Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our Bus/Bike Sketching Trip to Duluth, Minnesota

Roberta and I got married July 14th thirty years ago. It's always a hot day on our anniversary. This year we took a trip to Duluth hoping Lake Superior's breezes would cool us off while we biked and sketched around town. We got cool weather for two of our three days in Duluth, but the wind shifted from the South on the last day giving us the same brutal heatwave everyone else was experiencing. In spite of the weather, we were able to do a lot of sketching and bicycling.

Roberta and I caught the Jefferson Lines "Rocket Rider" bus to Duluth early Sunday morning from St. Paul's  Union Depot. We had a comfortable ride up Highway 35 and arrived at the bus station in Duluth before noon. We unfolded our Brompton bikes and biked the three and a half miles to downtown on an on-road bike trail through a gritty industrial area on broken pavement, some of which was being repaved. There are plans to make a better bike path along this stretch connecting the Munger Trail with Duluth.

The bicycling is much better along the lakeshore north from downtown Duluth. We biked the Lakewalk, a paved trail  with lots of great scenery. Along the Lakewalk, we stopped to sketch at Leif Erikson park, Congdon Park and Lester Park. We also sketched a thick fog rolling in on the deck of Fitgers Restaurant. We also found a lot to sketch in Canal Park - the famous lift bridge from the deck of Grandma's and the fishing boat-turned snack shack called Crabby Ol' Bills. There is also a lot of sketchable stuff at the Duluth Depot. I had a lot of fun sketching the William Crooks locomotive in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

We look forward to returning to Duluth for more bicycling and sketching.

Here's Roberta's sketches (click on the sketches to make them bigger):

The view from Leif Erikson Park.

The Lift Bridge in Canal Park.

The falls in Lester Park.

Tischer Creek in Congdon Park.


Crabby Ol' Bills.
My sketches...

A view of Canal Park from the Lakewalk trail.

The lift bridge at night.

Lester Park.

Tischer Creek, Congdon Park.

Fitgers and Canal Park.

The "William Crooks" locomotive at the Depot.

Here's a photo of Roberta sketching with our bikes parked near the falls:

Our Bromptons proved once again to be the perfect bike for exploring and sketching a city:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sketching Mademoiselle Miel's Urban Apiary

Roberta and I are preparing for our next bike and sketching trip to Duluth in July, but we wanted to take a trip and sketch something right here in our hometown. We've explored and sketched a great deal of downtown St. Paul, but there's much above the street and skyway level we have not sketched.

Last year, Roberta and I attended one of the Science Museum of Minnesota's Beaker and Brush events called "The Amazing Honey Bee" with scientist Dr. Marla Spivak and Susan Brown (Mademoiselle Miel) who creates amazingly delicious honey/chocolate bon-bons. Mademoiselle Miels's honey bon-bons are chocolate confections filled with honey from local beehives. The bon-bons are delicious and artistic - some bon-bons are decorated with edible gold leaf.

I especially like the smoked honey bon-bons with a touch of single malt scotch.

The honey for Mademoiselle Miels's bon-bons comes from beehives in various locations including the  apiary we visited on a rooftop in downtown St. Paul with a wonderful view of the Mississippi River (to protect the bees' privacy we won't disclose the location). Madamoiselle Miel graciously allowed us some time to sketch the hives as she inspected the hives and performed routine maintenance on the hives in a white beekeeper outfit.

The bees were friendly and did not sting us as we sketched them.

Visit the Mademoiselle Miel website and blog to learn more about where you can get honey bon-bons and other fine products. Mademoiselle Miel has a new kitchen and showroom at 342 Kellogg Boulevard West in St. Paul across the street from the Minnesota History Center.

Click on the sketches to make them bigger:

Roberta's sketch of Mademoiselle Miel and her beehives.
Ken's sketch of the rooftop apiary.
Ken's sketch of the new kitchen and showroom.
Ken's sketch of Beaker and Brush talk at the Amsterdam Bar.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sketches from Brompton Bike/Amtrak Train Trip to New York City - Part Two (Roberta's sketches).

I stayed on in NYC to take care of Nu-nu, Eric & Katie's cat, while they were traveling abroad. I concluded that biking in New York was by far the best (and cheapest) way to get around. One can cover a lot of ground in relatively little time. And you develop nerves of steel dealing with the traffic!
I was able to explore areas of Brooklyn that I'd never bothered going to in my years of living in Manhattan.  Click on the sketches to make them bigger.


This mini accordion-fold journal was a fun way to do quick sketches. 

Four panels from the accordion-fold mini. (Top) A community garden thrives in a narrow space between two buildings in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. This is on a busy street. The founders have brought a slice of the sane & humane to an otherwise commercial area.
(Bottom) The new "Freedom Tower" that replaces the two World Trade Center buildings. I think it's an improvement over the clunky towers that once dominated lower Manhattan.  This drawing was done over a partial list of ingredients that were in a superb dip from a Mediterranean restaurant in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn. 

Sunday afternoon in Columbus Park in Chinatown.

Hot late afternoon in Abingdon Square Park in the West Villiage.

