Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New England Aquarium Studies

As I said last time, drawing stuffed animals at Harvard made me feel sick and sad and I desperately needed to draw living animals.  And so, while I was still in Boston, I headed down to the good old New England Aquarium.  Boy did I have more fun drawing there.  I think you can see it in the art, so without further ado:

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

3.30.17 New England Aquarium Studies

I'd say I have a great affinity for Pinnipeds, yes?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Next of Kin" and Harvard Museum of Natural History Studies

Speaking as an artist, I'm not sure if drawing stuffed animals can teach me anything meaningful anymore.

Let's back up.  I was back in Boston for a week last month and decided I might as well enjoy the local attractions.  I hadn't been to Harvard to draw in ages and I'd heard they had a new exhibit that was a must-see, so I headed over there.

That new exhibit, man.  It's called Next of Kin.  The HMNH is so *old* that many of its skeletal and taxidermy specimens are from severely endangered or even extinct animals.  Artist Christina Seely, working alongside The Canary Project, an organization of ecologically-minded scientist/artists, created an art installation using many of these specimens.  Combining sculpture, photography, and music (including the calls of extinct animals), it's a stunning and incredibly moving marriage of science and art.  It is indeed, to borrow a phrase, not to be missed.  You've got until June to catch it. 

Oh yeah, and a far, far more accurate title for it would be "You Will Need A Strong Drink And A Good Long Stare At The Wall After This One."

It managed to haunt my entire visit.

I felt *bad* walking among the taxidermy in a way that's hard to put into words.  I drew a lot, as you can see, but I felt bad about it.  Even weirdly complacent - these were, after all, living animals that had been killed and stuffed in "lifelike" poses just so people like me could come and study their propped-up pelts.  So I really don't know if dead animals have anything left to teach me.

Anyway, on that cheerful note, art!

3.28.17 - Harvard Sketchcrawl

3.28.17 - Harvard Sketchcrawl

3.28.17 - Harvard Sketchcrawl

I got home with a desperate need to see *living* animals.  And so a few days later...

3.30.17 NEAQ Sketches

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sketching From "Nature" - "Ireland's Wild River"

It feels like it's been forever since I sat down, watched an episode of "Nature", and drew along with it.  So on St. Patrick's Day, I watched "Ireland's Wild River", a tour down the River Shannon, and drew these sketches.  Click on them to see the big versions at Flickr.

3.17.17 - "Ireland's Wild River" Sketches

3.17.17 - "Ireland's Wild River" Sketches

3.17.17 - "Ireland's Wild River" Sketches

I drew them all in green pencil!  Because St. Patrick's Day!  And Ireland! 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WDW Trip Report: Animal Kingdom Sketches

Oh yes, it is time!   Time to share what me and my little Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook got up to while in Disney's Animal Kingdom:

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

Wild Anhinga spotted on the river, a duck (Pochard?), and a really cool plant.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

More abstract studies of another Anhinga.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

On the subject of birds, there is a new presentation at Dinoland USA that features live birds, is essentially a sequel to my beloved Flights of Wonder, and matter-of-factly presents birds as a kind of dinosaur.  This... okay, Dinoland still makes me drink heavily, but this is a very nice change for the better.  More like this, please.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

Flights of Wonder is still awesome and I finally got to sit in the "I'm glad I am wearing a hat" seats.  Only thing is, I thought I'd heard that the show had finally received a rewrite, but it seems essentially the same.  I tell you, the Dr. Guano story is getting as taxing as Little Red back in the day.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

The Komodo Dragon was surprisingly spry, and the Lion Macaques are a new addition.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

A graceful Tree Monitor, a handsome Jungle Fowl, and a Mystery Bovine!  (All Ears identifies it as a Banteng, while the Cast Member I asked called it a Water Buffalo.  Either way, nice model.)

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

An Argus Pheasant and Crowned Pigeon...

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

...and some studies from my Safari photos.

2.21.17 - Animal Kingdom Studies

Bonus: A Limpkin I met at the Boardwalk docks...

2.20.17 - EPCOT Manatee Studies

And a surprisingly graceful Manatee at the Living Seas.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WDW Trip Report: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom By Night

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The past few years have seen Disney's Animal Kingdom become quite lively after the sun goes down.  The park used to go to bed with the resident animals, and sights like the Tree of Life lit up were rare treats.  Now, Animal Kingdom is a full-day park, in anticipation of Screw-The-Haters-I-Think-It-Looks-Rad-As-Fudge Pandora Landora.

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One of the highlights of touring Animal Kingdom in the evening is being able to ride the safari at dusk.  A few of the animals had already gone to their sleeping quarters, especially some of the more charismatic megafauna (this isn't the time to ride if you want to see elephants).  But we got to see many animals we hadn't seen before, like one of the last Black Rhinos in the world...

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...the hyenas...

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...a Thompson's Gazelle and an Eland calf...

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...and the lions out in the open like they rule the place.

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But the most exciting change to Animal Kingdom was thankfully already (finally, after many many delays) open by the time of our trip.  This giant lotus raft is the centerpiece of Rivers of Light, which finally gives Animal Kingdom a nighttime "finale" of its very own.

Now, Rivers of Light has gotten some mixed reviews.  I really liked it for what it is.  It's as if the Electric Water Pageant, Epcot's Fountain of Nations, the aurora scene from "Brother Bear", the good parts of Fantasmic (if you're wondering, yes, we still have a really long "Pocahontas" interlude), and your Yoga instructor's favorite Pintrest boards all got together and made an awesome baby... somehow.  It's short, though.  Like, really short.  And it is very much best seen from the middle of the stadium, where the mist screen projections actually focus properly.

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See, we were way off to the side in the "Moon" section of the stadium, nearest the Finding Nemo theater.  We felt like we were out in the boondocks in a way I never felt with Illuminations or Fantasmic.  It was hard to tell at times whether the show still had bugs to iron out or if it was just us. 

There's certainly plenty to see wherever you're sitting, thankfully.  We did like the prologue to the show a lot, with the floating fountains moving around and projections of dancing animal shadows on the opposite shore.  The latter might have been my favorite effect in the whole show.

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These beautiful boats, representing the moon and sun, housed live performers dancing along to the music.  I'm told the ambitious Tapestry of Dreams parade in Epcot, which I never got to see, was rather similar in tone.

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The lotuses change into colorful dancing fountains...

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...and giant animal floats sail in to join the party.  As you can see in my inept night-time photography.

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Finally, the river erupts into a grand celebration with the festive elements of water, fire, and light.

Fore some reason, this feels familiar.  Ah well.

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That wasn't the only nighttime party we experienced during this trip.  Our visit coincided with a Disney Vacation Club exclusive after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom.  It was nearly identical in practice to the special holiday parties, with free (and free-ish) food and drink, popular (and not) attractions running, and even special fireworks.  It was all to remind us DVC members that we are just better than other Disney guests.

Yeah, the whole thing made me a touch uncomfortable.

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But being in a nearly-empty Magic Kingdom all lit up at night?  I'm not kidding, it was one of the most truly magical times I've ever been there.  The crowds earlier that same day at MK were at what I can only describe as "Hell is other people" level with a side order of sweltering heat.  Just not fun at all.  After-hours, I was able to really take everything in and appreciate the beauty of the new central hub gardens and all.

Now I staked out a spot here for the fireworks expecting maybe some cheesy pop music and a few leftovers from Wishes.  Oh, how happy I was to be wrong:

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Popwhat? photo popcornwhaaaat.gif

Cheesy pop music, yes.  (The soundtrack was all bland pop covers of Disney songs, which... euw.  But they did play "Eye 2 Eye" from "A Goofy Movie" and it brought the house down.)  Cheesy fireworks hell no!  This was a full-on elaborate production using pyrotechnics and effects I've never seen before.  If this is what the successor to Wishes might look like, tomorrow looks grand.

Next week: Drawings of animals!

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Art of the Day!

Another little impressionistic Epcot landscape. I love the flowers around the lagoon!

2.20.17 - EPCOT Landscape

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WDW Trip Report: Epcot Gets Artful! Like, More So Than Usual!



My family's most recent visit to Walt Disney World was a bit of a doozy.  There were lot of brand new (and new-to-us) events and shows and rides to be experienced.  My personal priority was the brand-new Epcot Festival of the Arts.

I arrived on the very last day of this festival.  Fortunately, it was early enough that I could run right through the International Gateway from the Boardwalk (our first time staying there and we love it) and have myself a whirlwind tour of what the fest had to offer.

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And for the most part, what Artful Epcot had to offer in terms of art was... Epcot itself, being artful.  Epcot really is a downright beautiful place, and the many artists working throughout the park on both temporary and lasting pieces made it all the more lovely.  Furthermore, since they were preparing for the upcoming Flower and Garden Festival, the gardens were fabulous works of science-art.

And cooking is a science and an art as well.  Don't you forget it.  This festival wasn't about to let me.  Yeah, it turns out that this was really the Festival of All Arts, But Mostly Culinary Arts.  I didn't have time to try any of the food, but what I saw looked like it was more visually appealing than appetizing.  I'll direct you to the good old Disney Food Blog to have a look at the many and varied "Deconstructed" food.  (I did finally try School Bread this trip and... I don't get it.

There's also the matter of the Figment's Brush With the Masters scavenger hunt...

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I swear to God, years and years of Art History classes and I have no idea how to react to this.

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I found my new Twitter avatar though.

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Figment's Brush With the Masters may be the ultimate perfect storm of Disney-cutesy and "We can't possibly let kids be bored for even a second in World Showcase aaah!"  But it's nice to see something (or anything, really) done with Figment in Epcot proper.  And anyway, I want these adorable frames.

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Of course, one of the nicest overlooked attractions in World Showcase -one of the things that attracts *me*, at least- are the many galleries to be found in nearly every country's pavilion.  I had the "Frozen" concept art gallery in Norway to myself, the Kawaii gallery in Japan was fantastic, and I loved the exhibit of concept art from Shanghai Disney in China.  (But somebody help me identify the sheep in the above Twelve Friends.)  They stick around long after the Festival, thankfully.

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I did get to visit one temporary gallery in the Odyssey building (and being open looks real nice on the Odyssey).  It was full of lovely concept art by Mary Blair and Herb Ryman, including the above Ryman piece that hit me straight in the childhood.

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Art of the Day!

Thus inspired, I made some Artful Epcot Art of my own:

2.20.17 - EPCOT Landscape