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A Brooklynite in Seattle

JFK Doodle
Doodle at the JKF airport, waiting to board my plane.

My Journey

Wasting no time after my photography class ended, I booked a flight to Seattle. Why Seattle? Rain. Brooklyn is brutal in the Summer months. My neighbor calls our top floor, The Percolator.

It’s an old Brownstone, heat rises, and I live in what was probably the attic in the 1800s. Needless to say, my summer trips have been centered around finding some place cool, temperature wise. Seattle’s rain seemed like the right idea for a nice, cool August.

Seattle’s Indian Summer

Seattle Ferris Wheel

Me: It was so cloudy this morning. I thought it would eventually rain. But, what the heck, it didn’t. Are you sure I’m in Seattle?

Delivery Guy: HA! Rain in Seattle…that’s what we tell everyone else so they won’t move here. We’re having an Indian Summer. It barely rains these days. 

Me at Pike's Place

Hot Coffee on Hot Days

I explored but I’m not going to lie. It was disappointingly hot during the day. Since I was escaping the heat from New York, I had to reconsider what I was doing in Seattle during their Indian Summer. Not the weather I was expecting! It was no cooler than Brooklyn but it had a dryer heat so, on a good note,  the shade actually worked like air conditioning.  

I told myself there would be lots to see and much coffee to be had. Yes, I belong here, I decided.  Headed for lunch at a pub called The Pike’s Brewing Company, in part, I went there because their décor outrageous and begs to be seen. I especially loved all the bikes hanging from the ceiling. Biking seemed like it would be impossible since half the roads were at 90 degree angles but, clearly, there was a bike culture lurking around here. Anyway, it was good grub after a long plane ride and it was around the corner from the alley with the gum wall. Fun touristy stuff!

The Pike Brewing Company

The good waitstaff  there recommended Seattle Coffee Works for a decent cup of coffee if you’re near Pike’s Place. They were spot on if you’re looking for strong, flavorful coffee. However, I got sucked into the biggest coffee tourist trap in the Public Market. That’s right, the first coffee location before it became an international corporate franchise. (I know all you independently owned coffee house owners are facepalming yourselves right now). The first Starbucks! Moment of shame. Don’t worry, I figure out a few things during my week long stay.

First Starbucks in Pike's Place Market; Seattle, WA
First Starbucks in Pike’s Place Market; Seattle, WA

I felt like if you’re a tourist in Seattle, it’s your job to visit Pike’s Place Market. I’ve visited here several years ago and absolutely nothing has changed. Nothing! In Brooklyn, there are buildings and stadiums being built faster than you can say, fuhgettaboutit. In Seattle, it seemed like keeping the history alive is EVERTHING. Even the original Starbucks had the same older version of it’s logo. The only thing that seemed to be changing somewhat biomorphically was the ever expanding Gum Wall, seen below. I couldn’t see this massive sponge wall of saliva idea going well with the uber health conscious former NYC Mayor Bloomberg. So yes, this had to be seen.

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Delving into Seattle’s History

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Sure, why not. Hopped on the very expensive Ride the Duck tour and got the skinny on the city. The history of Seattle’s golden age of grunge, Kurt Cobain, the Beatles, Iver’s Fish Stand, Sleepless in Seattle, Skid Row, etc. History was frantically extolled by a hyper (caffeine-induced) bus/boat driver ad nauseam as we honked our approval with loud duck whistles.

Oh no, did I really do that? A formal apology to the good people of Seattle then. I fell for yet another tourist trap. Disney could learn a thing or two from Seattle, I think. I shutter to think about the money I spent on this. Tomorrow, a new quest and less expensive.

Beyond Starbucks: Trying All the Coffee 

In an old brick railway arcade lies the Grand Central Cafe
In an old brick railway arcade lies the Grand Central Café

Okay, I didn’t really try all the coffee in Seattle or I wouldn’t be alive to write this blog. The strength of one cup of coffee in Seattle feels like 3 coffees from the diners in New York. Café au Lait (half milk) became my strategy and I was happily rewarded with a pretty steamed milk doodle of a leaf on the top of it at the Grand Central Bakery and Café. This place became my favorite place to go early in the morning.

I dug the brick, the cobblestone, the underground bookstore, and the shade of trees everywhere. The baristas were kind but not hyperactive nice which felt calming and I got a lot of drawing done. If you’re curious, feel free to check out my Seattle napkin doodles, HERE.  

Had it been my first time in Seattle, I might have done the Underground Tour again which is down the block from here. It’s a funny, historical tour of the original city of Seattle that is still partially standing underneath the current city. However, I think I felt done with historical tours.

More Coffee!!! MORE COFFEE!!! And then…

Cherry Street Coffee House Ghost Alley Expresso

…you crash.

Between Jet Lag, walking up huge hills at every corner, greasy fried fish, and too much coffee, you feel done. JUST DONE! I hadn’t drank that much coffee since I worked in a bookstore after high school. My stomach was tied in knots and I was incredibly jittery. I’m an herbal tea person so what did I expect? Even the Central Library had a cafe. Naps were needed and I suddenly felt the need to get out of touristy part of Downtown Seattle.

Gasworks Park

I rented a bike through a great company called, The Bicycle Repair Shop (across the street from the famous Iver’s Fish Stand) and followed a 16 mile trek through Olympus Park, across the Locks, zoomed passed the Botanical Gardens, passed through hipster Ballard  and Fremont nabes, gave up on finding the Fremont Troll under the bridge and finally stopped at Gasworks Park and took it all in. Perfect place to regroup before venturing across the University Bridge and up the toughest street hill ever.

Sadako Sasaki

Along the way (Peace St.), I encountered a statue of Sadako Sasaki, who inspired the book called, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. I used to run an Origami club after school hours and this story was the reason behind it. Legend had it, if you folded a thousand paper cranes, you get a wish. Sadako was 11 when she passed away from the A-bomb disease (leukemia). While she was in the hospital, she tried to fold the paper cranes in order to live. When she passed, her classmates finished her cranes and made it a wish for peace. The cranes are now called Peace Cranes.

It completed the trip but I think I started to miss home.

Back to Brooklyn

Since arriving home around midnight last Friday, I nursed a massive headache for two days from coffee withdrawal. I joined the world in my shock over Robin William’s passing and cried my eyes out over movies like Dead Poet Society. And then Lauren Bacall, the last great actress of the Golden Age passing away. It’s rained all week in New York (the irony is not lost on me).

Autumn feels closer and closer.

And yet, I feel good to be home, finally. I’ve reclaimed my people of Brooklyn, even welcomed the unexpected screams of the Japanese punk rock band who screamed ‘Shut the f* up’ to the audience at the Socrates Sculpture Park last night as I ate sushi and fed catnip to one of the park’s stray cats. The audience looked on and seemed to appreciate this impolite but passionate expressive art. It was a huge change from the polite, happy tourist scene from the week prior but, somehow, it made me feel validated as if I was suddenly part of Ginsberg’s howl. Angst needs an outlet and the boroughs of New York City seem to find modes of expression in its art. I bike rode home to Brooklyn from Queens on flat streets and it was all good again.

Back to my own art. And back to herbal teas.

Peace and Decaf,

Mary

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Doodling in Seattle

Good morning! Thought I’d share a few doodles from my trip. Seattle was lovely. Lots of coffee, bike riding, and touristy things. I missed home though and was ready to come back to Brooklyn when it was all over. You know what they say…you can take the girl out of Brooklyn but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the girl. I will have dreams about Seattle’s plethora of amazing coffee and treats though. Back to tea for me though. Too much coffee makes me all jittery. So, take a peak at my doodle gallery and enjoy! Clickity-click it!

Back from Seattle

So, I forgot to mention that I was traveling this week. I went to Seattle, just for fun. There were a ton of coffee shops (not all of them Starbucks) so there was lots of doodling to be had. I took photos, left a few napkin doodles behind and spread the random acts of doodle love around the good old Space Needle city. I thought I should check in and let you know that I have to go through hundreds of photos to find my doodles before I post them. More to come this weekend…!

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Pigeons, Pubs, and Doodles

Napkin Doodle at the Brooklyn Pub during Brunch
Napkin Doodle at the Brooklyn Pub during Brunch

Brooklyn Pub

While I’m not really inclined to think Pub for brunch, I was really pleased to find that my favorite old pub began serving brunch with their new management. There’s a host of new characters running the place with British accents and they’re all very sweet. The cook offered us free Bloody Marys since breakfast took longer than expected (some sort of miscommunication…they are brand new to brunches). We declined but were really pleased by the offer since there are a number of brunchy places in the neighborhood who wouldn’t even apologize for taking a long time. Anyway, the French toast with fresh peaches and yogurt was worth the wait. I didn’t take any photos of it because I just dove in and devoured it.

