This month marks the 40th anniversary of the death of anti apartheid activist, Stephen Biko. On August 18, 1977 Biko and a friend were detained at a police road block in Grahamstown, South Africa. Biko was arrested for violating a banning order against him, and was taken to Walmer police station in Port Elizabeth where he was held naked and shackled in a cell. On September 6 he was transefered to room 619 at security police headquarters in the Sanlam Building in central Port Elizabeth. There, handcuffed, shackled, and chained to a grill he was interrogated for 22 hours. He was beaten so severely by one of the officers that he suffered a massive brain hemorage because of the beating. After this incident, he was forced to remain standing while shackled to a wall. On September 11, he was loaded onto a Land Rover after a doctor suggested that he be transfered to a prision hospital that was 740 miles away. Biko made that trip naked and manacled. He died alone in a cell on September 12, 1977.
I wanted to post this drawing on September 12, but was unable to complete it in time because of other commitments. I learned about Biko, like many other people, through Peter Gabriel’s moving musical eulogy to him. I had long wanted to draw a tribute to Biko, and this is it. I am very proud of this drawing and consider it one of the absolute best that I have ever produced. Read more about Biko on Wikipedia.
A couple of weeks ago, I popped in to my neighborhood Starbucks to say hi to friends; it was the first time I’d been there in a while. The past couple of months have been extremely wet for us here in California so, it’s been hard to get out and walk. Thankfully, that has come to an end. The sun is shining and the days are long once again. The following months will be busy ones for me — I have quite a few projects planned that require my attention, but I intend to make as much time as I can to get out and soak up the sunshine and draw.
As I walk around my neighborhood and draw the people that come and go into places like my local Starbucks I see certain characters over and over; they’re part of the establishment just like the furniture. Some of them have been coming into SB for as long as it has existed here. That’s a long time. The guy that I’ve drawn here isn’t an exact representation of anyone, but instead an amalgamation of different blokes that I spy while drawing. They all have certain features that are very “drawable,” so I’ve chosen a select few of those features and created my own Frankenstein monster. It was pretty enjoyable, I must say.
As for the text that runs along the side of this page — what can I say, I have my opinions when it comes to art. In this case, they’re opinions that I’ve had for a long time; They’ve gotten stronger over the years and I’m finally spitting them out based on what I see going on. It is what it is, take it or leave it. I’m not a gold coin that that’s here to please everyone. C’est La vie.
This week, I decided to start writing my weekly blog post without any preconceived idea and without a pre-drawn image. I usually have a bunch of random thoughts running through my mind so I thought that I’d make use of them. In the few days that I’ve been pondering on what I would write about I just happen to complete a new drawing that I thought I’d share with you.
Originally, I was going to write about all the thoughts I’ve been having in regard to making changes, and moving forward, but at the last minute I changed my mind because I didn’t want to write a long winded post that sounded like me making a resolution. Instead, I’ve decided to be more direct and write about some of the things that I’ll be doing in the coming months.
If you remember, in my last post I spoke about a series of drawings of women that I want to do over the coming months; my original idea was to draw some of the fabulous female friends that I have — I still intend to do that, but now, I’d decided to expand on my idea to include notable women in general. By doing this I am giving myself a greater variety to draw from. I’d like the drawings to be mostly in pencil but I don’t want to limit myself either. So, you’ll likely be seeing portraits in a variety of drawing media. The pen and ink drawing of my friend Jennifer from last post is the first official drawing in this new series. The of drawing of Jennifer that I used was from my sketchbook, but I intend to work it up into a finished piece. Keep an eye out for it because I’m sure it’ll be fabulous.
