January 30, 2012

Two Good Endings

Over the last couple of days two good things have come to a satisfying conclusion.

On Saturday and Sunday the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra performed Mahler's 3rd Symphony. Our Saturday evening concert ranks as one of my top musical experiences in recent memory--right up there with Mahler 2 in Carnegie Hall, the Arutunian Concerto at Aspen, and Peter Cetera in Abravanel Hall (ok, so that last one is a bit of an oddball, but I was playing in a section led by Tony Dilorenzo--one of my trumpet heroes--and the audience cheered so loud that I felt like a rockstar all the way down on 3rd trumpet!).

Anyway, Mahler 3 was a riot! I felt like I played as well as I ever had in rehearsal, our brass section as a whole was rockin', and there were several moments where I was so overcome by the energy and excitement of the piece that I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear right there on stage. It was really a lot of fun.

Second, I finally finished the drawing I'll be submitting to the music school art competition! (My hands are rejoicing!) Just for fun, I took pictures throughout the process (some of which I've already shared with you here) so you could get an idea of how I approached the piece.

So here it is from start to finish...

I'll admit...I'm kinda proud of the final product. No, it is not a self portrait--I'm quite aware of the fact that I'm not nearly as lovely as the female trumpeter I drew--but maybe it's my ideal self in a way...I dunno.

Anyway, whether or not I get picked for the postcard, I'm glad to have been given a reason to indulge my creative side.

January 26, 2012

Home Stretch

Those of you most familiar with my art probably know that I tend to work at the intersection between a stark, two-dimensional, black-and-white world and one that is soft, shadowed, nuanced, dimensional, and occasionally, but not always, warmed by color. I suppose there are a bunch of possible symbolic meanings you could tease out of such a set up--and I won't deny that I have my own interpretations of this style--but by and large I return to it mainly because of the aesthetic. I simply love and adore black and white, clarity of line, and the textural and formal versatility that can be found within.

My favored materials are black sharpies of all sizes and bic round stick medium pens on smooth and completely un-textured white paper. As I work on a piece, I usually start with the heavy black-and-white stuff and then progress to the soft sections so I can avoid any collateral smearing that would undoubtedly occur during the hours I spend with my hands pressed up against the paper.

Last night, I finished the black stuff in my latest picture all the way up to one final corner...

You can't possibly realize how excited this makes me! When I began this drawing, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how complex and time consuming it would become...or just how much havoc it would wreak on my cramping right hand. Thank goodness playing the trumpet seems to use mostly different muscle movements, otherwise I'd be up a creek...so to speak.

Once I finish this final corner I'll abandon my sharpies and take up some combination of pencil (colored or not...I haven't quite decided that yet...and I'll have about an hour--two at the outside--of drawing left in which to make that decision) and possibly a bit more bic pen for intensity. I'm excited to move forward, but still praying that my occasional negligent clumsiness won't interfere with a work I'm really coming to love.

January 23, 2012

Another Tease

Still making slow progress on my latest drawing. It is one of the most detailed efforts I've ever set up for myself and is DEFINITELY proving to be the most time consuming individual project I've ever taken on. Here are a some details that might rouse your curiosity...

There will be more to come at a later date...

Ice and snow

The weather this year has been odd to say the least. Last winter we were all forced to endure a relentless deep freeze, but so far in 2012 our temperatures have swung wildly between the sub-zero madness that is typical of Chicago this time of year, and eerily spring-like days where temperatures soar into the upper 40s and turn all the snow into vast puddles of muddy slush.

The lake has only recently frozen close to shore...

And I've missed seeing the masses of pancake ice that I was so excited about last year, though a few strays have occasionally floated in...

...I've still been able to find a few interesting ice-scapes during my daily walks...

...but today's one of those slushy days, and most of the stark icy beauty I've developed such a fondness for has been replaced by miserable masses of wet.

On the upside, my playing has been going quite well these days and I'm looking forward to the quarter's first orchestra concerts this weekend. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, we'll be performing Mahler's 3rd symphony. I'm playing 2nd trumpet, which means that I get a lot of cool stuff to play, but can also sit back and listen to our brilliant principal trumpeter sing away on all the solos...it's great! The concert will be broadcast live online through the Pick Staiger web page. Check it out if you've got a spare couple of hours on Saturday evening.

January 18, 2012

Surfers are insane

Today dawned clear and cold.


As I walked to school, wind chills in the single digits made my limbs throb beneath layers of clothing, and waves of heavily slushed water rolled arduously to shore beneath the barely-warming light of the morning sun.

So imagine my shock and awe when I noticed these guys out in the water...

Don't see anything? Let me zoom in a bit for you...

That's right. There are a couple of surfers out in Lake Michigan in the middle of January trying to catch a slushy wave.


That's all I can say.

January 17, 2012


I've been diligently working on my submission for the Beinen School of Music art contest for the past few days. Despite limited time, the overwhelming amount of detail, and occasionally cramping hands, I have made a small amount of progress.

Here's a sneak peak (only a detail of the drawing is shown--the actual piece spreads out quite a bit from this small section)...

January 16, 2012

The Topography of Drifted Snow

Last night's sky was clear as a bell.

After finishing my evening practice I stood beside the lake for a few minutes and watched Orion rise above the horizon. I remembered the times I'd sat at a telescope on my back porch in Holladay and sketched its most famous nebula (resulting image at left)--and how I used to be able to watch it rise above Mount Olympus through my bedroom window...the hunter's starry extremities embracing its peak like the wings of a butterfly.

The wind was howling ferociously, and I thought to myself: how odd to be surrounded by drifting snow in such a gale and still be able to see the starry sky...

This morning I marveled at the sculpturesque landscapes left behind after all the blowing...

These snowy formations near the lake shore were not unlike geographical ones I'd observed in Utah's southern deserts. As I explored their sprawling ridges I could imagine myself flying high above a desolate white-sanded landscape...

I've got no classes today and will finally be able to devote a few blissful hours to a drawing I've been working on in bits and pieces all week. An art contest for all current music students was announced a while back and of course I've got my eyes on the prize. The winner's work will be featured on the postcards NU sends out to droves of prospective students in order to advertise its music program. Though there is no monetary award, it would still be thrilling to see my credited work distributed so widely. I finished sketching out the basic idea last night and have an ambitious amount of detailed pen and pencil work still ahead...keep your fingers crossed for me and I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Today was supposed to be a rather gray and foggy one--even rainy if you can believe it--perfect for holing up inside and being creative. However, things so far haven't been nearly so bleak. I guess I'll be getting some sun on my skin after all...

January 13, 2012


Well, the halcyon days of warmth and sunshine we've been enjoying lately have come to a rather abrupt end. Last night 30 mph winds blew in 6 inches of powder prompting the city's emergency sirens to sound and snowplows to engage.

It's not so bad really...especially compared to last year's madness...and I was reminded this morning of how great an exercise it is to march through untrodden powder.

The sun has actually managed to make some brief appearances in between bands of lingering storm...

...casting an otherworldly silver-yellow glow over the lake.

January 10, 2012

Still Mostly Mute...

...but I simply never tire of these gorgeous mornings...

It got up into the mid 50s today.
I got a bit sweaty inside my down coat.