Thursday, December 4, 2014

Inside the actors studio

My husband and I are watching our friends' dogs while they are out this week. Our friends love Dachshund. They are very responsible and an example of how a dog owner should be. The care and love our friends give to their dogs is amazing. A way to see how much they love their dogs is looking at their colorful beds. Each dog has a bed carefully prepared for their enjoyment. There's a Christmas theme blanket full of a variety of stuffed toys. Some still as a whole, others not so lucky. I can image the countless adventures they have had playing with them. I thought their beds looked so cute so I sketched them. The first bed has a legless crab, a lighthouse, a clueless cow, a big lamb, an oversized bone, a pink bird, probably female, a shy porcupine, a Christmas Snoopy, a pumpkin and a snowman in a position that I swear is ready to sacrifice it's life at the mercy of the dogs' teeth.

The second bed is equally charming and carefully set for their comfort. In this one there's a snowman which is imagining it's on a launch chair at the beach, a upside down bear, a multicolored worm, a Thaksgiving Snoopy, a blue bird, probably sad, a very relaxed gingerman, an earless bugs bunny, and a buried Charlie Brown.

The dogs are very friendly and well trained. The dog sitter stays overnight but works during the day, so we go twice during the day to check them out. Both dogs are rescued: Roxy 11, who we've took care of on previous times and we know her well; and Slinky 3, he is the new member of the family. We've been 3 days with Slinky so far to get to know him. Both dogs enjoy visitors. As soon as we arrive we waste no time to let them out their cages for them to stretch, greet, run, bark, drink water, explore, pee, poo, play and let us rub their bellies. When is time for us to go, we called them to come into their cages. Roxy knows what to do, but Slinky...oh...Slinky. When I say cage, he switches to acting mode. Now he can't walk. His brain is divided in two. It commands contradictory orders and Slinky knows it. He looks at me begging for help. His back legs are paralyzed, they don't move and his rear end is on the floor, the front legs are baby stepping in slow motion towards the cage door, dragging painfully his whole body. Three feet of agony and suffering. I watch and wait patiently. I'm the audience. When Slinky's hands are inside the cage, the paralyzed legs are no more and he walks proudly few steps like a normal dog to finally get inside the comfortable cage. The act is useless now, is over. I close the cage and clap. Bravo, Bravo! I leave the house smiling, knowing that I'll watch the same performance worthy of an Oscar and enjoy it the next day.....twice.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Metra in a cold day

I had lunch with friends in Chicago yesterday. We met at the Metra station in Joliet to take the double decker train.  There's a temporary ticket office because the main building is closed. The new access to the platforms consists of two staircases made of concrete, one of them with an elevator. The waiting area in the platforms looks more like it belongs to a modern city, but this is something so needed in old Joliet. My friends didn't mind me sketching them, they look very calm because we were paying attention to whoever was talking in our group. In my opinion, it's better to sketch listeners instead of the ones who talk, since they don't move. My pen was the one that kept moving because of the train motion, so lines are a little shaky, I show respect for those who sketch in trains, it's quite a challenge to draw a straight line. It's a shame a sketch of my face is not included, it would be interesting to see myself, since it's been reported to me that I look like I'm upset when I'm focus, but it's just the opposite, when I sketch I'm usually calm. 

The trains are huge, double decker. I sketched the outside train from indoors, actually, everybody was waiting indoors, Chicago is very cold now. I added people later at home as a reference of size. 

Once inside  the train I tried to render the height of the train and watercolor it later. I had fun chatting, eating, shopping, and of course, sketching.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Illinois Route 66

I've heard so much about the famous Route-66; I know it crossed the United States from the Midwest to the West Coast, but .... does it still exist? In my quest to know, I found that part of the old road still exist and passed through nothing more and nothing else than Joliet, the next town from where I live. So last Saturday, I drove there and South to sketch some of the roadside attractions in three different towns.
The first one was the Rich & Creamy Ice Cream Store in Joliet. Once my husband took me there when I moved to the United States years ago. I wasn't impressed, I thought it was dated and old. With my limited knowledge about this country, I had little appreciation of what I was witnessing. That has changed.  Now I like anything vintage and that has history. I sat on the shade across the road, it was cold, but I captured the Blues Brothers on top.
Next day, Sunday, I headed South to the Village of  Dwight in Illinois. There's is a beautiful historic place call the Ambler's Texaco Gas Station. I LOVED the vintage gas pumps. This time I wasn't going to let the cold weather get to me, so this smart girl parked the car with the trunk's window facing the building. I sketched in the trunk very comfortably and stayed warm. I love the result.

Finally I headed back North to the town of Wilmington to make a stop at this statue made of fiber glass, the Gemini Giant. Now a restaurant, it started as a stand selling only hot dogs. I believe old Route 66 is full of this giant statues, something in vogue then. I had a great weekend on Route 66.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A piece of art in the library.

