Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Oxford Spa Nateral Foods

As an "urban sketcher" I documented the older buildings in my Cambridge neighborhood just outside the bounds of Harvard. Oxford Street was only a couple of blocks away from my residence and I was there often, wandering around on my daily walk with sketchbook. This old building housed a liquor store and a small market, the "Oxford Spa," advertised on the green and white striped awning as selling "nateral" foods. The owners were Greek and didn't know English very well. 

I recently took a virtual trip down Cambridge's memory lane in my old territory, using the marvelous looking glass of "Google Street View." The Google Street View of this building shows that the Oxford Spa is still there, under the same name, though certainly under different management, and has a cafe as well as the old market.

Thirty years later I imagine in memory my Cambridge days, and remember them as slow-paced bohemian artist's life in an urban village. But the reality was more complex, and I could make myself feel as unproductive and miserable as I ever could, then or now. I didn't have a day job then, so I could draw my urban sketches whenever conditions permitted. And I have the entire global Internet not only to hurry me up but remind me of all sorts of dreadfulness beyond that lazy little neighborhood in decades past.

Brown ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, about 8" x 8 1/2", July 19, 1984. Click for a larger view. You couldn't say that in 1984.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Algorithm 5: Squares and Rectangles

An algorithm, according to the search engine definition, is a procedure or formula for solving a problem. A mathematical recipe, perhaps. When I do my geometric abstraction pictures, I use an algorithm to decide how I'm going to do the composition. Will I use curved lines? Will I repeat angles and mirror them? Or will I use only right angles, squares, and rectangles? This is a doodle created with the "right angle perpendicular squares and rectangles" algorithm. I drew the lines in ink and shaded the spaces with Photoshop. This piece looks very "mid-century modern" (1950s), because this type of design was popular then, even among high-concept artists and designers. It also is inspired by the look of a modern city. 

Technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 2 1/4", shaded in Photoshop, November 2014.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fish for Pets

Some pet foods are made from fish, I suppose scraps left over from making people food, or fish catches not desired by humans, but I don't know. My pet shop client asked for a fish-themed pictorial tag so here it is. This is the last of the series for now, and I hope he asks for more illustrations. Or maybe someone else will. It's been an unusual assignment and counting back in my logbook I have only spent two weeks on the project, about two hours each piece, time allotted when possible given my day job. Now comes the holiday season with its noise and distraction.

Black technical pen ink on thick paper, about 5" x 3", colored in Photoshop, November 2014.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Here's another of my pet shop miniatures. The client requested one depicting a chicken, not because people keep chickens as pets (do they?) but because some pet food is made out of chicken. Some fancy cat food looks good enough for humans to eat, and I suppose that's deliberate, though I hate to think of people eating cat food. Other people who have more money buy people food for their cats and dogs. I would rather not comment on that. There is an egg in the other bottom corner of this picture.

Brown ink on thick paper, about 5" x 3", colored in Photoshop. November 21, 2014.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cambridge November 1984

I did a lot of "urban sketching" when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as I have said in many previous posts. This was a corner of a large Harvard property near my own house, which was itself Harvard property in those days. They stashed maintenance supplies and vehicles there. You can see some red-brick architecture in the center, which I think was the biology department. Nowadays all this is gone, the space cleared and rebuilt with a massive new science center. This drawing is unusual because despite its November date I was still able to sit outside and draw. I also liked the last golden fall leaves against the maintenance office trailer, and the old white clapboard buildings, so typical of New England.

Reddish-brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 7 1/2" x 10", November 10, 1984. Some color added in the sky with Photoshop. In those days I would indicate colors on-site with watercolor pencils and then add the rest of the color back in the studio. Click for larger view.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cat Scratcher

I love black and white cats. I especially love the type of black and white pattern known as the "tuxedo" cat pattern. These cats are full of charm. Black cats aren't as easy to draw as other marked cats because the figure and eyes don't always show up. A black and white cat will shed white hairs on your dark clothes and dark hairs on your light clothes, thus doing double duty. This one advertises a cat scratching post at the pet shop I've been working for. 

Black and brown ink on thick paper, about 5" x 3", colored in Photoshop, November 2014.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jack Russell Terrier

The "Jack Russell" terrier is a popular dog breed these days as it is small, energetic, and has plenty of cuteness. I put a portrait of this terrier on one of my pictorial pet shop price tags. The pet shop owner says that he has already put some of my designs into the shop. I still have a few more to do.

Technical pen brown and black ink, colored in Photoshop, about 5" x 3", November 2014.