Saturday in the Park

Saturday was our regular Urban Sketchers Chicago monthly meeting day, which coincided with the 43rd Worldwide Sketch Crawl day.  USk Chicago met at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  It was a gorgeous day, temperature in the 60′s near the lake, and we had a great turnout.  I entered the conservatory with another sketcher, Alex, hoping to find something interesting to sketch.  Less than a minute later, I was heading for the door – I needed air!!  There is a reason those places are called “hothouses.”

Outside, I decided to sketch the little bridge and tunnel located a safe, and much cooler, distance from the entrance to the Conservatory.  I sat on a small rock wall (for nearly two hours!) and sketched away.  Soon, a little girl was playing peek-a-boo with me from behind the nearby water fountain.  I was wishing I could sketch faster, and better, to capture her.  Meanwhile, her parents were having 10,000 fits trying to get her to leave – but she and I were laughing and having too much fun!  One of the most interesting aspects of sketching in public is interacting with a wide variety of people.

Case in point.  A man who was walking by admired my work in progress, and told me that he, too, enjoyed sketching.  I said, “Well, you should join us!  We are on Facebook, and we post our photos…”  Before I could finish, he declared that Facebook was owned by The Government.  As were most of “those social media things.” They are trying to control our lives. He continued to talk, while I smiled and nodded and mentally went somewhere else for a while.  Finally, I noticed that his monologue was winding down.  He ended by saying that Facebook, Twitter, and two other things that he mercifully could not remember, were, in “reality,” the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  He bade me a cheery good-bye, and set himself up near the entrance to the Conservatory, where he played the tin whistle beautifully!

I love hearing the tin whistle, and as I sat on a rock wall, and sketched a rock wall, I could almost imagine that I was in Ireland.  It was magical!

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Sketched with pencil, Staedtler pens, watercolor, Conté pencil, in a S&B Zeta sketchbook.

Bar Mitzvah

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As an Irish Catholic person, well, Irish anyway, I have never had the opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah.  This past Saturday, my husband and I attended our nephew’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.  I knew photographs were not allowed, so I sat in the back row and did a little sketching.  It was a beautiful ceremony, and David made his family proud.  We were honored to share in this major life event.  Mazel tov, David!


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Chinatown

Yesterday, I went sketching with the Urban Sketchers Chicago group.  It was really wonderful to meet some sketchers I had not met before.  We revisited Chinatown, where we had sketched last year.  We are thinking this should be a yearly event.

I arrived early (really?), so while I waited for the others to appear, I did a few sketches, sitting on Cermak Road, facing north.  The first sketch is a portion of the Three Happiness Restaurant, and the view up Wentworth Avenue.

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(Pencil, Micron pen, watercolor in Holbein post card book)

Next, I sketched people who were passing by or standing around.  I loved the young woman who was listening to a tour group leader giving a lecture.  The young woman kept fidgeting her legs around, while keeping her arms crossed.  Even from across the street, it was obvious that she was bored out of her mind!

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(Pencil, Micron pen, watercolor)

The next two sketches were done at Chinatown Square, a block or two north of Cermak Road, on the west side of Wentworth Avenue.  We were happy to discover that there was a Chinatown Festival happening – and it was very festive!  We were entertained with music, young children dancing, many different people and even a procession of monks.  I set up my little, bum-numbing stool, and began to draw.

When I finished the drawing of the horse sculpture, I acquired a small fan club – two young girls, around 10 and 11 years old, and their twin cousins, the most adorable four-year-old boys.  The older girl asked me to draw Angry Birds.  (I had to get my phone out and find an Angry Bird to draw – the red one, of course!)  Then the boys had to have Angry Birds as well.  One of the boys asked me to draw a big house.  (The house I drew could only have been inhabited with stick figures!)  While I was drawing and looking down at the paper, one of the boys kept putting his face under mine, bringing our foreheads together, and staring into my eyes.  I’m not sure what that was about!  Then the younger girl asked me to draw flowers.  I drew everything and gave them the pictures.  They hung around for about an hour – a very appreciative audience – and I enjoyed it immensely!

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(Both pages done with pencil, Staedtler pens, Micron pen, and watercolor in an Arches Travel Book, 140 lb. paper)

I copied the symbol for “horse” from the base of the sculpture.  Then, the oldest member of my fan club asked if she could draw the “new” symbol on my page.  I was delighted with that!  All in all, a great day with the Urban Sketchers!

Sketchbook Project – Remembering Michael

I finally finished my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project 2013 and mailed it out yesterday.  You can see all the pages here, (or click on the tab above) in their proper order.  My theme was “memoir,” and was all about my son, Michael.  I did not have the time, or the fortitude, to create enough pages to fully explore Michael’s too-short life.  But, the whole process was cathartic for me.  It was therapy.  And it’s finished.  I will either go to bed for a week, or I’ll start a new project – I haven’t decided!

My book is a mixed-media creation – I used watercolors, pencil, Micron pens, charcoal, water-soluble pens, Photoshop text, and a photograph.  Most of the music was copied from sheet music, but there were some songs I could not find sheet music for – for example, “Sweet Zoo,” and “Irish Heartbeat.”  I sounded out the tunes and wrote out the music the way it sounded to me – but not with the proper notes or bars, etc.  But, hey, it’s art!

This book contains some cherished memories, but it is also a statement about mental illness.  As parents, we may do everything right when we raise our children – despite our human foibles and failures, of course – but when mental illness insinuates itself into the life of an adult child, all we can do is…nothing.  I hope this will change.  But there is no easy solution.  Meanwhile, I prefer to remember the good times.  I prefer to remember my Michael.

The Diagnosis

This is another two-page spread – pages 7 and 8 – for my contribution to The Sketchbook Project.  In my previous post, “Starting Over,” I briefly explained the project.

I am skipping around, as the mood strikes me – so, I haven’t yet completed pages 5 and 6. In most of my sketches of Michael, he will be smiling!  Out of the hundreds (thousands?) of photographs, there are perhaps three in which he isn’t smiling.  Love that smile!

Starting over

“Starting over” is an apt title for this post, as I haven’t posted anything here since February of 2011!  The year 2012 has been the most difficult year of my life.  I have turned – or returned – to art as my therapy of choice.  I am pretty much starting over with drawing, sketching, watercolor – these seem to be the only things I can concentrate on at the moment, although there are so many other things that I “should” be doing!  (Laundry, making dinner, finding room for all my “stuff” – and the list goes on!)

One project I have become involved in is the Sketchbook Project, through Art House Coop in Brooklyn, New York.  When you sign up to do a sketchbook, they send you a small 5×7″ book.  You pick a theme and then fill the book with whatever you choose to create.  You can also make a book out of your preferred paper, as long as it remains the prescribed size.  I have decided to make my own book out of hot pressed watercolor paper.  I chose this paper because it accepts watercolor well, and is smooth enough to write on.  The theme I chose is “Memoir,” which, of course, will be all about my son, Michael, who passed away in February at the age of 33.

I had dozens of ideas for the book, which was driving me crazy, and finally decided to do watercolor backgrounds on the pages, beginning with a bright, cheerful page and getting slightly darker as I work through them.  I also wanted to include bits of songs, because I love music, and so did Michael – although we had quite different tastes in music!  Here are the first two spreads.