Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cicada Early Stages

A lot of my paintings are like found objects - pencil and paint handled almost subconsciously until things begin to emerge. Other come to me whole and then I plot and create them from the internal image. The Cicada painting is an example of the latter.

Here is the page from the moleskine, where the idea came to me - back on August 1st. (The octopus, by the way, was a doodle - he may also have a future in some other work.)

And here also, is the line drawing that was done in prep for the painting. I do not usually outline shapes in my paintings, but this one is all about the shapes and their edges - the individual cells of the cicada's wings, etc. So this one is inked (in green) prior to watercolor. Even my signature, in this case...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Haw

Youngest and I took the canoe and paddled a bit over a mile up the Haw River from the bridge and dam at 15-501, South of Chapel Hill, NC. We began that ride with me capsizing the canoe, and dumping us both into two feet of water. I had been trying to get into the water from the bank, without getting my feet wet. "You did it wrong," as Youngest put it. We were cool for most of the trip as a result, regardless of the 85 degree heat and bright sun.

We worked our way between rocks and small islands up to where the slope finally climbed out of the long pool created by the dam, and the rapids started again. We nosed the canoe into the rapids and let the current turn us back. Then we pulled up on a muddy bank and sat on a long peninsula to eat our packed lunch by the sound of the rushing water. Everything tastes better outside.

Later, on the way back down the river, we stopped at one more large stone island, where Youngest thought the best sketch would include the canoe. Then he looked at me with gleaming eyes and suggested that only the boat (an unnatural Coleman green) should be in color. Here's how it turned out - and Youngest was right.

All of these sketches were done in my small moleskine, 3.5 x 5.5 inches on each page (these are double page sketches, hence the seam in the middle of the drawings). Fortunately I had the foresight to put the sketchpad in a plastic bag, securely sealed and with air in the bag to float it. The floating didn't turn out to be necessary at our accident, but the bag did.

Here, finally, is the last sketch of the day, of Youngest paddling the canoe alone, threading our way back through the rocks (and doing as well as I had earlier) while I drew. I'm not happy with this one - it misses what I wanted, and has a whole host of errors - but I like it anyway, because it reminds me of the day, and the bright beach hat Youngest wore, with flourescent colors, which attracted a butterfly (a semicolon) which sat on the side of his hat for almost five minutes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bugfest 2010 - Raleigh NC

Dearest, Youngest and I went to Bugfest 2010 in Raleigh today. The NC Museum of Natural Scinece puts it on every September, and it is by far their largest event. While the other two went in and braved the crowds at the exhibits, I stayed in the pedestrian way between the museums and sketched this scene. The museum is a lovely building - modern with classical sensibilities, to match the older wing it adjoins. I'm really pleased with this drawing - I'm getting the hang of using different weights of line, and have given thought lately to what I like in the sketches of others. And I discovered that a start with pencil, and then finishing with pen, provides more judgement and opportunities for leaving things out (I get to give every line a second thought).

As I was finishing this (which took a little over an hour), I was joined by two young boys. The six year old spoke to me first, and asked what I was doing. He showed me the machine gun he had made in a recycled materials booth nearby, and then watched me draw. His four year old brother draped himself with affectionate ease over my back and shoulder so he could look on as well, and chattered quietly in my ear. Several more boys, unrelated to these two, came and joined in. One said he also liked to draw. I asked him what he drew, and he said, "Faces. I could do yours." I got out my moleskine and handed him my pencil. He produced this sketch of me in about 5 minutes, and signed it, "Mike." It's the only thing in my moleskine that isn't by my hand. I like it, and I'll do it again if the opportunity arises.

It was a memorable day. I was there in the crowds for nearly two hours and it felt like twenty minutes.

Later, as we were leaving, two women came up to us and said they had also watched for a while over my shoulder, and that they liked my work. I had been unaware of everyone except the people I was memorizing to add to my "crowd," and the one guy who sat down right in front of me, blocking my entire view (I politely asked him if he could move over a few feet - he got up and left...). I really have gotten over my discomfort with drawing in public. Ever since Chicago...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stowe Gardens and Belmont

After helping Daughter move into college, we took Youngest and spent the next day in Belmont, NC, at the Stowe Gardens and in the village for lunch and a little wandering in the heat. Here are my moleskine pages from that day. One sketch is of the sheet of water that pours out of a hole at the top of the orchid wall in the conservatory at the gardens. If you have a chance to tour Stowe, the price is reasonable, and it's a world class garden in Southern style. There are many fountains, which made it bearable even in August (before noon!).

Here is a photo I took from a different vantage point - and missing the odd bark-like top of the structure.

The sketch on the right hand page of the moleskine is of Youngest on a play structure in the Stowe park in the village of Belmont. Belmont has an unusual density of beautiful houses, gardens, and buildings for a place of its size. The sketch on the right was done in about 3 minutes, and I cheated a little and asked our son to stay still for 45 seconds or so. The garden sketch was done on a bench in the conservatory, and took about 10 minutes. Youngest sat beside me and did a detailed sketch of a banana palm leaf hanging down in front of his face.

It was a good trip, and helped transition from leaving Daughter at college...

Click image for a closer view.