I've been working on a new series of small drawings of things my daughter and I have found around our neighborhood this spring. With everybody stuck at home, Evelyn and I gradually stumbled into a daily ritual. We'd take the dog out for a walk each afternoon, and we'd talk about the things we saw changing around us: the flowers blooming and falling, the leaves growing, the colors changing, the bugs and birds and animals re-emerging as the weather turned warmer. Evelyn would come home with her pockets stuffed with whirligigs and buttercups and cicada shells, which she'd arrange in little taxonomic collections around the house.
With a macro lens, a lot of blocks, and a lot of time, photographer Dominic Fraser made this lovely series of images reproducing classic images of Audi rally cars.
My favorite detail is that the spectators seem to have period-correct 80s hairdos.
Here's a few things I've been reading this week that I've found really helpful and inspiring:
- I love this piece that Stacey Abrams wrote for the New York Times about how much voting matters right now. Sometimes the most basic things — the things easiest to overlook or take for granted — are what can make the biggest difference.
- President Obama’s piece about local politics and police reform is great — not only because it's insightful but also because his calm, clear, eloquent voice is so comforting to hear right now.
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson wrote a powerful blog post about his experiences with discrimination and police bias.
- Marques Brownlee, a tech journalist and Youtuber I've followed for a long time, was inspired by Dr. Tyson's article to reflect on his own life experience.
- Ayesha McGowan is the world's first (and so far, only) black female pro cyclist. In addition to being a great athlete, she's also an excellent writer, and she's been reflecting lately on her blog on the protests, as well as representation and racism in the cycling industry (Note: Also I like the typography joke in the title of her site, A Quick Brown Fox. ) .
- Check out this great list of resources for antiracism (Note: Hat tip to kottke.org for the link to this list. ) .
I'll update this list as I find more.
This is a new ink drawing of an interstate overpass, from a trail on the Patuxent. That day the sunlight caught the tree branches just so, and I managed to take a picture.
These days there is a chronic lack of time and energy in our isolated household. Daycare is closed for the foreseeable future. Our days are composed entirely of work and childcare, a schedule so tight that air and sunlight rarely penetrate.
My wife Jackie and I both work full-time, demanding jobs. We are very lucky: both of us are able to work from home, and both of us work in industries that, so far, have been able to cope. But the load is still hard to sustain.
I am prone to anxiety and burnout and have learned over the years — slowly, sporadically, reluctantly — a few ways to cope. Meditation is helpful, but in the current midst of our crowded, noisy house the time and quiet it requires are hard to come by. Outdoor exercise — running and bicycling, in my case — is the next best thing. Leaving the house brings some quiet, but the time to do so is short.
One recent night, we were planning the dinner menu for the week ahead. I volunteered for taco night, but we were out of shredded cheese and refried beans. There were a few other basic things we needed, so I decided to make a run to the grocery store. On a whim, I also decided to ride my bike.
The other day I was sitting on our deck with my 4-year-old daughter, Evelyn. She saw a bee fly by.
"What bee is that?" She asked.
"I'm not sure," I replied, "a carpenter bee, I think?"
“I mean, did that bee have a name?" she asked. "I guess bugs don't have names," she continued after a moment, "they’re just ‘bee.’"
"Well, maybe each bee buzzes in a slightly different way. Maybe bees can distinguish different kinds of buzzing, and that's how they recognize one another."
Evie considered this. "Is that true?"
"I don't know," I said, "I'm just speculating. Do you know what speculating means?"
"It means... you're just making stuff up?"
I was deeply saddened to hear that Gary Kessler, my high school cross country coach, died this week. Coach Kessler was someone I looked up to at a time when, like most 17-year-olds, I was struggling to figure who I was and where I was supposed to be going. I miss him already.
What I remember him for — as a cross country and track coach — was only one part of his very full life. He taught science at my high school, and he also coached the football and wrestling teams for awhile. He was a Marine, a veteran, a pilot, and a career reservist. Every now and then he’d be out for a weekend, at Quantico for training. A reserved, humble man, he spoke very little about himself or his (many) accomplishments, and in hindsight I feel a pang of regret for not asking him more questions.
This biography of game designer Roberta Williams is fascinating. I remember the King’s Quest games from when I was a kid and I remember being awed by the graphics, especially the beautiful background scenery. I had no idea all those games came from the same designer.
I really like the dense, chiaroscuro shadows in these etchings by early 20th-century illustrator Martin Lewis. He was a friend of Edward Hopper, and you can see similar glimmers of loneliness and impending drama in his wide-angle compositions.
I meant to post this a long time ago, but got distracted: a nice piece in the Times about fountain pens and the community around them.
I work mostly with brushes and, uh, computers, but fountain pens are my favorite tool for making fine lines. When I’m inking a new drawing, I usually pick up a pen to finish it off. With the right nib, a fountain pen can be more expressive than a felt tip or ballpoint. Lines can be thinned or widened depending on pressure, or the angle of the pen. There’s a learning curve but in a practiced hand they offer a bit more control and subtlety.
But aside from all that, there’s something about fountain pens themselves that feels compelling. It’s just a thing that makes marks on paper, a pretty innocuous job that a chewed-up No. 2 pencil accomplishes just as well. A lovely pen somehow makes that simple act feel a little more special. I dunno: my wife and I have certain attachments to anachronisms like pens and vinyl records and canning jars and film cameras that make no sense but make life feel a little more interesting nonetheless.
It’s nice to see we’re not alone in that.