Sunday, December 23, 2012


Life drawing session at Spring Street Studio this week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Best Hot Water in NYC

I finally got back to a figure drawing session the other day. I have drawn this model before. He's an older man who whispers to himself while he poses. I've always wondered what he's saying, if he's praying or reciting poetry or saying a mantra or what.

Also, in the middle of the drawing sessions, there is a break and he always asks someone to get him something. This time, I got put on the spot since I was just putting on my coat as he asked. So I said, "Sure, what do you want?" He handed my a paper cup with two tea bags in it and said, "I would like to make more tea, so I need more hot water. Not more tea bags, just hot water. But there is one thing . . . This is very important! There is a store on the corner, that sells magazines. There is a coffee machine on the side, and you can get hot water from the red tap on top. That is the only place I want the hot water from! Here is a quarter."

So there's a tip for you. If you're looking for the finest hot water in New York City, go to the magazine store on the corner of Spring and Lafayette.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Morgan Roadster

I don't know much about cars, but I know a sexy ride when I see it. This is a  Morgan Roadster. Morgan is a British manufacturer, and apparently Morgan car enthusiasts refer to them as "Moggies."

I saw this car parked on the street by Fort Greene Park. When I first moved to this area just over a decade ago, you would not have seen this. I had a friend who had an old Honda Civic stolen in this neighborhood. A Honda Civic!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Manhattan Bridge

The Manhattan Bridge doesn't get much attention in the popular imagination. The Brooklyn Bridge is a world-famous icon of New York City. The Queensboro Bridge gets its moment every time they make a new Spider-Man adaptation, as they re-create the scene from Amazing Spider-Man #121 when the Green Goblin tosses Peter Parker's girlfriend off the bridge (In that original comic book, though, she dies!). Even the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island gets its moment in the spotlight once a year at the start of the New York Marathon. But no one pays much attention to the Manhattan Bridge.

I love the Manhattan Bridge, though. I spend a lot of time near it in DUMBO. I like its dull blue steel color. I love the complexity of its structure and engineering coupled with the intricacy of its Beaux-Arts architecture, and overlaid with a haphazard, utilitarian spider-web of pipes and electrical cables and other infrastructural gack. It's not so pleasant to walk or bike across, because every five minutes the subway thunders by mere feet from you. On the other hand, unlike the beloved Brooklyn Bridge, it's not completely clogged with tourists, and the view is just as good, if not better.

Here's a bunch of sketches of aspects of the bridge that I've done over the past couple of months.

On the walkway, by the Brooklyn-side arch

Arch and suspension, Brooklyn side.

Giant cable anchor

Under the bridge at Sands St.

 Top of the anchorage at Water St. and Adams St.

Balustrades at Manhattan Bridge Brooklyn Plaza. According to architects Saratoga Associates, it is "a bold, graphic space that serves as a convenient resting spot for pedestrians." Also, a homeless guy in a red shirt lives there.

"Manual Dry Standpipe INL Manifold Brooklyn Bound Roadway. Fire Dept. Use Only"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Memento Mori

You might be asking yourself, why is this girl chilling with a skeleton?

Well, here’s the thing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been attending a class at Spring Street Studio. That’s one of the places I usually go for drop-in figure drawing sessions, but this is actually a class (sorta), focusing on human anatomy. These drawings are from the first session I went to. Minerva Durham, the instructor, had us draw the full female figure posed with a skeleton, explaining to us that this type of image was called “Memento Mori.”

Memento mori is a Latin phrase which translates as “Remember you must die.” It supposedly derives from ancient Rome, when military generals would, during their victory parades, be trailed by one of their slaves who would be tasked with repeating this phrase to him as a means of reminding him that although this was his day of glory, his eventual death might come at any time. I can imagine that that would be a job a slave would secretly relish. “Remember you must die, muthafucka. Thas right.”

As an artistic genre, it initially came to prominence in Christian art and architecture, as a humbling reminder of the transience of earthly existence.  As the early Christian theologian Tertullian wrote in Apolegeticus: "Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!": "Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you'll die!" Tertullian was a real buzzkill at parties. You will see this theme in much creepy Medieval and Renaissance Christian art, including cadaver tombs, chapels made of bones, portraits of people holding skulls, and the genre of danse macabre. Here’s some examples:

Hans Holbein, 1538

Hans Memling, 1485
Thomas Smith self-portrait, ca. 1680

This class exercise did not have any theological point; it was merely to get us to visualize the placement and movement of bone structure in the figure. But I had never heard of this phrase or this whole category of artistic tradition. If only I had received training in the arts at an elite Ivy League school, then I would know these things!             Oh, wait . . . No, the visual arts program that granted me a degree didn’t teach me about momento mori. But they didn’t teach me human anatomy, either, so there you go.


By the way, she was not posing with a model skeleton. Rather, there was a second model, an older man, who we were  to visually translate into skeletal form. I believe he was the same as this model, who I drew in a sketchpad some years ago.


Speaking of Death . . .

Two days ago, Joe Kubert passed away at the age of 85. Every comic book reader must know who he is. He began drawing comics professionally at the age of 12 in 1938, the year Superman debuted, and was still working to this day. In fact, a new anthology of his work had just been announced a few weeks ago. So he had been an artistic presence in American comics for literally its entire history, and if you’ve looked at a rack of comic books at any point in the past 74 years, you’d have seen his work. There are still a few guys from the Golden Age years who show up at conventions to sell sketches and prints and memorabilia, but I can’t think of anyone else from that period who is still actively working.

Kubert had a very distinct style. Even as a child, before I was really aware of individual artists, I could identify a Kubert cover. His compositions were dynamic and fluid. His figures were classically idealized – tall and muscular men and curvaceous women – but his sketchy linework rendered them sinewy and organic. Even his superheroes seemed more grounded than those of other artists. For this reason, he seemed more at home with more realistic genres, particularly the war stories with which he became most identified. Some of the earliest comics I remember were drawn by him. I distinctly remember these covers of Tarzan, as well as the cover to the deeply weird “Super Dictionary.”

I never really had a lot of Kubert work in my collection. By the time I was really into comics, he was mostly doing war comics like Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace, which weren’t my thing. But I always really dug his art when I saw it. In recent years, he had written and illustrated a couple of graphic novels. I thought his writing was, well, not so good, but they were still great to look at. Like I said, he was still going strong producing material, and there was no public indication that he was in poor health, so despite his age it was a surprise to hear the news of his death. Rest in peace, Joe Kubert, and momento mori, everybody.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sleeping Lisa

You know what makes for a handy model? A sleeping wife. Especially one who zonks out on the couch so deeply that she doesn't move for hours. Perfectly still pose, held for as long as you need, in the convenience of your own home, and free to boot!

Here's another one I did, a few years back. Same couch.

Thanks, sweetheart!