Thursday, March 24, 2011

Life Drawing March 25

I have had a terrible flu, with a cough preventing sleep for almost two weeks. Last night was the first night I got to sleep before 2:00, and I slept through the night. I felt like a new man.

And it's Thursday, so the Life Drawing Studio is in session in Carrboro. Oldest could come with me this time - a happy alignment of a tiny gap in his major college projects (NCSU College of Art and Design) and getting home in time to catch me.

We drew T this evening - my second male model since college. His poses were interesting, and I got into a fairly good groove right away.

These were two of the 5 minute poses, an 11 minute pose, and two 25 minute poses. Sometimes the shorter ones turn out better - no time to fuss.

As Oldest put it, "The last is usually the best, and you wish there could be just one more, but after two hours you know it would kill you, so..."

Umber and white nupastel on brown kraft paper - 18 x 24 inches.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


On a recent photo and sketch trip with Dearest, we stopped at a drugstore to run a little side errand. She went in and I didn't need to, so I sat in the car and looked across Roxboro Road. There was a hedge and some bare winter trees at the edge of the street - a planting done years before by the city of Durham and then made asymetrical and more interesting by time and accident. I played my usual game of moving, adding, removing shapes in my head to improve the composition, and I found I liked a number of the things that were going on in the small trees, in particular. I took a photo, thinking it might inspire a painting.

And it did. This was mostly finished several weeks ago, but I set it aside in favor of other projects. Today, feeling very low from the flu (it seems as if my lungs are doing their best to slowly kill me - medications are beginning to have some effect finally, after six days) but wanting desparately to pick up a brush or a pencil, I realized I knew how I wanted to finish it. That knowledge enabled me to get through an hour and a half of painting before it was completed and I was too tired to do more than take the photos and go down for lunch. Lunch gave me enough energy to write this post...

Now I will take the medication that makes me the most nauseous of my flu pharmacopia, and sit on the bed all propped upright with pillows because any incline makes the coughing uncontrollable, which is excrutiating since the coughing fits have caused a muscle spasm in my back... This is what I meant about my lungs, which are the seat of the trouble, the camp of my viral/bacterial overlord which I must overthrow with the nightly fevers and the antibiotic (which also makes me nauseous - but I'm sticking with it because it's the mighty Z-pack, and the first dose is the hard one - it gets easier from there).

And while I sit up in bed, and before I try to drift off for a fitfull nap, I will read more of my big Taschen book about Gustav Klimt, which inspired the painting urge today, and who in part inspired this painting with his unusual, close-up, dense landscapes.

Watercolor - 24x18 - Arches hot press.

And on a separate and totally unrelated note, the last meal I prepared for my family before I went into household quarrantine was this pie for Pi Day (March 14th). I really like the calligraphic things that happen automatically as the pie crust expands, opening the slits and allowing their edges to brown. Pi was one of my favorite numbers as a gradeschool kid, as were the weirdly patterned repeating decimals you get from all the fraction values of "sevenths" (1/7, 2/7, 3/7, etc.). I remember my dad teaching it to me up to the tenth digit, and can hear his rhythmic sing-song as he recited it, "Three point one four one five nine, two six five three five." I believe the next digit is a zero or a one, so stopping here after ten is mighty accurate for most human needs...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Orange County Courthouse

Today was a down sort of day - end of vacation, Daughter going back to college after a week at home, still not feeling totally well after my cold... By this afternoon Dearest could tell I needed some time to myself, and probably to sketch. So she suggested downtown Hillsborough, "We live in an historic village - go sketch."

So I did. Tupelo's, a favorite restaurant in the center of town, closed several months ago. It's under construction to become Antonia's - an Italian place - but on Sunday the site was deserted, and so I took advantage of their quiet front step to sit and do this watercolor of the most obvious building in our town - the courthouse. Here is the watercolor - I discovered my newest markers are not waterproof, and I loved what happened when I wet the paper in certain ways.

Here is a photo of the courthouse - so you can see how accurate I was (and wasn't). I drew what I felt - and that differs from reality.

Usually I would be tempted to remove things like the overhead lines and the traffic signals - but they're part of our downtown, of which this is the main intersection. I like them hanging there. Take all the electrical stuff out of the scene and it could be some earlier time, like the 1880's - but it wouldn't be now.

I spent nearly an hour and half on this - it felt like 15 minutes. Nothing reboots my mind as well, except an unusually good night of sleep.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sketches and Doodles at Folly Beach and Charleston

With all of our spring breaks aligned, we all took off together for Folly Beach, SC and Charleston. We did our usual favorite things, and some new ones.

One of the new things was touring the Yorktown, a WW II aircraft carrier on permanent display at Patriot Point in Mt Pleasant, across the harbor from Charleston. We've seen it over there for years, and finally got over to see it. It's enormous, and we probably saw only two thirds of it before we were tired out. I saw even less, because I took an hour to wander among the planes in the hangar deck, and drew this sketch of my favorite. I chose it for aesthetic reasons - I liked the beefy look of it, and the bend in the wing, in particular. This was the first F6F Hellcat flown from a carrier - hence the "00" number. It was flown by "Jimmy" Flatley - who introduced them to carriers, proved how effective they could be in the war, and went on to change much about naval aviation and became a Vice Admiral. I noted all this because I had spent so much time on his aircraft.