The drawing that adorns this week’s post is of Jane Morris, wife of Willam Morris, muse and lover of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Pre-Raphaelite icon. I first discovered the work of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) at age 16 and have remained fascinated with their work ever since. The story behind many of the women that posed for various members of the group are interesting portraits of individuals living in Victorian England. Many of the men in the group were well known in the Victorian era and outwardly appeared to adhere to the rigid morals of the time. However, in the studio and alone with their models it was a different story. These men and women spent hours alone together confiding in each other and building a trust amongst themselves. They poured their hearts out one another and not all were happy in their marriages. So you can imagine how easy it was for affairs to start. The affair between Rossetti and Jane Morris is probably the most well known when it comes to the Pre-Raphaelites. Their story is full of all of the elements that make for a good read: drama, pathos, and tragedy. The men in The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were like rock stars in their day and some these women were the equivalent of modern day groupies. Photographs of these women are hard to come by as photography had just started to be widely used; Jane was most likely the most photographed muse in the group and therefore the easiest to find reference material on. I found the undated drawing that I used to work from in a random Internet search sometime last year. To my delight, I discovered a wonderful photo that clearly displays Jane’s iconic looks in all their splendor. I had started the drawing months ago and it hung around my studio until last week when I finally completed it. The term stunner was coined by Rossetti for Jane. As you can see, he wasn’t exaggerating.
I had a wonderful time drawing this portrait and I am eagerly looking forward to the next one. All of the drawings in this series will be scanned and put up for sale in the gallery section of this site. I’ll probably wait until I have a few done before I start adding them. If you see one that interests you please contact me via the contact form and I will provide you with all the details.
There’s no two ways about it — it pays to have friends that are beautiful. It’s even better when you can draw them. Does it sound like I’m gloating? Good, because I am. Every artist has certain things that they love to draw over and over; I’m no different. As an artist, the one weakness that I have is women. I absolutely adore drawing them. I attribute this to growing up admiring the work of people like Alberto Vargas, Alphonse Mucha, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones amongst many others. These men shaped my idea of what beauty is and I have aspired to capturing some of that in my own work ever since.
Recently, I decided that I was going to start doing a series of female portraits in a variety of media. I’ve had this idea for years, but for whatever reason I had not taken any action to making it a reality. At this stage in my life I simply don’t have time to put projects off anymore. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that my time here is limited and that all that matters is doing as much work as I can. Fortunately, I’m blessed to have lots of beautiful, smart, and talented women that I’m lucky enough to call friends. They each have unique and wonderful qualities that will make excellent challenges for me to capture. Doing this series will also allow me to work with media and techniques that I haven’t used in decades. It’s not that the techniques are new to me — it’s just that I haven’t used them in a long time. One by one I’ll reacquaint myself with them and reintroduce them into my work. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re an artist of any worth, you’ll not only be able to draw anything, but you’ll be able to do it in a variety of media with equal mastery.
Finally, a word about my friend Jennifer, the subject of my drawing for this post; Jennifer is one of those rare females who simply cannot take a bad photo. Jennifer might highly disagree with me on this, but I think that this is something upon which we can happily agree to disagree. She’s graciously allowed me to draw her and I am grateful to her for that. I hope that I do her justice in my efforts. This drawing is just a beginning — there’s a lot more great photos of Jennifer that I hope to draw in the near future. Keep an eye out for them because they’re sure to be fabulous. Interestingly, Jennifer also inspired the title of this post; the last time I saw her, we talked about an idea for a project that she has in mind and the title of this post is the happy result of our conversation. Thanks Jennifer!
I was recently looking at my old blog, Cubist Comix, via the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine. It’s interesting to see all the changes that my work has gone through and the progress that I’ve made since I started my first blog in 2008. Since then, my internet presence has grown and I’ve, unfortunately, become too distracted by things like Facebook and Twitter. I know some bloggers that have all but stopped updating their blogs because of social media. Facebook and Twitter certainly have a place, but I don’t feel that they can entirely replace what you can do via a blog. For this reason, I have decided to focus more time and energy on updating this blog more often and growing its audience in 2017. My sketchbook is an important part of my work and it’s important for me to share my day to day experiences along with my ideas, thoughts and opinions as recorded in the pages of my sketchbook. It’s what allows people to get a glimpse into my artistic life.
