Tag Archives: location drawing

Good Grades

Motograder, dexter, seattle, urban sketch, yellow, construction machine, mark selander, location drawing, truckI 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.

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.

Stone but not cold


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.

Aw Kuhn.

Cambodia Prequel

I’m putting together a post with a lot of drawings and paintings from Cambodia. Here’s a teaser..

Tailormade

20110506-111012.jpg After a couple of days out on Halong Bay, my brother and I made it down to Hoi An. Hoi An is a town with a couple hundred tailors and a bit of a destination for getting clothes made. Apart from this it’s on the coast and one of the most beautiful environments yet in this trip. 20110506-111108.jpg
We did see some of the beauty this morning on a 5a.m. Tour of My Son, an ancient temple complex used by the Cham people many hundreds of years ago. During the war My Son was a hiding place for the Viet Cong and was subsequently damaged significantly during American bombing. After the war quite a bit was rebuilt though the newer structures are faring far worse than their ancient counterparts. I’ll be heading to Angkor Wat in Cambodia next week and even though this is a much smaller set of structures it was beautiful nonetheless.
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However as I mentioned there were clothes to be made in this town. An admission, I can’t stand shopping for clothes, it brings me little joy and much stress. Getting clothes custom made is even more anxiety, so many choices and so many fabrics. The result in the end however is worth it, standing in a sharply fitted suit and shirt while three comely women hem and haw at the seams. The deal is you can get whatever you want and the price is reasonable to say the least. As Vietnam develops more and more the costs will increase also. We went to Phuoc An Silk (reccomended by lonely planet). I think the prices were in the mid range of what you could pat.Time will tell if the quality is there in the clothes we had made, but I can tell you they look great and fit great even an the staff helped us through 3 or 4 refittings to get it right. They worked very hard and were very quick. If I did have to miss some more sites to get it done. A more than fair trade.
One final thing, we stayed at the hotel Nhi Nhi, also recommended by LP. The staff has been the best in the country. I’ve spent a lot of time with them learning Vietnamese words and every time I go downstairs they have a new list of phrases for me to learn. With every place we’ve been, all the food we’ve eaten, all the time spent sketching on the streets and in boats and buses, I can without hesitation say that my time spent talking with people here and learning bits of the language have been the highlight of the trip. Language opens doors that sometimes lead to friendship, sometimes learning, and sometimes lead to a piece of shared mango with a few great people. The fit is great.

On the spot machines

I’ve been out and about looking for good machines to draw and paint. It turns out that although construction machines are just about everywhere, finding one suitable to draw can be quite tricky. I will drive for miles and miles (excessive distances really) just to get the right machine at the correct vantage point. Right now with the weather as it is, the correct vantage point means some where I don’t have to get out of my car to create the image. That means I need to find a place I can park with a relatively unobstructed view out my front windshield, and somewhere where I am not in the way of actual construction (Like the other day, where I killed my battery, right in the middle of a construction site between two berms of earth with machines driving around. Good times.). What that really means is that I will find a machine that might meet my criteria and if the view is right I’ll drive around in circles, until I find a good spot, then I’ll pull a 20 point turn nudging my car into a picture perfect position. It’s like a dog bedding down for the night. Countless circles walking on their beds until it’s just right (and what is it that they are actually doing to make it just right?). That I think is the question I ask myself. What am I looking for, a good 3/4 view of the machine, with just a hint of the far side tires showing underneath? A particularly interesting mechanism? Maybe the correct lighting? Who knows. Once I’ve started however, I try and stick with it. With all of the time invested looking for the drawing, the actual creation is relatively straight forward, except for the part with every image I do where I am sorely tempted to crumple it up and throw it away. That’s for another post.

Vectored Thrust

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.

