Thursday, April 21, 2011

Life Drawing - April 21 2011

We had two models show up tonight - they both had confirmations. But only one had a check cut for posing, and she's the one who stayed. I was happy with the result, because though both are good, I wanted a draw a female tonight (we drew a male last week) and her poses are particulrly good. She's also an artist, and works hard to give us more interesting angles and foreshortening, etc. She's in her sixties or early seventies, I think, and she is beautiful. She has a long graceful torso, which I emphasized more in the second and third pages shown here. I don't see the wrinkles after the first five minutes or so - her kind of beauty is NOT skin deep; it's under the skin.

This evening I tried a different way of drawing - with a pencil, as I do when I lay out a painting. And no shading except with lines and hatch. I also decided to lay the drawings on top of or next to each other, and work a little smaller and faster. The results pleased me, and I found I was doing a better job capturing what it is about the poses and the model - the particular grace or beauty of a particular moment as I saw it before me. I think the pastels are too blunt to catch the subtlety I see in the countours.

When I got them home I got out the fountain pen and worked them over correcting things and emphasizing things. A little white charcoal on the first one sets some of the figures apart from others, and makes some of the darks recede because it makes them a cool gray instead of the warm dark of the brown fountain pen ink. These are all 18 x 24 inches - in a Strathmore drawing pad.

I like these. I have a long way to go with this, but this feels like a path I want to pursue further in later sessions. I feel like these break out of the rut I keep trying to get out of - the 19 year old in art school who couldn't figure out how to use the conte crayons.

The first of these is five 2 minute poses. Later at home I spent no more than two or three minutes on each of these, as well. The next two drawings are composed of ten minute poses. The drawing of her back in the third drawing, lower right, was held about 15 minutes, because she was doing fine and we kept asking for a minute more... From all angles I think we all felt it was the best pose of the evening.

There were two 25 minute poses in the last part of the session, but the poses didn't really inspire me and I was tired and I wasn't in the groove at all. So you don't get to see those...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fountain Pen

While the family was walking towards Malaprop's Bookshop in Asheville, I passed Origami Ink. I slowed down several dozen feet past the shop, and finally told the others, at the door of Malaprop's, that I would meet them inside...

I went back and had a long and interesting conversation with a deply engaged, very knowledgable sales person, who's been with the shop for years, about what fountain pen would be a good one for me to use for sketching. I had realized over the last few weeks that so many of the sketchers ( that I admire most, and whose line quality I love, use a fountain pen. They also often mention Noodler's fountain pen ink. The shop carried a broad sample of Noodler's - and that plus the expert help ended in the purchase of several bottles and my first bottle-filled fountain pen. If his prediction is correct, it might also be my only fountain pen. It's a Lamy, and the shops's clientelle continue to buy ink and supplies for Lamys they bought there twelve years before.

When the sales person asked how I meant to use the fountain pen, I told him for sketching. He asked what kind of sketches. It was a pleasure to pull the moleskine from my pocket and open it to show him... I love having the means with me all the time.

I've since done a few brief sketches with the fountain pen - only one complete sketch so far, but I already like the feel, and it makes my hand more free.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Catsburg Country Store

When oldest was a much younger guy, probably about six, he and I used to "goof around," wandering around north of Durham, getting out of the car whenever things looked interesting.

Interesting might just mean somewhere we could pick up rocks, or get to the shore of a stream or pond, or visit an old country store. Probably the most picturesque and old fashioned of the little stores was the old Catsburg Country Store, up Roxboro Rd. It was tiny, red, had a cool painted cat sillhouette on the store front, and it was next to an old baseball diamond. Inside were all the usual Southern standbys - including Yoohoo chocolate drink (which Oldest enjoyed at that time), Dr Pepper (my choice), peanuts, slim jims, Nehi and Cheerwine sodas, Little Debbie cakes... We went in and bought snacks.

For the last ten years or more the store has been closed and boarded up. Dearest and I recently went by there and stopped to take some photos. Last weekend I took a few hours and did a small watercolor painting of the store from the photos. It was like a visual meditation or a mental caress of an old memory. The building itself has a great deal of charm, possibly even more so in its worn condition. Like an old leather jacket.

The fate of the building is in the balance. There have been discussions of selling and restoring it - they have come to nothing so far.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Botanical Gardens - Asheville

After a visit with Daughter at UNC Asheville (we went up to see the Dance Department's program, which was wonderful - daughter choreographed and led an audience participation piece that made us very proud of her), we took a short stop at the Botanical Gardens next to campus. We stopped to use the restroom, but the day was beautiful, the light was golden, and we decided to take a short stroll. Then I decided to do a short sketch while Youngest and Dearest took a stroll...

This was completed back in my studio, from memory, because I only had time to get the basics laid in with pencil and pen. It's not 100% accurate, of course, but it captures the feeling I had for the spot beneath the bridge near the visitor center.

10 x 14 sketch on cold press watercolor paper, with black felt-tip.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Lovely Morning

I spent a recent Sunday morning drawing and painting. This is how my table looked afterward. The drawing and painting completed that morning and shown here will appear in other posts, later.

