I was off work today while my kids were in school for the morning so, with some bonus free time, I grabbed the opportunity to do some art. I had not found time to play with the supplies in my November Art Snacks box so I got those and my art journal and set to work. The Liquitex acrylic gouache I received was in a deep turquoise colour, one of my favourite colours, and I let that inform the subject matter as I thought the colour would suit an illustration of the Statue of Liberty. I didn’t want to try and draw the actual sculpture, however, so I drew my version of the iconic figure, changing her pose, hair, and face, but leaving enough elements for the subject to be obvious. I have not used gouache much generally and have never used acrylic gouache so this piece was a big experiment in media for me. I liked that I could use it thick on the crown but that diluted down it behaved a bit more like watercolour, which is how I used it on the body of the figure. I even managed to get some watercolour-like pigment blooms going. Gouache and I never got on well in the past, which is why I have barely used it, but I may have to give it another go.
***NOTE: This blog post is about my art work. This is not a political post and I am not inviting political discussion. You are, of course, entitled to hold different political opinions from me and I respect that. I, therefore, ask that any comments left on this post are similarly respectful and civil. Any nastiness will be deleted.***
This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Travel”. Normally my imagination would be sparking and fizzing with ideas about dream destinations and bucket list travel plans or else memories of wonderful travels from times past. However, the prompt happened to be revealed on the exact same day that President Trump issued his revised Travel Ban. As such, my creative impulses took me in an entirely different direction. As an immigrant, legal permanent resident in America, I felt compelled to follow that impulse. The result is a depiction of Lady Liberty weeping. I drew the face rapidly using black acrylic paint (having roughly mapped out only the proportions) and, once that was dried, I added some Dylusions spray ink in teal and turquoise to suggest verdigris and add some additional visual texture.
The Documented Life Project’s theme continued to be doodles and this week’s prompts were to make a custom element and “Ride the energy of your own unique spirit”, attributed to Gabrielle Roth who I have never heard of I’m afraid. I do try to conform to the parameters of the prompts, to create a direct response to at least one of them, but this week I did go off piste a bit. Between my trip to New York City, Mr Pict being away in California and the kids being on Spring break, I just had to get cracking with a page regardless of not having had an idea emerge from reading the prompts.
I decided to ignore the quotation and, since I have somewhat exhausted my repertoire of doodles, I decided to interpret the idea of custom doodling a bit differently. I decided that custom doodling could be interpreted as very quick sketching as the mark making involved is somewhat akin to doodling. Since I had just returned from my trip to New York City where I saw the Statue of Liberty, I decided that Liberty would be the subject of my page. I could not sketch in the field, of course, but I did the next best thing which was to give myself a very short period of time in which to sketch out a study of Liberty from my photographs.
I started by getting some colour down onto my page which I did with two colours of Dylusions ink sprays. I then put down some very rough pencil lines just to help my placement of elements on the page. Then I got my India ink and dip pen out and gave myself just a couple of minutes to sketch Liberty’s head and hand clasping the torch. I then added some watercolour pencil for shading around the face and fingers. I am quite pleased with how the page turned out.
After breakfasting at the Moonstruck Diner again, we caught the downtown tour bus and hopped off at Battery Park. Our mission for the day was to visit the Statue of Liberty. Tickets to get inside and ascend the Statue sell out in advance but we didn’t mind as we only wanted to visit the island anyway. I personally don’t think I will ever climb that statue as I have claustrophobia and a crippling fear of heights. The queue for the ticket line moved quickly but the queue to get through the security checks moved like molasses. I am not against security screening at all. I completely understand the need for it. However, there has to be a more efficient system for processing people. For instance, initially we were in an orderly queue but then the fence opened up wider and we were all directed to fill every nook and cranny of the space which meant any order there had been was completely lost. It’s the type of anti-queuing that makes we British people twitchy. That blob of people then had to narrow down to get up a set of steps and through a door which created a bottleneck. That bottleneck was what slowed everything up because once inside it took really no time at all to go through the security check, not least because we had all had ample time to strip off belts and organise our possessions so that we didn’t bleep.
