15 machines were on display for the public to interact with at Magnussen Park. The event was big draw for families; (an estimated 2500 people showed up throughout the day). And why wouldn’t you go. If you are kid you could climb on a fire truck, a bulldozer, or get into an excavator, and honk the horn (over and over) while pretending to dig up pavement. For me it was perfect opportunity to capture another truck for my collection, the Concrete Pumper, which in the wild is unlikely to stay in this position for an hour and a half. This one is owned and operated by Ralph’s Concrete, and I must say thank you to Josh who very patiently waited for me to draw and paint this machine even long after most of the other vehicles had been loaded up and hauled out.
There are two things I want to say about this painting, no..three things. The first is that this isn’t the first time I’ve tried painting this scene. I drive by this site constantly and the scale of the project and the revisions to traffic and occasional long wait times to get onto the freeway can’t be ignored. Normally I might find myself getting impatient, but since I get a view of this site with it’s armada of construction equipment I always look forward to it (this is the second thing I wanted to say). Back in April when I last had been here, I recall it was a very nice and sunny day. I decided to actually stop into the site during lunch hours when it appeared to be less busy than usual. A few workers and machines were moving around, but it was fairly tame. I asked one of the workers if it would be alright if I stopped there for an hour. He was ok with it, so I parked my Honda Element on some gravel and did my best to make sure my car wouldn’t be in the way of any movement. I started to draw and everything was going fine, my drawing was coming together and I was about ready to put down some paint. At this point some of the construction work started to increase, there were dump trucks moving around and a few of the loaders were shuttling back and forth. I’m always sort of hyper aware of my presence in a place and the last thing I ever want to be is “in the way”, especially if people are working. I felt like it was time for me to move my car, even though I hadn’t finished the painting. I put the key in the ignition, turned it, and….nothing, just a gasping cough of my engine as it attempted to turn over. A sick feeling came over me. I moved my hand towards the headlight switch and realized it was in the “On” position. Again I tried the ignition, “No no no no!, Not now, PLEASE turn over!” I begged my car as the construction traffic began to increase. This went on for about a minute, and then as anybody who has ever killed their battery can tell you, I realized I had to get outside help. Let me put this in a little more context. I have the greatest respect for people that do physical labor for a living. In truth I look up to them. For work I draw, and I use a computer, and sometimes I talk. This can be very draining, challenging, difficult, and of course rewarding. It’s work and a working day is a working day, but sometimes, I question this. Lifting heavy objects, working out in the sun, (or rain), toiling, this is work. I’ve always viewed it as somehow purely valid as labor and demanding of respect. So here I am in my Honda Element stuck in the middle of a major construction site with a dead battery, a pile of paint brushes, and a drawing of a Bulldozer in my lap as worker dudes are driving massive machines around me lifting loads of gravel from pile to pile.
1.) Call AAA and ask for assistance. Could be an hour at least.
2.) Flag down a worker on the site, “Hey uh..sorry to bother you man, but uh…does that bulldozer by any chance have any jumper cables?”
3.) Call my friend Alex who works down the street.
I call Alex. He’s as reliable as they come, and of course he has cables in his car. In 5 minutes he’s there…driving a Honda Element. So even as I cringe at the embarrassment of killing my battery – while painting – in a Honda Element – on a site where the vehicle of choice is a muddy white Ford F-150 or a dirt embedded yellow 25 Ton Caterpillar D7, he drives up into the lot with his “Galapagos Green Metallic” Honda Element, and faces my “Eternal Blue Pearl” Honda Element. We go through the magical ritual of automotive resuscitation, the engine breathes again, and after talking for a few minutes in our “Rigs” he heads back to his office and I decide half heartedly to finish my painting. It was one of those things where I had lost energy and just wanted to get out of there. It’s certainly not worth showing here, but I knew I had to go back to the same spot.
