Tag Archives: drawing

Corridor in context

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.
My options
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.

Mixing it up.

I found this street scene this morning as I was driving around looking for some reference shots for another project. I was impressed by the guy in the dump truck whose job was to pour bags of dry concrete mix into the hopper of the mixing machine. He was smiling the whole time and seemed to enjoy his work.
I find construction work to be fascinating as I’ve posted before, but it comes to life when you observe the micro details of what people are actually doing. In this case, there was third vehicle to the right that didn’t make it into the drawing, a small Bobcat with a front end loader. It’s probably unfair to not include it, because the three elements created a fairly seamless system. The bobcat would dump some material in the hopper, then the guy in the truck would dump a bag in, and finally the man operating the mixer would pull the whole device back and turn it on, kicking up a small cloud of dust. Where it went from there I don’t know, nor can I be positive of the order of operations, but it moved like a dusty clockwork and at least the truck guy was getting a kick out of it all.

Bent up Benz

I was at the 15th and Dravus 76 station and this tanker was filling up the reservoir. I must say top 10 coolest machines are gas trucks.
The driver had about 10 minutes left on this site before he left so I sketched as quickly as I could to capture the general scene. This was one of those scenes where I wanted to spend about an hour capturing the color and graphic quality of the orange hoses as they snaked on the ground up towards the truck. There is a natural flow to most scenes and I’m always curious what individuals see. When a sketch is finished it almost has the effect of looking back on someone else’s perception because the memory is different than what’s before you, but unlike a photograph choices are made as to what to include, where to place objects and how the scene will flow on paper. The driver turned out to be a really cool guy and we chatted for a bit about art, drawing, and gasoline. What more could you ask?

This next sketch was done outside of my office space on Queen Anne. I think that I was intially just planning on doing a quick sketch of the Mercedes. This model (Mercedes CLS) has always confounded me. It has this arching line that moves through the car which I don’t think is very flattering. It looks kind of like it’s bending up in the middle, and not appropriate for a car of this heritage. Of course since I don’t really care for it, I become even more interested in it and need to sketch it. Well the Cafe Fiori sign was blocking the wheel and then the planters were blocking the sign, and then I needed human for scale. Before I knew it, the street came together with all it’s regular linear perspective framing the quirky warped luxury machine. Now I want to drive it.

I got up this morning and the sunrise to the East was one of those irresistible forces that I had to pursue. Normally I think my calling is to head West, but morning is different and reverses impulses. I drove to Lake Washington and found myself at Sandpoint Naval Station since this was the closest I can get to the Eastern sky without actually crossing the bridge to eastside of Seattle (which is not the same thing as the lingering Eastern border of the city). I’ve been to Sandpoint many times, but never this early. The water was different this morning and looked a lot like a large alpine lake rather than the settled and populated terminus of Seattlelites freshwater summertime leisure pursuits. It felt clean and empty. Sandpoint Naval station itself is a series of decaying hangers and warehouses that hold untold possibility. I drove around the parking lots looking for a viewpoint that included the sunrise, lake views, and collapsing corrugated walls and blown out window panes filtering the light and nature with a sooty patina. This search led me to a new road I had never been on with very promising industrial/natural mystery potential. It’s always my goal to drive down a new road – even today when it turned out to be a driveway into a government research facility. So this is what I did, and then I was promptly turned around by the friendly guard at the gate, even when I tried to play the “Hey I’m just a wandering artist looking to sketch government buildings” card. (Note to readers, this does work from time to time).
Now with my ideal view fading from me, I was tempted to drive West again, but decided to drive a little bit further North around the Lake and found a strip of dirt on the side of the road with a small open gate with an inviting Seattle Parks sign. I stopped and hiked down a little hill to a dock that was apparently fair game and then sketched this scene of sailboat rental dock. It was quite cold and as this is my second attempt at an ink wash; I think it may have been a little overworked, but not a bad way to spend the am hours.

