A digital sketchbook

Mural at Zaytoon Grill completed

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you out there. Hopefully no one passed out face down in a side dish or soup bowl. 

Zaytoon Grill's mural project has been completed and signed. The landscape and ancient olive tree have dynamically changed this restaurant space located at 1618 Central Avenue in Saint Petersburg, FL.  Much to the delight of the owner's Wallid and Mary Khalel.

If you stop by Zaytoon on Friday or Saturday I will be working there as a server and cook. The falafel is authentic, made fresh daily and cooked to order. So come by check out the painting and expand your ideas of Mediterranean food. Here is a link to their website http://www.zaytooncentral.com

SHINE Festival Mural by Miss Harriet

A beautiful creature creation piece from the 2016 edition of the SHINE Mural festival done by the artist Miss Harriet. The brushwork around the peacock's head is really well done. As is the use of symbol, flat and shaded color, possibly both the use of spray-paint and brush. This mural is located on Central Avenue near the Green Bench Brewery.

Small Business Saturday Nov 26th

Chalk pastel lettering art for this year's upcoming Small Business Saturday on November 26th. The old saying of "Think Global, Act Local" has never been more true. There is an event happening called "Shop the Blocks" on Central Avenue between 16th and 31st streets. Where participating business will be giving 10% off to those who wear a local t-shirt.  So get out and rep your local threads.

Wishing an early Happy Thanksgiving to All. Be responsible and kind to one another out there.

New Pastel Sidewalk Art

Happy November out there, autumn is upon us even in the Sunshine City. Here are some new chalk pastels for a restaurant's sidewalk sign. Proudly displaying that at the first time of asking, Zaytoon won the Battle of the Burg(er) in St. Pete, FL.  The menu boards inside are also changing and I am trying out a new brand of pastel pencil for the detail work. A picture of those menu boards will be posted soon. Enjoy the day.


Always wanted an orange VW mini-bus and so it was carved. Halloween is definitely a favorite holiday of mine. And who doesn't like to get into the spirit of spooky than by dressing up, decorating the house or carving a pumpkin. Figuring out how to deal with the effects of Florida weather and ward off rot is a challenge. Maybe painting on a design is the way to go next year.

Arboreal Sketch

A pencil drawing from my travels of a large tree in a very rural area of upstate NY. One things you do miss out on living this far south is the changing colors of leaves that signal autumn's arrival. It is feeling more like fall every day, must be time to go carve the pumpkins for Halloween.

Took the Family on a Mural Tour

Granted there are actually guided mural tours of the grand central art district, but why not make up your own and cover more of the downtown area? So that is what I did with family over the weekend to show off the amazing art throughout St. Pete. 

Great trip for my Mom who had not yet seen either the Zaytoon Grill or Flamingo Bar murals in person, to explore the city and marvel at the art, vibes, food and fun happening in the Sunshine City.

I love the challenges unique surfaces throw at the street artist and how they incorporate these elements into the paintings. Like an electrical box, garage door, or this tree growing out the side of Daniel Morgan's mural on 17th St. 

Battle of the Burg'er

Zaytoon Grill has been participating in the Grand Central Avenue District's 5th annual culinary contest, the Battle of the Burger. For the whole month of September people have been able to eat and then vote on their favorite burger offerings at local businesses taking part. For the first time this year there was a separate category for veggie burgers. 

The above is a pastel that I whipped up to showcase the Zaytoon Burger, which is essentially a giant kefta patty(ground beef, spices, onion, parsley) topped with hummus and feta cheese on a quality bun. Hopefully this post hasn't made you too hungry for that I kinda apologize. Go make you some second breakfast, or elevenzies or whatever meal is next. Cheers.

SHINE Murals Revisited

Pictures of just a few of the newly completed murals thought the downtown area, these paintings are from the blocks in and around where I am working on the olive tree landscape at Zaytoon Grill.

Seven murals can be found within a stones throw of one another, from between 18th-16th St off Central Avenue.

Check out the previous post on SHINE for the complete mural map. 

 The largest of these works of art was done by Brazilian artist Pixel Poncho, on the back of a massive warehouse off 17th St and 1st Avenue South in St. Petersburg, FL.

Zaytoon Grill Mural Project

Time-lapse footage yet to be posted online but here are a few still images from the GoPro camera. The landscape is progressing along nicely. Having this mural in such a small restaurant dynamically changes the space. Providing color where there was a blank wall, a conversation piece, focal point, and the sense that you are sat beneath the shade of a familiar, old tree for a meal with friends or family.

SHINE Mural Festival

Explore the city and checkout some amazing paintings being worked on by local and international artists during this year's SHINE Mural Festival. 

Here are a few pictures of the nearby murals in different states of completion and a map to help find them all.

