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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Poor People's Campaign 2018

I went down to Capitol Campus today to catch the tail end of the Vietnam Vets / Legacy Vets Memorial Day Ride but I was too late. Instead I happened upon the beginning of the weekly rally for the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, a 50 year renewal of the campaign started by Martin Luther King before he was assassinated. Monday's rally is the third of six weekly demonstrations at the State Capitol. The theme was The War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence.

Veterans for Peace were out in full force, wearing peace dove helmets on t-shirts and flags. Representatives from several groups spoke including clergy from various faiths.  

People waited in the wings for their turn to speak or just to listen and support. The Raging Grannies sat waiting patiently for their turn to speak their minds in song. 


The Raging Grannies promoting social justice

Since I was prepared for a totally different scenario of veterans and motorcycles, I was surprised and intrigued at the demonstration. It was deja vu back to the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 60's when the campaign was first started.
This excerpt of one King's last Sunday sermon sums up the yet to be fulfilled cause: 
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists … We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that is signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic non-violent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible." - Martin Luther King

The Poor People's Campaign will continue for four more weeks with the following themes: 

Week 4 (June 3-9): The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet: Ecological Devastation and Health Care

Week 5 (June 10-16): Everybody’s Got the Right To Live: Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income, Housing

Week 6 (June 17-23): A New and Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted Moral Narrative

Saturday, June 23, 10:00 a.m. EDT10am: Global Day of Solidarity and Sending Forth Call to Action Mass Rally in Washington, D.C.

Now that I know the rallies are happening I'll be watching more closely and hope to get down to a few more. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Take Two - Women's March 2018

Having just returned from three months in Southern California, it took some dedication to head out  to the Women's March on a drizzly 47 degree morning. It was also very heartening to see so many others with the same or greater dedication. 

Last year's march had such a huge thrust of energy behind it. This year the tone was less volatile, more measured, yet still powerful.

We met again at the Washington State Legislative building, what better place to address the  institution of governmental power. We arrived well past the initial 11 o'clock start time and speeches were in full swing, continuing for enough time for me to get several sketches at that site.

The focus had changed a bit from angry reaction to last year's election to strategic planning for upcoming voter opportunities -- the midterms. 

 Pink hats dominated, but there were lots of colors. And, being the rainy northwest, plenty of umbrellas.
We marched from the Capitol Campus which sits on a hill, down a switchback path to Capitol Lake where booths representing organizations focused on anything from LGBTQ issues to voter registration.
 I wrote down some of my favorite signs and chants I heard:

  • Not buying the selling out of America
  • We want a leader; not a creepy tweeter! 
  • All these incredible women... and we got Trump?
  • I fight for equality for my daughters. 
  • Women Own 2018
  • I support Planned Parenthood
  • And my favorite because it's DOABLE: GRAB HIM BY THE MIDTERMS! 

It will be interesting to see what this coming year brings to our country politically, but one thing seems certain, the pink hats are here to stay for a while longer. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Hollywood was originally dubbed Hollywoodland, by a real estate mogul's wife who just "liked the sound of it." Later the "land" was dropped, a sign was built and the moniker "Tinseltown" emerged as movie industry took over the neighborhood in early part of the twentieth century.  It's really the kind of place I would hate if I wasn't a sketcher. As a sketcher, it's a bonanza.

Last year around this time I sketched the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  It left me hungry to go back, so I was delighted when the Los Angeles Urban Sketchers chose Hollywood and Highland Complex as the location for the 24-hour global sketch crawl.

My first stop was Babylon Courtyard with it's majestic elephants, and hieroglyphic wall amid an outdoor shopping mall.  These elephants are so awesome I drew them several times. They were first used on the set of the film Intolerance in 1916.

Wandering out to the street I found a mass of tourists, surging on the Avenue of the Stars amidst street sellers, performers and costumed characters.

I saw signs of the movie industry everywhere I looked- theaters surrounded me, human-sized Oscar mannequins offered photo ops; glitz and glamour flashed incessantly.

I quickly sketched another landmark, the Roosevelt Hotel, the oldest continually operating hotel in Los Angeles. In its heyday it was the favorite for many celebrities. Marilyn Monroe had a poolside room. Some have reported seeing her ghost in the mirror of that room. The Roosevelt has also appeared in many movies -- Wall Street and Maid in Manhattan being two. New York? LA? Whatever.

We met for group photos and lunch to cap off our sketching for the day. 

I had started a sketch of the street but didn't finish it on the spot, so when I had another opportunity, I returned to Hollywood. This time at night. Again the elephants were a strong pull first in black and white then watercolor.


And so were the gawkers.

And the showmen.

It's a mirage of lights and flashy glamour and the main challenge is to tune out all the distractions and focus on the essentials. I think I'm still being distracted. Guess I'll have to go back. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

There but for Fortune

Note: The Choir organizer just contacted me and asked that I share this link to the upcoming documentary film by award winning visionary Susan Polis Schutz (Blue Mountain Arts). 

 Definitely one of the coolest things I've witnessed while I've been in Los Angeles. The Voices of our City choir from San Diego performed at the Santa Monica Public Library. The choir is literally the voice of the non-profit with the same name whose mission statement reads: 
Voices of Our City Choir is committed to transforming the perception and experience of homelessness through the healing power of the arts. We are building bridges connecting diverse communities in positive ways through musical performance, advocacy, and education. 
This was not a Christmas choir, but an ongoing performance group/support group for the members. What sets this choir apart from other choirs with people experiencing homelessness, is that they are also activists. They organize.They show up at city council meetings. They advocate for change. They push for justice. They have helped 20 people get into housing this past month. And they are a bonded group. 

