2013 Year End Review

This year I executed just under a hundred images, in levels of detail varying from sketchy to formal.  There were a large number of pencil images, split about evenly with fully digital pieces, and one simple watercolor sketch done as a gift for an architect’s client.  …a pretty busy year, in all.

Following are some details from a little fewer than half the images.  There’s no real text here, as I’ll just let the work speak for itself.  I cannot thank my clients enough, and thank you too for your interest in my work.

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Happy New Year.  See you in 2014…

- Jeff Stikeman

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“One Day in Pompeii” , the 2013 Panoramic Pumpkin Lantern Carving

- (click for full size) -

– (click for full size) -

This year’s pumpkin lantern is a five foot long panoramic view of the Last Day of Pompeii, carved on a 75 pound ‘Atlantic Giant’ pumpkin from our garden.

Pliny the elder was a man of science, and an historian.  He lived in Pompeii, and being a man of letters, kept a thorough diary.  When he woke, August 25th, 79AD, it was a day like any other in Pompeii.  He had a cold bath, and breakfasted on the balcony.

The panorama starts at left, in the morning, as Pompeii wakes and comes to life on its last day.

Morning in Pompeii, August 25th, 79AD.  No sign of danger, a perfectly beautiful day by all accounts.  At top here in the carving is a quote from Pliny the Elder's Diary, from later in the day.

Morning in Pompeii, August 25th, 79AD. No sign of danger, a perfectly beautiful day by all accounts. At top here in the carving is a quote from Pliny the Elder’s Diary, from later in the day.

Very quickly the world began to fall apart.  Earthquakes shook the region, twenty miles in all directions.  A strange Cloud appeared above Vesuvius (no one was aware that it was in fact a volcano).  Pliny writes:

“A cloud made of ash and dirt appears to be coming from Mount Vesuvius”. -Pliny the Elder

After the Earthquakes came the falling boulders, the size of houses, many of which were on fire as they came.  This is a detial of a flaming chunk of pumice crashing through the roof og the market building, sending roof tiles flying, structure exploding, and people scattering.

After the Earthquakes came the falling boulders, some the size of houses, and many of which were on fire as they came. This is a detail of a flaming chunk of pumice crashing through the roof of the Forum’s left market building, sending roof tiles flying, structure exploding, and people scattering.

Pliny, However, didn’t flee.  He investigated:

“The scientist in me wants to get a closer look. Having my boat made ready”. -Pliny the Elder

Same View, with the Room Lights On

Same View, with the Room Lights On

Fleeing Residents of Pompeii (Enlarged Detail)

Fleeing Residents of Pompeii (Enlarged Detail)

At the center of the Pompeii Forum stood the Temple of Jupiter, anchoring the space, and standing literally under and in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

The Quote on the Pumpkin, from Pliny’s Diary later in the day, reads:

“Buildings have come loose from their foundations.

…sheets of flame engulf Vesuvius,

and rocks consumed by fire are falling everywhere around us”

The Temple of Jupiter, in the center of the Forum of Pompeii, with Mount Vesuvius Looming in the Background

The Temple of Jupiter, anchoring the center of the Forum of Pompeii, and with Mount Vesuvius Looming in the Background

In the center, an abandoned merchant’s cart, a statue falling from the tri-part archway beyond, and people crawling to shelter in the Temple,  suffocating from the fumes and ash.  At right is another market building, with fallen columns in the foreground, the building itself collapsing from an aftershock, columns caught mid-collapse, and the roof coming down.

“Walking through town. We can see broad sheets of flames rising from Pompeii.”  -Pliny the Elder

A View of the Temple of Jupiter and Vesuvius, with the Room Lights On

A View of the Temple of Jupiter and Vesuvius, with the Room Lights On

A Closer View of the Market Building's Collapsing Structure and Columns, which are Becoming Buried Under Ash

A Closer View of the Market Building’s Collapsing Structure and Columns, which are Becoming Buried Under Ash as the Day (and Pompeii) Comes to a Close

Pliny the Elder had no exit strategy.  In fact, instead of escaping, he went back.  He even went to bed, rising again in the middle of the night in a belated attempt to flee.  He and his group tying pillows over their heads and heading to the shore.

“Tying pillows to our heads with cloth and heading for the shore.    Rocks are falling everywhere around us. Our only possible escape is by boat.” -Pliny the Elder

End of the Day, and of Pompeii

End of the Day, and of Pompeii

The last detail here is of a buried Pompeii, the ash burying a portico remnant to its waist, with burnt tree trunks smoking ruins at left in the distance, and a cooling rivulet of lava coming toward us.

The Same Detail, with Room Lights On

The Same Detail, with Room Lights On

Pliny did not survive.  His last entries to the diary:

“The air is thick with ash.” and ” Breathing now impossible” -Pliny the Elder

Before doing the actual carving, I mocked-up a cartoon from a bunch of collaged elements and overpaint.  I use it as a rough guide, and rather than try to meticulously transfer it, I instead freehand the rough outline onto the pumpkin in water soluble ink.  It washes off later, and the freehanding allows me to change and shift things in the composition to suit the defects of the pumpkin.

Half-Size Mock-Up of the Concept Art for the Carving (click for enlarged view)

Half-Size Mock-Up of the Concept Art for the Carving (click for enlarged view)

As has become obvious, the stitching together of the panorama is clunky at best, and it’s very difficult to capture what it really feels to move around the pumpkin viewing the entire scene.  In “real-life”, the coloration is less contrasty, and has a great deal more depth.  Here’s a link to a movie, which approximates the experience as best it can…  “One Day in Pompeii”, on youtube

Thanks for playing along, and Happy Halloween!  -Jeff (and Pliny)

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Recent Work: Summer 2013

Been a while….  The year has been ridiculously busy, thankfully.  Haven’t really had much downtime, and believe it or not, other than a semi-slow July/August (three or four projects each month), I have been working straight through on a variety of projects large and small.

Development work (retail and residential) is coming back in force as the rising tide of the economy continues.  Although there was always some level of private residential work being done through the recession, it seems to really be taking off again. In short, things have been busier than ever.  Still no excuse for nearly a ten month delay in updating the blog.

I’ve been privileged to work on some fantastic projects, including about 18 or so renderings for the U.S. State department, on a couple different jobs.  Sadly, most of it is confidential, as is much of the institutional and development work which has kept me busy over the year.

Best I can offer at this point is some cropped enlarged details from some of the work, uncredited and with some details obscured.  The drawings range from sketchy concept work, to more formal, finished renderings.

Apologies for withholding project information.

These are details (about 2 inches x 6 inches) of some 11×17 sketches I did for a study of a landscaping master plan for a large property.

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aerial

aerial2

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Some sketches done in a looser style, for a private academy, as part of a masterplan study.  These are loose enough to turn around in just a few days, even a half dozen of them. These types of softer sketchier preliminary images connect with trustees, staff, students, and lay people (and donors!) far more than a screen-shot of a sketch-up model can, and can be pretty cost-effective.

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Untitled-2

Untitled-3

Untitled-4

Lifestyle and hospitality work is back in force as well.  I did a small series of very atmospheric, highly considered images for a proposal at an historic property.  Again, I can’t really provide any details, or show most of the work, but here’s a non-architectural detail, one that’s all about the entourage (the people and supporting elements in the image).

wedding

Here are some greatly enlarged details from loose studies done as part of a retail project.  They were done on warm buff paper, with pencil and white highlights, digital color added.

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Residential work lately has focused on preliminary studies, early concepts… Architects are finding that in a competitive environment, it’s always good to be expressive as early in the process as possible.  Loose flexible sketches can be done the day before (or even day-of) a meeting, and again, clients respond more positively to them than they do to screenshots of an antiseptic sketch-up model…  Sketches like these can help make decisions, move projects forward,  and provide something for the client to become excited about, invested in emotionally. These are cropped details.

house01_revised

house02_revised

sketch

Although much of the work has some amount of color, there are times when monochromatic studies can be effective.  The intent here was for atmospheric, painterly, loose-yet-detailed images.  From a series of about eight semi-formals, these are digital, and were done from a roughly built model.

