Sketched this while enjoying the Flower Piano concert series at the SF Botanical Garden. From July 5–16, visitors can find twelve pianos tucked among the many flower-filled gardens within SFBG's 55 acres. This amazing pianist, Danielle Sullivan, played Brahms, Debussy and Gershwin while sporting a peacock topped fidora. If you're in SF, I highly recommend checking it out!
In December 2016, I volunteered with non-profit, NetHope, in 14 refugee camps across Greece where I met countless Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan refugees. The individuals I met were good people who want nothing more but a place to call home and live in peace. They travelled thousands of miles, escaping Bashar Al Assad’s violent regime, ISIS, the Taliban or religious persecution.
The refugees extended warm hospitality, inviting me into their tents, sharing arabic coffee and rations. They shared stories of their homes being bombed, relatives killed, deadly sea crossings from Turkey to the Greek Islands, and arduous journeys from their native countries. I was deeply moved and saddened by the situation they’ve been forced into. Their stories will be burned into my memory forever.
On February 4th, I attended the No Ban No Wall protest in SF Civic Center. It was a rally cry against the executive order to ban all immigrants and refugees from 7 Muslim majority nations. Refugees and children of refugees shared their powerful stories of journeys from their home countries to living in America.
At one point the MC shouted “Show me what democracy looks like!” To which crowd from all walks of life responded, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Yemeni immigrants waved their nation's flag while the daughter of an Iranian refugee reads a poem.
I am disgusted by Trump’s executive order. Discriminating entry into the United States based on religion, gender, or race is deplorable, unlawful and unconstitutional. In retaliation, we must do all we can to serve those fleeing war, poverty and persecution.
These drawings are dedicated to my Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Afghan friends overseas.
An American flag at half staff waved against the clear blue sky. It was Memorial Day at the Presidio National Cemetery. It was a beautiful day to honor those who have served this country in uniform and made the ultimate sacrifice.
The ceremony commenced with a Grand March with Veterans in Presidio center. An Army Reserve unit, Pacific Division, 75th Mission Training Command, shot off a four rounds from their cannons. On each cannon was painted the words Loyalty, Country, Honor and Duty. They concluded the ceremony with a 21 gun Salute. The formal program with military dignitaries, guest speakers, and live music began on the National Cemetery.
About half way through the ceremony a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65C Helicopter did two fly overs.
A Bagpiper from the 191st Army Band played Amazing Grace, a chilling reminder of those who lost their lives in service.
Relative to much of the world, we enjoy an immense amount of freedom and privilege that is taken for granted. All of this has come at a cost. Be thankful for those who have served and made real sacrifices for our country.
It started as a trickle. One by one, Giants fans dotted the Embarcadero. Then as the afternoon progressed, a constant flow of orange and black dressed fans moved towards AT&T park. There was a game going on that night so I grabbed my sketchbook after work and headed over to the stadium. I’m not really into baseball but I will say that AT&T park is spectacular, even from the outside.
I think my favorite bit of Giants paraphernalia were the striped socks this woman had.
A thumbnail study of the stadium as fans approach the gate.
The fun thing about drawing on location is that random people come up out of curiosity and strike up conversations. Sometimes they even extend kind gestures. I was offered a free extra ticket by a random fan but couldn't take it since I had my bike with me and no lock. I wish I could have gone in and seen the game. Note to self, don't bring bike next time.
There was a bottleneck getting in due to all the security. The crowd looked like a sea of orange and made for good drawing material. More than the sport itself, I enjoy watching all the people as they turn out for their favorite team!
I went out to SF City Hall where the French Consulate organized a time of remembrance for those who lost their lives in November 13th attack in Paris. About a thousand people showed up to pay their respects and to show solidarity. Some waved flags, others sang.
My heart has been heavy lately, not just for Paris but also for the many conflicts happening around the world. There has been little attention given to the bombing in Beirut that claimed the lives of 40 individuals. Back in April, 147 people were killed at a Kenyan university. Scores of refugees are leaving their war-torn homelands and making their way into Europe. These incidents are barely a blip on our daily newsfeed and it saddens me that we don’t also mourn their losses and suffering.
