Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life Drawing 09192011

Anyone who reads my blog may be bored of seeing these... I would understand. But I remain excited about these because I see change and progress, and because I continue to have little idea what I'm doing throughout the process of creating these images. Each one is a plunge into the unknown, using materials which continue to feel unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and extremely imprecise.

And that's what I love about the whole process. The model takes the first pose, I observe the major shapes, lines, gesture, and light, and I leap into the page with a brush full of wash. The time goes quicker than ever. I lose track. I am in a space well beyond words. I don't know any other way to get there except in dreams.

I can't stay more than about two hours without feeling like I need to come up for air, but I love going there. It's like a diver entering a reef - can't stay too long, but there is a sense that this is not a foreign place. Rather this is home, a place deep in our past and deep in our hearts where we might live forever if we could figure out how to return, how to grow the wings or gills or souls necessary for this thicker atmosphere.

All of these are done in a 14 x 17 Strathmore sketch pad, in watercolor wash made from watercolor crayon shavings mixed with water, and then lines added with the same crayon and/or a brown china marker. Click on any image to view more closely.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Missing my Dad

Today after breakfast I attempted to unstick the disposal flywheel with a broomstick, as recommended on the Internet. It beats putting your hand in the unit... (It's like Nathan Lane's / Zero Mostel's rule from "The Producers" - "Never put your own money in the show!!")

It had been humming when we flip the switch, with no other action, which research indicated was likely due to a stuck flywheel. Moving the flywheel took some force, and did not seem to be leading to free motion, which did not give me a good feeling.

Well the whole thing popped off the bottom of the sink. After I got over the shocking view of daylight shining up through the drain, I actually chuckled. I had figured I would end up replacing the unit, and with it already partially disconnected, I decided to finish the job this evening. I got a new, significantly better model on my lunch hour, after checking reviews and the amperage, and installed it this evening in about an hour with no real mishaps. It's quieter, and the flywheel is stainless steel, instead of the alloy which had rusted out on our old one. (My sons and I have a hard time understanding why any task which mixes metal and water leads an engineer to choose ordinary steel - like AC condensate pans, or garbage disposal flywheels. The three of us look at each other, raise our eyebrows, and tip our heads to the side in that facial expression our family uses to signal an encounter with a form of insanity.)

But the person I most wanted to call and compare notes with, the person I wanted to boast to about my little plumbing and electrical job, the person who would have gotten the biggest kick out of the story of the unit popping off under the pressure of my broomstick, was my Dad. I'll have to hope he's watching and listening somehow, but I sure do miss getting to tell him and hearing his laugh.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life Drawing 09152011

Tonight the short poses didn't work well for me, and the longer ones, drawn larger, did. I never know from one session to the next, and I have no idea how it works. I just show up and do my part and the muse does (or doesn't) do the rest. We had a lovely model - I also drew her months ago - in pencil. She has lovely lines in her limbs, like the edge of her thigh at the bottom of this drawing, as if her bones were gracefully curved.

These were both 25 minutes, with the method I've been using lately - wash on sketchpad (bad treatment for the paper, but these aren't meant to be framed or kept - and the rumples cause some accidental interest). China marker for the dark lines, and some of the same watercolor crayon that I used to make the wash. 14 x 17 inches - click for larger views (larger than usual).

In the second one of these I deliberately tried to use the wash more, and the lines less. I like it better. Probably over half of the time was spent looking, figuring out what would make the drawing work better and resisting doing things I shouldn't. Over half of the drawing time was spent with the brush, not the crayons. I particularly loved the line of the bottom of her leg, from her seat on the stool down under her thigh and to the back of her foot. And the way the far shoulder looked. The other nice thing about the longer poses is the time to put in just a little context.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What, No Picture? Two Stories

I have two stories to tell from my travels these last 24 hours. No pictures because while I do have a sketch to show for one, I dropped my camera and can't upload pictures right now.

First, I had the privilege of attending a Braves / Marlins baseball game in Atlanta last night. It's the first time I've been to a big stadium (I've been to Durham Bulls games, but that's a small stadium). I did a sketch during the fourth inning. I was struck by an amazing contrast. On the one hand you have the state-of-the-art video wrapping the entire structure, synchronized over dozens of huge monitors up several stories, enabling the display of an enormous fluttering virtual American flag during the national anthem, and showing stats and scores throughout the game. You also have the stadium itself, with tier upon tier of cantilevered banks of seats, sophisticated lighting that made it as bright as day, and a sound system that could probably be heard a mile away. On the other hand you have the gem in the center of this amazing twentyfirst century setting - a dirt diamond in a field of grass where men run in circles and hit a leather ball with a stick. Don't get me wrong - I love the subtlety and craft that is the American game of Baseball - but the game could have been played in regulation style in the stone age, because there is nothing modern about the materials of the game itself. So the contrast with the stadium was epic, to me.

Somewhere in the bottom of the eighth, with the game pretty much a foregone conclusion (Braves winning by a handsome lead after two home runs with two RBIs each), I looked up to notice that the huge column of light rising from the immense bowl of stadium had attracted a circling swarm of high flying night birds, with shapes unfamiliar to me, eating the swarms of insects drawn to all those stray photons. This is in downtown Atlanta, with miles of concrete, stone, asphalt and brick on all sides - where did the insects and birds come from?

Second, on my way through security in the Atlanta aiport today I was behind a woman in her forties with intriguing boots. They took a deal of unlacing and I made a joke about it (I'm the sort to lighten moments in line with strangers...). This led to a conversation because they were boots for motorcycling. She was recently returned from motorcycling through the Alps, and was on her way to Salt Lake City to rent a Honda motorcyle and drive to Seattle in ten days, via Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, etc. I looked at her carefully, because it takes some muscle to handle a motorcycle, and she probably weighed under 100 pounds. She went on to say that she also danced ballroom, and had her ballroom costume/shoes and her watercolor materials packed, and not much else, because she planned to do ALL of it on this trip. I asked where the ballroom would be done, "Surely not Jackson Hole," and she grinned and told me that was precisely where she would be dancing. We fell to discussing her art materials (very simple - pens, watercolor pad, and just one color of liquid watercolor, a blue).

At this point we were putting our bags on the conveyor and concentrated on the task before us. She went through the scanner before me wearing a thin cotton shirt and a light vest of some space-age material (she had said her clothing was minimal and all chosen for the ability to wash, wring, and dry in minutes). The TSA agent on the other side felt the need to pat her down, and poked her in the sternum as part of checking the vest. This apparently hurt, and the woman poked the TSA agent back, in exactly the same manner, telling her that it hurt and that she was getting her fingers caught on the front of her bra. The TSA agent remained professional, but I winced, because a law enforcement officer is a law enforcement officer, and they can't be handled that way. She made the woman come back through the scanner and place her vest on the conveyor. For a moment it looked like the woman was going to resist, but then she came back through and did as she was told. When she passed back through I could hear the TSA agent taking her and her bags aside and quietly lecturing her on what she had done (laid hands on an officer without permission or warning) and that this was not acceptable. When I had reassembled my own clothes, shoes, and bags I looked back and saw the woman seated in the TSA security area, still getting a lecture...

I had noticed well prior to our turn that TSA was in a physical mode today. I have passed through these check points dozens of times in the last year, and have only seen one or two pat-downs. Today, on the other hand, they were touching nearly everybody. They squeezed the fat braids of two traditionally dressed Indian ladies ahead of us, wanded and patted down a young African American man next, then the woman I had been talking to, and then I even got patted on the chest and shoulders (first time I can recall that), possibly they thought I was with the woman who was making trouble. It was interesting, a bit disturbing, and I understood both sides (as I often do) which did nothing to make me more comfortable.

I just looked up ballroom in Jackson Hole and there is a place called the Snow King Center Ballroom... Do they dance there? Was she for real?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Result of Lines I Drew in August

This is the final result of a longer than usual meditation on lines, light, and my own face. I feel most at liberty to play with my own face, which is why I like to draw and paint it. Besides, I have more info on what goes on behind that face than any other, and that seems to inform the resulting images. As usual, my camera has understated the green a bit and reduced the contrast, but this is close.

The remaining four photos (I apologize for the weak light on these) were taken over a month of at several stages of the drawing and painting. These paintings seem to develop gradually, organically. The big leap was from the lines to see the face, realizing I needed to photograph myself from a certain angle, and laying in my portrait. The rest was a series of smaller discoveries.

Click for larger images. The final painting is 19 x 19, watercolor on Arches 140 lb hot press paper (my favorite - "bright white").

Painted mostly with Louise (a # 12 English Cotman 111 round) and a newcomer, Tildie (a #10 English Cotman round, used for the birds). Frondine laid in the yellow and blue in the Phase 4 image below - she's the big girl in my brush jar, a #22 "Ebony Splendor" flat. The rest of the jar is mostly a bright blue Cotman ghetto (and not all girls, my oldest pal in the jar is Abner).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life Drawing - Sept 6 2011

Again, I was able to get into a new drawing space with these. Lighter wash this time - allowing me to build the tones more gradually, which I enjoyed on the longer poses. On the last two of these I got a bit heavy with the marker, and I think it detracts from the figure. All of these begin with wash first, applied quite quickly (30 seconds or less), then the china marker, then back and forth between wash and marker to get the enphasis, shadows, and light. They could all be better in hundreds of ways, but they're getting where I want to go, and that's still exciting.

Another dancer for a model - it makes a difference. These progress from 2 minutes, to 3 minutes, and then to 10, 15 and 20. The pad I was using is a 14 x 17 Strathmore sketch, and you're seeing just about whole sheets in each of these images. Inexpensive, but able to take the punishment of the wet and dry combination. The image with the rocking chair also has some nupastel rubbed in (umber and an intense blue).

Click for larger views. My favorites in this set are the third (sitting up and turned away from the viewer) and the fifth (close up vignette, shoulder to knees).

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wisteria - Duke Gardens

We had a relatively dry, cool day right after Hurricane Irene had passed NC, and we went that morning to Duke Gardens. Dearest and Oldest took photos, youngest stayed with me and read a book, and I drew. Initially I settled down to sketch the light on bushes and plants in the terraced garden, but it bored me after 10 minutes and I walked away. In the wisteria gazebo there are open-work steel columns made so the vines can grow through and up. The vines and leaves completely cover the roof of the large gazebo, one of the most recognizable landmarks on Duke's campus, and the ancient vines make quite a show in the columns, as well. So I found a dual page in my home-made bound journal of watercolor scraps (cut from dozens of paintings) and I did this study. Two colors of ink, graphite, and a little green Prismacolor. About 18 by 7 inches. Click image for a larger view.