Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jade & Fruit

Let me remind you again of the opportunities for simple subject matter in ordinary household "stuff".  Generally speaking, I choose simple things to draw and emphasize form by observing and reproducing light and shade on the object. If these works, especially that of the fruit, were in black & white with no color, we'd still see form. 

Now, let me play teacher for a moment. (Those of you who are experienced artists, close your eyes!)  Overlapping elements, like the leaves on the left, help us to see "depth" in a work. Our life experience is that an object in front is closer, a partially hidden thing is further away.  Picture two simple squares overlapped.

Another, very important contributor to the 3-dimentional quality of these drawings is Color!   Aside from overlapping, the green leaves come forward of the blue and grey background because of the warm yellow in the green.  The green is much warmer than those blues. 

The same deal in the pear/apple piece, the reds and oranges, very warm colors, quite emphatically push forward of the dull grey background.  Even in comparison to the cool greens and blues of the jade plant above, the fruit drawing stands out as closer!

The warm reds & oranges in the lower drawing are highly saturated compared to the green in the jade plant. When I laid down the reds with my pencils, I pressed down a bit harder, depositing more pigment, covering the grey paper completely so that no grey showed through the reds. Otherwise we would have seen the dull grey mixed with the reds, dulling or neutralizing the red, pushing it back.

BTW,  In each of the works above   I've made use of "analogous" color schemes,  colors next to each other on the color wheel.   - Blue/green in one,  red/orange in the other. Analogous colors work well together, they are harmonious.  The  quote below by Marc Chagall says it very well. 

There's another color "thing" at work here, - not in the drawings but on the page!  Red and Green are opposites on the color wheel.  We call them complementary colors.  When put near to each other, complements seem to brighten each other.  Just viewing these two drawings close to each other as they are, makes both seem more alive. (In some cases that effect is even stronger and the colors actually seem to vibrate!)  If I had drawn green pears and apples, this page would have been much less interesting!  Try this: scroll this post so that you can see both drawings at once, then with your hand cover each alternately.  See how much more lively the whole page is with both in view?  The power of complements!  The use of complements within an art work livens it up, - can make it more exciting!

OK, I'm done! Next time I'll try to lecture less.  You there, with your eyes closed, - Wake Up! 

"All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites." Marc Chagall

Thursday, January 26, 2012


My last post about recent surgery and my hospital time on the Clinitron Bed has put my mind back to the year following the original injury 20 years ago.  A psychologist friend had warned I'd entered a strange new world with no knowledge of customs, climate or language. I'd have to find my way around.  And so I have! My first significant drawings those days dealt with the profound losses of mobility, independence and an overwhelming grief which was crippling in itself. Once pointed in the right direction though, I was off and run  .... er, rolling!  

Being a control freak, I put my mind to being the best chair pilot possible and soon found any incline a classroom, every bump a lesson.  Did you know that spinning around backward in a wheelchair can land you, as my good Irish grandmother would say, "arse over teakettle" on the floor?  Me neither!  My very good PT when starting me in my new light-weight chair, had said "Don't go anywhere." Hey, It was a "Quickie" and she hadn't said, "Don't move!

A year later, on a first time out to a friend's house party, I transferred from the car to my chair and almost instantly found l'd flipped over backward because of a small driveway depression. I waved to gasping friends on the porch.  I'd made a wonderful "in-charge" entrance!

I cannot number the times I've found my self upended on the ground either cringing in embarrassment  or more likely, howling at the hilarious situation.  Just as in ordinary life, you have to keep on "keepin' on"!  In fact, in most ways. my life in the chair has become ordinary.  I often whiz around the mall quite confidently, moving much more quickly than other shoppers, then seeing myself reflected in a shop window, think,  Wow,  I'm in a wheelchair!  I'd almost forgotten!

"Happiness can exist only in acceptance." George Orwell

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Pear & Jug"

I recently found this pair of old drawings while hunting through my studio shelves.  Here are a small stoneware jug from my collection and a red pear from the kitchen.  As is my usual practice and that of most artists I know, the two drawings were variations on a theme.  I find I learn more by doing at least two versions of each idea and many do much more!  I remember being quite happy with them when finished, but now I'm having second thoughts.  I really like the drawing of the jug on the right with its fine, clean edges, subtle color changes and soft reflections, - but now as I look at it,  that pear is a bit of a problem.

In that position it seems to be turning its back on us, almost hiding its true form. It flattens out toward the stem end, loosing some of its 3 dimensional quality while fading into the near distance.  It shares some of the jug's color, - probably warm color from the artificial light, keeping the two compatible, but  I think it needs more personality, - more "Pearness",  so I turn to the "Pear & Jug" below where the stem end is toward us.  

In this drawing our pear is crisper, more solid looking,  with more vibrant color.  It pops out away from the jug and the background paper color, -perhaps a bit too much so! This jug, if you look closely, is rendered more loosely, the color laid on more heavily, with pencil marks more evident. Because the drawings were done at different times of day, the overall color effects vary markedly. You can see the bluer daylight color bathing the left side of the first jug while the warnth of indoor lighting dominates the second.  The effect is quite different in each, - warm strength in one,  cool precision in the other.   I've decided I like them both!

As you see, there's no need to go farther than your kitchen counter for subjects worthy of your time and attention. OK, you may not have old jugs, but look around! As usual, the name of the game is observation.  Speaking of which, I have a small confession. I said the pear came from our kitchen counter. I lied!  (Again!)  It came from a shelf in the kitchen.  It's a nice wax pear, a gift from an admirer!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bed Time

Let me tell you about the Clinitron Bed!  A heavy thing with a fine glass "sand" filled mattress, - very tiny glass beads floating in warm air... and it leaks!  It leaks air under you, around you, ballooning the  sheets. It often squeaks madly against bare skin as the mattress moves gently, changing position for you, - a slow and sometimes silent "rock & roll" with added vibration!

I found myself "floating" post-surgery on just such a bed, - a hospital bed for patients with deep difficult wounds, terrible burns or surgical incisions requiring the patient to stay very still.  I was wrapped in wonderfully warm sheets, told not to move, - the bed would do it for me, they said.  It was a strange, patience building experience, - mostly flat on my back for almost five weeks!  A deep non-healing pressure ulcer, common in paraplegia, had kept me down for the better part of a year, its potentially lethal result making serious surgery necessary. (Re: Christopher Reeve)  It was "Flap-surgery" where major muscle tissue was moved to provide padding over an offending boney prominence so I might eventually sit happily without further injury.  I'm doing well now.

I loved the caregivers of Glens Falls Hospital's 4th floor surgical recovery, - wonderful people!  I have nothing but profound respect for my plastic surgeon, Dr. Jitendra Singh (a true artist with his knife!) and his right hand man, P.A. Tim Ward, another good guy!  I certainly loved the heated mattress but a real downer for this artist was the Clinitron bed's constant movement and ever-present vibration.  It was impossible to do any serious drawing!  My pencil would skitter across the paper, - all wiggly lines, incomplete marks and mistakes.  You can see one small attempt here where I tried to make positive use of those short broken marks and uneven lines.  Hey, I tried!

"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life."  Joseph Campbell


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm Back!

This is my first posting in several months. The last was Sept 10,  just a few days before my latest surgery.  I chose this as my first since then because here I used my favorite drawing implement, the Prismacolor Pencil. I spent hours looking, re-looking and looking again to produce the highly realistic finish. Making an exact copy was important, - with form,  as shown by light & shade and hi-lights in particular, giving the illusion of substance. 

I set these objects in front of me, - an old stoneware bottle, a fairly old glass jar with a swivel stencil cutter standing up in it, - just barely below my eye level.  I liked the contrast between the solid glazed clay of the bottle and the transparency of the little 100 year old jar.  The reflections from the bottle's glaze, on the jar's internal and external surfaces distorted by the old glass give life to the whole piece.  I really enjoyed the demanding work and in the end must have done three or four versions.  

BTW, As I believe I've said in the past, - the glass jar is "transparent", - a much better word, in my opinion, than the current and extremely awkward, "see-through".

"In painting you must give the idea of the true by means of the false."  Edgar Degas