Abby and Wendy

I keep being so impressed with, and inspired by the things my friends are doing. I say “my friends” loosely to encompass the relationships I’ve known over time–in this case, one that started in preschool, flourished in elementary school, and sort of tapered off into a place of cordial hellos and mutual respect when we went to college. I’m talking about Abby VanMuijen, y’all. A fellow velvet overall and printed turtleneck wearer turned badass illustrator/activist/teacher at Cal Berkeley. You can find her Global POV work here. It’s powerful stuff.

Last night, she and I made our way into SF to catch up and ended up splitting a soft pretzel and beer flight while talking Art. Abby went from majoring in English to Urban Planning, and somewhere along the way, realized her brain was built to synthesize information with pictures. Symbols. Shades. Words. A connector, through and through, and a master of simple messaging, Abby has gone on to teach classes in visual note taking–originally offered to alleviate the frustrations students feel when they take notes during lectures, yet don’t retain knowledge.

Her rules for visual note taking:

1. paper can’t be lined

2. your hand can’t stop moving

 

I thought… well, hell… I’ll give it a go. Once we threw back the last of our hoppy nectars, we strolled down 5th to the San Francisco Chronicle, where author/artist idol Wendy MacNaughton gave a free talk (and copy of her new book, Meanwhile in San Francisco) to a very very very attentive audience. Leave it to the graphic journalist to present a most captivating story of her work.

 

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An installation of Wendy’s pen + water color works dress the Chronicle building walls.

 

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And here starts the visual note taking. I owe it to Abby for showing me this rabbit hole of efficiency–you may not believe how much I remember:

 

Page 1:

Wendy started out as a Copywriter for an advertising agency called Goodby. She worked in the city, and described it as her dream job (getting paid to write, endless happy hours, perks and playtime and organized creativity!)

But she was not fulfilled, and wondered how she could get out.

Then she talked about how there was a mix up with her book shipment, and we’d all be receiving a free copy (!!)

Someone in the audience asked if she could speak louder, it was hard to hear in the back.

Wendy was recovering from a cold, and coughed intermittently

She described herself as 5th generation San Franciscan–the first of which who could illustrate.

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Pages 2 and 3:

In an effort to find her way out of Goodby, she went to art school, and made some really conceptual art. For one piece, she had a staring contest with herself for upwards of two hours. For another, she portrayed herself hitting on herself.

It was all in hopes of finding a way to stop “selling ice cream and being funny about beer.” Stop advertising. So she went to Rwanda, where she was introduced as the “communications expert of America!” to work on a campaign that would help voter turnout. Half of the population wasn’t literate, so Wendy relied on visuals to portray her message. Her first take on a campaign wasn’t quite relevant to her audience. A tree? What does a tree have to do with people? And freedom?

She went on to solicit answers from the people around her. She asked questions on what to do, and what to make.

And came up with an idea that combined the thumb’s-up symbol, and a finger print (which is how people in Rwanda cast their vote)

Simple, relevant idea garnered 90% voter turn out.

 

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Pages 4 and 5:

Wendy realized the importance of asking questions, and she wanted to learn how to ask them more effectively.

So she went to grad school and got her masters in social work. This is where she learned a code of ethics.

She moved out to the East Bay and barted into the city twice a day. She loved how zen Bart was. Calm. A place that wasn’t work, wasn’t home — a transitional space where people just… were.

She realized they were perfect models, and started drawing them. Sometimes, without even looking down at her paper. When she got home, she’d upload her drawings to her blog.

 

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Pages 6 and 7:

Then, during her second stint in advertising, Wendy looked up at a map in the boardroom. While she was there, dealing with trivial shit and cheeky ideas, people all over the world were living.

She made a list of what she’d do if she wasn’t in advertising.

And then she went to the public library at the Civic Center to start a new project about a group of people she finds interesting, The Old.

 

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Pages 8 and 9:

But when she went into the library, she came to find that there were more homeless people than old people. She noticed there was a full-time Social Worker–employed to assist and facilitate homeless outreach within the library.

Though she expected (and wanted a story on old people) Wendy was open to it unravelling this way.

And for 5 minutes, she watched who came in the Library doors, and wrote down every single person. Their looks; their approximate age.

