Every year, Independence Day means taking the D train to Coney Island to catch the hotdog eating contest, that flamboyant epitome of American culture. For those who don’t know: The contest is an annual pop art spectacle held on the beach, which features mountains of buns and sausages forcibly disappearing into the gullets of pumped up contestants, cheered on by a crowd of fascinated spectators, journalists and beach goers.
I have an extensive archive of drawings I’ve made in and around New York City, and which I will share over the next couple of days; the first set are a series of sketches I made at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, where the eccentric visitors were at least as eye catching as the garments and paintings.
Once again I managed to brave the heat to make it out to Coney “no shade in sight” Island to draw Nathan’s annual Independence Day tradition, the hotdog eating contest, except this time, I had backstage passes, aka a better view to draw from. Why? Because my friend Yasir “Doggybag” Salem had finally qualified for the event, and was on stage with the likes of Joey Chestnut and Eater X. All drawings seen here were done in real time on location, and colored in later using Photoshop.
When the protests started, I headed to Wall Street, where I was confused by a yawning emptiness patrolled by mounted policemen in front of the Stock Exchange. I did finally find a smallish pride of painted protesters around the corner, occupying the miniscule piece of land called Zuccotti Park with their itchy-looking mattress forts, and recycling each other’s hand-painted signs to parade in front of the hundreds of media folk circling the green in search of attractive hippies and homeless veterans to interview. Below are some of the drawings I made that day.
I try to make it to at least one free play in Central Park every summer, and this year I decided to join some friends to check out New York Classical Theater‘s plein-air production of Moliere’s super-entertaining 17th century Vaudevillian slapstick classic TheSchool for husbands. Central Park becomes both stage and auditorium for these productions, and the audience follows the actors as they move from scene to scene, and sometimes the action simultaneously takes place in front of and behind the spectators. This is a neat way of keeping everyone engaged, though at an hour it is a mighty quick and high energy production anyway. The following illustrations were all done on location.
Despite thunderstorms earlier that day I found myself seated in the heart of Times Square to attend the premiere of Mad Men season four, an hour ahead of the rest of the country. I was later upgraded from puddle-seat to VIP area (admittedly way comfier than the wet bleachers (thank you V!). The majority of the drawings were done during the pre-show costume contest, and my personal highlight was seeing the “falling man” intro of the show at the bottom of Times Square signage canyon.
Here are a few more recent drawings from the rehearsals of the New York Repertory Orchestra. I used a quill pen and a reed pen with india ink for these, and I am really happy with how these came out. They really capture the feeling of the music and the atmosphere in the church and in my heart that evening.
The first one is of the cello section, which includes the classically beautiful first cello, the old-school “godfather” second cello, as well as the my collegue, whom I usually do not draw for fear of making him feel self-conscious. I adore the sound of celli, perhaps because their pitch is so close to that of the human voice. This last drawing is of the “papa” of the cello section again, his gorgeous face merging with that of his precious instrument…
On a recent trip to California I stayed in a classic Old Hollywood haunt called the Culver City Hotel, an idiosyncratic red brick wedge of a building that towers over the diminuitive Epcotesque Art Deco buildings around it. The hotel lobby greets visitors with august, dark-wooded, faux-Patrician charm complete with piano bar, wooden globe, and enormous furniture, next to which the tiny check-in desk disappears almost completely. I made a few drawings at the farmer’s market, which is held right next door to the hotel, between the mansion from Gone with the Wind (really!) and a Trader Joe’s supermarket, and saw what I am reasonably certain are real hippies, which excited the anthropologist in me quite a bit. I also bought some unbelievably tasty organic apricots there.