August 16, 2010

A few things from the last few months:

There is a pictorial of my work up at the Melton Prior Institute website. Melton Prior is an organization based in Germany that does a lot of great stuff with reportage drawing. I put together a short slideshow for them of some of the images I liked best from Russia.

There is also a really nice write-up about my work at the Urban Sketchers Moscow blog. Urban Sketchers is a group for people who do on-site drawing, and they have sub-groups all of the world.

Finally, one of the images from this project was selected for the Illustrator’s Club of DC 15th Juried Show. The drawing of Marx (shown above) was on display with all the other show participants back in March and April, at Edison Gallery in downtown DC. It was a pretty excellent show- lots of really talented work got picked this year and it was an honor to have something of mine chosen. There should be a catalogue of all the entries getting printed sometime in the coming months.


The Final Set

May 5, 2010

All images (or the best ones) are now viewable here.

Also online are pictures I made in Ukraine, during a brief stopover at the end of my trip.

The final set of pictures are not what I had expected I would make when I first started planning this trip and project. I had ambitions to capture slow decay and post-industrial fallout in Russia the way I had in St. Louis. But unlike rust belt cities in the US, Moscow isn’t on the decline- it’s developing rapidly and sometimes bizarrely, with designer stores and luxury skyscrapers springing up next to old soviet apartments and even older wooden houses and onion-domed churches. Russia has been through several dramatic changes in the past century and it shows. As time went on I had less and less of an agenda for my work and tried to take in everything uncritically. I think the collection of places and pieces of cities I found were fascinating and I hope that you agree- I hope that comes across in these drawings.

Thanks to everybody who reads these sporadic posts and has followed and supported me through this project. More updates will still come in the future.


April 1, 2010

Back in the US and in the process of compiling all of my work. Expect updates soon. In the meantime, you can check out some finished work here and here.


September 2, 2009


First stop in a partial tour of the Golden Ring: a series of provincial towns outside of Moscow



the room from my Vladimir homestay: complete with family photos and nonfunctioning TV

the town






street traffic

Week three: VDNKh, neighborhoods

September 2, 2009


VDNKh is the former site of the All-Soviet Exhibition Center, a collection of ornate Stalinist buildings showcasing different countries in the USSR. Now it’s full of carnival rides, and the pavilions still in use house shops and currency exchanges. There are a few random things from the Soviet era up on display here as well, including this shuttle and plane.


decoration from one of the pavilions: More experiments with colored line.


In the third week I moved from a hostel in downtown Moscow to a homestay in a neighborhood outside the main area of the city.


Kruschev-era apartment blocks characterize these kinds of neighborhoods.



and Soviet cars:

soviet car


I made more and more line drawings towards the end of my stay.





Sketches-the first weeks

September 1, 2009


In the next few days I’ll be posting sketches from the trip, starting with the earliest and working up to the end of my stay. Although I’m not in Russia anymore, I’m still traveling without access to a scanner, so all work is going up as low-quality photos for now. Comments/criticism welcome.

police truck


Marx statue + early experiments with color and colored line


This is the church I mentioned in my first post: The Church of the Resurrection of Christ at Kadashi. The first (according to the guy I talked to) built in the Naryshkin Baroque style. It was closed during the Soviet era and is in the process of being restored. At the moment, it’s threatened by large new developments planned for the area surrounding it.

Chocolate Factory

Krasnaya Oktyabr Chocolate Factory. This building used to be a famous Russian chocolate factory. Now it’s loft apartments and contemporary art galleries.


Regrettably my only drawing of the Kremlin: this is one of several towers that line the outside walls.


This sums up downtown Moscow: An old castle-like building converted into a Giorgio Armani store.


Some research notes at the Abramstevo museum of Russian crafts and decorative arts.

Wooden Architecture

More Abramstevo: my first encounter with Russian wooden architecture.


