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
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
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.
Seattle’s King Street Station (the red brick tower south of Pioneer Square and North of the Qwest Field) is undergoing renovation, inside and out. This is a view on the lower level looking south east at the plaza and baggage claim facility. There is nothing quite like a train station. Light plays differently in train terminals than it does elsewhere, think of those images of Grand Central, or the Parisian Stations, with their massive windows. Today felt like that a little and offered a worthwhile moment to capture the once and future progress that is rail travel.
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.
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.
Posted in Drawings, Uncategorized
Tagged cafe fiori, drawing, gas, location drawing, mercedes, prentiss, seattle, sketching, truck, urban sketch