Sunday, April 24, 2011


 People often refer to artists as "Gifted".  I'm sure there is some truth in that.  (A first  recollection of drawing was pointed up by my mother's anguish on finding my crayon drawing of a very, very long train on the very newly papered walls of our rented apartment)   But when it comes to observational drawing, most of us learn by doing and by learning to "See".  I keep my sketchbook nearby so I can practice "Seeing" anytime.   These tomatoes sat on our kitchen counter a while ago and in a few (40?) minutes,  I produced this drawing.  They conveniently held very still the whole time!

Some evenings I draw while watching TV.  I particularly like talk shows and the political panels on C-Span.  I love trying to get down a quick likeness directly - no preliminary pencil -  as these "talking heads" expound and gesture while the camera shifts from person to person.  It's fun; you have to look fast and hard!  Here are a few.  Tell me if you recognize anyone!

I work the same way when out in public, - trying to capture the character of those around me.  Life being what it is I spend quite a bit of time in doctors' waiting rooms and we all know the kind of time you can spend there!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A bit of Color!

After all the black & white of recent blogs, I'm feeling the need for a little color here. This is a recent painting  (slightly cropped),  "Gordon Creek"  here in the village.

Pencil Marks

Throughout my artistic life I've always wanted my work whether drawing, painting or any other medium, to be interesting at a distance AND up close!  I want to pull the viewer in,  get him involved in the "subject" and in the "work".   Illustrating that idea and expanding on the concept of the "mark" I wrote of in a previous  entry, here are three pencil drawings: (1) A relatively simple drawing of a pear with strong side-light,  (2) an unfinished figure drawing and (3) a much more finished (old) self-portrait.

 Tho' the medium in these three are all pencil,  producing softer marks than the ink drawings of previous posts,  you're still aware of the "mark".  You see the varying pressures the artist uses as he strengthens and lightens his lines. You see the repetitive strokes of his pencil in hatching and cross-hatching, creating an illusion of light and shade, and thereby "form".  Aside from giving the drawing a nice textural interest, those hatchings do one more thing.  Looking closely you can almost relive the artist's experience, following his hand as he draws and so understand that as he converts his observations of a three dimensional object into marks on a flat surface, he creates an object.  Not just a "picture" of something but a collection of marks that add up to an interesting object, a "work of art".

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trees: A dull subject!

I like trees. I enjoy capturing the essential elements, getting familiar with the details. How they differ from type to type for instance. A few years ago I happened on a speaker in a chain bookstore touting his book, a collection of drawings showing the different trees of this country. A wonderful idea but a terribly dull book!  While you could recognize the different trees, the drawings themselves were, for me, a problem; flat, bland and boring!    
Information IS important but in the end  for me the art is paramount.  As an artist I want to stay interested!  In some of today's cartoons, each panel is essentially the same, only the words change.  I'd die doing that, - I'm not a writer. (you can see that!)  I love to draw! I love the mark on paper.  I love the line that describes the object!  I may like trees, cats (My wife LOVES cats!)  people or any number of things but whatever the subject I want the viewer as well as myself to enjoy the art, the way the marks describe shape, texture and form.   Here are a few "tree" drawings, - different times, different places. - see what I mean? 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dozing Kittens

Some subjects are more difficult than others.  Consider the dozing kitten; a sweet striped mound on the couch purring tender dreams, - a wonderful subject for todays sketch.  Ha!  I get a few good marks on the page and he's stretching a clawed paw this way and turning his whiskered nose to the wall!  A cat can be happy and comfortable for hours it seems until I pick up a pen or pencil.  I rarely get a finished drawing when a cat is the subject.

 Every once in a while I'm lucky!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I often attend music performances in the region and while waiting will draw the stage set-up.  Here are two.

One, at a performance by the Los Angeles String Quartet at the Union College Memorial Chapel. (I've drawn that piano many times) The second, the summer faculty of Skidmore College Jazz Institute where  I sketched Ed Shaughnessy's drum set before he sat down. (Perhaps you remember Ed from his long time stint with Doc Severinsen's band) At one point above I started to draw Shaughnessy as he stood behind the drums but he was moving too quickly. There's his ghost in the curtain!

 If possible I'll speak with the artists and have them sign my drawing. They mostly LOVE the idea, - some even making comments about the venue, audience or the performance itself.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Morning News and Pumpkins

Phil Spaziani I started this blog with good intentions, - planning to show the sketches I'd been doing almost every day. (Hence the name, "Dailies") I keep a sketchbook in the car, draw in Dr's waiting rooms, in parking lots while waiting for my wife, just about any time I have a few minutes. Here are a couple of typical pieces from an old book done with my favorite pen, Staedtler's Pigment Liner.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Mohawk Valley's Rufus Grider

While it is not exactly the center of the NY art world, the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, NY has again redeemed itself with a new show, a collection of delightful drawings by Rufus Grider, a nineteenth century Artist/Historian. Grider's works are a combination of local views and factual notes in miniscule lettering inscribed directly on, around, or adjacent to the drawings. These small (often tiny) works, beautifully rendered with direct careful line and restrained color are truly compelling!

Actually this is a two person show, titled, "Drawn to the same Place: the Drawings of Rufus Grider and Fritz Vogt, 1885-1900". Fritz Vogt was working in the valley about the same time as Grider but had neither his concerns for historic preservation nor his creativity. Vogt's tightly detailed depictions of Mohawk Valley homes, mostly larger than Grider's, share the gallery walls but for me they just don't have his artistic power. Vogt's ambitious fact driven "illustrations" give much in the way of architectural information but they lack the beautiful sensitivity of Grider's pieces. Perhaps I'm also drawn to Grider because he uses a "vocabulary" quite like many contemporary artists. The inclusion of words, phrases and symbols explain the subject, enlarge our knowledge and at the same time provide textual contrast to the soft imagery. You can tell I loved this man's work!

Rufus Grider came to Canajoharie in 1883 to take a position as Art Teacher at the local Academy. Apparently he'd become unhappy with the spoiling of his native Bethleham, PA by the burgening steel industry. 66 year old Grider fell in love with the Mohawk Valley, its historic buildings, places and landscapes and began pushing locals to be preservationists. He bought and restored a local landmark and began a remarkable collection of revolutionary war artifacts, mostly illustrated powder horns which often the subjects of his many "documentary" paintings are included in this exhibition.

 The Arkell unfortunately did NOT reproduce any of the works: No catalog, No postcards. I probably should have taken a few pic's myself but you know how museums feel about that! - I have nothing but the newspaper image above and a link to the Arkell where you can see an example of Vogt's work.