Later, up on the flight deck, Youngest and I were looking for the fastest jet up there. There were several contenders, and we had to walk the entire set of planes to finally find the F-14 Tomcat at the back of the carrier. We noted with satisfaction that it was the fastest (top speed of 1500 MPH). I talked a little about the competition between the Airforce and the Navy over fighter jets, in particular, and the place the F-14 played in that competition for years. Then I noticed that the commander listed on its side was one James "Seamus" Flatley IV. I opened my sketch pad to check this wonderful serendipity - and saw that, indeed, this plane was flown by the grandson of the man who flew the Hellcat on display below deck. And I would not have noticed the connection (remembered the name) except that I'd spent so much time drawing the plane. For the rest of the day I saw hellcats in photographs and diaramas and immediately recognized them, though I had never paid any attention to that fighter before.

Another morning, before anyone else was up. I tried this watercolor sketch of a horned whelk I found on the beach. No pencil first - drawing directly with the brush. It's not a technique I enjoy, and I'm not good at it (those facts may be causally connected in both directions) - but it was interesting to try. Some things in this sketch I like - others I dislike.

And one evening, as others cleaned up after dinner, I drew this doodle which started as random lines and then gradually became birds. We saw a lot of them on the trip, and many emerged here - pigeons, an osprey (nesting at the top of the Yorktown's conning tower), cormorants, chickens (seen in paintings and art objects in Charleston and, if you've followed this blog long enough, you would recall how often they show up in my drawings and paintings), and crows and grackles down at the beach. No pelican - seems odd considering how many we saw.

It was a good trip, and we all came home very tired.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Art Studio at ArtsCenter in Carrboro

We went to see a Paperhand Puppet Intervention performance at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, and I took the opportunity to show the studio to Dearest and Youngest, who had not seen it. This is where I do life drawing - drawing the nude figure. The old chair and the easels are the main characters in the space, until people inhabit it.

Ballpoint pen in 5 x 8 moleskine. My usual spot is about ten feet behind the back of the old chair, to the side of the modeling platform you can just see in the lower right edge of this sketch. The dark object made of boards to the left of the chair is another type of easel used in life drawing classrooms - three simple boards and braces, with a small board across the sitting surface, so a drawing board can be propped up in front of a student or artist. I remember using one in art school. I prefer to stand while I draw, and to have the pad up high, so it's on the same level as the model. That makes the drawing movements more free and perspective easier to measure. Actually, the easel immediately behind the chair in this drawing is the one I used last week.

We're just retunred from a short family trip to Charleston, SC and Folly Beach. There will be a few sketches from there - in other posts.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sketches from the Portofino

I loved this hotel in Orlando, and spent several evenings peacefully sitting there, drinking a glass of wine, watching the sunset, and smiling at passers by. These, however, were both drawn Sunday morning, while I waited for my conference sessions to start at 1:00. The first is a little too light and tentative to please me, but it does capture something of the feel of the boats tied up in the picturesque little harbor and the style used to decorate the hotel.

The other is from one of the open cafes in the piazza, where I sat under a big umbrella, had a hasty lunch and drew this while I ate. Both are in pencil, 8.5 x 10. Click to see larger views.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sketches at the Royal Pacific and City Walk at Universal

The Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando is part of the larger Universal complex, along a long thin lake (probably man made). The resort is at one end, and has a South Pacific theme (staff greet you with "Aloha"). This old plane floats in the lagoon at the resort, where the dock comes down to let patrons board the free water taxi to Universal Studios' theme park, which is in the middle of the long winding lake. I sketched it quickly after we boarded the water taxi, and before we departed - probably three or four minutes.

Here is a quick sketch of our captain, piloting the water taxi (more like a water bus) to Universal. It's probably under five minutes for the trip. The dock at City Walk has gates for the Royal Pacific's taxi, the Hard Rock Hotel's taxi (the next hotel down the lake the other way from the Royal Pacific) and the boat from the Portofino Bay Resort, the first hotel built in the complex, and at the extreme other end of the lake. I did two sketches during my several brief and pleasant stops at the Portofino (but that's another post). I loved that hotel's atmosphere and the way it blended with the pleasant Florida weather.

This drawing was done in City Walk, near Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville restaurant. Good food, good beer, margaritas (of course), and an extension of the restaurant (drawn here) is called the Lone Palm Airport. The plane seems to have landed at the palm thatched hut, and it's tail hangs out over the lake, about ten feet up. I loved the shape of the plane, which is fat and friendly, and the way it's completely surrounded by palm trees. The triple bladed propellers were perfect, a pleasure to draw. The boy playing in the foreground did dash through, but he was carrying a ball, not an airplane. I got carried away. This is a pencil sketch, 8.5 x 10. The others were done with ballpoint in my smallest moleskine.