Retro Sketch

Here’s a little drawing from 2010, which combined my love of all things Israeli and all things punk rock. After checking out the daily news from Israel, I plugged into one of my punk rock stations on Pandora, and on came one of the most classic of American hardcore punk bands. The band’s logo, along with my daily briefing of Israeli affairs, ultimately sparked this logo. Let’s see if you can figure out whom the band was…

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When Hipster Zombies Attack

Here’s a drawing done recently at our DC Drink ‘n Draw Meetup group. The evening’s theme was “When Hipster Zombies Attack”, which was relatively easy to do since Washington, DC has its fair share of hipsters, and as both a hardcore cyclist and punk rock aficionado myself – though not a hipster! – I had to work both of those into the theme (hence the mention of DC hardcore legends Minor Threat). While I may be a slow methodical perfectionist, this drawing was done in about two hours. I was planning on inking it in, but I found myself simply having too much fun with the pencil. DC Drink ‘n Draw is a great group of artists, and a great group of people; we meet at various bars around the city and enjoy good beer and banter while working away into our sketchbooks – a creative oasis in the middle of a city saturated in politics, business, and general legalese.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody; see you all next week, and if you get too fat from eating turkey, go ride a bike to burn off the weight.

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The Closing of Pearl Paint and the End of an Era

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New York City-based artists past and present suffered a shock recently with the sudden and unexpected closing of Pearl Paint, the landmark art supply store, which was as integral to every facet of commercial and fine art in New York as was any museum, gallery, studio, or agency in the city. Dating back to 1933, the iconic store was housed in an equally iconic six-floor structure with a trademark red-and-white facade, and was located on the bustling Canal street in the somewhat sketchy Chinatown district.

In the world of art supply stores, Pearl Paint was the equivalent of Macy’s meets the local hardware store. Pearl Paint didn’t glisten; it was raw, worn, and rustic. Packed to the gills with every last art supply imaginable, it simply said “buy this stuff, and go create”. Frequented by everybody from students, crafters, and novices, to top professional artists, designers, and even celebrities, anybody whom stepped foot into the front door became something of an artist, and artists stepping into the store became kings and queens of the art world.

Shopping at Pearl Paint was an ordeal, though. To explore all six floors, you had to climb the imposing, steep, long, and somewhat slanted stairs between floors. You had to pay for each item before you left a particular floor, so if you purchased your airbrush on the fifth floor, went down the third floor for sketchbooks, and then to the second floor for paint brushes, then realized you totally forgot to pick up rapidographs on the sixth floor, well then, too bad. You built legs of steel shopping at Pearl Paint, even if you came out with lungs full of oil paint vapors and design marker fumes.

I shopped at Pearl Paint extensively as a student and as a professional. I also worked there, in the fine writing and fountain pen department. I worked with artists, illustrators, designers, painters, sculpters, crafters, cartoonists, dreamers, wanderers, punks, hippies, skaters, musicians, missionaries, and relatively normal and abnormal people alike, but at Pearl Paint, we all fit in and belonged. We were coworkers in front of the customers, and community in between them.

Sadly, like many iconic landmarks in New York City, change was inevitable. Just as the legendary music venue CBGB’s – the birthplace of punk rock – is now a John Varvatos luxury shoe store, so too came Pearl’s day to fade into NYC’s history books. Art students shop at the Apple store instead of art supply stores nowadays. Much of the analog work gaining notice is done with Pigma Micron pens into Moleskine sketchbooks instead of epic oil paintings on large canvases. Online shopping eliminates the time and much of the expense of obtaining new art supplies. In this digital age, Pearl Paint increasingly became a dinosaur, but in its day, it was a wonderful place where anybody could become part of the creative world.

There’s no moral to this story, just memories of a truly great place. I would advise artists of all stripes, though, to take some time to appreciate their local art supply stores. Here in Washington, DC, there’s Plaza Artist Supplies on K Street, where, upon entering the store, I leave behind the world of DC’s high-pressure political battlefield, and enter the inviting world of art and artists, and get lost in the shelves and aisles of pens, pencils, sketchbooks, brushes, paints, markers, colors, and all of those wonderful and fascinating supplies that allow us to do what we love to do: make art!

Ugly Sketchbook

A while back, I added a new sketchbook to my collection; a 3″ x 5″ Clairfontaine Graf-It 909. The smallest and cheapest sketchbook in the art supply store, intended for quick cheap, drawings, I dubbed it the “ugly sketchbook”. I keep it next to my computer to doodle in while saving large files, or for when I just need a quick analog break from all things digital. Pocket-sized, I also keep it on hand for trips to the café or pub. This sketchbook is all about “bad drawing”; no pre-pencil sketching, no tearing-out pages, and no apologies or excuses for whatever ended up in it. However, as a direct “head to page” sketchbook, it also serves as an incubator for drawings and ideas that may end up being refined and developed in my larger sketchbooks.

Here’s the first page, done with a scratchy ballpoint pen:

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I drew the same truck I drew obsessively decades ago as a little child, and hadn’t drawn since:

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Glassware, barware, bottles, etc…

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I listen to Pandora a lot, primarily punk rock. Every now and then, a band’s image or song sparks a thought that needs to quickly be drawn. One day, the infamous and absolutely uninhibited GG Allin came on, and I quickly drew GG’s iconic tattoos onto a seemingly normal person.

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Another Ballpoint Pen Drawing

Here is the second drawing I did with my BiC 4-color ballpoint pen. Like the previous drawing, this was also done into a 5×8 sketchbook, this time based on a more-developed pencil drawing. And like the previous drawing, I’ve again gone the route of pro wrestling, only this time inspired by “The Crusher”, song about a wrestler by The Ramones.

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