So I’m back in the doodling groove. This British Brooklyn Pub had some really great music and there weren’t too many people there yet. They seemed to be okay with me taking my time with my coffee as I drew and let my boyfriend take his time searching for his Fantasy Football team. Here’s a peak inside the pub…

Brooklyn Pub

I completed my Black and White Photography class this week so I was pleased to find that I could sit, relax, and focus on my doodles again. For the past month, my mind has been filled with projects, places I needed to photograph and I was awake at all hours trying to optimize the best lighting. I’m going to actually miss the Photo Lab. I stayed for many hours after class working on my photos because I tend to throw myself into projects. Now, it’s over!

Brooklyn Flea (Market) and Pigeons

Walked over to the Brooklyn Flea and found a booth called Carrier Pigeon. They were selling illustrations for $50 each and put out a magazine publication of illustrations. Took their card and bought an Apple Ginger soda and a donut from one of the vendors. was immediately surrounded by pigeons. Seems as though I am constantly encountering pigeons so I figured I would try to draw one. I shared half my donut with them and broke out my sketchbook. I experimented with continuous line drawing where you try to draw something without picking up the pen. It didn’t always work but I managed to draw one of the pigeons. See below…

Continuous Line Pigeon 

It was a good drawing exercise and it kept me entertained. The pigeon seemed to just know it was being drawn and photographed because it started to pose for my camera.

Blue Pigeon

I know they’re not the most popular bird in NYC but I think this one was particularly pretty.

We bonded…and then my donut was gone and it flew away.  

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

-Mary,

*~Chief Doodler at Brooklyn Doodle~*

Peace.

 

Too much caffeine on Court Street

How Caffeine Can Unintentionally Affect Your Art

The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it’s with you all the time.

-Alvin Ailey

I like this quote because it emphasizes the creative process rather than the finished product. I haven’t been completely in love with my finished products lately and it might just be too much coffee. Yesterday, I struggled a bit to find a way to be in the zone to create any doodles worth posting. As many of my blog readers know, caffeine plays a huge roll in my process. I like to find a decent café and a good, strong napkin to doodle my creative energy away.

However, my usual place to draw has become packed with people. What the heck?!?!

I figured that I would have to start branching out to other neighborhoods again in order to find the right creative vibe. Here’s what I managed to create very quickly at the old local diner until a line of customers gave me the stink eye because they clearly wanted my booth:

Braided Lady, drawn and left at Megabites Diner in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn
Braided Lady, drawn and left at Megabites Diner in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

Dealing with Gentrified Prices for Scrambled Eggs

Usually, I dig the vibe at Megabites Diner and they let me stay a while to casually drink my tea or coffee while I draw. That was before a line of patrons have begun to form at the door to the front of the building. It could be that the college crowd has returned to the neighborhood early. Maybe it was the Brooklyn Flea crowd or the Ft. Greene Farmer’s Market people. I have another theory.

The truth is, the Fort Greene neighborhood has attracted a brunch crowd and the local restaurants have increased their prices. After the novelty wears off for the locals, many people really don’t want to spend $12 on some scrambled eggs just because they want to enjoy the general splendor of the restaurant’s atmosphere. That’s why I think more and more people are headed to Megabites Diner where the prices have remained reasonable on a block through which tour buses have begun to make the rounds. I decided to take a bit of a walk down DeKalb Ave. toward Fulton Mall (and beyond) after breakfast to Ft. Greene’s neighboring communities.

Brownstown Coffee

Court Street Coffee

Somewhere between Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights is a very long street called Court Street. I think it’s considered Boerum Hill. I dig the area for it’s vast number of bookstores, cafes, pubs, independently owned shops, and people/dog watching. Due to the rain, I ran into a local Barnes & Noble bookstore where I ordered my Doodle Revolution book by Sunni Brown and drank a bit of tea in their café. I took a few napkins and drew this:

Scary scribble portrait

So, yeah. This one’s eyes are bugging out and proportionally it’s all out of whack. Maybe it was due to the rain. Maybe it was the additional caffeine. Whatever it was, I wasn’t in the right zone for doodling. I was trying to force it, I think. I hadn’t drawn on the regular in a while. I rushed. Maybe I was stressed and now all my freaking portraits looked like George Bush on the day he told the American people that the economy was about to tank. It stopped raining and it was time to move along through Court Street.

