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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Sketches from the NATO protests

So the 2012 NATO Summit is history, and the city of Chicago is still standing, despite the predictions by some of pademonium in the streets. Whether due to the extraordinary precautions of the police force or a case of overhyped hysteria, things have returned to normal, much to the dismay of the cable news networks. On a whole, the day passed with only minor skirmishes with police. During the early hours, the biggest battle was with the heat.
I was on hand for Friday’s National Nurses United rally at Daley Plaza and Sunday’s protest rally at Grant Park though I left before the march to McCormick place. The Grant Park crowd tried to keep cool as a steady stream of speakers read short prepared remarks aimed at NATO and human rights.
As expected, there were good opportunities to sketch the faces in the crowd and on stage. I added color to some of the images later, which was especially needed in the case of the “generalissimo” in the hot pink uniform.

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Dog sketches


The arrival of Ella, our Animal Care League adoptee, into the household offered an opportunity to do some dog sketching using a new model in addition to her older sister, Sadie .

Lots of sleeping poses so far, though if she ever stands still long enough, I’d love to do some action sketches too.

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Sketches from Occupy Chicago – Part 1


“And we shall organize them for the victory! We shall bear down the opposition, we shall sweep it before us-and Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours! CHICAGO WILL BE OURS!”– Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”


The following are a few on-the-spot sketches (one of which suffered some water damage from wet pavement) of Occupy Chicago gatherings. Some minimal color and tone was added in Photoshop.

Ground zero for the occupiers is at the corner of La Salle and Jackson near the Chicago Board of Trade, where they gather every day at around 1:30 PM.
A couple of the sketches are from a rally co-sponsored by Occupy Chicago and various senior citizen’s rights groups which was held at the Federal Plaza on Nov. 7th to protest proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The gathering, which featured brief appearances by Sen. Dick Durbin and other local politicians (notably absent was other state senator Mark Kirk), was followed by a march and sit-in which blocked traffic at the intersection of Clark and Jackson until police peacefully arrested some of the protesters in what amounted to a staged act of civil disobedience.

From an artist’s perspective, the gatherings provide a great opportunity for spontaneous, lively sketches, since the participants tend to be fired up and in constant motion. And despite some efforts to paint the protest movement with a broad brush, it’s members seem to come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and each has their own story to tell.

As with a previous post of “Faces on a Train”, I hope to make this the first installment of a series.

Thanks for looking. Comments welcome!

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Faces on a Train: first installment

For years I commuted to downtown Chicago’s Loop, riding the “L” train through the west side of the city. Now I ride only occasionally and at off peak hours, which gives me a chance to sketch some of the riders unobserved. With an endless supply of faces and poses to serve as inspiration, it’s fun to experiment with a different styles.

Here I’ve composited a few of these sketches digitally with some of the amazing photos my wife, Lynn, has taken during her commute.

And I couldn’t resist posting a few more of Lynn’s pictures on their own:

I hope to continue this series from time to time, so Green Line riders be forewarned.

Comments welcome.

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Sketches inspired by Cairo images

A couple of weeks ago, I started research for a poster commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Haymarket incident in Chicago in which eight policemen were killed (mostly by friendly fire) and dozens of protesters were killed or injured. Though I’m a lifelong resident of the area, I was a little ashamed at how little I knew about this violent and pivotal event in the history of workers’ rights. When the poster is completed, I’ll post it along with some background on the events of that time.

In the meantime, the images coming out of Egypt capture the anger of the Egyptians in their struggle for freedom. Today, at what is called the “Day of Departure” rally, thousands of citizens are protesting peacefully while just blocks away, violent confrontations continue. Hopefully the situation will find a peaceful resolution soon.

Here are a few quick sketches inspired by some of the recent images out of Cairo:

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