Robot the Robot

Some days you just get to see things that are truly mindblowing. I had the pleasure of meeting Darrell Toland’s masterpiece recreation of “Robot” from the old T.V. show Lost In Space. Lost In Space aired well before my time (1965-68), but it was long in reruns during Junior High and I’ve probably seen every episode. It came on about 10 in the morning, and during the summers I managed to extend pre-afternoon laziness one extra hour just to watch the misadventures of the Robinson family as they tried in vain to escape their marooned extra planetary prison. Robot (as far as I know this was it’s only name) was the preeminent concept of the snarky mechanical companion, that would be honed with R2-D2 and C3P0 in Starwars, and even expanded on with HAL 9000 from 2001 space Odyssey. In essence if you disassembled his personality and reestablished it’s core components into separate entities, you’d get these three characters. Helpful, loyal, arrogant, flawed, capable of both emotional and programmable manipulation, Robot was the perfect inversion of humanity.
Darrell has rebuilt Robot to it’s original specs and beyond. It would be enough if this were simply a static sculpture, awe inspiring in it’s attention to detail, but it goes way beyond that. Robot is alive. Fully articulate, mobile though both radio-control and autonomous action (thanks to some spliced parts borrowed from a Roomba). Movable and retractable arms, claws that open and close, whirring motors that spin it’s mechanical brain and ears, custom built neon chest plate, and display board. And yes Robot has voice and face recognition. He knows 300 lines, some of them from the original show and many of them new lines rerecorded by the original voice actor Bob May. Robot can tell jokes, sing Paul Newman’s famous banjo song from Cool Hand Luke, imitate Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons and in his all too fallible way let you know just how much his joints are aching today. He can even address Darrell’s kid’s by name and tell them to obey their father.
Darrell spent 6 years on this project, and the few parts he didn’t build were either from high detail recreations like the acrylic head piece, or were built to order like the corrugated rubber legs. Consumer robotics have come a long way and no doubt in the next few years we will find more and more of them in our lives and homes. I can attest to practical qualities of the Roomba and also to it’s creepy removed sense of being, a purposeful machine with no heart, soul, or ambition (but still fallible nonetheless). Honda and a myriad of other companies are producing functional walking robots, and human like nuances are edging ever closer to reality. All this said, I believe it will be a long time before we regain the youthful excitement for the future that was displayed in mid century fantasy machines like Robot. I think that is why Darrell’s Robot is so perfect. It is as close to any personal robot of the future as I’ve ever experienced, yet it maintains a presence from a different era. You can visit Darrell’s online web comic Stix and Bones here to see some of his other talents. Awesome work!

I went out drawing yesterday with my friend Tim to Fisherman’s Terminal in Ballard. The trip actually was more like two circuits around the Ballard/Fremont/Nickerson St neighborhoods checking out a lot of the hidden industrial gems, before settling on Fisherman’s Terminal. Once we got to the dock we walked around for a few minutes until we found a good spot that felt more focusable (I like to make up these words). This is a great place to stop and take stock of just how much purposeful clutter can exist in one place. Each of these ships seems to be a repository for countless objects, cables, mechanical parts, cable spools, buckets, nets, chains, floats…I believe the term is Flotsam. This ideal spot, also meant sitting in the cold at the end of a pier which was as much of a motivator as anything to get the drawing done, rather than linger. The whole scene merits a lot more time, but it’s fun to see what can be captured in finite period, it forces the drawer/renderer/observer to pick some focal point and go with it. The other option is to get lost in the detail, which will be more appealing when the temperature raises another 20 degrees. Stay tuned.

View Point At the Port of Tacoma

I drove down to Tacoma today with the intention of drawing a couple of images around the harbor. Of the three I drew, this is the only one I’ll post. It’s not that I wouldn’t show the other drawings, but let’s just say that I “experimented” with a technique on one of them and the experiment did not yield the proper results. The other drawing was a quick sketch of a Sounder train that had an unfortunate encounter with a drooling Great Dane.
As to what you see, it was drawn from the official Port of Tacoma Administration Building parking lot which actually has a dedicated structure set up to view the port. I should have drawn the parking lot and the open staircase that led up to the viewing platform because if you are in the mindset to drive around the more industrial parts of Tacoma, there really aren’t a lot of sanctioned tourist areas. If you want to go down there for a picnic, photo shoot, or simply a nice romantic evening on an industrial waterway, the address is 1 Sitcum Way Tacoma, WA 98447. I take no responsibility for your date’s reaction.