Those 5 minutes turned into a revelation: many of these people walking in were homeless.

Project idea! Go down to 5th and 6th street and draw what and who she sees.

 

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Pages 10 and 11:

Standing there, drawing her subjects, people were curious. They wanted to know what she was doing, why she was doing it — if she’d sketch them.

She wanted to draw 6th street from the comfort of 5th. Entirely different universes, though, she knew she had to make her way over to depict the people and spirit of that street accurately.

She’s a professional eves dropper and often writes down snippets of what she hears when people are walking by her.

 

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Pages 12 and 13:

Invited to go play Ma Jong with the Chinese community in China town, Wendy spoke about the need to be a respectful visitor. She sketched groups playing, but never took it too far or inquired too much. Importance of sensitivity and respecting the gift she was given.

Be OPEN. stop. look. listen. Realize there are more communities than the ones you frequent, and take the spotlight that’s on you and put it on someone else. Learn about them.

She does all her work on 9 x 12″ paper, and writes notes on the spines.

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Pages 14 and 15:

Meanwhile in San Francisco took her 3 years to complete.

She is so grateful to her editors–and in hindsight is happy the burrito diagram made it in!

Her street writing is much more akin to that of a doctor. What we see in her book is her “deliberate writing”

Next, she’ll draw out the recipes for a cook book

 

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Pages 16 and 17:

Someone in the audience asked about her use of social media. Here’s a list and a ven diagram describing her answer.

Wendy reminds us that everyone wants to talk and has a story to tell. It’s a matter of listening. And asking the right questions:

Not “how are you?” but

“What’s going on?”

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If it isn’t already clear, this form of note taking jogs the memory into a steady sprint. I am grateful to Abby for the introduction/ good juju, and Wendy for the lightning bolt of inspiration. Maybe this copywriter’s an artist after all… to be continued, I guess.

 

I feel

As if patterns tell me something.

As if dreams were clear swirls in an oyster sky.

As if I beat doubt with the flats of a saber.

As if my wild, tangled hair held truth.

As if fear fell as steady as rain dripping down from the eaves of a house.

As if joying in the freeing distance between peak and base.

As if the air lacked haze, and the view stretched on and on across rows of green and gold mountains, each paler than the last until the final ranks were indistinguishable from sky.

As if I could feel the whirl of wheels.

…the speed of my ascension,

…a vague disinterest in people who care nothing at all for this thrill and wonder.

fish

It’s Fashion. It’s Art. It’s a new pairing.

I read nearly everything Maria Popova puts out like it’s digestible gold. Today, she posted about these extraordinary rare book selections from the American Museum of National History Library, and these particular drawings really tickled me with their richness. So much so that I paired them with clothes I wish I had money enough to buy. Someday my closet will hold more than Target’s luxury line and boyfriend jeans. $omeday.

Fashion Art Fashion Art Fashion Art

Fashion Art Fashion Art

 

Pairings

Like any respectable woman of ample appetite and ampler wardrobe, I hold both my kitchen and closet in high esteem. And to offer them even more of my already limited attention, I’m making these mash ups — recipes I want to try paired with clothes I’d very much like to buy. What do you think?

1. grilled soft cheese, thyme honey and fresh figs

Eating Wear

2. lemon oat bourbon cake donuts 

Eating Wear

3. roasted strawberry and toasted coconut popsicles 

Eating Wear

4. sakura macarons

Eating Wear

5. sizzling prawns with garlic, chilli and lime

Eating Wear

Is this mine?

By the good graces of time management and an uncanny ability to change from dress pants to yoga pants mid stride, I made it out of the office and onto my mat by 6pm. Tonight’s class was taught by a newbie but goodie, especially on the eyes. Holy hanumanasana this scruffy-faced teacher was all sorts of distracting, especially when he nonchalantly threw out phrases like, ‘lubricate your hip joints.’

Sure, no problem. Right after I wipe the drool off my Manduka.

Anyway, after I remembered that I set an intention for my practice that did not involve making eyes at gorgeous gumby man, I hit a rhythm. Breathe, sweat, balance, down dog and repeat.

