Travers Park

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Travers Park is the main meeting point of Jackson Heights. At 8 am on a Sunday morning, it’s buzzing with people exercising, chatting, dog walking, etc., etc. Also, the farmer’s market is setting up for the morning’s business. I went there this morning with Neil to do some drawing (need to practice, even in the cold!) and watch him exercise. While I was drawing, I met a little girl named Grace, about seven years old, who also likes to draw. She proceeded to sit next to me on the bench, and art direct me through the entire drawing you see above. “Did you get that man running? Did you get those dogs? Why don’t you draw that little boy with the basketball?” She was hysterical. And right on the money, too! She told me that she liked to draw good things to eat, like an ice cream sundae. I gave her a piece of paper and said, “let’s draw the park  together.”

travers-park-2-dec-2013I told Grace I was drawing Neil exercising (center, above) and asked her why didn’t she draw that? “He’s moving a lot,” she said, “so I’m just going to pick one pose and do that.” Let me tell you, Grace nailed it. I wish I had the presence of mind to take a picture of her finished drawing with my i-phone, because her illustration was way better than mine. She didn’t miss a thing!

travers-park-3-dec-2013After a while, Grace got tired of training me, and decided to show me how she trains the local dogs instead, using a stick with eaves on the end of it. I drew her with the dogs, above, and she came running over to see the result. “Did you get the dogs standing up, trying to get the leaves?” she asked. “I did it twice for you.” Ha ha, another creative director in the making! Hope to see her again in the park some time, I could use a few more pointers!

NYC Marathon

Yesterday was the first Sunday in November – in New York City that means it’s time for the marathon! 40,000 people run 24 miles through the five boroughs of New York – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. Even though it was [VERY] cold, and Neil and I were out running errands, we stopped to watch the race for a little bit in Long Island City, a part of Queens that is right over the East River from Manhattan. And I made a few drawings. In the drawing above, you can see the tips of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building peaking over the elevated subway and low rise buildings of Long Island City as the runners go by. The man at the left was in the race and stopped to kiss his wife, who was cheering from the sidelines.

Another view of the race, this one from inside the Citibank building with the glass windows facing the street. It was Neil’s idea to draw from here, it was much warmer since I was sitting on the baseboard heat as I drew it. Note the water towers, classic New York icon, and 59th St. bridge in the way background. I love this vantage point, everything happening at once – the runners, the cheering onlookers, the 7 train rumbling by and the helicopters circling. New York City madness at it’s finest! Kudos to all the runners, I was very inspired. And after I made this drawing we went and had coffee and pastry in a nice warm cafe. ;)

My Beautiful Sister

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This post is about my beautiful sister, Patty. Patty and I are just over one year apart – almost Irish twins (which would be less than 12 months apart.) I can’t remember a day of my life when I didn’t know her, and obviously she can say the same thing, since I’m the older one. Those of you who know me, know that Patty is fighting metastatic breast cancer, and has been fighting it for two years. Or what seems like twenty years. These drawings are the first I’ve made of Patty since high school, I think.    PATTYOur friend Charlotte Noruzi creates wearable art, often based on the body, and she created a fiber sculpture to bring attention breast cancer. When she asked if Patty would like to model the piece, called “Winged Victory,” for a photo shoot, Patty said yes.

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While Charlotte’s friend Jill took photographs, I drew. It was such a special day, Patty really enjoyed posing and was both strong and vulnerable at the same time. In other words, she was just herself. I am inspired every day by Patty’s attitude and fortitude in dealing with the various indignities of treatments, including losing her hair during brain radiation; it’s finally starting to grow back in. Happily, the lost hair was not in vain and the treatments were helpful.  Please stop and send her a little prayer or some good energy that this trend will continue!

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This is a drawing of Patty and Charlotte at the end of the photo shoot. I love the way Patty feels in this drawing – it’s that combination of strength and vulnerability that is so inspiring to me. Her humor and kindness have only grown as she fights this disease. I knew I had a strong sister, but I didn’t know how strong she is. Her last scan was stable, we are so happy! And are praying it stays that way, and then goes into remission. Send prayers!!!

I’m so used to being the older sister, and maybe the one to take care of things a little more, that it’s been hard for me to feel like there is so little I can do to help.  When Patty and I were kids growing up in the city, she would always push me on to the public bus first. I can’t go on the bus with Patty this time, but I’ll sure as hell be running alongside as fast as my feet can carry me.

