Posts Tagged ‘London’

Week 3: Notes From London: Above & Below

April 22, 2015

Here it is, week 3 of my Notes From London: Above & Below campaign: 17% funded with 17 days to go to meet my $3,000 goal. I’ve been busy publicizing here and wherever else I can think of, social media-wise and on the street, while heading towards the philosophical bent of mind. I love this project; not only has it been several years in the making, but it represents an important period in my life vis á vis a special family member who lived in London for many years and who has always been a great influence on my work; inspiring this book in no small measure. That said, the images I’ve chosen are not necessarily personal but they are intended as memes, as reminders for us to look beyond what is in front of us and ‘see’ or imagine a much deeper picture and story. So, as promised last week, here is another image for your consideration, a detail from ‘Neo-Medieval On The 343’:

I hope you all will continue to help this project gain momentum and spread the word to friends and colleagues worldwide! Every little success gives an artist hope and like fuel for your cars, that keeps us wanting to make things that make you smile!

Thoughts On Week 2: Notes From London: Above & Below @KICKSTARTER!

April 16, 2015

One week has passed since my Kickstarter book project launched. It’s been quite exciting, first, being chosen as a Kickstarter Staff Pick and of course receiving encouragement and many kind words from friends around the world. To date, Notes From London: Above & Below is now at 16% of its $3,000 goal, with 23 days until the campaign ends on May 10 at 3:20PM.

For the duration of the campaign, I’ll post illustrations from this unique book here and at my Kickstarter page which you can reach from this link:

You are invited to comment and /or post your questions and of course Pledge Your $upport to help bring this creative endeavor to life!

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your contributions!

Notes From London: Above & Below is a very special book for me. It not only distills many of the strange and wonderful experiences of my travels to London from 2002-2009 but also marks important milestones in both my creative development and family dynamics that are reflected on my dedication page.

So, without further ado, here is the illustration called Lillith@Shoreditch. Spotted at Apostrophé, a tasty, inviting café in East London’s media district, this unusual person and her ‘pets’ was a drawing just waiting to happen. The annotation that appears next to her explains it all…LillithShoreditch

Beastly Blessings

June 18, 2014

Beastly BlessingsI’ve long been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts and their history, but the tiny details in their margins and the
inventive illustrations that accompany the painstaking textual calligraphy are elaborate weavings of words and images that
continue to influence my illustrations for this current Kickstarter-funded project.

This week, for An Illumination Of Blessings, I present one that originates in Judaism but is universal in content. It acknowledges
the Creator by virtue of the unusual creatures that inhabit our world and can be recited upon seeing a rare or unusual animal.

As I considered how best to interpret this blessing yet reconcile it with my love of drawing all sorts of creatures both real and fanciful,
my imagination teemed with images, all begging to inhabit the page. It seemed to be a difficult choice until I came across references in
the Talmud (Berakhot 58b) and Shulchan Aruch (225:8) which offered some parameters for interpretation.

As one of two similar blessings for observing living phenomena, it recognizes and praises the Creator for the various
strange and extraordinary forms of animal and human life that are not conventionally beautiful. The other blessing is recited upon seeing exceptionally beautiful people or animals and praises the Creator for placing such beauty in the world. A commentary in the Gemara* specifies that the first blessing refers to the sighting of a monkey or an elephant. One rather strange explanation is offered; that humans were transmogrified into elephants and monkeys as punishment for their participation in the Tower of Babel débacle! Is this anti-evolutionary tale not a great plot for a horror flick? An idea with greater appeal to me was that monkeys and elephants are considered to resemble humans; the monkey for its body shape and manual dexterity and the elephant for its smooth, hairless skin and a trunk which it uses as though it were a hand.

While monkeys and elephants are common sights today at any zoo, in medieval times they were considered exotic and rare, inspiring the creation of special blessings. Since travel to foreign lands beyond Europe was undertaken primarily by nobility and merchants, these creatures were often represented in manuscripts by illustrations that interpreted word-of-mouth descriptions by such travelers.

Complicating the medieval artist’s task was the Second Commandment prohibition against creating ‘graven images’. However, because creativity is in itself a force of nature, these artists were not discouraged and gave free rein to their imaginations as they incorporated fantastical beasts and homunculi into their manuscripts.

One other reference finally clarified the concept of my illustration for this blessing; a discussion of the elephant as a metaphor of the Torah presented by Dr. Marc Michael Epstein in his classic book, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (Penn State University, 1997)**

After reading this enlightening chapter, I began to wonder why elephants were often shown saddled with ‘howdahs’ that sometimes resembled castle towers. Further reading revealed that the word ‘howdah’ is from the Hindi and Arabic languages referring to portable shelters used for travel but also for hunting and military battles. Carvings of elephants wearing howdahs are often seen as pieces in chess, the symbolic game of war.*** Taking this idea a step further, I imagined that a howdah could also represent a sort of portable synagogue; an ideological ‘castle’ as its own metaphor of Jewish history.

