Seeing them, every detail, with eyes of compassion. A throughline to the better angels of my nature.
It makes me feel connected, and useful. Recording moments with care.
It’s very hard for me to leave the house right now. I really needed to get to my recovery support group, so I told myself I would get Jones Ice Cream on the way.
I was standing outside Jones Ice Cream, waiting for them to open and working on finishing up this drawing. The folks who run the beautiful seasonal and local foods store next to Jones’ gave me a gleaming local apple, “For the art!”.
The bottles by the bin in the drawing are left by people for people who need money to turn in for the pfand, or refund. Everyone does it here; there’s no shame in it.
There is a new flavor at Jones, Apple Crumble. I had it with their Salted Caramel. Which is not as creamy as Bi-Rite’s, more chewy, but stays live on the palate longer.
“It’s as close to perfect as anything could be, right now”, I told them when I finished mine.
On Sunday one of my former students from ESDIP and now friends came to the West to meet up for a coffee.
She was in town for the weekend. María is an incredibly talented young artist who is now studying art full-time back home in Madrid. You can see her work by following her on twitter and tumblr, as well as her YouTube channel. We had a wonderful visit, talking about art and drawing. I got to see the things she’s working on, her Inktober drawings and her latest projects. She has recently won prizes in several illustration contests in Spain (which I predicted each time!).
She made this lovely drawing of me, which I will add to my framed collection of portraits of me by other artists.
Here’s a nice picture of us earlier this year! In case you can’t tell, I am living my best life ever here in Berlin. Thanks to my Patreon Patrons, I can draw and teach and live, and it’s a life of meaning and purpose.
On my way home from teaching at ESDIP Berlin I saw these badass skater girls.
I sat across from them on the U1 and politely asked if I could draw them, as I’ve learned to in Germany. But they were American, and it was totally fine with them! Turned out they were from the Bay Area, specifically all San Francisco born and raised.
“From inside the 7×7”, they told me, just as I always make it clear that I was born on Manhattan island.
I had just a few stops to draw them, so I finished a lot of the detail later. However, it is totally accurate that the stickers on their boards were all dogged out from grinding copings. I don’t think these vital, modern young women were riding fat old-school Kryptonics wheels; that’s just what skateboard wheels look like, to me. I loved that they had big wide decks.
My best friend in high school was a skater girl, in 1981, and she rode what she called a “rolling stage”.
I showed this to Daria while we were having some lovely cake in my kiez and she said she liked the right-hand girls much better, with their casual sketchy hands. She said the hands of the left-most girl were overworked. Too much information.
“You’re so strong in technical skills, in understanding the structure of the hand, you get caught up showing too much.”
She was right, of course. The most interesting and powerful thing about the whole scene to me was the way the girl on the left cupped her hands over the nose of her board, like it was the pommel of a saddle.
And by drawing every detail of her fingers, instead of leaving some space open, I’d made her hands pedantic and overdrawn.
I had lost the shock of her dark nails against her pale skin by adding too much black line detail.
If I were drawing this for reproduction, I would have changed it, as I did when Daria suggested I give the Three Ages of Woman more space around them. Instead, I restored some of the drama and focus I’d intended by making the left-hand girl’s shirt black. Interestingly, Daria didn’t make the same criticism about space with this drawing- I think she understood that the fact the girls fill the frame is meant to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy.
I wanted to show I was occupying the same space, briefly, as these fearless young women.
Luckily, I had my mini sketchbook with me AND two of the women got on the bus with me, enabling me to get more details of their clothes. It was a Sunday afternoon in the West. The conked-out girl in the leather jacket was obviously walk-of-faming it back from a club night (in Berlin you wear sensible shoes to the club, not heels. I had to wake her up and tell her the bus was arriving, which she appreciated!).
I worked on the drawing over a couple of days and when I showed it to Daria she said it needed more space, the ladies needed to breathe.
She was absolutely right, of course. She also suggested I push the characters a little more- make the older German lady even more grouchy and vigilant, make the Muslim lady more clearly heading home to her family. So I photocopied it onto an A4 sheet and finished the details at the expanded size.
I added a grocery bag beside the “Mother” lady, with a baguette to represent grain and Demeter.
I enhanced the frown of the “Crone”, who was really quite pissed off about the bus running late. And I added more leaves, to represent the cycle of life and Persephone.
When I copy an ink drawing I often take advantage of the opportunity to make any corrections with white-out tape, as you can see here. I redrew the Crone’s right hand so her fingers popped more against the black of the Maiden’s jacket.
I also used the white-out tape to eliminate the edges from the copying; the white line is where the drawing originally ended.
Sure, I could use Photoshop, but this is way faster than trying to launch any kind of photo-editing program on my poor little Chromebook!
It’s our neighbor neighborhood, just to the East and a quick bus or subway ride. Blixa Bargeld, Marlene Dietrich and Helmut Newton were all born there. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Isherwood lived there. It’s old-fashioned and not uptight, with lots of amazing food and lots of relaxed mature bears.
Daria decided the Cafe BilderBuch, or Storybook Cafe, is the perfect meetup place for us because it’s halfway between her place in Neukölln and our place in Wilmersdorf. We met there for the second time yesterday. I love to walk from the M29 stop at Nollendorfplatz, through the ancestral queer neighborhood and down towards the new hip specialty food joints.
We went to Jones Ice Cream first, because Jones Ice Cream is beyond belief incredibly delicious.
The ice cream is American style, with big, soft chewy American cookies also available. This time I had lemon ice cream with blueberry jam and lemon-mint sorbet. The day before I had cucumber and tonic and pink grapefruit/Earl Grey. All are amazing, although the cucumber and tonic is some particularly next level business.
Some drawings I’ve been finishing up.
Here’s a girl I glimpsed on the subway platform and had to draw because something about the way she delicately picked a strand of hair out of her face reminded me of my friend Victoria’s daughter Dalia when she was younger.
And here’s a note I left for my middle-aged German biker furniture movers, who don’t speak a word of English but can be relied on to go anywhere in Berlin and collect something I bought on eBay, then deliver it and gruffly mock me for “kaufen, kaufen!”. We would have no furniture without them.