Thanks Charlotte and Jill for a nice day celebrating my beautiful sister. Love, Veronica

PS If you would like to help – you can donate to these organizations that help my sister and others facing cancer:

Support Connection: http://www.supportconnection.org/

Gilda’s Club Westchester: http://gildasclubwestchester.org/

PSS You can see some of Charlotte’s beautiful wearable artwork HERE.

Mini Meditation

VL_autumn_crocusThe fall is always the busiest, most hectic, time of year for me, and yesterday was one of those days. Three classes in one day, with a lot of running around – I call them ‘three borough days’ because I have to be in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and back again. Going under and over rivers multiple times in one day can make you feel quite jangled. PLUS I left the house without my wallet yesterday and had to borrow money from a friend (thanks Margaret!)

Whew! Fortunately I took my Pratt Location Drawing class to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and had a few minutes to breathe…and saw these lovely autumn crocus plants. Didn’t even know there was such a thing. They are lovely lavender flowers on tall stalks. Growing on the forest floor, catching sun where they can, many of them were laying on the ground rather than standing straight up. But they were all blooming beautifully. Seems like the fall is hectic for them, too. If I can keep my grace under pressure like these flowers I think I’ll survive until the holidays…

Oh, the Lavender!

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We were going to see the lavender.

When I think of Provence, in southern France, I think of large waving fields of lavender, ablaze in purple glory. I imagine myself sauntering through the fields, running my hands lightly over the violet blossoms, blissfully soaking in the Provencal sunshine and the intoxicating aroma. I would be engulfed in scent. I would paint large, expressionistic paintings that bloomed all shades of violets under my brush. In short, I would be as close to heaven as you can get in this earthly realm.

This was my dream. And, armed with a gorgeous little photography book called, appropriately, “Lavender”, I convinced my husband Neil and my two step-daughters, Ashley and Danielle, that this was something we should NOT miss during our stay in Provence. So, on our last day of our time there, we asked the owner of the restaurant in our hotel if he could point us to the BEST lavender there was to be seen. When he suggested we look at the small array in the hotel parking lot, I thought it was merely a bit of wry French humor.

We found the place: Sault, a little town not far from our hotel. The reviews online were amazing – “life changing experience” – “Unforgettable”- “I laughed, I cried, I saw eternity!” Armed with our GPS and a little stick shift car (Neil drove) we set out. We were driving through Provence!!

A few, or about four hundred, traffic circles, and two and a half hours later, we found it. A little shop selling sachets and lavender honey, with a field next to it. The lavender plants were very short – they had just been harvested – and we saw more dirt and bees than purple bliss. After buying enough lavender sachets to embalm an elephant, we wandered around the shop parking lot, a bit confused. We saw a group of Japanese tourists circling a lone lavender bush with their cameras. We saw a New Age-y California couple squinting and putting their hands to their foreheads, looking into the distance. No matter, the woman in the shop said, just a little ways further there was truly a lot of lavender. Well, we’re here, so let’s keep going.

I don’t even remember the name of the next town we went to, but once we got there, it was basically the same experience. Harvest had hit, and left nothing in her wake. Seeing the field, above, I was determined to make at least one painting. So Neil, Ashley, and Danielle sat in the car (what a lovely familial sacrifice for me!) while I crouched down at the side of the road and had my lavender moment, and all the while the tour buses whizzed past, looking for that Elysian field of purple.

 

Launch of the Charles W. Morgan

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Last Sunday I traveled with the Dalvero artists to witness (and draw) the launch of the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden whale ship in the world. (If you remember, we currently have an exhibit of art documenting her restoration and history at the seaport – see it at www.dalveromystic.com.)

A launch means that the ship leaves dry dock and is lowered on a special platform back into the water, to prepare her for sailing.

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Quentin Snediker, the shipyard director, has been so generous with his time and energy and information to our little band of artists as we documented the restoration process over the last few years. He was no less hospitable on this day, and invited us to arrive as early as we liked on the day of the launch. Our group arrived at 8 am, and the shipyard was already buzzing with activity! Men and women were moving planks, tying up ropes, patching, hammering, and doing everything needed to get the Morgan ready for her big party. There were even last minute paint touch ups to her bow (top drawing) so she would look her best for the festivities. In the middle of it all was Quentin, characteristically solid and stoic, giving direction and pitching in to help with the crew. He greeted us with a smile and seemed to be distracted by work, but at times his body language gave him away…

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…at one point I saw him reach out and touch the marking numbers on the hull of the Morgan, as if he were having a private conversation with her. After all, Quentin has spent more time with her over the last five years than anyone. But he has had a wonderful crew of volunteers and Mystic employees working with him as well, and together they celebrated the work they’d done.

