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I have just returned from a cross country trip to visit some of my journaling friends.
My first stop was in Minneapolis where I spent several days with Roz Stendahl whom I first encountered through the 45 wonderful journals she kept documenting the life of her dog, Dot.
Roz is a designer, illustrator, teacher, and writer who has been enormously generous to me with her time, advice and friendship.
Roz has been teaching me a great deal about pens and watercolors and I was anxious to see her studio. She has every conceivable type of paint and brush, marker and pencil, not to nention 3,000 rubber stamps in a painfully orderly library. My current journal was bound by Roz with 140lb. Arches watercolor paper and a hemp canvas cover. It was terrrific to work in and I have really been enjoying working in a book with landscape proportions once again.
Spending time with such a dedicated, prolific, fastidious, creative and talented artist was a great treat. I was really happy with just about every drawing and painting I did in Minesota and it was largely due to Roz’s example. She’s so full of energy and ideas that I really wish I’d had another month to visit with her.
Our drawing trip began at a hilarious junk store called Axman filled with my favorite sort of drawing subject – intricate gizmos. I couldn’t make up my mind what to tackle until I saw Roz and her mini paint box hovering over a gas mask.
Next we headed to the Minnesota zoo and turned ourselves into major attractions by drawing various critters. Roz draws standing up so I joined her and foud it quite comfortable though it was a little tricky propping up my paint box and my pub towel and all.
I’ve never drawn at the zoo before, thinking it would be impossible to capture moving animals but I discovered that they tend to assume a handful of positions and if you keep a bunch of drawings going at once you can go back and forth between them to capture the different positions. we draw a bunch of beavers in an overly chlorinated pond. One of them scratches himself with feverish determination.
Roz is a prodigious notetaker; she speckles her drawings with all sorts of observations about her subject, writing down colors, behavior, funny things passers by say to each other.
I tried to emulate her but all of my notes tend to be a string of jokes instead. But I do love the look of hand writing and drawings together.
It’s quite amazing how people just zoom past exhibits, checking off the animals they’ve seen as if it was a competition. If they linger, it’s often to say something mind-blowingly ignorant or mean, particularly the adults.
Drawing them makes me appreciate the incredible miracle theses beats are and how extraordinary that they are right here in front of me, in Minnesota.
It’s so intimate to be just on the other side of a thin sheet of glass watching a slumbering lion. I was no more than a foot from him; I could have taken his big soft catcher’s mitt of a paw in my hand and felt the coarse hair of his beard were it not for the window.
After two zoos, we decided to check out some cadavers. I love natural history museums and Minneapolis’s is a pip — the specimens were posed in wonderful dioramas with wax leaves and meticulous details. I enjoyed standing close so the painted backgrounds filled my peripheral vision and I could imagine that I was standing in the forest with wild beasties. It was a nice change to draw a critter that wasn’t going to turn around and scratch its butt, lick its genitals or wander behind a tree in mid-drawing.
We were basically the only visitors looking at the taxidermy and, after drawing this sheep, I took a nine minute nap on one of the hard wooden benches. The museum also had a touchie-feelie exhibit where you could pet taxidermy and toss skulls around so we drew a few of them.
My time with Roz and Dick was running out; I took pictures of her voluminous collection of hand-bound journals, we ate dinner at an Afghani restaurant, and the next morning I began the most arduous leg of my trip, flying to San Jose, connecting to Portland and then renting a car to drive 300 miles across Oregon to visit my pal, d.price.
Here are a few more souvenirs from Minneapolis. I so envy Roz her neat and orderly studio. What you don’t see are the big computer/scanner/printer end of her studio as well as a second room crammed with journals, research materials, bookbinding stuff, and some 60 drawers full of boxes of rubber stamps. Heaven!
Upon arriving in Portland, I began the longest drive of my life, across Oregon. I am a native NYer and don’t drive much so tackling the endless, dead straight roads of the West was a new and somewhat daunting experience.
I broke the trip in the small town of Pendleton, bought myself a magenta cowboy shirt, and checked into a wee motel. The next morning, I headed out at 7 a.m. and promptly got my first ever speeding ticket.
From my letter to the judge:
Dear Judge Dahl:
On August 19, 2004, I received a traffic ticket (#32914) for driving over the speed limit. While I do not deny that I was traveling at the recorded speed, I would like to explain some of the circumstances to help you reach a final decision on the matter.
This was the first time I have driven in Oregon. I live in New York City, NY and was driving across state in a rented car. I had just come off Rt. 84 (where the speed limit is 65) and onto Rt. 82. The roads were fairly empty at this early hour of the morning and very straight. I have never driven in the West before on such long straight, sparsely populated roads and, after driving 200 miles from Portland in an unfamiliar vehicle, I did not gauge the appropriate speed properly. I have been driving for over twenty years and have never received a speeding ticket before, so I hope you can appreciate that this sort of driving is certainly not a habit with me. I’m sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused you, the officer or the State of Oregon but can assure you that I will never drive in this manner again.
I enclose a check for $237 but hope that you can see your way to reducing my fine.
In a state of shock and high anxiety, I finished the drive and pulled into Dan Price’s little town, Joseph. After a restorative cup of tea, we headed over to the cemetery where d.price is the groundskeeper.
