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Archive for the ‘sketching’ Category

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Postcard from the Chagall Exhibit at the Palazzo Reale in Milano, December 2016 | Fountain ink drawing of Krishna’s silhouette on Muji thin sketchbook paper.

Art is a refuge from the busy hive of activity…and I’m lifted.

Sometimes I even float.

A fleeting instant, the diver coming up for air.

Digital painting on Sketches app. January 19, 2020.

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Well,  Happy New Year.

I think it’s valid to still say that, as long as we are still in January.

Last night I attended the last Friday night Jazz at the Handlery Hotel. I had only some copy paper, a bic pen and an Arabic calligraphy in my bag ..but was so thirsty for drawing that I started something I was hoping would just be an exercise…but I’m actually happy with it.

I am sure You, Single Reader, have been wondering if the Earth swallowed me whole…

Since my last post I visited Oaxaca, Mexico, then was in New York (each for a long weekend) and finally, in Milano for the Christmas holidays.

Instagram is the reason I have neglected my blog..it is much easier and more immediate to share work there..where in here the point is to craft each post. But I am here today because (thankfully) the Instagram Gods thought my drawing too long to post it there in its entirety..and so I am following my own advice (which I never do) and posting here first..and then a “teaser” on IG.

I have been working on a long New York poem, and still have to share my photos and a drawing from there…same with Oaxaca. I also have couple of artist features to share with you (and which you will love). But, this shall suffice for now…the demands of life and career are calling me- the forces which prey me away from my craft and from this digital room which is my calm and my natural habitat.

The good news is that I am teaching a Drawing/Representation course for design (not Architecture) students, so I have been practicing what I preach. And,  there is more freedom and anarchy to be outside of the realm of my chosen profession.

Until soon…..

Here is to closing parenthesis.

 

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Digital drawing done on IPhone 7 Plus with Sketches app by Tayasui. June 27, 2018.

Napkin Sketch for fundraiser auction; poem La Ciudad by Octavio Paz. Fountain ink on Napkin paper. April 2018.

Yann Tiersen in concert at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, June 20, 2018.

Quick sketch using colored pencil and pastels. June 30, 2018.

My corner in the plaza of the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. June 2018.

One more post before the month is done.

This Spring was filled with intensity in and outside of my University.. the final stretch of the school year. Accelerated timelines, accelerated heartbeat. Stealing time between deadlines to go up to LA once more for a life-changing Yann Tiersen concert ( of Amelie fame), participate to sketching and art+Jazz events and jot down few lines to be shared later (after all, poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity).

Stealing time from time… to be and to feel alive. Sketching (almost) everyday is doing wonders for my spirit- and glow!

Single reader, I hope you have time to disconnect and renew. Happy Summer.

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Three hours in New York City in December. Some flânerie and a visit to one excellent bookstore. A dose of “cityness”.

New York has been called the capital of the twentieth century and an architectural battleground. Here are some of the stories I found at Rizzoli.

The playful books of architectural sketches (i also found this and this at the Museum of Contemporary Art store in the airport) reminded me that flawless execution is not as important as

1) discovering your own graphic “voice”

and

2) developing the trust, consistency and playfulness needed to making it heard.

Other books looked as delicious as desserts in a literature bakery.

That’s what a book is, a single serving of story and ideas you can carry with you and devote yourself to, like listening with intention to one speaker. Attention is, after all, the best form of generosity.

Sometimes the tabs of my internet browser become a cacophony. Sure all of the books of Rizzoli, William Stout and Hennessey + Ingalls too, could be contained in a thumb drive. But what those people that consider bookstores obsolete don’t understand that bookstores are not just purveyor of books: they curate selection, there is a mind at work.. one that reads and knows about books. Perusing books on Amazon versus holding these portable maps in our hands is the difference between buying produce at a Walmart superstore or handpicking heirloom tomatoes in a farmers’ market. Bookstore owners are the farmers of knowledge. Once bookstores are gone from a city, soon will civitas and intellectual discourse [see San Diego. the only one of the major 6 cities in US without a bookstore… panem ( or rather vinum) et circensis is what fuels downtown.. when it should be the arts and local businesses.]Books like these in your satchel could make the difference between being a tourist or being a pilgrim, and inspire to sketch the city playfully.

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One has to start somewhere…

After finishing my sketch I ran into two dear friends who had come to the cafe.

Perhaps the cafés can be the new piazzettas somehow.

Here’s to spontaneous gathering and holiday cheers.

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Stealing 1.5 minutes from Chronos to roughly sketch out surroundings. Academia has claimed the time reserved for Art, yet Art shall overcome. Cafe Bassam. January 2017



The Eyes of the Poet

Let me try to explain the way
the poet sees.

To the poet the sparks of electricity
zapping along the trolley cables
are falling stars

A thread on the blue carpet
curls in the shape
of butterfly wings

The poet writes on the bus
and carves
tiny offerings to the Muse
out of dense, secular days

The poet sees a sky of pink
when she looks at the facade
under fluorescent street lights

(that’s when they started killing nuances)

The poet is always, always somewhen else

For example, when she closes her eyes she is in a city of spires and
horizonless turquoise

Here, wings tethered to a chronograph,
longing only for infinity,
and the only time that matters,
art

In her chest the poet keeps:
incense and ink
the space between words
certain nights

Her soul is already beyond the asphalt,
Through the pavement to become light

She understands exile now
and the words of those far
from the land of the two domes, from Beauty

As she walks through a city with no past a man tells her:
Let me guess. Size six.


