Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An invited visit to the Clevelander and the Essex House (Combined Posts)

((Disclaimer - this post is a combination of previous trips about the post.  I have shared this story with enough people and have decided that it is a lot to expect people to find and click all 4 posts! Note that I still have progress posts to polish and post. ))

Since these original posts I have touched up, made final scans, and have posted the images on my Behance site. I would love for you to visit them because the blogged shots are simply from my iphone.... http://www.behance.net/gallery/Miami-Beach-At-the-Clevelander/14205969

I have since been in touch with the wonderful people who invited me. There are talks of other visits to see the awesome show at the Marlin's opener and other opportunities.  Very fun.... Especially since my Free People Store on Collins Ave is almost open and my chance at more trips are coming to an end.

Now, the whole story...all in one place...

Let's make up a trip.  A day dream.  Let's say you are on routine (getting a building permit) business trip for your client (Free People). This usually means travel to a beautiful places and having evenings to yourself. Say you do this (twice) in Miami Beach. Say you are a constant sketcher and stop at a very cool outdoor bar with this crazy shape that just has to be sketched. You pull out your kit, order your beer and just play while imagining this was your job.  ( I love my job but I would love for this to define my semi retirement) Say a few sketches really pop and you put it on your meager little blog online wondering who will enjoy it. AND what if the hotel saw it, and loved it, and called you about it. They say, I don't know what I want to do, but you have captured the spirit, etc etc.  What if they called you on the coldest day in Minnesota (-14 degrees - 44 windchill) in a decade and said, "We have decided to pay for your flight, and take care of you while you are here.  Just pick something before it gets crazy in February and we won't even give you direction. Just come and feel taken care of and do what you do." Add to this daydream that you didn't take vacation this year and decided to cash in miles and have  Marcy and Leo crash your room?  Then the hotel says that's fine and we will pick you all up and they can eat too!  Yeah right....dream on sucker! All you did was enjoy your beer and the beautiful people, and the pigments swirling around on your little sketch book. 


Anyone who follows my blog knows I love other people's process and assume people like to see mine. I have documented the trip. I produced about 14 images onsite and have plans for about 5 more. For the images on site I took periodic pictures. ( I also teach and these come in handy). I plan to to post the semi final images in about 3 blogs and then the process for each image later for the process junkies like me.

This first series is intended to give you a sense of what we left...frozen Minneapolis and crazy work...to being literally pampered in a beautiful hotel room and warm palm trees. I still feel like it was a dream although it was only earlier this week.


I took this picture yesterday morning to show the people in Miami. This is the view outside my office. The little squares are ice houses. It looks like a small skyline but the frozen lake is large and flat and these houses are a long distance apart. But, this is just for reference as we head to Miami!

This morning we finished packing and woke up with what we thought was enough time. It had really snowed the night before and the car was covered and the trip in was slow with blowing snow. 

I travel a lot. However I was shocked at how packed the airport was. I never fly Sat morning, and this was alarming. Thank goodness for the family line they put us in or we wouldn't have made it.  We also stopped in the middle of the concourse and decided to CRAM everything together and skip the bag check in line. This was the move that let us make our flight. Well, that and bringing handsome Leo.  


Warm ups on the plane. 

This is an image in top of a previously inked page. This is white gouache over the top of the dried ink.

Just some general sketching and painting to pass the time and warm up.  (I notice my palm trees were much less practiced than they are now as I am proof reading this!)

But after 6 hours of conference calls (3 projects) on Friday, a crazy crazy sat morning airport and barely making it (despite being there early), my butt is seated,  the email is set to manual, and I am on vacation and ready to relax and sketch. 

For warm ups I was able to knock out a couple of sketches for EVERY DAY MATTERS on the iPad

We did make it on to Miami and on time enough. We were picked up by the hotel and as such started our wonderful trip.

Once we land, Leo is still on board and carrying his weight.


Dinner at the Clevelander and surprised that the main street closed to traffic for the Art Deco weekend!

Back in the room we are greeted with a bottle of wine and chocolate covered oreos....Plus a phone call from Ian....Seriously..we are treated well.

Isn't she just a beautiful person? I love this woman.

Leo LOVED the cookies...Loved them...Still talks about them...

Leo enjoying the room decor.....