This is a time to pray not just for Paris, but for all who have have fallen victim to persecution and radicalization; and not just for our political allies but for all of humanity.
Bright yellow and red fabric twisted and flowed as girls from the Chhandam Youth Dance Company performed a beautiful choreography. It was just one of many fascinating shows at the Spring India Day in SF.
The whole event was an explosion of color, song and dance. In an age of globalization it's refreshing to see celebrations of cultural heritage.
There were fashion shows and competitions where people dressed up in costumes representative of regions within India. A woman representing Maharashtra dazzled the crowd with fun dance moves and a fantastic outfit.
There was even a small wedding ceremony. The groom rode in on a horse and a procession of girls surrounded the tent where the ceremony would take place.
The bride wore beautiful silver and bronze henna designs created by the Henna Lounge.
The woman put a colorful necklace around the man’s neck. I’m not sure what the significance of it was and wish I knew.
The bride was an Indian American while the groom was caucasian. The couple had been married for many years but decided to rededicate their vows through an Indian wedding. It was fun to see this small ceremony.
I had been there all day that my ears were ringing from the music but it was totally worth it. I had a blast. I’ve been able to travel quite a bit over the years but have not yet been to India (though it’s been at the top of my list for a while!). This event made me want to go all the more.
Towards the end of the day I came across a stand called "Sarang" that sold Indian apparel and other items. Their theme was “All the Colors” and I felt like this theme summed up the day’s wide array of events. I hope the Bay Area can continue celebrate a spectrum of cultures.
Laguna Honda is a nursing facility in SF dedicated to therapeutic care for seniors and adults with disabilities. Last summer I went to watch a choir group perform to entertain the residents.
I sketched the residents as they attended the event.
Much of this generation lived through World War II, the cold war, man’s journey to the moon, the civil rights movement and the advent of the information age.
They’re faces told so many stories, I wondered where they had been and what they had seen in life.
I love the watching the roller skaters in Golden Gate Park. Most of them dress up in crazy costumes, dance to 80's music with a carefree attitude.
One woman had a giant pink bear hat and poofy boots. She had a bubble making machine on the back of her bike.
What I enjoy about it is that no one takes themself too seriously. Everyone is welcome to join in on the fun regardless of age or ability!
Have you ever wanted to multiply yourself? Not for narcissistic reasons but so you could multi-task! It’d be amazing to have one version of yourself work on one part of a project while you focus on another then merge the results. Zoë Keating is a cellist extraordinaire who has managed to pull this off.
Last week I watched this musician play at the Chapel in SF. As if her playing wasn’t amazing enough, she also records loops of her melodies on the fly, piping it through a laptop.
With the control of a foot pad she’s able to start and stop these loops while generating live music on top. The results are beautifully woven layers of recordings with live performance!
Have a listen to Keating's amazing music and consider supporting this extremely talented artist!
D-Ward is where all the maxillofacial and cleft lip patients stay while recovering aboard the Africa Mercy. During an off day I was able to spend some time in D-Ward sketching. It was fun chatting and playing connect four with some patients. When I started sketching they gathered around and watched. It was such a great way to connect and share art with them. Being present without an agenda is the best time you can spend.
I recently went sailing in the San Francisco bay on a small boat named the Elise. The winds carried us through Golden Gate bridge and back around Alcatraz.
I'm always looking out at the east bay but never looking inland. It was refreshing to have this new vantage point. The greatest privilege in life is the ability to see it from another perspective.
As dusk set in, the winds died off along with the boats momentum. The Elise bobbed up and down but not forward. We began shifting from side to side in order to get it to move. It was hilarious to see everyone literally rocking the boat. As we inched along, another boat passed by and offered to tow us.
The wind doesn't always take us where we want, when we want; its up to us to make the best of our situation and steer in the right direction.
Beginning in April, I will be embarking on a journey to Togo, West Africa, as a photojournalist with Mercy Ships. Through photography, I will document the daily efforts of the medical staff and crew for three months with the hope of raising more awareness and donor support for this amazing global non-profit that has operated hospital ships since 1978. In short, Mercy Ships provides free medical care to the world's forgotten poor. Healing brings hope and life to those who would normally be marginalized and neglected.
