Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nobody deserves it more.

If something is hard it helps to be sure of your motivation. I'm a fledgling vegetarian and lately it's been extra hard, it's getting chilly and the Thanksgiving turkey looms large. Today I went to re-meet my "motivation" at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, an animal rescue located in Saugerties NY specializing in farm animals http://casanctuary.org/. The place is a miracle for these creatures, some of whom have been rescued from dumpsters, slaughterhouses, meth labs, and the most obscene neglect by their owners.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary was founded by Kathy Stevens in 2001, and since then 2000 animals have been given the love and care that they should have had in the first place. The first time I visited was unplanned, open house flier 2 years ago, but today was a more mellow visit, small group tour led by Melissa the volunteer (thanks Melissa!) and lots of time to really interact with many of the residents and learn some of their life stories.



This is Dillinger the Phoenix rooster and his girlfriend, he was rescued from a meth lab in St. Louis along with 50 other chickens, malnourished and suffering from frostbite. Chicken and pig farms are useful around a meth lab to cover the drug smells.



This is a little drawing of M.C. (Middle Child) and his little girlfriend Sarah. So it turns out lady chickens have it pretty good, today I heard many stories of rooster chivalry! The rooster does not eat before his woman has had her fill, the finest worms are hers, and if a hawk is flying overhead he guards her under his big strong wings, thats awfully manly! As for smarts chickens are about as intelligent as house cats, which may mean different things to different people;)


This is Ethyl the turkey, I need to go back and do a really good portrait of her sweet face, she has the softest, green almond shaped eyes and was making the softest little noises with her turkey BF. Those 2 followed us through the barn wanting some petting and to be sang to (they say they like it!). The sad part was learning that because of growth hormones they were the equivalent of a 300lb human, in other words morbidly obese and would not be living the long and full life of an unaltered turkey. Also upsetting to learn that there are no Humane Laws in place for poultry... My Thanksgiving problemo solved.



Piggy daydreams...



Peggy Sue and Nadine.



Nadine and a pot bellied pig enjoying a gorgeous fall day. Many of these larger pigs are rescued from the meat industry and having been given growth hormones and will grow to a weight of 700lbs, a normal pig weight should be around 250, again morbidly obese and not living the full normal pig lifespan... Some of the rescued pigs were runts "thrown on a pile to die". A few pig facts I didn't know, smarter than dogs, won't lay in their own waste if they can help it, and love belly rubs ( that's a lot of belly), also good swimmers (how??) and super cute when they run:) the pigs I got to hang out with were super doggish, very friendly, came when called, clearly checking people out for food, and wagging their piggy tales which is adorable!



This is Rambo the ram, he was found in a stable with 13 other farm animals and they were never allowed to go outside. Took him a long time to settle down and trust people and now is kind of the mascot of the place. He also has a pretty sheep girlfriend named Hannah who doesn't give him enough "space" and is a little jealous.


This one really broke my heart. Bobo the horse locked in a stall for 9 years in 6 feet of manure. But now she has the good life with a pasture, 2 other blind horse buddies and a handsome boyfriend named Casey (who was found in a junkyard covered with ticks).


This guy stole me heart! Atlas the Nubian goat, recent rescue, owned by a hoarder, malnourished and super crippled. So friendly and sweet and doing so well. In this drawing he is down on his knees eating the grass, his front legs do not "unbend" completely (I don't know how else to explain it), when he came they said he could only walk a few steps before he would tire out and go down in this position but I saw him getting around pretty good, and he's getting stronger...



with the help of his junior physical therapist doling out the goat Scooby Snacks and the very generous donation of a goat "wheelchair".




This place is amazing, and the people are truly amazing and clearly dedicated but the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how these animals, many of whom have had these nightmare pasts and should have no reason to trust people at all are still so sweet and trusting and lovable. Absolutely worth a visit, and so humbling. Kathy Stevens, and everyone at CAS thanks for all you do!

xoxo-April

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Songs from the wood.

I had off today and spent some time drawing at one of my favorite places, the Ramapo Reservation in NJ. I didn't make it in too far, a migraine and unsuitable shoes prevented that, but I was very happy to settle myself next to the Ramapo River which also flows through the backyard of my childhood home. Please enjoy my ode to fall colors, there will be a part 2 coming sometime very soon (I have to draw it all before we are leafless for 6 months).




Saturday, August 28, 2010

Celebrity portrait.