Breakfast at a place that Marcy and I had a date back in ...well I don't like to think about the math but it was one of our first and we were here for the AIAS convention before we graduated and we were just dating then. I still remember the date vividly and eat here every time I visit.

I will post the rest of the sketches in other blogs (this is long enough) but it REALLY was a great vacation. We REALLY were taken care of in a way that I hadn't before. I REALLY felt appreciated for my art in a way that I never have before...so thank you. Everyone to a person was fantastic to us. Even when Leo was grumpy in the high end (AMAZING FOOD! WOW) Zen Sai.

Now to the sketches....I hope you open the next blog.



This image was done on site and the first sketch of my first night's drawing. I really enjoyed this one. After a great dinner and wandering around with Leo and Marcy I took off to sketch as Leo went to sleep.  I choose this spot because it is from the opposite viewpoint from the sketch that got me here.The guy taking care of me was awesome and would even watch my stuff as I took bathroom breaks.  This Patio is crazy with people and this huge DJ stage that throws lights and music everywhere.  This was drawn completely on site and in the dark. It is always a surprise to see how the colors actually turn out.  The yellow is hard to see and much brighter the next day int the light.  I did this on purpose this time because the stage throws so much light onto the palm trees, the buildings, and the people.  The stretched fabric up top is the SP 4 sun deck and the C Level is directly above my head. I roughed the scene in with a pencil to get the "big rocks" in place and then went at it with a Lumacolor "B" tip pen.  Then I erased the pencil and used my travel kit loaded with Horadam transparent gouache.

On a side note, it is a random world and while having lunch in this space two former Ryan Coworkers from Minneapolis turned up. Jared  Olson and Gretchen Lundberg  were returning from a cruise and stopped in for a drink.  How crazy random.

The original


Sketch #2 of the first night.  This is the one sketch that keeps evading me.  This is my 4th or 5th attempt if you include my previous trips.  It is ok, but my least favorite of the trip. However, it was really fun to do.  It was a first attempt of on site ink wash (I loaded a water brush with Noodlers Polar Black and used a second water brush pen to control the water and flow).  Once I brought the image into Photoshop to reduce and send to the owner I accidentally hit inverse and like that better. I have pre prepped a few watercolor pages for a 6th attempt off of reference photos. This will not beat me.... It will not...


C Level is a smaller but kind of exclusive bar on the roof top.  Lots of beautiful people very well dressed and having a good time. The views of the ocean and the skyline are simply amazing and there is a neon colored water fall that runs an entire wall. It was a little cool and windy while up this night so the waterfall wasn't in use, but I am told it is crazy and I believe it. It was cold enough I had a light jacket on.  I am supposed to do another sketch from images that will be sent to me.  Amusingly I was talking to guy (who happened to be a local architect about my age) and his girlfriend offered to trade me her dress for my jacket.  I think I can save this image by working on the entourage from photos.  If you are wondering....yes I still have my jacket.  Lumacolor "B" pen with my travel kit of Horadam gouache and Niji water pen.

At This point it was pretty late after the flight, the wandering, and the three sketches. I don't want to say what time it was but I can say the place was still going way stronger than I could ever think about going. It is very cool to have the very quiet, original, and historic Essex House and the constant party of the Clevelander and it's rooms separate.  They very much have everything covered here....What a crazy night.

This blog is Part 2 of the sketches done on site for our wonderful Miami Beach trip at the Clevelander and the Essex House. I have blogs about the process of each coming very soon. 


All of  images are on "hand book, water color wire bound books. All but the three studies are about 3 times bigger than what I typically carry and work on when doing plien air and urban sketching.  This is much larger than I usually work and now my regular size just seems so small!

The remaining images and a little backstory....

I really enjoyed this little moment. 


Every time we left our suite or looked out of the window we were greeted by this view.  One day it rained and I swear you could see it growing.  I did a very quick study in my normal sketchbook below a day before tackling this head on. The larger sketch was really fun because both Leo and Marcy were sketching next to me the whole time. The stretched fabric in the top of the picture is the party sun deck called SP 4.  I loved that you could see the party area from such tranquility.  While sketching from this stoop (not ours) I met and had to move for two of the most beautiful people I saw all week.  At this point in the week I had moved away from the fatter lumacolor pen. I love the "B" tip  pen but I was really enjoying drawing the foliage and the flex nib Noodlers Ahab (Polar Black Noodlers ink) was perfect.  I ran that pen out of ink twice on this trip. I took a lot of progress shots of this image that will be fun to blog. This is probably my favorite sketch of the trip. 