Until Warrior three came along like a big bully. I stared down at my planted foot; it was teetering wildly, the veins shaking like needles on a polygraph. Normally I’m unattached to the outward expression of my unstable core, and quickly find a focal point to help sturdy myself and carry out what feels like the opposite of an impermanent pose. This time, though, I couldn’t look away. I was hung up on the fact that I didn’t recognize my own foot.

Maybe because I hardly ever see it during the winter months, being all wrapped up in socks, boots, blankets, and the like. Maybe because I’ve been running so much that the muscles are altering its composition, or maybe because I neglect toe nail polish like the world neglected Hotmail in 2005.

Regardless, I got to thinking then and there about this foot I did not recognize, which lead me to wonder about aged and aging people. How their faces and bodies rarely resemble what once was. How  we are every day, every hour, every year, a different version of ourselves.

There I was: out of the pose, and into a different subset of mindfulness.

Micky Allan

Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan Micky Allan

‘Old Age’ – Micky Allan.

George’s Girl Takes 5

Here we have it: The First Edition.

A recap of the week’s sounds, smells, sights, touches, and tastes from a girl who lost her father but not herself. 

Let it be said that I had my first date with Photoshop this weekend. These images are my notably novice creations. What’s the phrase, Rome wasn’t built in an hour?

Feel_final

Taste

See

Smell

Feel: 

  • Grateful. Under a grey sky, someone new took me somewhere new.
  • Surprised. A beautiful stranger left this anonymous note, and a book titled “50 paintings you should know” for me. Whoever you are, Thank You.

Nicole, You inspire me everyday. I hope this brings you some more inspiration to fuel your mind and soul.

  • Able bodied. Started my running regiment for my Israel half marathon. The lungs and buns are burning.
  • Shocked. It’s been almost sixth months since I’ve seen/heard/spoken to the greatest man I’ve ever known.
  • Progress. I finished the prelude this week – now to polish, and polish some more.
  • Relaxed. Been going to acupuncture. I haven’t a clue if it’s working, but if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Taste: 

  • Gluten Free Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I spent Friday night baking these bad boys. They tasted like a somersault, back rub, sun salutation, and bear hug all in one.
  • Gin. Which is one letter away from grin. Which is what happens to me when I drink it.

See:

  • The skies in San Luis Obispo. They explode at sunset.
  • The hills, the valleys, the stretches of road, the glittering tides, the rows of vines.
  • More chances to grow.

Smell:

Scentless Sunflowers,

when I close my eyes, my nose

detects your brightness.

  • Stables. I visited a friend in Atascadero this weekend. Helped her feed the horses (!!) and enjoyed a night in with plates full of salmon, and ears full of John Coltrane.
  • America. Beers, Bean dips and everything in between, Super Bowl XLVII wasn’t won by the Ravens, but by Pinterest. Thank you, pretty little push-pinned site for exposing so many finger licking good recipes to taste and taste and taste some more.

Hear: [this week’s repeat offenses]

  • Beethoven’s Appassionata
  • The Head and the Heart
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Gregory Alan Isakov
  • Blue Foundation
  • Gustav Holst
  • Trampled By Turtles
  • Passion Pit

And there we have it, friends. An overview of a week in the life of a girl who plain and simply is not fatherless.

If you’re so inclined, a sneak peak behind the serious curtain:

February 3, 2013

It dawned on me yesterday as I was driving down the grade.

Foot off the gas, heat expanding my pores and drying out my hands. It’s February, I thought. I’m entering the sixth month without my father.

Alone in my car, plunging into the valley, my breaths became shallow and my shoulders caved. I realized I didn’t cry once in January, and I panicked.

Was I forgetting about him? Am I okay without him? I don’t want that; I can’t possibly be.

And as if cued in by an omnipotent conductor, tears fell, dropping in time to a song I had on repeat. Some shot down like pellets, some lazily serpentined down my cheeks. Some stung more than others. All blurred the construct of reality I had unintentionally crafted for myself during the previous month.

January was busy. Filled with progress and opportunity, newness and fondness, it arrested my time and attention in such a way that I hardly noticed the handcuffs. If not people, then things. If not things, then thoughts, if not thoughts then work, if not work then something. I was always surrounded.

But in my car, with this song on a relentless loop, the message drilled into my every cavity and I found my solace.

I realized how in grieving, my mind demands expansive time to itself. That crucial exploration of self via sensations or wonder or the complete absence of the two.

I cried for my father’s short life, for mine, and for the uneasiness I feel when my alone time is chipped and chiseled away.

Tonight I am reflective about my week. About this month, about my father. About the way I choose to spend the time I’m gifted. It appears as though this little series is becoming my own little prescription pad. Just by seeing the writing on it, I already feel better.

Martin Van Buren?

Things I took away from third grade:

  1. The slow baby bouncy kick ball pitch
  2. Cursive

Things I was taught in third grade, promptly forgot, and now rely on incognito Google searches for which to mask my subpar knowledge:

  1. State capitals
  2. The names and order of US Presidents.

These graphic designs/typographical masterpieces are hands down too cool for school.

Presidents19 Presidents18 President17 President16 Presidents15 U.S. Presidential Portraits Presidents13 Presidents12 Presidents11 Presidents10 Presidents9 Presidents8 Presidents7 Presidents6 Presidents5 Presidents4 Presidents3 Presidents2 Presidents

Rain fate

With every intention of getting to bed early, I did like the rebellious Aries I am, and stayed up late to accompany the sound of falling rain with pen strokes.

I’ve been drawing.

Portraits, mostly. Sketches of men with downward cast eyes, or outlines of the female form – full bodied and fuller hearted.

And just when I thought the night couldn’t get any more fulfilling, I laid my eyes on Pablo Picasso’s light drawings from 1949. They’re like sugar coated cranberries on top of goat cheese on top of an artisan cracker: all kinds of right.

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it was 1949 when Pablo was introduced to Gjon Mili, a photographer who at the time worked for LIFE magazine – where he demonstrated some of his images of ice skaters with lights fixed to their skates, jumping in the dark.
Fascinated from the results, the spanish artist then conceived a series of projected light drawings in a dark room with two separate cameras and a small electric light attempting to ‘paint’ his versions of centaurs, bulls and greek profiles.

Worth it

The truth of the matter is, there are so many cool people in the world.

Meet Sandra Juto and Johan Pergenius – Illustrator & Graphic Designer, Berlin.

Read their interview and peek into the apartments of other cool cats living happy little lives all over the world. Godspeed and good luck not spiraling into a time suck of cyber gawking. I may or may not have just lost an entire dog year to this website.

Juto&Pergenius3  Juto Pergenius 2 Juto PergeniusJuto&Pergenius Juto&Pergenius11 Juto&Pergenius10Juto Pergenius 3Juto Pergenius 4 Juto&Pergenius9 Juto&Pergenius8 Juto&Pergenius7 Juto&Pergenius6 Juto&Pergenius5 Juto&Pergenius4 Juto&Pergenius12 Juto&Pergenius2

threading

 

I am sleepy and short-versed, but that doesn’t make my feelings for Chilean artist Jose Romussi any weaker. This is my favorite of his mixed media.

Cate Parr

 

 

 

Leaping lizards, Cate Parr sure knows a thing or twenty about water coloring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and what’s this? The same Greta pose, in watercolor? Serendipity is real.

Plan B

If all else fails, and my pending degree leaves me high, dry, and stressed out of my mind, I will simply become a painter.

Exhibit A: Michelle Armas. She earned her bachelor’s degree in International Relations, a post graduate degree in Graphic Design and Branding from a prestigious Portfolio Center down in Hotlanta, where the players play, and lasted one year in New York before she bounced out of branding and started painting.

Despite the fact that every painting I’ve ever finished looks as though a family of goats defecated on an over-priced canvas, suddenly I believe in my heart of hearts that this is a plausible and sustainable alternate route, if corporate America (and non America) fail me. To Plan B!

Ryan Pickart’s women

Fact: I hold women to high standards.

Meet Diana, Odette, June, Janine, Charlotte, Adelle, and Alina. They probably spend their Monday nights spinning Miles Davis vinyls, taking breaks from studying typography to tend their organic vegetable gardens. Ryan Pickart, your oil on canvas meets my high standards most decidedly.