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Northern Hemisphere,
June 19 and June 20, 2016.

Strawberry Moon and Solstice, an event that occurs every seventy years.
Full moon as the Sun stops to take Her in; the union of the masculine and the feminine. I hope you  have been casting spells, and were looking skyward.

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Cafe'-inspired ink drawing and collage. San Diego, June 2016

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Café Lulu, Sun and Moon. San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter, June 2016.

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The Reader. Café Bassam. San Diego, June 2016.

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Rosa de Tijuana 1/15 . June 2016.



A Mi Tijuana

Milton Ríos

Spanish | English


La olvidada, la 100 por ciento criticada!..

A la que puedes dar mil opiniones sobre ella

La única que es coherente con su equilibrio

Entre las cosas buenas y malas!

La ciudad malvada… la maravillada,

La llena de narcos!

Artistas, multicolores y muchos tantos…

Esta ciudad… ciudad de paso

Y paso a ser mía,

Mi ciudad! Mi metrópoli confundida

Ayer la mas violenta

Hoy el ejemplo de paz!

Pero solo en mi Tijuana se puede vivir esto!

Balazos, teatro… buena música, cineastas en acción

El party el revolución! La que ya no es nada

Por que nació la calle 6ta.

Donde se junta lo subterráneo,

Las culturas urbanas, donde no ahí negros ni blancos!

Ni mexicanos ni gringos…

lo que importa es la noche bohemia,

algo de baile y alcohol

que viva la diversión…

la ciudad de segunda!

De segundas oportunidades

Donde caen los deportados

Donde comen y duermen los emigrados,

Donde se respira libertad

Donde ahí policías buenos y malos!

Y aquí te preguntas? Para que ir al otro lado…

Si acaso nomas de compras,

 a conocer lo bien planeado.

Pero para dormir a gusto! Para respirar a diario…

Con la adrenalina constante,

De Tijuana ahí que ser amante.

Y así a donde vallas al decir soy de Tijuana

Obtendrás ese silencio! Que es un silencio ganado

De respeto por que para criticar Tijuana

Solo  nosotros los que la vivimos

Los que la hemos hecho nuestra

Y ser tijuanense, claro que satisface

Pero también pesa y cuesta!…




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Hello Stranger!

In case you are wondering what happened to me and why I’ve gone M.I.A during the month of February and most of March, the board above is one of the reasons. As it happened in 2010,
our school underwent an enormous accreditation visit, which meant preparing for months collecting, documenting and providing evidences.

One of the best things to come out of the work leading to the Accreditation was that Faculty was once more asked to prepare a record of what we have been doing – outside of teaching- the past five years.
It is a monumental task to audit, select and curate five years of life, work, art – yet I welcome the chance to take stock of where I have been, for it points to where I want to go. This process of self-evaluation is a privilege not afforded to many professions, and I was thankful for the challenge.
We were also asked to write a brief narrative. I worked on this more hours than I care to admit and I am happy to now share this with you: words, drawings and travel photography — some of which hasn’t been seen here yet! Hope you enjoy it.


“The French writer Daniel Pennac describes the notion of  the passeur, of the ‘transmitter’, as intimately connected to the ownership of culture.  He considers pedagogy as a branch of dramaturgy: a great teacher is a playwright, a vector of knowledge who instills curiosity, personifies her subject, and communicates passion. As an academic, designer, artist, and poet , storytelling is central to my work.

When I was six years old, fascinated by a book of folktales of Northern Europe, I decided I wanted to be a collector of legends. Though my path took me to Architecture and Fine Arts, teaching History of Architecture brought me to travel to Latin America, the American Southwest and the Caribbeans  where I began to record the history of place through the stories of its native people, These ‘stories of architecture’ become the framework of my courses. Through drawing, urban sketching, collages, photography, and writing, my preoccupation has been with collecting, documenting, processing and communicating narratives – while letting the spontaneous unfold.”


Miti Aiello, San Diego, March 2016

Writer Update:

My abstract on my research on Storage Cities has been accepted by one of the two main Architecture academic bodies here in the U.S for presentation at their International Conference! They are sending me to Santiago, Chile in June, and will publish my academic paper. Too excited for words. If you want to get a sneak peek and read my abstract check out my academia.edu page.

This is likely a hello/byefornow.
I wanted to update my blog now that classes have ended for the quarter, and before once again leaving for Mexico, this time in Baja California Sur for a week of volunteering. Faculty and students of my school are going to help build a healing center using natural architecture in a location that is three hours away by car from the closest road. It will be very remote, challenging and, I am sure, transforming. I will document everything.

Few weeks ago I wrote that, sometimes, we don’t have time to do art because we are too busy living a life that is art itself.
That is a true blessing, amidst the inherent challenges.

Although I have not posted here, I have not stopped taking photographs, seeing, collecting, thinking. My hope of hopes is to get caught up with my posts this summer…Promises we have heard before…

“You don’t need motivation.
What you need is discipline, young lady!”

Joe

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You might remember this drawing from November.
I finally finished at the beginning of January, on a cold (for San Diego) night, sitting in front of this 100-yearY building, under a portico.
Balboa Park always takes me back home. This entire drawing was done plen air and took me few sessions over several months to complete.
It will be on its way to San José, Costa Rica soon.

