illustration

March for Science- Earth Day 2017

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.  ― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

This Earth Day, April 22, 2017, scientists, those who support their work, and those concerned about our current government’s disastrous environmental policies will gather in cities and towns worldwide in a march to bring awareness to the state of our planet and what we’re doing to it. I, along with thousands of others, will be marching in downtown Chicago (and doing some sketching).

Here’s the March for Science mission statement as presented on their webpage:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

Hope everyone I know will be there and/or lend their support in body or spirit.

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Chicago Field Museum sketchbook

Here in Chicago, we’re lucky to have a wealth of world class museums to visit. Several of them, including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium, are clustered in a group next to Soldier Field known as the “Museum Campus”. As a student, I made numerous trips in from the western suburbs to visit each of them years before I could appreciate what local treasures they are. Fortunately, I’m part of the Urban Sketchers Chicago group, a group open to artists of all backgrounds and training, who are interested in sketching in a live environment, and our regular sketching meetup this month took us to the wonderous Field Museum of Natural History. Here are some of the sketches from that trip:
This one is of a Peregrine Falcon, which has recently been upgraded from “endangered” to “threatened”, thanks to the efforts of wildlife conservationists.

This is a sketch of a Black Hat Dancer’s costume worn by Buddhist monks in the ritual of the Cham dance, which is considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods.

This is the Field Museum’s most famous resident, Sue, sketched during an earlier visit. She was acquired in 1997 and is, to date, the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Here’s a sketch of a pair of fighting African elephants who, along with Sue the T-Rex, are featured prominantly in the main hallway of the museum. These elephants are one of the first specimens displayed by the Field Museum in 1909. Here’s a fun video about the people & taxidermy involved in bringing the pair to life.

And finally, here are a few more miscellaneous sketches of various exhibits throughout the museum.

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The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump's House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

“Democracy is so overrated.” -Frank Underwood , House of Cards (Season 2, Episode 2)

In a recent New York Times interview with Donald Trump, the subject turned to energy policy, specifically alternative energy solutions. In typical Trump fashion, his response was meandering and full of vagaries. When pressed on a meeting he had with Brexit leaders regarding windmills and how they might detract from the views on his Scottish golf course, he came up with the memorable line, “The wind is a very deceiving thing.” From there he rambled on about how windmills are made in Germany and Japan out of massive amounts of steel that “goes into the atmosphere”(?) and “kill all the birds”.

This is a man to whom we’re entrusting the future of our country and in many ways the world. His decisions will no doubt effect every one of us, whether we live in the US or not, for the next 4-8 years and likely much longer, especially in terms of the environment and Supreme Court appointments. For those who haven’t read the interview and still say we should give the man a chance as we have all previous Presidents, I challenge you to read the interview in its entirety and NOT conclude that Donald Trump is mentally unbalanced and has absolutely no business anywhere near the Oval Office.

Already his cabinet nominees read like a who’s who of corruption, many of whom have expressed opposition and even taken legal action AGAINST the departments they’ll be heading . It’s amazing that the numerous charges of sexual harassment against him and his admitted sexual assault, disturbing as they are, are not even the most worrying of his corruption. Neither are his countless business conflicts of interest, which he’s done nothing to eliminate and stands to profit from BIGLY.

Now Trump and his cronies’ well documented ties to Russia are finally coming to light, conveniently AFTER the election. Whether Trump himself was unaware of the Russian hacking of the DNC emails, he now seems indifferent and even resistant to uncovering the truth. And now, he’s continuing his crusade to discredit all major media outlets and specific reporters who aren’t firmly onboard the Trump train.

In three days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, an event considered unthinkable and I even took part in lampooning just a year ago. And just as surely, some day, either before his term is up or after, the full extent of his corruption will be exposed and his house of cards will come tumbling down.

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Summer’s End: Farewell Cicadas & Walnuts

  1. CicadaWalnuts06Fall has definitely arrived to the Chicago area, and with it the end to the summer’s familiar ambient buzzing sound coming from the native cicada. This year’s brood was the annual cicada, which according to Wkipedia, are also known as the dogday cicada or harvestfly, though I’ve never heard them called either. cicadaI’ve taken some artistic license and depicted the orange eyed and wing tipped 17 year cicada (aka. the periodical cicada) who, according to the “Chicago Botanic Garden website”, aren’t expected to emerge until 2024.