July 27, 2009

Really quick update: I am in Vladimir right now, making a partial tour of provincial towns in the Golden Ring outside of Moscow. My internet access is limited and sporadic, and I can blame my lack of posts or pictures on this. Vladimir is like a smaller, friendlier version of Moscow. There are more signs that people actually live and do practical things here. The first day I got in, I ended up eating in the foodcourt of a Russian department store (nastiest hamburger of my life).

Two things I appreciate about Russia is that most of the other tourists are Russian, and for once I do not look obviously foreign. I would say on average I get stopped on the street twice a day by Russian people trying to ask me for directions. Both of these things mean I feel like less of an intruder here, although there is always that awkward “I don’t speak Russian” moment.

Anyway, I like Vladimir. I have been daytripping outside of Moscow for the past week or so, partly to escape the city and partly to get a vague sense of what the rest of Russia is like (they say Moscow is nothing like the rest of the country, kind of like New York in America). The downtown here is a lot of orthodox churches and Kruschev-era apartment complexes, but the farther out you get these give way to older wooden architecture and junky old one-story houses. Over the last couple of days I visited the even smaller towns of Suzdal and Bogolyubovo with an english-speaking friend of my host here. These places are very charming after all the hassle of a Russian supercity, although I would be completely lost if I tried to visit them without a Russian-speaking companion.

I am skipping a lot of things…I’ve been to an abandoned hospital outside of Moscow, I switched from hostel to a homestay with a belligerent older Russian woman. I finally went inside the Kremlin (pretty much what I expected) but I still have not seen Lenin! I am trying to think more carefully about negative space, and will probably have to break my own rule about only making pictures on-site. It is hard to be selective here: pretty much everything lends itself to an illustration.

First Weekend: lots of mullets

July 13, 2009

Once again, I made it back to the hostel safely today. I am still
feeling very overwhelmed by everything but i’m starting to focus on
drawing and I’ve walked around a lot of the city in the last couple of

In spite of what I have heard about Moscow being an international city, I never seem to see any other non-Russian people outside my hostel. Even in touristy areas, all of the tourists are Russian. Almost no one in this city speaks english, and there is almost no  english on any of the signs. I have never been in a country where I understood so little of the language, and it is a huge barrier. It’s also very different being completely on my own, although occasionally I meet nice people at the hostel.

The city reminds me of Florence in some ways, only dirtier and weirder. Everything looks very capitalist here, but no one on the
street seems especially well-dress or bathed. The weather was really nice the first couple of days but it’s been getting hotter and today I could really feel the dirt of the city. I am trying to do the siesta approach to working: getting up early (8 or 9 AM) and go out while it’s relatively cool and uncrowded, then coming back in the afternoon to shower  and nap whlie everyone else is out, then going out drawing again in the evening. Apparently in St. Petersburg today is the last of the “no darkness” days, but even here it is light out until 10:30.

Yesterday I walked around Red Square, went into St. Basils (like the
Mona Lisa, surprisingly small in person) and walked around the outside
of the Kremlin. I then followed my guidebook’s recommendation and did
a walk along the river and onto the island in the middle, saw a few
more churches and a ridiculous statue of Peter the Great on a boat.

Mostly, though, I have been avoiding doing touristy things and drawing like crazy instead. I will put up some stuff whenever I get around to photographing/uploading it. In keeping with the theme of my college work, I have been looking for “threatened” architectural sites in the city to draw. There are a lot of abandoned/disrepaired buildings here, but the city is very careful about covering them up with tarps, and I have also seen a lot of places that are in the process of being rehabbed. There are a lot of issues here with new developer tearing down old historic sites, and there is probably a good theme for my work somewhere in there. Yesterday I went to see a Russian Baroque church South of the river that’s slightly dilapidated and under threat from new developments in the surrounding areas. I forgot that there was mass (“liturgy”) because it’s sunday, but the people there were very nice and one person spoke english and told me some stuff about the church, and was happy to let me sit outside and draw it. He said all the churches in Moscow were closed during the Soviet era and 2/3 of them had been destroyed during that time (which means Moscow was probably like 50% churches before the Revolution. I can’t walk anywhere in this city without seeing onion domes). Pictures will happen whenever I get around to uploading them.