I'm excited to be able to use my gifts to support this operation but I can't do this on my own. I need to raise $6,000 by March 20th in order to serve for three months. To learn more and/or make a tax deductible contribution, simply click here.
As Chistmas approaches its easy to get wrapped up in a flurry of deadlines, social events and holiday shopping. The hardest thing to do is just be still. With only a few hours of day light I was rushing to get to China Town to do some sketching. On the way, I couldn't help but notice the brightness and energy emenating from Union Square. I scratched my plans and decided to sit for a couple hours and enjoy this Christmas Tree.
Be still and reflect on the hope that this advent season brings.
I recently had the privilege of participating in a group show/event created by The Blind Project, (a non-profit that helps empower survivors of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia) and DACS (Designers Against Child Slavery).
A few designs were selected to be screenprinted on t-shirts which would
be produced by the women who have come out of trafficking. Please consider supporting The Blind Project and these women by purchasing one of
In addition, prints of these designs were available for purchase via silent auction at the event. I am pleased to announce that the auction was a success! The proceeds benefitted TBP's efforts in helping these women acquire marketable job skills in fashion design, production as well as employ them in a positive work environment. It was truly rewarding to join forces with fellow artists to help those in desperate situations.
Aside from a t-shirt design, I was also honored to create a series of portraits depicting some of the trafficking survivors who have worked with The Blind Project in Bangkok, Thailand. My goal was to illustrate them in a simple, honest way—hoping they would be encouraged by their own beauty if they ever saw the pieces themselves.
Working on this project taught me much about the very dark world of trafficking. The biggest misconception about this industry is that it's a victimless crime. In fact, everyone—from the individuals forced into prostitution, to their families, to the "customers" who pay for sex—is damaged in some shape or form.
Another lie is that women willingly choose the path of trafficking for themselves. Often under the weight of serious threats, fear, financial pressures, or manipulation, broken-spirited women find it difficult to escape this vicious cycle.
Behind the smiles run scars deep beneath the surface.
My hope is that our artistic contributions, the work of organizations like The Blind Project and hearts that break over these atrocities will aid individuals to continue escaping the painful cycle of trafficking—and begin new lives of gradual restoration.
Doctors Without Borders is an international medical and humanitarian organization that assists people who's lives are "threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe." The organization set up a free interactive exhibit called "Starved for Attention" at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. With images taken by VII Photo (a group of award winning photojournalists), the show was housed in a tent recreating a field hospital. The movement addresses the serious issues of childhood malnutrition in the developing world. I sketched these special individuals as they shared with the public their passion to fight this crisis.
According to Doctors Without Borders, "Almost 200 million children under 5 years of age are affected by malnutrition, with 90 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. And at any moment at least 20 million children suffer from the most life-threatening form of severe malnutrition...In fact, malnutrition contributes to one third of the 8.8 million children under five who die every year."
Currently the governments of the U.S., Canada, E.U., Japan and Australia provide humanitarian food aid to developing countries. However, the cereal-based flours currently being donated do not provide the proper nutritional needs for infants and children. Without a change in policy and proper resources, these children will continue suffering from malnutrition.
The exhibit filled my heart with empathy moving me to sign their petition which demands reforms in U.S. food aid policy. To learn more and join the fight against malnutrition you can visit the exhibit at Prospect Park (at Grand Army Plaza) Sept 21-23 or online at StarvedForAttention.org.
Bomb Squad trucks and sirens roared down Broadway for over half an hour. I peered out the window of my Midtown apartment to see crowds of people fleeing uptown. I sensed that something was terribly wrong. We all remember where we were on Sept 11, 2001. It is a day that has left an indelible mark in the memories of most Americans. Ten years later, I wanted to commemorate those who lost their lives that day—as well as those who work tirelessly to ensure that an attack of this magnitude never occurs again.
Two days after the original towers fell, I recall seeing firefighters riding in a flatbed pickup truck from ground zero covered head to toe in dust. At the sight, every pedestrian on the street immediately stopped what they were doing to applaud the passing heros. For weeks, the smell of asbestos filled the air of Manhattan; it was difficult to stay outdoors without our eyes and lungs burning.
Not only are the structures impressive but so too is the energy that surrounds them. Tourists from every nation come to see this impressive architectural feat. As the wounds are still healing in the American heart, these new towers have become a symbol of restoration. Regardless of your stance on America's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the WTC reconstruction is a testament to the resilience and determination of the American people. Our story has always been one of conviction and hope. This case is no exception.
In an age of anti-American skepticism, it's trendy to believe that fear of radical ideology derives solely from the West. But the problem is much deeper than this. Individuals from all religions, cultures, and beliefs have been victims of cowardly acts of terror.
As I began thinking globally about those who have experienced extreme grief as a result of terrorism, I came across an organization called The Global Survivors Network. GSN's mission is to give a voice to these victims; encouraging them to channel their grief in order to confront hatred. By sharing their stories and experiences, they are able to educate others about the consequences of violence stemming from extreme ideology. I was very moved by GSN's trailer for their upcoming new documentary, "Killing In The Name," which sheds light on issues that aren't often given attention.
As I was sketching at Ground Zero earlier this week, a passing journalist asked me if the sight of the new towers brought about sadness as a remembrance of that day. I explained that 9/11 was a tragic event—which I hope never happens again—but life is filled with unfortunate, unexplainable circumstances. What matters is how we respond and rebuild after the dust settles.
I recently had the privilege of sitting in on a recording session for Brooklyn-based musicians Zach Williams & the Bellow's new record. Their music is a beautiful avenue through which they express everything from tragedy, hope, betrayal and redemption in an authentic, honest way. After playing several shows at Rockwood Music Hall over the last few years, owner Ken Rockwood let Zach & The Bellow turn his space into a full-on recording studio for several days. It was the perfect, familiar venue where they could begin the process of solidifying something special— or "capturing thunder in a shoebox," as they rightfully put it.
Jason Pipkin plays from behind the bar.
Observing and sketching Zach & The Bellow in the midst of the creation process was truly thrilling. There was a tangible creative energy in the space that evening; I knew I was witnessing something unique. The sketches in this entry are parts of what I came away with.
Producer Charlie Peacock and bassist Ben Mars discuss different riff variations during a break.
To learn more about Zach Williams & the Bellow, you can read their recent interview on Noisetrade. Let your heart be stilled and stirred through their music and stories, and consider supporting these extremely talented, humble musicians.
There are areas of the U.S. where it's easy to feel like a foreigner. Chinatown, San Francisco, is one of those places. This beautifully vibrant neighborhood is home to around 100,500 residents. In fact, It's the largest Chinese community outside of Asia—with many of the residents being native Cantonese speakers from the Guangdong Province in southeast China.
Though I'm half Chinese, I'm completely American. Traditional Chinese culture and customs are foreign to me. Often times people ask "Why don't you speak Chinese?" But growing up in the suburbs of New England, opportunities to be immersed in Chinese culture were hard to come by. I'm not upset about it, that's simply the way things were.
One thing is for sure, I've always questioned where I fit in—particularly when it comes to race and ethnicity. In a way, I think I wanted to relate to one particular people group or identify with a single race, perhaps for the sake of convenience. It wasn't until I arrived in New York, the ultimate melting pot, that I finally found freedom as a mixed-race person. I didn't have to be one thing or another. And that was okay.
In Chinatown SF, I was drawn to one of the few outdoor public spaces in the neighborhood, Portsmouth Square. Hundreds of elderly men and women gathered around stone tables to play Mahjong and other various card games. It fascinated me to watch them. They reminded me of my own grandfather, who too, came to America from Guangdong Province. Observing and sketching them was like peering through a window into my Grandfather's life.
As I sat sketching a quick thumbnail, a man in the foreground accidentally dropped his cigarette butt on my sketch book. It left a small burn mark as evidenced on the drawing above. He then snickered something at me in Cantonese waving his hand in an ambiguous manner. I simply laughed it off; the man acted just like my grandfather, who had similar mannerisms. Though I was the foreigner, memories of Grandpa Chen enabled me to appreciate the men I sketched.
Being an outsider caused me to reflect on my own identity and increased my appreciation for others. Greater exposure created a brighter world.