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
I guess a lot of construction equipment is painted quite similarly to school buses. I certainly would have rather gone to school in this Motograder. It’s probably air conditioned too which is more than I can say for those old buses.
About a month ago I was at the Seattle Museum of Flight and drew this Harrier. Years ago my uncle Alan worked on some of the electronic components the aircraft. I remember the day that my family was invited to the Oregon Air National Guard base in Portland and along with a few other families viewed a demonstration of a hovering Harrier. I don’t remember if this was a demonstration for us or if there was a Harrier that was taking off at a specific time, but it was a lot of fun and made a lasting impact. My uncle worked on or around aircraft for much of his career and as a kid, I used to ask him a lot of questions about planes. I think as much as anyone his influence on my artistic and mechanical artistic interests was very significant. If I had built a Lego airplane and placed the engines in a structurally unsound, or inefficient location, he would let me know. Although I don’t consider myself by any means an engineer, I do strive in my work to visualize mechanically sound machinery, even if it is for a fanciful project. One year for my birthday Uncle Alan game me a large-scale Harrier model kit as a gift. I’m sure it was his intention that I build it, paint it, and then display it. The fact is I never did built “it” as it was intended. Instead I used the pieces to create my own flights of fancy. I still have the kit actually and scavenge it for plastic parts when I get the itch to build something. The best part of this kit is the engine. A better way to say this is that the coolest part of the Harrier is the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine which is designed to output thrust to nozzles on the side of the aircraft that allow it to hover like a helicopter. I’ve drawn a sketch of one of the nozzles in the upper left of the image. In the kit, the actual engine body was shaped something like a cylinder with two smaller cylinders on each side. I would often stare at this piece and use it to match different shapes and forms as I decided on what I would make. I don’t think I ever actually built this piece into any model because I could never find the right place for it. The nozzles however have found their way onto some of my models. One of those is here.
You can see the front cowling that holds the wheel in place on this vehicle is actually this same nozzle repurposed for my futurist monowheeled F-1 car.
I’ve always hoped my Uncle was not disappointed that I never built the kit from its original instructions. He passed away a number of years ago, and I’m sure the last thing on his mind was why I never finished it, but to me it was kind of the central point of our relationship. I deeply appreciate those odds and ends of plastic parts as a distinct memory of a man who inspired me early on, and this drawing is dedicated to that memory.
Wales, painted from a photo from my friend Sue Gosellin who will be moving to this house!
I was just watching an old documentary about Apple computers. In it John Sculley who was CEO from 1983-1993 talked about being hired by Steve Jobs. Sculley had previously been CEO of Pepsico and Jobs felt that he would be a good fit for Apple. Sculley was skeptical about the position. Why would he want to move from being CEO of the biggest brand in the world (this was 1980’s Pepsi remember) to head up a fledgling company making…computers? Jobs said to Sculley. “(Would you rather) sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” The answer was obvious, Sculley took the position, shortly thereafter ousted Steve Jobs from the company and with his carbonated pop culture vision effectively spent the next 10 steering Apple in the wrong direction before he was forced out to make way for Job’s return. I’m sure I have some of my facts wrong, BUT the truth is, had Sculley had been painting with watercolor rather than making money off of sugarwater he would have never left for Apple, because watercolor is so satisfyingly undigital. One almost forgets what the world of computation feels like. I’m taking a class from Tom Hoffman (website http://www.hoffmannwatercolors.com/
) at the Gage Academy. He’s a great instructor and has a definite philosophy of looking at the world that I am not only appreciating, but absorbing. He teaches a way of reducing information, of honing observation to the essentials, and a decidedly strategic approach to fluid imprecision. There is a lot I could say, but I’m still learning and will just paint instead. Here are some images from the last few weeks.
Looking west towards the Cruise Ship Terminal on Elliot Bay
Tuscany, Painted from the book Earth From Above 365 Days
Soviet Mig-21 and tail of the Lockheed M-21 Blackbird in the foreground
I recall that the first time I visited The Museum of Flight in Seattle was on a family trip to the city at the age of 14. I remember quite vividly the open floor with dozens of planes sitting under the cast shadows of the many more suspended overhead. Apart from the obvious draw of the planes, the most striking aspect of the museum is how bright it is. Huge extended windows allow natural light across the airframes and a permanent view of the sky to frame them all. Since my first visit the museum has expanded significantly both in it’s physical space and the scope and quality of it’s exhibits, but like good childhood memories, my feelings for the place remain rooted in my own personal nostalgia. Visiting today I experienced the same feeling of awe and possibility that I knew 22 years ago. The Museum is in some ways my first memory of Seattle. On our family trip we visited the Space Needle and Gasworks; we even stayed at the old Four Seasons hotel (A MAJOR coup of luxury for our family, believe me). So I remember seeing the city as a tourist should, the great sites checked off of a list and the beginning of an appetite to know more that directly led to me moving here after college. Having lived here for years now, it’s very easy to take Seattle for granted. My days are filled with routine drives, commutes, trips to the same stores, and activities. I’ve figured out the most efficient routes to get from point here to point there and although I still love to explore it’s usually easier not to. I think it’s an important question to ask how we can make a new experience out of an old one. My thought for the day is that the key might lie in retracing your daily steps back to their origin and to actually look again at your oldest memory of your common places. My family trip had many highlights and maybe I’ll revisit them all again in years to come, but the mixture of machinery, and architecture, and the outright coolness of aviation history at the Museum of Flight still remains as a a creatively rejuvenating destination.