Last weekend I was in Chicago visiting my son. Coming from a suburb in the Twin Cities, I find Chicago exciting, amazing, and overwhelming.
I will focus on just a few moments of that weekend. It was the weekend the Wisconsin Badgers football team played Notre Dame. Electricity was in the air, as red shirts swarmed the streets, and the Fighting Irish green hats and blue shirts kept pace, on their way to Soldier Field. We stayed in the trendy and exciting River North neighborhood, which lived up to its reputation of fine dining, shopping, clubs, the river walk, shops, expensive cars and yachts, and many interesting people. I sat at Millennium Park on a bench and looked around. So much to sketch. I noticed a woman dressed in a winter parka, with her belongings in a suitcase at her feet. She stood on the sidewalk of Michigan Avenue and didn’t move, only turning her head slightly to look around. I decided to sketch her.
People swarmed past her, no one acknowledged her in any way. She didn’t ask for a thing. I sensed she had done this many times…
Chicago can seem like a city of extremes. We saw homeless people and pan handlers on the street begging for money or a meal, coexisting with people driving Bentley’s, Ferrari’s, and wearing designer clothes and carrying designer handbags. I found it impossible to ignore the disparity between the excessive wealth and excessive poverty in human lives right in front of me.
We sat at the Blue Bottle Coffee Shop and I felt overwhelmed about what to sketch. So I kept it simple and sketched a control tower on the bridge in front of me.
I added a little watercolor later…
I also sketched a man drinking his coffee and later, the building across from my son’s apartment.
I had become reflective about my experiences throughout the weekend. In the morning as we left our hotel, a homeless woman stopped us and asked for food. We found out she liked pancakes from McDonald’s, so walked with her to the restaurant and bought her two breakfasts. After that experience, I began looking at things through a different lens. Why do I have so much and a woman was sleeping on the streets and struggling to find a breakfast? It really makes you think….
These short moments in time were all that made it into my sketch book on this trip. I’d like to spend more sketch time there in the future. But these moments have stuck with me and I will never forget them. And my hope is that they will change me to be a more compassionate, generous, and caring person. I believe they will. And my sketches are good reminders to myself to be that positive change!