Thursday, August 22, 2013

RAGBRAI Roadside Painting

As with the other painting I made on my recent RAGBRAI adventure, the context tells a bit more of the story behind this painting. It was made at a the corner of two Iowa country roads, which is populated by a handful of structures including a farmhouse and the rustic barn depicted in this painting. Typically, I imagine that on an average day that corner sees sporadic passing vehicle traffic and rarely a visitor who makes a stop. On the day I visited, though, RAGBRAI was passing through and about 30,000 cyclists journeyed through this corner. While, I made this painting the following things were happening around me: 
to my right people spread across an open yard playing frisbee,
a ceramicist stopped by to talk about art and his recent purchase of watercolor paints,
across the street long lines formed, queues for beer, pork on a stick, corn on the cob, and lemonade,
people clothed in varied forms of spandex lay on the grass talking, eating, cat napping,
a band played and people danced,
and I painted.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

RAGBRAI Roadside Painting

One of the most interesting things about making this painting on my first day of RAGBRAI riding was the context. The context is a bit lost in this painting, for though I've made an effort at depicting the beautiful hills of eastern Iowa, some of the liveliness of the experience is lost in this painting. While perhaps you can perceive that this painting was made at the crest of a hill, looking back upon the landscape's undulation, you likely don't perceive that I sat perched on a grassy section along the side of the road with hundreds of people milling about around me. An impromptu beer garden was all around, my friends were enjoying a mid-afternoon beer and I had challenged myself to complete a painting in the time it would take for them to have one drink. Being the only person making a painting in a sea of weary bikers led to a lot of questions about what and why I was painting, inquiries about whether painting is my profession, and suggestions about what to include in the composition. 

In making a quick sketch painting I tend to take broad artistic license, simplifying the scene to include that which I can quickly depict and that which will remain static enough for me to depict it. This leads to a new challenge, learning to better capture the action of those moments, quickly, and with flexibility in a ever changing scene. That is, to me, is one of the pleasures of the regular creative practice: one can, at once, feel the satisfaction of improving ability and also the challenge of how to paint/draw/write/{insert your creative pursuit} in a ever more expressive way.
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Thursday, August 8, 2013


I had the recent pleasure of biking my way across (part of) Iowa. It was my inaugural RAGBRAI experience, and I hope not my last. What's RAGBRAI you ask? Well, actually it's an acronym that explains itself, RAGBRAI stands for The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.  The annual bike ride bills itself as the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.
Beautiful billowing clouds on the first day of riding
RAGBRAI started in 1973 and in chatting with a rider who had participating in one of the first rides (and has been participating annually since 1991!), I found that there wasn't much support for riders on those first rides. It's hard to believe that now, as the hospitality along the route is almost overwhelming. On our first day of riding, I was dubious that we would reach the end of the 50 mile ride before dark (though we departed around 9:30AM) because the opportunities to stop for coffee, breakfast burritos, slip and slides, pork on a stick, pie, beer, and much more are plentiful. 
The charming buildings of Pella, IA
The full RAGBRAI route averages 468 miles, though this year we only made the journey for 4 of the 7 days of riding, so we weren't able to participate in the full tradition of dipping the back tour of your bike in the Missouri River at the start of the race and dipping the front tour of your bike in the Mississippi at the end of the race. I was stunned by the beauty of Iowa, at times disheartened that the rolling hills of Southeast Iowa contribute to that beauty (the roll of each hill is noted when riding a bike over them). 
Delicious key lime pie!
Our ride was marked by beautiful weather, mainly partly cloudy days with billowing clouds, warm sun, and mild breezes. We were a bit star-struck by siting and chatting with Don Gonyea and Scott Horsley names familiar to frequent NPR listeners (they kept a great Tumblr worth checking out). There was the opportunity to spend many hours with friends--talking and riding, laying in the grass along the route, and camping in the evening. And, of course, the great joy of riding a bike. I am often struck with gratitude, whether riding around Chicago or along a road in Iowa with corn fields for as far as the eye can see (a bit surreal) that I am able to ride a bike, the ease with which a bike can glide along and also the physical challenge of a long ride!
Bridge over the Mississippi on the way back to Chicago
And, of course, for me when I hit the road, be it by plane, train, automobile or bike, there is always the allure of making a painting. Stay tuned, for paintings made on my Iowa Odyssey in the next two weeks.
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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Help me raise $1000!

As you may know, before moving to Chicago, I spent a year living in Alabama and working as an outreach fellow at the Rural Studio. I was working on a project called the 20K House. The team I was a part of designed and built a $20,000 House (the house pictured in this post), which helped in the development of a prototype for affordable for rural West Alabama. Now, 6 years later the Rural Studio is getting ready to celebrate it's 20th anniversary. To celebrate, the entire studio will focus on building eight 20k houses for the community, resulting in twenty 20K houses in total. In order to make that possible, the studio needs to raise $160,000. The Rural Studio alumni in Chicago have banded together with the hope of raising $20,000 collectively, so I'm hoping to raise $1000 in support of that goal. 

Wondering how you can help? You can purchase a set of my Western Avenue postcards or Ocean Collection notecards and the full purchase price will be donated to the cause. You can also make a donation of any amount (no amount too small or large) by clicking on the donate button below, Or, if you can't donate at this time, you can share a link to this post on social media, to help spread the word. If you'd like to learn more about the Rural Studio and the 20K house project, read more below!

What is the Rural Studio? In 1993, Sambo Mockbee and D.K. Ruth brought a handful of architecture students to rural West Alabama, giving them a more hands-on educational experience whilst assisting an undeserved population. Rural Studio has since built more than 150 community-based projects and educated more than 600 "Citizen Architects."

What's a 20K House?  The 20K House project began in 2005 as an ongoing Rural Studio research project addressing the need for affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama.  With nearly 30% of individuals in Hale County living in poverty, the 20K House has evolved to become a well-built, affordable house for everyone. 
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