Need chair, will (try to) draw

IMG_9294My wife and I set up our own his and hers workspace.  Her desk is the important space; It is for Sunday School study and preparation.  She needs more room to spread out her Bible, lesson plan, notes, and other books.

For mine, as inspiration, I placed on the wall paintings and artwork from three artists: Rembrandt, Bouguereau, and my daughter Kara who is very creative.  I’m ready to begin drawing,  once I get a chair, that is.

I’ve heard portraits are the most difficult to draw. That said, I decided to attempt a portrait to see what I could do.  My grandson’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to give it as a gift.

Since I drew this I have been reading and watching videos on shading, lighting, contrast, etc., I see so many things to improve.



Bird of a feather

My first attempt at a graphite and pencil drawing was fun.  Included in the General’s Pencil Sketch Mate set was a little pamphlet that showed a progression of how to draw this Scrub Jay.  Although mine doesn’t look like the finished product in the pamphlet, I am somewhat pleased with it.

The important thing is, I enjoyed drawing it.  It was relaxing, stressfree, and fun.  My only issue was where to stop and move on.  I guess an artist can keep drawing and drawing or painting and painting and still see something that needs correcting or enhancing.  It may be similar to writing a sermon; I never feel like it is finished and always wish I had more time.



If you can write, you can draw…so they say.

Do I even have time to do this?  A creative website has inspired me,  doodlewash. Maybe some simple charcoal and graphite pencil drawings to begin with?

I went the inexpensive route, but tried to choose items that are made in the U.S.A. Drawing pad; check!  Pencil pack; check. Compass; oh,oh–China.

I bought two drawing pads, not that I’ll need them both–but the second one was only a penny!

Now…when will I find the time and who or what will be my first subject?

Book Review: Jungle of Stone

Where are the JoSreal men today?  A new study, published in the Journal of Hand Therapy, reported researchers asked 237 participants aged under 30 to exert as much force as they could on a hand dynamometer.  The results showed that strength scores were lower for both men and women than they were in 1985.  Specifically, men’s hand strength decreased by 20 pounds.

Are men weaker today than they were 20, 50, 100, 177 years ago?

Enter John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. Author William Carlsen tells the story of these men in his book, Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey and The Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya.

Carlsen describes Stephens and Catherwood as “a mismatch, an unlikely pair for such a revolutionary journey. One was a red-bearded, gregarious New York lawyer; the other a tight-lipped, clean shaven English architect and businessman.”

The year was 1839 and they “were about to alter the world’s understanding of human history.”  Carlsen follows these men on a 2,500 mile chase through the mountains and jungles of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Stephens and Catherwood braved some of the most horrendous ordeals as they pressed on with their discovery.  Carlsen describes one ordeal this way,

“Along with the natural beauty came the murderous mini-vampires. The mosquitoes were driving them out. Every night was torture. “We held our ground against them for two nights,” Stephens wrote. The men were apparently without their netting. On the third evening they were finally forced out of the temple, only to be driven back in again, seeking relief but never able to find it. They had all but given up sleeping. “A savage notice to quit was continually buzzing in our ears and all that we cared for was to get away.”

But they didn’t quit.

On another occasion Stephens and Catherwood experienced unpleasant encounters withStela Copan vicious, blood-drawing “bottle rump” and “doctor” flies; deadly snakes and alligators the size of logs.  To ward off flies, they would find it necessary to smoke nearly all day just to keep them away.

Once, while escaping a raging forest fire, a swarm of giant flies escaping the fire too, followed them. The flies descended on them and attacked their mules.  “Every bite drew blood. For an hour we labored hard but could not keep their heads and necks free” Stephens explained.  “The poor beasts were frantic, and in spite of all we could do, their necks, the insides of their legs, mouths, ears, nostrils, and every tender part of their skin, were trickling with blood.”

The book is filled with riveting accounts like these.  It does however bog down when Carlsen takes several chapters to describe Stephens’s and Catherwood’s early life.

