Friday, May 31, 2013

NYC Day 3 - American Museum of Natural History

On Saturday, I spent six hours inside this museum. It was HUGE and overflowing with information. Again, like the 9/11 memorial, it was another mentally and emotionally baffling experience.

Years ago I visited the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Austria, which forever made an impression on me. They had every specimen on the planet, ancient artifacts like the Venus of Willendorf, plus gorgeous architecture. Ever since going there I have dreamt of spending my days wandering through similar museums, or longing to go back to Vienna and see it again.

This is Vienna!

The American Museum of Natural History is more contemporary than the one in Vienna, and by far the  most impressive thing about it was the DIORAMAS!!!! Oh my goodness. Because there is too much to cover, like the gigantic collection of dinosaur bones, or the special exhibition on whales, or the hall of Biodiversity....

...I am only going to highlight and emphasize one thing...

the diorama masterpieces!

While the Vienna museum just has taxidermied animals, the New York museum has the animals in full natural settings that create a virtual reality type of illusion. They are worth a pilgrimage to NYC just to see them. Most museum dioramas are totally cheesy or boring, but not these!! These creative portrayals put you right in the scene with the animal. The illusion is so convincing, I just stood in front of each window in TOTAL and COMPLETE AWE. If only I lived in NYC, I would be a lifetime member and come draw here every day...

The compositions make you feel like you are in the scene. Coolest sensation ever. 
Look at the crazy detail in the background! Can you tell where the real rocks
stop and where the painting begins??
If you haven't seen these in person yet, my photos might not convince you of the praise these dioramas deserve. But please hear me when I say, the work involved in creating each one had to be tremendous. From an artistic standpoint, I experienced the same reverential jaw drop that has been evoked from standing in the presence of a Rubens, Vermeer, or John Singer Sargent.

You need to read this article to know why I am so ecstaticLittle Worlds

Having had the opportunity to paint a naturalistic landscape mural for the Nix Nature Center, I know how much research and painstaking detail is involved in creating an environment. That is why when I saw how flawlessly the background transitions into the crafted rocks, grass, dirt, and trees of the diorama, and how perfect the illusion of atmospheric perspective is, and how innovative the placement and perspective of the animals are into the scene, I wanted to fall to my knees.

I had this mad urgency to know who painted these backgrounds? Who designed all the scenes? (and there were a ton of them!) When and how did all this come to be - because it is breathtaking.

That's when I found this book in the giftshop...

Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History

Since it was too big and heavy to lug around NYC, I am ordering it online. A must have in my opinion.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

NYC Day 2 - 9/11 Memorial

I made this while waiting in line for the memorial to open.

Early Friday morning, the first thing I wanted to do was pay my respects at the 9/11 memorial. Last time I was in New York in 2006, all the rubble had been cleared away but there were still two giant pits where the towers once stood. After watching the 10 year anniversary on TV, I felt the need to be there, be silent, and pray.

Looking up at the new 1 World Tower being built, it's hard to imagine how a building like that could come crashing down. It seems so impenetrable, sure and eternal. In a way, I'm glad I was able to see Ground Zero before it became a memorial park. It somewhat helps me to understand that this really happened, because it's all just so hard to take in.

The brochure says that the twin towers were over 1,360 feet tall, had 110 floors providing nearly 10 million square feet of office space for approximately 35,000 people and 430 companies. The entire WTC complex, a total of 16 acres, had its own zip code: 10048. 

The new 1 World Trade Tower (formerly called the Freedom Tower) is 1,776 feet tall. It is beautiful. 

One remarkable story that I hadn't heard about was the Survivor Tree. I asked one of the volunteers for info and he told me it's the only thing that survived the wreckage. The tree was originally planted in the 70's when the WTC plaza was built, and after 9/11 it was nursed back to health but was uprooted by a big storm in 2010. Yet it survived again! And now it is planted by the south reflection pool as a symbol of resilience. People were taking their picture with the tree. 

Afterward, I made my way over to Trinity Church, which served as hospital for victims during the crisis.

I wandered through the cemetery for an hour, full of thoughts and emotions. I couldn't help connect the bronze engraved names around the 9/11 pools to the weather-worn graves of those who died in the 1700's. The mystery of life and death was the unavoidable theme of the day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

10 Days in New York City: Day 1

Adventure is worthwhile in itself. 

Would you agree with Amelia?

By definition, an adventure means to explore unknown territory and to engage in exciting or hazardous activity. Navigating the streets of New York City by myself for 10 days totally counts as an adventure for me. I didn't have an itinerary - I just had a list of things I wanted to see, and my iPhone to help me find my way.

Luckily, there is a great app called HopStop, which served as my guide and helped me to look like a faux New Yorker instead of a confused tourist. If you are traveling somewhere, this app is a MUST...

The joy of travel lies in experiencing new things. I think one has to love the slightly embarrassing circumstances of not knowing how to act, where to go, or what to do, because this is where the learning happens. Having traveled to Europe many times prior, I now know to live by the motto, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." So when in New York City, that means:

1. If the crosswalk sign is still red but no taxis are coming, it's ok to jaywalk.
2. You should look straight ahead with mouth closed  instead of up at the skyscrapers with mouth agape.
3. Walk with a fast pace and try to pass as many people as possible instead of dawdling or worse yet- abruptly stopping in the middle of a busy sidewalk.
4. Follow the subway advice in this hilarious video: How to Use the NYC Subway

Above is a picture of all the brochures I collected from the places I visited. I would like to share with you everything I discovered (because really it's a way for me to process all the information).

