Thursday, July 29, 2021

Where were you?

  Recently I looked at some old photographs with my daughter Melissa. Johann, her husband and daughters Reese and Rayna are moving to Virginia where Johann, who is in the navy, has been stationed. They stopped off in Southern California after living in Paradise (Hawaii) for the past 7 years, on their way to their new home.
  Melissa was the excuse my wife LaVonne and I used for dragging out a big box of old photographs. Some, she had seen, others she hadn't in years. The photographs brought a warm smile to all our faces. "Where did that come from"... "I remember that"... "I don't recall that...but there I am". 
  I'm sure all of us have had these flashback memories captured in time stopping photographs. There are many reasons we look at our scrapbooks/photo albums and now on our smart phones. These images from the past bring a smile, tear or in most cases laughter and remembrances of an occasion caught on film or video. Kids who have grown up, people who have moved away or no longer with us, places we've been or seen, things we've done or fashions we've worn. In some cases seeing images we haven't given a thought to in years or even decades that bring a smile to our faces.
  Looking through my hundreds of sketchbooks is such an experience for me. When I started carrying a sketchbook almost 60 years ago, I did not date the pages. I can tell from which decade in which they were done as the sketches evolve from decade to decade. 

The sixties... 1962 to be exact...copying photographs of athletes in pencil, this is a page from one of my earliest sketchbooks.

The seventies... the hair styles and bell bottom pants date these sketches to the 70's at an outdoor concert on the campus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when I was a student  (1971-73).  I used a medium point pen, concentrating on the outside contours of the figures being sketched.

Sketches (below) done at San Francisco State University cafeteria while on a recruiting (football scholarship) visit, Spring 1971.

(Below) Growing up in Monrovia, CA every young African-American boy knew of Squirrel Jones. Just mentioning his name brought fear in in our hearts and minds (mostly in our minds)..."don't let him catch you"...was the buzz word. He was only a little over 5 feet tall and slight build, but to we youngsters he was a fire breathing dragon.
 A pack of us kids would spot him a block away and one of us (not me, I was too afraid) would yell "squirrel!" and we'd all take off running in all directions. He would give chase, so we imagined... we didn't dare look back until we were safe at home with the shades drawn and locked doors.
After graduating from high school I worked as a recreation leader at Huntington Elementary school, which was across the street from where Mr. Jones lived. All these years later his reputation still struck fear in the hearts of the kids who frequented the playground. I sketched him in his front yard smoking on a pipe.
A few years later he would be arrested for stabbing a television wrestler at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The eighties...
(below) The quick sketching style is changing noticeably. I had been at the Disney feature animation studio for about five years. By this time I had switched to a finer point pen.
The training I had been exposed to there made me aware of simplicity and economy of line, balance, proportion and most importantly to draw from within. Drawing from within means to be aware that there is a muscle and skeletal structure underneath the skin, whether human, animal, realistic or cartoony. With this awareness my sketches had life and were beginning to be fun to look at. 

Day Month and Year...
In the nineties I began dating my sketch pages. I can decipher when and in most cases where I was when the sketch was made.
 Another pen change, now I use a Pilot Precise V5 extra fine pen. Don't let the long name fool you, they are quite inexpensive and I look for them on sale at Staples.
  Like looking through a bunch of old photographs, my sketches bring back memories of my sketching past. 
In no particular order of date, travel back in time with me via sketchbook.

11/19/06 and 12/17/16...
 I was in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium enjoying Chargers home football games. Ladainian Tomlinson #21, National Football League Hall of Fame running back was the center of attention of my pen. Childhood friend Wayne Nunnely (1952-2021)  was on the Chargers coaching staff got LT to sign one of the sketches. 

Don't know exactly where this took place, but in a park setting for sure. I sketched the graceful movements of the Chinese martial art, Tai Chi.

 Visiting my son Mikel (1971-2006) and his wife Kay provided an opportunity to see what was on display and who was watching at the National History Museum in Washington D.C. 

 The morning breakfast after Thanksgiving in Washington, DC with sons Mikel (left, pouring milk on a big bowl of cereal) and Jai.

Kiddie area in the Arcadia Mall, Arcadia CA...(note reads> kids like to climb and jump off things).

 On this date I was in the presence of Mo Willems, best selling author, illustrator and award winner for his series of 'Pigeon' children's books. After introducing myself, I showed him my sketch and asked if he would sign it. I did not get a traditional signature, but a sketch of his 'pigeon' in a thought cloud and Mo!. 

 10/31/?... Halloween and costumes provides some information. Dating is secondary to the sketch and hastily jotted down as I'm looking for the next interesting pose:-)

Another Halloween and costumed figures.
I refer to anything added on to the body as a 'prop'. The costumes are props and challenging to sketch,
With this in mind, that under the costume is the skin of a body, under the skin is muscle and under muscle is bone. This knowledge makes for a solid sketch.

Sketching from television. The Bowl Championship Series of college football at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu at the Kamakana Alii Mall. Traditional dancers, a variety of body types and ages move as one in this choreographed symphony of rhythmic body language.

At a roller skating rink (somewhere in Southern California).
Young, old, seasoned and novice skaters all challenged by and enjoying the same skating ring.
After observing the skaters certain characteristics started to surface. The veteran skaters stood out because of their smooth, effortless movements . The more cautious took their time and carefully made their rounds, while youthful energy whizzed around and around the wooden oval.
Watching for a while I could anticipate a 'fall'...first, loss of balance, sharp jerky, out of control upper body arm flailing, wide eyed distorted face and then... I knew what to look for in capturing the split second before body meets wood.

This is fun stuff, I think I'll continue down this road:- )

Until next time...

PS...need I say more?

 hastily jotted down. I'm looking for the next interesting pose:-)