Tag Archives: sketching

Return to the Scene


bell harbor, crane, grove crane, wheeled crane, sketch, watercolor, colored pencil, idsa conference, intrigue chocolates, pacari chocolates, industrial design, talk, speech, mark selander, construction machineOn 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!


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.

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.

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.

Crane near Interbay

It’s for sale, but I didn’t see a price.

Large crane for sale

Winding down, then winding back up (the coast)

Giant wood man and his blue pet.

Yah, it’s the Trees of Mystery. If you haven’t been here, then you’re missing out on tourists at their best. People like the guy who was standing underneath Babe looking up in awe at the Atlas sized globes hanging from the Ox’s nether regions, who simply stated “Now those are some blue balls”.

Kissing Rock on the south end of Gold Beach

My childhood home was just down the street from this monolith called Kissing Rock. I specifically remember my dad going down to the beach below the rock and loading up sand in his pickup for our sandbox. Did I say sandbox? How about sand Monster Truck Tire. That’s correct my sandbox was a giant yellow tire probably about 6 feet in diameter, from a front end loader, full of fresh beach sand. Best of times.

Twin Peaks looking out over East Bay

I spent a couple hours up on the tallest point in San Francisco completely enamoured by the view. I think I did 8 or so sketches trying to capture some of the complexity of the scene below without losing the image to a mess of lines. This was spectacular afternoon.

Golden Gate almost immersed in fog

Today I drove up Highway One hoping to repeat the weather I had in San Francisco this weekend. The obscured upper regions of the Golden Gate Bridge were a sign of the weather to come.

Impromptu Elk

This scene was from Friday. I was driving south towards Eureka and had seen a number of signs warning of Elk Crossing. I couldn’t have gotten any luckier when I passed by a herd of maybe 50 elk grazing in a field that was separated by a road. Since I was one of the first cars to show up, I had had a prime viewing spot for this sketch and really was thankful for such an incredible scene. Maybe when I drive back up to Washington I’ll run across a herd of Rainier Beer Bottles. RAAIINNNIEERRR BEEERRRRR!

Not a trace of man


Airstream Husks

Where old Airstreams go to oxidize.