Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Bridges of Central Park - Sketching for May 3, 2014


There isn't single thing in Central Park that happened by chance.  Every detail, every view, every vista was carefully thought out by those two brilliant Landscape Architects - Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. They won a competition in 1858 with their Greensward design to create a large park in NYC.  It’s impossible not to see beauty everywhere you turn walking through the park, and many artists before us have taken inspiration there.

Sketching this Saturday we will focus on the Bridges of Central Park.  The bridges were a solution to one of the design problems.  There were three types of roadways in the Park,  walking paths, carriage paths and bridal paths.  The three roadways twisted around the park and the bridges were designed to keep traffic flowing and to prevent the people, the carriages and the horse riders from intersecting one another.  At first only seven bridges and archways were planned but the number eventually grew to 40 in total. Each one is completely unique.

We’re going to limit our trip to the very lowest part of the park and will visit three very different examples

A Harpist's Music Echoes in the tunnel

We will meet at the Columbus Circle Entrance at 10:00 AM.  Look for people sketching.  We’ll enter the park at about 10:15.  

First stop  Greyshot Arch:  Located in the park at about West 61-62 Streets:  Greyshot Arch, popular with bikers and runners, was built by Vaux in 1860. The arch is made of white-gray gneiss, while its balustrade has been crafted from New Brunswick sandstone and decorated with fleur-de-lis carvings. One of the most frequently used arches in Central Park, this arch is 80 feet long and ten feet high.  From 10:15 to 11:15

Second Stop - Pinebank Arch:  Located in the park at about W 62 Street.  Pine Bank Arch is one of five of the original seven cast-iron bridges remaining in Central Park. The 80-foot span carries pedestrians over the bridle path 11 feet below.  Built in 1861 by J.B. and W.W. Cornell Ironworks One of the parks' few remaining cast iron bridges. It was rescued from decline and lovingly restored in the 1980s.  It was a bridge over the bridal path.  A ball field was built in the 1930s and this portion of the bridal path was abandoned making the bridge more of an ornamental structure.  Approximately from 11:15 to 12:15

LUNCH   We will have a picnic lunch in the area near the Dairy.  Your choices will be to buy food from the park vendors, or lunch at the dairy, leave the park to buy food or pack your own feast  Approximately from 12:15 to 1:30


Third Stop - Gapstow Bridge:  Located in the park at about E 62 Street.  Maybe the most iconic bridges in Central Park.  It is so beautifully designed and so frequently drawn and painted that it is almost a visual cliche.  It’s actually the second bridge built on this spot. The original bridge was a mix of wood and stone and supposedly was much more elaborate.  It was replaced with the stone arched bridge in 1896.  There are tremendous skyline views at this location.  Couples come to be photographed there and the area is heavily frequented by tourists.  There will be lots to sketch.  Approximately 1:30 to 3:00 PM

Sketch all three or select the portion you want.  
If you can’t find us
call Mark at 973-809-9128
(But only if absolutely necessary as I will be busy drawing too.
Thank you for understanding)

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome.

Great views of the skyline

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Great Trees of New York City

Saturday April 26, 2014

Nothing in New York City is old.  Compared to other places almost everything we encounter in the city is new.  A friend in England once told me that she and her husband were buying an old house.  I'm thinking she's talking about a house that's a hundred years old and has fix-up issues.   The house she was referring to was from the 1600's.  Is there anything that old in the city other than the rocks in Central Park?

As these things go the Great Trees of NYC are old.  The Dinosaur on 163 St and St Nicholas Avenue dwarfs anything you'd normally see.  It's incongruous standing amidst parking meters, small groceries stores and people walking in the early morning sunshine.  The English Elm was alive when Washington stood underneath.  It was alive, and so was he.  At least two dozen people stopped to chat with us as we sketched.  What a wonderful friendly neighborhood.  I think our interest in their neighborhood tree made them stop to look in wonder at something they must pass everyday.  Isn't that what Urban Sketching is about?

The Dinosaur on 163rd Street

Washington Square Park is filled with old stately trees, but none was as old or as stately as The Hanging Tree.

The Hare Krishna Tree in Tompkins Square Park was less obvious than the other two trees.  It's in the middle of the park and nothing indicates that this particular tree has a story.  It might be slightly taller or somewhat older than the other trees, but it's not a dramatic or obvious thing.  We asked several people from the Park Department and they had never heard of the tree.

The strategy that helped us find the tree was some empathic detective work.  Asking the question, if you intended to address several hundred people, who would sit and listen, and then chant and eventually get up and dance, ... what tree would you pick?  Then the choice became obvious.  Confirmation came in the form of a tiny parks department sign 30' up that said - Hare Krishna Tree.

The Hare Krishna Tree

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Great Trees of NYC - Sketching for April 26, 2014

There are 5.2 Million Trees in New York City.  They provide 44,509 acres of tree canopy and remove 2,204 tons of pollution each year.  We are going to sketch three extraordinary trees - each with its own unique story. 