Moored ships in morning

I’ve been spending more time down in Interbay between Magnolia and Ballard (though technically I think it would be considered Magnolia, I’ve never heard a proper definition.) There is so much great industry surrounding between the train yards and the fishing terminal. The amount of detail to choose from down there is really fun and I recommend anyone with an interest in ships to wake up early some morning and take a weekend day to check out the variety of boats and equipment.
I decided to use an ink wash instead of rendering in with a marker. I think I’ll keep doing this; it’s nice to work with the brush.

Click here for a link to the Map view of the scene.

Drawings of people from TAG

TAG is Tuesday Art Group. It’s an event split into two parts, the first part a bunch of game artists from Seattle get together on the first Tuesday of the month at Popcap studios and draw great stuff. The second part of the event is going home totally certain that you were the worst artist in the room. That’s not to say that people in the group are anything other than very kind, friendly and helpful. Everyone is incredibly supportive, but get a group of artists together and man-o-man, talent and comparing yourself to the next guy go hand in hand. For my part, I’m definitely the worst artist in the group. You should check out the site here with posts from some of the other folk, http://tagnorth.blogspot.com/. A sincere thank you to Popcap for hosting the event and to Rick Schmitz for setting this up. I’ve met some great people here and will keep going and posting.

Prehistoric Plastic

Lenny and George

Certainly one of the highlights of my childhood was dinosaurs. In this regard I have nothing on the next kid, but what sets apart my youth was my access to the real thing, at least the full size replicas of the real thing. Smithsonian you ask? Field Museum? Archeologically inclined parents? No, but something even better. Prehistoric Gardens. If you will recall there was a time in America when people made things, big things to be seen by others. Things like Disneyland, and Freeways, and the Grand Canyon. Those days are long gone of course, but some of the artifacts still remain and Prehistoric Gardens is as good as it gets. Located somewhere between Port Orford Oregon and Gold Beach (my hometown) on the side of 101 is Jurassic Park before Jurassic Park. Guarded over by a 30 foot tall T-Rex and 60 foot tall Brontosaurus is the entrance to an old growth forest populated by 20 or so life size dinosaur recreations. I used to come up from Gold Beach once or twice a year and walk through the paths with giant ferns and ancient trees and at every turn discover a diorama of a dinosaur doing something. Sort of. They all sit rather stiffly staring into space, a shiny rain proof lacquer preserving them like fleshed out fossils. Struthiomimus, Dimetrodon, Diatryma, Archelon, Seymouria. These are some of the names of the creatures that will greet you. My favorite by far is Ichthyosaur. A 10 foot long razor nosed dolphin with giant crystal shaped eyes lying on it’s side in the middle of this forest. There is no doubt that there a comical element to this fish, but it’s still so cool. The thing is, when you walk through the park, they feel real, they come up on you unexpectedly. Surely there can’t be more, and then, bam, there’s a 12 foot tall Trachodon staring at you.

Dino Blueprints

All of this is the brain child of David Nelson. On this trip I was VERY privileged to hear the history of the place. Nelson’s granddaughter Kiki now runs things. When she found out that I was an artist she told me she would bring out some of the old blueprints for the place. I don’t know what I was expecting. I don’t think I had ever thought of how these were created, they simply always existed in my mind. What I saw was (and I do not exaggerate) some of the finest draftsmanship and singularly focused creativity I’ve ever come across. Nelson hand designed every dinosaur in the park. From the presentable outside skin to the carefully engineered sub frames that kept them from actually falling over and attacking every kid who jumped over a fence to actually touch one. There is some heavy duty steel underneath all of the fiberglass, plastic, and mud. Every eyeball, claw, tooth, scale, and tail has been drawn perfectly. His work rivals anything out of Hollywood or Disney.
I got a little of Nelson’s back story. He made his living as an engineer, designing manufacturing equipment, before running a successful gravel business. Sometime in his early 50’s he decided to take his earnings and invest them in this dream. He and his wife moved from Eugene ignoring protests and criticisms that he was crazy, down to the middle of and Oregon coastal rain forest to start building this dream. Kiki says his brother’s laughed, but not for long. Nelson was driven and within a few years it started to come together. In it’s heyday during the mid 70’s (when I was living down there), cars would line up along the road during the summer. There were extra parking lots that filled up to capacity and people experienced the size, scale, and variety of creatures viewed through a 100 million year lens.
My first book on drawing was purchased from Prehistoric Gardens. A blue book on how to draw dinosaurs (it involved a lot of circles). Every time we visited I would get a souvenir, usually a small plaster dinosaur. I have 10 or so of these sculptures somewhere and they were among my favorite childhood possessions. Second only to Legos.
Prehistoric Gardens is still majestic, but unfortunately traffic is not at all what it used to be. This might be in part due to the fact that Nelson died in 99′ (months after completing his last dinosaur the Bradysaurus). His unique vision drove this place and although it can be preserved, it can’t be repeated, and people these days don’t tend to think in terms of roadside attractions. The more pressing reason is that traffic is literally down. Kiki said that highway 101 vacation traffic is significantly reduced in recent years. We can speculate on reasons for this, but the fact is without that immediate impact of seeing a T-Rex as you round a bend on the highway, there’s not much reason to trek down there just to see dinosaurs after a long week of downloading mobile apps and clicking links. I was there on a Thursday morning and there were a few cars parked in the lot, but hardly a crowd.
I don’t know what it takes to run an establishment like this, but I imagine that it’s challenging. It takes a lot to feed a Stegosaurus. I can only recommend that if you are traveling down south, try and make an hour for a little detour. Time does stand still sometimes.

Prehistoric Gardens does not have a website, but they can be found at

Prehistoric Gardens
36848 Highway 101, Port Orford, OR
10-12 miles south of town on US 101.

View Larger Map

After Easter things turn to blue and pink.

What do you do after Easter Service? You go eat donuts and draw. I had the blue marker in my pocket and looked for blue things. Fortunately there was a blue Volvo parked in front of Top Pot (and for that matter Top Pot’s amazing donut boxes are blue), and fortunately everything else including Karen looks good when rendered in blue. The pink pen came in later during lunch. I found it at a friend’s house and hovered over the page as I debated whether brown hair really should be pink. Yes it should when that’s what you are working with. The tree was green, but hey I think the pink works better there too.

It should be noted that I labeled the first image as Easter Do-Nuts. I don’t really know the proper spelling here. Donuts? Doughnuts? I think the dash could be a new approach to liven up this industry.

Karen eating rabbit food

Karen eating a Central Market salad



I’m taking a few days and driving down Highway 101. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is the most epic scenery on the planet. I wish I could capture it all, every mile and every viewpoint, but I find it satisfying to simply stop every couple of hours and make a drawing. I’m someone who likes to drive; it puts me at ease as long as I’m not rushing to get somewhere and I particularly like taking side roads and turnoffs that could lead to anywhere or just a spectacular dead end. My favorite moment of the day was a spur of the moment detour down into the Oregon Dunes recreational area south of Florence. The weather was very stormy and I was a lone car driving down a narrow windy road with no outlet. To my right and left were small hills covered in furry vegetation. Grass is encroaching fast on the dunes and is predicted to takeover completely in a relatively short period of time. . I passed a parking lot with a single sandy trail cutting its way up to the top of a steep grass covered hill. Even with the pouring rain I decided to stop and sprint up the hill for one good view. It turned out to be less of a sprint and more of a steep set of lurches. When I made it to the top ready for the lookout I was met with a full force wind that slammed a wall of sand in my face. It was so much power that I couldn’t look into it at all, so I turned my back and dropped back down onto the trail waiting for a moment until it subsided. After a minute I thought I had my chance so I sprang back up and was again pummeled by the sand, but this time I forced myself to look out and take in the view for a split second of eye abrading glory. Even when it’s a wall of grey fog and cloud and rain, a good look at the beach and ocean are remedies for all sorts of ills. I recommend this trip to anyone needing to get away for a few days. It’s good perspective.

Tillamook Air Museum Douglas Dauntless

Tillamook Air Museum Mini Guppy

Tillamook Air Museum Guppy Cockpit

Oregon Fishing Club

Somewhere on the Oregon Coast

Near Yachats