Tag Archives: location drawing

Museum of Natural History

This Sunday found me at the Museum of Natural History in NYC drawing Mayan sculptures and pottery. After many days spent indoors working on my BURIED BENEATH US book I thought it would be fun and helpful to go get a look at some source material. At first glance the Central American wing is a little disappointing: it lacks the dioramas, reproduction clothing, educational videos and drawings curated for many of the other civilizations. But at closer look there’s much to see, and the time that I spent there gave me some new ideas for the book.

From the towering reproduction stelae (above) to the tiny figurines, the museum’s collection of Mayan figures wear a dizzying alphabet of marks and lines to describe their clothing, hair, and ornamentation. While this stylized short-hand doesn’t quite compute for modern viewers, it’s a terrific jumping off point for an illustrator. With my walnut ink washes and black line work I focused trying to draw “from the inside” of the figures, looking for gesture and anatomy within the different clay portraits:



My giant Moleskin gave me ample room to play, and I’m already looking forward to my return. In the meantime I may take a trip down to China Town to draw in the markets, the closest stand-in for village life that I can think of in New York City (but I’m open to suggestions!) In other news today I signed the gigantic beast that is my contract for SHARK. I’m a real author!! Huzzah for Macmillan!

Star Island Shark Tournament 2012

Hello blog from our new New York apartment! I’m so sorry for my absence the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been desperately working away on the last touches on EXPEDITIONERS as I simultaneously unpack into our place and transition into the next book project. It turns out that fitting a two-bedroom life (complete with storage shed) into a one-bedroom life (without a storage shed) is quite the squeeze and many trips to Goodwill, but as the empty cardboard boxes get broken down a home is beginning to appear underneath. I’m delighted to say that the interior art on EXPEDITIONERS is done and the full fold-out cover near completion. I am super duper excited to hold the book this fall!

In the midst of all this I decided to take Saturday off to travel out to Montauk, Long Island with art teacher Jeff Fisher’s weekly location drawing class to sketch at the 26th Annual Star Island Shark Tournament. Like the late 19th-century French idea of drawing “en plein air,” location drawing forces an artist to solve content, composition, and color problems in the moment and directly from life. Class began in a nearby shipyard to warm up with fishing boats and pilings before heading to Star Island to claim front row spots around the judging area and settle in for an intense afternoon.

With over $500,000 in prize money at stake there were many dozen teams competing to catch the biggest sharks, and the crowd of families and tourists grew as boat after boat arrived to deliver the fish to the judges. Each shark was hoisted up, weighed, and photographed, then cut down, measured for length, and gutted. The carcass was then either cut up for use at a nearby research lab or trimmed into steaks for the team that caught it. The heads, tails, fins, and guts were tossed into the front of a construction loader for easy trips to the dumpster.

While watching dozens of sharks drop stomachs and lose heads isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, the fast pace of the tournament was quite the drawing challenge and gave me some on-the-ground context for our cultural obsession with these predators. Great white sharks are no longer hunted for tournaments, much to the disappointment of every small child present. Their endangered status keeps fisherman catching blues, makos, and threshers instead. Hammerheads are qualified too, though none were caught at this event.

It takes enormous endurance to draw all day in the midst of crowds and heat, but for me this guerrilla approach keeps me in shape for better and better work done in the studio. This trip was also the first time out with my new 11″ x 16″ Moleskin sketchbook; I loved having so much breathing room to collage and try out ideas (but next time I’ll be sure to put more sunscreen on my arms!). Keep an eye out for its filling pages throughout the summer on this blog. In the meantime, a few photos from the tournament: