Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bull Durham Suntrust Sketch

The fun thing about drawing in public is the conversations. While I sat in the hot son and laid out this sketch, I had to repeatedly sight (with my pencil held up or sideways) the locations of different window lines or the proportions and arrangement of objects. It was a challenging subject to get correct - I wanted to be sure to position the stories correctly, and have the right number, etc. The perspective, as the building rose before me, demanded a gradual shrinking of the height of each layer. As it is, I still didn't get the sides correct - compare to photo below.

A group of elderly ladies and gentlemen were congregated in the shade across the street, talking and having coffee. One crossed the street, came up behind me, and asked, "What exactly is it you're doing when you hold up your pencil like that?" It was an intelligent question, and not one I've been asked before. I described how artists neep to map what's before them onto the two dimensional surface, and they use their thumb or drawing tool to compare proportions, or find half and quarter points, to position things correctly. I showed her some tiny hash marks on my paper, which were dividing the space into quarters, and pointed out that the pencil helped me find which line on the building was half way up, and then a quarter of the way up, and then how many lines of windows and dividers were in between, etc. - so I would get them right. She said that made sense, and she thanked me for the answer.

I only did the pencil work on this one while in the sun. I walked to a table in the shade to ink it in, and then did the watercolor from memory several days later, in a hotel room. I had taken several photos (pasted together here - and taken from not the same spot where I did the sketch, hence the changes in angles) to use as reference for the painting, but I didn't need it. I found I could vividly recall the colors I wanted.

This sketch will also appear on our Durham blog, of course. Top of the Triangle. The bilding is the Suntrust Bank building, one of the older landmarks and taller buildings in downtown Durham. The bull is a big, nearly life size bronze set in a small park across the street.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Life Drawing Aug 25 2011

I've mentioned that I have been wrestling with the washes and lines at life drawing sessions for the last several months. It's felt like starting over, and I've left several recent sessions without a single drawing I cared to show anyone. And it hasn't bothered me - I've been quite content in the pursuit, the chase. The fact that it's been disorienting and largely a mess has pleased me, because it meant I stepped a decent distance out of my comfort zone. I'm learning something new, for me, anyway. That was the point.

Last Monday I fell at the airport (water on the floor outside the men's room). I caught myself on a wall (bruise on my shoulder to show for it) and thought little more of it, in a rush to make my flight. Later, however, my lower back began to hurt, and it's taken the whole week to gradually get better. Last night it was still bad enough that I didn't think I could get through the whole drawing session, and I did end up leaving before the two long poses in the second hour, but I really wanted to go.

So when the first 2 minute drawings came out pretty well, and the poses (one of our best models) were unusually inspiring, I was a bit giddy. The first three drawings were all on one page (first image, above). The next two were not so good (not shown here), but then the first five minute pose was my favorite drawing of the evening (second image, above, leaning on the chair). We roared right on to the rest of the five minute poses (shown above and below, two together and one more on the page alone) - so I didn't get any opportunity to dance around the room, but I wanted to. This drawing is approaching what I'm after with this switch to wash and suggestion.

I sharpen a bit of watercolor crayon into an empty yogurt container and add water. I grab a jar from over the ArtCenter sink and fill it with water for rinsing. The drawings begin with quick, spontaneous work with a flat one inch brush in the wash - 30 seconds or less. Then I picked up a china marker, of all things, and tried to move as fast with the lines. The second image above, my favorite this evening, approaches the mix of line and shape and the balance of stated and unstated that I'm seeking. There are still things I wish were different - but this is more than half what I wanted, and that's a breakthrough. A different part of me is moving the brush, and that affects the later work with the markers.

This last image is the 15 minute pose we did before the break, and before I packed up to leave because my back needed a break. The drawing was actually complete in 10 minutes, after which I stood there looking from the paper to the model and back. I finally added the second layer of wash on the underside of her upraised arm, and the light wash to the right of her navel, careful to catch the shapes of the shadows. Then I added the small splash on the far right because the composition needed a little balancing. Three touches of the brush during that last 5 minutes. I didn't see anything else I could add that would improve the drawing. There were a few things I would have liked to change, but that's not in the rules.

Some part of me has floated all day today on the drawings from yesterday. I kept losing parts of conversations today because I kept drifting back into the spot where these were created. This has approached an obsession; it is becoming even more intoxicating now that I'm getting tastes of where it might go next.