I went to the library to check out a book. I knew about it on my search for more information about the public art in the city of Joliet. The book was The Great Columns of Joliet. I was pleasantly surprised, since the book not only had illustrations and interesting information, it also had poems! The book about art is a piece of art itself, how lovely!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Great Columns of Joliet

Driving around in the city of Joliet, I've always seen these sculptures on top of mosaic columns. There are around 42 columns in the city. It is part of a program created by a non-profit organization in Joliet called Friends of Community Public Art, if you want to know more about why, check their link here.

I sketched one back in June 2013, see it here. Today I went to sketch two more. Each column/sculpture represents the nature, history, culture and economical backgrounds of Joliet. The first one I sketched is called The Barn Owl and the Moon. The barn owl is native of the state of Illinois. The mosaics represent the plants of the wetlands in Rock Run Preserve. My husband didn't come with me this time, but a woman volunteer to pose for me for a minute to show a reference size.

The second sculpture is called A Informed Mind Can Make Better, it is in the Black Road Branch of the Joliet Public Library. I bet you wouldn't know if I didn't tell you this but here's a secret: the sketch of the bronze sculpture shows 5 books, but it has only four <well, we have been taught to embrace the errors that happen when sketching directly in pen and ink, right?> Every book has a carved word: Art, Democracy, Music and Science.
I have to mention again, that the public service here in the United States is outstanding. One can hold a book online, and if they don't have it on the library they will bring it from any library that has it available to the library of your choice for you to pick it up. I ordered already a book I want to read, The Great Columns of Joliet. Wonderful! I can't wait to read it.
The next sculpture, Spirit of the River, is located in Route 66 Park, next to the Des Plaines River. I sketched this one a week later, the same day I sketched one of the side attractions on Historic Route 66  that I posted later in this blog, you can see it here.
We had a break from freezing temperatures today, so I did this last sketch of this sculpture Tiller of the Earth in the parking lot of a school. The symbols represent the two main crops cultivated in Illinois. Soy to the left and corn to the right.

Although the temperature was only 55°F, my hands were numb and red. My drawing materials behaved so strangely due to the high humidity. One of the pans I refilled with watercolor paint yesterday was literally melting  causing a mess on my hands, and the wind was folding the page I was working on as if it was soaking wet. It was good day though because I finally, after almost a month since I started this series of drawings, I filled the spread pages of my moleskine.  



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grey and little pink Open House Chicago

For second time, I was fortunate to visit 3 buildings during the Open House Chicago weekend, presented by the CAF Chicago Architecture Foundation. Alex, one of the administrators of the Urban Sketchers Chicago group was the host this time. During this event people is allowed to come inside buildings that are normally closed to the public. Here's a map that I sketched the previous day to get familiar with the zone.
A4 Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Pen&Ink EF, Platinum Carbon Ink, W&N Watercolor Paint.
Our first stop was The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, a spectacular building dedicated to Mother Cabrini. I decided to make two sketches of every building, one from the interior and another from the exterior; for that I needed to manage my time very well so I worked small frames. Although the walls and ceilings were covered with frescos, I skipped them and focused in the overall building.
A4 Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Pen&Ink EF, Platinum Carbon Ink, W&N Watercolor Paint.
Our next stop was The Elks National Memorial, a monument dedicated to the members of the Order of Elks who served and made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation during World War I. Again, I omitted the exquisite murals all over the walls and ceilings. The overwhelming architecture was enough for this sketcher, so I focused in the dome, the marble columns and the iron work of the windows.
A4 Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Pen&Ink EF, Platinum Carbon Ink, W&N Watercolor Paint.
 Here is a close-up:

The last building we visited was the Second Church of Christ Scientist. At this point I was cold and hungry. So I did only one sketch, and to be honest I was tired of the grey day and grey buildings too, so, to have fun even more, I painted this one in neon pink, yes, PINK, I like, pink, pink, hurray for pink.
A4 Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook, Pen&Ink EF, Platinum Carbon Ink, W&N Watercolor Paint.
After that we took the photo of the group and the sketches we made,  then off we went for a drink and food. It was a nice day and well organized. Thanks to Alex Zonis for hosting this event.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Ninety one years old. We got together to celebrate Joseph's birthday, my father in law. It was a fun night we spent at one of his favorite places, the Croatian Club with his favorite band playing live, Harvest Moon. This is the man who has been very supportive to me through the years, the very first person who ever paid for any of my painted doodles and he has it still on one the walls of his house. I tried to render his melancholy eyes and his beautiful smile (he still has all his teeth, never wasn't fond for sweets), when started to sketch the lips he close his mouth! Oh well. I added a little more of color at home, since it was a little dark there to see the real colors. This is my humble gift on your day, Happy Birthday Joseph.