I loved this show! I love Maurice Sendak’s drawings, hand-lettering, and the whimsy, compassion, heart, and sensitivity in his work. This exhibit features Sendak’s sketches, watercolors, storyboards, and dioramas illustrating his designs for the theater. I really makes me want to draw more, and explore absurdism.

I can’t stop thinking about these sketches for costume designs. The first is from Where the Wild Things Are. The second is from A Love for Three Oranges.


Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Study for Wild Things costume, with notes (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:19. // Source: TheMorgan.org.

Drawing of costume designs. Three figures. The two figures on the left show the front and back of the same person, "prince" in a body suit showing organs and bones. The third figure is a man a boat.

My photo of a page in the exhibition catalog, “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet.” // Find it in the Morgan shop.

There’s something just nice thinking about these drawings together. About bringing the inside out (your beastly feelings becoming a monstrous suit you wear and control), or making your outsides show your insides (the soft, vulnerable organs we’re all made of).

Through October 6
Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet
Morgan Library & Museum


Also, if you’ve never listened to the Teri Gross’ interview with Maurice Sendak on Fresh Air, give it a listen. It will break your heart.


See: Maurice Sendak at the Morgan Library


Points of Reference

Lars Tunbjörk

LARS TUNBJÖRK, LAWYER'S OFFICE, NEW YORK, 1997, 20 X 24 inches, Edition of 12, C Print. Source: amadorgallery.com

This 1997 photo by Lars Tunbjörk is pretty great. It’s from his series on corporate offices. He’s got a great eye for narrative — the feeling you get is one of hygenic oppression, like Robert Longo’s indicting drawings of white collar workers. I really like the abstraction and sense of space in this picture, and the cheeky realization that it’s the most mundane of mundane things, a garbage bin.

I’m also pretty happy to discover invisible thread. It’s not really invisible, and it’s not really thread, if you think of finely wound fibers, because it’s thin monofilament. It worked great in hand-sewing and in my sewing machine. Brush up on your knot-tying skills with animated demos by Grog.

Small victories in procurement, the art activity I love to hate: For my recent sewing/craft projects, the fabric department at the big CVS (formerly Longs/Payless) in North Oakland has been great. A $4 Fiskers portable scissor sharpener (a sharpening stone in two blade guides at the perfect angle) proved its worth within a few minutes. For more specialist items, visit Discount Fabrics in West Berkeley.

Did I mention Calvin Tompkins yet? His profiles of contemporary artists in the New Yorker have been fascinating. Recent subjects include Julie Mehretu (read the abstract), Urs Fischer (read the abstract) and Bruce Nauman (read the abstract). I found the profile of Nauman most interesting, maybe because his career and work is so unconventional, and the expressions of his psyche so singular. The Fischer and Mehretu profiles operate on surface levels more often, but readers interested in the mechanics of art star careers will find them fascinating.

Art & Development, Research, Travelogue

Mancunian slang and temperments

Mancunian Slang Adjective Flash Drawings: Stroppy, Naff, Scally, Grotty, Mardy Ink on six ready-made fluorescent yellow die-cut papers 12 x 7.5 inches each; 37 x 50 inches assembled. Produced during the Breathe Residency at Chinese Arts Centre

Mancunian Slang Adjective Flash Drawings: Stroppy, Naff, Scally, Grotty, Mardy Ink on six ready-made fluorescent yellow die-cut papers 12 x 7.5 inches each; 37 x 50 inches assembled

One of the things I’ve been researching during the Breathe Residency is Mancunian slang and temperaments. (Mancunian means of Manchester, for you Yanks). Manchester is known as a rainy post-industrial city, but I’ve found its emphasis on cultural life and development to be very forward-looking. It’s sort of like an English Detriot or Oakland–perpetually stuck between an unrecoverable past and a difficult-to-realize future, but with glimpses of hope all around.

The first thing I noticed about Manchester is the accent–broad, flat vowels, and the way words like “early” (“arr-lah”) feel flipped around to me. The next thing I noticed is the colorful slang.

I did some drawings that attempted to quantify the Mancunian temperment by taxonomizing the slang words that I heard by chance. In other words, I noticed that there were more slang words to describe displeasure, than there were to describe pleasure.

Above, an initial early version of the project. For the benefit of my fellow Americans, here’s a run-down:

Stroppy and mardy are both unpleasant characteristics, sort of irritable, uncommunicative, whiny. Many Brits are surprised that Americans don’t use the word stroppy. Maybe in an Anne of Green Gables book, but not in Oakland.

Naff means not good. Janky might be a good American corollary.

Scally means chav, a young Briton who’s adopted American hip-hop style, generally regarded as tacky, trashy, low-life. They are usually described as wearing trackie bottoms (track suit pants), flat caps (baseball hats), trainers (sneakers) and Burberry hats, though I haven’t seen any Burberry hats in Manchester. There are connotations of class, Northerner-ness (city mouse v. country mouse?), and probably racial ones, too, but I don’t know enough about it.

Grotty means dingy. It’s also used like the American slang adjective, ghetto.

Another word I heard was wanky, which is just a short way of saying like a wanker.

I only heard a few slang words that were positive:

Chuffed means enthusiastic, e.g., “I’m not too chuffed about it myself.”

As in America, Wicked means cool, e.g., “Hey, I’ve got an open studio coming up.” [Hands over a postcard.] “Wicked.” I’ve only heard it once or twice, which I attribute to a reluctance to express unbridled enthusiasm.

Sorted means sorted out, e.g., “Have you got it sorted?” or “Did you eat?” “Yeah, we went to Pizza Hut. Sorted.”

One more phrase is necessary to round out this list.

All right is the typically lukewarm, understated Mancunian way of expressing approval or appreciation. It can mean anything from OK to great. E.g., a Mancunian could enjoy an event, and describe it as “all right.”

This is in contrast with the American usage, which expresses neutrality or can even be a euphemism for bring underwhelmed, e.g., “How was ‘Marley and Me’?” “It was all right.” “Hm, didn’t really do it for you, huh?”


The Manc temperment is partly explained by the Northern identity. In England, a North-South divide signifies cultural differences as well as disparate levels of prosperity and health indicators.

For those interested in learning more about the north of England, I’d recommend these starting points:

Stuart Maconie’s Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the Great North, which I blogged about before.

Time Shift – Series 8 – The North-South Divide, an interesting hour-long BBC documentary.

HearManchester.com, which I also mentioned in a previous blog

Zeitgeist, a Salford University-produced arts and entertainment TV program. Watch past episodes online.