Downtown Oakland, near De Lauer’s News Stand.
There’s something I like about the kind of beard this brotha is wearing. Some Black men I see around Oakland wear similarly shaped beards, but braided. Others wear them loose (like the man in this drawing), but with much the same effect. I think I like this specific beard style because it reminds me of the beards of the Egyptian pharaohs.
Let me be clear: Some of the kings of Egypt were Black Africans, and the people of ancient Egypt, prior to the incursion of the Greeks, were most certainly not white people. My belief in the greatness and wonder of Black people does not, however, rely heavily (or at all) on the notion that there were (and are) Black kings and queens. After all, most of us don’t have royal ancestry, and throughout most of human history, monarchs have not generally been known for their kind and compassionate use of their power.
Beheadings, foot servants, and excessive wealth aside, though, the Egyptian pharaohs are fascinating to me, if only because the artifacts of their dynasties enable us to reach back into the ancient past and lay our eyes or (in some cases) our hands on real material evidence of how far into the past the roots of our humanity–our feelings, concerns, and conceits–truly extend.
The yellow in these guys’ clothes represents their construction safety vests. There’s a lot of construction going on in the East and Southeast parts of Oakland. I’m not quite sure what they’re doing to Highway 880, but the overpass at High Street near Home Depot hasn’t looked right for months. Then there’s the construction on the Oakland Airport BART extension. That’s the construction project depicted in the photo I’ve incorporated into drawing. These guys were working on the extension at the point where it will run along Hegenberger, I liked the way their hairstyles and beards seemed to be complimentary–short hair vs. long hair, headband vs. no headband, full beard with no mustache vs. goatee with a mustache. It might seem like a silly reason to remember someone, but I love patterns and pairings, even in human beings. Of course, these guys were like a magnet for my nerdy pattern-loving gaze.
I passed this guy on my way into the High Street Walgreens. It was his eyes that I noticed. It might sound like a cliche, but there seemed to be something in his gaze that was wise, worldly and a little bit sad, and that’s not something I often see in the eyes of someone so young. He seemed to be about 18 or 19, but his gaze seemed to suggest a lifetime of experience. I always associate the late teens with feelings of hope and invincibility, but he looked less hopeful and more vulnerable that I am accustomed to and even comfortable with seeing in young Black men. I’m going to have to think about why that might be…
Two-hundred and thirty drawings down and Seven-hundred and seventy drawings to go!
I chatted briefly with this slim and stylish fellow-artist at the Dick Blick store on Broadway (across for the California College of the Arts). We were both agonizing over the various thicknesses and colors of the Micron drawing pens. I think the guy behind the counter was a getting a little impatient, but understandably so. We were not only bonding over the fact that we both used Micron pens, but also over the fact that we both liked the same thickness of line and both of us only ever used black ink.
To this slim and stylish micron-pen-loving guy I make the following request: If you happen to stumble onto this blog and if you happen to recognize yourself, do drop me a note with a link to your own online gallery or even an invited your next gallery show. I’d love to see your work. We pen-obsessed sketch artists of Oakland have to stick together.