Natalina is pastry chef and owner of Pasticceria Natalina, an Italian pastry shop in my neighborhood. It is said on the website that they make the best Italian pastries on this side of the Atlantic. But I have to tell you that I have been to Italy and I have not tried anything better there! Natalina’s pastry is the best I ever had anywhere. Made on site in front of you (the kitchen, the shop and cafe are an open space, you can see Natalina and her husband working) the confections are fluffy, light and flaky and are created to delight your senses. And let’s not forget her gelato and cookies! That’s not your usual Chips Ahoy, they are not made to withstand a delivery truck, but to crumble and melt in your mouth and create a taste sensation akin to poetry. And this is from a person that doesn’t like sweets.
This portrait took me longer than usual because of hands. I felt Natalina’s hands were important in this portrait both because of what she does with them and for their expressiveness. When I showed the portrait to George, my drawing teacher, and complained about complexity he asked “Why are you doing this to yourself?!” meaning why add difficulty and time to my already tight schedule. The hands doubled the portrait time. It is a very good question. I guess I am doing this to myself in order to see if I can manage this.
#25 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Dr. David Solzman is a professor emeritus (geography) at University of Illinois Chicago Circle, an art photographer – the man behind The Affectionate Eye, an author of a book The Chicago River, a talented piano player and a friend of ours. My husband has been friends with David for almost 40 years and I can claim half of that. Oh, we can tell you stories… but we won’t, not here! I will certainly not share the compliments I have received from David through the years, some of which now belong to the annals of family legends, they are that… umm… creative! A true Renaissance man David is, we have a wall in our place dedicated to his art. At the same time while being a person of such great renown he is not opposed to babysitting our cat when we are out of town.
On September 19th we went on a day long boat tour on Chicago River guided and narrated by David. We went out of the river mouth, south on Lake Michigan, up Calumet river, through Cal-Sag Channel, the Sanitary and Ship Canal, connecting to Chicago river again and completed the circle. How can anyone talk for 8 hours, not repeat himself even once, and keep it rivetingly interesting all the time? The amount of Chicago history that David brought to us during the ride was astounding. Here I caught him with his mouth closed for just a second.
#18 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
Meet Tinker Bell!
She goes by Allison these days, but this doesn’t change anything. If you are too grown up and as a result do not believe in fairies, you should come to my clay class in the Drawing Workshop and meet Allison in person. As is suitable for fairies, Allison makes puppets for theater productions and acts them. That’s her job. She is also very good with stilts, but this must be easy for those who can fly. She even has a website, One Flea Circus, where you can check out her puppets. A very 21st century fairy she is.
So if you driving streets of the Windy City late at night and while waiting for the light to change notice a girl flying by your driver’s window, her pants constructed entirely of colorful patches, red cape fluttering behind her, bicycle helmet on her head, remember the pixie dust and make a wish. It is never too late to believe in fairies.
#16 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
Meet Cousin Joe!
Cousin Joe is the youngest of Aunt Marie’s children and the only one who lives in Chicago. Not only he lives here, he serves and protects. Cousin Joe is a detective with Chicago PD. I am majorly impressed by that. Joe is wonderfully honorable and trustworthy, you can depend on him when the going gets tough (we know – we had to at one point), and he is very kind. I tried bring these things into his portrait, but didn’t really know how. My drawing teacher says that sometimes you just need to hold something in your head without trying too hard, your eye and your hand will find the way to convey it on paper. Excluding the know-how, without intellectualizing, leaving the all-so-important brain activity out of it. So that’s what I did. You tell me if it worked.
As it happens Cousin Joe and his family are the only family of our age group who live close and by proximity available for barbeque party, beach outing, or back yard beer tasting and shmoozing. What’s not to like!
#14 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
Meet Dr. Goldberg!
Dr. Arnold Goldberg is extremely distinguished. He is an MD. He is a Supervising and Training Analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. He was a director of the said Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis for many years. He is a Professor of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical College, Chicago, IL. He is an author of Misunderstanding Freud, The Prisonhouse of Psychoanalysis, Being of Two Minds, Moral Stealth and author or editor of more than thirty other books and articles. He has more titles than you can shake a stick at … possibly too distinguished :D.
Here Dr. Goldberg hosts an outing for psychiatry residents he is currently teaching. My husband is in the program, and that’s how I got to be there. As many highly accomplished people Arnold is an easy and humble person, full of crackling self-depreciating jokes. At the outing he had us all in stitches with stories of his service in US Army. Captain Goldberg was a part the “Doctors Draft” and served as US Army psychiatrist in the late 50s, between the two wars.
I showed this portrait to my daughter, and here’s her reaction: “He is adorable! Too cute for words!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
It was a beautiful Monday morning. The sky was blue, the air – cool, the lake – turquoise… It could as well be a dark and stormy night, because it was on that beautiful morning my husband’s laptop decided that it is time change careers… to that of a boat anchor. It was dead, it wouldn’t boot. We attempted resuscitation. Short of mouth-to-mouth we did everything we could. We actually persuaded it to boot up, but it was not convinced. It was thinking deeply and meaningfully about each key stroke and seriously considering checking out again. It was time for a computer doctor.
