Some sketches

Despite good intentions, I find that there is no sketch or watercolor attached to a lot of my posts. So here are some. Most of these are from small notebooks.

In 1959 after I had graduated I visited my parents in Oregon and caught this lovely oast house (where they dried hops). I was impatient so my drawings were quite loose in those days.

Oast House in Oregon, 1959

Soon after that I was drafted, and spent 6 months at Fort Ord, near Monterey California. On weekend passes I and a friend would take the steam-powered train to Monterey and have espresso at the Sancho Panza coffee house, where we could read the NY Times. We would walk around the beautiful laid-back town after a martini or two, and wander along Cannery Row. After the canneries closed in the 1940’s, the buildings decayed and many burned in the 1960’s – I caught them in between. The web tells me that the area has be “revitalized” into a popular tourist destination (like so many others) that attracts 4 million visitors a year. I have no interest in revisiting. These are charcoal sketches about 9 x 12. The harbor view is pen and ink.

Cannery Row, 1959
Cannery Row 1959
Harbor at Monterey CA, 1959

Just after Ellen and I were married, we traveled to Scotland, England and Italy. The sketch of the English village is my favorite.

Outbuilding at Cardney-Dunkeld, 1968
Village of Fletching near Piltdown, East Sussex, 1985
Lago de Garda, 1968

As we waited at a cafe for St. Martin in the Fields to open at Trafalgar Square, I made this sketch of a building at the intersection of Duncannon Street and the Strand with a pen on a napkin, about 4 x 5. It is all made of inked dots, which is the only practical way to draw on a paper napkin. (Thanks to Google Maps for reminding me where the building is).

Building in London, 1968, pen on napkin

In 1985 we went to England and Germany with the kids, aged 14 and 11. My drawing got much more precise. I think these were all pencil sketches, but am not sure. The originals are packed somewhere.

Tower Bridge, London, 1985
Canterbury Cathedral, 1985
Lanthorn Tower, Tower of London, 1985
Ruins of 11th Century Limburg Abbey, converted from 9th Century castle, Bad Durkheim, Germany
Limburg Abbey

In 2001, we made a trip to France, where we rented a “penichette” houseboat and motored up the Mayenne River from Angers. I sketched along the way. It was a glorious trip. I recommend your own boat versus a big river boat; you rent bikes and can get off and explore the countryside. These are about 5 x 7, pen.

Our penichette in a lock, 2001
Penichette docked at a mill on the Mayenne River, 2001
Hospital and Bridge on the Mayenne, 2001
Lock on the Mayenne, 2001

We had wine at a cafe on the plaza in Chateau Gontier; it was light well past 10, being mid-June, and as I recall there was a parade.

Cafe at Chateau Gontier, 2001

Naturally, there were old mills all along the river, at the locks.


Mill on the Mayenne, 2001


Mill at la Benatre, 2001. I outlined the corners for some reason, which is a no-no.

After the river trip, we went to Paris. The highlight for me was the Eiffel Tower. I had seen thousands of images and little models of the structure, but as we approached it along the Champs de Mars it loomed ever larger until at its base we were in its awesome presence, under its spreading legs. Nothing prepared me for its incredible scale.  No way to capture its essence graphically or even cinematically. You simply have to be there.

Tuilleries Garden, 2001
Cafe at the foot of the Rue de Maurice Utrillo stairway east from Sacre Coeur, 2001. These are the steps in the famous Brassai photo, I believe.

Hope you enjoyed sharing these sketches!



How Did We Get Here? (edited)

Mylec Z2820 Hockey Stick

The appalling spectacle unfolding in Washington seems to demand explanation, and pundits are more than eager to fill the void. I think we all are trying to figure out the route from what seemed to be an orderly society into what seems to be chaos. What went wrong? What could have been different? What should we do to stop the bleeding?

As my son has taught me, when dealing with complex systems involving human behavior identifying in any detail which threads of past events have led to the current state of things is impossible; discerning in any detail how various threads of events are interacting to produce the current situation is impossible; and prediction in any detail is futile.

But if you back off from the detail, structure emerges even in very complex systems, and it is by placing current events in a matrix of emergent global processes that we can make some sense out of the chaos.

If you graph the most important phenomena supporting global civilization, you often come up with something resembling Al Gore’s famous “hockey stick” graph that predicted global warming (which turns out to be quite accurate). Pollution, water usage, urban development, resource extraction, species extinction, travel, trade, communication, technology, invasive species, likelihood of global pandemics, urban life, cost of extending life, the number of consumer good wrapped in plastic – all seem to be accelerating toward a peak. Even processes like population growth, with slowing growth rates, still are growing at a high rate.

Three simple facts define our future. First, global civilization is a finite system because the earth’s near-surface resources upon which civilization depends are finite. Second, a finite system cannot continue to grow unless you redefine growth to mean change within sustainable limits (whatever you think they are). Third, nearly all processes within global civilization depend upon continued growth.

So I think we need to look at political and social chaos as the unpredictable details of a predictable unraveling of global civilization. I go on and on about this subject in other essays, and since all I accomplish is making the reader feel bad, plus I may be wrong, I guess the best approach is for all of us to drop back and come up with theories about how we got here. A theory a day keeps reality at bay!