In addition to refocusing my energy on my blog, I would also like to focus on giving people a better overall picture of my work.The gallery and store sections of this site will be getting updated more frequently from this point onward. I love my sketchbook work, but I can’t live from just that. In order to remedy this situation, I plan to start offering prints of my work in small limited edition runs along with originals pieces. I’m doing this in order to make my work more accessible for everyone – serious collectors and fans alike. In order to do this I will need to make some changes. Please bear with me as I get things all worked out.
I think these changes will bring balance and variety to this site and give me the satisfaction of knowing that I am showing all facets of my artistic skill. The best is yet to come.
This week, I am sharing two pages that I drew in November while out and about in the Bay Area. I’m quite fortunate to have friends that not only understand what I do, but support my efforts as well. One of these people is my dear friend, Monica Ambalal, who teaches music history and ethnomusicology at Merritt College in Oakland. On this particular day, I joined her for her drive to work and to check out a café called Zocalo. I remember that it was quite busy that day and there were all sorts of unsuspecting victims hanging out and having coffee and or something for breakfast. Monica hung out for a few minutes before leaving to her meeting. When she left, it didn’t take me too long to find a subject to draw. There was a woman sitting a few tables away from me who seemed to be an artist of some sort. She may have been a writer, but I’m not sure. The one thing that I do know is that she seemed to be having some sort of conversation with herself; she was rather animated, waving her hands around and even getting up and making a face before stepping outside for a break. I kid you not, I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried.
My second page of the day was done at Café Roma in Berkeley. I’d been to Café Roma quite a few times over the past few years and I’d had mostly enjoyable experiences there. It’s a large café that’s broken into two areas. The main area, where the bar for ordering drinks is located, is large and well lit with lots of tables. The second half of the building is a study area that is made up mainly of tables. It’s quieter than the main area since it’s away from the main entrance and the sounds of the outside traffic. The bulk of their clientele is (surprise, surprise) made up of UC Berkeley students. Amongst the students are a smattering of local characters and normal folk. There weren’t too many drawable subjects around that day, so I decided to focus on the architecture instead. Luckily, I’m pretty decent with perspective so that wasn’t an issue. The work was in all the texture and lights and darks — whew, that was a bit of work. I’m glad that I revel in the act of making tiny lines, hahaha!
I love these types of spontaneous outings — they’re the best. I find it exciting to discover new places and see new people. I look forward to many more spontaneous outings in the Bay Area and wherever else the wind may blow me. Such is the life of an artist — I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
After all the holiday craziness, I’m finally getting around to scanning the dozen new pages that I’ve drawn since December. This one was started in December around the time of the horrific shootings in San Bernardino. Terrorism is a cancer that tears asunder the lives of innocent people. Because of the age that we’re living in, we all have a front row seat to the carnage as it happens. It’s only minutes after the fact before we start to hear the gruesome details blow by blow. Little by little we become desensitized to the pain of those affected. I saw that happen with the events in both Paris and San Bernardino; some people couldn’t wait to politicize what was happening. They had to tell you about their right to own a gun. In that moment, when loved ones are falling apart because they’re hearing the news about their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc, people engage in this disrespectful act. Is this what we’ve come to as a society? We’re so gung ho about our right to own a gun that we don’t care if we disrespect the recently killed and their families? Those people that engage in this abhorrent behavior fail to understand one thing: no one gives a fuck about your right to own a gun in that moment when innocent lives have just been lost. Believe me, I’m all for sensible gun regulation but this sort of behavior has nothing to do with that. It’s simply people choosing and not caring about being disrespectful at the worst possible moment. Learn some respect for God’s sake.
On the lighter side, did you know that I like singing flamenco when I’m tipsy and happy? It’s amazing what a few bottles of Newcastle brown or, in this case, sangria can do! Seriously though, I adore flamenco and its culture: the singing, the music, the dance, everything. Andalucía is my spiritual home. It resonates deep within me like no other culture. Perhaps it’s because of my own familial ties to Spain or maybe it’s just something that was meant to be. Whichever it is, it’s a feeling that lives inside me. Hearing Camarón de La Isla and Paco de Lucia play together is a sublime pleasure for me. It’s like listening to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant or Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads. It’s an unequaled aural experience.