BATH

BED-1

BED-2

Here’s a small detail from a large aerial I did of a proposed University expansion.  It was 22 inches wide, at about 400 dpi. …fairly large by today’s standards.

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March saw about a month’s worth of time given over to executing 12 formal images depicting a modern building proposed for a semi-tropical location.  Much attention was given to the highly developed landscape and exterior lighting plan, and in hewing closely to the existing context and local environment. These details are about an inch or two wide in the originals, which were 12×16, 300dpi.

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Thanks for taking a look.  I hope that the wide range of images here, from sketchy to atmospherically formal, will give an indication of the rendering options available at any point in a project’s life.  There’s always a cost-effective solution, and one that almost always works with the schedule.

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2012 Pumpkin Lantern: London Under the Blitz

-Click for Full Size Image-

This year’s pumpkin lantern is a full panorama, some 54 inches long, depicting one night of the German Blitz of London, December 29th, 1940. …see more details and photos below
The subject was inspired by the iconic photograph “St. Paul’s Survives”, taken by Herbert Mason, December 29th, from the roof of the Daily Mail.  St. Paul’s stood unharmed amid smoke and fire on all sides, the city around it on fire. The photograph became a symbol of British resolve, and was declared the “War’s Greatest Picture”.

“St. Paul’s Survives”, by Herbert Mason of the London Daily Mail. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail, during the bombing, on December 29th, 1940

“The Blitz” was an extended nine-month strategic bombing of the U.K. by the German Luftwaffe. In addition to targets of industry and production, the capital of London itself was bombed every single night for nearly two months straight, 57 nights in a row, and 71 nights in total over the nine-month period.

The panorama starts with the barrage balloons over Tower Bridge, German bombers in the distance and the Thames aglow from distant fire.

Tower Bridge and the Thames, a working waterfront. Barrage Balloons hang in the air in an effort to discourage low-level strafing runs by enemy fighters

Panning along the waterfront and a small gunboat, continuing up across the central image of St. Paul’s behind the still burning debris of destroyed buildings.

View of the Pumpkin with Room Lights on. St. Paul’s at rear, behind a pile of still burning debris, firefighters at far left

St. Paul’s, surrounded by burning debris and smoke, with rising sparks at low left

Following a trail of rising sparks, we encounter the bombers (Dornier Do17s), and pan down along a building being futilely attacked by firemen on both sides.

A building ablaze, with the German Dornier Do17 Bombers high above.

Continuing left, we see the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666.

The tall columnar monument in the middle of the street is the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666, with another statue of a horse and rider in front.  My original idea was to carve the Great Fire of London, all the way around.  But it occurred to me that since most of the buildings were destroyed, there’d be little or no iconic structures to include which would make clear that we were talking about London.  And so I modified the subject to the Bombing of London.  As destructive as the Great Fire was,  I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the continuous bombing Londoners endured for two months straight.

The silhouette of a man with walking stick under a blacked-out street lamp, at far left, alongside a smoldering building, is a nod to the Londoners’ ability to maintain morale in the face of the onslaught.  “Keep calm, and carry on”.

Some details…

Detail of a volunteer firefighting crew. During the height of the war, the number of men serving as firemen would swell to 273,000 nationwide. A special crew manned St. Paul’s itself, and on December 29th alone, extinguished some thirty fires started by German incendiary bombs.

The Bombers, with the Room Lights on to show the nature of the carving

Detail of Tower Bridge and the Thames waterfront, with room lights on

The Rear of the Pumpkin, “London Under the Blitz”, room lights on

Though I chose to depict London, the number of cities which could have been chosen for the subject is far too long.  Coventry, Dresden, Stalingrad, Hiroshima…. More civilians died in World War II than did soldiers, and heavy bombing played a great part in the tally.

The pumpkin was a 100 pound “Atlantic Giant”, almost 54 inches in circumference, purchased at Wilson’s Farm, of Lexington, Massachusetts.  After carving and hollowing, it now weighs 37 pounds.

It’s nearly impossible to capture the lighting and wrap-around nature of something like this in 2D.  The intent is to make it an experience, to invite people to walk around and investigate it. The best I can offer is a video, which at least conveys something of the scale and quality of the lighting effects.  See here… Video:”London Under the Blitz”

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Refurbishing a Boston Landmark

Very quick sketch here from a few photographs of an existing building, the old Filene’s Department Store, by Daniel Burnham, 1912.

digital photoshop sketch  of Filene's Boston by Jeff Stikeman Architectural Art

Filene’s Boston, 1912, by Daniel H. Burnham Architect, of Chicago. An Idealized Sketch of the Building Following a Proposed Future Refurbishment (click for a larger version)

Downtown Crossing, Boston, is a hot topic at the moment, and most of the discussion revolves around the proposed development of the Filene’s Site, of which this building is a part.  I worked on the Filene’s project/site about fifteen years ago, on the opposite side of the block backing up to the Burnham building. The mid-50s Brutalist Concrete building (since demolished) by Raymond Loewy,  was being considered for expansion and a ‘facade-ectomy’.  Nothing came of it (the project succumbed to the recession of the early ’90s).  That project however also included some measures for restoring the existing Burnham Building, cleaning and stabilizing its granite field, and deep-green glazed terracotta columns. The full restoration did not take place at that time, but there were measures taken to stabilize the terracotta, and replace some that had been lost or excessively damaged.  Those pieces now read in a different shade of green, having weathered the couple decades not as well as the century old glazed terracotta of the original. As part of the comprehensive development of the site (including a high-rise tower), some amount of work will need to be visited upon the flagship building.  Additionally, the window glazing which has been painted out for many years is shown here as reopened, allowing us to see into the building a bit. In this daytime view, we see only a few hints of the light fixtures at the ceiling level, but there would be a visual connection between inside and out. In the evening, the interior would be illuminated and warm, rather than blank and dark as is has been for decades.

Enlarged Detail of a proposed Corner Retail Entry and Glass Canopy, for the Original Filene’s Building at Downtown Crossing.

This image is only one concept, and will certainly be supplanted by further studies to be sure.  But in this exercise, the charge was to show the building facade refreshed, the ground floor as reopened, with a corner retail entry, new glass canopy, an entrance to the T, and perhaps a hint of an office entry mid-block, just past the T entrance. The view is Idealized, too. It’s not entirely possible to see wthis much of it from the location I’ve sketched it from.  But more about experience than specifics. I wanted you to understand the building, the intersection, the crowd, and the experience of stepping from narrow Winter Street into the light and under that great facade.

The crowd at downtown crossing is an interesting mix of office workers, tourists, young students, and residents. They are what give the area its energy.

A Detail showing a proposed entrance to the T (Subway) on Summer Street beyond. The lunchtime crowd depicted here reflects the energy one can expect to find at Downtown Crossing on a typical day.

As with most concepts, none of this is cast in stone.  That’s the challenge with a sketch like this. We need to represent what actually exists, couple it with what might exist, be specific about it without being too specific (because it isn’t resolved yet), and communicate some idea of the nature of the place.  Downtown Crossing is a vitally energetic part of the city, a literal and figurative crossing (hence its name). And for the last hundred years, a grande dame, the Filene’s building, has been holding court.  She’s a little tired after all that time, but with a bit of attention will again be a beautiful backdrop to the hurrying, shopping, ever-changing never-changing crowds below. That was the idea behind this illustration.

I’d posted this detail out of context a while ago. It’s clear now we’re looking at a touristy dad with kids in tow. His daughter has lost a balloon.

…here it is, diagonally across the frame, heading up, and soon to be lost around the corner of the building at right.

A last detail… There’s always the sound of music somewhere at Downtown Crossing. A sax player, drummers, a guitarist…. often overlapping, always echoing as you walk through the narrow streets on the brick paved streets  among the buildings.

I worked from an existing photograph, which is entirely typical when the subject is extant. No sense reinventing the wheel.  The deadline was also about a day of working time, with some good amount of conversation with my client beforehand, and some minor editing after. The work was performed in February of 2012. Joseph Larkin, of Millennium Partners, was the client.

The photograph which was used as a basis for the above work.

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Park Plaza Boston: Roof Top Bar

I showed a couple small details of these back in June, but can now show them in their entirety.

In June I received a call from Robin Brown, with whom I worked on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, of Boston.  I was the senior designer of that project while at CBT Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., architects.  In fact, it was perhaps the last building built of those that I designed before I left architecture and started my illustration studio. As with many projects, what I designed, and what was built, had a divergence.  But enough of it is still there of my work that I count it among my projects.  Here’s an very old study I did for the Mandarin, during the public approvals process, ca.2001.

Entry Study for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boston …one of my first experiments with photoshop. Can you tell that I had discovered the ‘gradient’ tool?

While working on it, I got a comment from someone that computers were really amazing, because otherwise it would have been impossible to figure out the shadow from that arching glass canopy.  …I wasn’t very successful at explaining to them that it was 2d, not a model, and that Photoshop did not ‘calculate’ anything related to shadows, but I did.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Robin had been investigating the idea of developing a roof top deck and bar at the Park Plaza Hotel.  It’s an enviable location, with roof-top views of the Public Garden, the Arlington Street Church, Old and new John Hancock Towers….

Today, the roof is a mix of rooftop equipment and high parapets.

Existing Condition of the Roof Top, with extensive HVAC components, and tall parapets

I walked through the interior space, and outside along the roof top, with Eric Peterson of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge.  They and design architects Arquitectonica are studying the feasibility of the concept. There were, at the time, only rough indications from their model of a furnishing plan for tables, and defining the extent of the roof deck.

A quick model shot provided by the architects, showing approximate extent of the roof deck.

There was not much else available to work from at that point. “Just see what you can come up with.” Robin wanted something that would speak to the energy level of the project, that captured the fantastic location, and which maybe conveyed what it would be like to be under the sky at night in the middle of Boston with such a vantage point.

digital photoshop illustration of a roof deck for the Park Plaza Roof, Boston

Looking West, down St. James Street, from a Proposed Roof top Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel

Sometimes, with an existing space, you can grab a few well-considered shots and simply sketch right over them quickly.  And Robin needed these quickly (day and a half, two days max.).  But this time it looked like a tall order to grab a few photos and just sketch away.  And we wanted the finals sketches to be taken at night, too. I took a few panorama photographs, doctored them a bit, removed the equipment, and painted away.

Looking North, over the Public Garden, Boston. Zakim Bridge at upper left, and the Dome of the State House middle right. Proposed tensile structure and bar at right, beyond.

These suffer from the restrictions of a blog, only 550 pixels wide.  In reality, they are about 12×18 and 300 dpi.  And so, some details.

Looking West, down St. James Street, with the old and new Hancock Towers at left

Instead of four-top tables, I went with groups of upscale seating, sofas, low coffee tables, and plantings of boxwoods and cedars in zinc planters. The deck is shown as Ipe or Teak.

Another Detail, Looking West, with the old New England Mutual Life Insurance Company beyond.

Necessarily, there isn’t a lot of ‘there’ there.  Just messy indications and highlights, more sketchy than specific.  Here’s a shot enlarged to the point where it falls apart.  The idea isn’t to zoom in and see detail, it’s to imply detail when zoomed out.

An enlarged detail, past full size. Really nothing here beyond a few strokes and indications of color and highlights. My favorite is her apple-tini.  Nothing there but a green triangle and three highlights.

Here are a few details from the view looking north.

The idea was to place groups of seating which defined an area for small groups of people, with enough open area beyond for a small function or cocktail reception. Note the State House beyond.

The parapets of the existing condition were chest high. Assuming the deck was built to be elevated about much of the existing piping, it became clear that the parapets could be brought to below eye-level, vastly improving the view. Instead of looking into a brick parapet, you’d be overlooking the Public Garden.  I introduced a continuous boxwood hedge and glass rail, lit from below, with the seating in front of that. This kept us back from the parapet, reducing any potential vertigo (we don’t want anyone looking over to the street below) and gave a better sense of enclosure while still preserving the view.