More West Villiage sketches.

The Astral (left) is one of the largest old apartment buildings in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.  The west-side bikeway (right) runs along the Hudson River. 

I'm intrigued with doing night scenes in watercolor. Not easy unless you're doing the painting from a well-lit space. In this case it was created while sitting in a frozen yogurt place. 

We go from Sunday afternoon in Williamsburg to daybreak somewhere in Indiana. This concludes the trip.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sketches from Brompton Bike/Amtrak Train Trip to New York City

A week ago, Roberta and I woke up early and rode our Brompton folding bikes to the Amtrak Midway station to catch the Empire Builder (Amtrak allows passengers to bring folding bikes on as luggage). It would have been easier to catch the train at the Union Depot, but Amtrak won't be stopping at the Depot until at least December of this year.

Our train left the station in a deluge so we were unable to see the spectacular scenery along the Mississippi and Lake Pepin. We did see a fisherman in La Crosse mooning the train as it rolled by (click on sketches to make them bigger):

Mooned in La Crosse (Ken Avidor)
We got off the Empire Builder in Chicago to connect with the Lakeshore Limited to Penn Station in New York City. We had four hours to kill so we unfolded our Bromptons and biked to Millennium Park. We both sketched "The Bean" (Cloud Gate, by Anish Kapoor):

I was hoping to sketch some of the scenery along the Hudson River from the train, but low clouds and rain obscured the view. After we arrived in Penn Station,  Roberta and I biked to Chelsea and stayed with our friends Katie and Eric. The next day we had breakfast at Le Grainnne Cafe, where I did a very caffeinated sketch of Eric:

Caffeinated in Chelsea (Ken Avidor).
We  pedaled the Bromptons down the Westside bike path from Chelsea to the beautiful parks in Battery Park City. Roberta and I sketched the Irish Hunger Memorial:

The Irish Hunger Memorial (Ken Avidor).
The Irish Hunger Memorial (Roberta Avidor).

We biked over the Brooklyn Bridge and Roberta sketched the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Heights:

Manhattan Skyline (Roberta Avidor).
We biked over the Manhattan Bridge and up through Chinatown and the East Village. Photographer and fellow Brompton rider  Dmitry Gudkov.  See Dmity's wonderful photo of us in Stuyvesant Park on his website.

The next day we biked down the wonderful bikeway along Bleeker Street to the Bowery and stopped to sketch the transformation from its legendary down-and-out days:

The new Bowery (Roberta Avidor)

The New Bowery (Ken Avidor).

We biked to the Brooklyn Museum to see the big show of John Singer Sargent watercolors. A real bonus for Roberta and I was discovering in the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden the statue of "Night" that once flanked the big clock at  the destroyed Penn Station. Roberta and I both sketched it. We biked up to Williamsburg for margaritas and dinner at Cafe De La Esquina . On our way back, Roberta got a call about her aunt being rushed to the hospital for a food-related illness (she made a quick recovery). While waiting outside the hospital I sketched an ambulance. Roberta sketched a nurse.

Brooklyn Museum, Williamsburg and an ambulance (Ken Avidor).
Brooklyn Museum (Roberta Avidor).
Nurse (Roberta Avidor)

The weather was getting awful - we had just enough time to bike up the westside bike path and sketch a big, rusty relic on the Hudson River. Danny Gregory suggested we sketch the old thing (see Danny Gregory's video about us at his blog):

The wet weather continued, but I was able to sketch this corner with the High Line from inside a restaurant on 23rd Street and 10th Avenue and the skyline from our hosts' apartment:

23rd Street and 10th Avenue (Ken Avidor).
Manhattan skyline and One World Trade Center (Ken Avidor).
Rainy Day Sketches (Ken Avidor)

Meanwhile, Roberta took a subway ride to Brooklyn to visit our daughter. Roberta and Alice shopped for a bottle of wine at a "bullet-proof liquor store":

A liquor store in Brooklyn (Roberta Avidor).

I got together with John Holmstrom of Punk Magazine fame and did this drunken sketch of him at Manitoba's bar in the East Village:

John Holmstrom (Ken Avidor)
Sadly, my trip to NYC came to end. Roberta stayed on (we'll have another post with more of Roberta's sketches of NYC in a couple of weeks). I left NYC on Amtrak's Cardinal train that follows the scenic New River (Kanawha river) through West Virginia:

The New River from Amtrak's "Cardinal" train. (Ken Avidor)

While waiting for the Empire Builder in Chicago, I sketched the wonderful allegorical statues of Night and Day. While I sketched the statues, I was sketched by the talented Armond Gafeney who captured me yakking while sketching:

Union Station statues (Ken Avidor).

A sketch of me sketching in Union Station (Armond Gafeney)
As the train rolled through La Crosse, Wisconsin, we were mooned once again:

Mooned again in La Crosse (Ken Avidor)
Our first Brompton/Amtrak sketching safari was a success thanks in part to all our NYC friends, particularly Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives who outfitted us with bike maps and tips on the best routes for sketching. Here's a photo of us at the TA office: