Archive for March, 2010

O'ahu, Hawai'i. Sandy Beach Park. March 23, 1010. Photograph, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, Leica Wide Lens.

O'ahu, Hawai'i. Sandy Beach Park. March 23, 2010. Photograph, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01, Leica Wide Lens.

I am in Hawai’i for a week, in the beautiful island of O’ahu, ‘The Gathering Place’. I will compile an album of my favorite shots upon my return;  for now, I just want to share this view of Sandy Beach Park, a true-to-life Luminist painting.  The water was of at least five shades of blue, and where it turned aqua the golden sand mixed with the shallow shore, to create soft sandy tones…a live watercolor. I never saw sand so yellow, granular, perfect.

We reached this beach after a scooter ride following the coastal roads, from our starting point of Waikiki, Honolulu. I can now say I rode a scooter through the mountains of Hawai’i: the road was pretty Montecarlo-like, but the journey was worth it.

Be back soon.

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image via amoeblog.com. click on the image for more on Old Time Radio.

While I work, I sometimes listen to my ipod, my
Pandora Channel or NPR.

I recently embraced the gospel of the Flylady, as I have to seriously declutter and organize my living quarters, and audiobooks keep me company during my chores, i mean, my ’27 Fling Boogies’…

But my favorite audiocandy is stories: I am seriously into Old Time Radio and  Sherlock Holmes/Noir Suspense shows of the 50’s.

Recently, I have compiled a list of all my storytellers:

Twilight Zone

Theather of the Imagination

Sherlock Holmes


Crime Classics

CBS Radio Mistery Theather

Audiobooks on Archive.org

Old Time Radio on Archive.org



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Third Street Homes. Final. Watercolor, graphite, Prismacolor pencils. March 16, 2010

I finished my Third Street Homes ‘portraits’  (thankyou
Planetary Folklore for the great quote).

Since the last iteration I refined ground and sky, went over the watercolor with Prismacolor pencils to give the homes some texture, bumped up the contrast, pushed the darks a bit and, finally, worked on the vegetation and added the framing branches. You can see the first and second step here. C’est fini.

Speaking of buildings, here is an artist who goes around the world fixing crumbling buildings with Legos. (!)

The topic of these first three Artuesdays has been watercolor, and I would like to share the work of some very talented folks who are inspiring me for future paintings, in subject matter or technique:

Small Oil Paintings

Linda Halcomb

A Painting Today

Art and Design Studios


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Sea Fruit. Watercolor, charcoal and white Prismacolor pencil. March 13, 2010

This is a mental recollection of an exquisite painting, smaller than 8 X 10, that I once saw in my friend Sophia’s place. It was an oil painting, varnished, and the raspberry on the beach looked so large, lustrous and luminous. You could tell the translucent quality of the skin. This is my humble attemp at recreating that piece in watercolor: oil paint allows for more luster, and maybe one day I will try that as well, even though most of my painting are done in acrylic .

What symbolism this piece recalls, and what do you see, I wonder…

I had a wonderful art session with my favorite artistes today, a lunch at my favorite French Bistro and a stroll through Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market, where we picked up fruit and vegetables (our models). A good, full day, not untouched by worries ( hard times to be had by all) rather, a respite…and realizing that, in the words of a fellow New York Times reader:

‘A good academic degree pays for itself in a flexible mind and an ability to adapt as well as the richness of inner resources to survive hard times without despair.’

Sitting in Cafe’ Italia, with my watercolors, and my ‘model’ perched on a napkin, envisioning faraway beaches and the quality of the water in Calabria– and feeling glances from patrons–I realize Art is a wonderful privilege, an ability to lose one’s self and a giving of kind, compassionate time to one’s self. Like every privilege, to me at least, art is also a responsibility.  Of course the endless list of chores awaits, yet I felt what art offers is more than escapism or absorbing creativity produced by others , as in savoring a book or basking in a glorious movie ( I love both): with art we create our own narrative, as in writing a book vs.  reading one. Does it make sense to be then a bit exhausted after a creative session? Perhaps it is all about resistance…learning to teach the wrist and mind to embody ‘effortlessness’.

Not to mention the refinement of the medium. This was the fourth serious attemp/experiment with watercolor I have done.

I will never forget, while following ‘The Artist’s Way’, one was to go for a week without reading. Reading has been in the past a way to procrastinate creating in the first person, a way to be vicariously creative . We must watch that.


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I always used to say to my students ‘Architecture is constructed politics’, but lately, after (re) reading Le Corb’s Vers Une Architecture, I have been known to spur on my students with my rallying whispher of  ‘Architecture is built poetry’.  As in Le Corbusier’s assertion that the plan is an expression of the spirit, as in architecture with the capital A, as in not mere construction (ok. I think by now you know my very own windmills, which I am  battling, no need to get riled up again – except to dream of a tee which says Technicians, maybe someone over at Archinect is listening)

Tees Designs. March 08, 2010. The 'tyranny of the straight line'.

In my quest to find a link between poetry and architecture, I came across some gems, and wanted to pass on my finds. As I mentioned, I have been reading Gaston’s Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’, and there seems to be a certain zeitgeist focused on poetry and its relationship to created (architectural) space.