Once on board the boat – which can transport a heck of a lot of people – we scurried up to the top deck to get a good view of Governors Island, the NYC skyline, Ellis Island and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. It was very cold indeed out on the water and I was dressed like a polar gnome for the third day in a row but the views made it worthwhile. It took no time at all to reach the island and make land fall. I had seen the Statue of Liberty before but en route to Ellis Island, back in August 2001, so this was actually my first time on Liberty Island too. After the obligatory trip to the restrooms, we went for a stroll around the statue.
As impressive as Lady Liberty is from a distance, she is even more striking at close quarters. I am curious as to what the statue would have looked like when the copper was new and shiny but the patination of the verdigris is effective in emphasising the contours of the figure and the folds of the cloth, the weight in the stance, the facial expression and the contrast with the brightness of the flame element. It was interesting to see her from different angles, really appreciate the dimension of the sculpture, understand the way the pose works to support the symbolism. I must have snapped a hundred photos of the statue as we circled around it.
Back on the boat, it was a hop, skip and a jump to get to Ellis Island. We were tempted to get off and explore but knew our timings were tight so decided that we would all three return to New York some time and visit both Ellis Island and the 9/11 Museum. Although I have been to Ellis Island before, my kids have not yet been and I am eager to take them as they are the descendants of immigrants to America as well as being immigrants themselves. As with our trip to Plimoth Plantation, I do love it when family, social and national history combine and drill some learning into my kids. So I will be back some time with the family in tow. The 9/11 Museum, however, will have to wait until the kids are older. I digress. We resisted temptation and landed back at Battery Park.
There, we caught the tour bus which unfortunately completed its downtown circuit by heading up the west shore of Manhattan. Unfortunate because the blue skies and sunshine of the day had led to the upper deck being opened up; unfortunate because we decided to go and sit on the top deck to get the best views, shored up by our false belief that it was warmer than it was; and unfortunate because the wind sweeping across the Hudson was freezing. We did our best to scrunch up against the cold, burrowing into our coats, hats and scarves, but our fingers went numb and our skulls felt as if they were vibrating in the chill wind. And the traffic was slow, painfully slow, so we dragged past the meatpacking district, Chelsea, the piers, before turning inland a bit in the region of Hell’s Kitchen where we then went from a crawl to a standstill as we encountered gridlock. The slow pace of the traffic seemed to provoke lawlessness too as cars continued to creep out against a red light simply because the vehicles who had a green light were moving so slowly that they could risk it. It was like bandit country in the middle of the city. Finally the bus rocked forward far enough to escape the traffic stalemate and we got back to the theatre district. Had we been permitted to disembark, we would most certainly have been quicker walking the last leg of the journey.
We badly needed to thaw out and eat warm food. A and M wanted to experience a New York slice so we went off in search of some street pizza. There were hot dogs and pretzels galore but trying to find a hole in the wall selling pizza proved to be more difficult than we envisaged. Finally we found a little place just off Broadway and better still it had a place to sit down and better still it had more than 20 tables which meant it had to have a restroom. It is all about toilets, you see. The pizza could have stood to be hotter – especially since we were so very cold – but it was really tasty and had a lovely crisp base. I chose a slice of veggie pizza and a slice with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella on it, a warm version of a caprese pizza. I devoured both. A great last supper for our trip together.
Just like that, our trip together was over. A and M had to catch their bus back to the airport and I had to catch the train to get back home. I actually lucked out and entered Penn Station and reached the NJ Transit area just as my train was about to head off so I had no malingering to endure. Our three days as a trio went very quickly and we barely scratched the surface of what Manhattan has to offer.
In terms of tourism, the highlight of this trip to New York City was certainly seeing the Statue of Liberty. However, for me the highlight was getting to spend quality time with my good friends. Considering we used to see each other daily and meet up at least once a week, I cannot claim it was just like old times but – after 18 months apart – it was great to know we could just pick up where we left off with our friendship and have a whale of a time together. “When shall we three meet again?” We were already discussing where we might meet up next. Hopefully with warmer temperatures.