This is a quick photo, but i have a piecemeal scanned version ( sheet too large for my scanner, and the wide format at work is not very kind to graphite).I will try to compose the image and sub for it soon – but it has already been a whole week since this post languished in the draft purgatory and i want to get to my next night photography post.
Clouds make nocturnal old San Diego heartbreakingly beautiful.

By the way, i hope you all had a fantastic Holiday Break.
I just got back from another trip to México, and i have Mayan pyramids,cenotes, colonial towns and caribbean waters to share. I cannot believe i haven’t had the chance to share my two trips to Ciudad de México D.F from last July and November (¡Frida!) ..yet.
So next there will be a series of posts on México “lindo y querido”.

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First experiment in Digital nude painting on my Android HTC ONE phone, using the Paint Commander App and the Sensu brush.

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Two months to the day of my last post, I return.

Like a lover who walks into the door surreptitiously, I offer no explanations.

Just Kidding.

This quarter saw me teaching three courses with a total of 120 students, so, dear Single Reader, the reason for my hiatus is self-evident. It was a ten-week long journey into different periods of History of Architecture and Urban Design, Urban Issues and so. much. more.

Here are snapshots of my bimonthly art dates. I have quite a few drawings, but could not conjure up the time and mental space to scan and post them. Ideally, these will be scanned version soon..but here they are.

I embarked on an Arabic adventure as of Monday, and this will be a spectacular summer, I feel and know.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”


Anne Bradstreet

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On Saturday, I participated to Dr. Sketchy San Diego, a fun artistic encounter involving life drawing.
This month’s event was centered around ‘Animal Instinct’ :).

We had a very fun model.
I realized I need these ‘art dates’ to keep me engaged with making art as I find my way back… back to my art studio.
Also, I may just, finally, have found my tribe.

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Ink on Moleskine paper. Schneider Hybrid 0.5.  San Juan, Puerto Rico. June 2014.

Ink on Moleskine paper. Schneider Hybrid 0.5.
San Juan, Puerto Rico. June 2014.

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Luminaires- Café Lulu. San Diego, May 9, 2014. Ink, marker, digital collage.

Luminaires- Café Lulu. San Diego, May 9, 2014. Ink, marker, digital collage.

 

 

On Being an Artist

Noelle Kocot

 

Saturn seems habitual,
The way it rages in the sky
When we’re not looking.
On this note, the trees still sing
To me, and I long for this
Mottled world.  Patterns
Of the lamplight on this leather,
The sun, listening.
My brother, my sister,
I was born to tell you certain
Things, even if no one
Really listens.  Give it back
To me, as the bird takes up
The whole sky, ruined with
Nightfall.  If I can remember
The words in the storm,
I will be well enough to sit
Here with you a little while.

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San Francisco, Samovar @ Yerba Buena Gardens, April 6, 2014. Drew Fish (left) and Miti Aiello (right) . Ink, Watercolor.

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La Baracca del Bucaniere - Fisherman's Shack - The Kitchen. Graphite and watercolor. Calabria, Italia. September 18, 2013.

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Black and White Figs. Graphite and watercolor. Calabria, Italia. September 18, 2013.

The fastest drawings, right before leaving.
So many watercolor sheets to fill, and beautiful travel magazines to cut up for my collages.
I had to leave them behind and go…
Until another summer.

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La Baracca del Bucaniere, Cucina. Graphite. Calabria, Italia, 2013

Few days ago I started this drawing, which I am hoping to finish in the morning. It’s time to pack and head back to my California.

I take with me many images, sounds, voices, messages…my metaphysical bag is always full after such extended trips to Italy, my home.

As a promise of things to come, I have been working the past few days on many posts that will feature the work of my father, my father the fisherman, painter, drawer, sculptor and designer.
My rugged, difficult, wonderful, talented father.

Then I have few posts on Calabria, my beloved and challenged Southern Italian region- sorting through three years of photos has been both grueling and rewarding.

Lastly, dispatches from my travels to Buffalo, New York City and Santa Fe.
The whole organizing effort has been quite the task.
This is the price for not posting enough this summer ;/

I always like to alternate drawings and artifacts to photography, so I offer today this humble work in progress which will become a watercolor.

Yesterday I was talking about sketchbloom to my friend Annamaria, who is a an apothecary with a lovely herbal store (erboristeria) in my little Southern Italian town.
Her store is called Radice Nuova or
New Root.
I was telling her that the days I do not share and make my art I feel I am neglecting a fundamental part of me…
‘as though you are not watering the plant’, she finished my sentence.

In fact, behind the stage,  in darkness and silence, seeds are growing and blooming…thoughts and ideas are taking roots. Philosophy lessons, Japanese pillow books. Russian classics, Italian troubadours of the anarchic 60’s…this is the water I have been drinking this summer.
And time, alone and together, time for many coffees with my father, time for night yoga by the sea, full moon, with my mother, time to pick figs and grapes, time to work and to rest, time to spend with beautiful friends of youth and the soul, family time with my people, time to fish, time to swim and soak, meditate, in the sun, time to write, think and renew, time to listen to Italian music and reconnect to my roots, time to love hard, time to read.
Time to finally have time.
Always time that processes, metabolizes and purifies..time that brings strength and clarity.

Above all, I am thankful for the time this summer to be, think, live like an artist, to make and organize art, storing things for the winter of the soul.

