Saturday, March 31, 2012

TV games

I really do like drawing directly from life but when unable to get out to the weekly figure sessions or even out to get an oil change with sketch book in hand, next best thing is TV. I like interesting faces and you have to go along way to find more interesting features than on our esteemed public figures and commentators.  It is a real challenge to catch a pose or specific character as the camera switches from one speaker to another. Working a couple of figures at the same time is the way to go!  Switch back and forth. - It's fun!
I watch C-span, listen to the debates and do quick portraits as speakers present one political point or another.  BTW, I find that starting with the nose, working out toward the sides of the face, and up and down to finish is best. The nose becomes a central reference for size and positioning of other elements, and that way you are never stuck without room to fit various features within a certain space.

Working directly, as I do, with a fine line pen sharpens perception and forces constant evaluation and re-evaluation of your judgments about relative size and placement of various elements. I usually draw much the same way when out in public drawing people in doctors' waiting rooms or auto service centers. If you start with those figures close by then work back into the drawing one figure (or element) at a time, all will fall into place!
Call it  portrait or caricature, it still works!

Who the heck is Tim Lynch?

 ..and T.W.?

"Only God creates, the rest of us just copy."  Michelangelo

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The News

I had intended to make this post about trees in general, - showing a number of different  types I'd drawn while cataloging my efforts to point out their varied structures. Looking at this one pine was enough though,  - this tree was the  right one!  I'd eyed it in the past but for one reason or another I'd missed doing it several times.  Had I never drawn it,  I'd be mourning.

This tree along with a few smaller, stood for years near our doctor's parking lot, breaking the cold west wind in winter, casting soft shadows in hot summer days. Imagine a slow moving woman returning to what could have been a boiling car to catch her breath after some cosmic news. Good or bad, that tree would have helped. Now it's gone.

It stood in the way of, - yes, a larger parking lot! The doctor is gone, his office demolished, - a nearby business needed to expand. The clear cutting must have something to do with insurance or a limited budget.  It's certainly easier to bring in the dozers to make it all smooth, open and clean, - so, no complications, no problems, - and no tree!

You can see I had time, so no hurried sketch,  no rush to another errand.  I really enjoyed drawing it, getting to know it.  Glad I did!

    "The purpose of life is to remember."   Henry Miller

 "It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is."  Robinson Jeffers

Friday, March 23, 2012

Caught in the Act!

Paul is a favorite to draw because of the variety of modeling jobs he is able to handle. He is also a favorite because of his accessible anatomy, - bones, muscles, tendons, -  structure there to see. No need to guess! He has been in the game for many years and has developed a wide variety of wonderful poses. He needs very little  direction, - just a bare suggestion and he seems to read your mind. From the sublime to the ridiculous this guy does it all!  Not many of his poses are as easy as that above, so shhh, - he may be meditating!

Paul is a musician, dancer, writer and "in- depth" yoga practician.  His "yoga" poses are phenomenal, - wish I had some here!   Here he is in three short poses, a few seconds each.  In this sequence he had run through many poses,  one right after another while I raced to jot down the essential action!  It's gesture drawing!

You say you have no model?  No problem!  Next busy shopping day go spent some time in a food store parking lot and draw people as they pass. They'll be carrying grocery bags, leaning as they push carts, bending over loading purchases into cars, etc. Look quickly trying to catch the figure shape and action as if in a stop-action photo, then draw what you remember without looking at that person again.  Work very fast without regard for detail.  When finished go right on to the next
person happening by.

Try it anywhere there are people moving.  Look hard and fast, - draw quickly and deliberately! Don't be critical.  Do not erase!  Just do it! This is great practice in learning to "see", which is the first step in learning to draw!

In Kipling's Just So stories, a wise Mother Jaguar chastises her cub ("ever so many times") always ending with a very pointed,  "Do you see?"    -   Well, do you?                                                                                                                                                                              

I love drawing organic shapes,  - people, certainly. - and things like the old sleeping bag Paul reclines on in the top picture. By adding highlights only to the body and not to the sleeping bag,  a nice contrast is created between the two. Without actually rendering both textures, we point up the difference between skin and fabric.

"Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music."   George Carlin

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Love & Hate

Here are three nudes,  - all done with Prismacolor pencil on Canson Paper, - none really finished. You can see in the lower two  slightly looser ways of working than my usual clean line as seen in the reclining nude.   It's a more forgiving technique where a few extra lines are no problem and can even be positive since it gives a softer appearance. As we've noted in the past, the added white gives a convincing sense of form, produces a relatively realistic

rendering of the figure and a recognition that this is a particular person posing as opposed to just "a nude".  Though just sketches, they are still portraits. Even the reclining figure is a likeness.

It's amazing how quickly form pushes out from the background when even this small amount of white is applied,  - even the coarse hatched application works nicely!  I like that white hatching, - in it you see the hand of the artist at work!  (Pay no attention to the "bandaged" ankle, - I was a bit heavy handed!)

John Singer Sargent, a fine American artist, loved white! He would often pose models wearing white so that he could point out the variety of color within the whites. Adding the strongest lights in pure white, he produced great contrast and some dramatic interest. Look at those splotches of sunlight! Without those this painting would have been soft, flat, much less interesting. We could have missed seeing the figures and appreciating those splayed legs. (Very much the subject!) In the charcoal sketch below, Sargent used white chalk to add high-lights to the drapery of a cloak, again adding contrast and enhancing the form of the folds.   

Speaking of contrast, I'm probably crazy to place my work anywhere near the work of a master like this, - but I had to make my point about the use of white in drawing, right?    Damn, that hurts!

While we have Sargent's wonderful works here, let me talk a bit about something opposite white high-lights,  - a particular use of shading. Notice how he has obscured the face in his draped figure by putting it in shadow.  It is basic human nature to be attracted to faces but unlike my pencil portraits above,  Sargent wanted our focus to be the drapery and the total figure, not the particular person.  Even in the painting above where the people posing were his personal friends, he left the faces somewhat undefined so that we'd see the whole composition rather than focusing on individual personalities. Here we see the faces as repeated shapes, three orbs echoing the repetition of the three pyramidal leg shapes in the foreground.  John Singer Sargent was an artist who not only could  draw and paint,  he composed his subjects with integrated line, light, shape, shade and color to produce beautifully designed pieces, - Master works!

It really does hurt!  

"Nothing is anything by itself, only in relation to other things."  Robert Levers

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tough Life

On a recent visit to the Tang Museum at Skidmore College I found a very interesting and powerful exhibit.  It is the work of  New York artist Nancy Grossman.  Prior to this show I knew of her leather encased "Self Portrait" sculptures of the 1960's & 70's, - but I'd seen only a couple.  These strange Leather wrapped heads (and One torso) are both absolutely gorgeous and gut touching, They speak of dire day-dreams, contemporary anxiety and perhaps, sexual exploration/exploitation. Here in her work is a marvelous appreciation of the natural material, an amazingly high level of leather craftsmanship and more than a hint of dark foreboding.
I like them!

The works which confront the viewer as we enter the gallery are some that look at first like large dark paintings but are complex assemblages of metal, rubber, leather and other found materials. Where the heads are encased in sumptuously buffed leather, these are crusty old straps, cracked rubber hoses, partially rusted pipe, etc., all looking as if retrieved from stable floor or muddy gutter where they'd been stomped and stuck together by time.  (I do wish I had photos!) They are much less confrontational than the heads and have a far more easy presence on the walls.

Nancy Grossman, Gunhead

I was completely surprised by Grossman's beautiful drawings, some like the one on the left, really energetic, others very finely detailed pen and ink like seminal "plans" for her sculptural heads and bodies. Nice stuff! I think they may have been done with another favorite, the Koh-i-noor Rapidograph Pen, which allowed her to render tiny buckles, finely stitched leather belts and multiple zippers. (Bless people who draw!) The strong drawing here on the left, found online, echoes some of the sculptural pieces you'll find lined up on display where they confront you, - eye to eye!

The over-riding message is one of suppressed violence, quiet sensuality, physical inhibition, - all eerily quiet and oddly devoid of struggle, - as if the subject has accepted the bondage as a self imposed "natural" state.  The leather bound full figure at the top lifts its arms not in protest but in acquiescence.  