So here’s the third thing I wanted to say. On Sunday, I finally made it out to a Seattle Urban Sketching Sketchcrawl. The group meets once a month, and this month everyone got together at Vivace across from REI. After pre-sketching niceties, everyone disperses to go draw for 2 hours and then makes plans to meet back up and share the work. I had no doubt what I would draw. I beelined (sort of) to the construction site on Mercer, but this time just had my backpack, and a folding stool. On a Sunday morning the site was active, so again I asked permission and was given the go ahead to draw. I spent about an hour and a half there and probably talked to 5 guys from the site that came up to see what I was doing. Everyone was supremely cool and friendly, even as I was again painting while they were in the middle of pouring cement and shoveling gravel. I got the lowdown on the project (much needed road widening and traffic revision from Dexter up to the freeway on ramp, and construction along 9th as it flows into Mercer). I sincerely hope this does help solve part of the traffic congestion in the area.
Now with all this said, I will continue to draw and paint construction machines, continue to meet-up with the fine folks I met at the Sketchcrawl, and no doubt continue to drive my blue Honda Element into and around industrial sites, and since this wasn’t the first time I’ve killed my battery in an inopportune location (yah), it will probably happen again. Maybe I should go draw some tow trucks.
Posted in location drawing, urban sketch
Tagged bulldozer, caterpillar, construction, construction equipment, construction machines, dead battery, drawing, element, honda, honda element, location drawing, mercer street, mercer street corridor, seattle, sketchcrawl, traffic, urban sketchers, water color, work, worker
Sometimes there is so much to write about a place that it seems better to say less than ignorantly talk beyond what you understand. This is my experience with Cambodia. In three and a half days I only caught a glimpse of something, and although I will recite their most basic history, I’m not by any means educated on the subject and don’t pretend to understand what happened or why. Cambodia is a place with a deep and turbulent past ranging from an empire and culture that surpassed European contemporary societies cities during it’s height, to a genocidal restructuring of the entire population during the 1970’s by a Marxist madman. I came to the city of Siem Reap to visit the temples of Angkor built during the height of the Khmer empire between the years of 802 and 1431. These have been repeatedly called the 8th wonder of the world, and I think it would be hard to argue against that after spending time here.
I almost immediately realized however that the contrast between my quick stop off tourism and the lives and history of the people was not something I could glance over. I was very affected by the glimpse I saw of people’s lives, and the conversations I had. The affects of the highs and lows are in full view here. The people exhibit a reserved pride. They are a young population with few elder mentors as the previous generation was greatly decimated along with many direct links to their cultural past, and clear pathways to an economic future. 30 years on and the country is recovering, but poverty is common, as are the effects of the wars and their devices (I saw many people with limbs missing presumably from landmines). Commerce and industry are returning to Cambodia, but far behind it’s neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, and China. What I observed were a lot of people who worked very hard to educate themselves and often were not able to afford the education they needed. Learning English seemed to be the primary first step in this process for many people. They are well aware of the progress of the world around them and want the same for themselves.
As for the temples, they were all they promised to be. Rather than attempt to see dozens (of the over 200) temples, I only visited 4 and spent many hours at each one, often sitting in one spot for an extended period and studying details. This was a great way to meet people as well. Tour groups would come through and then there would be periods of solitude. A lot of people said “hello” to see what I was doing stopping as groups or as individuals. I was continually reminded of how great of a tool that drawing can be to open doors to communication. I’m also learning how useful it is to be able to say “hello” and “thank you” in as many languages as possible. They are simple and appreciated gestures. I hope very much I can return here and spend more time in the country beyond the temples, but I was in awe of what I did see and humbled by the resolve of the Cambodian people.
Posted in Cool things, location drawing
Tagged angkor tom, angkor wat, banteay srei, bayon, cambodia, khmer, khmer rouge, location drawing, pol pot, siem reap, ta prohm, temple, travel, urban sketch, Vietnam
I’m putting together a post with a lot of drawings and paintings from Cambodia. Here’s a teaser..
Posted in location drawing
Tagged angkor, bayon, cambodia, khmer, location drawing, mark selander, selander, stone, temple, urban, urban sketchers, vietnam trip