Joseph has an interesting blend of residents. There are cowboys and construction workers like you’d expect in a small Western town. There are also several bronze foundries so a healthy art community has sprung up. There are aging hippies and young anarchist freaks. And there are a few very rich folk, some quite mysterious.
Dan’s friend Dave is one such millionaire and the source of his money is of endless intrigue to his neighbors. I proposed that he might be D.B.Cooper — he hijacked a plane in the early 1970s and then parachuted out over Oregon with the ransom and was never found. Dave collects planes and loves ultra lights. We drew this one in his hangar at the Joseph airport. On Saturday, Dan assembled a group of local artists for a drawing get-together. We breakfasted at the Wild Flour Bakery and shared journals, then headed out to the Kooch’s farm to draw stuff. As usual, it was great to draw with like-minded folks.
It is so different here from my life. Everyone knows each other and there’s endless gossip. The pace is gentle and free and open-minded. I don’t know if I could stand small town life for long but it makes a great break.
Last winter, Dan Price’s son, Shane, volunteered to make a sculpture of his school’s mascot. Dan offered to help. Before long, the project has mushroomed, the eagle was seven feet tall and, while Shane put in a couple of hours here and there, Dan was working ten hours a day on this massive bronze bird. Neither of them had ever welded or sculpted before and they used the welding test scraps from the school’s metal shop as their raw materials.
After several months of herculean effort, the bird was unveiled at graduation and it looks like it’s been there forever. A family of yellow jackets has taken residence in a klieg horn between the bird’s scapulae.
The highlight of my visits to Oregon is always staying in Dan’s place, Indian River Ranch. Over the past decade or so, he has lived on a meadow on a river bank and had erected various sorts of residences there. He has lived in a teepee, in a one man tent and then built a kiva, an underground structure like a hobbit house. You enter through a knee-high door and crawl into a wood-lined burrow, a round room about seven feet in diameter. It has wall-to-wall carpeting, electricity, a sky light and is always 55 degrees, year round. I always sleep like a hibernating squirrel in there.
The meadow contains other buildings: a garage for Dan’s trike (he recently drove it 5,000 miles across country) ; a little kitchen/shower; a sweat lodge; an outhouse; and his most recent construction : a fantastic boulder covered studio where Dan publishes his zine, Moonlight Chronicles.
(If you don’t subscribe to it yet, I’d be very disappointed. It inspired me to start drawing, journaling, and get on the path I’ve been on for years. It is a mixture of adventure, philosophy and art that will make a serious impact on your life. I simply insist you subscribe right now. Come on! It’s inexpensive and wonderful! Or at least download yourself a copy of your license to be a kid).
The meadow has a lawn, a vegetable garden, and a couple of acres of wilderness. It is a Walden-esque paradise.
I have created a special gallery of images from the meadow. I hope they bring you peace.
The Prices have a large bison ranch and I drive out with Dan’s dad to visit the herd, about a hundred of these monsters and their families. Dan’s mom is an accomplished pianist and after dinner she plays beautiful music as I draw. The serene evening is jarred by the abrupt and uninvited arrival of Dan’s ex-wife, Lynn, who, as is her wont, causes a scene. Nonetheless, I sleep well and head out early for the long, leisurely drive back to Portland. No speeding tickets this time!
Last stop on my cross-country trip: the Mission district of San Francisco to visit my e-pal, Andrea Scher. If not for Andrea, this blog wouldn’t exist. Last December, she convinced me that I could and should start a blog of my own after I showed admiration for her site, Superhero Designs, a combination jewelry showroom, photography gallery and creative coffee klutsch.
We spend a couple of days walking around her neighborhood, drawing, shooting photos (she also convinced me to buy my wonderful new Canon Rebel digital camera), and talking about art, commerce, and her time working for SARK. Andrea is wise beyond her years and has given me so much sound and illuminating advice. Like many young people and creative and sensitive people she is still looking around to define her own identity, to figure out what she should do for a living, how to make ends meet without surrendering her spirit and her creativity.
For a weird West Coast experience, she took me to Psychic Horizons for a psychic reading. An intense looking man examined my aura and told me that he saw a floating glass vial of red liquid that indicated that I had a substance abuse problem. All I could think was that perhaps the vial represented ink, the only substance I indulge in with any regularly. Then he cleaned my chakras and filled my being with an imaginary pink liquid filled with golden flecks. I felt rejuvenated and my walled was lighter by ten bucks.
There was a madonna in the psychic courtyard and, to avoid being ensared in conversation by any of the inmates, I drew and Andrea photographed her.
When I was in San Francisco, I stayed in a little guest house called “Balmy Casa” . It was a lovely apartment that even came with two bikes to rise up and down (puff) the hills of the Mission. My favorite thing was the street, every house of which was covered in spectacular murals. There is street art all over the neighborhood and, on one morning, I saw no fewer than four artists at work on fresh ones. New York has occasional murals but they are are rarely well done and quickly desecrated. In SF, the art makes the street glow. If I wasn’t so in love with NYC, I would definitely be packing for ‘Frisco town.
I took a few pictures of my neighbors’ digs to share with you.
I have a new piece in my favorite online magazine that you might find amusing.
I first thought of it on the way home from vacation when I pulled the bizarreness that is the Sky Mall catalog from the back of the seat and wondered, “Who dreams up all this crap?”
“And who buys it?”