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Quentin poured out the rum – good luck for a sailing vessel – for his crew, for a final toast to the Morgan before she touched the water – this was at 9 am, before any *official* festivities began. It was raining, but I stepped into the weather to get closer, and draw this very emotional moment. Quentin read a beautiful quote:

Openings to the water I stopped; I searched for cracks and the wanting parts I fixed: Three sari of bitumen I poured over the outside; To the gods I caused oxen to be sacrificed. -Babylonian, 3rd Millennium BCE.

Sailors don’t cry, but they sometimes get caught in the rain of emotion, especially when they are watching the ship they’ve lovingly restored leave land and touch the ocean she was meant for. It was very serendipitous how a drop of rain touched each man’s face as I made this drawing, including Quentin’s. I was honored to witness such a personal moment of this very public event, and even more so when Quentin, after the toast, passed the bottle to myself and the other Dalvero artists. Cheers to the Morgan, and bottoms up!

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It was still drizzling lightly, but that didn’t stop the crowd from gathering to be a part of the momentous occasion. They came by land and by water; there were many little boats and kayaks filled with spectators along the Mystic river. One man I met, Robert Simmons, told me that his father had been there when the Morgan was first towed up the Mystic river to the seaport – this was a generational event, both personally for some of the visitors, and for New England as a whole.

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Soon the band struck up a tune, the TV cameras were switched on, the sun came out, and the party began!

band,-camera!All the pomp and circumstance felt a little like DisneyWorld’s Liberty Square to me; Ric Burns, the keynote speaker, later said that the event was like “Fourth of July on steroids.” Very true! And then, the music stopped, a blessing was said, President Stephen White led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the speechifying began, with simultaneous sign language.

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Richard Victor, the Mystic Seaport Chairman, spoke of “the mission, the vision, and the resources” that had brought the Morgan to this point, and then, asked for more of the same to keep the project moving along. Connecticut State Senator Andrew Maynard read an official legal designation that had passed through the Senate, decreeing the Morgan as “a living artifact” and “an ambassador to the whales.” Fantastic!

Susan Funk, the Vice-President of Mystic Seaport, got a little emotional and teary while she spoke; I felt the same way. The day was the culmination of a lot of hard work and passion, and as artists who had drawn the entire process, we felt the same passion for her. It was a wonderful occasion but also would be somewhat sad to see the Morgan lowered into the water – she wouldn’t belong to any of us any more, she would belong to the ocean, and to the education of future generations.

ric-burn,-governor,-launchThe governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Molloy, spoke of not only the Morgan but of what the whaling industry had meant to the development of the United States, something that the artists of Dalvero have covered thoroughly in our exhibit. We felt like part of the family as the governor spoke of the textile industry, the oil industry, and the industrial revolution, and how whaling had influenced them all. Documentary filmmaker Ric Burns also spoke eloquently about the Morgan’s meaning in history.

“What does it take to be the last of your kind?” he asked.

Once the speeches were done, it was time for the christening of the Morgan – to be done by Sarah Bullard, the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles W. Morgan. The bottle that she christened the ship with was filled with waters from all the seas the Morgan had sailed in, plus a drop of rum for luck. How poetic, and beautiful.

christening!-launch

With Quentin by her side (he had given her instructions earlier) Sarah Bullard christened the ship, a cannon went off – BOOM! -and the lowering began!! The Morgan settled into the water at a rate of one foot per minute – not lightning fast but still, fairly quickly. There were a few more remarks, and a man sang sea shanties, as we watched her begin to sink down into the river.

Quentin-watches-as-she-is-lowered,-launch

As she was lowered, all the noise, music, and celebrations fell away when I saw Quentin Snediker watching the numbers on the Morgan’s hull dissolve into the water. I recognized that feeling of letting go, having trained so many students over the years. It’s a bittersweet moment – you want it to happen, of course, it’s what you work for, but at the same time you can’t help but feel a bit melancholy over it. It’s the same way when you complete any artistic project, and the Morgan was definitely a creative work in progress.