 The show, titled "Tough Life Diary",  runs through May 20th.
 Run up to Saratoga Springs and see it.  -  I'll roll along again myself!

 "Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity."    T. S. Eliot

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down Time

So there I was  in the hospital again, with little to do but wait. The guy in the next bed kept me awake half  the night with his rambling delusional talk, mostly mumbling in his sleep. He was a real piece of work!  I never could speak with him directly.  He was mostly "out of it". ( I wonder, - could it be he was a drinker?  Nah!) As I do sometimes I added "text" to the drawing to capture the spirit of the moment.   Read it and, ...  Bleep!

On the left is the record of another time waiting in a hospital room.  This time, I think, in the aftermath of a "stent" procedure.  There were no problems and this time no "interesting" room-mate to keep me company so I did what comes naturally and made a drawing to memorialize the occasion.  It is self explanatory.

It seems to be in the natural order of things to spend a fair amount of time visiting Doctors and hospitals. Aside from the aging process, I have the additional problem of paraplegia so I guess it is my lot, (as it is with so many people) but I really do get tired of constantly "taking time" from the activities and people I love.  I swear, between the medical appointments, the additional time it takes for simple daily activities and the time I must be "horizontal" each day, there's little left for much else!

"A Hospital is no place to be sick."  Samuel Goldwyn

"There's time enough, but none to spare."  Charles Chesnutt

Friday, March 9, 2012

Clipped Nude

Since most of my figure drawings will not fit on the scanner at all, it's been quite awhile since I've posted a nude here. This one barely made it by clipping off a couple of edges. The elbow is no great loss but I'm really sorry to lose that left foot! I know it's possible to do separate scans of individual halves then use a stitching utility in some program like Photo Shop or Illustrator to seamlessly join the two.  Perhaps when I find the secret, that could be the subject of a future blog post. You never know!

For those unfamiliar with my figure drawings, the medium is Prismacolor Pencil on Canson Pastel paper.  I work directly without preliminary sketches. I never erase!  That's basically the same way I approach drawing figures with ink.  This technique often introduces distortion so I don't expect the figure to be perfect, - I love the challenge though! There is one thing here that I do regret. It's that we cannot see the right foot either!  Even tho' drawn correctly, having it lost in a fold as well as hidden under the calf  looks wrong.  Too late now!

                 "Naked is a human commodity. Nude is God's art."  David Allio

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Question

The ANSWER is "Draw"!  Draw anything, -  Any time!  Every time!

The question? - Much the same as that old one about how to get to Lincoln Center! (Or is that Carnegie Hall?)  It's always practice, practice and more practice!  It's not always the immediate result that's important so much as the fact that you are constantly looking and drawing!

The silver sugar bowl drawing on the right isn't perfect by any measure, - just a quick sketch while waiting for my coffee!   It's the result of a few minutes with pen in hand.  There is some severe distortion but hey, who's to say it wasn't previously damaged rather than poorly drawn?

The two drawings, above and directly below, were made with ordinary ball point pen.. As you may have gathered earlier, this is not my favorite drawing instrument. It was what I had at to work with at the time. I have to admit it works here! My favorite is the smooth ink pen I used on the "portrait" here on the left. I find "models" like her  in meetings, concerts, waiting rooms, etc. 


Anything in sight is good subject matter! It doesn't really matter at all what the subject is or what instrument you use on such occasions just as long as you put the time in to develop your skill. Pen, pencil or a combined  pen AND pencil like the SUV drawing here, - it doesn't matter! Use what you have!


I do have to confess: in this piece the penciled sky and cloud background was not done on site as the inked parts were. I did it later in order to show an example of combined media.  (I've told you now, so there's no deception. Don't point that finger at me!)

This very quick tree drawing was done with the stump of a soft pencil,  - It likely took little more than a minute. I was trying to capture the look of the sun behind the leafy tree.  I didn't quite get down what I saw but I tried! 

Be ready to draw anytime. Have a sketchbook with you, ready to take advantage of any odd moment that other- wise might be wasted.

               Just do it!

                     "Open your eyes and draw, look, look, look."   George Weymouth