January 4, 2020

Creatures for UPS Store, Inc float, 12/28/2019 (Fude fountain pen, Inktense pencils and graphite on Mix Media paper)
Creatures, with their decorating humans for UPS Store, Inc float, 12/28/2019 (Fude fountain pen, Inktense pencils and graphite on Mix Media paper)

So my LA Urban Sketching day began with 20 of us meeting in a huge parking lot next to a number of huge warehouses in Irwindale. We boarded a shuttle bus, with a number of float decorators and were taken to an area just outside the Fiesta Float warehouse. It seems that shuttle would be on duty, taking volunteers to and from Fiesta Floats to the parking lot, until each float parked inside the warehouse was finished for Wednesday morning’s Rose Parade in Pasadena. After we filed out of the shuttle we gathered together to discuss how we would be proceeding for the day. One of our tribe had been there to sketch before and she had a few tips for us. For the most part, she said that we needed to stay out of the way of the volunteers working in there. She added that we should be very careful to watch for heavy things moving around over head, as much of what was going on was off the floor, with lots of people on scaffolding above us. Finally, she said that we should wander about first as there was a lot to see. But that even if we found the perfect spot to sketch, we needed to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. So, we had our marching orders and we all began fanning out to see what there was to see. I was intrigued by what I saw even before I got inside as there were piles of “floats gone by” in pieces all around the building. I made a mental note to come back to a particular scene I saw (see caption 3 of this post). 

I could try to describe what I saw, but maybe that isn’t necessary as you can actually see what just one tiny corner of the building looked like a week ago. There was scaffolding and huge bits of various float parts in every square inch of that huge building. And everything was larger than life. I guess that makes sense in that everything would be viewed from a distance and moving slowly down parts of Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevards for the Rose Parade. There were people everywhere! Most had a flat cardboard box of dried plant material in one hand and a small 1 inch paint brush in the other. There were bottles of white glue everywhere as well. The volunteers were dabbing on the glue, to specifically prescribed patches on animals and other items, and then carefully pressing the dried material in place. I have to say I wondered how long I would make in there as the smell of glue was almost overpowering. But it was so interesting to watch all these people carefully going about their work that I stopped noticing the smell and found myself wandering around. I found a great spot in front of this happy group of 3 large green lizards. But before I sat down and set up, I looked for the supervisor for this UPS Store, Inc float and introduced myself. (I forgot to mention that we were encouraged to do just that, hopefully making a good impression about the LA Urban Sketchers group so we might be invited to come back again.) The woman of this menagerie of huge animals was lovely and very interested in what I was about to do. I told her I would look for her when I had finished to show her my sketches. While I sat on my tiny stool and sketched a UPS Store, Inc representative stopped to chat. He told me that the theme of the 2020 float was part of a greater project UPS was supporting—literacy. You could tell he was very passionate about this project and said he wanted to hang my sketch (the first one) in his office. I was very flattered, but had not even finished it and knew that wasn’t going to happen. (These are just sketches and my stories are just a day in the life of One CA Girl.) Sadly, when I had finished I couldn’t find either of them. So, neither one got to see what I had created. Oh well.

 I also think it is important to talk about the people I chose to put in here. As you might imagine there were at least 100 people walking around, and most seemed to be on the move. There were lots of people from the media too–taking pictures and interviewing various volunteers. There were a few women, putting on the dry material on the underside of the lizards, who stood still long enough for me to capture here. By putting the humans in I think you get a real sense of the scale of these “Jurassic Park” like lizards. But you don’t really get a very flattering picture of the people. For starters, it was cold in there and most people had on bulky coats that covered them up. And second, in the second sketch I completely missed the head of one volunteer. It was really my fault too. I started with the woman on the left and noticed another volunteer in a red jacket to her right. So, I quickly added her. But I didn’t really notice that her head was completely covered by the lizard’s tail and was too far into the sketch to really do anything about it. (Hmm…Couldn’t imagine a UPS Store, Inc exec hanging that up on the wall…)

float graveyard
Fiesta Floats, Irwindale–outside with parts from floats past, 12/28/2019 (Fude fountain pen and graphite on Canson Mix Media paper)

I stayed in the warehouse until I was just too cold to draw anymore and needed to get outside into the sunshine. I had seen this scene of float remnants earlier and set up my little stool covered with my sheet of bubble wrap and did this pen and ink with my Fude Fountain pen. Some of the surrounding rusted pieces I saw looked like they had once had dried flowers glued on, but the rain and sun were doing their best to wash and fade that all away. But this particular pile of disconnected bits of floatery didn’t seem to have any dried flower detritus. So, maybe this place does more than just floats for the Rose Parade, even though the sign on the outside of the building said Rose Parade—and had the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Foundation logo on it. It was nice to be outside, where I could warm up and watch the continuous flow of volunteers in and out of the building. Perfect! 

The UPS Store, Inc float New Year’s morning 2020 and beyond

This post has a rather funny end to it as the UPS float was the Sweepstakes Award winner for 2020. (And it seems they were the 2019 Sweepstakes Award winner as well.) Look it up—UPS, Store Inc Rose Parade 2020. It was covered with thousands of fresh flowers, animated animals and 3 working waterfalls. Yikes! The photo I saw showed some of the animals I sketched last Sat. In fact, one of the lizards I did was right up front, nestled in some 25,000 dark hot pink Hot Lady roses. It did make me laugh because the women I saw decorating the lizards were placing the dried flower material underneath each giant beast. I mean, who was going to be looking underneath them—with all those bright pink roses? That’s just crazy, right?

I was sketching at the Norton Simon last night. And the scaffolding that holds the bleachers for the Rose Parade were still up. That always looks like a larger than life bit of construction. I guess here in CA we really believe in doing things in a big way, but try not to miss the small details as well. Words to live by? Works for me!

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