Let me start off by saying, I’m not “into” Legos, robots or the Rubik’s cube. My son is, however, so that makes me an honorary fan. He’s seven years old and just recently discovered the Rubik’s cube. He loved it so much that he couldn’t stop watching all the various solving videos on YouTube. Then he came across the ultimate solving video, a Lego robot solving the cube, a.k.a. MindCub3r. If you don’t know what MindCub3r is, prepare to be amazed. My son loved it so much he insisted that I build one. Well. I just couldn’t let him down. Luckily, the instructions and software for MindCub3R are all online at mindcuber.com. I bought the Mindstorms EV3 kit from Lego and we set out building this thing with very little knowledge of Lego Technic and the Mindstorms software tool. The instructions were easy to follow. And once you get a hang of the software, it’s pretty simple as well. David Gilday, the MindCub3r designer, was also ready to help, if we had any issues. Lucky for us, we were able to resolve them. The mutual cooperation and problem solving was a great father/son bonding experience.
I’m so excited to have just sent off my first submission to the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project. Here’s a sneak preview.
This sketchbook is my attempt at illustrating the first letter my mother wrote to my father in 1953. I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope to illustrate another letter in the next edition of the project. I also hope that my illustrations help connect the reader to the author’s (Florence) stream of consciousness as she is composing each paragraph. Her words are full of youthful imagination and simply call out for a visual backdrop.
This project was technically challenging because I wanted to paint with watercolor but every attempt I made bled too much into the paper. I also tried India and calligraphy inks but they seemed to bleed also. I finally settled on acrylic ink for the text and illustrations. It dried very quickly and had very minimal bleeding.
I drew much of my inspiration from mid-century modern art, graphic design and textile patterns of the early 1950s. I focused mainly on the works of Charley Harper, Alexander Calder, Lucienne Day, Gerald Downes, Stig Lindberg, Marian Mahler and Sylvia Chalmers.
My submission to the Sketchbook project 2015.
Here’s my first attempt at making a chalkboard sign. It was for my daughter’s preschool spring carnival (cowpoke theme). Naturally, I had to do things the “easy” way. Why go out and by a chalkboard when you can make one yourself. wink! wink! No seriously, when one of the parents brought it a piece of plywood (for reuse), I jumped at the idea. Everything I needed was available at the hardware store (see materials below).
Once I got home I started spreading the “plastic wood” over all the holes and cracked in the plywood. When it dried (about 1-2 hours), I started sanding it down with a hand held electric sander. Then I sprayed 1-2 coats of primer and then 1-2 coats of chalkboard paint (letting it dry after each coat of course). The result was a smooth slate-like chalkboard surface. I wasn’t expecting this, but was definitely pleased with the outcome.
As for the design, I basically followed the theme of the event flyer (western, cowpoke, etc). I used regular chalk to create the background and chalk markers (Crafty Croc from Amazon) for the lettering.
There are plenty of other chalkboard designs to check out on the web. I posted my favorites to my Pinterest site.
1 pint of “Plastic wood” to smooth out the deep cracks and holes in the wood.
1 can of enamel spray paint (preferably white)
1 can of Rustoleum chalkboard paint
1 pack of colored chalk
1 pack of chalk markers
I couldn’t think of a better venue for reading my story “Echoes” than the sunny and warm Northern California wine country. It was held at Santa Rosa Junior College as part of their Fall 2014 Arts & Lectures Series. Thanks to all the students, faculty, staff and community for coming out, listening and asking very engaging questions. For more information about the book and the other amazing stories, check out the Love Inshallah website.
The next reading will be at LitQuake in San Francisco on October 11th. Come out if you can!
The sidewalk of Telegraph Avenue in front of Amoeba Records and Zebra Tattoos is a great location for sketching. I found a sandwich shop with bar seating that faced the street. I ordered up some lunch and set about capturing the midday sun and scene on paper. The light and shadows seemed to transform the already vibrant colors of the storefronts. While sketching, I observed people coming and going. Some were just too fast for my pencil. Others, however, were not. I was able to sketch the people that hovered about without any apparent purpose. Some appeared to just pause for a cigarette break while others had made the sidewalk their camp for the day. (Read more at Urban Sketchers SF Bay Area)
An excerpt from my latest blog post for the Beacon Broadside (courtesy of Beacon Press), an online venue for essays, news items, and dispatches from respected writers, thinkers, and activists about our times.
“The last time Ramadan and the World Cup crossed paths was in 1986 and 1982 respectively. I’ll never forget the summer of 1982. I was in Egypt, visiting my father’s family on a much-delayed bereavement trip. My father had died of cardiac arrest in October of 1981. We buried him in a Muslim cemetery in Houston, Texas and had to wait eight months before we could visit our relatives in Cairo. Those eight months were tough on me, a nine-year-old boy who just lost his father, soccer coach, and mentor.”
When I first arrived at UC Berkeley in 1997, I entered from one of the most unlikely entrances on campus, the steps on Bancroft Way that led me to the Hearst Gymnasium and Barrows Hall. A few days ago, I decided to return to those steps and just look back at the street and observe the activity. Not much has changed. The facades of the retail shops remain unchanged. The flower vendor left a few years ago and a “For Lease” sign sits in his place. A “Street Spirit” vendor found some shade on the bench where the flowers were once sold and offered his newspapers to passers by. I sat down on the steps next to one of the classical revival urns that surrounded the Hearst Gymnasium. I sketched as the urn’s lion gargoyle gazed out onto the street almost in a protective manner over the “Street Spirit” vendor.
I took this photo on a trip to France in 2004. I thought I took a color version as well, but when I returned home, I couldn’t find one. Now, ten years later, I find myself obsessively wanting to remember the place in color as I had experienced it. So I did the next best thing, I painted it in color as I remembered it.
A quick sketch I did in front of the UC Berkeley Faculty Club for my first post on the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers blog. I had hoped for some people to show up, but summer time is quite slow around the University.
The Faculty Club has been around since 1902 and is a wonderful place to grab lunch or have drinks after class (or work). I’ve even attended a lovely wedding (several years ago) that was hosted on the lawn shown in the sketch.
If you get a chance to view The Club from the inside, you’ll immediately note the precious craftsman design of Bernard Maybeck that is also seen throughout the historic homes of the area. It’s definitely one of the best examples (that I’ve seen) of this type of warm personal architecture.
Read more about it at http://www.berkeleyfacultyclub.com/