Coffee-induced Bookstore Rampage

I am not sure why books and caffeine tend to find each other; One relaxes me and the other does not. However, I was on a hyper roll with the bookstore thing and had a really massive coffee high now so I decided to go into The Community Bookstore which is owned by a laid back French man who has stacks of used books that are pretty cheap. Most people have to squeeze around each other to get through it. It feels like you’re playing Twister with strangers with the threat of books falling over at every turn. Great place for serendipitous finds though! With my caffeine high, I knocked book stacks onto the floor several times before I called it quits and sat on a bench outside to doodle on a napkin in front of a Blue Marble Ice Cream store.

I will never be Frank Stella.

Too much caffeine on Court Street
Too much caffeine on Court Street

It still feels off. I mean, a doodle doesn’t have to look amazing but I wasn’t achieving that quality zen-like focus like I do when I’m in a good zone.

Too much frenetic energy gave my little doodle a nonobjective abstract look. It looked like it was trying to be inspired by the artist, Frank Stella but all the shakiness of the caffeine just got in the way. For more on this fellow New York artist, click HERE. He’s a pretty interesting guy and Wikipedia rumors claim that he’s still living and working in New York City.

There’s even a great 10 minute video on Frank Stella here:

So the moral of today’s blog post is, switch to herbal tea and try to find your inner Frank Stella. Hope you enjoy the rest of this weekend.

Doodles and decaf,

Mary

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Overcoming Artistic Blocks

Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them.

-David Bayles, coauthor of Art & Fear

Frog Sketch

Good Morning, All!

Feeling Blocked

Sleeping late on a Friday is the biggest luxury on the planet, in my humble opinion. Woke up to some fresh Italian Roast coffee and opened my sketch book. I drew a blank. Had no idea where to begin. I have been so immersed in my Photography class this month that I feel like I forgot how to simply put a marker onto paper. I remember something my 2D design professor said about some artists feeling overwhelmed by the blank page or canvas. He mentioned how one artist would throw charcoal dust over his paper and then “draw” with an erasure in order to get started. So, I decided to not think about it too much and just draw a few lines. A half an hour later, a frog appeared.

The Importance of Scribbling and Unfinished Works

Every now and then though, I don’t have patience to sit for a half an hour to draw so I’ll end up with something like this…

Quick doodle

It’s basically scribbling but I encourage you to get it out of your system so you get used to just the process of just starting. Not every line needs to be perfectly rendered. I created that one at Megabites last Sunday and even attempted a new doodle but never finished it.

Unfinished Doodle

How to Handle the Unfinished

The act of simply doing means you are still actively engaged in creating but maybe you are simply brainstorming. I have a tendency to leave my doodles behind but it’s good practice to hold onto all sketches, even the ones that disappoint you because it might evolve into something else that you haven’t considered.

 To Keep or Not to Keep ‘Bad Art’

I remember sketching outside with an earnest attempt to capture the essence of a pigeon but I lacked some of the skills to really do it any justice. When I was younger, I would never dream of letting anyone see it but as I got older, I found a certain charm to it’s unique renderings. While I’m a fan of skill involved in realistic renderings of still lives (or in my case, not so still life), there’s something to be said about the “bad art”. The Dadists would have loved “bad art.” One of my older sisters has her Master’s in Fine Arts and she was a big believer in having Bad Art Days. We would try a new artistic medium without any expectation of knowing what we were doing. By calling it a Bad Art Day, we got rid of any fear or expectation of doing anything ingenious and sometimes our artwork would surprise us. So, in honor of all the “Bad Art” out there, here is my poorly drawn pigeon.

My version of a Pigeon
My version of a Pigeon

 

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

-Pablo Picasso

Books Dealing with Artist’s Block

  • If you ever feel like you’ve felt blocked as an artist and couldn’t create anything, there is a great book called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland which I can highly recommend. If you’d like to read a review on it, Click HERE!
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has always been my go to book to help me find my artistic direction, no matter how quirky. More on her HERE!

Now go get some art supplies you’ve been meaning to try and go play!

Cheers!

Mary

Planting Fields Arboretum

Flower Vine Sketch

This is the first week that I have fallen behind in my napkin doodling. My summer Photography class has monopolized a lot of my time. In fact, this sketch is inspired by one of my class’ trips to the Planting Fields Arboretum located in Oyster Bay, New York. We had to take some abstract photos of the flowers and plant life there. If you are ever on Long Island, it’s worth finding your way over there. Click HERE for more details on getting there.

My class will be over in a couple of weeks so there are a lot of projects due. I will certainly make time for some tea and coffee now and then. I will stock up on some markers.

The year of napkin doodling around Brooklyn shall continue! .

(Although, I may have to consider a photography blog)

Peace and Doodles!

Mary