I’m slowly but surely getting back into my rhythm of regular weekly posts and with a soon to be total of twelve freshly scanned pages, I have no excuse for not keeping on schedule. I’m enjoying the new sketchbook so far — I’ve got some interesting ideas that I’d like to explore so keep an eye out for some interesting graphic experimentation that’ll be dropping soon. And remember, draftsmanship is craftsmanship.
David Bowie died this past week after a courageous eighteen month battle with liver cancer. The news of his death shocked me like it did most people. One of the major figures of my generation has been lost. There will be no more David Bowies.
Over the past week as I’ve thought about his passing, there’s been’s one thing that’s become very clear to me: David Bowie’s life was a life well lived. Even though his passing leaves a huge hole in the world, I find comfort in the knowledge that he lived his life to the fullest – a life that most people can only imagine. His passing has been a lesson on living.
The one thing that has impacted me the most during the past week is the fact that he had started to write his next album knowing full well that he was dying and that his time was scarce. That, to me, defines how an artist lives his life. He works and creates until the end. There is no stopping. There can be no greater example of this than how David Bowie did it.
His passing has definitely made me think of how fragile life can be. We live in an era where self help memes appear almost every second on our social media feeds giving us advice on how to live life. Some of them do contain a kernel of truth, but taken in on a daily basis without any action they become meaningless wallpaper on our feeds. Despite how earnestly we make and begin our new year’s resolutions, most are abandoned less than a month into the new year thus trivializing the decisions that are important to us. That’s not how it works. At least not for me.
However you decide to make your life decisions, always make sure you make them because they’re important to you and for no other reason. Make them and then take action. Remember to be kind, to love, and to laugh. And most of all, make sure that your life is also a life that’s being well lived.
And so it begins… Happy New Year dear readers! I hope You’re new year has started on a positive note. I’m not really into making resolutions, so I don’t and I didn’t. I think that there are times when you need to make big decisions and it has nothing to do with the time of year or anything like that. They need to be made, so you make them. If there’s one thing I’d like to do this new year, it’s to be more consistent with my blog posts and to post lots of amazing sketchbook pages that will engage and inspire you.
I drew the page that adorns this post just before leaving on our Christmas vacation to Southern California, so I’m just now getting around to scanning the new pages that I’ve completed in my current sketchbook. This page has the distinction of being drawn at two of my favorite local cafes on The Miracle Mile: Empresso Coffeehouse and Miracle Mile Starbucks. It’s my hood, so I walk around it all the time and without much effort, I always encounter interesting characters to draw. The guy that I’ve drawn here is one of those people. I often see him at both places on any given week. I decided to draw him mainly because he tends to sit still and not fidget much. As you might imagine, something like that is hugely important for someone like me. In the first drawing, at the top of the page, he was sitting in Empresso at a table that I prefer to sit at along the wall near the bar area. It’s a tall table with two tall chairs that’s next to an outlet. I remember that they were playing Time of The Season by The Zombies that night — you know the tune, it’s the one with the famous, “Who’s your daddy?” line in it. Anyway, he seemed to be digging it and singing along quietly as he bobbed his head back and forth. Maybe he was reliving a part of his youth, who knows. The second time that I encountered him was just a day after I had done my first drawing. He came into my local Starbucks wearing a big puffy winter jacket and a baseball cap with fabric that covered the back of his head. He ordered his drink and ensconced himself at a window table. He had a book with him that night but he didn’t read it the whole time that he was there. Instead, he sat and quietly talked to himself for quite a while. I’ve seen him again since I drew him so, he’ll most likely end up on another page at some point.