William Stout, the reknown historical bookstore in San Francisco dedicated to Architecture, recently published Poems for Architects: An Anthology, by Jill Stoner.

From William Stout Publishers:

This unusual anthology of twentieth century poetry is arranged into sections of poems that address issues of domesticity, urbanism, formal concepts and form itself. Each section is introduced with a provocative essay by Stoner, an associate Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley (where else?), that develops the argument for the relevance of poetry to architecture today. Twenty-nine varied authors such as Mark Strand, Wallace Stevens, Eavan Boland, Adrienne Rich and Rita Dove, help to illustrate the point.

This is definitely on my wishlist…maybe they desk copies for faculty available ?

Make buildings that are poems.

Antoni Gaudi

I also came across this gem of a book: Le Corbusier: The Artist The Writer, by Lucien Herve (1970).

As the story goes, Le Corb was an artist in the morning, an architect in the afternoon and, at night, he would write poetry.

I have also been pointed towards John Hejduk,  an accomplished architect (his are the Wall House projects), artist, Dean and Faculty of the School of Architecture at Cooper Union (<3), author and poet.  His is  Such Places as Memory: Poems 1953-1996, 1998.

John Hedjuk said:

” I believe in the social contract therefore I teach. I believe that the University is one of the last places that protects and preserves freedom, therefore teaching is also a socio/political act, among other things. I believe in books and the written word, therefore I fabricate works with the hope that they will be recorded in books. I am pragmatic and believe in keeping records. I believe to record is to bear witness. The book I wrote, Victims is to bear witness and to remember. I believe in the density of the sparse. I believe in place and the spirit of place.”

Speaking of writing, I am going to my first ever writers’ workshop and will report back 🙂


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Starbucks Doubleshot can. Ink on trace. 2009

Starbucks Doubleshot can. Ink and markers on trace. 2009

Espresso Cup at Martha's. Graphite on paper. 2009

Espresso Cup at Martha's II. Ink on paper. 2009

I wanted to share some of the things that make life better:

1. A  water bottle that makes you happy and keeps you cool for hours.

Trudeau Cool Down Sports Water Bottle in Purple. Image via cappojim.com

2. a coffee mug that offers you coffee at ideal temperature with new technology

The Brugo Travel Mug with Tip & Cool technology. Image via Amazon.com

… or just looks thermally  good (mine is orange)

Raya Polycarbonate Pink Travel Mug. image via salestores.com

3.  Beautiful Pantone Mugs to brighten your day.

image via yumsugar.com


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” I have to more or less trip over work before i touch it”

John Wesley

(thankyou Karen for giving me The Times Magazine every month, full of literary/art pearls-see pg.147)

It has been a rainy, blustery weekend–albeit mentally invigorating.
I noticed my posts come after some sort of revelation, or rumination, or happenstance. It is almost as though I cannot wait to have ephiphanies, or discover new things and share them here. But one needs to live life before commenting on it, thus the days of silence. When I am not here, I am charging, like a battery, and keeping my eyes and ears open for interesting stories, art, individuals.

Friday night I meet an oceanographer/historian of Maltese origins with a penchant for adventure, who shared a video from his version of ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.  In 2001 (or 2002, I do not remember exactly, there was wine involved) he and few companions rode from San Diego to the end of Baja California, crossing a stretch of land, called Punta San Carlo, which has never been crossed before, by literally asking some fishermen to load their bikes on their little boats. The fishermen in the boat proceeded to wear lifesaver jackets and I thought about what my father’s reaction would be if someone asked to load a motorbike on his fishing boat. Even though he has a Suzuki street bike, I chuckle at his reaction. He would take on the challenge for sure. We discussed how the oceanographer (now living in La Spezia, Italy, with his gracious wife) should put the video online: if he indeed went ‘where no man rode before’ I am sure hundreds of fellow bikers would be interested. His video was titled ‘Lawrence of Baja’ (from the oceanographer’s love of Lawrence of Arabia) and set to some pretty interesting music. Through him I also learned about Malta, the Knights, the Crusades and a book that Lawrence of Arabia wrote for his thesis ‘ The Influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture‘ (see, architecture follows me everywhere, no rest for the weary, along with discussions about Arab architecture, civilization in Spain etc.).  I had the occasion to meet some other Maltese citizens here in San Diego and I always love to discuss how Malta is so close to Italy, yet the language contains lots of Arabic words. A land truly between two worlds.

Something to ponder upon : Gibraltar (in Italian made into the latin-sounding Ghibilterra) actually comes from the Arab word Gib’ Al- Tareq, or Mountain of Tareq, who was a condottiero, or conqueror, responsible of the ‘Opening of Spain’, or the cultural invasion of Spain which lasted for 800 years and left us some of the most beautiful Moorish architecture in the world, such as Grenada and Alhambra.