Numerous seating configurations scale the roof top down to more intimately sized areas, a glass rail preserves the view, and is set back from the parapet by a low boxwood hedge, lit from below. The Zakim bridge is beyond, left.

An existing penthouse of brick is to remain, and will contain the elevator lobby, bar, and service areas.  The industrial nature of the older original equipment will be cleaned and restored, left in place, with perhaps a tensile structure appended in a way that covers the doors out onto the roof terrace.

An existing Penthouse will remain (at right) with a new tensile structure expressing the connection out to the roof terrace.  And no,  That’s not Tom Brady….

What I enjoy about being able to share these in greater depth on a blog, is that I can explain how they are developed, and convey what the REAL effort can often be.  It’s not enough to simply paint a picture of something from information provided.  It’s sometimes more about synthesizing many things: incomplete designs; verbal descriptions; and quirky design complications; and delivering something which expresses the designers’ and the clients’ ultimate intent and which speaks to the big idea.

All work was done in Photoshop CS5, about 12×18, 300dpi.

copyright © jeff stikeman architectural art 2012

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New Work: March-June 2012

Well, I thought February was busy….

Haven’t really had any time to update, which is the very thing that will end up killing a blog.  Literally haven’t had a day off since February began.  That’s both good and bad, obviously.  Nature of the business is that you take work as it comes.  I’m looking for a little break during the typical summer slow-down. And I do have a week of planned vacation coming up.  …can’t believe the year is almost half over. But I could use a break.

Again, most of the work has been confidential.  Most projects coming out of a recession are of course start-up.  Not doing many marketing renderings (for finished/built work), instead, it’s mostly concept work, or schematic design level work.

I did execute a couple more formal images for Powers/Schram of Fort Lauderdale, of a mid-century modernist waterfront home.  I worked with Rick Powers a couple times when he was here in Boston as an architect at Tsoi Kobus, and it was nice to reconnect and work with him again.

Street View of “Sunrise Key”, Fort Lauderdale; digital paint with pencil, 11×17

View from the Water of of “Sunrise Key”, Fort Lauderdale; digital paint with pencil, 11×17

Before executing the two images above, we studied a few black and white camera tests.  These two are my favorites from among those we discarded.

Camera Test, for Sunrise Key, Water Side

Camera test, Street Side

I was partial to the lower camera station of the camera test from the water-side, but the intricate and rich landscaping plan begged for a higher camera angle, and it was decided to raise the camera to a point where the pool and landscape could be more clearly seen.

Some details of the final version of the Water Side view, at near-full resolution:

And details of the Street View:

As has become a recurring refrain here, most of the work I’ve done the past few months is confidential.  Following, though, are some details from work which I’m allowed to share, though many are necessarily cropped to remove any telling information.

11×17 Pencil Rendering

Detail of same

…a portion from a very quick, chalky/gouachy little sketch, about 11×17

A detail from the same sketch

A detail from a 9×14 pencil sketch, flicked with digital hi-lites and paint, on brown kraft-paper.

…another chunk from the same sketch, a private home, in Newport Rhode Island

A tightly cropped detail from a very quick, very loose digital sketch, for a proposed roof deck bar. This detail only about 2×2 from an 11×19 sketch

A detail from the second sketch in this pair of fairly loose, sketchy digital pieces.

In looking back at these, it strikes me that each image is entirely different than the next.  Rather than all pencil, or all digital, there is (I think) a healthy mix of differing approaches to the issue at hand.  Rather than reflecting what works for me, I think it better illustrates that my work is about answering the client’s need.  What do you need, when do you need it, and what do you have for me to work from?  And most important; who is your audience?  These are the questions which, for me anyway, determine what kind of image we end up with, how long it takes, what the final piece feels like…

I’ll try to be a bit better about timely updates.  With the economy the way it has been, there’s a tendency to keep working, never sure when the shoe might drop.  If the work keeps coming in though, that can make for a long run of heads-down work. All work and no-play, and all that.  We shall see what summer holds.  Since it seems to be when my clients, and their clients, take their vacations, that means it’s generally my vacation too.  Have a good summer yourself.

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