All the different approaches, bold or simple styles, use of medium, such as brush or spray paint really intrigues and inspires me.

Credit to these artists for cranking out phenomenal work in such a short span of time. More pictures to come of these and other works, updates on how they look now closer to completion.

Mural Update; Zaytoon Grill's Tree

Work is continuing on the landscape mural project with a local restaurant located at 1618 Central Ave. I am painting in the Grand Central Arts District at Zaytoon Grill, blocks away from Tropicana Field and six or more murals in progress. Inspirational times for artists and passer-byes alike in St Pete with weather clearing after a hurricane, the holiday weekend and Sunshine Mural Festival happening all at once. More on that in another post.

Progress is also moving along with editing and posting some time-lapse videos of the artwork in action. Stay tuned for more as layers of the mural grow and it continues towards finish.

1800's Built, NY Cabin Drawing

Another page from a recent road trip which included a visit to Falling Water. The subject in this drawing is of a much different architectural style. A historical cabin in New York thats been added onto slightly over the generations. The clouds in the background don't really show up on the pencil sketch, but what a beautiful area.

Sketches from Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water House

Here are recent sketches from a road trip to tour the Falling Water House in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands region. This iconic symbol of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style was a sight to behold. Areas of the house drew me in with magnetic effect like the hearth pictured above. I was able to do some speed sketches in red color-erase and cleaned them up later with pencil and ruler.

The art on display alone was fascinating and pairs well during a guided tour with the family story of the home's original owners, the Kaufmans. Original works of art adorned the walls of this once vacation home, some unknown others signed like; a landscape from Siquera, two Diego Rivera works, Picasso prints, a Tiffany lamp and sculptures throughout.

If you're up for climbing some steps, seeing a house built into boulders, atop a waterfall, driving country roads with amazing views to get there, then this adventure will be well worth it. For me it was unforgettable.  

Rio Inspired Pastels

Here is the advertisement done for the sidewalk sign at Zaytoon Grill. Rio de Janeiro inspired drawing showcasing the kabob offerings of Zaytoon for those with an olympic sized hunger. Done with dry Nu-pastels and Fabre-castel pastel pencils.

A Mural Grows; Hand-made Lettering and Graphics

Adjust the quality of this video, using the gear icon on Youtube, up to 720 or 1080 for best viewing. Behold this time-lapse of the Zaytoon mural where a hand-made graphic is being painted on the wall. This video is from the fourth day of painting.  An underpainting of two olive branches woven together to make this feature and some funky lettering. The final logo will be flat color, olive green for the branches and leaves and black for the Welcome sign.

How to: Paint Masonry

Here is a teaser from the mural project at Zaytoon. How do you design a stone wall to give both the illusion of depth and realism? Be organic with your shapes. Use a watercolor pencil for layouts that way your lines will eventually dissolve into the work and it is also easy to make corrections with compared to charcoal. Think like a mason with larger stones forming your base. 

If you are painting on a textured surface try using the shapes, peaks and valleys of that wall in your favor for cobbling together realistic dry-fit stone works. Asymmetry is key here enjoy the fact your are not painting a grid of bricks and have fun with your art.

Underpainting; A Mural Grows...

A mural grows from the walls of Zaytoon Grill. I am very excited about this recent commission and the chance to work inside during the hot Florida summer.  The projection and layout of the landscape are finished. Underpainting is in progress of a hillside with an ancient olive tree like the ones giving shade for hundreds, maybe thousands of years in Palestine.

For menu and location details in St. Pete, check out their website.  http://www.zaytooncentral.com

Thank you's go out to the folks viewing the blog. Be kind and truly listen to one another, be inspired, create art and beauty in your world. May peace be with you.

Central Avenue Vapors

Central Avenue Vapors is currently open for business and drumming up interest in their Grand Opening Event on August 13th.  These are the chalk pastels done today for their side walk sign.  It was attracting some attention as people were walking by, the neighborhood buzzing with that end-of-week-energy, as foot-traffic filtered towards Tropicana Field, home-town Ray's hosting a game vs the New York Yankees. Central Ave Vapor's address is 1609 Central Ave, the hours are 11 to 9, seven days a week. It is closest to the intersection of 16th St, across from the big, old, famous, neon sign of World Liquors.


Chilling in the Capital of Cool, Negril, JM's West End

At last Saturday's William's Park Farmers Market I had the pleasure of meeting Ras Rody a chef cooking up some amazing vegan and Jamaican dishes.  We started talking about the island and he grew up just east of where I have stayed three times since 2001 at the West Birchrunville Cottages. He was amazed and we started doing the who's who of names and restaurants along the main road that leads up to a famous old lighthouse and beyond to Rick's Cafe. I had walked by his store down there without realizing it. You know sometimes it really is a small world. Amazing curry, rice n' beans, lentils and an eggless banana pancake tops off the combo plate at ten dollars.

So after all that nostalgic talk of Negril I realized that this newly added onto piece should get some love on the blog.  The watercolor is of a stylized crown of thorns plant that was on the cottages front porch. At 15 traveling to Jamaica changed my life and served as a big source of inspiration for the sketch book but also to broaden my perspective. These new unique experiences had a profound effect on me, the wildlife, coral reefs, and trees growing in trees, meeting people who live close to the bone yet are some of the happiest people I've ever met, shared a boat with, broke bread with.

Rest in Peace Brother John.

Flamingo Bar Mural: Day 10

Another time-lapse video from the mural project's tenth day.  After painting color into the face and hair I had to reassure onlookers about the layering process. That a heavy black was going on top of these shocks of color, in summary to trust me that it would not look like bozo the clown.  

Since its been finished back in April, I have had people come up to me and guess who the mural is about. The ones I've heard most often are James Dean, Elvis, Superman or Archer from the animated FX series. Incorrect guesswork but still cool considering all those people are important icons and deserve to have stylized portraits done of them. After all if you like photo-realism go buy a camera.

Nick if you're out there somewhere, thank you for the gift way back in Savannah of the Blackburn Rovers hat, here is proof that it does actually get worn.

Updated Pastels for Zaytoon Grill

The first year Anniversary pastels for Zaytoon needed some touch up work. Much improved clarity to these chalk signs at a distance.  I went back in and tweeked some lettering, added 3-D elements, adjusted the scroll-like features and gave the piece better movement for the eye to explore. Little maintenance work is always needed on these boards when they get hit with the occasional rain shower. 

To help avoid erosion such as wind or being smudged use a Krylon Workable fixative spray...after checking wind direction and making sure no one is eating outside of course.  Always ensure proper use of any spray-paint or top coat in aerosol form, especially ventilation. Read the label. 

Back to the amazing food here, build your own hummus plate, add feta, yes please.

Urban Composting

Up-cycle a cooler with a broken lid into a compost bin for your house, apt or small space.  Mix in your yard trimmings and leaves to cover the organics thrown in. Place under an overhang or covered balcony and leave it until full. Tip over and dump everything out the bottom layer will be rich dirt, maybe some worms if you're lucky. No more buying potting soil.

By his royal decree my cat Cecil, aka Sir Pounce, rightful hair to the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Collars, helped in the project by providing logistics and rolling in the dirt of the planter being made.

Flamingo Bar Mural Day 4

These time-lapse videos are shot with a GoPro HD Hero 3 and 4. It is actually a series of still images taken at intervals of 5 seconds which creates the illusion of a live shot but with the added bonus of extending your battery life and storage space.

Flamingo Bar Mural Project; The Last Road Trip

This was a fun exterior project started on March 6th, my first of hopefully many murals in Florida and beyond. The Flamingo Sports Bar and its previous incantations have stood in this location since the 1930's. The famed writer Jack Kerouac was a regular customer and apparently had his last drink at this old pool hall. Day one of the project was the only time spray paint or stencil was used on the wall everything else was done by hand, roller and brush. The old masters style I was taught in Savannah. 

A charity non-profit group Called the Friends of Kerouac is raising funds to purchase and preserve the house Jack lived in which has remained frozen in time, untouched. They host events at the Flamingo on Kerouac's birthday and date of death with live music and poetry readings that draw in eclectic crowds. The next event should be October twenty-first at the bar, 1230 9th Street N, St. Petersburg, FL 33705.

I was honored and humbled to have the chance to paint this mural and dedicate it to the memory of my Tres Grandes; grandfathers Julian Rashkind, Jack Hartzell, and Prof Jorge Alvarez. Mostly importantly, the owner Dale Nichol loves the finished piece and the renewed interest it creates in St. Petersburg's unique history. 

Anniversary Pastels for Zaytoon Grill

The lovely folks, Wally and Mary, at Zaytoon Grill are excited about the journey their restaurant has been on in its first year.  Recently written up for a review in the Tampa Bay Times this spot has grown a loyal following of dine-in and take-out customers alike. But the best part for me other than the flavor and freshness of the food, its that you're treated like family.

Here are some recent pastels done for their rolling sidewalk sign. Which almost blew away down Central Ave in a recent storm, thankfully no harm was done.

Sketches at the Palladium Theater

Had the pleasure of going to see a concert at the Palladium Theater featuring guitarists Nate Najar and headliner Larry Coryell.  Amazing music and first time experience of this venue in a renovated church with beautiful architecture. There was way too much to draw in the dark lighting with very little time. 

It was fun to listen to the stories, tributes, and on-the-go tuning from Coryell. Watching him bob and groove up there with that white shock of hair, to tell his guitars' origin story. A romantic tangent on the Gibson Super 400 he purchased back during 1956 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Palladium is one of many St. Pete venues large and small that attract quality acts within the downtown area. A few examples of my favorites are; The State Theater, Jannus Live, The Hideaway, and next to the Dali museum is The Mahaffey Theater.

This drawing is from the encore where he switched to an acoustic guitar. Drawing the legendary musician without glasses made Coryell look decades younger but I like it.

John Lennon and Jack Kerouac

Portraits of Lennon and Kerouac who's music and writing, respectively, were synonymous with a generation. Engrained, defining, a measure of the passing seasons, like the rings on a tree.

This was a somewhat related process sketch drawn during the build up to the Flamingo Bar mural project, The Last Road Trip. Drawn with a Prisma-color black pencil which is wax-based and hard to erase but are quality and worth it in terms of shading and contrast.

Masters of Invention: Leonardo da Vinci and Dali

Though this exhibit featured many reproductions and prints it was inspirational none the less to see Dali paired with one of the masters of invention Leonardo da Vinci. 

Opt for the scenic staircase at the museum instead of the elevators whenever possible.

Had a fun time peering back through history and Da Vinci's sketches of waterwheels reproduced and enlarged as massive prints. This piece is a combo of contraptions such as; a balcony water lift for hand cranking and a wheel mounted atop a water well. Most likely unintentional but this looks like a face to me with the cords that run down to the counterweights. 

Da Vinci had the ability to write with both hands, upside down and backwards and amazingly, to paint and draw with both hands. Which is something for me to work on improving. That off-hand technique had to be used working on the mural to avoid falling off the ladder or scaffold. I'm only able to paint with control using my off hand but the left-handed drawings look very childlike.

Many of Dali and Da Vinci's inventions were faithfully recreated many to life-size scale like the flying machine. Though some Dali original sculptures were display.  The bust of a goddess turned into a cabinet with fuzzy ball appliqué. A rotary-style Lobster Telephone. There was a recreated, clear plastic mannequin, wearing a black beret, filled up to the shins with orange pebbles, plastic seaweed growing up the legs and down the arms like nerve-endings  Intertwined within are little fish and the middle section of seaweed spins around. 

On the left page are more of Da Vinci details numbered and lettered like a modern industrial design manual for toggles, gears and pullys, waterwheels, counter-weights and his invention for a diving bell linked to an oxygen mask. Aristotle first describes a diving bell in the 4th Century BCE. But Da Vinci's idea is remarkably similar to what salvage divers use to this day. 

Another Dali original was this illusionistic bust titled " Nieuw Amsterdam" which transforms the closer you get from simple to complex. What a first looks like a war-painted brave emerges two figures with hats and robes holding a cup that is the nose, sections of chairs jut from the cheeks, the lips turn into a basket of fruit, the forehead a map featuring the Iberian peninsula, north African and Mediterranean coastlines. I started this piece above as a pen sketch in the gallery stunned by its detail and worked it to finish at home with FW inks and dip pen.

A Celebration of Pride: Orlando United

In the wake of the most recent mass shooting to rock US shores, utter tragedy at the Orlando night club Pulse, communities around FL and the country are coming together overwhelming the derision, hate and lack of empathy through unity and love.  Below is my take on the MLS team Orlando City's crest in tribute to the fallen, the LGBT family and to those who have suffered loss. In St Pete there is a massive Pride Parade type of festival that goes on down Central Ave all weekend.

This event is embraced by the locals here as a celebration of diversity and is a big day out affair for families large and small, for folks of all backgrounds. Large crowds are expected and before the parade starts there will be a fitting tribute. 30 seconds of silence for the 107 wounded or killed will total up to 17 minutes of silence. Last years event was of a celebratory mood right after the Supreme Courts ruling on same-sex marriage. There will certainly be a contrast of mood but an unwavering sense of support as the pride flag flies high. After all the show must go on.

MCE at the Dali

Having the chance to behold M.C. Escher's prints and delve into his life story was certainly enlightening.  Had the pleasure of watching the hour long, Dutch-made, documentary that played in a side gallery repeating his life's journey as I sat drawing most of the day. The sketches below are from views Escher accessed via a favorite hobby of his, secluded hikes around Sienna and the Amalfi Coast.

Escher grew up a Dutchman but the inspiration for many of the buildings in his illusionistic cityscapes were developed and inspired by experiences in Italy.  Where he lived for many years, married and had three of four children there before fleeing the rise of Mussolini's fascism.  Many of his rarely seen color prints were there such as Metamorphosis I.  Even a couple of Escher's carved print blocks were on display and the meticulous, calculated, detail was breathtaking.