I’m pretty fortunate to live in the area that I live in; everything that I need is within walking distance; there’s a decent variety of restaurants and shops, including my two favorite local cafes, just minutes away from my home. Both have a different and unique vibe to each of them so I go back and forth between the two. I’m friends with most of the baristas at both places — they’re all a bunch of really cool people that always make it a pleasure to come in have a coffee and draw for a while. Life is good and getting better all the time.
You never know what is going to Impact people. When I drew the page that you see here, I didn’t think of anything other than expressing the angst that I was feeling on that particular day. That day, like most days, I walked to Empresso Coffeehouse, a favorite local café, and settled in to do some drawing in my sketchbook. There’s normally a decent number of people at Empresso – not too little, not too many – so it’s a good place to go and concentrate on whatever it is that you need to work on. When I’m there, I normally listen to music as I draw so I’m pretty much oblivious to what’s going on around me.
A couple of days after I had drawn this, I went back to do more drawing at Empresso; as I was waiting to order a drink Sergio, one of the baristas that works there, walked by and said, “Zero fucks given,” with a smile on his face. I looked at him and smiled back. I thought, “How cool is that, he remembered.” I had never thought about the fact that there’s always a chance that something like this can happen; I mean think about it, I’m going to a public place and sitting while exposing images that, for the most part, are meant to be private. Yeah, I don’t really like people peering over my shoulder as I work but It happens. Someone sees something, it strikes a chord, and bam, there you go, “Zero fucks given.” Interesting how that works.
Almost a week later, I saw Sergio again as he took my drink order; as he was making my drink, he uttered in a low voice, “Zero Fucks.” I smiled and asked him what was it about my slogan that he liked so much. He said, “It’s so dope — zero fucks!” What could I say to that? Perhaps it may sound strange coming from an artist, but I’ve truly understood something here. As an image maker, I want people to remember what I do; more than that, I want my work to make people think. If I can do that, then I’ve done my job as an artist. I reckon that there isn’t anything more satisfying then that for an artist.
A couple of days later, I stopped and talked to Sergio as I was leaving. I told him that I was totally caught of guard by his reaction to my slogan. He said that it was something a lot of people could relate to — he said that it reminded him of the, “Have a nice day,” slogan from the 80s. I told him that I could see his point. You just never know what will catch the public’s eye — it’s a totally random thing.
A week or so later, I went down to Empresso to draw for a while; as I approached to order my drink, Sergio took one look at me and said, “Zero Sal, zero!” I guess I was right, when you put down your thoughts and ideas without holding back, people will react. Lesson learned.
Sometimes, an idea and an opinion come together in a spontaneous and very satisfying way. That’s basically what happened when I drew this page. I wanted to play around and experiment and see what would come of that, so I started with no preconceived idea in mind. I used to use this approach a lot years ago — Usually, I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
I started with a shape and that shape led to another and another – you get the idea. Despite the fact that I drew this directly in ink, it still took me a while to finish. As you might guess, adding the crosshatching and building up the shading takes me a while. I’ve been drawing this way for 20 years; it stems from my love of drawing in ink that began in my teens and the satisfying feeling of repetitiously drawing line after line. Maybe it’s some sort of OCD thing, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s very gratifying to me.
As I got closer to finishing my cubist-inspired image, I started to feel that it needed some text to accompany it. I started to think what I could make a statement about. You know it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. As an artist, I have some very definite ideas when it comes to art. Sometimes, I come to my wit’s end with people’s simplistic opinions about art and artists. Therefore, I decided that a straightforward, no holds barred, statement is what was needed here. The statement came fairly quickly: “El arte no es para imbéciles.” Yes, it’s true, sometimes I really feel that art is not for imbeciles. Is it ever? Does that sound elitist? Maybe it does — if it does, then so be it. I offer no apologies for this.
Art isn’t supposed to always be beautiful; if you view art with such a narrow point of view, then you fail to understand what art is all about. That’s like thinking that life is always good or bad — we all know that it isn’t either of those things all the time. Things are getting interesting in what i’m doing and I’m liking it. This whole other side of me is spilling onto the page and that’s bringing forth all sorts of ideas. Watch out, here I come!