Parking Lot, Seattle NE
There are public spaces that encourage life in the miniature, places that beckon us to pause. Some of these are little shops or unassuming restaurants, coffee shops or bakeries where you can stay as long as you like. There are lobbies, a place to perch when all dressed up, waiting until the next thing happens. Another place to be semi-invisible is the back alley, the nice ones; they exist and some progressive cities like Seattle are encouraging their use. The street corner requires that we stop and look; it might be worthwhile to stop a bit longer and look more closely at the passing parade. By the way, a quiet side street is recommended for this. And believe it or not, even the tiny, prosaic rest room might on occasion deserve an appreciative glance. The good ones try to live up to their names, and provide a sense of repose. And there are other small spots to find enrichment in the mini-meditation of a conscious pause. We each have our own list. These are some of mine.
Another topic that has always fascinated me is history. And for some reason I find World War One especially intriguing, especially now with the centennial of that great and terrible event approaching.
This drawing is based on a photograph I took at a WW1 reenactment. It shows the backpack of a French soldier, or poilu, to use the then current term. The poilu carried a heavy burden of about 88 pounds. The round object shown here is a collapsible canvas bucket. The object on top of the bedroll is a mess tin.
I'm now working on a large series of drawings based on various WW1 subjects, and intend to post additional drawings as the project goes along.
I’ve recently seen a show of fine art photography that I feel is exceptional. The gallery is the Umbrella Arts at 317 East 9th Street in Manhattan, and the photographer is Ronald Gehrmann. Mr. Gehrmann blazes his own trails throughout New York. He takes his camera around the corner and down the ally, and discovers rich, colorful and dramatic, cityscapes in the profusion of city details that mostly go unnoticed by other busy New Yorkers.
It seems likely that the photographer has been inspired by the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi; which is the beauty to be found in the old and time-worn. Mr. Gehrmann’s photographs are most often semi-abstractions of architectural subjects aging and returning to a state of nature. Others have photographed similar subjects but Gerhmann’s sharp eye and keen intelligence never fail to compose elements of texture, form and color into unique and almost classically proportioned imagery.
His large images are boldly printed with gorgeous colors, and I imagine his photographs would be especially effective hanging in contemporary New York apartments or businesses.
This emerging master photographer’s work will be on display until Nov. 25, 2012.
See the gallery website at…
During our most recent blackout, my wife and I were grocery shopping at our local 1950ish, so-called “supermarket”. We had reached the yogurt section when all the electric devices in the store began powering down, with a stomach-churning descending “humm…mm…m”. Instantaneously, everyone knew that the lights would be next to go, which they did a fraction of a second latter.
Things could have been worse. It was a near perfect summer day for a blackout. Temperatures were in the 80s, the sky was clear, and the city actually seemed pretty mellow about the event. We spent the evening sweating and reading by flash-light. With no air conditioning New York apartments, ours was a brownstone, can be ovens. So when bedtime came, we decided to sleep outside on our terrace. It should be a good place to sleep. It was relatively spacious, had a wooden deck and there were lovely plantings scattered around, and most importantly the temperature was much cooler out there. Sleeping out there seemed to us to be just another urban adventure. At 11:00pm without electricity, the sky was black, and all the buildings were black, except for the orange glow of candles in some windows. It was fun.
But something else was going on, something mind-bendingly hallucinatory. Right at that moment, the brightest object in the very black night sky was the planet Mars. It so happened that Mars was at its closest point to earth in several decades. Not only was it brilliant, like a mini-moon, but it was so close I could actually perceive it as a tiny disk in the sky. Mars was no longer just another bright star. Anyone could see it was really and truly our neighboring planet in space. Out there on the terrace, this situation was all very strange and exhilarating to me. I somehow expected the rays of light from Mars to…do what? Communicate telepathically with me while I slept? Who knows? I was at that point living in a science fiction fantasy. What would happen next?
A couple of hours later, we were awakened by the noise of a helicopter hovering in the sky. Its blinding searchlight was fixed on our sleeping forms. It must have been a police copter investigating our motionless bodies. This strange combination of events was beginning to rattle me. I picked up my eyeglasses from the terrace, put them on and was instantly slimed. While we slept, slimy slugs had been attracted to the cool smoothness of my glasses. When I picked the eyeglasses up and put them on, the slugs came loose and fell on my face and body.
There I was, in the night, in the middle of a major blackout, Mars shining madly overhead, a security helicopter observing me, covered with hideous slimy creatures.
Mars collage illustration by Erik Winkowski (see links)
I had totally forgotten about the Space Shuttle coming to New York after its Monday flight was cancelled because of bad weather. Friday morning, sitting in my pajamas, scanning the news on the computer, there was the tiny article; “Space Shuttle to land at JFK at 11:30…Will fly over the Intrepid.”