The book is filled with expedition, politics, archeology and the American spirit.

catherwoodStephens and Catherwood were not the first to discover the Maya civilization, however they were the first to write extensively about it and provide intricate drawings (the camera was not in use at the time) of grand temples, palaces, courtyards, statues, stelas, pyramids, archways, caves and more.

The book is not just the Mayan discovery story which is fascinating, especially when they uncover their first city, it also tells the account of the development of a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama. Stephens was one of the key planners for that colossal endeavor. Stephens did not live to see its completion, but of that railroad Carlsen writes:

“From its inception to its consummation, it is purely American,…American genius conceived the plan; American science pronounced it practicable; American capital has furnished the sinews; American energy has prosecuted the gigantic enterprise to its completion in spite of the most formidable difficulties.”

America is exceptional. Jungle of Stone helps us see that.  It is a story of real men, strong men; men with firm grips.

Where are these men today? Are they only found in history–in the pages of books like Jungle of Stone?  

Bring me men to match my mountains,

Bring me men to match my plains,

Men with empires in their purpose,

And new eras in their brains.

Bring me men to match my prairies,

Men to match my inland seas,

Men whose thoughts shall pave a highway

Up to ampler destinies,

Pioneers to cleanse thought’s marshlands,

   And to cleanse old error’s fen;

Bring me men to match my mountains –

   Bring me men!

Sam Walter Foss, The Coming American

Drowned in a Shipwreck

[Excerpt from my upcoming book, A Boy Who Loved The Sea.]

I come from a family line of seagoing men. My great-great-grandfather, Captain Nelson W. Napier captained a side-wheel steamer, the Alpena, on one of the Great Lakes–Lake Michigan. It was on that ship he lost his life.

My great-great-grandfather Nelson W. Napier was the captain of this vessel.

On October 15, 1880, at 9:30 PM, the Alpena left Grand Haven, Michigan bound for Chicago. Although a fresh water lake, Lake Michigan is immense–It is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide. Sailing on Lake Michigan would be as if one is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Just like in the ocean, storms on the lake are fierce and waves can hit great heights.

The weather that night in 1880 was beautiful, but the barometer was indicating a storm was approaching. The Alpena was spotted on her southwest journey by the crew of another steamer at about 1:00 AM and all seemed well.

Alpena on ice in Lake Michgan c. 1870’s

At about 3:00 AM on Saturday, October 16, 1880, the worst gale in Lake Michigan recorded history swept across the lake. The Alpena was seen at 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM, and 8:00 AM by the captains of two other ships. They recorded in their log that the Alpena was laboring heavily in high seas.alpena2

I can picture my great-great-grandfather fighting valiantly in the storm to save the ship and the 80 passengers on board.

Several other vessel captains spotted the Alpena on her side with one of her paddle-wheels out of the water.The steamer finally gave in to the storm and capsized.  The Alpena was carrying ten car loads of apples on her main deck. One theory is that in the storm the cargo shifted to one side causing the Alpena to become unmanageable. On October 16, 1880, my great-great-grandfather, along with all passengers and crew were lost in the depths of Lake Michigan.The actual cause will never be known. There were no survivors.

The death of my great-great-grandfather is recorded in our old and cherished family Bible.

Our family Bible. Note: two captains in my family.

History source: Michigan Shipwreck Research Association 2001-2016

Dodgers Junior Broadcaster; my grandson

For the second year in a row, my ten-year-old grandson was a Dodgers Jr. Broadcaster.  He was privileged to interview Dodger outfielder, Joc Pederson and make contact with Clayton Kershaw, Trayce Thompson, Kiké Hernandez, Julio Urias, J.P. Howell, Chris Hatcher, Carlos Frias, Casey Fien, Manager Dave Roberts and pitching great, Orel Hershiser.

He did play-by-play announcing for three innings and color comentary for the others.  He got to announce Kiké’s homer in the 8th inning and the walk-off win in the 9th.

I am proud of him. What a dream come true for a ten-year-old boy who loves baseball. We love LA!


Dodger Stadium TristanDodger Stadium press boxDodger Stadium Jr. Broadcast Team