Thanks for visiting. I hope you'll make yourself comfortable and...

Look Harder

That Inking Feeling


These are actually from the past few weeks, but conveniently enough, October is also known as Inkotober. Ideally, one should be doing some kind of sketch every day of the year, but I think the point of Inktober is to then share your sketches on the social network(s) of your choice, and to make sure they are made of ink. 

I tend to post round-ups of sketches and whatnots on this blog, but if you want to see what I'm up to on a more frequent basis, here are some Ink Links (ooh, I like what I made up, there): Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr


A Love Note from one Valley to another

Earlier this evening, my doodle for Yosemite went up. It is set to run through October 1st to celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the opening of Yosemite as a National Park.

Creating a doodle for Yosemite has been a longstanding item on the “Dream Doodle” checklist. Perhaps as long as the three-plus years I've been at Google… actually wait. Longer! When I was first approached by Google four years ago to become a full-time “doodler” they asked me to do an art test. Part of the test was to draw a famous landmark. Without hesitating, I chose Yosemite:

Yes…. that test piece is pret-ty rough to look at (they graciously asked me to draw a second landmark. I went with Santorini). But I think it’s good to show this sketch now because the rest of what I’m about to write here may also be a little freeform and messy. So please bear with me.

I guess my point is – Yosemite and I have always been close. Of course, I may be one out of four million annual visitors, but it's that easy for a place like Yosemite to give you that unique, once-in-a-lifetime sensation and you can't help but develop a bond with the place. Memories include family camping trips as a youngster, early rockclimbing days on Glacier Apron and the Five Open Books, and swinging 200 feet above the treetops on a rope swing anchored to El Capitan. Just last year, I attended my best friend’s wedding in the chapel right in the heart of the Valley... I guess you can say a lot of my Yosemite memories revolve around knot-tying. So when my boss asked me to draw a doodle for Yosemite with only a couple weeks to spare – not to mention I had just returned from two months of down-time due to a debilitating injury – I thought….


...Well, I’ll be honest, I thought it might not be a good idea! The recent fires in and around Yosemite have managed to destroy hundreds of square miles (though mostly contained, it continues to burn as of this writing). If doodles are all about bringing surprise, joy, and delight to our users, wouldn't it be better to wait for a less bummer of a period? As I’m seeing the doodle go live on U.S. homepages this evening, I’m also seeing Yosemite is once again in the news, as part of a potential mass closure of national parks threatened by a federal government shutdown.

So why do I think we should run with this doodle after all? Well, part of it is in the messaging behind the visuals.

I chose to go with embroidered patches similar to what you might see a park ranger or a backpacker wearing. I wanted a variety of patches that, when combined, created a sense of history, symbolic of the kinds of people that have made Yosemite – or national parks, or even state parks – a greater part of their lives. In return, they are the stewards of some of our greatest natural treasures. People like the National Park Service, park rangers, Search and Rescue medics, firefighters, and volunteers. Personal heroes like rockclimbing legend Lynn Hill (that climbing patch is her negotiating the great roof on The Nose!), or the aspirational hiker who decides to walk some or all 211 miles of the John Muir Trail. The patches include the next generation of stewards, little "Junior Rangers" or the Youth in Yosemite. 

Of course, ultimately it does come down to being a somewhat personal piece. You see, this doodle is also a kind of "love note" to the park rangers who came to my rescue after I broke my neck on a mountain biking crash in Lake Tahoe over the summer (that debilitating injury I mentioned earlier). They huffed it for four miles on foot, carrying 35 pounds of emergency equipment until they found me at the bottom of the hill. Then they sat with me for three hours, taking turns letting me lean against them for support, and shielded me from the harsh sun and relentless insects, and kept me alert in conversation until more help and a helicopter arrived. They even called me a few days later to see if I was okay.

Part of me knows this is just part of the job. But the other part of me knows that being surrounded by nature in all its beauty tends to bring out the best in people, allowing us to overcome difficult challenges, natural or manmade. For that reason alone, I hope you’ll agree this doodle has a place on the homepage today. 


Second Act

My first Google Doodle after two months on the disabled list. This is for Olga Ferri, a famous Argentinian ballet dancer, often considered to be one of the best Giselles to perform that role.

I saw Giselle many years ago, and remember being struck by the second act – how the main character, in her second life, danced all night to distract and save the man who broke her heart (which ending up causing her death, mind you). In some ways, the movement is about second chances, and in many ways, that’s why I wanted to work on this illustration.


Chinatown Patterns

Visited Oakland’s Chinatown to sketch before a doctor’s appointment. There were patterns everywhere. From the abundance of shop signs and umbrellas, the way the produce was organized along the sidewalks, to the decorative crosswalks. I wish I focused more on the amazing textile patterns some of the older folks were wearing. You could find plaid, stripes, flowers and paisley…. all on one jacket.


Shattuck Sketches and a Doctor's Note

Sorry it's been slow around here. I've been recuperating the past couple months from a broken neck during a mountain biking accident. I know, I know... Lamest. Excuse. Ever.

On most days, I am absolutely free of complaints, knowing things could have easily been worse. But sometimes I get kinda antsy, like last night, when I was trying to skip my pain meds and had too much coffee instead, and my neck brace began to feel like it was made of iron. I did some drawing to help calm my nerves, which eventually worked.

What made me happier than being able to go to sleep was that I noticed there wasn't too much discomfort in my neck after an hour or so of sketching. So I decided to go for a walk today to see if I could sketch a bit longer. I broke up my sketches into little half-hour sessions, taking breaks in between. It was a bit exhausting to carry even a light bag of sketching gear (below the weight restrictions my doctor imposed, of course) and it's definitely a bit challenging to sit in a chair now to finish up this blog post, but I am happy I challenged myself today.

Until now, I haven't been drawing much (and have been off work all this time as well), but a slow'n'steady combination of recovery and stir craziness is allowing me to overcome this dry spell. It's been encouraging to say the least. I hope I'll have more to show soon!