Mar 31, 2009
I draw a lot of architecture. It's what I do. Great amounts of detail. It requires that I really study what I'm drawing. Buildings always have symmetry of some sort. Sometimes I can do parts of buildings and if I'm in a hurry I can fill in the rest later because I just have to duplicate lots more of what I've already drawn. When I came upon Gaudi, everything went out the window. Each line got me more confusing than the one before. I had to look so hard to see where I was each time. A very draining experience and the rain didn't help. I told Yun this Gaudi dude was insane. Totally insane. Who let this guy do all this stuff? Of course Yun had all the answers for me. It's quite impressive when someone allows a totally insane person to run amuck like this in a city. There is so much architectural mediocrity in America. How come we never had our own insane little freak like this guy? All we have is an occasional codger who builds a home out of glass bottles or hubcaps. Spain gets Gaudi we get Sam Rodia. He's the genius who built the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. I'm about to go insane.
The first night Yun took me to a tapas bar. the real kind. It's a tiny stand up wine store where you drink beer and wine. All the food is out of cans. It's not like canned food in America. The Spanish have perfected this preserving amazing food in cans thing. I must admit I personally didn't like it too much. It's stuff like razor clams and mussels in heavy oil. It's all a bit too fishy for me. The experience itself is cool. One night we were out late and Yun wanted dessert. We stopped into a very over the top fancy hotel to eat a slice of cheese cake. The next morning drawing, I realized I had left my coat there. I went back and the concierge asked me if I smoked Cuban cigars. I said yes. He gave me back my coat which of course was full of Cuban cigars. That's what I do in Europe. Smoke Cubans and drink whiskey. One other little funny note. In Europe Yun and I had to not only deal with the time difference but when we were in London they set their clocks back an hour. That threw me off even worse. Then we flew to Spain which was an hour difference from London. Then one day they set their clocks back an hour. The clocks in the hotel were all off. I never knew what time or day it was. It was a real Twilight Zone episode.
The whole reason we went to Barcelona is because of the food. Yun loves the food network and travel channel shows related to food. Spain is big on foodie's, where to go lists. In the middle of Barcelona is a big outdoor slash indoor food market called La Boqueria. The joint is heaven. It's hard to describe but everyone has their own little mini store type stall. There is meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables. I've been all over the planet but this place rules. The freshest most beautiful fish, crabs, clams and octopus. It's a photographers dream. the meat joints have pig's heads, small skinned rabbits, skinned baby pigs. Come to think of it everything has it's head still on. The best part of it all and why I love it so much is there are four little places to sit and eat. Each place consists of a counter top with a dozen stools in front. There is a grill that all the fresh seafood is being cooked on. The workers are cooky characters. People stand two or three deep applying pressure to those eating to finish up quick so they can eat. We went there every day. I still dream about it. I sat very early in the morning and drew this lady setting up her little meat stall. She never even looked in my direction. When I finished I walked up to her and held the book open so she could see. Her eyes bugged out. She got very excited. I'd made my first friend in Spain.
My wife is very smart. She devours guide books and seeks out information on places we go to visit. I of course know nothing about Gaudi. She rattles off all kinds of stuff about the guy's history. It usually goes in one ear and out the other. I do give her props. She is a great person to travel with. We arrived at this church Gaudi designed. I stayed outside and sketched. She went in to see it. Some people may not understand this. How can an artist like myself go all the way to Spain and then trek to the friggin Gaudi church and then not go inside and see what it looks like. As I've stated before, my time is precious. If I went in with Yun, then I couldn't have drawn it. It's that simple. The funny thing is that I never have second thoughts. I don't say to myself, Oh hell I should have went in. My drawing matters to me more. This is one of those drawings I was able to bang out quickly. Because Yun was not inside very long, I had to color it in later at our hotel. the coloring was fairly simple. I just memorized it in my head. By the way, what I wrote on the drawing is true. She did buy the most beautiful bottle opener I've ever seen.
Yun found us a great hotel to stay in Barcelona. It was right on the main drag called La Rambla. When we stepped out of the cab the first thing I saw was all of these crazy outdoor pet stores. There was many of them all lined up in a row on either side of the Rambla. Each is it's own little self contained unit. They all have fish tanks, rabbits, turtles, mice, hamsters, parrots, finches, parakeets, chickens, roosters and on and on. No cats or dogs. At night each unit closes up and is locked with all the animals inside. It's a bit wacky. During the day it's so visually interesting. I'm not sure who thought this up but it's wild. People love going along and petting all the bunnies. A block or two away is the flower district. Tons of similar stalls but all filled with plants and flowers. Sprinkled in amongst all of this are tons of street performers. One morning I got up really early to go drawing. As I walked alone along the street at seven in the morning, all the roosters were crowing from inside the locked up units. It was very surreal.
In China it's air conditioners. In Korea it's the electrical wires. In Morocco it's television antennas. In Manhattan it's water towers. Of course, the thing I noticed about London right away is the beautiful red brick chimneys. when I was drawing this a homeless guy came by and asked why was I drawing the street I was drawing? I told him it was the chimneys. He laughed and said, "the old chim-chimneys." The homeless guy was right out of Dickens and I was right out of art school. The street was very posh and none of the posh people came over to look at what I was doing. Very reserved. Three or four homeless guys came by to talk and check out my drawings though. This may seem a bit gay but I love musicals. One of my favorite's is "Oliver". I thought of the Artful Dodger wondering around picking pockets on the streets of this drawing.