SO you might think that a motorcycle journeythrough the deserts of Baja, in a completely self-sustaining fashion (and I am talking about plastic bottles containing gasoline strapped on bikes), inspired by Lawrence of Arabia (who himself died in a motorcycle accident) is pretty adventurous, right? Well on the very same night I also met a visiting British comedian who decided to move back to England from Australia, with his girlfriend, by biking (as in bicycle) across this land, camping (as in tent) on RV camps and refilling on fuel for the gas stove by asking RV’s to share their gas —since it was sold in five-gallon canisters and impossible to carry on bikes. I do meet the most interesting people and now officially feel the need for some adventures of my own.

My own brush with Motorcycle Diaries (my long dreamed-of trip to Cuba) did not happen this Spring, due to creative accounting on the part of the IRS– apparently I made just enough money to pay more and not receive a refund, call my tax bracket a financial Bermuda Triangle…So I have been pondering how it would be to walk throughout California, from San Diego to San Francisco…and what would be my cause?

These are the thoughts that go through my head as I walk home from school, usually in the evening, usually a 45-minute quiet, starry  walk, full of dreams, prayers and stories.

These days we are fed imagination  through the media. We are not really given a lot of opportunity in our day-to-day lives to exercise our imagination– most of us aren’t–and dreams are purer imagination, pure creation: it’s as if we are producing a movie every single night, all of our own, it is completely self-created and instantly created..

Groks Science Show

Dr. Veronica Tonay

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Yours Truly, 1977, Mestre, Italia

It has been a year and a month (almost) since I started Sketchbloom, and five months since it bloomed.
So happy 1st yr. Birthday to me.

It’s also been about a year since I gave up my physical studio @ Brokers Building in Gaslamp; miss the extra space but, ironically I produce way more creative output (even though I never finished  The Artist’s Way) and am proud, proud, proud to be a card carrying…

Thank you for this beautiful badge, artists @Brokers. I wear it with pride. I wish you all the best, Compañeros.

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I started a new sketchbook exchange with Mike Riggin, a Teaching Assistant at my school.

My initial contribution: illustrating two of my friend Sarah‘s poems, and an origami heart– due to my recent infatuation with Between the Folds).

Also I must, must, must tell you about an art show that could have possibly changed my outlook on life, art, etc.

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam Cups), 2008, Styrofoam cups, hot glue, dimensions variable. Artwork © Tara Donovan, Courtesy of the Artist and PaceWildenstein. Photo by Dennis Cowley.

One of the most mesmerizing collection of works  I have ever seen, Tara Donovan’s opus has left San Diego this past weekend, but I for one will find her wherever she will show next.  And don’t buy the book, or even look at my link, which is here for reference only.  No reproduction could ever even attempt to duplicate the sense of wonder experienced in front of one of her works. This is phenomenological art at its best, an art that cannot be reproduced, but must be experienced and uncovered tactically, body-in-the-room, primordially.

You can find a podcast that will guide you through her works here on Itunes. And, while you are there, you can check out Artists on Art.

The shock of understanding will rock you. You will see why Tara was awarded the 2008 MacArthur ‘genius’ award.

No virtuality , no screens.  How refreshing. Hers is one of the faces of Art, and I will refer to her, over and over, when I am asked :”What is Art”?

Art transcends the medium to achieve the sublime.

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I can't wait to design a home with a sunken garden and a wind tower. Or the italian tradition of operable windows. Both would be ideal for San Diego's breezy and sunny summer weather. Look ma, no HVAC!

Last week I had the privilege to attend two remarkable lectures. The first, on Vernacular Architecture in Persia by the Architect Simi Razavian of MSA&Associates, Inc. Architecture, was a guest lecture part of my Non-Western Traditions seminar class. Simi masterfully shared with us passive-solar techniques used in her native Iran, the lyrical wind towers of Tabas and the use of natural elements in residential design, such as adobe for construction, wet straw and water for convective cooling (in conjunction with wind towers) and gardens and fountains as evaporative cooling channels and elements of sensorial delight.

I wonder how Leed points would work for buildings that seek to return to Nature, since Simi commented that , in all the Leed lectures she attended, Passive Solar was not even mentioned (but the lates triple glazed glass was, along with ways to maneuver the artificially calculated Leed ‘points’).

Through this lecture I was reminded of of my interest in school in adobe and Pueblo construction, and of two of my favorite books, Thermal Delight in Architecture (which incidentally contains an incredible description of a Persian hanging garden) and Earth to Spirit : In Search of Natural Architecture. Notions such as these, plus genius loci and architecture as humanities-based discipline is what initially drew me to Architecture (this and Antoni Gaudi). Yet I found in practice, with very few precious exceptions, what Le Corbusier calls ‘Construction. Not Architecture’ .

Where is the poetry?

Which brings me to the other lecture I attended later that day: James Brown  of Public, one of the most ‘soulful’ architecture firms in San Diego ( I have been aware of the reputation of Public for years, and James had me at hello with his phrase on ‘spirituality of material‘, his graceful demeanor and humble approach to defining architecture and process).  The courage of design conviction, the dedication to values such as meaning and pushing, nay, nudging boundaries is the best cure for the Nothing (yes, as in Neverending Story) that is swallowing the practice here in the US.


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