Leaving California is exciting, especially when I get to use my passport, but returning, having filled my eyes, mind and spirit elsewhere, always means new beginnings.

I travel to remember (Southern California is light, has neither memory nor regret…nothing like the weight of the past felt in Italy), and return to forget
— and live in the Now.

I always said it,
the year starts in September.

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Collage, Buffalo, NY. April 2013.

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Collage, Buffalo, NY. April 2013.

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Ink and lipgloss on hand. book paper. November 2012.

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On my way to Roma but wanted to share my latest project.These are the prep sketches and the charcoal outline on the final canvas, which measures 5.5’X2.5′.
This painting was commissioned and I am lucky to have a very lovely client : )

The last photo is from the Princeton Architectural Press catalog, which just came in my office.
I would love my studio to be like that one day…
Ciao!

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Ink drawing of the sculpture “The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet” by Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Drawn at the San Diego Museum of Art, 2008. 



There are particular nights, small time frames, where everything you want, and, yes -everything you need- is given to you.

You watch your life unfolding perfectly, like a well-written screenplay of a comedy of errors, where the characters, after a series of ‘harrowing events’ and near misses, find each other at last. These nights you believe in signs, and that there are no coincidences.

I am not saying that life or love have a happy ending, but some days do.

Last Friday, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park hosted an extraordinary event, part of their Summer Salon Series (inspired by the tradition of French literary and cultural salons). This event was a 36 Hour ‘continued’ Salon taking place in the museum’s galleries (open consecutively for 36 hours…I will never forget contemplating Egon Schiele at 2 in the morning), auditorium, and outdoors in the sculpture garden.

Needless to say, the collection of happenings taking place ranged from the superb to the surreal. Wandering in the museum galleries in the wee hours of night with other artists, revellers and cool types felt very subversive and….Big City.

A Yes Men lecture, an avant-garde play on self-loop for four hours, museum tours, German Expressionist Cinema, ambient music with obligatory trippy visualizations, live bands, a napping station plen air, stargazing on the lawn of the sculpture garden, drawing dreams and nightmares and, my favorite, a marching band in which us, the audience, were given a makeshift instrument and played (and marched) directed by the one-man band’s crazy frontman.

The general feeling of anarchy, and being caught between confusion/freedom/disbelief/engagement made this event very Dada, or something the Situationists would have conjured up…

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During a lecture, I drew one of the pieces on display {above}. you can find a photo of the piece here.

From the museum’s literature: The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet, is from a series of five figures depicting notable philosophers from the eighteenth century. The marquise, fluent in several languages and an accomplished mathematician and physicist, personified the “enlightened” person. Her lasting legacy is the translation and critique of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica that is still used to this day. Despite the fact that the Marquise de Châtelet was a leading mind of eighteenth-century France, much of her work was overlooked because of her gender. Her most famous lover, Voltaire, described her as a ‘great man’ whose only fault was being a woman.

I like to think that the Marquise is headless because she has never been recognized for her work and her name is virtually unknown.

She has been deliberately omitted in the annals of His-tory.

The fabric of her dress also tells a fascinating story of colonialism and the fallacy of ‘tradition’.

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El Templete, Habana Vieja (with water from the Malecon).
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.


Example of Moorish (Mudéjar) Architecture in Habana Vieja.
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.



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Music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.”

Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

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Dream before Nonno died. He was a fisherman. Ink on notebook paper, 2003.





Fragments {and a cashmere wrap}


The cashmere wrap finally arrived in the mail

so much weighs on this stole

‘opportunity a thief makes’

he said before giving me homework

— how we love.

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep”

Saul Bellow

A lot weighs on this stole:

conversation is rippled with diamonds

they tumble , heavy, they are words, quotes

…out of the mundane…

a pearl – grasp it and keep it.

Wisdom is the only jewelry I wear this season

and my greediness awaits

meaning.

He who grasps more than he can hold, would be better without any.

If a house is crammed with treasures of gold and jade,

it will be impossible to guard them all.

Lao Tzu

Did you hear the sound of wisdom, Heart?

The message you sought.

My only wealth is my memory.

Like a mendicant I gather precious words,

fragments of light that I bring back,

puzzles I spend days composing.

– You, collector of spirit, feeder of souls.

Everyone wants to go to Heaven, no-one wants to die.

The falcon, scarred wing, alighted the sill.


– the magpies, once they have caught the prey,

lose interest

and look around for the next creature to pursue-



Yogis come and go,

grasp their message

Catch leaves in the wind

take them home, make a nest.

Heaven is simple:

let go of anything that is not love or peace.


San Diego, December 15, 2011


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Various Graphite Media, depicting 'Dwelling for Imaginary Civilization of Little People,1998' by Charles Simonds. Made in clay, adobe, paint and housed in the New Mexico Museum of Art. August 2011.


Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.


From
Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers


Photo via minecaching.tumblr.com. Click for source.



Charles Simonds began building clay villages, ruins and what he termed ” dwellings for imaginary civilizations of little people” in the 70’s, in New York.

His microscopic urban interventions at one point could be found, among others, in Paris, Venice, Shangai, Dublin.

They are now housed as prestigious artifacts in art collectors’ homes and museums (like the Whitney in NYC).

Photo via whitney.org. Click for source.

Photo via whitney.org. Click for source.


Click for more Charles Simonds’ dwellings

Watch the video: Dwellings 1972

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Simonds and Sarah



Salmon kisses,

I knead  essays at night

dream perfect poems–

lost silver strands become your hair.

