Sunday, October 16, 2011

SLC Sketches - 3

My last full day in Salt Lake City I went back up the hill toward the capitol to draw two lovely old houses on State Street. Brown Prismacolor pen. No pencil first - just sat on the grass across the street and jumped in with the pen. Mistakes must be "faked" into the drawing, since there is no erasing. Like a musical performance, where errors are best handled by acting like they're how it was supposed to be played... On the way back down I picked up a yellow cottonwood leaf, from a huge old specimen, and put in the journal to press.

Then the next day, on my way home, I drew this prior to boarding. It was cloudy with frequent showers, so there were no strong shadows. I looked at this after I got home and realized that without something on the ground beneath this plane (like a shadow), it looks like it's floating there. Jet as toy balloon. Wausach Mountains in the background. The peaks all around the Salt Lake basin are like shark teeth, and subtly colored in ways that change with the sunlight and shadows. I like them a lot.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SLC Sketches - 2

On South Main in Salt Lake City, Utah I bought a fun little journal in a used book store (Sam Weller's - if you've read your Pickwick you know that name...). The cover is like leather, has a nice feel. Inside the mustang emblazoned cover is a binding with dozens of small black and red images of nothing but Chevys. Knowing how we fought over Ford vs. Chevy as gradeschool boys (I was in the Chevy camp mostly because my best friend was rabid about it) this juxtaposition made me grin.

Here is a very windy sunset over the Oquirrh Mountains, southwest of downtown. I did this from the roof of a parking garage, knowing I would have a free viewing point and a wall to draw upon. Click for larger images. Prismacolor pen and colored pencils.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Salt Lake City

I happened to be in Salt Lake City for a conference and found myself surrounded by streaming crowds of Mormons who were also there for "Conference." The Temple area is beautiful.

I did this sketch just inside the gate to the garden, just south of the Temple. There are several graceful old plane trees there, and the sight of the sunlit building through their branches is what made me stop and spend an hour.

In other settings I would have people of all ages and backgrounds looking over my shoulder and commenting, but here only children struck up conversations with me. Parents sometimes joined in after their children started it, but even then, the parents did not encourage the conversations, or add anything to them. It gave me a polite taste of what it feels like to be an outsider - something I'm not used to.

Click for much larger image. This is 9 x 12, done in pencil, then inked with prismacolor pens (which don't run when wet) and other pens (which do run when wet) and watercolor crayons. Water was added with a Niji water brush. Then the pencil was all erased. The Temple has windows all the way to the ground, but I felt the incomplete lower section of the sketch made the building seem taller - which it certainly is.

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.

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?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Amaryllis and Chickens

This started out as a painting with amaryllis drawn in pencil. I had other plans for this - it was never meant as a straight flower painting - but I did not intend for chickens to show up. They just forced their way in (chickens and sheep seem to do this from time to time in my work - I have no idea why, since I have little day-to-day connection with any barnyard animals except via our fridge...). Here is the line drawing inked in. (I don't usually ink in edges unless the theme is meant to be comic. The last one I inked in was Cicadas.)

Here is the piece with the first red laid in. I used a new big brush - a size 22 red sable flat named Frondine. I was experimenting with James Gurney's "BLAST" concept. the "B" stands for use the Biggest Brush that will do the job. I wet the red zones with a one inch flat and then put the color in with minimal strokes with Frondine, trying to move with the grain and direction of the petals.

Here is the piece with the base colors all down, but no refinements or cross coloring done - and only a few shadows. And below is the finished (I think) painting. 18 x 24 inches on Arches hot press. Watercolor and black Pelikan ink. You should see 17 chickens in this piece. That's how many showed up. I don't usually work with a red blue yellow triad - I don't usually use this much red.

Click any image for a closer view - largest image is of the finished painting.

Hillsborough Visitor Center

I painted this back in May, but didn't get around to posting it until now. We have the theater bug bad in our house, with four out of five of us (I'm the lone holdout) in a musical that is running four nights right now, and it's been pretty exhausting living theater hours in the night, and getting up early for work. So not much painting or drawing happened this week other than figure drawing Tuesday.

This is a house which was moved to Hillsborough, to become the historic district's visitor center. A major Civil War surrender took place in this house, but I love it for the simple lines and proportions. The gardens outside are nearly limited to plants which would have been in cultivation at that time in America - larkspur, simple roses, nicotiana, nandina, rose campion, Virginia spiderwort, herbs, hollies, silver bell tree, jasmine... This was done in my watercolor sketch pad - 10 x 12, ink and watercolor, sketching with Oldest (he was on the other side of the house, sketching the porch on that side, and leaves from a brown turkey fig tree).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FigureDrawing July 26 2011

I'll admit I have become obsessed with life drawing. I've been twice as often lately as I've posted here - two of the sessions yielded not one useful drawing. And I have struggled and been lost and have loved the entire thing. I used to be done when the session was d0ne - worn out, actually. Tonight I was sorry there were not more poses - and we went two and a half hours instead of the two of my other sessions. This is a group I haven't joined before - you have to be invited (I was grateful to be there) - and I loved the setting, the quality of the poses, and the serious but light hearted company. A wonderful group of artists.

The model is a dancer, singer, and theater person. I hope I conveyed some of that grace in these short drawings. This is the first time an entire set came out worth showing - all five of the five minute poses worked for me - and I was mesmerized as the pastel, used sideways almost the entire time, did what I wanted. It felt like I was just watching it happen, almost. There are also one 2 minute, some 15 minute, and a 25 minute pose here.

Tonight I drew rectangles in my pad beforehand, deliberately planning to place the poses in the shapes - using the whole space in each rectangle as a composition. I didn't achieve what I hoped, but these are a lot closer. My plan is to learn to see the whole space in these smaller drawings (about 6.5 by 9 inches) and then move to larger spaces for longer poses (the 25 minute pose here is about twice that size) and eventually be able to do this for full size sheets.

This group compares their drawings sometimes - which is helpful. It's also interesting to see the different approaches. Several of the others draw in the style of the Italian Renaissance - with sharp conte and white charcoal on slightly tinted paper - beautiful results made with line and hatching. Mine look more like something Impressionist, or Post Impressionist. Others draw more like Expressionists or even like Abstract Expressionists, but truer to life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life Drawing July 21

Working with a brush and wash or watercolor before the lines feels really uncomfortable. Tonight I felt either at sea with no anchor, or things just seemed to make sense and I watched in fascination as things happened on the page that were better than I expected. I still ended the evening feeling I had nothing to post - nothing worth looking at again.

But then I got home and looked and some of these are begining to find their way. By the last pose (final image here) I was finally thinking about the whole page. Took two hours to get there. I'm struggling so much with the medium and the change of tools, working vertical with liquid and trying not to let it drip (I may need to just see what happens if I drip a lot) that I can't apply what I know - like composition. Sometimes I get an OK image of the pose - but it's not engaging the space or the page - certainly not the edges of the page (except by accident).

So this last image I focused primarily on the placement on the page - and where the edges land. I was aiming for an up close, almost uncomfortably intimate cropping - particularly since the model's pose was so casual and open. I caught some of what I was after - more than in many other attempts. Sunday I tried another group and drew this same model (I've drawn her many times - she is a favorite among the art centers in the area). I got not a single thing I would care to ever show anyone. I was really struggling with unfamiliar tools, unfamiliar colors (the blue, still - not a good choice, I finally decided, for what I want to say about the figure). So today was a surprise, when things started to work. Switching to sienna was a big help.

And there was lots of dicussion about art and drawing during the break, and after the session. Before the session began, there were about 15 minutes when it was just the model and I in the room, waiting for starting time. We discussed Sunday's session, which she said was hard because there were over a dozen people drawing, in a complete circle around her, and she felt she could not get ideal poses in front of everyone at once - something she works hard to do (probably one reason she's a favorite). She said some people move all around the room to get the pose they want - others are obviously just grumpy about what they get. I laughed and said that poses are like poker hands, to me - you play what you're dealt. More often than you think, there's something interesting you can do with it. Part of the challenge (to me) is finding something noteworthy to feature in each pose. Whether I can do it justice is another matter...

These are all on Strathmore drawing pad - 18 x 24 inches. Sienna watercolor wash and sienna water color crayon, with some pencil in the longer poses. Click images for expanded views - a little larger than usual.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Playing with My Food - Part 2

Today, at the Eno River Farmer's Market, Two Chicks Farm had an unusual potato that they had kept with me in mind... because of the food play with the tomato we bought from them, last time (which ended up in a collaboration on That's Why, as well). They said the potato had a head, too - but that broke off before they could get it to me. They figured I still might be able to make something of it. This first photo is what happened.

And while the larger goldfish ended up in the potato salad (orange watercolor rinsed off, of course), the goggle eyed gold fish is still on my workbech, on top of my "Taschen 25" collection. (The large black fellow in this photo is Ox, by the way - my Ugly Doll).

Meanwhile the onion (which had been a jelly fish) went on to play a role in a quick still life sketch I've wanted to do for a while with onions and peppers (including the cute pepper Dearest had picked out recently - also at Two Chicks' booth). So here are some shots of the slightly more serious food play this afternoon. Every vegetable in this photo is from Two Chicks, actually.

The resulting watercolor and ink painting/drawing is a little larger than 10 x 14. I took some advice I read recently and mixed pthalo green and quinacridone magenta for the shadows. I like the result.

In the additional photos you see my drawing in preparation for ink and watercolor (above), then the resulting painting, and finally my work space with the vegetables, finished painting, and my pallette. The blue brush on the Clausen jar, the one used for this paining, is Louise. The ink was applied using a nib that's over half a century old now, passed on to me from my grandfather's art supplies. It was one of his favorites, and it's my favorite. I like feeling these connections.

I end (as I began) with some closer photos of the potato goldfish and jellyfish. Click on any image to see a larger view.