I had dinner tonight with my good friend Kati and ended up strolling down memory lane while showing her some drawings from the elephant project I started last February. I'm hoping to go back next winter to pick up where I left off! Here are a few drawings of a very special lady, Miss Timpa the glamorous actress playing Royal War Elephant #1 who graciously allowed me to draw her portrait and take some AMAZING video footage...





her handlers very kindly managed to encourage her to face my direction while I was drawing her. Everyone I met in Thailand was so helpful and friendly, including this big girl who was a real sweetie and a good sport. The whole time I was drawing her she was eyeballing my bag of supplies and finally made a grab for it at the end, crafty girl!


You'll notice she snuffling my foot hoover style, a few of them did that, why can't a dog just smell your foot to get all your info?

video

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Assateague Island.

Last weekend I visited my Mom in Maryland and spent a few afternoons at Assateague Island National Seashore, home to famous residents the wild ponies! There are not many places left in America where horses roam free but these hardy ponies have made a go of it on Assateague Island where the conditions are less than ideal for horses. I visit this place a few times a year and really need to draw there more often, but here's what I have from last weekend, seagulls, bathers, and of course the local ponies!

This post is dedicated to a friend of the ponies who is no longer with us.








The waves were so rough that day, I couldn't believe anyone tried to go in, the kids were being knocked over left and right!


Stormy weather on the way!


These little herds always have a stallion (on left) and several "harem" mares (on right), and sometimes if you're lucky a sweet little baby, which is nice when you're drawing because when baby takes a nap the whole herd stays in one place for while and you don't have to follow them around as they eat their way down the island.


This was drawn after this little lady walked directly up to me to see if my paper was edible, then she nuzzled my knee with her velvety muzzle and tried to bite me (and I swatted her away).




While drawing this pretty girl pony the herd stallion suddenly ran towards me across the parking lot (I thought to attack me) but ran past me to his lady and they both made soft horsie noises and snuggled faces for a few seconds, so sweet!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beauty and the Beasties!

Galerie des Chimères! Definitely my favorite part of Notre Dame, sorry Mary and J.C. but I came for the monsters. There is something surreal about covering a church in gargoyles, and when I say covered I mean covered, 5,000 (DANG!) of these thugs adorn Notre Dame, leering and hissing at the faithful, "You go inside and pay attention like a good little sheep so you don't end up in heck with scary hybrid creatures like myself peeling your skin off over a fire pit... hisssss, and remember your 10% tithe...). Gargoyles like most church decoration was used to get religious points across to the illiterate masses, also to disguise waterspouts. These days their main function, to me, is how fun they are to draw, whoever designed/carved them must have had a blast because all they are all so individual (again, 5,000) different faces, some extra scary, some a little goofy, assorted combos of body parts, it's easy to imagine them coming alive and coming for you if you stray to far from the flock...You've been warned.




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

La Ferme, la ferme...

So, when you hear the name Marie Antoinette what first comes to mind? "let them eat cake", 3 foot hairstyles, gross overspending, guillotines? well that's fair...(although she never said "let them eat cake", that was somebody else before her time, and when they said cake they actually meant brioche, in context - bakers, if you run out of basic bread give the peasants fancy brioche for the same price so they don't starve. - So, meant to be fair not patronizing (thanks "Stuff You Missed in History Class" for setting the record straight, Sarah and Katie, I love your podcast!!). So Marie Antoinette was a pretty serious victim of BAD publicity, which didn't end so well, but the great Antonia Frasier has cleared her good name in her book "Marie Antoinette: The Journey", a little light reading before heading off to Versailles. The book was really humanizing and I totally fell in love with Marie Antoinette! long story short she had simple country girl tastes at heart and with that in mind had Louis XVI build her Hameau de la Reine or in English the Queens Hamlet out behind Petit Trianon. And I can understand why, as impressive as Versailles is it is not exactly cozy or welcoming, a little too formal/oppressive/prison-like for my taste and apparently hers as well, so why not use your riches to create an alternate universe out back where you can live the simple life and breathe...

If you ever have the chance please go to Versailles. First you must experience the Chateau (the main palace) where you will be hurried along ever forward like cattle in a gilded Rococo slaughter house, senses stunned by gold leaf and wallpaper and chandeliers and marble busts and velvet and not a single surface undecorated, then you will then be spit out into the famously lovely gardens which you will marvel at until you realize there is not an centimeter of shade and the sun above is so fierce that you will go from being doomed cattle to feeling like Lawrence of Arabia, so hot, so hot, but look there is water far ahead... yes, head towards the grand canal, there are trees down there, trees, and shade, if you can make it, wait, it's farther then it seems... After a brief recovery at the canal you hang a right and make your way to Petit Trianon which feels downright modest compared to the Chateau and then a little wander down a winding path through the loveliest forest to the Queens Hamlet, a little village, filled with hard work and family values. Aaahh, exhale...yes, the perfect place to unwind and maybe have little fun on the side with a certain mister Count Fersen.