I make collages of languid bathroom quotes,

images and cities.

Night drunk with words,

your eyes are full of them–

nestled in the cup of your arms

like Simonds’ tiny city in a new york warehouse.

A word thief,

of raspberry essence–

the poetry of portugal:

“Your toes are

little ducks

Sita to Shiva…”


You say I’m used to you like my mandatory doppio cappuccino,

Sarah’s velvet voice,

heaven in Corcovado nights.

You say my poems always have three words:

almonds, apricot, oil.

Here you go:

Downtown is on fire

Your almond eyes float like moons

Your skin is oil on water,

Apricot lips.


Berkeley, August 2011

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Book: Eros e Thanatos; sketch, ink on paper. April 2, 2011



History of Coffee

 

Ethiopian sheperds

discovered coffee

when they realized

their goats

began to dance.

 

Michelle Ramadan

 
 

 
 

 

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Ink on Paper. January 2011.

 

As designers, architects, artists, we use the ability to first visualize then communicate  a desired outcome. Implementation means having the courage, discipline and perseverance  to  bring that vision into the physical realm. I love to write, and to write lists, but this year I am doing something different with my 2011 resolutions. I am drawing them. It sems to be working. On good days, and they are abundant here in San Diego, you can find me in the park, chasing the sun and reading. An old-school physical book.  The previous specifications is now necessary due to the variety of reading options we have (what is your pleasure, or rather, your poison: smartphone, kindle, ipad, TMZ on your laptop?). These are my immediate, must-finish charges: 

Ink on paper. February 2011.

Books:

Inchoate: An Experiment in Architectural Education. Angelil, Marc and Liat Uziyel, eds.

The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession by Spiro Kostof

Sketching and meditating. Two resolutions, perhaps one and the same.  

Ink on Paper. January 2011.

 

Pondering on drawing, as opposed to writing, resolutions led me to think about visual vs. written and oral communication.

While drawing-or diagramming-a goal may help provide us with clues, visual or other, that help us actualize it, I don’t buy the argument that ‘visual’ people can only best communicate their intent through images. This is also known as ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ syndrome. By the same token, I refuse to accept that ‘visual’ people only understand material if it’s accompanied by images and therefore should be excused if they are poor readers or listeners. That is plain laziness. There are notions and topics  in this world that cannot be boiled down to neat Powerpoints (even though, heaven knows, we have tried to even run wars through the ubiquitous slide application), but require flight of the imagination, suspension of disbelief, and the ability to follow (picture-less) complex arguments. In trying to explain critical thinking, images run the risk of appearing like obtrusive clip-arts, obfuscating rather than enlightening.

The tyranny of the visual often lets us  get away with having inferior written and oral communication skills. I don’t buy the ‘visual’ doctrine (or fallacy) with my students or my architecture colleagues. Maybe it’s because I come from a linguistic lycaeum, was an English Minor, and come from Italy, but the way a person speaks or writes is more important to me, or revealing of their character, than any imagery or composition she or he can conjure up on a board. And here I need to say that, lest I behave like a whitened sepulcher, I know I have failings when trying to communicate: typos due to late night writing, listitis (I make too many lists), lectures that tend to go on a tangent and probably what is called mild A.D.D in this country (or severe A.D.D…depending on what day you ask my students;)). Lastly the fact that, no matter how many years I live here, my soul is Italian and so is the way to express myself, and we do use lot of what here are called ‘run-ons’ in writing, and perhaps even talking. We are peripatetic, scenic-route communicators.

Ok, so I am not perfect: let the flawed still admire and aim at beauty.

I ask the person I listen to to paint a convincing, even seductive picture with their words, to evoke the sense and meaning of their process. Of course exact,clear words go well with exact, clear drawings and diagrams, but seductive images without substantive explanations or clear, logical statements leave me dry. The literary arts are for the most part lost to modern architecture students, beyond the required ‘humanities’  and enticing (but seldom frequented) advanced elective courses. The result is professionals who are literate in CAD, codes, building, or even ‘architecture’, but illiterate in the sense of the global collective written word, and therefore culture. Shouldn’t the designers of shelters for the human race understand its most lyrical expressions?  Shouldn’t they design for man and woman’s highest aspiration, rather than the lowest common denominator? We ask architects to create places of Beauty, places that inspire, to design poetic aedifices. Without knowing what poetry is, without at least having been exposed to it, that is an impossible feat. If architecture is the Mother of all the Arts, should it not contain them? Literature, philosophy, liberal arts, music…Where are you Muses in our curricula? We have modified –and are moving towards transforming–the academic requirements for the make-up of the future architect based on the needs (vocational at best ) of field practice, a large number made up by corporate building farms, where architecture is just a sign on the door. Of course we aim for graduates ready to enter the profession, but hopefully we are also aiming for critical thinkers, whole individuals who can inspire, not just perform.  What should lead, follows. The trend can only go downward. I am talking about cad monkeys, or people who are paid ‘to draw, not think’ –I was actually told that many years ago. Call me irrational,  but I call for mandatory poetry courses (mandatory poetry! an oximoron). Call me utopian, but world literature should be as much part of an architecture curriculum as world architecture. When you know, you cannot unknow. I always say that. When you are exposed to possibilities and ‘big questions’ you cannot accept passively that things are just the way they are because they have always been. Poetry and literature are democratic expressions, highly dangerous to the status quo. And therefore highly desirable.

