Raised cup to invite the moon

 

Bookshelf art – before and after

It was cold. A political rally mangled traffic downtown. Everything seemed off schedule. I missed the street car to the train station by minutes and had to walk. The winter weather depleted the battery of my smartphone. Commuters waited at the Intermodal. The last train of the night was late.

There was a special one-hour podcast on obscure tunes from the Real Book loaded on my smartphone. I wanted to listen to jazz music. But I didn’t want to run out of battery. In case the train was delayed. And I had to call my wife to pick me up.

The previous weekend I checked out a book of poetry from the public library. A collection of poems, translated into English, of Li Po. Before I knew it I had found a friend. The translator made it inviting to enter the world and work of Li Po.

Soon the train arrived and I boarded. Found a seat. Plugged my phone into the outlet. Opened the book and continued reading. The train passed over the river and had nearly cleared the Third Ward when I caught a glimpsed of the moon over Lake Michigan.

“I raise my cup to invite the bright moon, . . .” wrote Li Po.

Maybe that endured me to Li Po. Or at least inspired me to feature an illustration of Li Po on a bookshelf I built this summer.

There are a couple Li Po illustrations I made during the last year or so. But the one for the new bookshelf is the most ambitious and detailed. Maybe I will share some posts about the bookshelf project with you later. I had considered writing a series of short posts about how it all came together. Sort of a how-to, or how it was done, type of posts. But the story about why I chose to decorate the sides of the bookshelf seems to interest people more than how I built it.

As the nights grow longer and colder, the illustrated bookshelf is now installed in the living room.

Serious things

“What did you do last night?” she asked as we walked through the neighborhood in the pre-dawn moments of the day.

“I worked ’til six. Clocked out. Made supper. And spent a couple hours drawing.”

She did not say anything for a few dozen steps. She took the kidlingers on an adventure the night before. And she was tired.

I continued. “The challenge is that it takes me nearly an hour to set up. Not just gathering tools like pencil, ink, brush, illustration board, and setting up a space to work. But planning. Composing a page. Thumbnail sketches. Reference materials and such.”

She listened. We walked further. In the hour before sunrise, I looked East. I saw Venus. Or maybe Regulus. Possibly both.

“By the time everyone got home,” I said. “I had finished marking out a page and composing three panels.”

She told me about a conversation with the one of the kidlingers as we walked. We exchanged comments about plans for the day. We continued for a quarter mile or so before returning home.

Thoughts of last night’s drawings were pushed into the shadows of a day filled with choses sérieuses.

Try again another night

How long did I look at this drawing the other night? 15 minutes? 30 minutes?

Calculated the time it would take to complete the drawing. Did I have the time?

Considered if the time spent on this illustration was valuable.

Too late. A kidlinger requested help. Followed by a short list of other household chores.

The illustration was placed back in the portfolio with 60 other drawings in various stages of completion.

Try it again another night.

Inktober 2020 — #inktober #inktober2020

The #Inktober 2020 Prompt List.

Unbound sketchbook

What do you do when you find a 15-year old sketchbook with at least two dozen blank pages at the end of it? This sketchbook was something used many years ago to compose page layouts ideas.

It may be that as a young graphic designer I required the use of pen, ink, and paper to organize thoughts and ideas before turning to the digital tool of computer and software to complete a magazine page layout. Or a book layout. Or whatever design project it was that I was working on at the time.

Even back then, a lot of creatives were skipping the hand-drawn phase of graphic design and moving to digital sketches. I was one of those designers too. It did not take long to adapt to digital sketches using Quark Xpress or PageMaker. External and internal clients did not understand these hand-drawn sketches. I quickly understood that these initial sketches were best served between fellow creatives. A form of pictorial shorthand.

Sketches using human figures engaged clients. A point of connection. Composing advertisements and editorial layouts was enjoyable. Even when it was poorly drawn it was pleasurable. It was exciting to explore and play out ideas on pages. To balance text and image. To push the elements toward asymmetrical tension.

Sometimes referred to as “mock ups” or “work ups,” these comps (jargon for compositions) often featured ad copy or editorial headlines that I wrote. I preferred writing my own copy rather than using dummy copy, greeking, or some other form of gibberish used to represent where text was to be placed in design compositions.

These sketches bring back a lot of memories. Projects completed. Projects that never were approved. Abandoned. Like the craft of sketching designs and ideas.

I needed something to prop up the office laptop computer in order to avoid a kink in my neck as I work on print and web design tasks. MacBook Pros are not ergonomically designed. An old keyboard was located. And then a Kensington trackball mouse. And an old, unbound sketchbook. That did the trick.

This work-from-home solution is not ideal. There are days when my children see that I spend most of the time reading and replying to emails, joining video conferences, and moving file icons across the desktop to various folders synched to cloud-based servers. Graphic design looks so different from the point at which I joined the trade. It is less tactile.