When I travel with my wife she knows I love to draw. So we work out a way for me to get time to be alone to sketch. One thing I do is as we are doing touristy things together, I am also scouting great spots for me to draw. This way when Yun wants to go to the hotel and take a nap or go shopping, I can go and do a drawing at a place I've seen before. This takes away me wasting any time trying to figure out what to draw. I use my free time drawing and not wondering around trying to find just the right spot. Churchill is a good case in point. Yun and I went to Westminster Abby and I spotted this statue. In my head I liked it because I wanted to draw something dark, almost in silhouette. I liked just having faint details in the background behind it. The statue just struck me when I saw it. When I had some free time I ran right to that exact spot.
Mar 30, 2009
My new thing I'm trying is to film myself when drawing. It's hard enough just drawing without this new wrinkle. One day in London I went to draw Big Ben. It was cold, windy and raining. Very tough conditions. I found a bench with a good view. Anytime I don't have to use my fold up stool is a blessing. About 10 minutes into drawing 2 very wild looking transvestites came and sat right next to me. One tall and one short. They were speaking Russian to one another and chain smoking up a storm. I thought to myself this would be a cool little film of me drawing next to these 2 freaks. No wonder I'm taking this stupid video camera around with me too. For some unknown reason, even though I was only 3 inches away, they never once looked over at what I was doing. I figured at some point they would but it just never happened. I didn't want to bother them either so I just let it go. Plus I was struggling with my drawing and freezing my ass off. I'm sure there will be other opportunities. Now I'm ready with my dumb little camera in my pocket. All I need is a cinematographer with me at all times. I did catch a shot of them walking away from me.
Yun and I woke up very early in Barcelona, about 6:30 AM. Took a 20 minute cab to the airport in the pouring rain. Flew an hour and a half to Gatwick airport in London. Got on a 40 minute bus ride to Heathrow. Had a 6 hour layover there. Managed to fit in a sliced egg and tomato sandwich. Flew to Kennedy airport. there was bad weather so we circled the airport for an hour and stayed on the tarmac for another. Because Yun is a Korean citizen, there is always a problem at immigration. Another half hour to find out if she is a terrorist or not. Took the airport train to our parked car and got home at midnight. Turns out they were making a movie in my neighborhood so all the parking spots were blocked off for three blocks. I dropped off Yun in front of our apartment because it was still raining like mad. I had to stick it in a parking lot for the night. It's always nice to get home and be ignored by my cats. Over the next weeks I will be posting my drawings. Did quite a few really good ones.
Mar 19, 2009
Mar 15, 2009
Not everyone has a pork store in their neighborhood but I do. My hood is very old school Italian. There is a social club, if you know what I'm saying. The food on my block is off the charts, from incredible bakeries, butcher shops and cheese stores. Mama mia. Drawing the pork store is something I've wanted to do ever since I moved in. Of course all the workers came out to see what I was up to. Finally I met the owner Georgie. He was thrilled by my drawing. I'll make some prints this week and bring them over to all of the guys. I'm starting to make a name for myself in good old Brooklyn.
Mar 10, 2009
I have found a million old friends on facebook. That really is a great site. Each day brings a new surprise. There are also a lot of people that don't want to be found. I can understand that. Some people I've called to tell them about all the old classmates I've uncovered but they want no part of it. I, on the other hand have become the leader of the pack in finding and connecting old friends. I'm amazed at how many people know nothing about computers. A lot of friends tell me that their kids put them on Facebook. I ask them to upload photos or other such easy takes and they have to wait for their kids to do it for them. It's cool to see who is married with grown kids or who adopted or who stayed single or who came out of the closet. The part that seems universal is for those of us who are happy to reconnect, just how easy it is to slip right back into our old friendships. Some people I talk to after a million years it only feels like I haven't spoken to them for a week.
Mar 8, 2009
I have a very slim friend in London and I do mean very slim. He was kind enough to put up some of my squirrel stickers around town. They were stuck up in a very clever way. These will be hard to beat. In some of the shots you have to look carefully to find the old squirrel. Too funny. The one with the cops is the best shot ever taken of the squirrel. Genius. Yun and I may travel there and to Barcelona in a few weeks, so there should be a slew of new drawings on the way.
Mar 5, 2009
My friend Rama Hughes is an art teacher in California. He also happens to be a super talented illustrator. I got an e-mail from him one day asking if one of his students could write me a penpal letter. He was having his whole class contact different artists. Participating in this kind of thing is a joy for me so I said yes. A while later I got a nice postcard in the mail from a very young girl who did a cute little drawing of a Kleenex ad she had come up with. I remember what it was like to be a little kid and write to someone and wait for a response. So I packed up a couple of nice signed prints and I also included some real drawings I did ripped out of a notebook. There was a letter I wrote and some stickers (not my squirrel ones with the gun, the girl was too young for that nonsense). The big cardboard envelope I shipped it in was completely covered with a wacky drawing I sketched on it. Forget about the kid, I would have been thrilled to get this in the mail. Anyway I shipped it off. Today I got this nice e-mail from Rama.
I thank you. Aviva thanks you. The whole class thanks you! Your package was a big rule breaker Tommy but the whole class went nuts over it. A lot of kids wanted to rewrite their penpals right away to see if their penpals would send them prints or pages from their sketchbooks. Aviva was especially surprised and delighted. Even a little embarrassed at one point that she hadn't given you anything more than a postcard. Thank you so much for inspiring my class this way, I really appreciate it. xr
I'm a good dude.
Mar 1, 2009
I had to record the voice-over for my television commercial. We used Sarita Choundhury. She starred opposite Denzel Washington in Mississippi Masala and has done a bunch of other films. A slight petite woman with a large mane of hair. Her voice quality is very unusual, I'd even say strange. That's why we selected her. While she was in the booth doing her reads I did a quick sketch of her. I can't post my commercial because it's not on air yet. As soon as I can I will.