Accordingly, the first blessing for strange animals is illustrated here with a monkey riding an elephant whose ‘howdah’ or ‘turret’ recalls a medieval synagogue. It was inspired by an illustration in a 15th century volume of the Mishneh Torah written by Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. A decorative border of fanciful flowers and dragons surrounds them in tribute to the master medieval illuminators
whose timeless work continues to inspire my own.

Dear Backers: The Blessing For Rare and Extraordinary Animals is the 32nd of 36 blessings to be completed for An Illumination Of Blessings! We’re almost there!
Please Note: Even if you are not a backer on this Kickstarter-funded project, you may still pre-order your copy (ies) of An Illumination Of Blessings and/or prints from its illustrations here:   Also, if you visit my Kickstarter page at: you will see that your contribution of $500 to the top reward level of this project entitles you to have your name included on my Dedication page! This offer will stand until July 15, 2014 when I hope to have the book ready to go to press! You may contact me with your offer at:

* rabbinic teachings compiled after the 70 C.E. destruction of the Second Temple
** The Elephant and the Law, pp. 39-69
***I remembered seeing this image as a sculpture in London near the Elephant & Castle Underground station.
   This image is part of my blog at Imaginarius:

A Cultural Anomaly: Hasids@Harrods?

May 9, 2012

Waking up this morning, a thought floated past: how would one define consciousness? Is it a continuous series of ‘snapshots’, so to speak, strung together in our minds to form an infinitesimal portion of the big picture? And might that portions’ relationship to the greater reality only be understood in retrospect? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps, to prevent short-circuiting, we’re not meant to be conscious of consciousness, but before I get lost on this existential tangent, I want to share a drawing that was completed last night; a ‘snapshot’ that may have prompted those thoughts…

One rainy afternoon in 2002 at Harrods, I sketched a quick impression in my journal of these two men in black. Their incongruous presence in London’s poshest department store was a stark contrast to the colorful array of culinary delights for which Harrods great food hall is world renowned. Upon further reflection, this sighting revealed another level of strangeness. It seemed that by some trompe l’oeil, they had been transported through time from a cobblestone street in 17th century Poland to our era of consumer opulence and gastronomic bounty. Taking in their stuffed shopping totes, I wondered if they were still committed to their ascetic culture as they searched for a way out? And where were their wives? Questions, questions; but what fun would life be without mysteries like this?

South Asia In Shoreditch

December 23, 2011

Once past the rather gruesome tale of Tippoo’s Tiger*, my curiosity provoked a ségue later that week to South Asia via Shoreditch. I knew about the preponderance of curry houses in London, but had avoided them because I thought such dishes might be a bit intense for my delicate digestive system. Nevertheless, though I’ve never been to India or Bangladesh, the post-war British-flavored ambience of the Shampan Curry House in London’s Brick Lane was what I imagined the streets of these countries might be like. The softly lit room with linen tablecloths and elegantly set table service were most inviting, as were the wait staff in crisp white shirts, odd short neckties and black satin vests. Carefully balancing multi-plated trays, they bustled back and forth to the noisy, packed dining room; yet their expressions remained strangely serene. It almost seemed as though they were listening to the music of  sitar and tabla while waiting on a Sultan in the perfumed gardens of the Taj Mahal. Exotic aromas of fresh onion naan, bhaji and metter paneer were enough to convince me that if the food smelled that good, it had to taste even better. And I was not disappointed. Still, I couldn’t help staring at one of the waiters in the shadow of an order for a large party as he seemed to become something else altogether…

*see post of December 13

Other images from the Notes From The London Underground series may be seen and purchased as gicleé prints at

A Taste Of The Tate

December 17, 2011

When I first entered Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern museum, I was blown away by the sheer size and industrial grandeur that nearly dwarfed the large scale Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread installations it hosted. Such that I wasn’t even tempted to look at the art or determine its significance objectively. But sliding up the elevator with a bird’s eye view of it below, I schooled myself to do so while wandering the collections in the upper galleries. Still, amidst the ubiquitous modern classics by Rothko, Beuys, Warhol, deKooning and Richter, one of Cy Twombley’s Bacchus series was a painful visual assault, not just for its prominent size, but for its disappointing absence of story. Unless you tell yourself that Mr. Twombley simply needed exercise that day and found himself with an excess of plywood and red paint that demanded a wall in his studio and by extension in many major modern art museums.

