Taking Root

My buddy Matt and I traveled to Ecuador in 2012 and along the way we met an awesome fellow traveller named Kim. She was a American journalist living in Portland and spent some of her early teens in Paris. The entire trip was barrel of laughs as we traversed the Andes to Amazon getting to know our new friend more!

Matt and I recently visited her in Portland and she has an amazing garden in her backyard. I made this water color sketch, (a nod to Kim’s past time in France and present in Portland) as we sat out on her porch. Her dog Hildy would scurry into the bushes and there were so many plants we couldn’t find her till her fluffy head popped out. What is it about being surrounded by greenery that is so calming? In that garden and around Portland we continued to build on that friendship that took root over a year ago.

Unlikely Vessels

Flora Grubb is an urban oasis in Bayview-Hunter's Point, SF. A cross between gardening center, gallery and coffee shop, it's space and curated selection of plants is awe inspiring. 

Vegetation grows from the most unlikely places. Succulents grow out of letter shaped planter boxes. Air plants sprout from rusty bikes which are suspended from rafters. Anyone with a green thumb and/or appreciation of design can geek out for hours here.

My favorite piece is an Edsel that they've used as a planter box. Greenery blooms out of the engine, trunk, and interior of this relic.

What would otherwise be left for scrap becomes a vessel from which new life can take root and flourish. 

The Chen-culator

In 1916 my great grandfather Sun Ming, came from China to the US with hopes of a better future. He quickly enrolled in an English correspondence class. Armed only with an Underwood typewriter and lots of determination, he learned how to read and write.


I sketched this relic and admired its charm. Its keys are heavy. The mechanisms are sluggish and janky. And it's evident to me how spoiled we are these days and want instant gratification for everything. Upon successful completion of his course on July 31, 1919, Sun Ming received his diploma in “Good English.”


But he didn’t stop there. His inquisitive mind drove him to invent a precursor to the modern graphing calculator which he called the “Chen-culator.” Using the Underwood he created charts and spreadsheets with figures and an instruction manual. It's absolutely insane. It took 20 years to get a patent but he finally received one for his mad invention.

Instructions on how to use the “Chenculator”

Instructions on how to use the “Chenculator”

The force with which you have to apply on the Underwood's keys echoes the hard work you had to put into leaving your mark on society in that era. Sun Ming certainly left his mark, and generations to come are able to live a better life because of his journey. 

Where the Wind Takes You

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. 


Nathalie, owner and Captain of the Elise raises the spinacker

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. 


Be Still


Union Square, SF

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 had a favorite tree in Prospect Park. Its twisting and undulating trunk looked like a wise serpent rising from the grass. And every autumn its leaves would ignite with reds and yellows before all other trees, as if anxious to reveal its true colors. I'd soak up its brilliance as I passed by on morning jogs.

The other day I returned to draw my favorite tree only to find that it had been chopped down. All that was left was a stump surrounded by long blades of grass bobbing in the cool breeze. I couldn't understand why had it been removed. Didn't others see how beatifully odd it was? Perhaps it was already on its way out or damaged in a storm. 

Realizing I must capture the small things in life before they're gone, I began to sketch.


Fighting the Good Fight: Doctors Without Borders

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.



Often times we discard our old possessions when they are no longer fashionable. The National Park at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco does quite the opposite as they take tremendous time and care in the historical preservation of boats. During a recent trip to Bay area, I had been sketching along the pier and had to take shelter from the rain in the Small Boat Shop. I discovered a beautiful vessel surrounded by scrap wood and tools. An park employee named Karnell came out of his workshop and shared with me the background of this boat, the Eva B.

One day a man walking along Hyde Street Pier immediately recognized the Eva B. It had belonged to his family (the Batchelders) between 1936-1950 and was now undergoing restoration by the park. Delighted that part of his family's past was being preserved, the man later returned with photos of the Eva B to show the park's boat makers. These images proved to be invaluable to the restoration process as they gave clues to the boat's original construction and appearance.

Karnell shared an album of these photos. Nearly every picture was filled with laughs and smiles. Clearly the Batchelders had many fond memories and adventures on the Eva B. Built in 1936 by Manotti Pasquinucci in Sausalito, it had been used by the Batchelder family of six for summer vacations and fishing trips in the San Francisco Bay and Delta for fourteen years. Between two full time boat makers and thirty volunteers the restoration will take two years to complete.

Rather than be swept away by the currents of modernization, this historic vessel is being preserved for all to enjoy.