It was 10:15 and I didn’t have much time. I couldn’t quickly get to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River and 46th Street. However I might be able to see something from Riverside Park and 72nd Street. That was just a few blocks away. I screwed the 300mm lens to the Nikon and was out the door.
There was a crowd at the top of the steps leading down to Riverside Park. “Yes, the shuttle should be here soon…at 10:35,” someone told me. And it did arrive on time, only seconds after my arrival.
There it was, small but getting bigger as it flew low and slow up the Hudson, near the shore. At about 66th Street the brilliant morning sun at last fully illuminated the Shuttle and its carrier 747. Then there it was before me, bright, huge, magnificent, a dream become real. It was beautiful as it flew over and nearly filled the sky…the crowd audibly gasped with emotion. Here it was, an American spaceship, flying over 72nd Street on New York's Upper West Side, essentially my backyard. It was astounding.
And my photographs were astonishing. Just by luck all the elements of sun, clouds, and my position on the hill overlooking the Hudson River were perfect. I’ve photographed at scores of air shows, but that day’s happy combination of elements was indeed rare.
I’ve always considered myself a nature lover, at least in theory. But living in Manhattan, there’s very little nature nearby to love. Except for Central Park, there is only the sky; that elevated strip of brightness found between the buildings on either side of the street.
Wherever I might be in the city, I tend to look up for quick glimpses of nature’s realm. And of course, sometimes I see the moon, which except for the sun is the only heavenly body that Manhattanites can expect to see with any regularity. I enjoy seeing the moon over Manhattan, be it the faint moon in a bright blue afternoon sky, or the glaring heavenly headlight in the deep black of night. Over the years there have been a few occasions when I have found these sightings to be extraordinary.
Once years ago when our son was a little guy, he and I were walking on Columbus Avenue, past the vast bulk that is the rear of the American Museum of Natural History.
That particular early evening time and place offered us, what I consider a once in a lifetime view of the moon. At that magic instant the forces of nature had produced a vision of benign and calming beauty in the sky. There was a quality of light that is seldom seen. Our earthly world, the sky and the moon were all so softly illuminated, so perfectly balanced; their combination seemed an intimation of heavenly perfection. It seemed more a picture than reality. Even more thrilling was the position of the moon in the sky. It was just touching a green dinosaur weathervane atop one of the sunset-golden conical towers of the museum. I pointed it out to young Erik and said the scene was so beautiful, so extraordinary; we should try to remember it over the years. And we have.
I’ve seen a lot of lovely moons but seldom had a camera. Here’s one time in Seattle that I did.
I’ve coined a new word, “Illustrationsphere”. Why? It’s really just a way to introduce my new blog, and its themes. It might also help explain what directions I intend to take this blog in the future. “Illustrationsphere” might be defined as a faint cloud of thoughts, ideas, notions, memories and artistic ambitions that surround the illustrator. And in this case, that illustrator would be me.
I see this blog as a series of footnotes, with the aim of elaborating on and expanding upon my illustration website. The title of that website “Moons, Machines & Martians” sums up a lot of my interests. But there’s more. I think a list of upcoming blog subjects will indicate some of the material that’s spinning around in my own Illustrationsphere .
• Mars Over Manhattan
• The Lost Cities of Mars (and southern France)
• Create or Collect, or Both
• Sift, Combine and Mix…a recipe for illustrators
• Birth of a Book-Lover
I was once given an assignment to illustrate an article on sleep and dreams. What a terrific subject. It was replete with all sorts of possibilities. I immediately knew I wanted to explore the more surreal overtones and otherworldly mystery of the subject. And I had long associated "sleep” with the wonderfully inventive illustrations of Winsor McCay. His 1900s comic Little Nemo in Slumberland was an unsurpassed trip into the unconscious. So I had a goal to shoot for. I also, similar to McCay, wanted to create an image that suggested something of the mystical aspects of our nightly journey into the unknown. Early on I decided the illustration must contain a floating bed above a fantasy landscape. So I drew my first sketch.
The elements were more or less there. But I wanted a strong graphic image, rather than the more diffuse landscape of my earlier concept. And I also wanted to make a personal statement that came from my own experience.
At that time we had recently returned from a trip to Europe. In southern France my wife and I happened upon the medieval fortress of Le Baux. It was a rough-hewn mountaintop ruin that commanded the landscape for miles around. The ancient barons of Le Baux had basically been thieves on a very grand scale, and a deep and dark sense of enigma enshrouded the ruins. We were there in the Fall, in the rain, and there were no other tourists. The location haunted the imagination, and was not an easy place to forget. I realized that Le Baux was the perfect setting for my illustration.