But you’ve got to let it go so you can begin work on something else. And when the water mark hit the number 9 on the hull, the cry went out:

“She Is Afloat!”

She-is-Afloat!-launch

Cannons shot red, white and blue water into the air, and everyone cheered! A job well done for Mystic Seaport – and the beginning of the next phase of the Morgan’s new life. Soon the masts will be put in place and the sails will be rigged. I can’t wait to be there to document her next phase and sailing tour next summer, along with my fellow Dalvero artists. But for now, I think that everyone at the shipyard could use a little rest…

quentin_back_to_work_launchYet as I overheard Quentin’s partner Maureen talk about just that, I saw Quentin back at work, tying the ropes, figuring out how to keep the Morgan from listing, planning what to do the next morning. I had to laugh. I didn’t think Quentin would be going to DisneyWorld the next day to celebrate, but maybe sleeping in and having a nice brunch? Nope, just like an artist, back at it the next morning.

;)

Below is a drawing I made of the Morgan the evening before the launch. I wanted to evoke the lives that have been touched by her, both today and in the past, and the journeys she’s made. She truly is a living artifact, and as I looked at her on the dry dock, I felt something almost emotional radiating from her hull. Soon she will embark on a new journey, as I hope we will all embark on a new journey with her; and a new relationship with the whales and our environment. I feel personally a little sad that I will never see her up on land again, or sit among the old wooden planks and gnarled tree trunks inside her hull, but I feel honored to have the opportunity to continue my journey as an artist through her. And I’m sure the other Dalvero artists feel the same way. Thank you to Quentin Snediker, Jonathan Shay, Susan Funk and Stephen White, for this great chance to be a part of history.

The-Morgan,-Alive

The Charles W. Morgan, a living artifact at Mystic Seaport.

 

 

 

 

Manhattan Rising

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Recently I had the opportunity to draw the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s west side from a bird’s eye view. The yards is the rail yards – where the MTA houses subway trains when they’re not in use. So the MTA has leased the air space over the Hudson Yards and it’s going to become a huge luxury apartment – shopping – theater hub in the next years. Holy camoley! Manhattan is growing and changing all over the place. There are cranes everywhere in the city. I’m not sure how I’m liking all of this change. Yes, the nature of this city is to constantly grow, but there is so much character and history that has a tendency to be swept away in the midst of all the changes. Sometimes I walk through neighborhoods I’ve hung out in all my life, and wonder where they went! It’s like missing your five year old niece when she’s standing right in front of you…at the age of 10. And the west side of Manhattan has been changing the most. The Hudson Yards project is the tip of the iceberg – the Highline along the Hudson river has transformed Chelsea and the Meat Packing District from the land of seedy dives, meat processing plants, and street walkers to the land of Gucci and Prada. Walking along the Highline after making the drawing above, it was impossible to escape the construction going on everywhere:

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Now I’m not saying that I miss meat processing plants and streetwalkers – far from it – but I do hope that Manhattan never loses that little bit of urban wilderness that makes it so special and unique. In the meantime, I’m happy to document all of this as it happens – so that when I go to these neighborhoods five years from now, I’ll have a record of what I loved about them so much. And hopefully will have new things to love about them in their future incarnation.

 

Me Drawing You Drawing Him

Recently my friend Lapin, the French illustrator and Urban Sketcher, was in town with his wife Lapinette and their beautiful little daughter Louise. We decided to take a trip to uptown Manhattan to the Cloisters to draw some French Medieval style and (maybe?) catch some sun. The sun didn’t cooperate, but we had a great time anyway.

cloistersAs I made the drawing above, I was first asked to put away the ink, then the color, so I finished it with a ball point pen. As I drew this, Lapin drew all the crazy figures and icons on the tops of the columns. There were many of them – here is little Louise in her stroller with all the fantasy animals around her – -

louise-dreams-at-the-museum

Later in the evening, we all had the pleasure of meeting with Danny Gregory, author of many books on drawing, and his girlfriend JJ. One of Danny’s recent books is An Illustrated Journey, featuring many wonderful artists who draw on location, including Lapin and myself. I’m honored and thrilled to be included with all the talent in the book.