In the Lobby of the Essex there is this great sculpture by a gentlemen I hope to get the name of.  I was sitting at the lobby bar looking over my sketches and photos to plan out my sketch strategy the next day.  It was late for me but early for Miami and I was the only person in the the small but beautiful Zen Sai hotel bar .  To make a long but interesting story short three very drunk people came and literally leaned on me (the entire room was empty) while they tried to hook up. ( favorite conversation - lady - Lady #2 "I like your watch" guy #1 "Yea! It's Big! And it's Gold!" While looking Lady #1 who says "where are your friends? (For the third time) I think you would be a better match for my daughter instead of me, she is beautiful, I have pictures, do you want to see them?" ).  Lady #2 reaches around and incredibly picks up my phone.  At that point I politely gather my stuff and set back up in the lobby in front of this sculpture.  The proportions were so perfect and it had to be sketched. Quick pencil, pen, erase the pencil and then ink wash.  I don't know what happened to the 3 people, they were gone when I settled out, but I sure they had fun because this place doesn't stop. The bar tender was a great guy and I enjoyed talking to him.  He enjoyed the sketches and took a picture of my Hipster watercolor for his girlfriend.  Tuesday night I had dinner at the same seat with a hilarious couple giving Julio and the rest of the staff a good natured hard time. I saw them again this morning before I left.


This is an image they wanted of the Clevelander sign as seen from the beach road.  This image took a long time.  I will definitely  blog the process for this one.  I started during dinner with this view and sketched on this until about midnight.  Once I got the line work done and all of the colors down except the yellows and greens ( you just can't see yellow at night so I saved that for the next day) I moved into the patio area and worked on it until about midnight. The staff were interested in it and kept coming by to check on progress.  Some remembered me from the night before. I finished the yellow and greens on site at lunch the next day and worked on ramping up the line work. I really enjoyed this sketch.  These are just camera pictures and I can't wait to do the real scans and color balance. 

Noodlers Lexington Grey ink wash study with a second water pen.


Door study (these handles are much longer and more delicate but my sketchbook was short :). ). Noodlers Ahab flex nib fountain pen and Noodlers Polar Black ink.


The Essex House has an AMAZING area to sit at the entry doors.  I spent a few hours in this space on different occasions thinking how nice it is here and how cold it is in Minneapolis. I have a few more sketches in my head that will need to come out of details in this area.  The two smaller images are warm ups and studies. The larger image was done on site and originally as Noodlers Lexington Grey ink wash and my Pentel brush pen with Lexington Grey.  The sketch flowed just fine but Marcy and I were both underwhelmed by it.  It was just ok but everything was too mid toned.  While wandering with Marcy and Leo I went back over this with the fountain pen and black in while we ate lunch.  The line work on top of/ with the lex grey gave the life I was trying to convey.  Be another painting of this space oh the EH above the door that won't leave my head until it is painted.


I would love to do a series on the drinks in this style. This is water color pencil and a flood of water.  Every time I would see a table with one of the really colorful drinks I would approach and while trying not to seem strange ask if I could photo graph it.  I want to do more of these and will blog the process.  I hope to tackle more from the photo graphs later.  


Ian took very good care of us.  Once we arrived we dropped off our stuff in the room. When we returned we were greeted with a bottle of wine and these chocolate covered Oreos. These also had to be sketched.  I took a picture of the tray and will most likely do another sketch.

This is the last sketch before I was picked up.  This is the entrance spire to the Essex House. A very stylized perspective to give honor to this great Art Deco corner and spire.  I can't wait to ink this.  I will use a black Pentel brush pen so the line weight is hopefully interesting.  I will then scan the line work because I would like to try water soluble graphite and get a night image and accentuate the lights.


These two images are how I think big picture on the sketches I want to do and basic formatting. This is also where I decide what to do on site and what to take home.  I used these to walk through my ideas with the owners as well. 

I hope you enjoy the sketches at least half as much as enjoyed creating them. Many need final touch up, labeling and scanning but I was impatient to share!

What a trip....more entries to come. 

Keep Drawing

James Nutt AIA