Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Biking In NYC

The Leopard drank beer and laid around in front of the TV a bit too much this Winter, so once the weather broke I finally decided to venture out and get some much needed exercise.
For me, my bike is the weapon of choice to battle the vestiges of an inert existence.

Getting into the rhythm of the city riding is another thing altogether. In my misspent youth, I was once a bike messenger, briskly weaving between moving traffic, riding down insanely steep staircases and cruising the wrong way down a one-way streets. This was second nature, never delivering a second thought during my my appointed rounds.

Nowadays, older (but probably not much wiser), helmet is firmly on head, earphones are in pockets and attention is on the business at hand. Yet even those precautions go but so far on the mean streets of New York.

I ventured out down the city bike paths to my job the other morning thinking myself quite the adventurer, only to be thrust in a crowd of like-minded Brooklynites. Immediately, my middle-aged alarm went on as I fell back, followed by a youthful assemblage, not wanting to block anyone's path.
I had barely made it across the Brooklyn Bridge when I began to gasp for air, refusing to get off the bike and stroll, as others in my age group had done, as I rode to the top, and then coasted down the other side, incredibly grateful to ease my burning legs.
Once on the Manhattan side, cars whooshed by, making me fear I'd make my destination in one piece.

A word to the wise when navigating the clogged streets of New York: There are NO rules.
"Green" means, red; "walk" means stop.  Everything is intuitive. Somehow, I made it to my place of employment. But somehow I think a peace - keeping stint in Afghanistan would have been easier.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

David Stone Martin, Artist

By far one of The Leopard's biggest influences is the remarkable illustrator David Stone Martin. Even if you don't know his name, you've probably seen his work on hundreds of album covers, most notably Billie Holiday's early LPs and and many other beautiful drawings and paintings created for jazz impresario Norman Granz's various record labels.

Martin's medium of choice was crowquill pen and ink, where he cultivated a rough, distinctive line, not wholly unlike his primary influence, the brilliant political artist Ben Shahn.

Martin's also created art for children's books and advertisements, but it was his jazz art that made te biggest impression on me. When I was given the opportunity to create covers for jazz bassist Christian McBride's LP covers, my mind went directly to Martin's wonderful work. 
Although I didn't want to directly emulate him, I tried to create a feeling similar to his.
I don't know if I ever got close to achieving it, but I'm was happy to even be able to try.