As for the walnuts; our next door neighbor’s grand & glorious walnut tree has branches which extend over our fence, towering far above our driveway. Throughout the later summer months, the sound of squirrels cracking open the hard shells can be head clearly and constantly across the back yard. walnutsThe falling nuts striking the metal garbage can lids from 20-30 feet act as a warning gong for anyone passing beneath. They’re fairly substantial and a direct hit on the head could lead to hospitalization or, at the least, a nasty bump.

Like cicadas emergences, walnut tree production can vary greatly from year to year, and may be on an “alternate bearing” schedule, producing nuts one year and reserving their resources the next. As it happens, this was a very bountiful year for our neighbor’s walnut tree, with a sea of green, nearly lime-sized walnuts dotting the rear part of our driveway. Later, those that remain after the squirrels have had their fill take on the familiar wrinkled, brown look of dried walnut shells. As a bonus, I’ve discovered that disabling the electric eye on the garage door results in a powerful nutcracker.

For more info:

“University of Illinois extension: Cicadas in Illinois”

“Morton Arboretum:Black Walnut Tree”

 

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Trump & Putin: Really Into Each Other

RussianDolls“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
-Winston Churchill, 1939

 

What to make of Donald Trump’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Vladimir Putin?

A sampling of Trump’s contradictory quotes only makes things murkier:

Donald Trump last week: “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”

Donald Trump in 2013: “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.”

Donald Trump in 2015: “I got to know (Putin) very well.”

Donald Trump yesterday: “Just so you understand, he said very nice things about me. But I have no relationship with him. I don’t…I’ve never met him. I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like.”

And Donald Trump is (just barely) seen as the more “trustworthy” candidate.

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Game On: Donald vs. Hillary

Hillary tormented by Alien TrumpSo it’s come to this. As grueling as the campaigns have been on the nominees, sildenafil it’s been truly agonizing for the voters. And at the presumed end of the nomination process to determine the two most qualified candidates for the highest office in the land, it’s hard imagine coming up with two less likable individuals.* And with the proven effectiveness of negative ads, it’s only going to get uglier leading up to November’s general election.

Only five more months until it starts all over again.
And remember: in the voting booth, no one can hear you scream.

*In the latest polls , Donald Trump has an unfavorability rating of 63%, with Hillary Clinton only slightly better, with a rating of 61%

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The “Golden Wrecking Ball”

Sarah Palin's Trump "Golden Wrecking Ball"This Memorial Day weekend, sildenafil Sarah Palin gifted political cartoonists the world over with the perfect nickname for 2016 GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In a glowing and rambling rally introduction, she dubbed him the “Golden Wrecking Ball”, a name that will hopefully follow him through the remainder of his campaign. Thank you Sarah!

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Dog Phobias. Case study: Sadie and Ella

Dog PhobiasPhobias are strange things. Most of us have them to some degree. I myself have a pronounced fear of heights. Some call it a phobia, which implies an irrational fear, but I’d call it common sense fear of bodily injury due to falling from a great distance.

Dogs are similar in this regard. But our two girls, Sadie and Ella, couldn’t be more different when it comes to weather conditions for instance. Ella shows a total disregard for thunder and lightning, whereas Sadie goes to her “safe spot” behind our couch and will wait out the duration of the storm, sometimes trembling at an especially loud crack of thunder. She’s gotten a bit better as time goes by, but no amount of petting and soothing talk will completely dispel her fear. And according to canine psychologists, by overcoddling her, I may have only been rewarding and reinforcing her fearful behavior. Oops.

After 13 summers of occasional loud & violent storms without incident, any intelligent animal should realize thunder & lightning are a natural occurance and nothing to fear, right? Then again, lightning strikes DO account for around 50 deaths and 300 injuries on average annually in the U.S. alone, so maybe her fears aren’t totally irrational. Ella, on the other hand, has no qualms whatsoever about going out in the middle of a loud thunderstorm. So who is the smarter dog? The one who blissfully ignores the forces beyond her control? Or the one who spots potential danger and avoids it at all costs?

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Trump!

Morally bankrupt Donald TrumpIf the race for the Republican presidential nomination is a circus, Donald Trump is definitely its number one sideshow attraction. Whether repeatedly dropping the f-bomb at a speech in front of potential donors, giving out his opponent’s personal phone number, or lobbing cheap insults to anyone who disagrees with him, his campaign so far more closely resembles a Comedy Network roast or a WWE taunting rather than than a presidential run. And so far, the audience seems to be eating it up. As of this moment, he leads among the GOP contenders in the major national polls.

So keep it up, Donald! It should be an entertaining year ahead.

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Inequality and the California Drought

 

A while ago, I was given an assignment to create an illustration for a national conference addressing economic inequality in the U.S. I saw it as a great opportunity, since it’s a vitally important topic and one which I have very strongly feelings about. I was given the main thesis along with some thoughtful initial direction, and and I presented several rough concepts for consideration.

After a number of back and forth iterations, the one that was ultimately decided upon was a simple allegorical image depicting ladders and star-bearing trees as a metaphor for inequality. The thinking was to present the subject as being more about inequality of opportunity and not so much about class conflict. Due to exclusive copyright issues, I’m unable to show the final image, but one of my initial rough sketches, which I used as inspiration for this image, was seen as putting too much emphasis on the “99% vs. the 1%” for this particular assignment.

Now, given the recent headlines about California’s mega-drought, it’s taken on a more literal meaning. Gov. Jerry Brown’s conservation and rationing measures are already being criticized for giving unfair breaks to big business and the oil industry in particular, whose fracking technology uses tremendous amounts of water for an already controversial process. Solutions for now involve conservation and shared sacrifice, and praying for rain. In the long term, growing and engineering crops that require less water, and improved desalination and groundwater drilling techniques may help. Given the fact that nearly half of the nation’s produce is grown in California, it’s a problem that will eventually affect nearly everyone in the U.S., most of all those who can least afford it.

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Warren in the Temple

I must confess, it’s been a while since I attended my last Catholic school religion class (which reminds me, it’s been eons since my last Confession too), but some of the New Testament stories and lessons have stuck with me and still resonate all these years later.

Albrecht Dürer

One that I’ve always found especially thrilling was the single documented incident in which Jesus lost his cool and, in a fit of rage, threw out a group of moneychangers doing business in the temple. The story was always presented to illustrate Jesus’ human side, and as young students, how could we NOT thrill to the story of a badass Jesus brandishing a handy whip and going all Indiana Jones on the greedy heathens, driving them from the temple, yelling, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” (John 2:13-17).

While for the most part monetary transactions have been banished from the churches (though you’d never know it looking at Joel Osteen Inc.’s megachurch), the same can’t be said of the temples of government, where Wall Street bankers and corporate lobbyists have long been calling the shots in Washington.  Thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling, unlimited campaign financing has lead to the election of politicians who serve the interest of their corporate donors, not their constituants.

In this environment of decades-long erosion of middle class wages while the accumulated wealth of the top 1% has skyrocketed, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has made a name for herself by calling out the political corruption that has lead to such rampant inequality. Fighting the lonely fight for the middle and working classes, she, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have declared a war of sorts against the overwhelming influence of the megarich on the legislative process.

Belying her stereotypical librarian appearance, she delivers fiery speeches  preaching against Wall Street corruption and its insidious power over US politics and policies. This has lead to a growing grassroots movement for an Elizabeth Warren Presidency not seen since the improbable  and meteoric rise of Barak Obama in 2007.  And it seems the more Sen. Warren flat out declares that she’s NOT running for President in next years election, the more enthusiasm builds for her potential candidacy.

As much as I’d love to see a Warren candidacy, barring a political vacuum in which, for whatever reason, Hillary Clinton decides NOT to seek the Democratic nomination, a 2016 run for President seems to me increasingly unlikely. But we can hope.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Dave’s Ink!

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Pangolin and Armadillo- my soon-to-be-written children’s book

Lately I’ve been exploring the idea of authoring and illustrating a children’s book. So far, I have the main characters, Pangolin and Armadillo, and I’m working on building a story around them. That’s the easy part, right?

Pangolin ball

I only recently learned what a pangolin is. For others unfamiliar with the critters, they’re small to medium sized mammals native to the tropics of Africa and Asia and are noted for their scale-covered bodies and anteater-like tongues. Unfortunately, they’re also quite tasty (according to the locals) and are in danger of being hunted to extinction.

 

 

 

Armadillo

Meanwhile, separated by a vast ocean, the armadillo makes it’s home anywhere from South America to the south-central United States. Though they share some similar characteristics, most notably the body armor and the ability to curl up into a hard-shelled ball, they’re actually fairly distant relatives.

 

 

 

First character sketch

My story will detail the gripping adventures and unusual circumstances leading up to the chance meeting between the exotic Pangolin and a travel-wary Armadillo. Romance and hijinx ensue. Look for it at your neighborhood (or online virtual) bookstore once I get around to writing/illustrating it and find someone to publish it. Then of course there’s the film rights and the plush toy royalties to haggle out. So much to do!

 

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Eva Niewiadomski and the Catalyst Ranch

Tucked inside an historic brick building just steps away from the site of the Chicago’s infamous 1886 Haymarket riot, Illinois’ best conference venue (as voted by readers of Illinois Meetings & Events’ magazine) has been hosting meetings and events for the past twelve years. In that time, it’s grown from a simple idea to today’s layout of two floors packed with eclectic decor designed to inspire and get creative juices flowing.
The founder and owner of Catalyst Ranch, Eva Niewiadomski started with the concept that bigger and better ideas are born out of stimulating environments. The initial prototype for the Ranch was born at her previous job as a marketing manager with Quaker Oats. Sensing the need for an area there where creativity could flourish, she transformed some underutilized space into two ‘Innovation Hallways’ and a Creativity Room. After being let go from Quaker Oats, she quickly got to work realizing her dream of opening a dedicated meeting and events facility.
Having worked a number of graphic recording/ideation jobs for meetings at the Ranch, I can attest that the fun ambiance and the attentiveness of the staff puts all attendees immediately at ease and in a creative mood.

I recently spoke with Eva about how Catalyst Ranch came to be, and she agreed to a quick Q & A:

Q: Thank you for sharing some of your insights with us, Eva. The story of how Catalyst Ranch came to be is explained well on your website. I’m wondering where you found the confidence to invest so much of yourself in terms of time and money into a new and unique business?
Eva: I wonder about that myself, Dave. I had never thought of myself as being especially brave, especially when it came to spending money. I’ve always been fiscally conservative, stashing away as much as I can into savings. One contributing factor was the severance pay that I received as part of my layoff. Here was a nice reserve of money that someone was handing me to pursue a dream. If not now, then when? It probably wouldn’t happen. But I think more importantly, I believed that the idea was absolutely what Chicago needed. The positive response to my projects at Quaker Oats by my co-workers along with their wholesale enthusiasm for my idea of Catalyst Ranch was probably the biggest motivator. I felt that here was something that I was doing that I was uniquely qualified to do and around which I had a lot of passion. This was work that wouldn’t necessarily feel like work and I could feel like I was doing something positive for society. I get the greatest sense of satisfaction in shifting people’s perceptions of themselves and their capabilities. I believe everyone is creative and imaginative, if only given the right circumstances in which to explore the possibilities.

Q: I get the sense that family is very important to you. Your parents especially seem to have been quite supportive from the outset. How instrumental were they in launching Catalyst Ranch?
Eva: My family is very important. There are not that many of us here in the U.S. The extended family is in Poland and New Zealand. When you think about the fact that my parents (neither of whom have ever had a corporate job let alone sat in a meeting) said that they believed in me and would help me in whatever way they could despite not understanding at all what my venture was about, it’s pretty amazing and very empowering. My dad truly was my first employee and worked very hard at refinishing and reupholstering the furniture along with a million other tasks that encompass a build-out, despite the fact that he was already 78 yrs old. He turns 90 this year! The irony for me is that my dad continues to bemoan the fact that they didn’t help me enough since they couldn’t provide financial assistance. He doesn’t understand all the money that he saved me by doing all the labor for free. Without his help I truly wouldn’t have had enough money to furnish the space and definitely wouldn’t have been ready to open in time for my first client booking. Do you know how much furniture it takes to furnish 9,000 sq. ft.?? My mom was great too. She helped where she could and spent a week just polishing all the furniture and scrubbing the place to a shine after we moved everything in. Then there were all my friends and ex co-workers who painted, helped with the move in and provided their ideas, leads and continuing moral support. Definitely wouldn’t have made it past year one without all of them!