After the village you will come to the most charming fairytale farm, I would happily clean stalls for the rest of my life if someone would let me live there... sigh...really just perfect....

also you get points if you spot the lady bug, she came by to check out my progress:)


They had all the regular farm animals and in addition an area for cute bunnies, each with their own little red bunny hut, and wacky chickens for company. I don't want to think too hard about what bunnies are doing on a farm, the answer I like best is that they are there for cuddles so let's leave it at that.

Stay tuned for a Versailles post... I'll be dreaming of goats and bunnies tonight...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Best seat in the house!

I've recently returned from a 2 week drawing trip to Paris with the Dalvero Academy and thought I'd post my happiest memory first!

My friend Audrey and I camped out on the sidewalk at the top of the Champs Elysees at around 7:30am and had to sit around waiting till around 3:30pm with no Tour action at all but we did not mind because we had a great view of the gendarmes in their snug pants, tan biceps and guns... at some point they became aware of us drawing and purposely stood in directly in front of us, No problem, I am happy to record the pleasing results of your effort at the gym! It seems they handpick the Gendarmes (French Police) from the soccer field, or perhaps modeling school, choosing only the most attractive to represent Paris on international television during the home stretch of the Tour. They are the opposite of our NYPD, fashionable, fit and with fantastic posture, and have probably never seen a donut in their lives! I apologize for my disloyalty but it's true in many cases, but, as a Frenchmen pointed out later in the week when asked why all their police are so sexy, "they may look good but they are not intimidating, whereas NYPD are scary and will actually deter crime", hard to decide who I would rather have around, I'll say a few of each.

This little drawing is from the final day of the Tour de France during the super corny sponsor "parade" and you'll notice my view was a little obstructed, but I tried my best...


enjoy ladies (and certain gentlemen)! You're welcome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Richard III. Round II!

I went back with my friend Jeanette to see Richard III again the next week, enjoyed it so much the first time so why not?! Different day, different mood, different drawings, it's a treat to get a couple shots at something:)




Lady Ann calling Richard a toad/hedgehog, he'll remember that...



Why Clarence??



The happy day.





Such a villain!

If you're up for some excellent Shakespeare in the park check out http://newyorkclassical.org/
Much Ado about Nothing will be performed in July down in Battery Park City!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Haitian Dance-a-thon

The other night I went out to reportage with friends at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center. On this night Orchestre Septentrional d'Haiti was performing, a Haitian Jazz band who are a blast to listen to (I mostly listened, they were barely visible from where I sat, they wore orange and there seemed to be dozens of musicians!). The most entertaining part were the folks dancing on the side of the main stage, lots of personality and clever enough not to pay;) I wish I had a video of some of these characters, my favorite was a senior citizen version of "Cliff Huxtable" who went from one lady to lady with the suavity of an experienced tomcat, patience ladies, you'll have to wait your turn... Perhaps the most visually stunning were the spectacular hair do's captured with flair but without exaggeration by my friend Jeanette


Lady in blue showing everybody how it's done.


Lothario out to break some hearts!


Dressed up and having a blast!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Richard III. Round I...

Last June I went with friends to check out Shakespeare's "Richard III" staged
by New York Classical Theatre in the under visited scenic northwest corner of Central Park. You never know what to expect with free theatre so my expectations were sorta low but I was pleasantly surprised. I should mention that this production was a "traveling" play, with the audience following the action. Or, in their words... "New York Classical Theatre's hallmark is accessibility and a panoramic staging approach to performance. Site-specific productions are adapted to showcase the unique visual components of each venue through innovative design and choreographic elements. Throughout the performance, the audience follows the actors from place to place, as the plot unfolds from scene to scene. In this way, the spectators become active participants in the drama itself." This was pretty awesome, the constant moving to a new location created a bit of an agitation that added to the plot. While this production is currently over I want to put out a spoiler alert, these captions may give a few things away...


Opening scene, with Richard probably saying some dastardly aside to the audience...


Hey Lady Ann, I just killed your husband, wanna marry me? it's your fault I killed him by the way, you were way too good lookin!


Poor Clarence! he was my favorite..


The crazy looking guy who was supposed to kill Clarence but chickened out. He did manage to kill little Edward later in the play, although he felt really bad about it.


Lady Ann not too excited about the marriage...


Marrying her brothers murderer.


Now for the honeymoon.


The haunting of Richard "kill everyone I know" III

I went back for round II a few days later, so stay tuned for another RIII post! Also keep an eye out for their next production, Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" coming your way July 2010 in Battery Park.