Saturday, September 10, 2011


Years ago when I'd been home long enough that I felt able to be a bit independent, my good wife and constant caretaker gave me this cute metal bug to keep me company while she went off on a well earned retreat. It worked!  With "Bug" by my supper dish I felt no need to party with those pesky neighborhood  Dancing Girls.  With house and home intact on her refreshed return, we'd made another great step in surviving the disaster of my "minor" spinal cord injury.   

Now I need to take a break for new surgery. I'll be out of commission for a number of weeks so here's that same little guy to hold my place here 'til I'm able to post again.  Hang in there, - I'll be back.

"To lose one's health renders science null, art inglorious, strength unavailing, wealth useless and eloquence powerless."  Herophilus

Thursday, August 25, 2011


It's a rare day when the people I draw are in such sharp contrast as these. The sad old woman here on the left was nearing ninety-five and close to the end when I drew her a few years ago. The thoughtful young lady below, not quite 20 at essentially the same time, had not yet found the ultimate direction of her life.  Both sat very quietly, one looking inward at long gone times in memory, the other contemplating a future stretched years into an unknowable future.  It's a common cliche that seniors may have remorse for old actions but more likely regret things not done at all, - while the young see few problems or choices except those immediate.

In the begining and in the end you are your own mentor and motivator; you direct your own life, you do what you have to do and enjoy what you have while you can. 

The longer we live, the more we are obliged to confront the deeper meaning of what we do.   (David Toop)

To be old can be glorious if one has not unlearned how to begin. (Martin Buber)

I never feel age... If you have creative work, you don't have age or time. (Louise Nevelson)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vacation Days

 I don't often have time to make detailed drawings like this when away from home but every once in a while the true meaning of "vacation" slips into my mind, hands me a pen and slows the clock while I record a summery view. Here's an early morning look out a third floor back window of the two hundred year old "Red Lion Inn" of western Massachusetts,  - a delightful old fashioned hotel with antique furnishings, a great New England menu and vintage village views.

The second drawing, this time with ball-point pen, is a narrow vista from my favorite vacation spot at home in up-state New York.  Here I can enjoy a beautiful summer afternoon recording the skyward view to the south. That spot is our lovely back deck, almost a tree house under a huge old maple, so that patch of sky and the leafy green bower above is the ceiling of this my "favorite room". - Another great vacation spot!

As you can see, a fine ball-point pen produces a softer mark, more like that of a  pencil than the crisp ink line of the first drawing. It's ALL good though. A slow vacation day or two minute parking lot drawing, putting time in your sketchbook everywhere you go is the best medicine for boredom and certainly the best practice for the health of your artistic life.

The quality of life is determined by its activities. (Aristotle)
Throw open your window and let the scenery of clouds and sky enter your room! (Yosa Buson) 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Twice Drawn, - Once Pregnant

 I've had but one opportunity to draw a pregnant nude.  She was this young woman  who had posed for us many times during the past few years.  This is a nice contrast.   Back in earlier posts you'll find her decidedly un-pregnant in nice poses like the one the right. 

Here I've drawn her with emphasis on the globular forms of her very pregnant body.  She is the same woman in both but along with those amazing physical changes  I've happilly recorded her usual proud and resilliant  personality.  - Lookin' good!

"Be both gardener and the rose."  (unknown)
"Art strives for form, and hopes for beauty."   (George Bellows)

Sunday, August 7, 2011


As often is the case, here I am drawing cars in parking lots while waiting for Lorraine to do her shopping.  I may have more of these than any other sketch-book subject. Naturally the big challenge is to complete the cars before the owner moves the car, someone blocks the view with a van, or Lorraine finishes her shopping and it's time to move on.

Looking forward, someday these works will have that "old time" feel because of the "vintage" autos pictured! I love looking at the drawings and paintings of those like
Edward Hopper who gives us a sense of a very 
particular time. He did a series of watercolors done in Gloucester and Marblehead  that  easily carries us back.

I've recently been looking at some cataloged reproductions and realized that my appreciation of the works would have been enhanced by knowing the original sizes.  Scale is important!  These pieces are all approximately 5x8 inches."The man who will go down to posterity is the manwho paints his own time and the scenes of everyday life around him."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Looking Back

It isn't often that I have the opportunity to draw the male figurbut looking at these two efforts, I should do it more often.  I know I'm more attracted to the curving lines and rounded forms of the female, - I've been working with them in one way or another for years.  Even tho' I've owned and loved dogs, I'm more at home drawing the soft shapes of cats too.  I wonder if this is a case of simplicity vs complexity, - of surface vs structure.  I've said earlier that I depend on my eyes rather than knowledge. That's a perfectly reasonable way of drawing, one that I love, but if I had a better background in human anatomy, these drawings would no doubt be more accurate.  As I work I'm looking at light reflecting from skin surfaces which are (de)formed by the muscles and bones beneath.  Back a few years when in art school working from the live model, we were required to draw the figure as if without skin, visualizing the bone & muscle below.  It's time to do that again.

Education is no substitute for pure raw talent. However, it is a good foundation on which talent may build. (david Allio)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two "Babes"

 Here in two drawings is what was the smallest kitten from one of the most nusual litters you've ever seen.  The mother we called "Choppy" came to us pregnant and soon settled in a cardboard box away from kids and household traffic in the quiet of our back cellar.  We should have known her offspring would be different because her tail barely existed.  (Any less and she would have to have been a true Manx), but the group was as diverse in that department as possible.  Naturally one kitten did inherit it's mother's barely there stump while a second  made up for that deficiency with her more tail than most condition, almost twice the normal length!  Seems to me there was one almost normal kitten squeezed in there somewhere, but I have no clear memory because the last two were stranger still.  How about a pig-tailed male, normal length  tail but twisted in a tight  cur!?  It's true!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Big Foot

This ample lady gave me wonderful opportunities - two tough poses with real problems in perspective and foreshortening. As you can see these were separate but similar poses, the one on the left being first.   This is a case where in contour drawing the old admonition to start with those parts closest may really be the best tactic.  In the first drawing I started with the head and upper body working down toward the feet, missing the very strong difference in size between foot and head.  While it is otherwise a decent representation of the pose, the  lower left leg and foot are much too thin and compressed, missing the dramatic contrast seen in the second. There I started at the feet working my way up to the head, being sure to note and emphasize the contrast between parts close and those at a distance.  In that respect this is a much more successful drawing than the first! 

I do wish it were possible to show that  second drawing complete here but unfortunately, it is just too large to fit in my scanner. I wonder if one of those hand-scanners that you move over the work would be a solution? 

There's another aspect of this drawing that I find attractive.  I've said in a earlier post that line  is an  reflection of reality but in the end, the product is a work of ART!   The line quality of the second is a bit more abstract, less naturalistic.  That, combined with my use of emphatic color in the line  makes the whole piece more graphic.  This  isn't at all a large departure, but it is a recognition of the creative freedom possible.  I intend to pursue this more actively in the future.  Stay tuned!

BTW, you may have noticed that I rarely post a drawing without being critical.  Why "Diss" my own work?  I've spent almost 40 years as a teacher and it's difficult to ignore my natural instinct to share whatever insights I may have regarding my art , - or any art.  As an artist I feel an obligation to those without experience and those who may be interested  in an  art  career, professional  or personal.  I want to help in any small way I can.  Even  those with only a casual interest should know what they are looking at and how to look when drawing.

Kurt Vonnegut said, "To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow."

Thursday, July 21, 2011


They live on here, left and right, one quite simple and the other tightly rendered.   They appear here separate simply because my copier cannot accommodate both together. I drew them side by side, deliberately different just for interest. (I may revisit that decision later) These two have been joined in my studio by several other pair, waiting their tun to be drawn, painted and possibly part of a series. 

BTW, there's no photographic intervention here, the drawings were done directly from the gloves as they lay on my desk.  I enjoyed the time I put in working on the highly finished one, (I DO like to draw!) but these days I'm more attracted to the simpler one.  I love the mark, the evidence of a hand at work. 

In a recent New Yorker article, art critic Adam Gopnik tells  about learning to draw. He says, "Drawing, I now think, need not be the bones of art, but skill must always be the skeleton of accomplishment."  (Thanks Rise!) 

Perhaps you'd like to weigh in on that in the comments area below.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A good model makes a real contribution to the artist's ultimate success. In general it's the professional model who provides solid performance due to her body awareness, muscle control, stamina, and creativity. The young woman here did an excellent job even tho' she had no previous modeling experience at all. She had approached us saying she wanted to try nude modeling just to see if she could do the job, - perhaps only to be able to say she'd done it.  She spent three hours one evening sans clothing, sitting quietly as we looked intently at all aspects of her. In the end, she dressed, - we praised her, thanked her and paid her. She left saying that it was a great  experience, glad she'd done it, but felt no need for a repeat performance.  Most ordinary people wouldn't have done it at all!  Hats off to her! 

People often ask what it is like to model nude but then almost more often, speculate on the artists' side of the room.  How, they ask, can you sit calmly looking at a "naked" woman (or man) without discomfort and dismay?  The answer of course is that the work is paramount.  As an artist you pay attention to line, form, color, etc. As you work to portray the model accurately, creatively or expressively, you are so involved that there's no room for speculation or fancy thought. Drawing well demands complete concentration!

There is a story I like to tell, which in a funny round-a-bout way, explains the situation.  We had a lovely long-legged young lady posing one evening and when it was break-time she put on her robe and stepped down from the modeling stand.  She and I struck up a mundane conversation, - weather, driving conditions, job stress and such.  In the course of our exchange she mentioned her day job, some sort of retail position, where as she moved about serving customers, she'd constantly banged her hip on a counter edge.  "See," she said, " Look at the bruises!" , pulling  her hem right up to her hip!  I was dismayed!   Here I'd been staring at her bare skin for an hour and now I was taken aback by the sight of her exposed thigh!   It was almost as if she'd pulled up her skirt to show her lace panties!    Context is the operative word here!  

 "Concentration is the secret of strength."   Ralph Waldo Emerson 

"I've known painters who never did any good work ...... instead of painting their models they seduced them."    Renoir

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Back on May 26th I posted a drawing of an imagined bird titled "Chicken Man".  Among the comments I received later was a tongue-in-cheek "jab" from a friend saying that the bird  should have had  more feathers. Even tho' and possibly because I have little experience picturing our feathered friends, I decided to take up the challenge.  My answer here may not be quite what he had in mind but here it is!

 In most of the works I've shown here in earlier postings, the drawings were done "live", - drawings of fellow music performance patrons, doctor's patients or  work straight from the artists' model.I like the immediacy of those works and for the most part avoid working from photographs. (Note: I do use my own photos in doing landscape paintings, simply because of difficulties working outside from my wheelchair)

Like most of my favorite painters, mostly "Plein Air" types, I enjoy working directly from nature but in this case I needed reference.  Online I found a great photo collection of the birds I find most interesting (crows and ravens) and made several preparatory pencil sketches, trying to capture their essential "feathered" characteristics.  Then I turned to ink.  So that the images became mine as opposed to being mere copies, did a few drawings in which I exaggerated those ideas. With more time the exaggerations could be pushed more but for the moment here are some of the results.  

"Art not only imitates nature, but also completes its deficiencies" (Aristotle)

"Art is an abstraction; as you dream amid nature, extrapolate from it and concentrate on what you will create." (Paul Gauguin)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Drawing the Line!

Here we are again in my usual figure drawing mode, - contour line with added highlights, - all with Prismacolor Pencil.  I like it!  In this drawing I particularly enjoy the sense of depth shown in the twist of the torso, - right shoulder faded away, left hand nearer than the right, left leg pushing out toward us. There are some small problems but let's Ignore those for now while we talk about line.

In drawing, line is abstraction rather than reality, a most elegant way to describe a subject, especially the human figure. in contour drawing we concentrate fully on each individual line while reproducing that line on paper. For the most part I'm talking about edges rather than "outlines", - edges as seen from your unique physical viewpoint. Forget for a moment the subject, the model, - in this mode you "know nothing" and see only line.  You may pay some peripheral attention to other factors such as shape and proportion as you progress but line is really it!  A good variation: try drawing the subject in contour mode without ever looking at the drawing until finished. The distortions might be wild but you'd be learning to "see", - not a bad thing! 

For a more practical variation, look back and forth as you draw, but look at the model only when not actually drawing. Make comparisons often as you work.  You can enhance the drawing by varying the weight of the line, -  darkening the line with more pressure as it ends, when it changes direction or where in in shadow. You might go back and carefully strengthen those parts as I did here, still, mind you, keeping an eye on the subject. 

John Sloan said, "Line is the most powerful device of drawing."

Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Back on May 7th I did a post titled "Adjustments".  One of the drawings there was the precursor to this painting. It was not a linear progression or logical developement from one to the other but an intuitive creation. I explained that it wasn't until the drawing was finished that I recognized it's origins. I'd been thinking about a painting series in which I'd consciously explore the story of my original injury, trying to recall, re-experience and react to the various situations in which I'd found myself 20 years ago.  Here pictured are two newly minted paraplegics in the hospital spinal cord injury recovery unit, cut off from past lives and cut from much of our physical selves.  I also explained my displeasure with the painting compared to the drawing and at that time did not post it, but now confined to my bed again (Again!) with another  wound,  I'm posting that painting, the only painting I can "reach" at this time via my laptop.  It is tempera on Arches cold press watercolor paper approximately 4x7 inches.  (Once mobile I'll add the drawing here but until then I suggest you check the earlier post for context and comparison)

When first injured I faced my new circumstance with a positive outlook, dealing with the losses and "additions", the wheelchairs, catheters, auto hand controls, etc.  I didn't see the long term aspects - the atrophied muscles, brittle bones, and fragile skin, - all potential problems, - all land mines!  Now I'm abed nursing a deep ulcer, attached to a vacuum pump to speed the healing, trying to avoid new problems posed by long term prone position.  If this were a conversation,  my good friend Garry would be saying, "You should have thought of that!", - a typically pointed Garry-ism.  I know he's  joking , but I hear his message. 

The subject  is "Consequences"!  A miss-placed mark or a minor ink spill in a drawing can be dealt with.  A major mishap may require trashing the paper and starting anew.  If you want, take wild chances in your art.  Draw with abandon!  Doodle madly!  Paint up a storm!  But ....... as Capt. Furillo of Hill Street Blues often said, "Let's be careful out there!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bed Time

W.C. Fields said, "The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep."

When you think about it, it's amazing how much total time we spend in bed. Ordinarily there'd be no one to observe you dreaming unless you are part of a sleep disorders research effort, but scattered among the pages of my sketch books are several drawings of my wife asleep.   Here we are in the early morning hours, she snug under the covers and I demonstrating my chronic insomnia and compulsive need to observe and draw.

For those who wonder, drawing folds in cloth is an age old drawing practice dating back to medieval times. I've drawn many a draped cloth! BTW, I've found that drawing a simple piece of crumpled paper is much like doing folds in cloth as well as excellent practice in "seeing".  Tho' simple, it's really more complicated than you might think.  Try it!

The best cure for poor drawing is to do a lot more of it.

This post is very topical!  I'm stuck in bed and out of commission for the next month, so will post when I can.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Drawing is like any other endeavor where skill is important. You must practice!  Unlike musical practice, you can work on your drawing skills just about anywhere, - anytime.  This drawing is a case in point.  Done a few years ago, it was the product of a long boring meeting, but could just as well have been one of those times when I wasn't able to sleep so put the time awake to good use.

Once I'd finished with the keys themselves, I started playing with the composition. I repeated the key shapes in a looser, sketchier fashion while adding other simple elements to fill the space and complete the composition.  Think of musical rhythm and how it carries you along, so repetition of design elements adds depth and fullness to a visual composition.  It's more interesting.  I also took into account the shape of the paper by making the background shapes' edges parallel to the paper's edges, the echoed edges becoming a frame of sorts. Repetition is a "key" idea in traditional design practice. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

If I had been intent on producing a finished work of art, I would have been more careful lining up those edges, thinking out the various background shapes, but this is only a sketch, - almost a doodle so I guess I can be forgiven. 

BTW, in adding those various elements, besides adding interest I may have introduced some confusion. While I like it as an example of drawing, I can't decide whether this is a horizontal or vertical composition.  Oye!  I'm getting dizzy looking at them!

Vertical, Right?


Sunday, May 29, 2011


I spoke previously of the importance of a good model. This young woman is one of the best. She is poised, self confident and as naturally relaxed as anyone you know. She is an inspiration to the artists who surround her as they draw. Because of those qualities and because she is quite versatile, she is one of my favorites. She can hold an "action" pose, drape herself over a piece of furniture or do a languid "pin-up on pillows" pose equally well. 

One of her prime assets is the nice balance between flesh and bone which allows us to easily see and appreciate the total structure of her figure.  While not thin, as a fashion model would be, her bones are prominent enough to emphasize things like shins, knees, elbows and shoulders. I especially like her shoulders here. Too bad I didn't do as well down below. 

When drawing the lower limbs, I didn't do justice to the structure of that left leg.  It isn't finished and just isn't as believable as the right, possibly because the foot is too narrow. One excuse here; - that leg is in complete shadow, so with the technique I use that leg may have looked "flat" anyway. On top of that, I may have inadvertently shortened the left foot to make it fit comfortably in the space available. I would have done better to let that foot fade out as it approached the lower edge of the paper,  letting our minds
complete it.  As they say these days, "My bad!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Small Loss!

And now for something completely different!  Looking way back in an early sketch book I've found a character I'd almost forgotten,  - probably a self-portrait of sorts.  This sketch was the forerunner of two large (22x30) ink drawings,  one of my most popular images.  They were both fairly straight copies of this "Guy" leaping forward, his foot pushing off from an old fashioned piano stool as he attempts flight.  One went to an active collector of my work, the other to a good friend who was just captivated by this foolish "Chicken Man", as he dubbed it, trying the impossible.  Only the second survives. The collector's house went up in flames a few years ago turning several of my works to ash and smoke.  I do miss knowing those pieces are out there giving people a bit of pleasure but, in the larger scheme of things,  it is a very small loss.

Following this drawing I did a number of works that reused the same basic idea but with other images  which were "darker" and therefor less accessible for many people. This image-idea was no doubt rooted in my responses to then current experiences and situations. At the time I felt compelled, in a sense, to create strong images and spent little time interpreting either my motivations or the results. 

I first started this post with my own interpretation of the image but in the end decided to leave it to viewers.  How would you describe this cartoonish "character"? What's his mission or motivation? What does he think he's doing?  I'd love to read your interpretation!  Please post a comment, here or on facebook!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Double Trouble

These two older drawings, done in the same session, are examples of a learning situation. The first, on grey paper was weak, - the shoulders and back were poorly defined and I'd elongated the body from shoulders to hips. I switched papers and started anew.  In the second I solved those problems and at the same time emphasized the "swing" of the body, taking note of the difference in  the planes of shoulders and hips and really defining the three dimensional aspects of the figure.  This is a better, more interesting drawing.

There may have been another factor at play here. This was likely a three hour pose and generally speaking, models do not hold a pose for long periods of time. They take breaks from time to time then get back into position. A good model has "body / muscle memory" and can regain the exact pose or very close to it.  There's another point too, - as time 'in pose' goes on, the model relaxes, the body slumps a little and the pose changes, so the artist has to compensate and make adjustments as he works.

In the end, I'm also glad I changed the paper color, it may have influenced the way I approached the work, giving the drawing more life.  On the negative side I did over-strengthen the bulge of muscle in her left leg just a bit.  Even so, while far from perfect, it's a more successful drawing. It was worth re-doing!

Just as it is important to look at the work of others, it is good practice to spend time examining and re-assessing your own product.  It's good to be self-critical, good to recognize your strengths & weaknesses, good to be aware of where you've been artistically and where you'd like to be.  Comparing one work to another or even to a range of pieces can be very beneficial.  Keep on Looking!