The national safe-at-home quarantine allowed me to build a wood desktop and a wood stand-up-desk solution for the laptop, keyboard, trackball workplace arrangement. And the 15-year old sketchbook? Well, paging through the collection of ideas and designs. . . after a long hiatus, I began sketching and drawing on the empty pages at the end of the book.

One night at a kava bar

One night at a kava bar I read a poem about. . . well, . . . that was many years ago. As National Poetry month concludes I hope you enjoy this recording. I do not believe I have read that poem in public since that night. Much gratitude to Caleb Beissert for recording and sharing the video.

Five music albums to listen to in the morning

What is your morning music playlist?

Most mornings — nearly a decade ago — I opened the office and started the work day to music of the following five albums.

There is something refreshing about arriving at the workplace before everyone else. Unlocking the front door. Turning on the lights. Brewing the first pot of coffee. Reviewing the notes from the previous day. Checking voicemail. Planning for the day and week ahead.

Sometimes an album played quietly from the desktop computer speakers. Sometimes from earphones attached to an iPhone. Sometimes I listened to more Brahms than Vivaldi. Sometimes I added Grieg or Beethoven to the mix. Sometimes I listened to various recordings from different artists of the same sonata.

When I took the job as a creative director it was a new start. I approached the career with intent and vigor. The Latin word gravis comes to mind. I was serious about my work and future. The following albums became the soundtrack of that time and place.

When I listen to these music albums now it is a reminder and — if this can be said of music — a friend.


Brouwer: El Decameron Negro and Other Guitar Works performed by Alvaro Pierri


Brahms: Piano Trios Nos. 1-4 by Eskar Trio


Aniello Desiderio, Quartetto Furioso ‎– Vivaldi 4 and 4 Piazzolla Seasons


Federico Moreno Torroba by Ana Vidović


Dvorak: Quartet Op. 106, 6 Cypresses, 2 Waltzes by Cecilia String Quartet

Returning to Twitter

Two months ago I returned to Twitter.

After logging into the account through a web browser I was mildly amused. The mobile app was then downloaded to a new late-model mobile device.

The first couple weeks I explored a lot of the Twitter feeds. Shared work-related tweets. Kept it professional. Nothing too personal. But mostly, I searched for friends I once communicated with on a daily basis. They seemed to have disappeared from Twitter. Or maybe I missed them amid the ceaseless flood of poising, posturing, and promotional tweets.

A comment from a kidlinger ceased this activity. The level of profanity used on Twitter is obscene. I had tuned it out, but young eyes saw a string of vulgarities. Kidlinger asked who said that. I did not say. They knew the person. And that individual would never speak like that in front of my children.

Then the pandemic hit. And the tsunami of Covid-19 tweets and updates was both helpful and harmful. But ultimately overwhelming.

Sometime during the past weekend I discovered Twitter’s new preference features and was turning some on and others off to see how the feed was impacted. Late Saturday night, before I went to bed, I checked the Twitter on the mobile device. I was shocked to see someone posted or shared some extremely graphic adult material. It should not have surprised me. Too tired to figure which preferences I needed to reset, I deleted the app from my mobile device.

Before the weekend was over I considered unfollowing everyone I followed on Twitter. Or deleting my Twitter account entirely. My argument was this. With all I have to manage in between work and home, removing Twitter would be one less thing I have to deal with.

My return to Twitter was an attempt to emerge from a self-imposed social media quarantine. To reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. But the debauchery and viciousness I observed on Twitter causes me to wonder. If people are essentially good, than the evidence on Twitter points to the contrary.

I plan to cull those I follow. Half have already been unfollowed. My goal is to cut the list down to 40. It is possible that I have not given Twitter enough time to prove that there are good, virtuous, and honorable people using the social media platform.

The hope was to engage with people on Twitter who enhanced and elevated the lives of those around them. Something inspiring. Something like Andrea Bocelli’s Music of Hope.

What happens off camera. . . stays off camera

What happens off camera. . . stays off camera. Mostly. As video conferencing becomes normative so also does the occasional crumb-cruncher intrusion. One article put it this way, we are all the BBC dad now.

Another dynamic that manifested itself with business and education now primarily being conducted virtually, is the reality of economic inequities among employees and students. We are now looking into our co-workers’ living rooms, kitchens, home offices, or ceilings. As one Twitter user stated, “financial inequities in the classroom are on full display. . .”

 

Co-workers and classmates may not know that you do not have internet at home. That you go to the public library for internet usage. Or that you drive to the Dunkin Donuts eight miles away when the library closes in order to use free WiFi to finish a project.

Maybe you do have internet at your apartment. But it is really slow, because you cannot afford a larger internet package. Or that you live in a rural location and high-speed internet is not available.

Or there is a hardware issue. The computer laptop you have does not have the capability to run the latest video conferencing software application.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be an equalizer of sorts. We are all vulnerable. During this season when we all feel unsafe, exposed it presents opportunities to show compassion and understanding. My hope is that when we are on the other side of this crisis we will show empathy towards each other.