Have you ever tried sketching or even writing on a moving subway train in NYC? It's not easy, nor is it very enjoyable. Lots of twists and turns through hundred-plus year old tunnel systems. Not to mention the uncomfortable looks on the faces of your subjects; as is evident in the gray haired gent above, on the lower right.
After switching trains I began drawing another sketch when suddenly the idiot across from me alerted the man I was sketching by screaming at the top of his wheezy lungs: "That guy is drawing you!!" At that point the man raised his newspaper to cover his face and then scurried off to an adjoining car as soon as the train doors opened.
Needless to say, after drawing a few of these strange creatures in the wild, I was happy to reach my destination: The New York Historical Society's exhibit "Life's Pleasures"-The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925. Finally I'd be able to pull out a sketchbook without fear of outbursts or suspicion. I made a few quick studies, and then spent a couple of hours absorbing some of my favorite painters' labors. I can never get enough of the Ashcan School of art, I go to every exhibit I can, and I've been lucky enough to get to see some of these paintings over and over, from coast to coast. Not to mention the collection of books I've amassed on the subject. Seeing some of them is like visiting old friends. I get older, but they stay the same, forever young and vibrant, with a vitality few living beings can rarely maintain.
After the exhibit the last thing I wanted to do was get on that god-forsaken subway again. So I walked from 81st Street and Central Park West over to Broadway and headed Downtown, passing my old art school that was located in the Ansonia Hotel, and was glad to see the scaffolds around the grand old lady, giving her a well-deserved facelift. After a quick couple of hot dogs and an orange drink at Gray's Papaya I was ready to continue on. The original plan was to sit and sketch at McSorley's Ale House, an ancient pub that the Ashcan Eight frequented and painted in the old days. But then I remembered P.J. Hanley's, a hundred and twenty five year old bar right in my old neighborhood and decided to visit there the next day or so, sketchbook in hand. So I walked as far as 42nd Street and caught the F train back to Brooklyn.
The following sketches were done while hoisting a pint and knocking back a few Jack Daniel's on a sunny, but cold Friday afternoon in Brooklyn...
The rest of these sketches were done at JFK International Airport while waiting to board the plane. There were a few other sketches made during the trip, but they were left at my Daughter's house in the old neighborhood, at the old homestead.
Thanks to the talented and generous Ron Velasco, who gave me this sketchbook at Christmas, it's one of the nicest gifts I've ever received.