Q: In your twelve years there, what’s the most unusual event or activity that the space has hosted?
Eva: It’s incredibly hard to sort through all the doings here at the Ranch over 12 years but I would have to say that one of my favorites was an event we hosted for the Anti-Cruelty Society called “Paint Your Pet.” Guests brought photos of their pets and artists from Bottle and Bottega supplied canvases, paint, brushes and basic instruction. You can’t imagine the fever of concentration as 50 people sweated over their canvases, creating the most unusual breadth of artistic renditions of their pets. So much untapped talent! And so much laughter and fun! We’ve also hosted meetings where clients constructed some very interesting (and unusual) models and structures, built bicycles for needy kids as part of a team building activity and hit the breakfast buffet in a variety of headgear and boas. We’ve accepted delivery of refrigerators, composters and other top secret prototypes of unusual dimensions. Makes you want to be a fly on the wall to see what they are up to behind those closed doors!

Q: Given the economic problems and layoffs in recent years, there’s been an influx of hopeful entrepreneurs of late. What sort of advice would you give to someone looking to launch their own business?
Eva: I’ve actually met with a lot of people over the years who were in flux with their careers or just unhappy in their current jobs. What I tell all of them is that whatever you decide to do, you must have a passion for it, validate the need in the market for whatever product or service you want to offer, be comfortable with numbers and running financials (do not defer this to someone else without having a working knowledge of how to do a forecast and a budget and the questions to ask), have enough money to survive the bad times and the fortitude to work harder than you think. There is no way to foresee everything that you will have to deal with once you start your venture. But that’s also the fun of it! There are many rewards to be found in following your own path but you must have at least a small appetite for risk. This is just the start of a very long conversation as there is so much to consider and weigh.

Thanks very much, Eva and continued success with Catalyst Ranch!

Catalyst Ranch is located at 656 W. Randolph, Suite 3W, Chicago, IL 60661
For more information. visit the Catalyst Ranch website at http://www.catalystranch.com

 

 

 

As a side note, the pose in the accompanying illustration was appropriately (very loosely) based on Rembrandt’s ‘Polish Rider’, shown here:

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The model cowboy

A little doodle for my advertising and art school friends: the Marlboro man in his off hours as a life drawing model.

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President Obama and the Pope


This week in Rome, President Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time.

Since his election last year, Pope Francis has made numerous proclamations that many have found to be unusually liberal minded for the Church, both politically and even when it comes to social issues like gay marriage. During their closed door meeting on Thursday, President Obama and the Pope are expected to discuss an issue that’s been of great concern to both of them: the problem of growing inequality and lack of opportunity among the poor. In the U.S., some in the right-wing media have gone so far as to label the Pope a communist or, even worse, a LIBERAL. They’ve come to expect such talk from the President, but when the leader of the Catholic Church starts talking about the failure of ‘trickle-down economics’, he’s simply gone too far. According to Rush Limbaugh, “this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism.” God forbid that the Church voice an opinion on unchecked greed and the plight of the poor.

While it’s true that President Obama and Pope Francis have plenty of common ground when it comes to helping the poor, there are also some areas where the two disagree. Obama’s use of drones and the civilian casualties that sometimes result are one. Legalized abortion is another. Still, Pope Francis has made it clear in words and actions that world poverty is his overriding concern and that’s what’s expected to be the focus of tomorrow’s meeting.

Change comes slow to government and even slower to the Church, but for progressives, it’s encouraging to see the subjects of inequality and world poverty even being discussed at all.

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