Enter Jeff. Jeff is an ER doctor in a computer clinic PC Solutions. Our nearly comatose laptop got admitted, assessed and diagnosed. It needed an organ transplant, a hard drive. Luckily a new hard drive was available without a waiting list, and Jeff skillfully performed the surgery. No recovery time, no heavy drugs – our laptop got a second life and is happily zooming along. Jeff is a hero!
Here Jeff is advising me that no further upgrades or parts would be needed, everything should be working fine.
Graphite, watercolor pencils, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Barb is a dear friend. She is beautiful, sincere, caring, intelligent, warm, generous, vivacious, hysterically funny, and has a gift of conversation like no-one else I know. Barb is also a psychic. I kid you not! Barb is a psychic entertainer extraordinaire. She and her company Barbara Meyers Psychic Entertainment are a feature on the Chicago party scene. Her stage name is Madame Zandra – imagine that! Barb will read your cards, your palm, and often just you, and will tell you how it is, no frills or sugar coating. Exceptional talent!
Barb’s portrait took me longer than planned two hours I am trying to limit my sketch portraits to. Perhaps I was worried about bad karma or Madame Zandra’s psychic wrath that I would call on my head if I don’t make her look beautiful. First I overdid the contrast, then I smoothed it over too much. I fretted over wrinkles, should I perhaps reduce them… I was wondering about lifting off a few pounds, so easy on paper… In the end I decided that Barb is gorgeous the way she is. Now let’s see if my ceiling will spring a leak in the next few days…
Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
The first day and the first sketch of The Sketchbook Project 2011 which is run by Art House Co-op, Brooklyn New York. A grand thank you to Carol King of Carol King: Painting, Drawing, Complaining who turned me on to this. This is going to be a lot of fun. And in the end my sketchbook is going on a tour and will be shown in several cities to be viewed by people. Is it possible to have more fun than this? Please don’t answer this, it was a rhetorical question.
I chose a theme “A day in the life”, my official bar-coded Moleskine sketchbook has arrived. And just as I began to panic about what my first sketch was going to be, the Chicago Air Show arrived and solved my problem. Here I have for you the Chicago darlings, our homeboys, US Navy fliers – the Blue Angels. Today, as every second weekend of August, they were doing a show on their FA18 Hornets, performing loops and dives over the Lake, flying at a “safe” 2 feet distance from each other after the unfortunate touch incident they had last year.
I also wanted to comment on the Moleskine Cahier sketchbook, the official sketchbook of the Sketchbook Project. The paper in the book is so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. While it is has a lovely buttery finish, the thinness rules out pretty much any wet media. Watercolor is out of the question, which is very disappointing. In fact a fellow artist, also a participant, tested a number of media on this paper and published results in her blog for our benefit – Moleskine Cahier test. I am going to have to get really creative with this paper.
Watercolor pencils (dry), Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
There is a lot of art activity on this front, but I am not sure any of the results are worth posting. I have two portraits in the works, one in graphite and one in watercolor. The graphite may be finished soon… ish… and may get to be posted then. The watercolor one is in early stages, and it is too soon to tell whether anything worthwhile will come out of this.
I have gone to a life-drawing session again and am still wondering if I should post my charcoal attempts. I don’t particularly like them although the model was absolutely great. I am also studying anatomy, specifically drawing/constructing hands working from Burne Hogarth’s book Drawing Dynamic Hands.
To keep up with the blog amidst all this activity here are two sketches from Metropolis café which is next to my gym. There’s wonderful people watching in Metropolis, and I indulge in it while trying to catch my breath after working out or waiting for my daughter.
Watercolor, graphite, sketchbook
Amy is my classmate from the painting studio. Amy and I have been going to the Chicago Art Institute and drawing statues. And an odd painting. Statues are wonderful models – they keep a pose, don’t get tired and never complain! They don’t throw tantrums or hissy fits and are always on time – very professional. Amy and I have been drawing like this for the last month. I have many complaints about Chicago – weather… parking… you name it… The Art Institute is not a part of this list – it is a true blessing!
Here are results from several sessions (click on a thumbnail to see it larger):
1. A head from the Indian gallery (stone) and a figure from Early American Classics gallery (marble). I forgot to take notes whose head and figure are these.
2. Aphrodite of Knidos (marble) – a copy of a Roman 4th century statue
3. Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii 1858 (marble)
4. Solitude of Soul, Lorado Taft, 1914 (marble) – my very first male nude.
5. Solitude of Soul, Lorado Taft, 1914 (marble) – female. I am just wondering why is this composition called “Solitude” if there are four figures in it?… I’ve sketched two so far.
6. The Lute Player, Gentileschi, 1612-1620 (oil). I got tired and skipped the actual lute… oh well… fabric folds and drapery were hard enough. We really wanted to sketch from Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, I hoped to do that foreshortened arm. But the painting wasn’t in the Caravaggio’s gallery, must have gone back to London, it was on loan here. The Lute Player was there in its place, so we did that.
I am getting better at it, and faster as well. Practice seems to be the key. As usual.
Graphite in my sketchbook.