In my quest, I ran into this book. I am collecting a body of critical readings (for myself!) and this book will definitely be included.

Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in 20th Century French Thought, by Martin Jay

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Bjarke Ingels came to speak to our school Friday night.

The venue was the Museum of Natural History in scenic Balboa Park.

I am still blown away by the lecture and, more importantly, the message.

It was truly (r)evolutionary.  The fact that BIG’s insanely brilliant concepts not only get built but a) give back to the community in terms of urban interaction b) are socially and ecologically responsible and c) are giving him fame and making him a household name is galvanizing.

Expanding the collective idea of what is possible through architecture: this is the optimism we need after years of gloom, in face of all the naysayers and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ disablers.  Something is blooming in the state of Denmark.

What an event. My friend Alan Rosenblum told me it would be as if  ‘Lady Gaga came to San Diego’.

And. It. Was.  The students loved it. Three days later, and we are all still giddy.

I could not agree more.  Thank you Mr. Ingels.
You intensified the dialogue between students and educators, and showed us how the ‘crazy’ ideas that are developed in studio and propose new typologies for the city are not only possible but timely and welcome. This creates a better learning environment, where pragmatism actually means being part of the solution, not propagating the problem.

I had the same dilemma when working in traditional, corporate offices and found refuge in academia. BIG showed us that there is a third way, the ‘Bigamy’ way. You can have it all. You can be good and successful. You can be extremely famous
and not be arrogant. He spoke of pragmatic idealism, and hedonistic sustainability. He demonstrated how to create building that are fun to experience as inhabitants and city neighbors and yet are sustainable. He showed us the intellectual approach and use of hybridization of traditional typologies to achieve new functions and forms. To wit: the Garbage to Energy plant in the middle of Copenhagen, which will be the city’s tallest structure and will house a ski slope (!) and blow smoke rings each time one ton of CO2 is burned. These are usually ‘crazy’ projects that we see coming from the upper studio division, when we ask the students to ‘dream big’ (pun intended) and question the drab, anti-interactive reality of center cities such as San Diego. The students, deep inside, try to dream but are conditioned to think that projects such as the one we saw in the lecture could never be built due to various factors such as financial interests or politics of control, or even lack of relevance of our role as architects.

We have been liberated from all of this because we can now point to BIG’s projects. Here it was demonstrated that the only limits we have as architects and human beings are those self-imposed, or those we feel ‘reality’ has burdened us with. I know that as faculty we felt validated by BIG’s successes ( does it make sense?). The music and videos, the whole presentation and BIG’s  infectious enthusiasm, warmth and positive energy were, in the words of a student ‘AWESOME’. Another student told me he learned a lot about diagrams from the lecture.
The lecture also was a model for engaging presentations. I have been toying with the idea, but now I am committed to use music and pop references in my History of Architecture classes; I ran the idea with few students and they were all for it. 🙂 I will quote Ingels when he says that we need to ‘cease to consider the building as objects but focus on what they do for the city’ : this informs and generates a new approach to ‘sacred architectural monsters’ and teaching history of architecture (or as I like to think, architectural stories).

A big thank you to Allen Ghaida, the AIAS and all my colleagues at the NewSchool Arts Foundation for making this dream of an event a reality.

I sketched feverishly- and took down all the provocative quotes. Here are my hybrid/computer-augmented notes.

I will add all of the proper building names and location as soon as possible.

click to enlarge

…..and this was my present 🙂

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The Flâneur: A Radical-Chic Icon

The Flâneur. Ink on trace paper. February 26, 2011

The Flâneur and his turtle in the streets of Paris. Digital collage. February 26, 2011. Background photo from San Francisco’s artist David Blumin. Click for his website.



Then I heard the phrase ‘Walk with a turtle’ on NPR, during an interview with Council of Dads’ author Bruce Feiler–and had an epiphany: I, too, had been a flâneuse in my early years. When I was 9 years old I used to tie a red ribbon to the shell of my turtle Stefania/Stefano (we are still not sure) and take her for ‘walks’ around my building and in the field of olive trees nearby. This cannot just be explained by mere coincidence or a sense of equanimity (i would take my giant schnautzer Zorro for walks- or rather, he would take me- and treated Stefania/Stefano to the same). By walking the city (ok , in my case the field of olive trees) at the pace of a tortoise, we are bound to pay attention to life around us, to read the city–not just skim it from the wheel of our car or glancing up from smartphones while we traverse sidewalks. Having a turtle as a guide nudges us to stop rushing. I am reminded of the buddhist monk in the documentary ‘Baraka’, slowly pacing the street with small steps , at the sound of a bell–in the midst of a hyperactive Japanese metropolis. The realization of possible multi-layered readings on the figure of the flaneur prompted a small research.

Historical evidence of The Flâneur? Or just man waiting for his wife? Undated image from: storify.com/virtualdavis/flaneur

The  Flâneur

The term comes from ‘flâner’, which means to stroll in French. From this verb Baudelaire coined the word  flâneur, a person who walks the city in order to experience it.  The flâneur is driven  by an  insatiable  hunger  for  passion; he  seeks  the  streets and  the  city  life  for they  provide  inspiration  and  cure him of the malaise and loneliness  of  being human. He practices mindfulness, or conscious dilly-dallying. In US they would call him a ‘loiterer’, surely shoo him away…or perhaps fine or even jail him (I always tell my students there is no such thing as the word ‘loitering’ in Italian….what else would we do in Piazzas!?). My friend Bruce and I were discussing the flâneur few days ago and he reminded me of  the symbology of the turtle and this quote from Rumi:

The soul needs as much time to wander as the feet.

Rumi

 

Baudelaire writes of the flâneur:

 The  crowd  is  his  element,  as  the  air  is  that  of  birds  and  water  of  fishes.

 His  passion  and passionate  spectator,  it  is  an  immense  joy  to  set  up  house  in  the  heart  of  the  multitude, amid  the  ebb  and  flow  of  movement,  in  the  midst  of  the  fugitive  and  the  infinite.

To  be away  from  home  and  yet  to  feel  oneself  everywhere  at  home;  to  see  the  world,  to  be  at the  centre  of  the  world,  and  yet  to  remain  hidden  from  the  world

impartial  natures which  the  tongue  can  but  clumsily  define.  The  spectator  is  a  prince  who  everywhere  rejoices  in  his  incognito.  The  lover  of  life  makes  the  whole  world  his  family,  just  like  the lover  of  the  fair  sex  who  builds  up  his  family  from  all  the  beautiful  women  that  he  has ever  found,  or  that  are  or  are  not  -­‐  to  be  found;  or  the  lover  of  pictures  who  lives  in  a magical  society  of  dreams  painted  on  canvas.

 

A Process of Navigating Erudition

From Wikipedia: Flâneur is not limited to someone committing the physical act of peripatetic stroll in the Baudelairian sense, but can also include a “complete philosophical way of living and thinking”, and a process of navigating erudition as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s essay on “Why I Walk” in the second edition of The Black Swan (2010).  A Sunday Time review called The Black Swan  one of the twelve most influential books since WWII.

Benjamin  in his Arcades further describes the flâneur utilizes the city,  which becomes an  extension of  his residence:

The   street   becomes   a   dwelling   for   the   flâneur;   he   is   as   much   at   home   among   the facades  of  houses  as  a  citizen  is  in  his  four  walls.  To  him  the  shiny,  enameled  signs  of businesses  are  at  least  as  good  a  wall  ornament  as  an  oil  painting  is  to  the  bourgeois  in his  salon.  The  walls  are  the  desk  against  which  he  presses  his  notebooks;  news-­‐stands are  his  libraries  and  the  terraces  of  cafés  are  the  balconies  from  which  he  looks  down on  his  household  after  his  work  is  done.


Some of the questions I have been thinking about are : Can the flâneur be a flâneuse? Must he or she always haunt the city aloof and alone, or is ‘Flâneurie’ an activity that can be enjoyed in small groups, maybe of separate actors, each with his or her own turtle?

The flâneur is enjoying immense popularity on the Internet and blogosphere, among the hipster and (pseudo)intellectual crowd.  He is radical chic, a gentleman stroller whose eccentricity is afforded to him by indipendent wealth. He is a man of leisure who can make a statement about the bondage of work and busyiness: he is above it and does not need it.
On the other side of the coin, we might re-evaluate the ‘homeless’ people, the figure of the clochard (sounds better in French doesn’t it) as flâneurs without means, but with the same intellect and intent.  They also make the city their living room and library.

In “American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe“, James V. Werner describes how ‘ highly self-aware, and to a certain degree flamboyant and theatrical, dandies of the mid-nineteenth century created scenes through outrageous acts like walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris. Such acts exemplify a flâneur’s active participation in and fascination with street life while displaying a critical attitude towards the uniformity, speed, and anonymity of modern life in the city.’

Hmm…Sounds like The Situationists.

A new interpretation of the activities of the flâneur appear in the writings of Guy Debord, the dérive also being a protest against the processes of consumption and capitalism:

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

–Guy Debord

While the flaneurs practiced ‘aimless wandering’, the Situationists devised processes to purposefully get lost.

There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothinincluding his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.

Cornelia Otis Skinner.

Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962

Watching is the chosen pleasure of flâneur. He is an ‘urban stalker’, as Susan Sontag defines him in her 1977 essay On Photography.  Modern flâneurs, let’s arm ourselves with cameras or a moleskine . Let’s pretend we are all ‘The Sartorialist’ and many, many other envoys on particular missions. Would you enjoy the streets of your city if you thought you were spying on someone, an urban detective, privy to secrets no-one else can know? What would the intelligence gathered from today? What stories could you tell(or draw)? What stories would the city reveal to you. There is so much life out there. And buildings are lessons.

Let the urban voyeurism begin.
Here are some useful links:

And, finally, my very own books for Parisian flanerie.

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Ink on paper. February 2011.

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The Creative License by Danny Gregory. Click for his blog and links!

Everywhere I turn these days i see the word Creativity..could this be a sign …cause I have not been posting that much???

This post is more like…four…but so be it.

The back of the book. Do you dare to be creative?

A dear student let me borrow this fantastic book: The Creative License: Giving yourself permission to be the artist you truly are. What a wonderful title. So this post, like the book is dedicated….

From Danny Gregory's book The Creative License.

This book is full of helpful suggestions, assignments and encouragements for artists, wannabe-artists and artists-to-be.
There are helpful tools, techniques and a great section on negative space. The style reminds me of Michael Nobbs and his ‘Start to Draw Your Life’ [find link to download his e-book here]
I love this quote:

I believe in the energy of art, and through the use of that energy, the artist’s ability to transform his or her life and, by example, the lives of others.

Audrey Flack

Inspired by the ‘sketch your life’ vibe,I finally got around drawing something that has been giving me JOY lately:

Ink and watercolor on paper and tracing paper. A bit of digital manipulation. Feb. 09,2011.

Yes! These magnific Illy concoctions have come to a freezer near you…I love these babies.
I also picked up the Oprah magazine…i do enjoy this publication…as a reader said ‘it brings a little magic into my life’. I devour news and ‘serious’ books ( I love novels, but have started a stack of non-fiction and architecture-related books in the past four years …and I am determined to finish it by the end of the year)…so sometimes Oprah reminds me to feed my spirit. Go ahead and judge:P
This month’s issue caught my eye, for the focus was creativity.
This is the un-quiz I am taking…designed by filmmaker Miranda July and Artist Harrell Fletcher, creators of the website Learning to Love You More. Click for creative assignments!
The results will be uploaded at oprah.com.
If you are so lucky to have an Ipad, you can check out Oprah’s own sketchbook app, SketchBook O.
Here are:
7 WAYS TO SPARK YOUR CREATIVITY:
(from designer Anna Rabinowicz)
1. Read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
2. Go Outside
3. Start a collection
4. Touch Stuff
5. Travel Solo
6. Go Analog
7. Grab every opportunity
(read about this on this month’s issue of O, the Oprah Magazine)
One of the things I am always reminded of when I read Oprah is to give gratitude. It has been difficult lately, between my hypercritical mind, a full-out technological meltdown and a string of missed yoga classes. Nonetheless, I would like to give a shout out to these three creative individuals who are an inspiration!
1. Ghadah Alkandari @ prettygreenbullet: my blogsister, who elevates blogging to a religion, source of daily inspiration. I love you, woman.

Ghadah Alkandari, Goddess of Daily Goodness. This is her post from February 5,2011. Click to Ghadah.

2. Abbey Ryan @ abbeyryan.com

From Oprah's February Issue: the blog abbeyryan.com. She has posted an oil still life every day since 2007. WOW! Click to find Abbey.

3. St. Loup and his Secrets and Lies
Always thought-provoking…my virtual literary cafe’.

From St. Loup's Secrets and Lies: Maurice Ronnet Le feu Follet - Luis Malle (1963)

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Ink and coffee on paper.

One more post before the month is over. I still have a lot of sketches to share and  am working on finding time to do some more collages (wow, the previous sentence needs to have more conviction to it!). Lots of changes going on around the world…. I am just sitting and seeing it all turn.
Wanted to share some words I received today:


Events of these past weeks remind us that as designers, faculty, engineers, authors, landscape architects, students, and architects we build landscapes and cities that fuel revolutions. Of knowledge and of hope…..Act of civil disobedience in Tunis and in Cairo are fueled by the spark of indignity. And in their Main Squares, we are reminded that Cities are embodied energy too. Below are words on cities. There are many.
 
Come, let yourself fall with me into the lunar scar of our city, scratched by sewers, crystal city of vapor and mineral frost, city witness to all we forget, city of carnivorous cliffs, city of immobile pain, city of immense brevity, city of the motionless sun, city of the long burning, city of the slow fires, city up to its neck in water, city of playful lethargy, city of black nerves, city of three umbilical scars, city of yellow laughter, city of twisted stink, city between air and worms, city of ancient lights ,old city nested among birds of omen, new city next to sculpture dust, city reflection of gigantic heaven, city of dark varnish and stonework, city beneath glistening mud, city of guts and tendons, city of violated defeat, city of submissive markets, city reflecting fury city of anxious failure, city woven with amnesia….
 
Carlos Fuentes
See you in February!

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Santa Maria Delle Grazie with Bramante's apse. Milano. Pilot pen on paper. January 2011

 In the monastery adjacent this church, just a few minutes’ stroll from my house, one can find Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. The apse (widely attributed to Donato Bramante, and dated around 1490) is significant as it signals a crucial transition from the Late Gothic style of the nave to a splendid Northern Italian Renaissance in the apse, the choir and cupola.

.25 technical pen on cardstock. January 2011.

Photoshop manipulation of pen drawing. January 2011.

MITI’S RECIPE FOR SKETCHING:

Day One: Look. (First Encounter)

Day Two: See. (Visual Analysis;walkaround…resist the urge to take photos. Training your eyes will not only lead to better sketches, better lessons learned from the Architecture itself, it will lead to–if you are so inclined–even better photography in the end. Notice, examine and mentally record -on the exterior- connections, details, rhythms, proportions, materials; on the interior: spaces, rituals, light, sequences, apertures, passages…)

Day Three: Sketch. (even quickly…by now you learned the lessons, you acquainted yourself with the building. You begin to understand.) Use the verb ‘to draw’ as in drawing water from a well, draw information (this last advice comes from Travelling the World with an Architect’s Eye)

Tips for cold-weather sketching: stop when your legs fall asleep. Wear half (I call them ‘homeless-style’) gloves to keep the hands free. Listen to warm music on your ipod. Bring a thermos or mug with hot, organic, unsweetened english breakfast tea.

And…

for impromptu urban sketching, carry your pens with the very handy penholder by Muji (did I mention before that I love Muji?)

Sketchbook by hand book, penholder clip by muji.

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