I could not help but recall this quotation seen in an art magazine long ago. It was attributed to a Tim TwoGuns, someone I’d never heard of, perhaps an artist?
“When artists create works of art, we become part of these works. After physical death, our spirits remain and our works of art become windows back to the living world. We cannot travel back through the window, but in spiritual form can observe the painting’s owners on the other side. If we become bored with the lives of one family, or if they are not at home that day, we can move to another of our works of art on another wall somewhere else…”   I also remember thinking that if this were true, then the owners of our artwork would see part of us, the artists, in the image too. Which is why, as an illustrator, such art dismays and saddens me. Was Mr. Twombley merely being cynical, riding on his reputation as a marketable artist? Knowing that truly great art must serve as testament to its era for future generations, then all our descendants will glean from our era is that much of the 20th and early  21st century was chaotic and self-indulgent, trumpeting size and cost over substance. Like the gentleman/connoisseur above, do we really want to get sucked into this stuff and sacrifice our history for the sake of exhorting ‘freedom of expression’ at all esthetic cost? How do we move forward if we forget how to look back?

An Iconic Transmogrification

December 5, 2011

The title for this week’s post is a bit of a mouthful, but is the sort of wordplay that works for many of my drawings.  The word ‘transmogrify’, used as early as 1656 is a transitive verb meaning to transfigure or transform with grotesque or humorous effect. Used here, it has become a sort of visual process noun that describes how a mundane image morphs into a fantastic one. It is also an apt term for ‘shape-shifting’, a familiar trope in myth and legend. Both forms seem appropriate for how we perceive the subtle shifts in reality as we are bombarded with information and imagery that overlay each other both in our waking life and in dreams. During my travels, as I entered the images and observations in my journals, ephemeral questions floated across my mind resulting in sketches that captured both what I saw and what no one else did at that time and place. Such was the genesis of ‘Guardgoyle‘, an iconic transmogrification and the latest drawing in my London Underground series. The initial cap accompanying the text is from ‘Garrulous Gothic‘ a new illustrated alphabet highlighted in a previous post. The alphabet and other images in this series may be seen and purchased as gicleé prints at

Mobile Virgins: In Search Of Innocence

November 22, 2011

Working my way through myriad London inspired journal notes and sketches, here is today’s choice: a meditation on the chaotic and fearful environment created and presided over by our ever-present media empire. Near Holborn Station on a walk through London’s West End, I was on the way to a performance at The Duchess Theatre, I spotted these two young women whispering in front of a Virgin Mobile shop. Attired in tatty hats, scarves and legwarmers, clutching ubiquitous phones, they presented an isle of innocence amidst the electric, eclectic ether of tourists, trannies and taverns…

Gicleé prints of this images and others in my Notes From The London Underground series may be purchased at:

A Transparency Of Time

November 4, 2011

This latest drawing from my ‘Notes From The London Underground’ series emerged from a journal sketch of a ‘neo-medieval’ young woman in her ‘urban armor’ traveling on the 343 bus from Southwark to Elephant & Castle in London. Though she is not technically on the ‘Tube’, I’m expanding the series to include observations from other means of transport. I particularly liked seeing the variety of colorful upholstery on both tube and bus. I later learned that the ‘DNA-esque’ moquette pattern called ‘Chevron’  shown here is one of a series designed in 1938 by Enid Marx for the London Passenger Transport Board. As I studied the young woman’s hyperbolic knit beanie, the image of a medieval Flemish portrait flashed to mind and I realized that although London is situated on an isle separated from ‘The Continent’ by the English Channel, its cultural identity is a pastiche of pan-European and global sensibilities unfettered by the constructs of time…

A Mundane Magick:Cleo@Cockfosters

January 18, 2011

Imposing strange images on ordinary observations seems to be the outgrowth of my developing visual vocabulary. As though seeing is an invitation to knowing or perhaps just imagining, as in this latest entry from my Notes From The London Underground series. What began with a casual glance at a pregnant passenger waiting at Bank Street station evolved into a vision that tells a story which can be interpreted at multiple levels. It is encapsulated in the framed text next to ‘Cleo’. The rooster and crocodile found their way into this image in response to the wordplay in the Cockfosters tube stop name, with which I couldn’t resist tampering. The crocodile represents the Egyptian deity Sobek, associated with ancient creation myths and agricultural fertility. A bit of research revealed that the rooster symbolizes the ancient sun gods and as the male principal also associated with fertility, it is charged with the protection of family and community. The name Cockfoster’s originated somewhere around 1524 and referred to a family estate in the North London suburban boroughs of Enfield and Barnet. The name may also be a mash-up of the words ‘cock forester’, the residence of the estate’s chief groundskeeper.

So even when an image presents itself to me, I don’t always understand all the reasons why that is so and in that sense, it doesn’t seem complete. I’d enjoy hearing your interpretations; it’s part of the magick…

This and other drawings in this series are available as limited edition prints. These may be seen throughout this blog and at my webfolio: