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Sketchy Past

Elena LonardiDuring the summer of ’96, the mid-days in the part of San Diego I used to live in, Rancho Peñasquitos, would get uncomfortably hot, so I would split my sometimes long workdays in half, opting to use this split time to go to the beach and relax in the sun.

My favorite beach, at that time, is called Wind and Sea [Satellite Picture], in La Jolla, CA. It has natural rock formations gracefully birthing from both sand and sea. The water is generally a blue-crystal clear, and a variety of salt-water fish swim around the rocks there, making for great snorkling. A famous surf-spot is there, with large peak-shaped waves breaking constantly in shallow water over a vast reef, surfers taking both left and right rides off the same wave.

In that summer of 1996, my now-ex-wife and I were not doing much together anymore, so I started taking my sketchbook with me when I went out. I’d ususally sketch people—my main interest. At the beach, one can presume, there will be lots of models posing for long periods. In reality, people at the beach move around a lot, even when sunning, I soon learned.

Man SittingMost of my “models” didn’t know I was drawing them. Some would look at me every now and again and then go back to whatever they were reading, or thinking about. None objected. And occassionally a subject would get up, walk over to me and ask what I was drawing.

“You.” I would say, pointing to a rough “quick-sketch” of them.

Generally the likeness was way off because of the quick nature of the sketch (usually five minutes or so—and from a distance), so they usually just smiled politely and went back to their chair or towel.

Elena LonardiOne young, blonde woman intrigued me. She was sitting in a beach chair, wearing a straw sun hat. I had done an earlier quick sketch of her—shown at top of this blog entry—while she chatted with her friends.

She was visiting from “Verona, Italia” (Verona, Italy)—as I soon learned—so when she came to see what I was doing and inquire about it, she brought an interpreter. After a bit of conversation, I asked through her interpreter if she would kindly sit for a longer pose while I sketched her. She seemed honored to have been asked, and gladly did so.

She sat patiently for perhaps an hour or more, staring just over my head to the south. When I was done, she came and looked at it, and her friends gathered around to see it. They said it looked just like her. She smiled broadly and said, “Thank you very much.”

Her name was Elena Lonardi.

This post is actually a slighly re-worked piece I wrote and posted sometime in 1997, when there wasn’t much of an internet, much less blogs. It would have to qualify as one of my first blog posts ever. Back in the mid-1990s when I was just learning to code in HTML (the old fashioned way), I thought it would be fun to journal with sketches. I was taking my drawing book with me to a lot of places over the next few years, especially as my divorce began and I found myself alone at coffee shops, or at the beach during off hours and weekends without the kids.

Back then, blogging wasn’t a verb—or even a word—but that is the essence of what I wanted to do. It was just way too complicated to hand-code layouts like the one you see above, which, using css now, made this happen in minutes vs the two hours first time around.

With this blog entry, I am also introducing a new category: Sketches since they were such a part of my life before, and are likely be for a long time.


  1. Oh man do I ever love this “sketches” category!

    I think the melding of words and pictures is a powerful story-telling vehicle and one that needs to be explored more fully.

    Seeing your sketches–which you know I love–combined with the “back story” will be a treat.

  2. Your talent astounds me. Great story as well. Keep it up. Are you still sketching?

  3. Good reading, and insight into those interim years.

  4. Hey David, you have no idea how much you’ve influenced my career, I know, I know… you were expecting so see more realistic stuff from me, and the fact is that I was doing a lot of realistic stuff -drawings mainly- about five years ago or so, then the “creative bug” bit me and after starting to market my art to the Puerto Rican niche, my career took off. Presently I’m selling about 2K a month average. But I really owe you a lot, and I still do. Lately I’ve been sketching a lot again, and reading this section had just fuel me up again. You’re a heck of an artist. I trully rank you in the tops along with Rockwell and Leyendecker. It is my dream to one day take a class with you. Meanwhile, it is my privilege to mention you in my interviews and such as an influence in my short art path. Keep on pounding David. You’re the best!

  5. Oscar, what a blessing it was to wake up this morning and find such a warm and gracious comment! You made my day, and I am not even half-way through my first cup of coffee!

    You have always been such an enthusiastic learner. I have never met you, but we’re friend. I have always been honored by your questions, and humbled by your energetic enthusiam.

    I hope readers of my blog will visit your site and see your beautiful work. Nevermind that you’re not doing realism at this time. People are buying your stuff and that’s great! Your work is uniquely you, and beautiful. Thanks Oscar.

  6. What a great way to start a new day! The remarks of Oscar Ortiz blessed this old mother’s heart.
    Have another cup of coffee and get started painting….

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