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 to get 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 Wilmington town 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.


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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My neglected survivor plant.

I bought a tropical plant 10 years ago. This plant has been a survivor after all it's been through. First, I don't know why did I get it knowing myself. I like how cozy a plant in a house can be but that involves maintanence. I rarely water it or fertilize it. I just do it when I notice (and it may take weeks for me to notice) that leaves are down or becoming yellow. Second, it's in a small planter, how can a plant grow this 7 feet tall in such a small planter? Actually the planter is disintegrating, literally. Third, it spends long winters with minimal water. Family have helped me water it during this periods to keep it alive but I've been gone for 2 or 3 months without help and thinking this will be the last time I see it alive, and when I return BAM!, it's still there! So I decided to sketch it, who knows how long this plant will live. I don't know if it will survive another winter in my absence, I hope so, as for now, I think it is a miracle.
5x8 in, Moleskine, pen and watercolor.