I've done some other sketches (so some relief for those of you who would like to see something beside nudes) and I'm working on the self portrait. But the figure work is the main journey at the moment, and it affects all the rest.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Playing with the Food - Trois

Bonsoir. Etienne has again granted the keyboard to moi, but under condition of telling the story of the market veggie. Deux Poulets brought aubergines to Etienne, from a friend. But voila, they are one "eggplant," as you call them here. Une stem, deux "eggs." This was the invitation to play with his food. Etienne said this has happened before - this is the third time.

So these photographs show the route from vegetable to animal. The lovely purple of the aubergine with a little yellow, like the sun. Etienne says the Sharpie and pencils were right for the turtle, and the finer pen and aquarelles for the petit mason which turtles carry on their backs. Quelle pittoresque.

Ettiene said he has never so closely looked at the segments on the little house. The way they connect and the vertebrae amused him. Back? Shell? Ribs? Mason? Oui.

And are we not all edible in the end? New eggplant friends, potato fish, grenouilles? I have heard that to some even humans are a meal. There are even reptiles which are at the top of that food chain, but, il es regrettable, no amphibiens, though Etienne has told me that the bullfrog Africaine eats mammals. The chain is more a mobius, oui?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Late yesterday I dove into a piece of paper, drawing lines with blind contour technique from a number of random photos on the Internet, deliberately not completing recognizable shapes, and turning the page to lay more on top of more on top of more. Here is the end result. I took thirty minutes or longer and turned it and turned it and erased some lines, and drew some more and then I found my subject. Sometimes the subject emerges only vaguely from the lines, other times there is a more definite hint, as there was this time. Almost always I recognize the right theme (or even know ahead of time what it will be about, before the shapes begin to emerge). I have no idea how this works, and (like my typing, which is done with a random movement of three or four fingers on each hand and is quite fast) I don't look too closely or question it for fear it will unravel. I just smile and let it happen.

In this image you can see what I realized (I apologize for the quality of both images - too late I found out the light was insufficient). I knew it would be a self portrait a month ago, before the paper was even stretched. But when I was looking at the lines I had an open mind - ready for it to be four or five other things that looked like they were beginning to emerge. Then I saw the unusual portrait angle and placement just sitting there, and realized it was correct. If you look back at the first image, above, maybe you can see it too (click to see it enlarged)? I was already there. I am deeply excited by the placement because of the composition possible, and because this view taps into something essential and central I know about myself but have never seen in a photo or drawing of me before. I couldn't tell you what that is, but this is it. And I'm excited, too, by how much all of this is true and how impossible it is for me to understand it in any way I can put into words. That's an uncommon situation for me.

And the last thing, then, is to figure out what fills the rest of this piece. What will be the bulk of this page, though not the center of interest. I would grin to hear anyone's thoughts. One of you might even have the same idea I will actually see and pursue in the end... Or more probably, not.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Journey

Oui, c'est moi. It has been a long while since my last posting. Etienne has been hogging the keyboard, oui? Of course in the pond we do not use expressions with pigs; one who is taking more than one's portion is as a bullfrog. But he has been tres busy and the drawings have come more rapidly than in the past, so he has had more to show.

But it seems there has been less to say? More show, less tell, non? I feel certain, if Etienne's inner artiste spoke, and he has said it is perhaps more French than the rest of him, that it might say things more familiar to this frog. Things this frog might be prepared to share, as well.

Et voila, as with this illustration Etienne has made for me, I have been thinking. Perhaps we make our decisions a little like pants turned with the pockets on the outside. We choose a destination and then this determines the vehicle. We spend much of our time, perhaps the lifetime, journeying hard in this way. Is this how we wish to spend our days? Should we not perhaps choose the travelling companions and coach and then see what destinations are possible? Like the Triplets of Belleville film - he chose his bike and look where he went - she found the Triplets and then her true journey began. (We shall overlook the treatment of grenouilles in this movie, non? Incroyable!)

Etienne sometimes says the tres grande decision of his life was made the right way, pockets side in as I put it. (It is so much simpler for les amphibiens - we have no pockets.) Before knowing much else he chose his cheri. They chose the road and the vehicles together. This has made all the difference.

If I choose to fly, though perhaps not so high as this for my first voyage, then where may I go? Etienne says it might be unhappy to wish for wings when instead we have webbed feet, non? (Though I asked him why I might not have both? Planes with pontoons fly and land on water, why not Grenouille? Flap flap glide swoosh splash!) Etienne says we should dream and wish and reach, but it is perhaps more fun if we can choose a more comfortable vehicle. A hawk may not prosper in a submarine, a goldfish may not truly enjoy a trapeze. Oui, I am more happy on the lily pad than as Grenouille over the Grand Canyon.

Where is the frontier that borders dreams and happiness? Where do you live? Do you prefer to drive, walk, fly or swim? How do you want to get there - where will you go?