3500 First Avenue Northwest

This office building at 3500 First Avenue Northwest reminds me of the formal, geometric modernism of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and other firms from the 1970s. I was told that Barney Vemo designed and built the structure in that same time period. After walking by this place many times, what I recall in my mind’s eye are these fragments that I drew, not the entirety of the whole as shown in the photograph taken from across the street.

Sometimes, visual memories of places consist of single, iconic images. Think of the Pantheon in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. At other times, what we remember consists more of a collage of partial views rather than an image of the whole.

Line to Color Workshop

Thanks to all the participants in the Line to Color workshop Gail Wong and I led this past weekend in the Fremont neighborhood and Gasworks Park in Seattle. We appreciated the energy and willingness of everyone to endure the less than ideal weather conditions to draw and paint this weekend. When sketching while traveling or simply out and about, we often cannot control how hot, cold, or wet it is. We can only do the best we can.

After drawing on location for so long, I sometimes forget what it is like to be a beginner. More than a few participants mentioned how mentally tiring it was to draw all day, which, in thinking about it, shouldn’t have surprised me. Drawing, and the seeing it requires, does take effort, especially for beginners struggling to resolve the difference between what we know about something and how it might appear to the eye.

During these workshops, Gail and I rarely have the time to do any drawings of our own except for the quick demos we may do in our sketchbooks as we work with each of the participants one on one. Yesterday, to wrap up the workshop, we gathered at Seattle Center for a final session and I finally had the time to do a couple of sketches. The first is the view looking out from under the canopy at the base of the Space Needle, and the second is a contour line drawing of Space Bloom, an installation that combines art, science, and technology to enable the floral sculptures to sing and dance throughout the year.

Capitol Hill Station

Sound Transit, Puget Sound’s mass transit agency, is slowly but surely building out a true light rail system for the region. While initial funding was approved by the voters in 1996, the Central Link system running from downtown south to SeaTac airport didn’t open until 2009. These sketches are of the Capitol Hill Station that opened recently along with the next stop at the University of Washington. The Central Link line is continuing to be built northward to the University District, the Roosevelt neighborhood, and Northgate.

Because Beer Matters™

Fremont Brewing: “We are a family-owned craft brewery founded in 2009 to brew artisan beers made with the best local ingredients we can find … Because Beer Matters!” This post is to celebrate the first day of their refreshingly good Summer Ale being available. Their urban beer garden is packed, especially because it’s sunny and 70°F on April 1st.

Roxy’s Diner

With a motto of: “Real Eastcoast on the Westcoast,” Roxy’s Diner is a New York style diner and deli in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle offering all-day breakfast, bagels, and hot pastrami sandwiches. Also on Roxy’s extensive menu is its famous Restraining Order—a shot of Jack Daniels or Jameson with a slap from your server. Just to the north is Norm’s Eatery and Ale House, which is a dog-friendly bar and restaurant.

Amazon’s Spheres

At the heart of Amazon’s urban campus being erected near the Denny Triangle, just north of downtown Seattle, are these three steel-and-glass spheres. The large dome structures, which range from 80 to 95 feet in height and from 80 feet to 130 feet in diameter, contain five floors of experimental spaces for Amazon employees to “work and socialize in a more natural, parklike setting.”

As is typical with projects that veer from the norm, opinions vary as do the descriptors being bandied about—glass orbs, fly eyes, and bubbleators. While some see the spheres as a welcome departure from the geometry of Seattle’s high-rises, others are not as impressed with the audacious display, being more concerned with the public amenities (or lack thereof) being created. Only time will tell.

Subtlety and Nuance

In his review of Brushy One String’s music for North Country Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert, Bob Boilen wrote that “Subtlety and nuance are more easily found in minimalism than excess.” I think Boilen’s observation can also apply to drawings as well. When drawing on location, we are tempted to include everything upon which we cast our eyes with every technique we have at our disposal. Something I think that is worth working toward is using restraint and suggesting more with less.

Suzzallo Library

The University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library is a classic Collegiate Gothic structure designed by Seattle architects Carl F. Gould, Sr. and Charles H. Bebb in 1923; the most recognizable first phase was completed in 1926. It was named after Henry Suzzallo, a former president of the UW, and is recognized as “one of the coolest college libraries in the country.” Even after having drawn there a number of times, I still find views, particularly of the interior, that attract me with their spatial qualities and intricate detailing.

Union Station

Union Station opened in 1911 to serve the Union Pacific Railroad and the Milwaukee Road, just across from the King Street Station, which opened five years earlier to serve the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways. It was originally named the Oregon and Washington Station after the Oregon-Washington Railroad Company that built it. The Milwaukee Road pulled out of the northwest market in 1961 and Union Pacific ceased its passenger service to Union Station ten years later. After 30 years of vacant dormancy, Paul Allen helped fund a renovation that resulted in Union Station winning the 2000 National Historic Preservation Award. The station now serves as the headquarters of Sound Transit, the commuter rail agency serving the Puget Sound region. This grand hall, featuring a vaulted ceiling that rises 55 feet, can be rented out to the public for special events.

Architectures of Life

Alva Noë recently wrote an article on NPR.org about a new show Architectures of Life at the Berkeley Art Museum, curated by Lawrence Rinder. To quote from the piece:

“We forget that it is hard to see. To paraphrase Kant (loosely), seeing without understanding is blind, even if understanding without seeing is empty. A good drawing—for example of the working parts of an engine—is often much easier to interpret than an actual perceptual encounter with the engine itself. The engine, after all, is very complicated. What is important? What deserves notice? It’s hard to know. But the drawing, when it is successful, is more than a mere representation; it is, really, the exhibition of what something is, of how it works, of what it is for. A good drawing is an image that has been imbued with thought.”

I like how Noë stresses that drawings are more than mere reproductions of what we see or envision. To read the full article, please visit: <http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/02/26/468216993/life-and-art-unite-in-architectures-of-life>.