Jack's Audition

Stage parents wait for their auditioning offspring.

Jack is applying to the Summer Arts Institute, a fantastic program which allows him to study drawing and painting for eight or so hours a day through July. It has loads of dedicated teachers and visits with professional artists and, probably most importantly, the company of other teenagers who are committed to art.
He participated in the program two years ago and did some extraordinary work.
Admission is fairly competitive; applicants need to show a portfolio, complete a drawing assignment, and survive an interview and portfolio critique.
Jack’s portfolio is really diverse these days, oil and acrylic paintings, pastel, conté, various types of prints and the medium at which he truly excels: pen and ink drawing.
Early Saturday morning, Jack and I rode out to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a beautiful new public school in Astoria. While he went off for his audition, my pal Tommy Kane drove up and we pulled our pens and drew next to the elevated subway overpass. I think this may be my first drawing in this borough.
An hour later, Jack appeared with a broad grin: “Interview went well. The teacher didn’t like my paintings but loved my drawings and sketchbooks. I think I’m in.” I’m sure his confidence isn’t misplaced, but then I’m his biggest fan. We hope to hear the verdict soon.
Next landmark event: next’s months audition for the Summer Outreach program at the famous Cooper Union School of Art.

Under the subway overpass, Tommy draws the 99c store.

This is Jack’s current portfolio.[click on any thumbnail to see the gallery].  Next time, I’ll share some of the work in his sketchbooks.

Back from Beantown




Jack and I took a brief break from New York with 75 hours or so in Boston. Neither of us had ever spent time there before —though with the torrential Nor’Easter dumping all over New England, I’m not sure we saw it at its best. We trained up there, stayed in Cambridge and managed to see Harvard (infinitely inferior to my alma mater, of course), its art and natural history museums, then visited the Institue of Contemporary Art and the Science Museum. We saw some movies, had some nice meals, played cards,talked, and drew in our journals. I broke out my watercolors for the first time in ages, and Jack bore down on his dip pen.

It was a refreshing break after a very sad week, giving us some distance and perspective, as well as a chance to start our lives as a smaller family. Drawing was a relief to both of us, a feeling that we were making something out of the nothingness, and seeing a new place with fresh eyes. Our journal pages will be a landmark for us, the first fresh pages we are turning over, with many blank ones ahead to fill.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated: Patti was always the first person to read my journal pages after I finished them. Somewhere in Boston, it occurred to me that I write for her to read and that she  wouldn’t read them, ever again. But then I realized I will always write for her, she will always be my favorite reader.

Glasses

When I was little, it seemed everyone had glasses.
My mother. My grandparents. My relatives. My friends.
I thought they made people look cool or more grownup. So if I wanted to become one or the other or both, I had to get my own glasses.
When I was fourteen, I told my mother I was getting headaches and thought I needed glasses. She took me to the doctor. As he looked into my eyes with a gizmo, I crossed them slightly.
Amblyopia,” the doctor told my  mum. “Strabismus. Heterotropia. Something like that. His eyes are slightly crossed. He needs glasses.”
I spent a long time picking out frames. When my glasses finally arrived, I put them on excitedly.
A week later, my mum asked me where they were. “Why aren’t you wearing your glasses? They were expensive.”
I didn’t want to tell her they gave me a headache and so, conveniently, I’d lost them.
A decade later, I married a girl with glasses. I got in-laws with glasses. Then I had a son. He got glasses too.
In my mid-forties, I started getting headaches again. I could only read in bed with the lamp on. I had a tough time with restaurant menus. My friends called it “short arm syndrome.” Someone lent me a pair of drugstore glasses. I was amazed at how much better I could see. It had been so gradual but it was beyond denying. Presbyopia.  A gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the lens inside my eyes that makes it tough to focus on things that are near.
I like my glasses for what they do for me. I am less thrilled about what they say about me. Welcome to middle age.
So far, I don’t wear my glasses when I draw. I can see what I’m drawing without them, and not being able to see the page clearly is fine. I know what I’m making. And there’s the added pleasure of putting on my glasses when I’m done, to examine the lines on the page as they really look.
My eyes have brought me a lot of pleasure. I count on them to make a living, to make art, to watch my wife brush her teeth. And I’ll need them for a while to come. I hope.  But nonetheless, they are changing. A reminder that every day, so am I.  And so is everything I see.

My Park

First drawing done after the park reopened

First drawing done after the park reopened

One of the many wonderful things about where I live is that’s just a block from Washington Square Park — 10 acres of trees and benches and squirrels. It’s where we walk ourt dogs there several times a day. It’s where Jack learned to skateboard. It’s where we read and draw and chill. We’ve written books about it, made films about it. It’s our front yard.

Jack gave this tour of the park in the Spring of 2001. He’d been learning its history in school and gave it a uniquely Jack re-interpretation.

Almost two years ago, we learned that the park was going to be renovated and, in short order, a huge  ugly cyclone fence encircled most of it. Ever since we walked around the perimeter, like kid’s outside of Willy Wonka’s factory. I took to drawing what I could see of the park from my kitchen window, asecond rate substitute. Last summer was the hardest leg of the exile: no fountain, no concerts, no lolling on the lawn.

Last week, I got an excited text message from Patti: the fence was coming down! We’ve flowed into the park and discovered it was (almost) worth the wait.New flagstones,  rich lawns, lovely plantings, new benches and lamps. The fountain has been moved to line up with the Arch and Fifth Avenue and the park seems a lot less ramshackle and scrappy but still like home.

Here’s a collection of drawings done before after and during our years in exile. (Click on a thumbnail to open the gallery)