Click the image for a closer look. The small watercolor set in the upper right is my field kit, and I deliberately limited myself to it while finishing a sketch I started in Asheville (not shown in this photo). I would have used the field kit there, if I'd had enough time, so I finished it with the field kit in my studio. That little sketch will also show up in a later post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Airport Surprises - Hartsfield-Jackson - April and November

(Written in April 2011)

I have been deliberately walking underground between concourses T and A at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport because of the display of sculptures by artists in Zimbabwe. This week I had an unusually long wait in the airport, and I plopped myself down in the space between two of the sculptures, sat on my roll-aboard, got out my new fountain pen, and sketched this piece, which is one of my four or five favorites in the show. This is about 5 feet high, carved in springstone, and the artist hand chisels the many precise lines that make up the texture on his pieces.

Here is a photo of the sculpture, but the way they captured it loses all the texture, which is so much of the beauty of this piece. As with all sculpture, you must see it in person; this is much more true than it is even of paintings.

Then I drew this sketch while waiting at my gate - with people and planes coming and going, so that things seem transparent or overlapped oddly. The scene here only existed in a strange sort of time lapse.

Back in November 2010 I first found the sculpture from Zimbabwe in the underground, and I did a quick pencil sketch in a moleskine, as well as writing the blog post, below, which I did not post at the time.

(Written in November, 2010)

I was heading for the Atlanta Airport (the busiest in the world, I recently read - and I don't doubt it) and on the Skytrain from the rental car drop-off I thought it would be interesting to discover the airport's secret spots - the interesting little things most people miss or don't see because they're in out of the way corners of the airport. I was sure I could research this on line and then hunt them down on layovers in the future.

After checking in and getting through "the indignities," as I call the disassembly and reassembly of myself and my bag enroute through security, I was in the underground way. If you've traveled through this airport, you know there is an underground train that connects the six huge parallel terminals and the baggage claim and transport building. First, one of the down escalators was not working. No one was on that. I had long wanted to try going down such a very long set of stairs, so I lightly and quickly stepped my way down the whole thing. At the bottom I noticed that they had posted the length of the walk to the next terminals - I had three to go - a twelve minute walk.

I decided to hoof it instead of catching the train. I needed the excercise, anyway, and I hadn't experienced this space. I was astonished to find a beautiful display of stone sculptures by various artists in Zimbabwe, in a long line between terminals T and A. I stopped to sketch a particularly moving example, of three figures carved from one spreading stone. The faces were dark gray and smooth, the hair was roughly carved into waving textures, and the rock garments/base was an evenly hatched criss-cross of chisel work. It was well lit, and impressive, the figures slightly larger than life. It was called "Conversation" by Zimbabwean sculptor Agnes Nyanhongo. If you scroll down on the link above, you can see a photo of it.

While I sketched it, the hundreds of people rushing by either ignored me and the sculptures, or noticed the artwork because they noticed me. Those who noticed often swung out of their straight paths once they passed behind me, in order to catch a glimpse over my shoulder. I felt like I was in the eye of a small whirlwind. I was happy to bring some additional attention to these beautiful pieces, and to fix in my memory the place, the lighting, the sounds, and the experience by putting it in my small red moleskine.

As I hurried along to get to my gate, I looked at many of the other pieces, and stopped at a few that caught me. One was a flat piece of stone, about three feet long, left largely natural, but cut and polished with water ripple patterns. The rough stone was brown, but the polished sections were green. I felt it was some kind of riverine presence, and as I circled it I came upon the strange hydrodynamic face, and the powerful back-swept arm and large hand. I was startled and delighted to find the face and took a sharp involuntary intake of breath and stopped short. It was as if I had thought I was alone and looked up and discovered a wolf silently staring at me from three feet away. I was filled with joy that something like that can happen - something so sudden and powerful - as a result of such slow careful work and premeditation by someone from another culture on another continent. The artist (Nicholas Mukomberanwa) reached me from so far away.

I will definitely be looking for more surprises at the airport - and I will go back to walk that row of sculptures again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Most Recent Barb

A friend's father passed away last week after a long illness. My own loss comes and goes, and all sorts of things bring it into focus. The echo of the friend's experiences made it a low grade ache under everything else. It went well with the muscle spasm in my lower left rib area, from coughing through several nights when I had the flu. Being up all night several nights also made me think of Dad, with Mom being up with him all but a few hours every night during his last weeks.

And then, while painting an old country building this last weekend, I reached out for an old transparent straight edge triangle I've had for years. And it brought tears to my eyes, remembering vividly when Dad gave it to me, and explained to me that it was a 30 - 60 - 90 triangle. I loved those kinds of relationships and patterns at the time (I was about ten years old), as well as beginning to draw things that required the help of a straight edge. The plastic has aged a darker color over the years. Dad did not know whose initials were scratched into it - he had found it unclaimed at IBM, as I recall, possibly when he moved into a new desk at some point. I feel like I've had it half of forever now, and I reach for it almost without thinking. I used to, anyway...