      Our sketch tour will start at 163rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue where we will sketch The Dinosaur, an English Elm standing 110’.  The tree stood on what was the Morris-Jumel estate.  On November 16, 1776, nearly 238 years ago, George Washington stood under this tree and watched the tides of battle turn against his forces.  At the battle of Fort Washington New York City fell to the British and remained in English control until the end of the civil war.  Today this tree stands inconspicuously in the middle of a typical NYC street, a giant witness to history.

      Our second stop will be to sketch The Hanging Tree.  Another English Elm, located at the Northeast Corner of Washington Square Park.  It also stands 110’ with a diameter of 56”.  The Parks Department determined that it’s 310 years and it is commonly believed to be the oldest tree in the city.  While there are no records to confirm any public hangings there are lots of rumors.   In 1824 the Marquis de Lafayette claimed to have witnessed 20 highwaymen hanged from the tree.  Other rumors said traitors were hung there during the revolutionary war.  Research suggests these stories are fabrications.  The land was a privately owned farm and then became a Potter’s Field.  As the city grew it was eventually cleared and made into a park area,  becoming the Washington Square we now know.

           Our third and last stop will be Tompkins Square Park, site of The Hare Krishna Tree.  A giant American Elm of undetermined, but significant height and width. It was one of the trees that survived the Dutch Elm disease epidemic of the 1930s.  The site is actually considered sacred by the followers of the Hare Krishna religion. On October 9, 1966  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the movement’s founder, held his first outdoor chanting session in the US under the shade of this tree.  An enthused audience chanted, sang and danced for two hours.  Included among the many who attended was the famous Beat Poet – Allan Ginsberg.  To this day the Hare Krishna faithful pay tribute to the tree, leaving flowers and other tokens of respect at its base.

 1.)  We meet at the Dinosaur - St Nicholas Ave & W 163rd at 10:00 AM.  The A, C train to 163rd St and Amsterdam Avenue stops one block away.

2.)  We meet at the Hanging Tree – Waverly Place and McDougal Street (signs will actually say Washington Square North and West at 12:00 Noon  The closest subway is the West 4th Street stop of the A,B C,D, E,F and M trains.  The tree is in the park but close to the entrance. There are benches nearby.

3.)  We meet at the Hare Krishna Tree – Tompkins Square Park starts at Avenue A and East 7th Street.  We will meet at that corner and then go into the park at 2:30 PM.  The park extends east to Avenue B and north to East 10th Street.  The tree is in the park.  It should be easy to find, although the park has many trees,  this one if by far the tallest.  

Sketch all three or select the portion you want.  
If you can find us call Mark at 973-809-9128
(But only if absolutely necessary as I will be busy drawing too.
Thank you for understanding)

There are no fees or attendance taken. All drawing skill levels are welcome.

Monday, April 21, 2014

4/19/2013 Sketching the Gowanus Canal

For some of us, getting to the sketch event for Saturday was as simple as boarding the
water taxi at Pier 11 and being whisked away to Red Hook. Sketching started directly
we began the trip.

 We debarked at the Ikea facility which is located on the Erie Basin in Upper New York Harbor.
 Remnants of the wharf infrastructure are preserved there, including cranes, winches and bollards.

We then strolled some of the industrial areas of Red Hook and joined up with the Gowanus
Conservancy group that would show us the canal and sketch with us.  Looking out from an
abandoned lot we got a view up the length of the canal which was a perfect place to start sketching.

And across the Canal was an asphalt plant with huge derricks and flanked by barges filled with

It was a gorgeous, cloudless day, and everyone probably got a little too much sun.  Thanks to the
Conservancy for hosting our visit to the Canal.

Draftsmen's Congress: Serious Fun

Last Friday night, I skipped out of work (I was so excited, I ran, actually) to join with fellow Urban Sketchers in this collaborative project by Polish artist, Pawel Althamer.

Located on the Bowery, in the New Museum's fourth floor gallery, the installation transforms daily, as group after group of visitors come make their marks here, be it the walls or the floors or the tepee in the middle of the room or right over someone else's existing creation.

Jason and Mark were at the opening when the walls were all white. Now look!

Jason modelling the lab coat/butcher's frock/smock provided for all guests.

Everything in this room is covered in paint. And I do mean everything.

Hmmm... the hallway in the adjoining hall, though, is looking mighty pale.

 Juicy colored tempera and watercolors, and brushes in every size. Just like kindergarten.

 Not a bad way to bond.

Moments after I painted this affirmation, other artists came along and added to it.

 Marie-Laure about to get splashy.

After sketching a lovely design, Marie-Laure invited me to splash over it. Here, nothing is sacred.

A distorted panorama shot--but you can see the teepee in the middle.

NYC Urban Sketchers Unite!

Thanks, Richard, for organizing this outing. Oh, and this Wednesday through Sunday (April 23-27), they will be disassembling this exhibit during the museum’s public hours and the painted walls will be cut up and distributed to visitors for free. 

