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Tag: chicago

Drawing from nature

I’ve have been enjoying gardening and the specific wonders of nature this year. In the context of the confines of this pandemic, I am more aware of the small beauties in nature. There is more time, it seems, to look and notice and contemplate my surroundings. For even as the space I am living in doesn’t change, the growing things inhabiting that space are constantly changing. I am drawn into this process.

Here are several drawings from the last week that i’ve made of flowers. Two from our garden, and a few from gardens i encountered downtown on Sunday.

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The Invitation

I came back to watch
the glowing magenta lift off,
hungover with grief
and hungry to feel loved.

Not a cloud was in the sky,
just a rich haze hovering over the line.
Rainbows shimmered at my feet
as the muddy blue horizon gave way.

The geese, drifting silently,
took no notice.
The gulls, oblivious to this minor miracle,
laughed their way through yesterday’s celebrations.

I could be here, and I am.
But also I am not—
too caught up in a long-denied truth
and where it might take me.

The sun, now high and yellow and too-bright,
illuminated the edges of my pages
as the geese, now flapping above me,
honked out an invitation.

And I accepted.


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The Pilgrimage and The Presence

A family of three skunks showed me
the way to the lake
and the shore where sailboats,
sparsely docked, stood swaying
under mountain ranges of cloud.

I waited and watched
as the sunrise persisted,
illuminating the foothills.

A window (rose with fiery peach linings)
opened above the dim red burn
and lightning splashed its fierce light,
revealing hidden crags and peaks.

All the while changing, changing.

Tiny, lapping waves watched
and whispered too.
This is not the only shore,
there is another sunrise.


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On optimizing my evening commute for speed

Most evenings I walk from my office through downtown Chicago to catch a Metra train home. The walk is 1.1 miles, heading South and West from State and Hubbard to Union Station’s Madison Street entrance. The direction I’m heading cuts diagonally across downtown, which creates a lot of flexibility when it comes to route choice. Regardless of which streets are taken, there are at least eleven intersections to pass through and upwards of 20 navigation decisions to be made along the way.

There are essentially three factors that impact how fast the entire journey will be.
1. How fast I’m walking
2. Weather
3. How much time I must wait at intersections

The real opportunity here is in defining a routing methodology that minimizes time not walking. I’m in direct control of my walking speed, and the weather bows to no man.

Over time, I’ve developed the following guidelines for route taking to minimize time not walking per trip to an average of 18 seconds.

Never wait by choice*
Every intersection choice point has two valid directional options—South or West. In most cases, waiting is not necessary because if one direction is blocked, the other is open. *This guideline must sometimes be overruled in order to stay away from the perimeter of the route.

Hop to it!
If I can run a few paces to make the tail end of a “walk” sign, I’ll do it. The extra benefit is that when crossing near the end of light, I can immediately turn and cross again when I get to the other side.

Maximize choice points
Every intersection that is not on the perimeter of the route contains 1-2 choice points, each with two valid directional options. For example, let’s say I’m coming south on the east side of Dearborn and I arrive at Wacker Drive. My first choice point is to either continue South on Dearborn (crossing Wacker), or to turn right on Wacker, (crossing Dearborn). Once either of these moves are made, I cross the street and immediately encounter my next choice point, continue or turn.

In most cases, choice should be made entirely by the “Never Wait” guideline, but there is another principle at play that makes it advantageous to wait for short times (if necessary) in order to stay away from the perimeter. The perimeter of route is where waiting happens, because there are no longer any choice points and directional options that don’t increase the overall distance of the trip. If the light is red, I’ve gotta wait. The guideline I use is to avoid the outside perimeter and the next block in from it until I’ve reached the Lyric Opera at Washington and Wacker. I may wait 8 seconds or less at an early intersection to ensure that I avoid perimeter woes.

Avoid multiple Wacker drive intersections
All intersections are not created equally. Waiting, if necessary, takes longer on intersections where at least one of the streets are two-way. I try to head quickly to cross the River, then if I’m not lucky enough to cross Wacker right away, I’ll walk west until I get to an intersection where I can cross without any waiting.

In conclusion
If I am optimizing for speed, this is how I do it. I may make another post some time about optimizing the same walk for beauty, which I have thoughts about too. Enjoy walking!

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Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood. 2020

I finished this painting and I’m feeling pretty good about it. The goal was to paint 2 foot square acrylic version of the very small gouache painting I made last year (below), using only the painting as a reference rather than the original photo reference. I’ve hung it up in the house to spend some more time with it. It’s got a great presence.

Next up I’ll be trying this scene again, same size, but directly from the photo (with some new restraints). My thinking on that here.

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 7 x 7 centimeters, gouache on paper. 2019
Studio mess.
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Chicago

Chicago (where the river splits). 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.
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Fog at dawn, Chicago

Fog at dawn, Chicago, lakeshore. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.

I just love this painting. It really captures the moment, which happened after a downtown Grocer paste-up session before sunrise. I walked down to the harbor and along the lakeshore as the sun came up.

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Logan Square, Chicago

Logan Square, Chicago. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.

This one is painted from a photo I took off of the back porch at a good friend’s place in Logan Square. It was a beautiful night.

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