On the airplane, I chose to carry with me a book by Madeleine L'Engle called "A Circle of Quiet". Looking back at the title, I wonder if I knew I would need to retreat from the daily clamoring of the city into the wise stories of this magnificent woman. Madeleine L'Engle reminds me of my Grandma Marty, who passed away when I was young. I read this woman's thoughts and I imagine my Grandmother would say similar things. She too was a wise, creative, loving soul. Check out the book here.

Upon arriving to JFK, I decided I would try to take the train system into Manhattan instead of forking out dough for a taxi. It was really easy and only cost $7.50 (as opposed to $50+). I simply followed signs for  the AirTrain and took it to Jamaica station. From there I transferred onto the subway system and took the E train to Penn Station, and voila I was in midtown Manhattan in an hour. My hotel on Lexington Ave. had a nice view of the Chrysler building in the distance. 

After grabbing dinner at a NY Pizza shop, I explored the streets for a bit. 

My first impression - this must be a nice part of town. All around me were men and women in business attire on their way home from work. I came across a store called Organic Avenue. The employees gave me free samples of 20 different drinks. Most of them tasted like freshly mowed grass (a great scent, a terrible taste), one had garlic mixed in. Overall I thought they were pretty disgusting, but I kept trying each flavor! I felt bad after tasting everything, so I bought the mildest one called "Sweet Greens" for $9. I drank about $4 worth....maybe could have finished it if I held my nose. 

Second impression: New Yorkers are super friendly. They all seem to enjoy other people. It was easy to make friends wherever I went. Everyone was genuinely cheerful in their reply when I asked for help. On the streets and inside businesses, people were chatty and had this kind of "I love living here" or "I love my job" aura about them. It was really refreshing (unlike the organic juice drink).

Coming up next: reflections on the 9/11 Memorial 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Awards

I had the great privilege and opportunity to visit NYC on behalf of Ringling College of Art and Design to attend the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Awards Ceremony on May 17th. Several Ringling students were accepted into this highly competitive show - one of the most difficult shows of the illustration industry to get into - one that guarantees prestige and exposure. To put it in perspective, out of 8,595 entries from over 80 colleges worldwide, only 271 works were selected by the jury.  The jury consisted of 30 successful practitioners and professors from the illustration industry.

I would like to share a few highlights from the event and introduce you to some of the students who received scholarship awards that night. Check out the links below!!

Natalie Andrewson

Ziyue Angeline Chen 

Kacey Ziegler

Wren McDonald

Quite a few recent grads and other current students traveled to NYC to support their peers and to be inspired by all the amazing artwork on display. We met up for dinner at a great little Japanese restaurant around the corner from the charming Society of Illustrators building off of Lexington Ave. When we arrived at the show, it was already packed. This year, the Society expanded the exhibition space to all three galleries on each floor.

The ceremony started off by recognizing distinguished artist/educators. The first was Gary Meyer, who has an enviable curriculum vitae and also teaches at Art Center in Pasadena. Gary has been an art consultant on major motion pictures, a design consultant for theme parks, and has illustrated for numerous A-list clients (were talking album covers for the Jacksons, the Beach Boys, Chicago, etc...not to mention all the editorial illustration work for clients like Random House and Readers Digest). 
 As a teacher, Gary has been elected to receive the Great Teacher Award 17 times! He's also won a giant paragraph of prestigious awards, too many to list here. It was obvious why Gary has been so successful. He is humble, gracious, has a steadfast work ethic, and deep passion for illustration and teaching. Here is Gary receiving his award:

Then it was on to the students awards. The Society had a nice catalog of all the student work...they were giving these out along with another catalog from the MOCCA (museum of comic and cartoon art) Festival. It was great having this in hand to help view the overall collection of work. Below are a few pics of Ringling students (or rather, I should say "former" students since these guys have just graduated!!!)

Ziyue Angeline Chen celebrating with her family.

Natalie Andrewson receiving her scholarship award.

Wren McDonald receiving his scholarship award.

Kacey Ziegler with her winning artwork.
And now for a quick look at some of the great artwork in the show (all the ones by Ringling students, of course ;)

 Thank you to the Society of Illustrators crew for all your hard work in putting together another great show!!
Society of Illustrators team
And a proud and hearty congratulations to all students who were accepted into the 2013 show, especially to those from Ringling College. As the president of Society of Illustrators, Dennis Dittrich, says, "you have a lifetime of bragging rights".

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New work for The Clockwork Three

I've been on a roll creating new illustrations inspired by Matthew Kirby's book, The Clockwork Three. I picked up the book at the Los Angeles SCBWI conference and loved it! Put it on your summer reading list!

By the way, in case you are wondering these are charcoal on hot press watercolor paper, about 9x12 in size. You can see process pics on my Twitter: katybetzstudio