Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shades of Coney Island

It's a gorgeous day in Dallas - in the 80s, with only a few clouds. Bright, blue and inviting for gardening, and - pleasures new to me - running and cycling. As I stretched out with Brick (our greyhound) in the backyard earlier, my thoughts turned to Coney Island, where the Polar Bear Club swimming season is drawing to a close. And as much as I enjoy this early warmth, I do miss the chilly spring season in New York City, and the thrill of seeing that very special Brooklyn shoreline come to life.

The sign posted above was one I created four years ago, that sat atop Steve's Grill House on the Riegelmann boardwalk and Stillwell Avenue, in Coney Island. Steve's is the unofficial summer home of the Club - even in the crowd-laden season the Bears are there - sunning, swimming, enjoying a beer and discussing, well... what Bears discuss. Steve wanted to do a little boasting of the honor his restaurant holds - Polar Bears are held in relatively high regard on Coney... heck, in NYC itself. Not everyone can withstand those frigid Atlantic dips throughout the winter.

Much like the banner I worked out for the Singapore Slingers, this one started out on paper, to be graphed out and enlarged. The final sign was eight feet long, and painted with One-Shot enamels - and my, they were heavenly to work with. The work was done in my dining room, then the sign delivered on-site.

And now, I'm off to hunt for a great photo of the sign on the building, complete with the 2006 Polar Bear Club marchers in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in the foreground - until then, here's a favorite of mine. I'm in the top car of the Wonder Wheel, after the parade. My good friend Nathan Brown and I had decided to take a spin, and as we neared the crest of the Wheel, a torrential rain broke out. I grabbed my umbrella - Nathan grabbed his camera. Enough said. Have a look at his other pics at www.cyclonic.smugmug.com - his level of amusement park fanaticism is even higher than mine. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Other Projects

Like any other blogger, I've found myself recently pulled away from the tablet. Not (primarily) thanks to the humdrummery of everyday life - but rather to a group of projects, creative to varying degrees. A friend's blog wallpaper, a musician's portrait, a cover design for a Most Important Album... and the list of preparations for our upcoming wedding. A gown to be made, a dress form constructed, decorations worked out, and - among other things - a papier-mache javelina to be created. Oh, and of course... Matt's sheik costume. This is serious business, you know.

So, my head's been a touch full of things outside of this blog - for this I apologize. But today I faced the unexpectedly enjoyable task of weeding out the porch garden, and was thoroughly inspired by the experience. While I adore gardening, weeding isn't my favorite activity - but this time around, I was treated to some pleasant company... green anoles.

I'm a nut for animals, and these little beings bring enormous delight to my soul. Frisky, inquisitive and amusing, they dart from plant-to-plant, sunbathe on the stucco walls, perform territorial push-ups, and go from dusky brown to lime green in a matter of seconds. Fascinating little buggers - who watched and nibbled at bugs while Matt and I trimmed out the overgrown side-yard. The one above is a girl, identified thanks to her dorsal stripe. Additionally, I nabbed a photo of this little creature, camped out for the day alongside our porch light:

This gave me hope, as I would love to see some interesting moths this summer. Sacred Datura plants will soon be sprouting along our porch - although half of their appeal lies in their beauty and notoriously hallucinogenic reputation, I admit that I'm really hankering to see a luna moth... and they crave Datura flowers. Here's hoping.

Both of these little encounters in the garden have their way of providing some wonderful inspiration for me, especially as an illustrator. Particularly the anoles, being colorful, linear creatures - animals in general are a strong presence in my work, so I'm eager to see the little reptiles manifest therein.

Otherwise, a quick photo to show another project that recently took place at Casa Tolentino - the clean-up and gradual restoration of an early 20th century Beuscher trombone, as well as the polishing of Matt's 1950s Martin baritone saxophone. As I've said before, we're both preservation junkies, and our shared activities reflect that extensively.

And oh, what the heck - I'll throw in a photo of Matt on his restored 1953 Schwinn Super Deluxe bicycle. Particularly impressive, as he did the restoration work by himself... back in high school.

I'm marrying well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Characters, and the Offerings they Inspire

A few days ago, the networking power of Facebook reconnected me with a wonderful fashionista I met in NYC some years ago - Lauren Ezersky. From what I recall, we were connected through a magazine editor I created monthly illustrations for - and from the get-go, she was a true delight. She wanted a portrait done with her three chihuahuas, and as an animal lover, I was happy to oblige. While basking in the creative wonderment of her apartment, I took several Polaroids of her and the dogs, and came up with the above illustration. I wanted her attired appropriately, as the glamorous creature she is - stones, jewels, baubles, a ball gown and her wonderfully fluid hair, tied in an updo. I was very happy with it then - and love it now.

I got to thinking of drawings that I've done of people - the aforementioned "Rue Levinson" a favorite - as well as those I've given away, inspired by the recipient's friendship and personality. "Hip Stockings", shown below, is one that I gave to a past co-worker, and longtime friend. The balance of wispy conviviality and solid grounding reminded me of David's personality, and aesthetic sense...

As well, a more recent gift - Matt's Valentine. This is just a photographed detail of the drawing, as I honestly didn't feel like de-framing it (perhaps a later scan will take place, but the piece was created for him, rather than for professional reasons). As I've mentioned, Matt is a keenly accomplished accordion player - thus the theme. "Papa" is one of my pet names for him - and seeing as how it's a common practice for accordionists to have their instruments personalized, well, I figured - why not? In the complete image, the lady sits in an arched wrought iron window, playing. Simple, but a good Valentine doesn't require complexity.

I'm in the middle of preparing a preliminary sketch, for a portrait of an Italian jazz musician. I'm very excited about the commission, and looking back at these little offerings, am very eager to see what comes from my fingertips... here's to what lies ahead!