The set ranged from Stevie Wonder, to Louie Armstrong to Sister Sledge to one of their own songs. There was a mix with two guitarists, a pianist and a drummer accompanying some awesome vocalists. 

One woman who was seated most of the time had a solo. "I can't stay in my chair for this one." as she stood with her cane and let her soul come through her voice. They invited audience participation for some songs, so naturally I sang and danced along, unsuccessfully trying to blink away tears. It was all very emotional to see folks we think of as desperate, just ROCKIN'.

After the performance they had a question/answer time. They sat on the edge of the stage and shared their stories. One man, a former tech engineer who had lost everything, fell into depression and ended up sleeping on the street across from city hall in his "button-down polo shirt".

"When you get to that place, there is nothing there to help you. Nothing. No one."

Towards the end of the discussion a woman called from the audience lauding the choir for their bravery and their spirit. "I couldn't come earlier because I didn't have anyone to watch my stuff".

Another audience member self-identified as a very privileged person reported that she had done a lot of research and worked with homeless people for many years. She repeatedly affirmed them saying their voice was the most important thing they could do to help the problem of homelessness. Letting people know how you are just like them..."there but for fortune..."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dia De Los Muertos - LA style

Halloween takes on a whole new dimension in Los Angeles. Everywhere I look I see signs advertising for Dia De Los Muertos with multiple celebrations around the Greater Los Angeles area. We went first on Saturday Oct 28 to Pasadena's tour of altars which turned out to be a way for the business community to draw customers into the different shops that hosted altars. Cute but very commercial.

Sunday, Los Angeles' Olvera street in downtown LA hosts a big bash. And even thought the souvenir-lined alley is one of the biggest tourist traps in LA, especially for Mexican goods, it put on a real party.

The permanent stalls selling a myriad of colorful goods empties out on Los Angeles Plaza, a zocolo, or city square. The big guys built their altars here. That's altars that were on average 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

The place was packed and the music enlivened the atmosphere even more. Food carts, oversized skeletons, and Aztec dancers all added their flavors to the colorful pot.

While I was sketching a woman came up and asked if I was with a group. When I mentioned Urban Sketchers, she nodded in recognition. It was Stephanie Lowe, a long time urban sketcher who was there with her high school photography class.

Just after sunset the plaza bandstand became the stage for an extravagant performance featuring skeletons telling elaborate tales and singing ballads which I can only guess (because it was in Spanish) were lamentations for fellow deadheads.

As we enjoyed our mole and enchilada dinner back on Olvera street, the nightly procession marched within inches of our table. 

And that was just the beginning. Today at the public library I picked up another brochure advertising at least eight more Dia de Los Muertos events around the city. I guess I'll be carting around my watercolors for a few more days.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Falling in love with the world, one sketch at a time

I was reading a fellow-sketcher’s blog a while back and she posed the question, why do you sketch? It’s a question I ask myself often. It can be a nagging question – why?

“Why are you doing this?”  I hear my monkey-mind say. “You’re not getting paid. You’ll never be a great artist—why waste your time? You should developing your own business or working for peace or delivering blankets to the homeless- or at least making soup for shut-ins. But sketching?”

I've always had a rebellious streak, so I keep going. I snub my nose at my monkey, grab my pen and have at it.  

I've come up with plenty of rationales: 

It keeps me from missing my grown kids, and now grandkids, who live thousands of miles in different directions.

 It helps me remember where I've been. While sketching we experience it all -- the sounds, sights, smells...exhaust fumes, french-fry grease, perspiration dripping down your back…

Not to mention the smell of nail polish remover as I sit at the local nail spa.

I've sketched since I was a kid. That's a good reason - I've always done it. I may still have a sketch of my feet done when I was 12 while sitting on the front stoop of our apartment on the south side of Chicago. 

 To keep from getting bored. Work meetings are perfect opportunities to study slouching body-shapes. 

Waiting in long lines are perfect for analyzing which hip rises and which falls with a bent knee.

It also steers me away from judgments and frustrations. Instead of wondering how anyone could actually choose to wear that outfit in public, I notice how the orange shape of the top contrasts so vividly with the purple hippie skirt. Add a blue sky for background and the colors are operatic. 

My daughter says I notice the strangest things. 

The other day, however, it came to me. I SKETCH BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD again and again and again. A pop of color here; a rusty texture there; the orange, yellow and green fence in front of the blue store; the way the sun paints an ephemeral shadow-shape on the side of a building. Or the shape of the truck as it blocks my perfect view.

So I sketch. I take it all in. I get excited about the variegated pink of easter egg radishes, I love the bulbous shape of the vendor’s belly as he reaches to pick out the best apple a our local farmer's market. 

I constantly search for a good angle and analyze the shape of the a building as I both flatten it out in my mind and try to add depth on my paper.

I wake up in a new city excited . . . no, chomping at the bit . . . to discover new neighborhoods, new storefronts, another red door, an abandoned streetcar, countless new people on subways – each shape unique and each story lending worlds of depth to what I see. 

You could say I’m obsessive. Or captivated. Or a rebel. All apply. One thing’s for sure. I just can't won't stop falling in love with the world and sketching whatever I can.