I started drawing again after a hiatus of over twenty years, and what better place to practice my rediscovered skills than Venice Beach, California. I first visited Venice in 1995, and there was something in the sand, the murals, and the alleys that enchanted me. I found it to be a place to relax in the sun away from the bustle of Manhattan, and mingle with the vagrants and tourists on the boardwalk. Venice was a place that held doors to new worlds. Sometimes I went there just to rest a few days, and other times it was my way station to places like Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Mexico, and Asia.
There was something mystical about Venice that beckoned and allowed me the space to make art. It was like a vortex – a whirling pool of positive energy that enabled expression of my artistic side which had been pushed to the periphery in favor of my career as a medical doctor. I shot numerous rolls of film there, and my first photography exhibit was in nearby Santa Monica in 1999. I met my wife there in 2004 and we come back every year during the holiday season.
My drawing materials and sketchbooks were in storage for over two decades. I stopped drawing when I moved into Manhattan in the 1980’s and set up a darkroom in my brownstone walk-up on the Upper West Side. This past summer I was cleaning out some boxes and found a bin of art supplies that was a time capsule of my life over two decades ago. The vials of india ink had dried into solid cakes, and there was a ticket to an Art Students League sketch class from 1983.
Starting to draw again was not easy. You would think it was like riding a bike but that was not the case. My first encounter with a blank sheet of paper caused so much anxiety I started to sweat, and my initial attempts were sloppy chicken scratches. To force my right brain to work I bought brushes and paints. Never having formal training in art, this was a process of relearning what I had taught myself years ago.
It took a good four months to become fluid once again with pen and ink, and to start becoming confident with color. I looked forward to my Los Angeles winter vacation to practice some of my newly rediscovered skills. I was in Venice nearly every day drawing and painting, and some of the results are posted above. Rarely have I had such an opportunity to concentrate on my art.
So take a look at my sketchbooks and experience with me the flavor and excitement of Venice Beach with its unique mix of roller bladers, skate boarders, dog walkers, joggers, homeless people, surfers, and tourists. I hope these drawings convey some of the thrill of visiting this unusual community and the process of rediscovering line and color.
For those interested in materials, I used a Joe Miller plein aire easel with Grumbacher watercolor tubes. Lines were rendered using dip pens and various nibs, with inks that included waterproof black india and Sennelier sepia. When an open bottle of ink was awkward I used Pigma or Tombow brush pens. I bought a new Kolinsky sable brush at Blick Art Supplies in LA , and was so thrilled with this place I went back twice. Drawings were in regular graphite pencil or Conté. The papers are various sketch pads and the larger paintings are on Arches 300 weight cold press.
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