This past Sunday, Seattle Urban Sketchers ventured north to downtown Everett to visit the new flagship store of Funko, a company founded by Mike Becker in 1998 to produce low-tech, nostalgia-themed toys. Its first product was a bobblehead figure of the restaurant icon Big Boy. Now headed by Brian Mariotti, Funko has one of the largest portfolios in the pop culture industry. The store itself, a former Bon Marche and Macy’s, is a fantasyland of collectible toys licensed from such companies as Marvel, DC Comics, Disney, Nickelodeon, and many others. As I was drawing the exterior view, a line started forming to await the 11 am opening of the store and so I had to add those figures at the last minute. The view itself is like a panorama, but vertical instead of horizontal.
We often are enthralled with monuments and monumental buildings and do not pay enough attention to the uniqueness and beauty of the more mundane places we encounter. Here are a couple of views of the commonplace. The first is the short pedestrian-only Calle V. Carranza, in the historic center of Querétaro. At the east end of the narrow street stands a bust of Venustiano Carranza Garza (1859–1920), the first elected president of the newly formed Mexican Republic in 1917, after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and under whose watch the 1917 Constitution was ratified.
The second view illustrates the power of a simple line drawing to capture a scene—this one a table at Maria y su Bici, a Oaxacan mezcaleria in Querétaro.
The Franciscan Church and Monastery of Santa Cruz (Iglesia y Convento de la Santa Cruz) dates from the 16th century and is named for the pink stone cross on the main altar. This cross commemorates the appearance of St. James that was supposed to have occurred on July 25, 1531 as the Spanish and their Nahuan allies battled the Otomi and Chichimecas on the hill where the church and monastery are now located. The well preserved compound consists of a series of cloisters and monk’s cells, along with a kitchen, orchard, water reservoir, and related ancillary facilities.
The first missionary school in the Americas, the School for the Propagation of the Faith (Colegio de la Propagación de la Fe) was established here. From this school, Franciscan friars ventured forth to establish missions as far north as what is now Texas and California.
In one of the courtyards is a thorn tree which, according to legend, grew from the walking stick that the missionary Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús stuck in the ground during his stay at the monastery. What is notable is that the tree bears thorns having three spines in the shape of a cross.
I’ve spent a week in Santiago de Querétaro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring the historic center and drawing with a wonderful group of students from the School of Architecture, Art and Design at Tecnologico de Monterrey. At the end of the first day’s activities, as I was walking back to my hotel, this casa was pointed out to me. It was built in 1756 for the Marquesa de Villar and is now a boutique hotel. Seeing the richness of the entry court, I felt compelled to draw to stop and draw it. More drawings to come.
Earlier this week, I spent three days in Indianapolis to participate in a video project for my publisher Wiley. On the first day, we drove down to Columbus, Indiana, for some on-location sketching. Here are a couple of quick sketches that I did as studies before I attempted the larger format drawings that were to be filmed.
Columbus is known for its collection of Modernist projects that are interspersed among the town’s older 19th-century buildings. This unusual architectural heritage owes its existence to J. Irwin Miller who, as president and chairman of Cummins Engine Company, created the Cummins Foundation in the mid-1950s to subsidize projects by Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, S.O.M., Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier, and Robert Venturi, among others.
Thanks to Lauren, LIsa, Paul, and Eric for their expert assistance in making this project possible, and to the Ball State University students who participated in the studio sessions.
I had been mulling the building of a wood storage shelter for a while. At first, I would occasionally visualize the basic structure in my head and imagine how it could be assembled and what types of connections were needed. Thinking in this way, I could picture the structure both as a whole as well as up close to look at details and revise it over time.
As the time to actually build approached, it was time to put the ideas down on paper to verify my preliminary thoughts. Thinking on a sheet of grid paper with a simple pencil, I resorted to a convention that is now somewhat outmoded but still useful to work out spatial relationships in three dimensions—multiview drawings. I moved back and forth between related plan, section, and elevation views to resolve and lay out the sizes, lengths, and spacings of the wood members.
The intent of these simple sketches was not to produce a finished set of working drawings but rather to figure out the basic set of relationships that could guide construction and also to produce a basic bill of materials.
Established in 1951, the Elephant Car Wash was the first automated car-washing facility in the state of Washington. In 1956, it moved to its current location on Battery Street, marked by the famous, neon-lit pink elephant. This easily recognizable landmark is situated at the busy intersection where Denny Way intersects with Aurora Avenue North and 7th Avenue.
Other than the busyness of the view, full of traffic signs and signals, the main difficulty was in drawing the large sign as it slowly rotated about its base. To do this, I first visualized and drew the large oval in the position shown, and then added details with each rotation of the sign.
The Seattle Urban Sketchers met recently at the Beacon Hill station, one of the stops in Sound Transit’s Metro’s Light Rail system, between the SODO and Mount Baker stations. Probably because of site and space constraints, there are no escalators to access the train platforms below grade. Rather, the doorways you see here are actually elevator entrances down to the train level.
This second sketch is of the entrance to El Centro de la Raza—the cultural, educational, and social service agency founded in 1972 by Chicano activists who occupied the then vacant Beacon Hill Elementary School. Note the banner declaring the school, as any other school, is a “Sensitive Location.” This refers to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy regarding where it can enforce its enforcement actions. To quote from the ICE website: “ Pursuant to ICE policy, enforcement actions are not to occur at or be focused on sensitive locations, such as schools (and) places of worship…”