Gowanus Canal Sketchcrawl

The first stop of the day was on one of the drawbridges overlooking the canal. A decaying motorboat and shipping containers , another bridge, the elevated highway and the Kentile sign, as well as a construction crane were alll cramned into my first sketch.

This next view was from a parking lot looking at the roadway underneath the elevated train, and the view behind is the elevated highway. The very top row of windows was where our fellow sketches were waving to us!

The last sketch was done from a park, next to the parking lot at Whole Foods on 3rd Ave in Brooklyn. The sign said it is the greenest market in NY. The landscaping was lovely, with benches overlooking the canal. I saw an egret flying between two resting spots. There is a view of the Williamsburg savings bank, the Freedom Tower, The Bat building, and even wind turbines in the parking lot. There is also a second floor outdoor eating deck overlooking the water.

Joan sketching

A shot of an antique market we passed.

A stone/ cement yard along the canal

One of the views from the park at Whole Foods

A view of the Bat Building behind some of the wind turbines. They have a very sculptural look when they are twirling around.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Busy Sketchers' Weekend

It was a busy two days of NYC Urban Sketcher activities. Friday was the Draftsmen's Congress where a group went to the New Museum to be part of a larger group drawing. Saturday was the 43rd Worldwide Sketch crawl through the Gowanus Canal and Long Island City and the turnout was quite large. Check out the blog for more Sketcher posts.

Painting at the New Museum

A few of the sketchers get ready
A smocked sketcher starts his work

First round on the Gowanus with the GCC Bricolage Group
Sketching the Grit

There was a lot of walking

At the Falchi Building, for the You Are Here Exhibit

Some of the wonderful sketches

Views Along the Gowanus Canal

Our destination for the World Wide Sketchcrawl Day was the Gowanus Canal area in Brooklyn. At one time the canal was an important transportation hub, but for years now this area has been known as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. Recent projects have focused on cleaning up the canal and the surrounding areas. The area seems to be getting revitalized with businesses moving in and environmental projects taking place.

Susan and I headed to Brooklyn by car, hoping to meet up with the rest of the group somewhere along the line. We were sorry that didn't happen, but at least we were joined by Sunil for a while.

Our day started by the Union Street Bridge, the northern most bridge that crosses the canal. It had a very industrial, gritty (a kind word) look to the area along the canal. I usually like sketching much prettier locations but I really got into the odd buildings and structures. While we were sketching we met a teacher who was there with some young kids and their parents. He was doing a lesson in perspective with the kids and it was fun to see the sketches they had done while sitting on the bridge. Here is my first sketch.

I also did a sketch of the bridge house.

Here is a photo of the actual view.

Next we headed over to the Ninth Street Bridge area. I did a sketch of the bridge with the oil tanks in the background and the elevated BQE and the traffic passing by.

Sunil joined us here. He is so good at sketching standing up. I like being comfy in my chair.

The industrial look with the assorted tanks and bins caught my eye. Even the graffiti on the cement cubes looked interesting. 

While I was sketching this scene above we heard voices calling us. It was the rest of the group that we were hoping to meet. They were up on the subway platform above the bridge. Since they were on the way to do something in Long Island City next, we didn't get to spend any time sketching together.

Right alongside the view above were some cement trucks...why not sketch them?
Don't you just love the colorful dots?

Our last location for the day was near the Whole Foods Market on 3rd Street. A parklike walkway was around the parking lot offering some views of the surrounding buildings and the 3rd Street Bridge. I did a double page spread of that view. It was sketched on the spot but since it was getting late I finished it when I got home.

I definitely got a lot of sketching done along the Gowanus Canal.

Sketching the Gowanu

What a great day.   We started at Wall Street and took a ferry ride to Red Hook section of Brooklyn.  We stayed at the ferry terminal for awhile waiting for late arrivals.  Even as the boat was pulling into the Brooklyn slip I spotted a crane that I wanted to sketch.

The complexity of the girders was fun.  I also enjoyed highlighting the closer steel beams with white and shading the rear beams gray to support the three dimensionality of the crane.

We met-up with five people involved with the ecology of the Gowanus Canal, a 19th Century commercial waterway that has been incredibly polluted for centuries.  They were part of the group who, for years, have been working to cleanup the canal.  Growing up in Brooklyn I have memories of how toxic and awful the canal was and can appreciate the progress they've made.  It's hard to be there without thinking how truly beautiful the canal could be.  Everyone loves water and an inland waterway could be a tremendous attraction.

Several of the volunteers are Landscape Architects.  As a general rule I've observed that Landscape Architects are all frustrated sketchers.  They are easy recruits for the pleasures of Urban Sketching.

They showed us a secret path to a great view of an Asphalt Plant across the waterway.  Not the Urban view I would naturally be drawn to, but I loved sketching the area.

The weather was near perfect and the company, as usual, was great.