The Los Angeles Times asked me to go over to Union Station at rush hour and make some sketchbook drawings of the scene. I can’t walk in the main entrance without thinking of William Holden and Nancy Olsen in the 1950 movie "Union Station" and I always pause at the spot Holden gets shot to see if everything looks the same. The architecture hasn't changed much, the combination of Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne makes this a quintessential L.A. landmark. There’s those great waiting room chairs and the cork-lined walls keep the giant room as quiet as a church. It’s still a busy transportation hub, but no one dresses like people did in 1950, that’s for sure.
I did spot a very hip cowboy who looked like he was right off a movie location, or perhaps he just arrived from Tulsa with dreams of being discovered.
The New Beverly Cinema is a legendary revival house in LA, I used to go to there a lot in the seventies and eighties. Lately I’ve been whining about how VCRs and DVDs have shut down all the great theatres that used to show old movies. There used to be about six or eight of them in LA , and they showed double features and changed movies every three or four days. Everybody I knew had the schedules stuck to their refrigerators or in their studios.
A couple of weeks ago my son, Nate told me he heard that Quentin Tarantino bought the New Beverly, saving it from the wrecking ball. It turns out that Tarantino had been helping keep the place afloat for a while and now he’s made it as permanent as anything can be in LA. He’s quoted in Vanity Fair “I just couldn’t live with myself if that theater shut down while I could do something about it.”
So this weekend, I went down there to check out the David Carradine Tribute. I saw a wonderful film Carradine directed, and starred in, called “Americana,” and the great 1980 Western “The Long Riders.” Tarantino was there, he introduced each film, told some nice stories about his friend Carradine, sat in the audience with everyone else and stood around talking about movies during intermission. Like a lot of people, I’ve been a Tarantino fan since I saw “Reservoir Dogs,” and this easily makes him my favorite living director.
The LA Times asked me to join a Los Angeles Conservancy Saturday Walking Tour of Broadway’s historic theatre district and make some drawings. None of these movie palaces show films anymore except for special screenings, they have all been adapted for use as filming locations, concert rentals, and retail.
Our guide, Tony Valdez, told us that when he was a kid, he had to use the side staircase entrance for the segregated balcony, that’s some California Jim Crow.
The interior of The Orpheum is beautifully restored and has a busy schedule of concerts and events.
You can park here for six bucks and get “the best taco in town”
The LA Times asked me to make some drawings during rehearsal of the Los Angeles Ballet . The company was working on a program of three George Ballanchine ballets, “See the Music, Hear the Dance.” It was a real privilege for me to have a chance to observe these wonderful dancers up close in their rehearsal studio in West LA. I could feel the energy in the room the minute I arrived, and it was clear that I was watching artists perform at a very high level. I also learned why visual artists have drawn and painted dancers so often throughout history; even when dancers are at rest, they seem to be striking poses that exude elegance and strength.
We’ve been doing some on-location drawing in my Illustrative Storytelling class at Art Center this summer. This week we took in a ballgame from the left field bleachers at Dodger Stadium. A lot goes on out there that has nothing to do with the proceedings on the field.
I started this drawing when the Dodgers were down 3-0 and by the time I finished they were up 6-3. The students are figuring out what it takes to become an illustrator, and I tell them you gotta have some “ass-power.” Quincy Jones used the term to describe what made Michael Jackson better than a lot of other singers he’d worked with, Michael was willing to sit his ass down in the studio and do the work required to make a great record. Sometimes ass-power beats raw talent.
The Los Angeles Times asked me to attend a dress rehearsal for the LA Opera's production of "The Birds," a fable written by Walter Braunfels in Munich in 1920. I hung around backstage and in the empty Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and watched as all the parts to the opera came together: no sign of Bugs Bunny.
The LA Times ran a few sketchbook drawings about the transformation my Pasadena neighborhood goes through during the holiday season leading up to the Rose Parade. A village of activity springs up as bleachers and TV towers loom over the homes and apartment houses along Orange Grove Blvd. Homeowners line their front yards with folding chairs and camping equipment. Thousands of people sleep overnight to get a good spot to watch the parade on New Year's Day.
I usually sleep until 10 and miss the whole thing.
The Los Angels Times is running an article this Sunday on the closing of Dutton's Books in Brentwood and they've interviewed a few writers about their favorite independent bookstores in town. Paul Gonzalez, the greatest art director on earth, calls and asks me to do some drawings of the stores to accompany the article. So, I make the rounds, do the drawings and send him these. He likes them so much he ups the budget!
The fee now just about covers what I spent on books in the stores this weekend.
Designmatters at Art Center is producing a book as part of an education initiative aimed at understanding and preparing for a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area. I taught a class last term that had students producing images to accompany the text throughout the book. Christoph Neimann came in for a workshop, he and Ann Field contributed illustrations to the book, and Stefan Sagmeister is responsible for the design of the entire book.
I was also asked to make some images as part of the introduction to the Narrative section that contains a collection of fiction, poetry, and evocative essays. This series deals with the temporary nature of the Los Angeles landscape, its history and mythology. I placed the drawings in old books as a reference to the literary nature of the section.