Regardless of what you fear anyone else may thinks of the results, you can become a creative person and achieve a new view of the life you lead. – Danny Gregory

I love Danny’s philosophy and was happy we all had a chance to spend some time together. As we sat and talked, Lapin decided to make a portrait of Danny. So, I decided to make a few drawings of Lapin making a portrait of Danny. So, me drawing Lapin drawing Danny…

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Thanks everyone for the great evening! Wonderful how drawing leads to new friends and experiences every time.

Jackson Heights

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Jackson Heights – a little New York City neighborhood, located somewhere between Pakistan and Colombia. At least, that’s how one of my new neighbors described it. As Jackson Heights is the most diverse neighborhood in the most diverse city (NYC) in the United States, a country of immigrants, I would have to agree. Several months ago, Neil and I decided to trade in our East Village rental for a place of our own, and the historic district of Jackson Heights seemed like the perfect ‘hood to do it in. Even though it’s only a short subway ride to Times Square, traveling to Jackson Heights makes you feel like you’d better pack your passport. I did some drawings at the  plaza near the 74th St. subway station, a section of the neighborhood that is full of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and more recently, Tibetan shops.

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There are reportedly 167 languages spoken here, and I heard several of them as I drew in the plaza. It’s taking a little while for this to feel like home, but I’m really enjoying my new surroundings. Jackson Heights is in the borough of Queens, across the East River. Those of you who live in Manhattan might understand the feeling of leaving Manhattan after 15 years. Remember the scene in Sex and the City where Miranda moves to Brooklyn? And what a major upheaval it was? The movie was not exaggerating in the slightest. Manhattanites think the world ends at the Hudson and East Rivers, and I was a little trepidacious, to say the least! What about my 24 hour deli? My take out addiction? My need to mingle with people I don’t know, who are moving about in large crowds? I’ve found that I’ve been able to fulfill all of those Earthly needs right here, albeit in a package that doesn’t have any English words on it. And the travel time to Manhattan is fairly short – basically the trip to most neighborhoods takes the same time as when I lived downtown. I keep leaving too early to get there…basically it’s only 15 minutes by train to midtown, but I keep adding an additional half hour or so…seems that going over (or under) the East River is a larger trip mentally than physically.

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The shop above is one of many selling multi-colored fabrics. There are many sari shops and jewelry shops full of traditional Indian gold necklaces, earrings, etc. along 74th St. Living here is certainly going to sharpen up my accessories wardrobe. As you walk down the street past these various shops, the shopkeepers speak to you in many languages, trying to entice you in to view their wares. Oh, and did I mention that the whole street smells like curry? That smell greets me as I get off the subway, and is starting to smell like home. Neil and I have enjoyed visiting the Patel Brothers store on 74th, and trying to imagine who is buying the 40 lb bag of basmati rice. Not us, yet, but give us a few more months and we probably will.

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This is a drawing of the 74th St. elevated station, and the darkness of Roosevelt Avenue below. The 7 train runs along Roosevelt Ave., which is a different world from 74th Street, even though it’s only feet away. Roosevelt Ave. has plenty of empanada shops (more on that in a later post) as well as bars with taxi dancers, massage rooms, karaoke, cheap 99¢ stores, vendors with push carts selling some of the best tacos I’ve ever had (my cholesterol has shot up from living here, no joke!) and plenty of gay bars. Jackson Heights is one of the earliest gay neighborhoods in NYC. I told you it was diverse! And if you take the 7 train one more stop to 82nd Street, you’ll be in the largest Colombian neighborhood in New York City. Neil is happy, since I have a great chance to practice my Spanish now, although every time I speak to someone in Español, they answer in English. I think I have more work to do in that area…

These 74th and 82nd St. stations border the historic district, a beautiful area full of flowers and trees, along with plenty of old NY brick buildings. It’s exciting to have a new neighborhood to explore, and now that summer is almost here I’m looking forward to drawing, and posting, a lot more.

Interview on Tracy’s New York Life!

vl_Brooklyn Bridge, NYCI was recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracy Kaler, for her blog, Tracy’s New York Life.  Read the interview HERE.

I’m really happy with the interview and the way she designed it for the blog; it looks great. It was fun to talk about some of my childhood New York memories, and of course, about art, illustration, and learning. Thanks, Tracy. Any friend of New York City is a friend of mine. :)

PS - One Watercolor A Day, featuring my art and the art of the Studio 1482 illustrators, and written by yours truly, is available now for pre-order! Click HERE for more details. I’m thrilled with the book, would love to hear back from all of you about it as well!

 

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